Why I Stopped Using Social Media, and Am Not Going Back

7 Sep

Note: I am not writing this post to judge or shame anyone. This is simply my experience and my opinions. If it prompts you to think a little deeper about your social media usage, great! If not, keep calm and post on!

The What

I spent June, July, and August 99% detached from social media. I did have to jump on Facebook a couple of times to gather information about or RSVP to an event or group that someone had told me about in person.

With the time that I would have normally spent on social media, I read a couple of news emails that I had sent to my inbox, so I did stay aware of what was going on in the world.

The Why

I have been going to counseling to figure out why I struggle so much with mom guilt, neurotic housekeeping, and feeling overwhelmed. Back in May, I started wondering if all the extra voices and “highlight reels” I was seeing on social media were maybe just adding fuel to the fire.

The How

I deleted Facebook and Instagram off my phone. Voila! Disconnected. I didn’t delete my accounts because I wasn’t necessarily planning for my hiatus to be permanent.

I found other ways to share things. When I took a super cute photo of the kids, I texted it to my parents and in-laws. When I ran across a good quote, I texted it to a friend who I thought would appreciate it. If I wanted to tell someone about my deep love for silicone kitchen brushes, shocker, I just kept it to myself.

Note: I do consider texting to be a form of personal interaction. Even though it’s still electronic and not face to face, it’s intentionally communicating with a specific person or group of people.

The Experience

The first few weeks of my social media hiatus, I missed posting more than I thought I would. I was still in the mode of looking at life through an Instagram lens, and processing thoughts in terms of captions or posts I  could add to my Stories.

But I didn’t really miss seeing other people’s feeds. In fact, not knowing what they were up to was actually kind of freeing! When I saw friends in person, we could actually catch up, instead of just retelling what we both already knew from seeing one another’s posts on social media.

After those first couple of weeks, I stopped thinking about posts and started just enjoying my life. Sometimes I took photos with my phone, but most of the time I didn’t. Instead, I noticed things. This awareness went hand in hand with my learning about the Charlotte Mason method for homeschool. I started really looking at butterflies, moths, and dragonflies; I collected mushrooms to identify; I watched squirrels and birds in the trees. I took mental snapshots of moments, and just enjoyed them without camera in hand. The few photos I did take were mostly to commemorate moments I had already enjoyed, instead of an attempt to document everything in hopes that something turns out worthy of posting to social media.

The Result

I had always justified my use of social media with the idea that “it’s fun to see what people are up to.” And I do still really enjoy knowing about people’s lives. But I think that this modern version of “knowing” has taken a natural human affinity and distorted it. Before social media, the main way you learned about other people’s lives was through actual human interaction. You run into Sally at a park and chat for 15 minutes about what you’ve both been up to. Or you do a play date with Mary and hear from her that Jane just bought a house and will close next month. Or you wonder what Bridget is up to, so you just call or text her to catch up.

I realize that the pandemic has decreased the usual amount of in-person human interaction we’re getting with people beyond immediate family, so that would seem to be an argument for the value of social media. But ask yourself this: Is seeing vacation photos posted by a friend from high school enriching your life? Is it adding value to your life to see photos of the birthday party an old friend from the state you used to live in hosted for her 5-year-old? Even if you limit who you follow on social media to those people you actually know and see on a regular basis, do you really need to see what their kids are doing every day?

Some of you might say yes, and honestly, even now as I’m typing this, I want to agree. Because I do like seeing cute pictures of kids and hearing people’s thoughts. And God created us with an innate desire to know others and be known.

But here’s the problem with social media: Knowing about people’s lives, without interacting with them over it, creates a vacuum. We know way too much about people and yet spend way too little time actually getting to know them. (Don’t even get me started on the people we follow that we will never meet IRL.) My rule of thumb is, if something important happens to someone I know and care about, it will come out in my personal conversation with them. If it doesn’t come up, then I don’t actually need to know.

“I don’t need to know.” That is pretty much the antithesis of social media. Social media is built on the idea, nay, the lie, that we have to know everything, all the time, from everyone, and if we don’t, we will be left behind. What will we have to offer if we haven’t seen the latest viral video, or the funniest new meme, or… or… or… something new that I can’t even imagine right now because I’m not on social media?!?!

I’m taking a stand against that lie in my life by being done with social media. Even though I am tempted, I am not linking to this post from FB or IG. I don’t need people to know that I’m leaving. And they probably wouldn’t care anyway. Surprisingly, knowing less about other people and having the anonymous universe know less about me makes me feel better. Being slightly “off the grid” has allowed me to enjoy my own, real life more.

(I say slightly because yes, I am still telling the universe in a blog post about why I decided to stop using social media. If that makes me a hypocrite, then so be it.)

And so, I will end this post with probably the last up-to-date term from social media that I will know…

Mic drop.

(Full disclosure, I am not deleting my Facebook account, since it is unfortunately the method of communication that several IRL groups I am part of has chosen. I plan to delete my Instagram account once I download all my data, which is in the works. And I do plan to keep my blog.)

Annabelle Lyn: 5.25 Years

25 Jul

Annabelle turned 5 years old back on March 22, during the COVID quarantine. By the time I am writing this, she is now a little over 5.25 years old.COLOR_POPIMG_6401 (Medium)For her birthday, we went hiking at an open space with my in-laws and then ate pizza outside while the kids played on our driveway. She got a Minnie playhouse from my in-laws, a Barbie airplane from my dad and stepmom (Emma’s gift too), and a singing Anna doll from us (and two weeks later, she decided she didn’t want it to sing anymore so she had us remove the battery).

