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Pregnancy #4: First Trimester

12 Nov

We are expecting our fourth child in May! My official due date is May 17, two days before our wedding anniversary. But since our first three kids arrived either early or on their due date, I highly doubt the date will be shared.

That means I am 13.5 weeks along. So far, this pregnancy has been very different than any of the others, not so much in terms of physical symptoms but in mental experience. (Though I am showing much more at 13 weeks this time around!!)

Back in June, I had an ectopic pregnancy. We caught it before it got bad. I had had weird bleeding for a while, then when I started having stabbing pain, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive, so I went to the ER pretty much right away. I had surgery within a few hours, and went home the next morning. Because of COVID, I was in there alone. It was a lonely experience but I felt God increase my faith and reliance on Him.

They took out the whole Fallopian tube that was affected, but assured me I could still get pregnant with just one. I didn’t know how long it would take, but after waiting two cycles to try again (what the doctor had told me to do), we got pregnant that first month. I took the pregnancy test on September 9 and it was positive!

Another reason this pregnancy has been different is that we had wanted to start trying back in the summer of 2019. Unfortunately I had been on the depo provera method of birth control, and I discovered after going off of it, it can take up to 18 months to get pregnant. It took 9 months for my period to come back. And then I had the ectopic. So this pregnancy/baby was waited and longed for far more than any of my others. We had given ourselves until the end of this year, and if I didn’t get pregnant by then, we figured we were meant to have only three biological kiddos. (Which is still a huge blessing, don’t get me wrong!)

Another way it’s different is that at age 37, I am now of “advanced maternal age” and insurance (supposedly) covers extra things like genetic testing at 12 weeks, and a detailed ultrasound and fetal echo at 20 weeks. We have already done the genetic testing and know that we are having another GIRL. Honestly, we were hoping for a boy to even things out, but we trust God’s wisdom. And baby is healthy so I am incredibly grateful about that.

Because of my history with the ectopic pregnancy, I had ultrasounds early. My first was at (what we thought was) 6 weeks. But unfortunately, only the gestational sac and yolk sac were visible. The tech explained that it could just be too early — maybe my dates were off. (I do think that I ovulated slightly late.)

So I had a couple of HCG tests to make sure things were trending in the right direction (which they were, but I had had a miscarriage back in 2017 so this was bringing up bad memories and lots of anxiety), and we went back for another ultrasound a week later. That was such a long week!! This whole first trimester has felt like waiting on pins and needles for more information. We hadn’t planned on telling anyone for a while but I needed my friends to know what was going on and to pray, so I told my Bible study ladies and another close friend.

Thankfully, at my second ultrasound, there was baby with a heartbeat. Baby measured 5 days behind where we thought I should be, but apparently you have to be more than 5 days off at that point for them to change it. So my original EDD of May 17 was kept.

Physically, I felt sicker with this pregnancy than my others, but I have noticed a correlation between being really active (maybe “overdoing it”) and feeling sick, so I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that this time around, I have 3 kids, am homeschooling, and am just that much older (Corbin will be a couple months over age 3 by May).

My cravings, on the other hand, have been practically the exact same as my other pregnancies — salty foods and fruity things (including fruit itself). Probably my number one craving is Asian food, followed very closely by French fries. Sweet things have lost a lot of their appeal.

My acid reflux is NOT loving my pregnancy cravings. Interestingly, since getting pregnant, my acid reflux hasn’t manifested itself in a burning in my throat, but instead, my chest just feels tight and it’s a little harder to breathe. Which also makes it hard to know when I’m having acid reflux. But I will say it’s a lot more comfortable.

My biggest goal in this pregnancy is to keep exercising, even when I don’t think I have the energy for it. I found a Prenatal Barre program on Beachbody that I’ve been doing, and the best part is that the instructor has a whole bunch of 10-minute workouts (the regular workouts are 30 minutes long). I’m hoping/planning to do one of those 10-minute workouts most days. They are definitely effective, even if they’re short!

My other goal in this pregnancy, and the main reason for finding out gender so early, is to purge clothes and organize our utility room. Clothes take up so much room! We need more space for other things.

