Annabelle Lyn: 16-17 Months

29 Aug

I am SO overdue on a post for Miss Annabelle! Annabelle was 16 months on July 27 and 17 months on August 27. I can’t believe my baby is almost a year and a half!IMG_20160725_20393420160824_104922 The big news this update is that ANNABELLE IS FINALLY WALKING!

Because of that, we’re going to start with…

Development

Annabelle started walking around the third week of July. She had been cruising around on furniture for a while, pulling up on everything, and mastered crawling up and down stairs around 12 months, so I didn’t think that her walking would really change anything, except make it easier to be outside.

I was wrong.

She gets into everything, and she is fast! Annabelle’s favorite things to do are:

  • Whatever Emma is doing
  • Putting tiny scraps of toilet paper into the toilet while Emma goes potty
  • Being by people, which usually means playing in the exact cupboard I’m standing in front of while making dinner or doing dishes
  • Doing whatever Emma is doing
  • Putting stuff in the kitchen garbage can, like Travis’ Bluetooth headset, Emma’s waterbottle, undies, socks, etc.
  • Pulling clothes out of Emma’s dresser (her clothes are too high for her to reach)
  • Somersaults (she saw Emma doing them—she can only put her head down with her butt in the air, waiting for Travis or me to flip her over—it’s pretty much the cutest thing ever)

IMG_20160801_115438Annabelle is similar to how Emma was at this age in that she likes to move things from one place to another, and she likes emptying drawers and bookshelves, but she’s different in that she’ll actually play with the mess she makes, instead of immediately moving on to make another one. I remember being so frustrated with all the messes I had to pick up with Emma (and… she still makes them and I still am).

Annabelle loves being outside and frequently brings me her shoes to put on. Her favorite things to do outside are play with water in bowls and pails, “draw” with sidewalk chalk, push strollers and trikes around, ride in our Little Tikes truck or wagon, and do whatever Emma is doing. I told Travis the other day that the benefit of having an older sibling is that Emma is so much more interesting and fun than we parents are, but the drawback is that Emma also hogs toys, takes over, pushes Annabelle out of the way, etc. Poor girl has had a couple of bloody lips and noses already, and taken many a bonk to the head (at least half are self-inflicted though). So we try to balance sibling time with alone time, and to teach Emma how to share and be nice. (Easier said than done with a 3-year-old🙂 )IMG_20160629_163613FB_IMG_1468349202805IMG_20160822_104539Annabelle also has an independent streak. She will refuse to do some things (like drink her chocolate milk) if we try to help her. She still loves climbing, snuggling, being held upside down, being “body slammed” onto the bed or “steamrolled” on the living room floor (rough housing), being pushed/pulled, and taking baths.

Annabelle is learning new words every day, which is so fun! She understands a TON of what we say to her and can now say: Doggy, Dada, Nana, Cracker, Quack, Moo, Night Night (Ni Ni), Bye Bye, All Done (Ah da), Emma (En na), Hot (Haw), Water (wa wa). I’m sure Annabelle is pretty average for her age in terms of speech, but Emma was such a late talker, that it’s fun hearing Annabelle learn words so much sooner! Emma is a chatterbox now though.20160818_115112IMG_20160824_16400420160810_100748Size

I’ve been in denial about Annabelle getting bigger. I thought most of the shirts she had been wearing this summer were 12 months, but they’re 18 months. She has short little legs, so she does still fit into a lot of 12-month pants, though they’re starting to get a little short (but in the summer, who cares?). I pulled out the clothes that Emma wore the fall that she was Annabelle’s age, and I just cannot believe that Annabelle is old enough or big enough to wear them! Where did my baby go? So, Annabelle is in mostly 18 month stuff, but starting to wear 24 months and 2T. ::sniff::

IMG_20160817_143624IMG_20160809_095900Eating

Annabelle is a pretty good eater, but has started getting pickier. Many dinners require several attempts at finding something she’ll finally eat, usually in the form of fruit. Her favorite foods are: bananas, blueberries (she likes most berries but these are her faves), mandarin oranges (from a can), peaches, applesauce, yogurt, baby cereal, bacon, chicken sausage, chicken, macaroni & cheese, pasta with sauce, bagels, and cooked broccoli. Her favorite treats are suckers, fruit snacks, and Starburst, and the only way she’ll drink milk is if I add chocolate syrup, so she usually gets a cup of that each day.

IMG_20160819_102952I’m still nursing Annabelle 3-4 times a day, usually in the morning, before naptime, before bedtime, and in the middle of the night. I have no real plans for weaning at this point. I’m hoping it will work itself out naturally. That’s usually my approach to most transitions: Wait and it’ll happen on its own.😉

20160817_183838IMG_20160806_203029Sleeping

Annabelle has made some progress at night in the just the past couple of weeks. I had been sleeping on a mattress in her room pretty much every night, but now it’s down to about 50% of the time. I get her to sleep and put her down in her crib, and she usually wakes up crying between midnight and 3 am. I’ve started trying to get her back to sleep and putting her back in the crib, with some success and some failure. But progress is progress! I’m trying to keep this in perspective. I know she’ll outgrow this. She has slept through the night in her crib several times in the past couple of weeks, so I know she can do it. It’s not ideal for me to be sleeping in her room, because I don’t sleep well, and I don’t think she sleeps that well either when she’s on the floor, but it’s better than listening to her cry. Again, I know it’s just a phase. Emma was over 2 before she really figured the whole sleep thing out.IMG_20160819_110931IMG_20160804_092259And that’s Annabelle at 17 months!IMG_20160801_124209IMG_20160729_182348

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Emma Grace: 3.25 Years

2 Aug

Emma was 3 ¼ years (39 months) back on July 7.IMG_20160728_172253 (Large)20160526_130356The most notable update for this post is that Emma is about 70% potty trained!