Size

Annabelle’s well-child check was done over Zoom so according to my own measurements, Annabelle is now 3′ 8″ tall and weighs 40 lbs. (For comparison’s sake, Emma was the same height and 42 lbs at that age.) She is wearing 4/5 clothing and size 11 shoes.

It’s still hard for me to comprehend how big Annabelle is getting! She just seems so much like a little girl in my mind (probably because she’s still smaller than Emma) but she’s going to be a kindergartner this year!IMG_4624 (Medium)(Photo from Summer 2019)

Eating

Annabelle’s favorite foods are yogurt (her breakfast almost every day), scrambled eggs, bacon, mac & cheese, fig bars, applesauce, most fruit, cereal, quesadillas, pancakes/waffles, and muffins from Costco. She is still a master of snacks and it’s a battle to get her to eat dinner most nights. (Though as we realized when the girls were up at my in-laws’ cabin and we just had Corbin at home, Annabelle almost always leaves the table mid-dinner to play with Bud, which explains why she doesn’t eat. But it allows us to eat  our food while it’s still hot, so there are some benefits to that!).7F4CE411-989D-4E60-ABC4-61EAF0586719E6882C17-A2FB-4C53-8A60-FFE093E72052IMG_6078 (Medium)IMG_6872 (Medium)Sleeping

Annabelle still shares a room with Emma, and she now has her own twin bed instead of the toddler bed (I can’t completely remember when we got her a twin bed, but I feel like it was around the time she turned 4?). Last summer, we bought the girls matching mermaid bedspreads, though now Annabelle says she wants a unicorn bedspread instead (too bad!).7b2d24e2-719a-40f3-8c12-7457bc8fab43Annabelle has gotten much easier to put to bed at night. She still drags her feet to get jammies and lotion on, brush teeth, and go potty, but once she’s in bed, she’s usually out within 10 minutes or so (especially during the summer when she’s exhausted!). Similar to Emma, some nights she does the bedtime routine with minimal pushback, and other nights, it’s like pulling teeth.

Annabelle has been wearing undies to bed for probably the last 6 months or so (since age 4.75). She does still have occasional accidents, so we have a waterproof mattress cover on her bed, limit her fluid intake after dinner, and make sure to have her go potty every night right before bed (we tell her “Stink or tink!”, meaning she has to try to go potty hard enough that even if she doesn’t have to pee, she farts. HAHA!)

Emma and Annabelle go to bed at the same time (between 7:30-8:30), and usually wake up around the same time (usually 7:30 or so).IMG_4312 (Medium)Development

Annabelle went to Pre-K (School Readiness) in Pillager this past school year, and will be homeschooled for kindergarten this coming year (a decision we made pre-COVID). She really enjoyed preschool, and was really excited for kindergarten at Pillager. The night of Kindergarten Roundup, she really wanted to go, and wouldn’t accept that we wouldn’t be going (because we already knew we would be homeschooling). She got her jacket and shoes on after dinner, and when I told her that we had already missed it, she had the biggest meltdown of her life, which lasted a couple of hours. I felt absolutely terrible. Poor little Ducky.2C810EB3-5C6E-40FC-80BB-BDB0266FE6ECAnnabelle now knows how to spell and write her name (it’s a long one!), and knows all the letters of the alphabet (she still asks which letter is which sometimes, but I’m unsure if it’s because she’s being hesitant or if she really doesn’t know). We’re still working on writing the letters too. She can count up to 30, and knows all her colors and shapes. She also made a lot of progress in her coloring and cutting abilities this past year.IMG_6471 (Medium)Annabelle can be shy, and during her Christmas program for Pre-K, she didn’t do any of the motions to the songs. She knew the words and sort of sang, but otherwise, she stood there with no expression. Haha!IMG_5664 (Medium)IMG_5683 (Medium)Annabelle also started receiving speech services through the school district at the end of the school year for her trouble with pronouncing certain sounds.

Annabelle has a special bond with both of her siblings, and they both love her.3F203ADD-DD63-402A-8BF7-C3D082F79E246DF53260-DC57-49FF-8FCD-EFF29F34B898 Emma and Annabelle are two peas in a pod, and play together 95% of the time. Overall, they get along great and have both made progress in compromising. They do disagree/fight over the same toys (“I need another bed for my mom!” “No, I do!”) or who gets to play which role (“I always have to be the boy!”) or who does the voice for which doll. Over the past year, Emma and Annabelle have:

  • Gone sledding behind the snowmobile until they fell off whipping around corners – they usually laughed about it but sometimes they didn’t:IMG_5768 (Medium)IMG_6309 (Medium)
  • Done imaginative play with Barbies, dolls, kitchen utensils, soap bottles, you name it. They even turned our minivan into a camper for a few days this summer. (See this post for some more details about what they were up to during quarantine.)3C9C9697-4326-4935-A9A1-B36B84B68650259E1555-DE39-49E4-A887-E7FB21DAE578EC17ED23-0645-4387-A9BC-20B712F726B7IMG_6584 (Medium)
  • Scrapbooked, used playdough to make clothes for their Barbies and pretend makeup, helped stamp and seal Christmas cards, and started drawing pictures with elaborate backstories or humorous jokes (like a dad farting).9B9ACA03-2CE6-4CA8-BCBA-F66BF8F5DD502450F84B-E812-4FA0-BF87-7AC98059E7ADIMG_4782 (Medium)IMG_6204 (Medium)IMG_6213 (Medium)

Annabelle also loves Corbin, and he loves her so much. He will run to her in the morning yelling, “Ducky! Ducky!” or even go wake her up if she sleeps later than Emma. Annabelle still shows her affection by tickling/pinching his cheek as she walks by. Corbin gives hugs sometimes, other times he throws something at her (#boys). Sometimes Annabelle muscles through with amazing resilience, and other times she melts into a puddle at the slightest injury (she does this with Emma too).

