Archive | August, 2018

{9-Month Update} 2018 Focus: White Space

26 Aug

I haven’t sat down just to write in forever. This feels good.

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There is no margin in life with three kids. At least, not with three kids this young, or with us being the parents we are. I used to be flexible, spontaneous. I could adjust my plans, stretch my energies to accommodate doing something that might fall during naptime, push back bedtime, or replace my grocery shopping time. I’ve always been the one to overextend myself for good causes or fun experiences.

No more.

Now I live on the margin, and there is no extra. There have been several times since Corbin was born that I literally could not muster up the socially appropriate or polite response or action in a situation. One example: family was staying at our house overnight, and instead of making their beds for them, spending time with them after the kids went to bed, and making breakfast for them in the morning, I told them where the linens where, went to bed without saying goodnight, and said they were on their own for breakfast. Because I just can’t.

“I just can’t.” A phrase that has often echoed through my mind these past five months, justifying to myself why I cannot and will not, despite the responsibility I feel or expectations I imagine, go to x meeting, be involved in y cause, or overextend myself for z thing. A reforming commitaholic (reforming because this is ongoing), I have both loved to say yes to all sorts of things, and also felt the pressure of saying yes if I didn’t have a legitimately good reason to say no.

Now I don’t care about legitimacy. I don’t have the margin to.

When you’re a parent of young kids, the reality is that during certain seasons, your hands will be tied, and you will not have the time or energy to do many things that you would like to do. People without kids (I used to be guilty of this) do not understand this, or view having kids as a cop-out of other responsibilities and obligations. But parenting during the little years is consuming and demanding. (Then there are all the expectations that having kids in school entails, but I won’t get into that here.)

I spent last year chasing all manner of commitment other than loving my family well. I detailed all of that here. This year, I have said no. We have said no. We said no to getting a babysitter for a meeting that I “should have” been at with my husband. We said no to meeting once a month with a group from our church to talk about vision for our adult Bible community, though Travis loves discussing that sort of thing, because it was just one more thing on our calendars.

And then there are the other things I have said no to by simply not pursuing them. I didn’t plan a garage sale. No get-togethers or parties. Believe me, it hasn’t been easy. I’m pretty sure one of my spiritual gifts is hospitality—not that I do it well or have everything together, but I love it. I love planning events. LOVE IT. In high school, I planned a formal dance on New Year’s Eve at a hotel (with the help of my mom) just for fun. That was my kind of fun.

So I’ve had all sorts of ideas churning in my brain of people I’d like to have over, and events I’d like to plan, and sometimes I even get excited enough about it to almost ask Travis. But then I take a deep breath, and remind myself, Not this year. This year, I need to prioritize my family. I need to figure out how to do this well before I start taking on that.

We’ve made progress in figuring out our unique family balance (and it is unique, because it’s different for everyone. Some couples/families can handle a lot more busyness and separate-way-ness than we can, and vice versa). This summer, we’ve scheduled weekly hobby time for both me and Travis. Knowing that we have this time (at the same time every week) to do our own thing has really cut down on the number of arguments/tense discussions about hobbies and who gets time for what.

The key to making the hobby time work, however, is guarding that time from other commitments, which on weekends in the summer is very difficult to do. Guarding that time sometimes requires saying no to good, fun things, or leaving somewhere earlier than we might’ve otherwise. It also might involve being seen as socially rude, or inflexible. Obviously, there are exceptions, and we want our family routines to be filled with grace. But we also recognize that for them to be routines, they have to happen most of the time. So that’s what we’re shooting for.

One thing I have spent an inordinate amount of time doing this year is purging. Decluttering. I’ve been reading about minimalism a ton this year, and am convinced that having lots of stuff is robbing us of time that we could be spending doing other things. So even though it takes time upfront to purge, the effects it has on the rest of your life makes it worth it (just like you spend time working out to experience the benefits of being in shape throughout the rest of your day).