After half-heartedly and unsuccessfully trying several times, we scheduled a weekend to focus on potty training, and built it up to Emma (Big girl undies!). We also bought candy as rewards for going on the potty (Starburst and suckers have been the most motivating). She was really excited at first, and since she’s had practice going on the potty at daycare, she totally knew when she had to go (she only had one accident the first couple of days).

But then the excitement wore off, and she started refusing to sit on the potty. We changed our rewards a few times, with some success. But if she threw a fit about going on the potty, we just put a Pull-Up on her and continued suggesting she sit on the potty. She finally did come back around on the whole thing, and has been wearing undies for almost all awake time for the past couple of months.

IMG_20160729_083832 (Large)Sleeping time is a different story. She has stayed dry for some naps (she still naps from about 2-5 every day), but some naps she wets the bed, so we generally still put a Pull-Up on her for naps and a diaper for bedtime. Up until a few days ago, she was also pooping in a diaper. She’d grab a diaper, bring it to me, and say, “Mommy, I want to poop in a diaper.” HA! So she totally knew when she needed to go, but just didn’t want to go in the toilet. But a few days ago, we were shopping at Herberger’s when she had to go, and Travis convinced her to go on the toilet! She earned a freezy pop for that milestone, and has pooped on the toilet once since then. Hopefully she can keep that going, so we can keep moving away from diapers.

My experience with potty training has been both easier and harder than I expected it to be. I thought Emma would be all about it once we got going, but she wasn’t. I thought dealing with shopping and road trips would be really hard, but it hasn’t been. Sure, it’s slightly inconvenient, but I was psyching myself out on that. (And when they’re so young, even girls don’t mind popping a squat in a grass field on road trips—or at least, our girl doesn’t. J) One trick I’ve learned that has helped a ton is to cover up automatic sensors on toilets with Post-It notes so that they don’t flush unexpectedly.

IMG_20160506_105250 (Large)Matching mommy/daughter pedicures (colors chosen by Emma)

Anyway, moving on… here are some of Emma’s favorite things right now:

  • iPad—Emma still loves watching shows, mostly on her iPad (sometimes on the TV). Her latest obsessions have been the Floating Palace episodes of Sofia the First (which are about mermaids) and the mermaid scenes in Penguins of Madagascar. She has also been watching Alvin & the Chipmunks, LEGO friends, Strawberry Shortcake, Penguins of Madagascar, Minions, Brother Bear, and a few other random shows that she found by herself on Netflix.IMG_20160613_184644 (Large)

She fell asleep while watching Netflix… and pooping.

  • Books at night—After we say goodnight to Emma, she sometimes asks to read books while she “watches moons” (a toy that projects a rotating image on the ceiling and plays music) for 10 minutes. Every once in a while, she enjoys reading books during the day (which I savor when it happens!), but overall, she has too much energy for books. When we do read books together, she insists on holding them but can’t sit still enough for me to read the words.IMG_20160505_075159 (Large)
  • Helping—You name it, Emma likes helping with it. She asks to help with cooking (and won’t take no for an answer), putting dishes away, yardwork, doing things for baby, doing laundry, cleaning, putting things in the shopping cart, etc. I try to let her help as much as possible, but some things are just off-limits (like cutting up raw chicken and cooking on the stove).emma garage crop
  • Running—We’ve taken Emma on a few “family runs” around our neighborhood. She does so well! One night she ran almost a whole mile (with a few walking breaks). I think next summer we might see if there are any kid runs nearby. We’re talking about doing a local 5k as a family in September. I think Emma would have a blast! We got a bike trailer from my parents as a Christmas/birthday gift, thinking we could take Emma and Annabelle out in it. We haven’t tried biking with it yet, but a few short jogs have been a no-go—mostly because Emma’s excitement to ride in it wears off right about the time we reach the end of our driveway. She hasn’t ridden in or on something for longer than a few minutes since she was about 18 months old. She just has too much energy. Speaking of which…20160505_092501 (Large)
  • Bouncing—Emma jumps up and down in place a lot. When she’s excited, when she’s watching a movie on TV, when she’s waiting for me to go outside with her… She just has so much extra energy. She also still does this thing with her hands/arms (she has since she was about a year) when she gets really excited—it’s hard to describe but just imagine a little girl moving her hands like you do in the first part of the Chicken Dance song and waving her arms around in an excited frenzy. It’s hilarious, and so uniquely Emma. She also still does her “leg exercises” in her carseat (moving them in circles), presumably when she’s feeling antsy.IMG_20160716_001550 (Large)IMG_20160602_165216 (Large)
  • Jetskiing, fourwheeling and canoeing—This summer was the first real experience Emma had with any of these things, and she loved them! She hasn’t been a fan of riding loud things in the past, so this is a new development. And we thought she’d move around too much for being in a canoe, but she actually has done great both times she’s been out! Travis is very happy she is starting to like the outdoorsy things that he likes.IMG_20160729_182348 (Large)20160710_171838 (Large)20160618_202048 (Large)20160518_200621 (Large)20160725_093655
  • Being pulled around in a sleeping bag—This is pretty random, but one day, Emma wanted to get my sleeping bag out of the closet. One thing led to another, and pretty soon, I was pulling Emma around our basement completely zipped up in the sleeping bag (meaning she was in the dark). She can’t get enough of it! Her friend Noah likes it too. But it’s a decent workout, so mommy needs to take frequent breaks.
  • Picking raspberries—Emma has asked to pick raspberries every single day this summer (we have lots of wild ones growing on our property). But what usually ends up happening is that she picks a few and then plays with Annabelle or sticks or something while I end up picking by myself. This year, we’ve had an awesome crop of raspberries. We couldn’t pick them all, there were so many!IMG_20160629_170432 (Large)
  • Playing outside and in water—Emma still loves being outside and playing with/in water. The past three months have seen a lot of time at the beach, playground, water table, and cruising around our driveway on her trike (which she can now pedal!) and a new electric scooter we just got her. She also still loves to push/pull Annabelle around in the wagon/stroller/trike. In the past month, she has started to love floating on noodles in the water without her feet touching. She’s a pretty good little kicker too!20160720_201530 (Large)20160720_201517 (Large)
  • Sharing—Most of the time, Emma has a very generous spirit. She will share snacks and toys with Annabelle, me or Travis without being asked. (She still has plenty moments of sharing poorly, though.) One of my favorite things in the world is seeing Emma’s little arm stretched across to Annabelle’s little arm in the car, handing her a cracker or water bottle. It’s adorable!IMG_20160610_092617 (Large)
  • Being like mommy—Emma likes to imitate both me and Travis, but I think she imitates me more because I’m also a “dirl” (girl). She always says “Me have some” as she watches me get ready and put on makeup. She often emerges from our bathroom with some kind of beauty supply, the latest being a cotton pad wet down with micellar water. “I’m washing my face,” she says. Similarly…20160427_102735 (Large)20160601_211600 (Large)
  • “I want mom”—Emma is still a complete mommy’s girl. The only person that can sometimes come close is Nana Beth. Emma loves her daddy too, but for activities like fishing, roughhousing, and outdoor fun. When it comes to naps, bedtime, feeling sick, or getting hurt, she wants mommy only (unless she knows mommy’s mad at her for being disobedient, then she wants daddy!). It’s endearing, but also frustrating because I almost always end up putting both girls to bed. Travis at least does Emma’s bedtime routine though.20160506_183754 (Large)
  • Asking questions—It has begun. Emma asks “Mommy, what are you doing?” about 50 times every hour, even after I’ve repeatedly told her what I’m doing. I don’t always handle the constant questioning the best… more than once, I’ve said, “What does it look like I’m doing?”IMG_20160422_083319 (Large)

