Riley, 18 Months

I promised a few months ago that I’d write more posts about Riley.  She just turned 18 months old, so I felt like it was high time for an update!

IMG_8044-2.jpgWriting about Riley typically reduces me to an uncreative, wordless puddle of mush. She’s just so sweet that it’s hard to describe her without sounding like a sixth grade girl talking about her crush. “SO CUTE!” “I LOVE HER!” “EVERYTHING ABOUT HER IS JUST SO PERFECT!”

To counteract this tendency, I will begin by describing her (only) two annoying qualities:

she wants me to hold her nonstop (unless we are trying to dart into Starbucks for a quick coffee, in which case, she wants me to put her down and let her fling bags of potato chips and popcorn with reckless abandon while she roars like the dragon she sees pictured on the Komodo coffee bag. You’re welcome, employees and patrons). When not in Starbucks, she is typically on my lap or in my arms, with her face pressed against mine, OR crying “MAAAAAAAA-MAAAAAAAA” because she wants to be on my lap or in my arms with her face pressed against mine.

-she is beginning to develop opinions.  Sometimes they are different than mine. (NO!!!!!!)

That’s all I can think of to be annoyed by, and these issues are barely legitimate. BECAUSE SHE’S ACTUALLY THE BEST BABY IN THE WORLD. XOXOXOXOXOXO.

There I go again, getting all sixth grade girl on you. Maybe sharing some photos will inspire me to share actual facts and informative comments with you.  Here goes.1124150900_HDR-2“Nack. PEEEEZZ!!!!” These are Riley’s most-used words, followed by “dah-dah” (cracker), “na-nuh” (banana), “yo-ga” (yogurt), “deeee-dah!” (pizza), “see-ya!” (cereal), “cheese” (needs no interpretation). Riley loves to snack and would love a world in which she could steadily munch on an unvaried diet from 5 am until 7 pm.

Unfortunately, mean old mom insists on some balance, so she reluctantly eats 3 meals with some degree of nourishment in between the 2 happy snacks. “Day-you” for keeping me alive, mom.

(Notice what’s missing from this daily meal plan? Riley sure did, at least for several sad weeks. Thankfully, the heavy emotional toll of the great “bah bah” weaning seems to have finally decreased, as has mom’s end-of-the-day dish pile now that we are down to 0 bottles!!!! CUE HAPPY MUSIC!!!)Photo on 12-21-15 at 2.45 PM #2“Cean up.” One of Riley’s current favorite activities is cleaning up, which serves as a great counterpoint to Zoe’s current favorite activity of pulling each piece of clothing out of her drawers and dropping them throughout the house. While Riley’s efforts are not actually helpful enough to merit any violation of child labor laws, I appreciate the sentiment.

Riley’s other favorite activities right now include playing outside with her riding cars, going to the “paaaah” (park), reading books (“Where Is Baby’s Belly Button” is a particular favorite), “daw” (drawing with crayons, chalk, or Do-A-Dot pens), “doc-dah” (playing doctor with a doctor kit), and “baaaah” (taking a bath). She also enjoys brushing her teeth, singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” loudly on my lap, and doing anything her sister is doing.1210150722Riley’s Schedule: Riley sleeps through the night 99% of the time. Mom loves this fact 100% of the time.

She is usually up by 5:30 am and ready to eat a bowl of “see-ya” with her trusty blanket and stuffed monkey by her side.  After feeding herself two small bowls of cereal with her own spoon, she dramatically flings milk everywhere and demands “all done. Wash!” We move on to our next activity (often, a much-needed bath before some playroom time).

After an argument about clothing, we’re usually out of the house by 8:10-8:30, and typically spend our mornings out at Jazzercise, the library, a park, the zoo, a friends’ house, running errands, etc., or some combination of the above (unless we are hosting a play date or feeling like we need some slow time at home). We are usually home by 11:15-11:30 am for lunch.

IMG_4912During lunch, I typically read the girls 2-4 books, which they LOVE. Riley and Zoe go down for their naps together around 12:15-12:30. By 2-2:30, Riley’s usually up and ready for another “nack.” We’ll spend our afternoon playing with our neighbor, goofing around in the yard, reading books, making art, visiting a park, Facetiming a family member, or going for a walk, before dinner at 5:45ish, books at 6:45ish, and bedtime by 7:15-7:30.