She will often disappear into Corbin’s room (“Don’t let him in here!”) to set up an elaborate tower for him to knock over.IMG_5273 (Medium)71552568-49E6-4561-9CF9-CFC2B32DF91EDBD4579E-9124-4FC1-BE3B-15A709798FABIMG_4399-EFFECTS (Medium)IMG_4855 (Medium)IMG_5084 (Medium)IMG_5253 (Medium)IMG_7166 (Medium)

The Summer of 2019, Annabelle learned how to pump on the swing. This summer, she learned how to ride a bike without training wheels. She also got her first salon manicure for my dad’s wedding in November 2019.IMG_5256 (Medium)IMG_5259 (Medium)Annabelle is still pretty silly, and has the most hilarious “duck” voice (which we have yet to capture on video). She still talks in a whiny voice often and will ask me the same request 3-4 times in a row thinking I haven’t heard, even when she can clearly see I’m in the middle of doing something, and sometimes even after I’ve acknowledged her but still haven’t gotten her what she asked for. 47F6A92A-F642-4748-ADCA-E4AA7C663AD0IMG_3900 (Medium)IMG_4002 (Medium)IMG_5272 (Medium)

We love our little Duckles! (aka Duck, Ducky, Fon Duck, or Duke-uhl-bear.)

Corbin Travis: 2 Years

20 Apr

Corbin turned 2 years old on March 22, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine. On his birthday, we went hiking with some friends at a nearby “open space” (as Colorado calls them), had brownies and ice cream at home (but Corbin didn’t eat a single bite!), and took Corbin on a car ride, one of his favorites right now.img_6329img_6340Size

Corbin hasn’t had his 2-year checkup yet because of COVID-19, so these aren’t official. But according to our wall ruler, he is roughly 2′ 10″ tall (just slightly taller than his sisters were at this age and in the 30th percentile for boys). And according to our bathroom scale, he weighs about 30 lbs (80%). He is still wearing size 5 diapers, though I plan to buy size 6 whenever I run out of my current stash because they’re getting a little tight. And he is wearing 5/6 shoes.img_6568Sleeping

Corbin has gotten into a pretty good napping and sleeping routine. His typical day looks like this:

7 AM – Wake up

1 PM – Down for nap

4 PM – Up from nap

7:30 PM – Down for night

Corbin almost always takes a solid 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon, which is great (now that I’m home with the kids in quarantine, that’s when I do some work for my job). And he now goes to sleep at the same time as the girls, which makes doing stuff in the evenings possible–except that now we don’t go anywhere because of the quarantine. Regardless, it is nice to get family time after Travis gets off work.

Corbin still has a hard time falling asleep in the car, and will only do so if he is absolutely exhausted.

Eating

Corbin still LOVES his baba (bottle). He gets a 4 oz bottle right when he wakes up in the morning, usually one mid-morning, one before his nap, one when he wakes up from his nap, and one before bed (and if he’s crabby around dinnertime, he gets one then too). He refuses to drink milk out of a sippy, and he is very comforted by his bottles. For the past couple of weeks though, when he asks for a ba-ba, he has been fairly receptive to eating something he likes instead, so we’re going to continue that. We might try water in his bottle too.

I feel like I can’t even give a list of foods that Corbin likes because it changes on a daily basis but for the last few weeks, he has liked: pancakes with maple syrup, toast, scrambled eggs, hot dogs, cheese, clementines, grapes, almond flour crackers, cheese pizza, applesauce, yogurt, fig bars, blackberries, strawberries, and banana. But often even when it seems like he likes something, he takes 2-3 bites, and then refuses the rest. Part of the problem is that he just can’t sit still long enough to eat. We’ve tried the highchair but he ends up screaming. I’ve also tried following him around and offering him bites. That sometimes works. But the thing that actually works the best is to get out his dessert (3-4 Skittles or something similar) and offer him a Skittle if he will take 1-2 bites of his dinner. It’s nice that he’s old enough to understand that now!img_6573If Corbin gets upset about anything though, he is more than willing to part with his food or eating utensil in the form of throwing it across the room, or smooshing it.img_65528f3a766a-349c-4272-bd66-a02e218e0ee2Development

Corbin LOVES books and at least once every day, motions that I sit in the chair in our living room to read him books. He is learning new words every day. His most-often used words are birdie, cookie, hone (phone), go, side (for either inside or outside), cocks (crocs), boots, Kayhee (Katy), Chowlee (Charlie), bath, and bah (iPad–not sure why?!?). When we are talking to family on Zoom or FaceTime, he will say hi or bye if we prompt him to. 675aa43d-f311-4e0c-a3ff-84ce9c8690c6He spent a lot of time this winter riding the snowmobile with either me or Travis while we pulled the girls in sleds, and LOVED it! I unfortunately do not have a picture of that.