My main focus for the past couple of months has been our utility room. We have been holding on to all of the girls’ baby clothes with the idea that we would need/use them for foster care, but we have so. many. clothes. And we were given a ton of clothes for Corbin, so I’ve been sorting and organizing those, and donating what we don’t need, with the goal of freeing up some space. I’ve also been adding stuff to donation piles as I get a wild hair to organize a certain drawer or shelf.

But after donating a full carload of things to our local thrift store, I’m taking a break. I am stubborn and persistent, and have a really hard time stopping in the middle of something, so projects like this tend to be all-consuming. Even though I believe all the time spent doing this will be worth it, I need a break to focus on my family and relax.

It is seriously amazing how much stuff we accumulate. And this coming from a person who has done regular purging/decluttering my whole life. I didn’t have any bonus rooms filled with unused stuff, or closets ready to vomit the minute the door popped open. I regularly got rid of stuff I didn’t need, and my crap was organized.

But I still had too much. My kids had too much. My husband has too much (still working on with him to downsize his winter jacket and boot collection).

So I made us all capsule wardrobes out of the clothes we already owned. In my particular case, that involved getting rid of two boxes of clothing that I liked, and that fit me, because I just had too much. Now my closet is 55-60 things. I have loved the result. It takes me under five minutes to get dressed every day (no more trying on multiple outfits!), laundry feels much more manageable, and I still have plenty to wear. I did find myself getting a little tired of my options by the end of the second month, but it forced to me to wear a dress that I had been ignoring, so I kind of like that aspect.

I also purged our kids’ toys down to 20 per child. The toy purging has been an 18-month process. In the spring of 2017, I sold at a garage sale all the toys that the girls never playing with, even the ones given to us by family. Earlier this year, I once again donated all the toys that the girls never play with, and that Corbin won’t be interested in when he gets older (Frozen castle and play purse, anyone?).

But I was still picking up toys constantly, and even when everything was picked up, it seemed like there were toys everywhere. I’ve been reading a lot about minimalism online and came across the idea of having kids choose 20 toys and boxing up the rest on Erin Spain’s blog. I thought that idea was genius. It gives kids control of the decluttering process, while also being reasonable and a very easy-to-remember boundary.

I brought all our toys to the basement and laid them out so everything was visible. Things that were sets (like play dishes) counted as one item. Dolls and Barbies were each one item. I chose not to include the toys and activities that I either like them having (Duplos, puzzles, games, books), or that don’t contribute to messes (play shopping cart, baby stroller).

Once all the toys were spread out, the girls went through and chose 20. I reminded them several times to choose the toys that they loved, and not worry about what the other person chose, because they would still be sharing the toys in the end. And I have to say, they did not choose the toys I thought they would. Annabelle chose only one baby doll, and Emma chose none. Emma chose all her Barbies (I did expect that), but between the two of them, they chose all of their dress-up clothes and shoes, which they hardly ever wear (and the shoes are almost too small for Emma). (I also chose 10-15 of my favorite toys for Corbin once he starts sitting/crawling/walking.)

We just did this recently, so time will tell whether they will miss the things they didn’t choose. I am holding onto the toys that weren’t drafted, and allowing 1-to-1 exchanges until Halloween (and may encourage some exchanges, based on what I think would be better choices). Then the rest of the toys will be donated. So far, the girls have only made exchanges for two things—Big Purple Baby, and the baby bottles and accessories.

The idea behind purging their toys was to 1) Decrease the amount of time spent picking up toys throughout the day; and 2) Limit their toy options to a reasonable amount. The fact that they haven’t at all missed the majority of their toys proves to me that they weren’t really enjoying them anyway. They still have plenty of things to make messes with, so we do still spend time picking toys up, but it usually only takes about 15 minutes before bedtime to clean up inside.

One other area that Travis and I have been focusing on is our eating habits. For the month of August, we’ve been following the Paleo diet (no dairy, grains, or legumes) with four “cheats” per week. The best and most challenging thing about the Paleo diet is that it forces you to be intentional with what you’re eating. No more grabbing easy empty carbs. Instead of a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, now I eat breakfast sausage and a smoothie, or eggs with spinach, mushrooms, and bacon. For lunch, I’ve been loving spinach salads. And for dinner, we make a recipe out of one of Danielle Walker’s cookbooks (everything we’ve made has been amazing!).