1217151901aToddler stuff: Riley has like, 12 legitimate chompers now, and has experimented a little bit with biting. Thankfully, she usually says “BITE!” before she is about to bite you, so YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

She also enjoys trying to break into the toilet locks and trying to get into the trash can.

She has begun to say “no!” to us but usually giggles and apologizes with lots of kisses if she thinks she has pushed it too far.IMG_4791Riley as a sister: I couldn’t have asked for a better little sister for Zoe. Riley is thrilled any time that Zoe wants to play with her. The sound of them giggling together is my favorite sound in the entire world. Riley is quick to forgive her sister when needed, and has even begun to point out to Zoe when she needs to take a deep breath.  Last week, she woke up first, and walked down the hallway to Zoe’s room calling “Zo-Zo!” because she missed her sister.

I thought that having to spread my love between two kids would take away a little bit from my ability to love each of them, but I find that I have even more love for them than I did before, because I love them each as individuals AND for who they are as a sister.

On a less sweet note, now that they can both run and tell me “no,” I definitely feel like I get a run for my money during outings.  I have even begun wearing tennis shoes on the regular, even when it’s a fashion “don’t.”  I know, who am I? 0109161003Other pertinent Riley facts: she weighs 23 lbs, is measuring high on the growth chart for height, and is wearing 18 month and 2T clothes and size 4 diapers.

Everyone always says “her curls are so perfect!” Thank you. They are.  I wash them and then use this fancy product called conditioner. (Zoe’s hair takes ~30 minutes after each bath, so I am very thankful God gave me one wash-and-go girl, at least for now).

As evidenced by all of her direct quotes in this post (ha), Riley is very verbal and basically knows the word for anything she needs. She is beginning to use short sentences (i.e. “all done. Wash,” or one I hear frequently as she plays with Zoe, “no! mine! mama! mean!”)

Well, a picture says 1000 words and I just said over 1000 words—so between the two of these, you just comprehended like 9000 words about our favorite 1.5 year old.  I’d keep going (LIKE I SAID, I’M LIKE A SIXTH GRADE GIRL OVER HERE) but I recognize that you may have a cut-off point.  Just know this: to know Riley is to love her! We are so blessed to have her as a part of our family.

On Rest, Part II

Life has settled down so, so much over the last few months, and I am so, so grateful.

Day-to-day, I have a good rhythm going between my work, children, husband, friends, ministry, and personal interests. I’ve had to drop some expectations to get here—for example, I won’t win friend, housecleaner, or blogger of the year anytime soon—but most days, I feel a sense of balance, peace, and calm.

For most of my life, I have resisted being “at rest” because it felt like giving up. Resting felt like surrendering to stagnancy and a life of limited accomplishments.  I felt like I had to stay in motion or I’d lose my significance.

But it turns out that occasionally being “at rest” is the key to actually going somewhere with all my motions.

IMG_4741One of the biggest lessons that I learned this fall was what resting looks like for me.

I already knew that I was not a very good “rester” in the traditional, kick-your-feet-up-on-the-couch or take-a-nap kind of way. Trying to “relax” that way is actually way more frustrating than energizing for me.

I also knew that chasing and nurturing two energetic toddlers, being a ministry spouse, and running a part-time business don’t really set the stage for rest—but I enjoy all of these aspects of my life, and felt called to embrace them rather than to shut them all down.

So I prayed—that God would show up and help me learn what resting looked like for me, in this life, with this personality, with this inability to nap.  And He did.

It turns out that, for me, the most therapeutic and restorative “rest” comes from short pauses—the ones where I ask, what are my goals? What are my values? Does making this decision help me live into those, or take me further from those? Why am I doing this particular thing? Is this my assignment? Whose expectations truly matter most here? Who will I gently and peacefully disappoint? What is the bigger picture of my week? What is the bigger picture of this month? What do I want to move towards for the next season, and what does that mean for today? What goal won’t I meet today because I’m choosing something better?  

Asking and carefully answering those questions makes it so that I don’t really NEED to collapse on a couch, because I’m not overwhelmed and run down and exhausted—I’m living purposefully and using my energy wisely.

It means I go to bed a little earlier.

It means I say yes to one assignment and no to another.

It means that I push past the pressure I feel to have the house clean for the dishwasher repairman who will be here soon (because what will he think of us?!!) and choose to do the messy art project with my daughter (because making a mess is how she learns…and who cares what the dishwasher repairman thinks?!) 