But on the flip side, one of the most fun things about Emma’s current age is that she has started saying the most hilarious things that just crack. me. up. Here are a few of my favorites:

Me: “Why do you want to put a ponytail in right before you go to bed?”

Emma: “Why not?”

Travis tackles me onto the bed, pinning me down.

Emma: “Daddy, no! Don’t! … She’s too dangerous!”

“His hands are red, he’s itching them, and he’s got a pumpkin head!” (talking about an episode of Sofia the First)

….

Emma: “I want to watch my iPad.”

Me: “Not right now.”

Emma: “I want to watch mommy’s phone.”

Me: “Emma, no, you’ve watched enough shows for right now.”

Emma: “iPad! I want to watch my iPaaaaaddddd!!”

Me: “The answer is no. Please stop asking.”

Emma: “Grrrrrrrr!!!”

A minute passes in silence, then Emma looks up with a smile and says in a sweet voice,

“Watch big TV downstairs?”

I point out stinging nettle to Emma as we’re picking raspberries, reminding her to not touch it.

Emma: “Mom, that’s what I was telling you about!”

Talking about the time she fell off the dock last summer into a few feet of water, Emma said,

“Nana Beth jumped in the wa-wa. Nana Beth saved me. … Nana Beth pushed me.”

(The full story is that Emma was standing on the dock waiting for Nana Beth to get off the pontoon. She backed up to give Nana more room, but backed up right off the dock. She didn’t get hurt and Beth jumped in right after her, so she was fine.)

IMG_20160801_124917 (Large)IMG_20160708_215902 (Large)With cousin Jensen on Papa’s pontoonIMG_20160629_121329 (Large)She loves cutting! The smaller the pieces, the better!IMG_20160503_105204 (Large)I LOVE this picture — from Emma’s birthday party.IMG_20160507_125750 (Large)She’s always trying to sleep in the doorway. I don’t know why?!?!IMG_20160523_133631 (Large)She took all the clothes out of her dresser in search of her pink princess phone.IMG_20160429_083725 (Large)20160526_140341 (Large)20160518_202213 (Large)Emma loves picking flowers. She was very disappointed when we mowed our grass and all her flowers (clover, not the ones pictured here) went bye-bye!

And that’s Emma at 3.25 years!

Even More Thoughts on Grief

19 Jul

July 13th would’ve been my mom’s 63rd birthday. July 12th marked 5 months since her death.

We had the Krsnak family reunion the weekend after the Fourth with two of my mom’s brothers and their families. It was enjoyable, but bittersweet. My mom’s absence was palpable, inescapable. We all commented that it seemed like she’d show up at any moment, ready to cruise the lake on the pontoon or whip up something yummy in the kitchen.

We picked flowers from her garden and displayed the bouquet in a pickle jar. We took shots of pickle juice again, just like we did right after she had gone to heaven. We served her favorite foods: dill pickle chips, everything bagels, cucumbers in vinegar, barbeque pulled pork, snicker salad. We spread buns, bagels, muffins, and cheese slices out on plates, placed chips and fruit salad in bowls, just like my mom would’ve done. Even for a casual lunch, she’d put things on plates for a nice presentation. I never realized how much effort she put into things until trying to fill her shoes. They’re big shoes. I’m exhausted.

The human experience is so varied and multi-faceted that once I adjust to the idea of my mom’s absence in one sense, something else pops up and I have to deal with all over again. While we were in Ohio over Memorial Day, we had been relaxing on my aunt and uncle’s shaded brick patio, talking about where we should go for dinner. I had suggested sushi since Travis and I love sushi, and there’s nowhere to get it in Brainerd. Then I remembered there was some reason why we didn’t usually go out for seafood as a family… what was it again? Oh yeah… Because Mom didn’t like seafood.  A wave of grief overtook me.

It’s hard to move on and make memories and have life experiences that your loved one isn’t involved in, and doesn’t have any knowledge of. For so long, you’ve forged memories together and shared experiences together, to the extent that you didn’t even realize how much of your identity and experience of life was wrapped up with the other person. Until they’re gone. Then you see that, just like C.S. Lewis talks about in The Weight of Glory, that your enjoyment of something was enhanced, brought to fruition, by sharing that enjoyment with someone else. And when that person is no longer there to enjoy it with you, you no longer enjoy it the same way—and may never enjoy it that way again.