Other things Corbin likes:

  • Playdough and coloringimg_6352img_6317
  • Sticks and puddlesimg_6456
  • Walking through the woods (there was a period of time when it had warmed up and then gotten cold again, so the top layer of snow was super crusty and hard, making it very easy to walk on, and we walked through our woods on game trails daily).c7edc741-4482-41a9-a74a-e7acecbaba96
  • The dock, specifically throwing sticks into the water off the dockimg_6389
  • Climbing and slidingimg_6649b74acc63-a996-4569-83fd-2b6bc57376b7
  • His familyimg_6161img_6326img_5946
  • Staring off into space with his baba and cakey img_6652img_6656img_6178
  • Playing with laundry and piles of blankets/pillows/clothesimg_6265
  • Making a mess (he really can’t be trusted with anything)img_6298ba66ca19-6625-4816-9861-40ce6b8eb9ca

Corbin is adventurous and fun! He can be a little stinker (he is often caught playing in the toilet, especially now that he figured out how to open the lids) and usually overreacts when we tell him no (it’s actually quite hilarious and adorable when he clenches his fists and growls…until he starts throwing things, then you need to watch out). He’s curious about everything, and has several enigmatic behaviors that keep us on our toes (like wanting to take a bath only to get out a minute later). But we love our little Corb man!

Life in Quarantine, and the Start of Homeschooling

10 Apr

C4D178A9-47D8-4694-94C8-EECB4357C3D1April 12–Easter– marks one month since our family started voluntary quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It started with cancelling our plan to stay at a local hotel/waterpark for spring break.

Then school was closed.

Then Minnesota’s governor announced the shelter-in-place order, which has now been extended until May 4.

Our school district gave teachers two weeks to figure out distance learning. I stopped going in to the office, instead working from home for a couple hours in the afternoon. My kids and I read books, played board games, practiced counting and writing, measured things, put together puzzles, and colored pictures.

My girls have done a LOT of imaginative play. They first set tents up in the living room and pretended they were camping for a few days. Then they moved into the bedrooms and pretended they were staying in a hotel. For a day, they played surfing with their Lego Friends. Then for a few days, they were moms taking care of their baby dolls outside. The last few days, they have been playing Barbies, playing for 4-5 hours straight.

Sometimes they let Corbin play with them (he colors when they color) but most of the time, they don’t, so he wanders. He looks at books for a while, gets out a few board puzzles, plays with a car or blocks, then grabs his “cakey” (blankie) and lies on the floor, staring into space and sucking his thumb. When he tires of that, he comes looking for me. He loves books and iPad inside, and he loves water and sticks outside. He has his own loop outside–he wanders into the neighbor’s yard on a path through the woods from our front yard, walks through their yard (they only have a garage there as of now) down to the river, walks through the woods along the river to our dock, then throws sticks into the water off our dock.

Then came distance learning. It took us only a few days to realize distance learning was tough. And it took us only a week to give formal notice to our school district that we were going to start homeschooling.

We had actually been planning to homeschool next year already before schools even closed, before I even knew about coronavirus. I had already given my notice at work–I work for a church and knew that 1) they would appreciate a long head’s up and 2) they wouldn’t let me go before they found someone else. I was planning to be done working on May 19–the day before the last (early out) day of school. We told our girls’ teachers. We told our son’s daycare provider.

Even though homeschooling was our plan, it is still hard to have the school year end this way. The only times during this quarantine month that I have either cried or been close to tears (I am not a crier in general) was emailing my girls’ teachers and my son’s daycare to let them know that we were opting to homeschool now instead of continue distance learning. I feel for the teachers. I know their hearts are hurting. My kids loved their teachers. And it just hurts for it to end with no closure.

And then there’s the reality that instead of having all summer to get a plan in place, I am now homeschooling on a wing and a prayer. Fortunately, I had already been listening to podcasts and reading about homeschooling, and knew the general approach I wanted to take. It also helps immensely that my kids are young (my oldest just turned 7) so schooling at this age is more of a bonus than a necessity.

Just like Minnesota has had all the weather these past four weeks, I’ve had all the emotions. Gratitude, discontent, stress, simplicity, less hustle, no time to sit down, panic, overwhelm, savoring, organization, utter chaos, routine, frenzy, grief, joy.

Since this is the start of our homeschooling journey, my life will not go back to what it once was, before COVID-19. It will morph, adapt, change. We will get to see friends and go shopping and attend church again someday, but life as we knew it is gone. Even if I do go back to work one day and my kids go back to school, they’ll be older and I’ll almost certainly have a different job with a different employer.

But God. When I was dragging my feet about homeschooling, wanting to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was what God wanted us to do, instead of answering my pleas for clarity and understanding, God just repeated “Trust Me” over and over for 9 months through books, Bible studies, songs and devotions. “Trust Me.”

And even then, I just couldn’t quite step out in faith. I loved my job, and my co-workers, and I felt so useful in my role. And I didn’t know how to homeschool! And didn’t I get a job in the first place because I was losing my mind being home with my kids full-time? Would homeschooling now be any different?

Again, I didn’t receive answers to those questions. Instead, He reminded me that NO MATTER WHAT (even if homeschooling doesn’t pan out and my kids go back to public school and I feel like I gave up my favorite job for nothing), HE IS FAITHFUL. He has a plan, and His plan is to prosper me, not to harm me.

The bridge from the song Build My Life by Pat Barrett has been my anchor in this decision:

“And I will build my life upon Your love

It is a firm foundation

I will put my trust in You alone

And I will not be shaken.”

And this truth applies to all of us–those with kids or without kids, those doing distance learning or homeschooling, those weathering this storm with jobs and health, and those who aren’t: God’s Love for us is a sure foundation. When we build–nay, stake–our lives on His love for us, proven on the Cross and proclaimed in the Resurrection, we will not be shaken.

What does that mean practically speaking? It means we do not give into fear!

In our communities, we help those who need help. We say hi or at least look or smile at people on the streets and in stores. We talk about something other than the newest confirmed cases, or the latest projections. We do not hoard resources, but share with those who are in need, and leave enough for others.