It means that I choose my marriage, every night, instead of advancing “just one more” item on a to-do list that I have learned will be there tomorrow.

IMG_4739Taking these pauses to consider my choices has made every day so much more enjoyable. And when unexpected events occur, I have enough margin and physical and emotional reserves to get through the events without completely losing it.

There are still the moments when everyone needs me all at once and I think, “This is just TOO MUCH for one person!”

And in those moments, too, I pause.

And then, full of awe and joyful realization, I repeat myself: yes, this IS too much for any one person. No one person deserves all of these blessings! Why has God been so gracious to me?! 

And like Lysa TerKeurst says, I remind myself that I’m managing blessings.

And this manager can take a quick rest.

My Goals for 2016

December was full of fun, laughter, and joy.  I wish I had time to recap all of it for you, but I wanted to share my annual goals with you, and I don’t have time to do both. :)

This year, I have 6 goals.

1 – To passionately pursue my marriage–pursuing intimacy and a relationship that is separate from our parenting relationship.  

WHY: My marriage deserves this attention.  I want to experience the joy of a thriving marriage and to share this joy with my husband and our children as well.  This goal involves a lot of “laying down of self” and intentionally choosing to pursue someone else’s needs over my own, which sometimes feels costly in the moment, but I want an amazing marriage–not just a good one.

2 –  To transition well from youth ministry to new ways of serving in summer 2016, keeping in mind that I won’t be “done” with existing mentoring relationships.  

WHY: The girls that I have been loving and serving since they were in 6th grade are graduating and moving onto college.  I have learned (much to my surprise) that youth ministry does not end when the students graduate; instead, you begin doing college ministry.  Right now, I mentor a few girls who have moved on to college and a group of girls who are seniors in high school.

When I started youth ministry, I had a dog and a youth pastor husband.  Now, I have two children with perpetual needs and an associate pastor husband.  It’s become a lot more difficult to do what I really want to do as a mentor.

For this reason, I have spent the last two years focusing on getting “my” girls through their seasons and not on building any new relationships.  This summer, all of “my” girls will be heading off to college, in college, or freshly out of college.

It’s a chance for me to switch gears.

This spring, I want to prayerfully consider what ministry will look like for me moving forward, keeping in mind that I’ll still be doing some long-distance and college-break mentoring.

I want to serve my church and world. I also want to be mindful of the constraints of my existing responsibilities, at the same time that I remember that I serve a God who turns a simple offering of loaves and fishes into food for thousands.

I’ve been thinking about how I could assist a ministry at our church by donating some grant writing services.  I am also open to other new ideas that God may share with me.

3 – Attend Jazzercise 3x week + do other frequent physical activity.  

WHY: The investment of my time into physical activity pays huge dividends for my ability to perform all of my other roles.  I am a better mom and wife and a happier Sarah when I take this time for myself.  I don’t exercise for vanity; I exercise for sanity!

Although in my dream world I would exercise most days of the week, 3x a week is the perfect amount of time for my kiddos to be in the childcare program and still look forward to going, and it will keep me in reasonable shape.

4 – Continue morning devotion time and begin doing devotions with Zoe. 

WHY: I love this time with the Lord and want to continue to grow in His image and gain His wisdom and strength as I seek Him. “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45) and I want to put good things in my heart. I want to see the cumulative effect of patient study of God’s word.  I want to build Zoe’s awareness of God and His love for her and her ability to have a relationship with Him.  (Mini update: I’ve already started the devotion book with Zoe and she loves it!)

5 – Make $X amount this year, maintain a minimum of 3 income streams, and prayerfully and sacrificially give from my earnings to our friends’ YoungLives ministry.  

WHY: “Change a teen mom and change a baby.”  In 2015, I wound up exceeding my income goal by 11%.  In 2016, I want to continue incrementally growing my business, but I don’t want growth to simply benefit my family.  God is the source of any business that I get and I want to offer what I make back to Him.  Our friends in Washington are looking for support for their YoungLives ministry (Young Life’s ministry for teen moms) and I feel called to take a painful and scary leap of faith to commit to giving up some of the comfort and cushiness of my money habits to help teen moms get the mentoring and support that I benefit from as an adult mom plugged into a great family and church.