Anyway, all of these things—boundaries, hobby time, capsule wardrobes, toy purging, healthy eating—have combined to make life feel less chaotic and more stable. We haven’t spent our summer flitting around to a thousand different things. Instead, we’ve stayed home and kept things low-key. We’ve had fun but also focused on maintaining a good balance – something I don’t think we’ve ever really had.

With fall coming, school starting, and all that goes along with that, things are going to start being a little more hectic than they have been this summer. But I really hope that the lessons we’ve learned so far this year will help us maintain this life balance, even with a fuller calendar.

Emma Grace: 5.25 Years

19 Aug

Emma turned FIVE back on April 7. My last update on her was at 4.75 years, so I’m horribly behind on this update. I can’t believe she’ll be starting kindergarten in just a few weeks!IMG_5194 (Large)IMG_5198 (Large)Size

Emma has grown a whole inch just since turning 5! (She insisted I mark it on our wall ruler.) At her 5-year well-child checkup, she weighed 42 lbs (61%) and was 3′ 8″ tall (81%). She is wearing 5T and XS (4/5) clothing (mostly just for length; she’s so thin that she can still fit in most 4T clothing), and size 11 shoes.IMG_7522IMG_7615Eating

Emma is still a really good eater. She almost always eats her whole dinner with little prompting, and likes a wide variety of food.

When I asked, she told me that her favorite foods are spaghetti, cheeseburgers, grapes, pineapple, watermelon, cheese, cereal, meatballs, and suckers. She also likes broccoli, yogurt, apples and applesauce, popcorn, deli meat, chips, Triscuits, graham crackers, and pretty much any kind of fruit.

Emma often doesn’t eat much for breakfast but eats a decent lunch and dinner. She often asks to go to McDonald’s and loves to drink pop when we let her (which is about once a month). She went through a phase of wanting to add food coloring to her milk and cereal, and she loves to put chocolate frosting and pink sprinkles on her waffles.

She also enjoys being independent and getting/making her own food (as much as she can). IMG_6581IMG_7298IMG_8022IMG_8613Sleeping

Emma is really a champ these days in the sleep department. She very rarely naps (and then it’s only when we’re in the car, usually in the late afternoon) but goes to bed around 7:30 every night. She wakes up between 6:30 and 7:30.

Our bedtime routine is to take a bath (2-3 times a week), put on pajamas, brush teeth, read 2-3 books, and then “do tick” (rubbing her back, legs, arms, and face, and sometimes feet). Emma likes “slow tick” which means moving your hands very slowly, and using a very light touch. I am not very good at slow tick (I’m too impatient), but Emma always wants me to put her to bed anyway.

Emma has a comforter and sheets on her twin bed, but prefers to sleep on top of the comforter, with her “Frozen blankie” and her “yellow blankie.” She used to wear exclusively nightgowns to bed, but now wears shorts/pants & t-shirt jammies (mostly because that’s what I bought her…nightgowns are surprisingly hard to find!).IMG_7020IMG_7335IMG_8859Development

Emma enjoyed going to preschool last school year. She’s known how to spell her own name since daycare the year before (and still insists that her first name is Emma K.), and now she knows how to spell Annabelle’s name too, from memory. She knows all of her letters (though still asks how to draw a few on occasion) and often asks how to spell words. The other day, she wrote up a list of rules for Annabelle, including No Spitting, No Making Messes and No Ruining Mommy’s Decorations.

Emma has also really grown in her drawing and coloring abilities. When coloring a picture, she is usually very meticulous (sometimes she just scribbles to get it done) and not only stays in the lines, but also uses a variety of colors, adding stripes, polka dots, eyelashes, earrings, and high heels.