With our kids, we do not worry about what gaps our kids will have in their education as a result of this, but encourage them to read, play, create, imagine. We do not isolate them from what is happening in the world, but we are intentional with how much we share, and we show them what it looks like to trust God in uncertainty.

And with ourselves, we leave room for all the emotions. We don’t demand that we have everything figured out right this minute. We recognize some days will be good, and some days won’t be. But we don’t let our emotions run wild. Instead, we run them to God. We build our lives on the foundation of His Love for us. And we remember that God has promised to be with us, in this life and in the next.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Freedom in Christ

29 Feb

I wrote back in November that I planned to start going to counseling. Here I am, on the cusp of March, with 5 sessions under my belt. Has it been helpful? Yes. Has it been what I expected? Not really.

I think I expected my therapist to overthink things like I do, and to give me deep, meaningful, existential explanations to my problems. Instead, the way she has been challenging my thinking has been utterly practical and no-nonsense. When I lament about mounds of laundry, kids’ messes, or frozen pizza dinners, her response is, “So what? Is anyone going to die if they wear dirty clothes or eat frozen pizza for dinner?”

Obviously the answer is no, so that begs the question – then why do I care so deeply? Why does it bother me so much when my house is a mess, or the laundry is undone, or I failed again to plan dinner? Even as I’ve been doing the hard work of trying to let go and be more relaxed about things, I find that there’s a tipping point. I can ignore the mess in order to go play outside with my family, but if I come back inside to find that they’ve made another mess, I lose my crap.

I honestly cannot fully explain why I have this neurotic need for everything to be in its place. And frankly, sometimes I feel fully justified in being neurotic, because isn’t this the way God created me?! This is just who I am. But sometimes it feels like my need for control is controlling me, and I can’t stop being controlled even when I try. I was expressing this to God the other day and He brought Galatians 5:1 to mind,

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

It stopped me in my tracks.

In Christ, I have freedom. Freedom from my own need for control. I do not have to be a slave to my personality that desires organization and tidiness! Armed with that verse, I have the confidence to declare that I AM NOT A SLAVE TO CONTROL. Because of Christ, I can refuse to be dominated by my need for order, and I can instead prioritize relationships.

I have long tried to wage this battle equipped with my own paltry strength. Is it any wonder that I’m still struggling with the same old thing? But this verse has given me something new, infused my soul with gospel confidence. This is my birthright in Christ. This is what He has won for me! I get to live in freedom because of my Savior!

I told my husband about this, and encouraged him, “Please, if you see me going off the rails, remind me of this verse.” I am staking my claim to freedom in Christ, and I will not submit anymore to a yoke of slavery.

Coupled with this promise, I have decided to give up yelling at my kids for Lent. That has, unfortunately, long been the way I deal with the feeling of overwhelm and stress caused by my kids either not listening to me or getting out of control. So, no more yelling. (I am hoping to continue that beyond Lent too.) Instead, I want to pray. Out loud. Instead of screaming at my kids, “We need to go NOW! Get in the car or you will be in big trouble!” I want to say, “Father, we are late. And these kids are not listening to me. Help me maintain my patience and grace, and help motivate them to listen. I trust that we will get to wherever we are going and it will be ok that we are late.”

There’s a quote from Connected Families that I have on my computer desktop – “When kids misbehave, make obedience a secondary goal, and make accessing and walking in the fruit of the Spirit yourself the primary goal.” That is the idea behind “no yelling” – instead of relying on my own power and effort to accomplish, I run to God, confess my inability, and rest in His power to accomplish.

I put this into practice this past Thursday when my oldest daughter was not wanting to go to school, and threw a tantrum. We were 20 minutes late to school, but I walked out of dropoff with a smile on my face. Because I hadn’t yelled, but had instead connected with my daughter and found out that she just plain missed me, which is why she didn’t want to go to school. I am really looking forward to seeing how God works in me over the coming months.

I’ll end with just the amazing feeling that I have of God personally ministering to my soul. I feel so unworthy of even His sideways glance, let alone of His speaking into my struggles. Counseling has been helpful, but the Spirit is the ultimate Counselor.

2020 Focus: Perspective

17 Feb

Can I write a post about my word for 2020 when it’s already the middle of February?

Too bad, I am.

My word for 2019 was Rest, and I’m not going to lie: I pretty much failed at it. Apparently, rest is not something that comes naturally to me (though I am a lover of naps). But since this post is about 2020 and not 2019, we’ll just leave it at that.

My “word for 2020” is Perspective. It’s actually kind of similar to my focus for 2016: Behold Your God, especially this quote from Glennon Melton: “I don’t want a new better life in [2020]. I just want new eyes to see that my life is already staggeringly beautiful.”  (Momastery, Best New Year’s Ever)

New eyes. A fresh perspective. 20/20 vision. (see what I did there?) Hindsight in the present.

November and December of 2019 were rough. ROUGH. I alluded to that here. And going to therapy has been helping. So has re-reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts again. Because what is my problem? What has it always been, and will always be?

The problem of all humanity — ingratitude.

Stomping my foot like a tantruming child, demanding my life be different. No, this isn’t the life I want. I want THAT one. The one I can conjure up in my head. You know, the one that’s only roses and rainbows, and involves none of the crap I have to deal with on a daily basis.

But that life doesn’t exist. I know this. The life I want is the glorified life, the life that only exists in heaven. I am yearning for heaven. And I will experience that one day, all praise to Jesus.