I still haven’t decided whether I will give a percentage monthly or quarterly or a one-time gift at the end of the year, but giving an amount that mildly scares me is a goal of mine.  Hold me to it.  :)

6 – Spend one-on-one time with Zoe each week.  

WHY: Some of my silence on this blog this spring and fall can be attributed to the fact that knowing how to parent one of my children is a perpetual challenge for me (and that actually parenting her is exhausting).    I don’t think it is fair to share much online about my children’s struggles, which is why I have been pretty quiet, but behind the scenes I have been learning how to best support the needs of a child with a temperament that is very different than my own and a set of needs that is more intense than many of my friends’ same-age children seem to have.  We have had some professional evaluation as part of this process and apparently, I am doing everything “right”—it is just exhausting.

I notice that I feel a lot less frustration with her when I spend special time with her—time dedicated solely to studying and appreciating her unique personality and to having fun together.  I want to love and know my child the way she deserves to be loved and known, and I want to enjoy and appreciate her personality—not just patiently endure it.  I feel convinced that one-on-one time together is a critical part of this.  This week, we start an 8-week parent/child gymnastics class that we will attend together—just the two of us.  My goal is to keep some special time each week (whether it’s a class, park date, cookie date, or simply running errands) to invest in our relationship this way.

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Well, I hear some naptime-ending-noises, so I’m going to pop this up without proofreading and hope for the best.  I’d love to hear your goals if you feel like sharing any of them with me!

Fall Report (Hint: It’s Good!)

At the end of the summer, I decided that my fall goals were to reconnect with myself, with rest, and with margin.  Here’s a little progress report on how that has gone.

Margin: 

When I set my fall goals, I knew very little about the structure of our fall. We were in the beginning of the home-buying process, and we weren’t sure about a timeline (beyond being out of our rental by January 1).  We still didn’t know if we’d find a good home or end up moving to another rental.

Since our fall was covered in question marks, I didn’t look for any additional work outside of teaching and the work I do through the grant writing business.  I also put a hold on my membership in a continuing ed/networking group I’m a part of.  Although I can’t point to many amazing professional experiences I’ve had this fall, I moved and unpacked my family and didn’t let anyone down.  Win.

Another win: this fall, I’ve been writing things like grocery shopping, exercising, and trips to Target in my calendar to make sure that I don’t wind up scrambling to “squeeze in” things that are priorities to me or that impact how well (and how happily) I can do my job as a household manager.

My fall course ended this week, so my last work projects of 2015 are writing one grant and finishing up some CEUs by the end of the year for my CPH credential.  Yesterday, I got an offer for some last-minute work.  Although we would have appreciated the money, I said no.  I only have a few more weeks before I go home for Christmas; I want to enjoy the holiday season with my family and not have to cram in CEUs every night.

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Myself: 

A few weeks ago, I took my 75th Jazzercise class.  The instructor makes an announcement when a student hits a “milestone” classes, and I have to admit that I was looking forward to my applause since I took over half of those classes in a state of chronic sleep deprivation.  Unfortunately, someone named Laura happened to share my milestone class, so people clapped for BOTH of us.  Ugh!  Thunder stolen.  Thankfully, I have been participating in a holiday challenge and should hit 100 classes before the end of the year, so hopefully this time I will get my own applause.  Ha.

All joking aside, Jazzercise has continued to be a great mental and physical outlet for me and gives me three additional hours a week of childcare that my kids love.  I am so grateful that I found this studio.

Other self care projects I can report on: I’ve been reading three books a month (this month’s books: some ridiculous Sophie Kinsella book, Women of the Word, and The Nesting Place), and have been meeting a friend once a week without my kids for an early morning walk.  I have also been doing my quiet times faithfully and going to bed earlier (last night, I am delighted to report that I hit the sack at 8:15).

I’ve also been straightening my hair on occasion and recently bought some new makeup which I am trying to wear a few times a week.  (Zoe’s recent comment while playing doctor: “mom, you have these lines under your eyes.  I’ll give you a shot and make them better.”  We have officially lived in plastic-surgery-hungry Florida too long).

I also went to a CONCERT recently! My neighbor gave me two free tickets to what turned out to be one of the coolest concerts I’ve ever been to.  I took my friend Susan (also a mom) and we had the best time.  I love music and used to go to concerts fairly regularly, but haven’t tapped into this part of myself very often since becoming a mom.  It served as a gentle reminder that I have lots of interests that are worth exploring from time to time.