Another idea that I’ve been mulling over quite a bit recently is from C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves:that each individual person brings out a unique aspect of someone else, so when you lose a friend, you not only lose them, but also the facets of the personalities that they brought out in other people. You lose the dynamic they brought to the group.

I love my family, and always look forward to spending time together. I inherited that quality from both of my parents, who would (and did) bend over backwards, and move heaven and earth to spend time with and help out their family. But I’ve discovered since my mom’s death that the thing I enjoyed most about being with my family, was being with her with my family. She, in many ways, was the hub, the turnstile, the bonding glue. Our family dynamic will never be the same.

Looking through photos of my mom the other night, I was reminded of how much fun my mom was. She was never afraid of looking silly or doing things that were beneath her. She’d wear funny hats and costumes, play in the sand with the kids, make us all answer an icebreaker question despite our groaning, coordinate games and activities like a contest to see who could spit a cherry pit the farthest.

Last Thanksgiving, we were sitting at the dining room table of Travis’ parents’ house, eating dinner. There was a lull in the conversation and I thought to myself, “This is the moment when Sheri Moen would ask everyone to say one thing they were thankful for.”

Even though I’m consumed with missing my mom, I’m not devastated. Because I know that she is still alive in heaven. Her soul still exists. She is still conscious, and having experiences. She is with Jesus, and in His presence there is fullness of joy. It’s like my mom moved to a foreign country. I won’t see her again for the rest of my earthly life, which I mourn, but I will see her again. At the same time I see her again, I will also see Jesus, and we will all glory together in God’s goodness and love for the rest of eternity. That is my hope in the midst of this earthly grief.

A Perspective for the Messiness of Motherhood

18 Jul

I am hemorrhaging sanity.

And it’s not just that I can’t remember to do things, or recall basic facts. Or that I can’t think a coherent thought or accomplish anything requiring adult mental capacities.

I’m talking complete psychosis. A full mental breakdown. Like I’m one horrible day away from pulling a stunt like Vivi Abbott Walker did in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: just up and leaving one day, telling no one where I’m going, or for how long. Except I’d probably escape to Canada instead of Mexico, simply due to proximity.

Motherhood is relentless. And truth be told, it’s full of a lot things that are just plain boring, and other things that are actually odious. Stay-at-home moms like myself work all day doing things that immediately get undone. There is no actual task that is ever completed once and for all. My job is to simply keep the chaos at bay. If my house looks exactly the same at the end of the day as it did at the beginning, I have been productive.

In my finer moments, I actually don’t mind doing dishes or laundry. I don’t mind grocery shopping or meal planning. (I do hate cleaning, and it shows.) But after a while, doing the same thing over and over to simply maintain the status quo starts to wear on you.

And that doesn’t even touch the tip of the parenting iceberg. Take the never-ending loop of household chores, add in a screaming toddler and whiny preschooler, subtract any time for yourself—that’s the recipe for total mental meltdown.

I can’t help but compare myself to the women out there who seem to be unruffled by anything, who seem completely confident and competent in their parenting decisions, who have tuned their family routines to be a finely humming orchestra, and who still have time to get ready each day, make elaborate and fun meals, blog, write books, pursue hobbies, exercise, and take amazing Instagram pictures of it all. I mean, who are these women?!?!

That’s not me. I’m just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. My life is a total crapshoot. I don’t have the confidence or insight to know what routine or rhythm would work well for our family, and even when I do have the slightest hint, I lack the discipline to carry it out.

It’s right about here that the voices in my head start piping up. One says that I should just extend grace to myself because I have two young kids, one of which has not slept well for the past 9 months of her life, and the other is a very high-energy, high-need child. The other voice says that making changes to our family routine isn’t about increasing productivity or trying to run a business on the side. It’s about survival. Because I am literally losing my mind, and that is not working for me.

I haven’t even figured out how to accomplish the basics on a regular basis. I frequently find myself completely over grocery shopping and meal planning, so I just don’t do it. Travis asks what’s for dinner, and I shrug. What I want to say is “I don’t effing care, you figure it out.” Instead, I stumble to the kitchen on the fumes of willpower and hodge-podge something together using frozen vegetables and a box of pasta.

I clean bathrooms about once a month. I change sheets about every two. I can’t remember the last time I vacuumed downstairs and we have never washed windowsills in our current house (even though they are disgustingly filthy).  The girls can sense whenever I’m mustering up motivation to accomplish something out of the ordinary because without fail, that’s when they unleash their most unruly tantrums.

All my fantasies lately are about relaxation. It’s me, a good book, and a bed. I check out of my life by reading some brain candy. Reading transitions into naptime. After naptime comes leisure time. Remember leisure time, time to do the things you enjoy? Does that still exist somewhere in the world?

Instead, I find myself trapped in a life that requires me to spend all of my time and energy on things I don’t want to do, like change poopy diapers, fix 10 snacks a day, clean up messes and spills every five minutes, schlep four armloads of stuff to and from the beach for an hour of play, and my favorite, deal with two screaming, tantrum-y kids simultaneously while my husband is out fishing.

The cherry on top of the crap sundae is the nitpicky bickering in marriage over NOTHING and EVERYTHING caused by both spouses being overextended and stressed out. Somedays I’m *this close* from going to bed for the rest of the year.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful husband and my marriage is actually in a pretty good place. Even so, it often echoes the theme of my life right now: EVERYTHING IS A BATTLE. It’s a battle to be a loving spouse. To let things go in the name of unity and love instead of demanding that things be done or said how I want them to. To find time and mental energy for doing thoughtful, kind things for my husband.  To view him as more than just the replacement babysitter or the impediment to doing what I want.

It’s a battle to parent. To control my own emotions and use wisdom instead of anger and heavy-handedness. To balance spending time with the girls and getting things done. To just get enough freakin’ sleep.