For now, I’m here, stuck in the catch-22. I can’t imagine a life without my kids, a life in which I am no longer a mom, and yet being a mom unhinges me some days. It’s this life of wife and mom that often threatens my sanity, but there is no universe in which I could just walk away.

So my biggest need, the solution to my biggest problem, is PERSPECTIVE. Do I view my family as a burden, a hindrance from my true potential, from the life I could’ve had? Or do I view them as my blessing, God’s chosen purpose for my life? My family are who they are. Parenthood is what it is. How am I choosing to look at it?

It is a choice. Gratitude does NOT just happen. Like Ann Voskamp says, ingratitude is humanity’s natural bent. Left alone, we are miserable messes, always focused on the thing withheld.

Gratitude is not just giving thanks, though that is valuable and necessary. It is above all looking for how God is at work in any and every situation. How God can use all things for good. When we give thanks to God for everything, even the hard things, we are demonstrating trust in Him. If we truly trust God, we will be thanking Him for every thing. “All is grace, because all can transfigure” (Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts).

We’re a month and a half into 2020 already, and I’ve already seen this practice of gratitude, of sleuthing for grace, infuse my life with renewed passion, energy, and yes, joy. Now the key will be: CONTINUE. Don’t stop being intentionally thankful.

So, 20/20 vision. Perspective.

A Still Winter Morning

5 Feb

IMG_5993This past weekend, I went to a Women’s Retreat at a place called Camp Lebanon. There were about 100-150 other women there, 20 from my church. I had an amazing time. The speaker was engaging and taught straight from the Bible, the worship music was powerful, and the weather was fantastic so I got to spend a lot of time outside.

Saturday morning, I went on a walk outside before breakfast. It was a quiet, still winter morning. The only sounds were a gentle breeze lightly touching the tips of evergreens, the crunch-crunch of my winter boots on the snow-covered roads, and an occasional sparrow singing its morning song of glory.

I was new to the camp, so I just set off adventuring, seeing what there was to see. I found the zipline (closed in the winter), the snow-tubing hill, a quintessential outhouse in the woods (complete with half moon on the front door), and a slope heading down to the lake.IMG_5995 I walked down to the edge of the frozen water, but didn’t dare venture further onto the lake without anyone else around. Fortunately, I discovered a trail that followed the shoreline. The snow on the trail was packed down enough that I didn’t need snowshoes.IMG_5994I amused myself by trying to guess which animal had left which footprints. I saw (I think) evidence of a rabbit, a turkey, and a deer. 

I stopped every now and then to look out at the lake and the changing colors of the sky.

The refrain from Frozen 2 was stuck in my head–“Show yourself”–and I realized that God was doing just that. Showing His glory, His power, His majesty.

My heart was so full on that walk. I rejoiced in the play of shadows and light on the trees from the sun just peeking over the horizon.IMG_6001 I stopped and gazed at a tree trunk with bark in a wavy pattern.IMG_5996 I took pictures, trying to capture the feeling I had so I could look back one day and remember. Remember how He met me out there.IMG_6005Later I read Psalm 96:11-13 and my soul said, “Yes! That is what I felt on that winter morning walk.”

“Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
    let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12     let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13     before the Lord, for he comes,
    for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
    and the peoples in his faithfulness.”

This practice of gratitude, this sleuthing for God’s glory (as Ann Voskamp would say), it transforms a life!

Corbin Travis: 22 Months

22 Jan

I had great intentions of posting about Corbin at 21 months (I was trying to do every 3 months until age 2) but he was 21 months 2 days before Christmas, so that didn’t happen. Corbin is 22 months as of January 22 (does that count as his silver birthday??)IMG_5873IMG_5079Size

Corbin goes back to the doctor at his 2-year checkup, so stay tuned until then. But I can say that he is still wearing mostly 2T clothes, though some 18-month pants. He wears size 5 shoes and size 5 diapers.

Sleeping

In terms of going to sleep, Corbin is the easiest kid in the world. Give him his “cakey” (blankie) and “baba” (bottle), and he will go right to sleep. How long he sleeps, though, is highly variable.

In general, Corbin goes to bed between 5 and 6 PM, and wakes up between 5 and 6 AM. But sometimes he decides that 3:30 AM is his time to wake up, even though he wakes up super grouchy and is ready to go back to sleep after an hour or 2. That’s what he has been doing this week. Uffda. Luckily, he’s done this before and I know it’s just a phase.

The other slightly odd thing about Corbin’s sleep habits is that he pretty much dropped his afternoon nap, and kept his morning nap (the opposite of most kids). He is almost always ready for a nap 3 hours after he wakes up in the morning–which means a lot of days, he’s taking his nap by 9 or 10 AM. He naps for a good 3 hours usually, putting him awake when most kids would be going down for their naps. Luckily, Corbin is pretty easygoing, and we can push him past his naptime if he’s having fun/being active (but put him in a shopping cart when he’s tired, and the world is ending!).IMG_4897IMG_4936-lowIMG_5253IMG_5624Eating

Man, Corbin is a picky eater. If it was just that there were only certain foods that he would eat, I could deal. But his food preferences change at every meal. It is a gamble every single time I give him food, because I honestly do not know if he will eat any of it. I realized a couple of weeks ago that I had stopped presenting him with food (but was instead just letting him indicate to me when he was hungry and what he wanted), which I realized probably wasn’t the best thing. But honestly, I am so. over. guessing what he wants to eat, giving him several options, all of which either go uneaten, or more likely, get thrown on the table, floor, and/or walls. Because Corbin gets mad about random things, and when he gets mad, stuff goes flying. I tell ya, it’s a good thing he’s so darn cute.