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Rest: 

Rest is hard for me.

This fall has NOT been full of restful events (moving, house guests, etc.), but I have tried my best to allow myself to recuperate as needed.  This has meant spending a few of the kids’  nap times on the couch with Scandal and many evenings on the couch with a glass of wine.  There have ben a few Sunday afternoons where I’ve asked David to take the kids and go do something because I can’t be nice anymore.

The most concentrated moments of resting this fall came just a week ago when David and I took all of Thanksgiving week off and went to the beach with our kids.  Neither of us did anything productive all week long.  It was fantastic and re-charging and energizing.

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Kids eating ice cream on the way home from the beach? 
Doesn’t get better than that. 

But my favorite moment of “rest” from this whole fall happened yesterday.  I had hosted Zoe’s birthday party in the morning (she’s 3!! Sob!) As I wearily washed cupcake trays, I got an e-mail asking me if I could be available for a conference call later that afternoon.  Our sitter was going to be here, ostensibly so I could work, so theoretically I could have made this call work.

However.  It was Zoe’s 3rd birthday. I was exhausted from her party and her three hour wake up the night before.  And honestly, I just didn’t want to work.  I wanted to hang out with my daughter on her birthday.

I’m so sorry, but I am busy, I wrote back.

And then I spent the afternoon being busy.  I left Riley with the sitter and took Zoe to Starbucks in her new Elsa dress, where we sat together and played with a Playdoh activity bin for 1.5 hour. We went to Walgreens and watched every dancing musical toy. We bought quick-drying nail polish and came home and painted her nails.

“I love you, mommy!” my generally-non-affectionate child told me several times.

I am realizing that there is no shortage of things to be busy with—but not all of them are actually important.  If I can’t show up for the people and things that matter most to me—what’s the point? I want to be “busy” with the important things.  

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I AM BUSY.

Overall: This fall has felt like one giant win.  There have been some tough days (I still have two toddlers, people!!), but overall, I feel more joyful, energized, and present because I have focused on connecting with myself, rest, and margin.

Around this time of year, people begin thinking about ambitious goals for their new year—goals that usually don’t include things like rest and margin.  My humble suggestion? Instead of going big this year, do what author Emily Freeman suggests and “celebrate your smallness.”  This doesn’t necessarily mean settling for small goals; rather, it means realizing that you are one person who needs things like rest and margin, and that God will have to fill in the rest of “big” for you.

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Seeing for Two

We have a semi-open adoption with our girls’ birth moms, which means that we signed a contract to share photos of the girls with their birth moms at specified intervals.

All year, I try my hardest to capture photos of my girls’ everyday lives, their special occasions, their vacations, their time with friends, their time with family.

All year, I see for two people.

I see my daughter running on the beach, not only as myself, but for her.

I watch a birthday celebration through my own eyes, and at the same time, try to take photos for her.

I enjoy watching her peddle her bike in the beautiful sunset light, and wistfully realize I can’t capture it exactly right.  I savor it for two.

As my deadlines approach, I go through all of the photos, deciding what photos I would want to see most if photos were all I got to see.

I add captions, explaining “this is her best friend” or “this is what we did for her birthday” or “this perfectly describes her personality.”

I write a letter that may or may not be read.

And then I click “submit.”

This week marks three years of moments that I have gotten to see firsthand.

I am the photographer—not the person viewing the photos through a computer or a printed album.  This privilege is never lost on me.

As I click “submit,” I pray for the woman on the other end of the photograph.

And then I step away from the computer, back to my girls, and resume seeing for two.

New House Details – Part III

I’ll preface this post with this: it was surprisingly challenging for me to take and share photos of our house, because I wanted the house to be perfect when I took the photos.  I wanted everything to be decorated, cleaned, and perfectly arranged– with beautiful natural daylight to boot.  However, it turns out that that my kids won’t play quietly in their beds while I clean and stage our home (RUDE), and that Project Furnish To Perfection needs some time.  Also, I can only be fake for about 10 seconds…SO, I decided to hurry up and capture things au natural.

Welcome to our home on a November evening around dinner time.  You can see calzones cooling on the stovetop and Apple Radio on in the background.

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Pants are, apparently, optional in our home.