I’m also trying to convince my husband that we should frame and drywall a wall to close off our extra bedroom space downstairs so that the girls can move into that space, and baby can have her own room. (Corbin would keep his room.) We’ll see how it goes.

Emma and Annabelle are totally pumped about having a baby sister (they’ll have just turned 8 and 6 when baby arrives). Corbin is just starting to notice my belly is getting bigger. I think he’ll start to understand more when I’m obviously not just getting fat.

We did a piñata gender reveal for the kids, but apparently Emma had overheard Travis and me talking earlier that day, so she already knew it was a girl. (Stinker!) The girls still had a blast hitting the piñata— and getting the pink candy!

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.)

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.

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!

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.

Corbin Travis: 15 Months

25 Jun

Corbin turned 15 months old on June 22. So much has changed in the past 3 months!IMG_4156 (Large)8424A718-CF3D-48FF-814D-FDAD4D6E0478IMG_3796 (Large)Size

At his 15-month appointment yesterday, Corbin was 25 lbs 4 oz (83%) and 2′ 6″ tall (12%). His noggin is still in the 95th percentile. He now wears 18-month clothing but is still in size 5 diapers and size 4 shoes. IMG_3150 (Large)Sleeping

Corbin is still pretty unpredictable with the times of day of his sleeping. He is consistent, however, with his general routine. He takes his first nap 2 hours after waking up, and usually naps for an hour. He stays up 3 hours between his morning and afternoon naps, and usually wants to go to bed 3 hours after his afternoon nap (unless we’re out and about). His afternoon nap is usually 2-3 hours long.

Fortunately, Corbin sleeps through the night 99% of the time. Unfortunately, for the past couple of months, Corbin has taken to waking up for the day early — sometimes as early as 3:30, more often at 4:30, sometimes at 5:30. He never sleeps past 6. As a result, I’ve started going to bed with the kids at 8 PM, and getting my stuff done in the morning. IMG_4165 (Large)IMG_3956 (Large)Corbin still drinks 3-5 bottles a day. He is super attached to them. When he’s really tired and he sees you getting a bottle ready, he giggles (with his thumb in his mouth) because he’s so excited.

Corbin has been our easiest child sleep-wise. Before naps and bedtime, we feed him a bottle and put him down awake, and he falls asleep on his own. He rarely lets us rock him. But he wants to sleep in his crib. He doesn’t often fall asleep in the car, and can be difficult to get down in new places.

Eating

Corbin seems to get sick of eating the same things over and over more than the girls did. Our go-to’s with him are fig bars, cheese, fruit (clementines, strawberries, blueberries, grapes), turkey lunchmeat, chicken sausage, pizza, and teething wafers. Now that it’s summer, we’ve also given him watermelon, mango, pineapple, and peach. He also likes broccoli and cauliflower.

In general, Corbin does not want to be fed–unless Annabelle does it. Then he will gladly eat applesauce, yogurt, or baby cereal off a spoon. 🙂

Corbin loved the cupcake at his birthday party and ate the whole thing by the fistful!943BE214-57CF-43C1-96B5-8B6300555AFB2A421E55-E084-4C45-A7ED-DEB93995E6FDHis first birthday party was a joint party for him and the girls, and it was a fishing theme.

Development

Corbin has made a lot of progress in the past 3 months! The biggest news is that he’s walking! Still falls over fairly often, and he still pulls up to stand, but he can walk! That happened around 14.5 months. Now he’s even harder to keep track of.