She has also started drawing a lot of her own artwork. She loves drawing people. The other day, she drew Annabelle getting stung by a wasp (which actually happened). She even drew the tree that was behind Annabelle when she got stung. She has also drawn the Mickey Mouse gang using pictures from the Internet, princesses, mermaids, and her family. She also loves to use markers to draw makeup on her and Annabelle’s faces.IMG_7366 (Large)IMG_7975 (Large)IMG_9316 (Large)Besides her love for drawing, Emma’s favorite thing to do is play dolls and Barbies. Emma and Annabelle are pretty much constantly role-playing. Sometimes they pretend that one of them is the mommy, and one is the sister or baby. They call each other mommy so much that I either don’t respond when they say “mommy” within earshot of me, or I stop and ask, “Are you talking to me?” Other times, they pretend they’re both moms and need to feed, clothe, or put their babies down for a nap (using any number or variety of stuffed animals, dolls, or Barbies and leaving them spread out over the bathroom counter, floor, couches, and beds, tucked neatly under blankets).

And sometimes, they remove themselves from the story completely, and simply have the story unfold between Barbies. If there isn’t a doll or Barbie nearby, they’ll use their fork, french fry, or a bottle of soap. It’s so fun to watch their imaginations at work.IMG_7995 (Large)IMG_8206 (Large)Emma has finally started to ride her bike this summer (still with training wheels), but it still isn’t her favorite thing. I often catch her riding Annabelle’s bike, which is slightly smaller and lower to the ground.

Emma still LOVES the water, and is always the first one to go in and last one to get out when we go to the beach or pool. She has gotten a lot braver in the water, and now loves to float and kick around in the “deep water” wearing her PuddleJumper lifejacket. Back in February, we went to a waterpark that had a slide that ended in a chute and she went down that slide probably 50 times all by herself. She isn’t a fan of slides that end in a plunge pool though. She is still timid when it comes to boat rides, but loosens up once we’re out on the water.IMG_2291 (Large)IMG_8621 (Large)IMG_8622 (Large)IMG_8720 (Large)IMG_9087 (Large)This summer, Emma has often come up to me while playing outside and said, “Mommy, I’m hot. Can I have a freezy/popsicle?” This girls loves her sweets! The two things that she is most motivated by are watching iPad and getting candy (whereas Annabelle often says she doesn’t want dessert or iPad if it means she doesn’t have to do what I’m asking her to do).

Emma is still a determined little girl who knows what she wants and will not back down (that’s a nice way of saying stubborn). We are frequently at a loss at how to handle her tantrums and screaming fits (and it seems like they get really bad for a while, and then taper off), but she plays well with kids and is a good helper at school so ::shrugs shoulders::. I just pray that her passion and vision will translate into powerful leadership skills used for something constructive one day.

Emma is very curious about everything. She loves to watch Travis while he’s working on stuff, and has to touch and look at everything (drives me crazy!!! I often say “Why can’t you just leave things alone?!?”). She still loves making messes (though these days, they are the result of her active imagination and not usually just a dump-and-run kind of mess), and still frequently breaks/destroys things (like popping a balloon we just bought because she “didn’t want it anymore.”)

A few other things we’ve done since this past January:

  • FishingIMG_6582 (Large)IMG_6592 (Large)IMG_2301 (Large)
  • Bike ridesIMG_2306 (Large)
  • Outdoor funIMG_7656 (Large)IMG_7214 (Large)IMG_7361 (Large)IMG_8615 (Large)IMG_7897 (Large)IMG_7906 (Large)IMG_7908 (Large)IMG_7914 (Large)IMG_8373 (Large)
  • Cuddle with Little Guy Guy (Corbin)IMG_7480 (Large)IMG_7860 (Large)IMG_7870 (Large)IMG_8313 (Large)IMG_9260 (Large)
  • Photos of Emma at preschool this past school year:IMG_7545 (Large)IMG_8396 (Large)IMG_7547 (Large)IMG_8730 (Large)IMG_8212 (Large)IMG_8271 (Large)IMG_8272 (Large)
  • Other general shenanigans:IMG_6578 (Large)IMG_7012 (Large)IMG_7286 (Large)IMG_7915 (Large)IMG_9010 (Large)

Emma definitely keeps us guessing and makes life an adventure!