IMG_4818Our dog in her natural habitat…right under Riley’s high chair.
IMG_4820How much do you think this table (and two unpictured extension leaves) cost? What about these antique chairs with laminate fabric that you can wipe dry? Why is my husband looking up sports statistics when the table isn’t set? Leave your guesses for these pressing questions in the comments section.
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Oh hey, part of our playroom! You look like you’ve been well-loved today.  

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(Somehow, I did not get a photo of the rest of the playroom, but just imagine a kitchen set, more toys, and an “art wall” with cute paintings and drawings that the girls made on it.  Also, my mom made those beautiful curtains). 

View of the cool wine rack, the coffee station, and the front hall closet (door to be added at a later date…the previous owners apparently did not believe in “closet doors”).
IMG_4824One of my favorite features of the house—bay windows.  If you have any ideas for how I could decorate these window sills appropriately, please let me know.  Right now, I am using some random vases with decorative grasses from our old house as a placeholder (the stack of library books are just there for practicality’s sake), but I’m not convinced that they are a permanent solution.  I like clean lines so I don’t want clutter, but it’s a little cold with NOTHING there.

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(Eventually, we want to get a sectional for this room).  

Our house has a pretty open floor plan, and had lots of nice details like crown molding, ample closets, and my favorite: this built-in bookshelf.  I REALLY want my girls to love reading, so I’ve intentionally stored a selection of children’s books in most rooms of our house.  I rotate the books from room to room and try to “spotlight” some in each location so they’ll be tempted to sit down and read for a few minutes.  This bookshelf is a HUGE hit.  I pick ~20 different books off the floor each day after Zoe’s reading jags.  I love it!

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(The top shelf has been organized and cleared since this photo was taken, so you don’t have to stare at my zoom lens box anymore).  

Here’s a snapshot of our bedroom.  It looks a little dingy in these photos, but in the daylight, the walls are a gorgeous and peaceful cream.  (The carpet is still dingy in the daylight…we ran out of money in our flooring budget after redoing 4 rooms and one hallway, but we’re coming for you at some point, carpet.) We have no real decor or style in our room yet, so sorry, it’s kind of boring to look at.  Isn’t it a cliche that the parents’ room is the last to get decorated?

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However, I DO have my little office nook set up! Well, sort of–it’s functional, but I need to figure out where to file and store things in this new space.  I may add some under-desk storage or floating shelving.  We’ll see.

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I sat on this post for a few days and decided that I didn’t feel very comfortable putting my entire house on the Internet, so I’ll end our tour here, but just for fun, here are some before and after shots from when we toured the house to present day (the angles are a bit different—but you get the general idea!):

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One final perk of our new home? For whatever reason, we get bigger sky here than in our last two neighborhoods.  I’m sure not complaining.

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A few nights ago when the girls were in bed, David and I sat under the stars with a glass of wine and watched lightning storms in the distance.  We couldn’t remember the last time we had been able to see stars (our last two streets had bright streetlights).  These extra glimpses of nature are AWESOME.

This likely concludes my house posting.  Coming up next…an update on how my fall goals have been going.

The Beautiful Things

There are brilliant, wonderful, glorious gifts in front of me every single day, if I just turn my eyes and my mind to see them.

That’s one thing motherhood has taught me.

It’s easy to get lost in the work in front of me.  But there are so many moments of goodness along the way—moments where light and color and the physical and the spiritual worlds meet—and when I pay attention, I realize what an extraordinary gift these “ordinary” moments really are.

I want to pay attention more often.  

In that spirit, here are a few shots that I’ve never shared on the blog.  These photos weren’t captured during special events, but to me, they brim with the supernatural—the soft and gentle calling of a Creator who loves to speak to us through light, color, beauty, family, belonging, innocence, simplicity, His sufficiency in the face of our weakness, perseverance, hope, and love.

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“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”  –Philippians 4:8-9 

October So Far

Hi friends! Another quick update.  Our move went well, minus the demise of our kitchen table (turns out it was literally on its last leg, HAHAHAHAHA you’re welcome) and we’re mostly settled into our new house! Here is where I would like to show you pictures of perfectly pulled-together rooms, but I have children, so this is the best I can do:

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It was clean and organized until 5:45 am.  Use your imagination to turn back time, or just enjoy it as it is 95% of the time (and note the “neutral AND bright” color that David and I convened on…it works, right?!!) Still to come in this playroom: art, a possible rug, and the removal of the last 3 moving boxes.