He can also climb up the stairs, and back down them too, but he usually first tries to crawl down them headfirst. He’s taken a few diggers, the worst being at the library. He tumbled sideways down 2 shallow steps, with his forehead catching the corner of a brick wall on his way down. It actually didn’t bleed at all, but it swelled up and got black and blue. 5901CD17-EF41-4208-8493-1513D0895F29He is a maniac! We were at a park with the girls one day and Corbin decided that he wanted to climb the ladder up into the play structure. It was a ladder at an angle that had flat, wide rungs so he was able to do it! As soon as he reached the top, he scrambled over to the slide and wanted to bomb down head first! I held on to him until Emma was at the bottom to catch him. I am surprised daily at the things he is willing to do!IMG_3967 (Large)Since my last post of him at 12 months, the snow has melted outside and we’ve been loving all the different types of weather! Corbin loves getting dirty and wet, and he is curious about everything. He rarely wants to be held–he wants to check everything out! Some gross things he has put in his mouth include: a bike chain, a live beetle, handfuls of sand, dirty flip-flops, tissues, leaves, acorns, and oak catkins. I also caught him one day with dog poop all over his hands but thankfully he did not eat it! (mom fail)IMG_3801 (Large)IMG_3170 (Large)IMG_3205 (Large)E1D4431C-DFD4-430C-9F91-AA3BB5B0F37E9F54A163-F5EA-4FA8-9523-AE9CFF18F3FD18A5C5A8-870A-4664-BCE8-A6DCB6AAE099Corbin loves the water now. He enjoys bathtime (if he doesn’t have to deal with both sisters in the tub with him) and has been LOVING the beach. A few weeks ago, it was 90 degrees and we went to the beach, and he went all the way in the water (me holding him), without me even coaxing him! I’m guessing the water temperature was only in the 60s so he has those Minnesota genes after all. He has also been loving playing on the beach. This boy needs a sandbox at home!IMG_4132 (Large)IMG_4138 (Large)IMG_4145 (Large)We’ve tried taking Corbin on some bike rides in the bike trailer, but it’s not his favorite thing. Just like our girls, he’s a mover! He does ok in the jogging stroller. I took the kids to the zoo a couple weeks ago, and he was content to sit in the stroller if we were moving. We went into the cage where you can feed the parakeets, and had a bunch of birds on my arm, and Corbin was screeching in excitement. He wanted to touch them, but they’d fly away. IMG_4152 (Large)IMG_4174 (Large)Corbin also LOVES our dogs, and always tries to get close to them. Charlie is not having it but Katy will let Corbin snuggle and pet her. She’s only barked at him once, and it was when he pulled her hair too hard. She never nips, but the loud noise scares Corbin. Still, he is undeterred!

Corbin also loves rough-housing with Annabelle. We have two bean bag chairs, and he loves climbing on and under them with Annabelle, and tumbling off them. Emma loves Corbin too, but he and Annabelle have a deeper bond.

Other things Corbin likes to do:

  • Push the wagon and truck around outside, though now that he can walk this has less appeal5D35F24E-E3F3-472A-A244-5BDAA32DF359
  • Make loud noises with whatever he can find (like banging a golf ball against the window or banging a cookie sheet and cooling rack together 🤪)
  • Rip up tissues and toilet paper
  • Flush the toilet and turn on the tub water (we close the bathroom doors all the time now)
  • Get things out of the garbage can (it is now locked in the laundry room)
  • Pull clothes out of his hamper into his crib (and then play peekaboo with them)
  • Empty things out of a bin or cabinet by throwing them behind him as hard as he can, or by handing them piece by piece to someone as they say “Thank you”2772A74B-8326-41AF-BC37-197C7057DD2DIMG_3972 (Large)IMG_3187 (Large)
  • Look at his touch & feel alphabet book (and rip out all the pieces that move)

Another big change in Corbin’s life this past month is that the nanny who had watched him since he was 2 months old moved to Nebraska. So now we have a new nanny (actually 2, they’re two teenagers who are watching all 3 kids together). We will miss her!IMG_4077 (Large)IMG_3894 (Large)B68DA80B-3516-4BCD-97A2-4BC7CDE15470B72BD604-5755-4898-AC0D-CBA93B04D04B6B9DAEA7-239C-4AFA-8F2E-0906CA2D769EAnd that’s Corbin at 15 months!

Our Fall Routine

29 Sep

mums.jpgWe’re almost a month into the school year now, which is a unit of time that hasn’t really mattered to Travis and I since we graduated from college over 10 years ago. But now we have a kindergartener, and our lives are ruled by the school schedule.