We’re taking it one day at a time. It’s so bad that when he’s actually eating something, I’m like “No one move. No one breathe. Just stay where you are because Corbin is actually eating what I gave him!!”

Since Corbin is still alive, you say, he must be eating something. Yes, he ingests calories. He is not wasting away. But I can’t speak for how healthy his choices are. His favorite food by far is milk, and he is still very much attached to his bottles. His second favorite food is fruit snacks, followed closely by candy and cookies. You would think with his sweet tooth, he’d be all about the fruit, but he isn’t!!! What kid doesn’t like fruit?!?!? His fruit consumption is hit or miss. Though he is newly fond of applesauce and goes gaga over blueberry muffins from Costco. He has also occasionally liked broccoli, shrimp, banana, yogurt, grapes, strawberries, fig bars, veggie straws, PB&J sandwiches, smoothies, and hot dogs. But again, you really can’t predict what he will eat.

Part of the problem for dinner is that if he is tired, he refuses to eat. He only wants a bottle and to go to bed. So I try to feed him a pretty substantial, as-healthy-as-he-will-tolerate snack (which is, in reality, his dinner) after we get home from school/work. Corbin’s eating habits are definitely the most challenging thing about this little dude.IMG_5246IMG_5627Development

Corbin’s vocabulary has really taken off in the past couple of months, and especially just in the past couple of weeks. He can now say Mama and Mommy, Dada, Ball, Tower, our dogs’ names Katy (“Kayhee”) and Charlie (“Chowee”), Bye, Bottle (which is sometimes still baba), wawa for water, cakey for blankie, and uh oh. But what encourages me most is that he’s more and more willing to try to say new words, whereas before he wouldn’t try. He does know the sign language signs for More, All Done, and Please, so he uses those a fair amount too.

Corbin continues to be an adventurous, daring child who loves going down the slide, climbing, and jumping off of things. He loves the snow, especially riding the snowmobile with me or Travis. We also took him sledding down a real hill for the first time, which he liked, except for the face-full of snow that he got blasted with on the way down. #notafan

6FF45B74-E11E-4CC0-9FC6-40012630B672AB828256-8436-4D87-B628-D0448954579FC6E7B447-7B5D-41B0-BAFD-DEBC33DCBD62This past fall, Corbin developed a really weird skin rash every time he went outside for a period of 3-4 weeks. It would go away once he came inside, so it was obviously an environmental but we took him to the doctor just in case.IMG_5076IMG_5071Some other things we’ve done since my last post on Corbin at 18 months:

Halloween – Corbin dressed up as Batman (Emma was Poison Ivy, Annabelle was Batgirl, I was Catwoman, and Travis was the Joker). It was extremely cold for trick-or-treating, so our costumes were much better displayed at the Pillager School Fall Festival and our Chili Cookoff the weekend after Halloween.

IMG_5093-loPumpkin Farm #1 – On fall break, we went to Farm on St. Mathias for the corn maze, and also went on a fairy walk in town. Both times, Corbin did not want to stay on the trail. ::sigh::376192B2-DE1C-4438-A039-08738BC3AF56IMG_5003-lowIMG_5009-lowPumpkin Farm #2 – Corbin’s favorite thing by far at Carter’s Red Wagon Farm was the mini golf course. He carried that club and ball around for a long time. He also played in the corn pit, which at first freaked him out, but he eventually warmed up to it (and then it was time to go).6FA9AC72-C574-4DE8-9B70-4876CA09CD07IMG_5035Beach Day in October – It warmed up to almost 70 degrees one random day in early October, so we went to the beach. The kids were loving it!IMG_4905-lowIMG_4907Puzzles and Books – Mr. Bud’s obsessions for most of November and December were puzzles and books. The puzzles: he would get one out, bring it to the kitchen table, and proceed to throw all the pieces onto the floor. The books: he would grab one and then come pinch your pant leg to pull you over to the chair. Sometimes he’d let you actually read the whole thing, sometimes not. If he really liked a book, he’d make the sign for more when you were done, to have you read it again. So cute.C4332A92-C889-4921-B0CA-A98F1DD40AF6IMG_5604-lowPhone – Mr. Bud’s most recent obsession is playing a toddler game on my phone. At first, he just wanted to watch me play the game. But now he has figured out how to play it himself, and he’s actually pretty good at it for a child who’s not even 2 yet! He also knows where I usually keep my phone in my purse, so he’ll go hunting for it if he wants to play. He also acts like a complete maniac if I get my phone out for something else. Case in point: IMG_5845IMG_5862Santa – Corbin was definitely NOT a fan of Santa.IMG_5632Snow! – We have a LOT of snow this year already so there’s been a lot of opportunities to be in it.IMG_5363-lowIMG_5366IMG_5367And finally, one other random thing that Corbin enjoys doing is dumping out clean or dirty laundry and swimming in it.IMG_5878-lowHe’s a funny little guy!

My Goals for 2020

12 Jan

I’ve been re-reading Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, probably for the seventh or eighth time. I’m reading it slowly this time around, taking a day or two in between reading spells to ponder the truths she learns, and to put gratitude into practice.

This afternoon, I’m choosing to write myself instead of immersing my mind in her writing. There’s something about reading words from a good writer that makes this wannabe writer want to write.

And writing is something that has taken a backseat in my life for far too long. For much of the past year, I’ve been trying to answer the question, How do I desire to do less? I figured, if I desired to do less, then I would by default do less, leaving more time for getting the necessary things done, thereby reducing my stress and busyness (and certainly reducing the stress of having so many things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for!).