It’s a battle to manage my household. To maintain the necessary energy and level of giving a crap to keep up on all the monotonous chores. To not compare my house organization and decorating style to other women’s, or to at least not feel like mine’s a bag of lumpy cheese compared to theirs.

It’s a battle to be a Christian. To find time for Bible study, prayer, evangelism, serving, and all the things I think I “should” be doing.

It’s a battle to have personal time. Actually, let’s be honest, the battle is to be ok with not having personal time, with having a long list of things I’d like to do but don’t have the time or energy to do after having spent all of my time and energy herding toddlers, completing the basic tasks of survival, and preventing our house from being condemned.

But in the midst of all this “NESS” (as my old boss Carol Ann Kelly used to say), you want to know what’s awesome?

Jesus came for messes like me.

We Christians often say to unbelievers that you don’t have to clean yourself up in order to come to Jesus. In fact, “if you tarry until you’re better, you will never come at all.”

What we don’t often say is that this is a message for us too. Because even when you put your faith and trust in Jesus, you don’t stop being a mess. You don’t stop being a sinner in need of a Savior. In fact, sanctification–the process of becoming more like Jesus in your character and spirit—almost always involves seeing more of your sin, admitting your mess, and humbling yourself through repentance and apologies. Sanctification is sacred work, yes, but it is borne of blood, sweat, and tears. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

I usually think of discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience,” but it can also be defined as “the practice of training oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way.” Learning to repent and apologize for my own sin is discipline, but so is spending my days doing things I don’t want to do. It is painful in the moment to persevere in the cycle of clean, wash, organize, tidy—especially when my flesh is screaming “I don’t want to!”—but this verse in Hebrews reassures me that IT IS ALL WORTH IT. In my unbelief cloaked by twilight, all I can see is despair, discouragement, and the lie that It Will Always Be Like This. But at the faintest hint of dawn, when tendrils of sunlight touch dewy grass, my languid soul is revived and I am reminded that God is using even this to accomplish His purposes, “…that he who began a good work in [me] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

So then, the truth of God’s love and redemption remains the same. It is just as true on the days when the refrigerator is bare, I’ve lost my temper three times before noon, and I never change out of my pajamas, as it is on the days when I sneak in a run and Bible study before breakfast, the girls are getting along, and I am caught up on chores.

And that’s the challenge—are we willing to come to Jesus at all times, in our competence or in our mess? Are we willing to surrender our life, whether it’s going well or it’s hitting the fan, to God and His purposes? Or will we stand far off, demanding control and wishing life were different, unwilling to let ourselves rest or be healed because of our pride and stubbornness?

The messiness of motherhood reminds me of a beloved quote from Joel Warne’s book Soul Craving:

There are times, though, when transformation simply doesn’t come, times when our hunger for a new way to be remains unfed. At those times… simply rest with God in your problem. Simply be with him in your sin, your emptiness, your failure. Rest quietly with him in your confusion, your paralysis. Sit next to him in the wound that won’t heal, the pain that won’t subside, the desert that never ends… Here the still center of your love affair with Jesus Christ rests steady, unmoved, unquenched, unconquered by your unresolved messes. Here your love for God really does take precedence. It is no longer a means to an end, a kind of convenient tool to work your own liberation…

Sometimes, our very desire to be transformed into the new creation God wants us to be must be considered rubbish in comparison with simply knowing Christ. Is it enough for you to simply love him? To draw close to him, to offer him your affection? If intimately abiding with Jesus produced no change at all within you, could you be satisfied to simply remain with him in all your painful, unresolved stuff? (199-201).

Even in the messiness of motherhood, we must come to Jesus. We must keep our eyes fixed on Him, and Him alone. Not on Pinterest or Facebook. Not on “other moms” or “other bloggers.” Not on what we “should be able to handle” or what life was like before kids. ON CHRIST ALONE. On His provision of mercy and grace for this moment, right now. He wants us to live in continual dependence on Him and His Spirit, and He will use the circumstances of our lives to get us down on our knees in humble submission.

How does one reclaim sanity amid the never-ending demand and crisis that is parenting?

I don’t know.

But I do know that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) and “the LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever” (Psalm 138:8).

And with promises like that, who needs sanity?

Annabelle Lyn: 15 Months

27 Jun

Annabelle was 15 months back on June 27.20160607_112132 (Large)Size

Annabelle had her 15-month appointment last Friday and is now 22 lbs 7 oz (67%), 31 inches tall (62%) with a head circumference of 19 inches (98.8%). She’s still wearing 12-18 month clothing and size 4 diapers.20160613_162601 (Large)Eating

Not much has changed here from last month. She’s still nursing 3-5 times a day, eating 3 meals and a few snacks, and drinking water and occasionally peach tea from a sippy cup.

Annabelle does have all of her teeth now (minus her 2-year molars) and can feed herself with a spoon and fork (an ability she was more than eager to learn– she’d whine at meals until we gave her a utensil of her own).IMG_20160615_085131 (Large)IMG_20160621_123217 (Large)Sleeping

Annabelle’s sleeping has changed over the past month… and not for the better, unfortunately. She has developed what we think is separation anxiety, which means she wakes up whenever we try to put her in her crib and screams at the top of her lungs. Putting her down awake is just as bad. Since her crying is so intense and crying-it-out isn’t my thing to begin with, I usually only wait 10-15 minutes before going in to comfort her (and sometimes not even that).

One reason we think it’s separation anxiety is because she calms down the second we enter her room. But she doesn’t stay calm if we don’t also immediately pick her up. After a week or so of rocking her or holding her for 30-60 minutes (long enough for her to be sleeping deeply when we put her down) and feeling frustrated and exhausted, I moved a mattress into her room and have been sleeping with her on the floor for the past couple of weeks.IMG_20160625_111323 (Large)Another reason we think it’s separation anxiety is that she cries immediately if I try to put her in the crib, but goes right to sleep if I put her down on the mattress on the floor–I think because she associates it with me being in there with her. (She’ll also look to see if I’m still there when I put her down on the mattress.)