Which, as it turns out, has been really good for us so far. Yes, the arbitrary holidays that the kids get off from school but we don’t get off from work and spontaneous early releases are going to drive us crazy, I’m sure, but the overall structure of school five days a week has enabled us to do something we’ve never done before:

Stick to a routine.

When I think about how to describe the way our days are going now, I can only think of the trite, “It’s just so. good.” But it really is. I have been trying to stick to a weekly routine since we moved back to Minnesota and I became a stay-at-home mom four years ago, but I could not do it for the life of me. I’m one of those people who functions well with schedule obligations like bookends–something to reign in my “free time” (or should I just call it unscheduled time?) and give it boundaries. I can’t be all scheduled, but I also can’t be all unscheduled.

Enter our routine now. Emma needs to be to school by 8:25 AM every day Monday through Friday. She needs to be picked up at 3:00 PM each of those days as well. I work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8:45 to 2:45, during which time Annabelle and Corbin go to daycare. Mondays and Fridays, Travis takes Emma to school so I can still have a few lazy mornings.

Those scheduled things have taken up just enough of my week that I have felt the need to get more intentional about my unscheduled time. I also just recently realized, after lamenting for years how chaotic life felt, that I was a main culprit in making it chaotic by not sticking to a routine. So my routine:

I meal plan and make a grocery list on Sunday.

Mondays are reserved for grocery shopping and MOPS, and playdates or errands as time allows.

Fridays, I stay home to get stuff done (like laundry) and don’t change out of my pajamas until school pick-up.

At the beginning of the school year, I switched from working 9 to 5 two days a week, to working 8:45 to 2:45 three days a week. So I have an hour and a half with the kids every afternoon between school pick-up and dinnertime, and we’ve even developed a routine with that time. On Mondays, we go to the dollar store and buy Lunchables (at the girls’ request–they’re obsessed). Fridays, we go to a park near the school. The other days, we head home and play outside (while it’s still nice!) until Corbin needs to nap or nurse, usually around 4:45. Then they watch iPad while I take care of Corbin and start to make dinner. It’s not a ton of time, but it’s been so. good. to just have a slot of time everyday that I spend hanging out with my kids, doing what they want to do.

And Travis and I still have our scheduled workout times (M & W for him, T & Th for me), as well as our weekend hobby times. Sunday mornings, we go to church, and the rest of the weekend is fairly negotiable.

Something I recently read in an email from minimalist Allie Casazza was along the lines of “You may think routines make life boring and predictable. But routines actually provide the foundation for adventure.” She used the example of being able to spontaneously fly to visit a friend in need, leaving her husband in charge of all 4 kids, and feeling peaceful with the knowledge that their house was tidy, there was food in the fridge, and their schedules predictable because she had laid that foundation with her routines. I should’ve saved that email (why didn’t I?!?!) because that message resonated with me so much. I am loving our routine.

I should mention that the parameters of a school schedule aren’t magic. I’m not all of a sudden able to stick to a routine because I have a kid in school. My desire for and ability to stick to a routine have slowly evolved over the course of this Year of White Space. During which time I’ve learned that the main requirements of a routine are that you do it, regardless of whether or not you feel like it, and that you make time for it, which means guarding that time from other things. As a spontaneous and a Yes person by nature, I’ve had to learn how to stick to a routine.

For example, even when I forget about meal planning on Sunday until it’s 10 PM, I buckle down and do it so that I’m ready to go grocery shopping on Monday, instead of just blowing it off and saying, “Eh, whatever, I’ll do it tomorrow.” I keep telling myself, “If you want life to feel more predictable, you have to make it more predictable.” (Obviously, unpredictable things still happen but most of my strife with a chaotic life has come about through my own doing.)

Lest you think that our routine has made our fall a rainbow of mums and pumpkins, let me assure you that it has not. My job has been crazy busy and stressful, we’re in the midst of changing caregivers for Corbin, the girls have daily tantrums over everything and nothing, Travis’ work has been famine and now feast, and I’m staring down the barrel of another hunting season. But the routine definitely helps make things less chaotic. And that’s really all I can ask for.

{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.