Our living room, shot from a hideous angle so you won’t see the stack of frames yet to be hung (“this weekend’s” project that may never be completed because kids):

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The real view, because I like vulnerability:

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Part of our massive backyard, complete with cute enjoyer-of-the-backyard:

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I’ll share more photos as I have opportunity to take them, and may even get fancy and do a “before and after” post for you chock full of juicy details like “paid someone to do this, so don’t ask questions because I honestly don’t know,” “this paint color is kind of blue and kind of green, and it has a name…er…” and “ask my dad.”  I will rule the home design blog genre.

Here are four of my favorite things about this new house so far:

-It provided an excuse for both of my parents to come visit.  I love seeing them, my girls love spending time with them, and no visit is ever long enough.  Tear.

-The chance for new rhythms.  For example, in this new house, I am decidedly starting each morning with quiet time.  The “wake up before your kids to meet with Jesus” concept has been a non-starter for us since these weirdos get up between 4:30-5:30 am and that’s just ungodly.  In our old house’s maze-like layout, the kids could easily wander and commit acts of violence if I didn’t move with them, so quiet time got replaced by “mommy is our constant companion” time.  Swell. Our new house’s layout is much more conducive to breezily keeping an eye on them while I do my own thing AND they’re both over 1 now, which is old enough to sit in A PLAYROOM FULL OF TOYS and PLAY for 10 minutes.  Zoe said the other day “I’m going to read my Bible because it’s morning time,” so I think it’s working.

-My good friend and her sweet daughter live next door.  Number of spontaneous play dates so far: too many to count.  This is awesome.

-Our double front driveway is the perfect size for car and bicycle riding, and our street is quiet enough that I can relax instead of patrolling the edge of the driveway.  We happily spend at least 20 minutes a day out here waving to airplanes, watching the clouds, peddling, and giggling.

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Unrelated to our new house, but still amazing: let it be known that on the morning of October 15, a slight chill entered the air.  You’d better believe the entire family went out for a walk in our lightweight fleeces as soon as the sun rose.  Mid-to-late-fall mornings in Florida are the bomb.

My goals for the remainder of the month are:

-be a little less self-centered and figure out what’s going on in other people’s lives.  The home buying, moving, and unpacking process have necessitated an intense internal focus for the last 2 months, but I’m eager to expand my gaze a little and figure out what the heck is going on outside of my paperwork and boxes.  It’s not a very specific goal, but I know it when I’m doing it, and my goal is to feel a few glimmers of that joy that comes in losing track of myself in serving and loving another.

-exercise 3-5 x/ week (3 Jazzercise classes + walks)

-bring my discipline and focus to work again after a few weeks of being a little more home-focused.  Get some clarity about winter/spring work projects and where I’m going next.

-get my updated will signed and notarized (hi next gathering of friends, I’m about to make you all contemplate mortality for a minute.  Bring a pen)

-hang those dang pictures.

bonus goals: enjoy Halloween with my ladies and possibly make it a threepeat month for Saturday beach trips…

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Talk to you soon! 

New House Details – Part II

Just a super quick update to say: we’re officially homeowners!! Whoa!

My words as soon as we left the closing were “David, I think I might throw up.”  Being in charge of A HOUSE THAT I OWN is terrifying and exciting, all at the same time.

It’s terrifying, because:
a) the gene for “spatial intelligence” was completely absorbed by my engineer father and I couldn’t tell you how to fix anything
b) I am used to seeing a lot more money in my bank account
c) I sing “the wise man built his house upon the rock / the foolish man built his house upon the sand” to Zoe…and then David always jokes “the entire state of Florida is the foolish man.”  We now own a chunk of that sand and a house built upon it.

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We may be idiots.

It’s exciting because:
a) I am ECSTATIC about the house’s layout
b) I am THRILLED with our new yard
c) the kitchen makes me want to cook again, unlike the pass-through hallway that I try to get out of as soon as possible in our current house (no offense, current house—I love you otherwise) 
d) I like my new neighborhood and the roads that I’ll drive and walk most often
e) my friend and her sweet daughter live next door, with another little buddy soon to join us!

We rented our home to the sellers through the weekend (we went from homeowners to owners of a RENTAL PROPERTY all in one week! I’m so dramatic), so we’ll get some keys tonight and get in there tomorrow to start some fast and furious renos!