Anyway, I’m hoping this is a phase that runs its course quickly so that I can get back to my own bed. Though I will admit it’s kind of fun snuggling with Annabelle. In the morning, she’ll crawl over (she’s usually sleeping on a separate blanket on the floor by then with all the rolling around she does) and snuggle with me. She loves rolling around, burrowing, snuggling, cuddling, even when she’s awake. She often lays her head on her shoulders when we’re holding her. She’s just such a sweetie.

IMG_20160623_160722 (Large)Development

Annabelle is so. close. to walking but just doesn’t have the confidence or boldness quite yet to really try it. She is starting to let go of her support while playing with things, can walk if we hold her around the waist or hold one hand, but is just extremely cautious. She’s had a few minor tumbles while trying to walk that have impeded her progress even more. The gross motor expert we’re working with, though, says another reason for her delay could be because Annabelle’s feet naturally fall inside onto her arches, causing her to work extra hard to maintain her balance, and that she would benefit from wearing supportive shoes almost all the time. We haven’t been very good about having her wear shoes since she’s not walking and it’s summer (hello sweaty feet!), but I’m trying to be better about it since it’s the best thing for her.

She still loves pushing her alligator clacker around, and she can finally turn it on her own too! She loves funny noises and ripping paper, and is in full-blown mess-making mode. Her favorite thing by far, though, is climbing. We move a small stool in front of the couch (it’s just a little too high for her without it) and she amuses herself for 15-20 minutes going up and down. She also loves climbing stairs and slides.

Annabelle also does a lot of talking and babbling, and her favorite word(s) by far right now are Dada (used for almost everything) and Dawdee (Doggy). She also says “Oh” with her little mouth in the shape of an O (especially when seeing something new or interesting), “ah da” (all done), and “uh oh” regularly. She now associates the sign for “more” with the idea of eating. Her receptive language has increased a lot too–we can ask her to come over to her chair to eat and she will (when she wants to eat). We can talk about going outside and she’ll go to the door, or at least look in that direction. She’ll be upset about not getting food right. now. and I can explain that I’m just going to get her tray, or cut the food up, and she’ll settle down momentarily. She can also point to doggies in books. It’s so fun watching kids learn new things!

Memorial Day 2016: Ohio Trip

23 Jun

This year, one of my cousins got married the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend in Zanesville, Ohio. Zanesville happens to be only 1.5 hours from my aunt and uncle who live in Green, Ohio (outskirts of Akron). Even though I have seen them fairly often in the past 2-3 years, I hadn’t been to visit them in something like 20 years, so we decided to make a week-long trip out of it!

Since the uncle we were visiting is my dad’s only brother and we’d be flying out of the same airport, we asked my dad if he wanted to join us. He did, so we met up at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport (Travis, the girls, and I flew in from Brainerd) and rented a minivan together once we got to Cleveland.20160525_112648 (Large)The Wednesday we flew in, we stopped by the Cleveland Aquarium right after leaving the airport, mostly to minimize the amount of driving we’d be doing (it was about an hour drive between Cleveland and Green). Annabelle was mostly interested in climbing on things, but did enjoy seeing the big fish and sharks. Emma enjoyed running around on her own (too much), trying to touch the sting rays in the interactive area, drawing on the chalkboard areas, and using lots of hand sanitizer–looking at fish is not quite exciting enough for her, though I do think she liked the glass tunnel (that’s always my favorite part).

After the aquarium, we hit the road and spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Noel and Pat at their house, and grilling burgers for dinner. We stayed at Noel and Pat’s house the whole time we were up in the Cleveland/Akron area. Travis, the girls, and I slept in their really nice fifth wheel camper (which gave us a bunch of room to spread out), and my dad slept in their guest room. I usually dread nighttime on vacation because the girls have a track record of sleeping horribly, but they actually did REALLY well. Almost better than they do at home!

Thursday, my dad helped Noel work on one of the camper’s slide-outs that was broken, and Travis, the girls, and I headed to the Akron Zoo. It was a really fun time! Annabelle is old enough to enjoy looking at animals, and Emma had a blast running around.IMG_20160526_180420 Emma asked to ride the carousel, so we all went on it. Annabelle did not like how the animal she was riding moved up and down. She started crying the minute the carousel started moving, but was fine if I just held her. Emma loved it though.

Emma also asked to ride a little train they had in the kids’ area. It was $2 a person, and looked completely lame for an adult, so we convinced Emma to ride on it by herself if she really wanted to go. And she did! Another mom befriended her in line and offered that Emma could sit with them, but when they opened the gate to let them get on the train, Emma wandered down to the caboose at the end and sat all by herself! Her expression was priceless.

When she got off, I told her that I was proud of her for being so brave and riding the train all by herself, and she told me, “I was scared.” Cutie.

At the river otter habitat, the zoo had a clear plastic slide that went through the river otter tank. There were a bunch of kids there going down the slide over and over. Emma went down the slide a bunch of times too, but the last couple of times she went down, she stopped herself halfway done and tried to climb back up. The last time, I had to reach/climb up into the slide from the bottom and pull Emma out because she refused to move. And that was that.

Friday morning, Travis and Noel headed to the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton while my dad, Pat, the girls, and I headed to an outdoor pool in nearby Hartsville. The one thing I had forgotten to pack (there’s always something!) was a swimsuit for myself. I thought I could get by without one, but once we got to the pool, it became apparent that it would really be nice if I had a suit. So my dad and I went to Target as quickly as we could (still took us about 45 minutes roundtrip with traffic, even though the store was only 6 miles away) and I bought a suit. Once we got back, we stayed at the pool for about another hour. There was a big (lazy) waterslide that I tried to convince Emma to go on with me, but she refused. She wouldn’t even go down the kiddie one after sliding off the end into the water a little too fast. Annabelle had a blast climbing on the kiddie waterslide. I took both girls through the water falling from the mushroom/tree thing, but neither of them liked it.