So over the course of the past year, I’ve either stopped or significantly decreased the time I spend blogging, reading blogs, keeping up on current events, posting on and scrolling social media, beauty pampering, shopping, and decorating. Even with “giving up” all of those things, I still found it hard to find time for both Bible study and exercise, not to mention reading any of the 50+ books I have on my list. (If I’m being completely honest though, I often chose to watch a show at night before bed instead of reading, leading me to stay up later than I should, making it hard to get up in the morning and study the Bible.)

Here’s what I didn’t factor in though: It’s those things done for sheer enjoyment that make a life enjoyable. What’s the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Indeed it does. All work and no play makes life a miserable mess.

My personality is naturally that you work first, then you play. You get done what needs to get done, then you do the fun stuff. Well, the problem when you’re a mom is that the stuff that needs to get done is never ever done, so you never get to the fun stuff. And keeping an orderly house is a fine task, but it doesn’t amount to a full life.

So in a way, I’ve come full circle. Instead of getting rid of all the superfluous stuff so that I have more time for the necessary stuff, I need to find time for the superfluous stuff, even if it means that the “necessary” stuff doesn’t get done. Even if it means admitting that some of the stuff I thought was necessary isn’t really necessary. It’s hard to find time for hobbies and pleasures, and to fit them into an already full life, but IT’S WORTH IT. There are things that just cannot be dispensed with, and those are some of them.

There are certain things that I plan to keep doing less. Things like keeping up on social media and blogs, beauty pampering, decorating, and shopping. Part of that stems from my desire to continue on with my minimalist lifestyle, and part of it from not wanting to feel like the world needs to know what I’m doing, or that I need to know what the world is doing. When you start thinking about your life experiences in terms of what you can post on Instagram or how it compares to what you see on Instagram, something needs to change.

I also plan to stop watching shows at night. I’m in between things right now anyway, the season of cheesy Christmas movies is over, and the Vikings just lost their playoff game, so it feels like a good time to take a break from TV entertainment (except for the Super Bowl).

Things I want to start doing again are: Bible study, reading, blogging, and keeping up on current events via theSkimm emails. I also want to be more consistent with exercise again, something that fell by the wayside during the holidays. Here’s my plan:

Bible Study/Reading: Get up around 5 AM to hopefully get my Bible study in before the kids get up, and read at night before bed.

Current Events: When I have a free moment to be on my phone, I plan to read that day’s theSkimm email instead of scrolling social media.

Exercise: I’m either going to work out during Corbin’s naptime on Mondays and Fridays, or do just a quick 15-20 minute video/home workout while the kids are in a decent mood. I’m shooting for 3 days a week or so.

Blogging: My goal for now is to blog once per week, most likely on the weekend sometime. I can already check that off my list!

So those are my goals for 2020!

Where I’m At Right Now…

20 Nov

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted anything on this blog that hasn’t been an update on one of my kids. But today, I got my kids to school early (!) so I have a few minutes before work to put down some thoughts.

We’re in the throes of hunting season here in Minnesota, which means I’m at the nadir of my emotional and mental resources. Time and time again, year after year, October is balls-to-the-wall CRAZY busy and I enter November feeling like I could take a nap for a year and it would still be too short.

This year, hunting camp ended abruptly when I declared that I was sick and tired of being constantly stressed out, so we just up and left. My poor husband missed opening weekend of rifle season because my dad got remarried (I’m obviously from a non-hunting family), and then it didn’t work out for him to hunt during the week, and then the second weekend got cut short.

I’m stressed out because of busyness — no matter how much I have tried to create white space this year, it just is not happening. That is one of the great questions that has been rattling around in my brain this year: How do we do less, but not be selfish with our time? How do we serve others without overloading our family? 

I still haven’t figured it out. And from what I hear about other family’s schedules, we actually are less busy than most (which blows my mind). I want off the merry-go-round!!

I’m also stressed out by all the conflict in my life. All 3 kids fighting over toys. Various kids throwing various tantrums over various issues. It seems like at least one child is upset at any given time. Corbin crying because he wants another sucker, or to play with permanent markers, or who knows what else (seriously, sometimes I can. not. figure it out). My husband responding in a situation with a comment that he obviously didn’t think through, or cracking a joke in the middle of a serious conversation (not funny!), or swooping in with the dictator approach to a situation with the kids that I was handling thankyouverymuch.

This post is probably a downer, and honestly I’m not even sure why I’m posting it because I’ll probably read it later, and be like “What the?!?”. But my blog is called Life, REALLY for a reason. This is real life. Deep down, I know that I really have a very blessed life, with a wonderful, caring, thoughtful husband (he offered to leave deer camp for me); 3 creative, healthy kids; a beautiful house; a part-time job that I love; friends who care about us; and a God who died for me.

But I’ve reached a point where I’ve lost my emotional resiliency. I forget library day for my middle child AGAIN, and we’re running out of the house late for school AGAIN, and I forgot to do something important at work AGAIN, and I overreact to my kids not listening AGAIN, and I am just done. Done.

So I’m going to see a Christian counselor. I need professional help. My first appointment is the second week of December. I need someone outside of my life to speak into it. I need someone to connect the dots that are scrambled in my head. I need someone to authoritatively tell me that it’s ok to say no to good stuff, stuff that I should be doing, for the time that it takes for me to get my crap together. Or for that someone to tell me how I can serve others without neglecting my family.

Maybe my hopes are too high. I sure hope not. I know several other people who have received counseling for various issues, and they all say that it was the best thing they ever did, and they wish they would’ve done it sooner. Hopefully by next hunting season, I can look back and say the same.