Pray for a good week of work for my sweet husband who has a lot to endure—both in terms of physical labor as he paints multiple rooms, and emotionally as he has to deal with my complete waffling and indecision on the last color selection (for our playroom and eat-in area).  He wants a bright color, I want a neutral, he is willing to give up the bright color but that’s not enough for me because I want him to want what I want and be happy about a neutral.  It’s going to be a great week for everyone!

This will not become a home decor blog, because I am just as qualified to write that as I would be to write a spatial intelligence blog, but I might give you a few more updates in weeks ahead.  I may also write a sappy blog post about moving, as my friend Jeanette pointed out today that what I was telling her about all that I’ve learned in this house sounded like “a blog post in the making.”  I love my friends.

All joking aside, I went into this house during our home tour and instantly thought “this is a great house for ministry.”  This house has the best layout for packing in people to cook for and serve and love…the best backyard for imperfect parties where people can get dirty and have fun playing football and soccer…the best little nook for Bible study with another mom or two while our kiddos play in the adjoining playroom…the best kitchen window to stand at while my coffee brews and look out and praise God for another day.

We’ve never had the opportunity to choose a home before, but we’ve always made each living situation work—so I don’t feel like we “needed” this upgrade.  However, it is a huge blessing to have had the chance to choose a home based on the activities and people that are most important to us.  I can’t wait to see what God does in us, through us, and with us in this home!

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See you in a new house! (unless I need to use my coping strategy of writing sooner due to paint-related issues!)

New House Details – Part I

I’ve been getting requests to “GIVE US MORE HOUSE DETAILS!”

Okay.  Here they are.

FullSizeRenderMy bedroom right now

Honestly, we didn’t have any intention of buying a home this year.  I like being a renter.  I’m scared of unknown expenses, spending my weekends on home maintenance, and being tied down to a geographic area.

Adding fuel to my “renters fo’ lyfe” argument is the fact that home prices in our area are ridiculously expensive, yet I don’t want to live anywhere else.  After living through Rat House (which, by the way, is now legitimately a Boy Scout hut…practice your trapping inside, I guess!), the thought of sifting through the crummy homes we could afford in this area and trying to decide was the least crappy so we could spend all of our money on it sounded pretty unappealing.  Our current rental has been great (although when your standard is “not infested by rats and insects,” there’s nowhere to go but up), and I didn’t think we’d be able to find anything remotely close to our preferences—in which case, I thought, whyyyyyyy???

However, our landlords decided to sell our rental house.

We don’t want to keep moving all the time, we needed somewhere to live, and it turned out we had a down payment.  David said we are done spending down payments on adopting children (I know, the guy who hates the traditional Christian interpretation of “head of the household” suddenly decides to get all authoritarian on me?!!) so we began investigating the housing market with a realtor and a healthy dose of skepticism.

Well! It turned out that by moving outside of our preferred middle and high school district (but staying within 3 minutes of our current neighborhood and inside my “area” boundaries) we could afford something we liked.  Since Zoe and Riley aren’t even in preschool yet, we decided that we could probably risk it.  Within a few weeks, we found something we liked, decided what we’d want to pay for it, put in our offer, and had ourselves a little deal.  That’s not really how it’s supposed to work in this area (there’s usually drama and bidding wars), so we’re feeling like this is probably our house.

Or like we are making a giant mistake that everyone but us can see.  One of the two.  Usually the first.

We are supposed to close Wednesday, complete some small renovations the next week, and move on the 29th.  I feel a little weird sharing photos of the house before it is officially ours, but I’ll share some (and some before and afters) once we move in.

IMG_2082Sneak preview.  Goodbye, hideous carpet.

In the meantime, we are packing, and I’ve discovered the incredibly fun and time-wasting world of home renovation blogs.  While I usually use Pinterest mostly to blatantly piggyback on my friend Jaima’s meal planning efforts (thanks Jaima,) I’ve been Pinning home ideas like a madwoman recently.  I have plans to implement exactly 0 of these ideas, but seeing what I’m attracted to has still been beneficial as we’ve picked paint colors and flooring and decided what our longer-term furniture goals are.

Yes, I suddenly have long-term furniture goals.

Mom, you should be proud.

More sneak previews: my favorite features of the house are the open floor plan, the huge backyard, the updated kitchen, the French doors going out to the backyard, and the bonus that my friend lives next door!

More to come if closing is successful!

(Also: blogging twice in one week?! Must have a grant I don’t feel like writing…)