After the pool, we packed up our stuff and headed down to Columbus to see my oldest brother Jeremy, his wife Jen, and their two boys, Jensen and Jackson. We went out for pizza at a place called Bexley Pizza Plus. It was delicious! We sat out on the patio, and Emma and Jensen had a great time running around chasing each other. After we got back to the hotel, Travis took Emma to the pool for a bit while I put Annabelle down for bed.

20160530_162109 (Large)Saturday was the day of my cousin’s wedding. We ate the hotel’s continental breakfast, and then swam in the pool for a bit before getting ready for the wedding and driving the hour from Columbus to Zanesville. Once we got to Zanesville, we quickly ate soup and salad at Olive Garden before heading to the church.

Tim and Mary’s wedding was held at a beautiful Catholic church and I’m sure the 1.5-hour service was wonderful–we just didn’t hear almost a single word between the low volume on the priest’s microphone, the echo of the wooden pews and stone walls, and the screeching/crying/whispering/banging/general chaos of the 40 kids in back. Seriously, there were a lot of kids at the wedding. One of the only things I did hear the priest say at the end of his homily was, “It sounds like a rainforest in here.”

Even though Emma colored on her own and Annabelle’s face in washable marker and threw one of the hymnals at Annabelle during the service (causing me to remove and discipline her), I think our kids actually did pretty well, all things considered. (But as we continually discovered during this vacation, there is a huge difference between things “going well” in terms of no major meltdowns and things “going well” in terms of getting to actually pay attention to and enjoy what you’re there for. By that latter definition, things definitely did not go well. But let’s be honest, they never do when you’re at a wedding with young kids.)

After the service, we checked into our hotel and got situated, and then headed to the reception, which was about 40 minutes away on Mary’s family’s farm. It was such a lovely evening–the weather was perfect, the reception was such a great mix of rustic farm charm and wedding formal, they had rented a bouncy house for the kids. Emma had a blast playing in the bouncy house, with various other toys, and running around the farm. Annabelle, on the other hand, had a hard time. She’s just at a hard age where she isn’t content to just sit or be held, but is also very limited in what she can do, especially outside on a farm where there is either cement or hay fields to crawl on. We made do, enjoyed as much of the reception as we could, and headed home a little before 10 pm.

IMG_20160529_114622Sunday morning, we snuck in a quick swim before meeting my whole family in the hotel lobby for the continental breakfast. We chatted for a little over an hour before we all needed to pack up and go our respective ways. Travis, the girls, my dad, my aunt and uncle, and I all headed back up to Cleveland to go to an Indians game at 1:10 pm.

Emma was very hesitant about going into the ballpark at first (she’s never been anywhere like that before) but once we got in, she relaxed. I, however, was extremely frustrated for the first few innings because the girls were thirsty but we had read online that you couldn’t bring sippy cups or water bottles into the ballpark, and there were no cups or straws to be found (neither Emma nor Annabelle can drink out of a water bottle without a straw). I did, however, see many people who had brought their own sippy cups in! Grrrr….  Luckily, as I was complaining, a lady in front of me overheard and offered me one of her straws that she had brought along for her toddler. I was so grateful! That helped settle me down.

I seriously didn’t watch really any of the game, but Travis said that he saw enough of it to feel like it had been worth it. And it was really for him that we went, so that’s good enough for me. Besides sitting in our seats for about 20 minutes total, we raced a ghost runner to first base (one of the kid activities they had), ate $6 hot dogs (Emma and Annabelle both almost ate an entire one by themselves!), and checked out the Kids Club area, which had a bunch of Step2 toys and its own private viewing deck (where Travis caught almost an entire 2 innings while “watching” Emma!).IMG_20160530_090701There was a big tunnel slide in the Kids Area, and just like at the zoo, Emma stopped herself halfway down and wouldn’t come out. So Travis had to go in after her, but by the time he had gotten to where she had been in the slide, she had decided to go down and was already out. So he popped out the bottom looking like he had just gone down the slide by himself, ha.

Sunday evening, we were feeling burned out and wishing that we had gone home that day instead of staying until Tuesday. But Monday (Memorial Day) ended up being really fun and redeemed our longer stay. We stopped by a car show on a whim and ended up staying a couple of hours. While my dad and Noel looked at cars (they were loving it!), Travis and I played at the playground with the girls. Then we ate a free picnic lunch, complete with ice cream bars. We also stopped to look at the two pink cars we saw (Emma’s favorite color) and take pictures. IMG_20160530_160012After naptime, we drove to the Erie Canal and checked that out. Beautiful, but hot.

For dinner, we ate ribs and corn on the cob at Noel and Pat’s, and then went out for ice cream at Pav’s Creamery.

Tuesday morning, we were up bright and early to catch our flight from the Cleveland airport back to Minneapolis/St. Paul. We had a 3-hour layover there before our flight back up to Brainerd, so my dad ate lunch with us at Rock Bottom before taking off. The rest of the layover we spent walking on the moving sidewalks, playing at the airport playground, getting coffee, eating snacks, changing diapers, and checking out the nursing moms room (very nice, I might add!). It actually was a very enjoyable time. The girls were having a blast. The thing about kids is, they don’t care that they’re playing on a playground at the airport. A playground is fun anywhere! The play area also had coin-operated rides, and the girls rode those probably a half a dozen times.

We made a lot of great memories during our week in Ohio, and it’s always great spending time with family (seriously, it’s one of my favorite things in life), but we were SO GLAD to get home. Traveling with young kids is no joke. I may have been a homebody before having kids, but I really am one now. Like they say, with young kids, you don’t go on vacations… you go on family trips. Now I need a real vacation!

Make Time for Yourself by Trusting in God

21 Jun

IMG_20160621_105344An idea that seems rather ubiquitous right now in the online and book world for women, moms in particular, is “Prioritize yourself.” What they mean by that is to intentionally carve out time for yourself to pursue your own interests, to do things because you want to and not because you have to, and to get sufficient rest instead of running yourself ragged.

That this common theme is being touted by many sources in a variety of contexts shows that this is a message moms need to hear. If my experience proves anything, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you always need to “be on”—that if you don’t do something, it won’t get done; and if it doesn’t get done, all hell will break loose.

Just the other weekend, Travis and I took the girls to a nearby waterpark. Usually I’m the one who packs the suits, towels, change of clothes, sunscreen, etc. But that day, Travis remarked that he was packing a bag with our clothes. So despite the weird feeling of not being in control, I let go and let Travis pack. When we arrived at the waterpark, however, I discovered that he had meant he was packing our changes of clothes, and we had brought nothing for the girls—no clothes, no regular or swim diapers, and no swimsuit bottom for Annabelle (we had put sunscreen on before leaving the house). My initial reaction was anger and “See! If I don’t do things, they don’t get done!” After 5 minutes and with diapers loaned from our friends, I settled down and could admit that it really was just a breakdown in communication—Travis had thought I was packing the stuff for the girls.

It’s incidences like that that make us moms feel justified in our “Woe is me, I never get a break” attitude. I often feel bitter at Travis for his asking to do stuff on his own or for himself (like running errands alone, going fishing alone, etc.) but the truth is, I could ask to do things for myself too, but I don’t. Why is that? It’s because of this idea that I need to continually manage things, or they won’t get done.

The bigger and more truthful truth is that they most likely will get done… they just won’t get done the way I do them, or when I would do them. There are those times they really don’t get done, but you know what? The world keeps spinning. All hell doesn’t break loose. And I hate to admit it, but there are even times when I realize that… certain things aren’t even necessary. (Shocker, right?)

That means it’s ok for me to use a naptime for writing, even if it means the dirty dishes and Mount Laundry remain untouched. It’s ok for me to leave the girls with daddy on a Saturday to go on a run instead of run to the store, even if it means we scrounge through the fridge for a hodge podge dinner that night. It’s ok for me to head to Bible study even if Annabelle isn’t down for the night, and it means Travis will have to handle putting both girls to bed on his own (like I have done many times).

The more I’ve analyzed my reluctance to take a break from being the mom and adult, the more I realize that that reluctance comes from pride. It comes from me thinking that I’m indispensable. That no one can do what I do, or more accurately, no one can do what I do exactly the way I do it. And My Way is the Right Way.

Last week, Travis and I had a dinner date to talk through some challenges and communication issues in our marriage, and we realized that all this time, we’ve been thinking that to be on the same team as parents, we needed to handle situations exactly the same way. What a ludicrous thought! We don’t need to be the same parent to be on the same team—we just need to agree on overarching principles and have one another’s back on in-the-moment decisions.

This is why it’s good to remind moms—especially Type A, OCD, control freaks like me—that it’s ok to take a break, and that the world won’t fall apart in their absence.

BUT…

We are humans, which means we are sinners. And there is an aspect to this idea of “Prioritize yourself” that could prove to be unhelpful. Satan knows that we are, by nature, selfish. In his sermon “Splitness” using Romans 7:1-9 and 18-25, and the classic book “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, Pastor Tim Keller agrees with Stevenson that all the evil in the world is caused by self-centeredness: “Every thought centering on the self.”

What I’m trying to say is: our sinful, selfish selves could take this bait of prioritizing ourselves and use it to our detriment. We can fall into the mindset that we “deserve” to have time to ourselves, that we “need” to pursue hobbies for our own mental sanity, and that we’re “losing our true identities” in the throes of motherhood. Some of the most dangerous, discontentment-breeding words for a mother are “All I want is…” “All I want is some peace and quiet.” “All I want is to drink my cup of coffee before it gets cold.” “All I want is to read a single paragraph without being interrupted.” “All I want is for the kids to go the eff to sleep already!” Let’s be honest, we really don’t need anything tempting us to be more selfish. Because we do a fine job on our own, thankyouverymuch.

But, you might say, moms are being reminded to rest and pursue their own hobbies because they are pouring out every single drop of energy and focus on their families! That’s not selfish.

Or is it?

As I’ve already pointed out, my own reluctance to taking a break comes from pride, from a self-concerned need to control everything. In those instances, I’m refusing to do what I really need to do for my own mental health and energy levels because I’m more concerned about the laundry getting done, or Travis not feeling abandoned, or the girls not being a handful. I have a puffed-up estimation of my own importance.

Those are the two extremes. On one hand, there is the extreme of playing the martyr and running on fumes to serve your family. On the other hand, there is the extreme of thinking that we are entitled to our own time and need it at all costs.

But there is a third way. It is a delicate balance between the two, and only possible by depending on God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit.

We humbly come before God and relinquish our indispensable mother role. We admit that He’s got our family in His hands, and we can rest and sleep because He never does. We can see the reality that we have been doing too much, and trying too hard, because we were depending on ourselves to get it all done. We receive the gift of rest, and of pursuing hobbies, and of doing things that simply delight us, and we appreciate the people who enable it to happen.

But we also hold those gifts with open hands, so that on the days that naptimes don’t overlap, or daddy feels sick when he’s supposed to watch the kids, or kids don’t sleep well so our morning routines aren’t possible, we have grace. We don’t mumble or grow frustrated that we were robbed of the time that we needed for ourselves. We believe that God will provide for us exactly what we need. Some days His grace comes in the form of time to rest or pursue hobbies. Some days it comes in the form of sustained energy and patience in the face of kids throwing tantrums and babies who won’t sleep.

Yes, it is good for moms to rest. Yes, it is good for moms to pursue their hobbies, or simply get time away. But let us pursue these things in faith, trusting in the God who “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17) and who “[supplies] every need of [ours] according to his riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).


“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” (Matthew 16:24)

“‘Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.’” (Matthew 6:34)

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:3-11)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

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