At Season’s Change

Last night, David and I finally unpacked the last moving box.  We still have a few blank walls, and our fall decorations have turned up missing (which makes me wonder what else might be missing) but for all intents and purposes, we’re settled.

The fall semester is one third of the way done.

It’s football season, which means I see significantly less of David.

It’s finally cooling off a little here in Florida.  I saw people in sweatshirts on our walk Wednesday morning (and rightfully so—I mean, it was 78 degrees.)

I’ve switched to hot coffee drinks.

Riley had her two month appointment this week.  I found myself thinking: “you’ve only been with us two months?” It feels like she’s always been with us.

All of these signs point to a new season.  Thank God.  

It’s no secret that 2014 has not been an easy year for me.  The year has been full with anxiety, waiting, sadness, and loss, capped off by housing issues and a forced move.  I feel scarred by this summer, which held the highest of high notes with Riley but was very difficult otherwise due to constant moving and adapting (and honestly, summer in Florida could be its own brand of seasonal affective disorder.)  My grandfather died a few weeks ago, necessitating a 36 hour trip to Colorado to celebrate his life and the joy He has found in His eternal life with Christ.  I found myself telling David “I’m so eager for a new season” about 600 times this year, but it seemed to just keep blending together into one challenging one.  I’m not proud of what all this angst says about my ability to be content no matter the circumstance—but I’m also aware that some seasons are just hard, and that even if you do your best to choose joy in the hard times, it’s okay to look forward to when that joy comes more easily.

The last box we unpacked was full of random items.  Tools.  Newborn diapers (oops.)  And this stuff:

IMG_3453This is proof that, even in the midst of a hard season: a miracle can happen.

Riley came out of the womb without a name.  She left the hospital with a temporary name.  But in 2-3 months, she’ll have a permanent name.  How like our God—who lovingly takes us into his family as we are, gives us His name and His strength for our life here on earth, and gives us the assurance that we will belong to Him forever in heaven.

The miracle of Riley reminds me that no matter what my circumstances may look like, there is one circumstance that supersedes everything: that I have been loved, as I am, without doing anything to earn it, by a God who wants to unite me to Himself forever.  As I pass through seasons of life, learning from each one, this truth is my constant—and I long for it to be the lens through which I view every season, stage, transition, and role I play.

“What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!”
I Peter 1:3-4 MSG  

 

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A Sweet September

I wanted to wait to write an update until I had something deeper to say than “here’s a bunch of cute and funny photos of my kids, plus a comment or two that I think is witty” but at the rate my brain is going (or NOT going,) that means you won’t hear from me until Christmas.  So, indulge me in another “life lately”-style post!

I recapped the highlight of our Disney trip in my last post.  Not covered in that post was the next day when, thanks to wrong directions from resort concierges and staff, I spent several hours roaming around three Disney resorts with the girls looking for what I had been told was an “amazing playground.”  We never found this mystical place, but we DID get to ride three buses, two boats, walk approximately 3 miles, and experience the excitement of being stranded in a remote area of a wilderness campground for an hour—all in 90 degree weather.  At each stop of our incredible journey, I had to break down the stroller (and infant car seat!) and take the two girls, our diaper bag, and the Ergo safely on and off of the mode of transportation by myself because apparently the staff can’t help (“lawsuits,” they explained, as if this single word could make me understand why they stood there watching as I struggled with 75 lbs of people and things.)  Ahh, the happiest place on earth!

This campground selfie sums up the trip nicely:

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“Just a fun day with the gir–AAKKKK!”
Guess I don’t have to worry about when to expose Riley to peanut butter anymore…

On the plus side, I realized that if I could live through this experience, I could probably handle taking both girls shopping, so we’re a bit more functional these days.

Let’s see…other updates…

Riley has woken up to the world, and man, is she pretty!!

IMG_3329Don’t mind the Harry Potter-style scrape on her head…I’m calling her “The Baby Who Lived (No Thanks to Zoe)”

She has started batting at toys, tracking really well with her eyes, smiling in response to our faces, cooing, and kicking her playmat piano like it’s her job.

IMG_3199It’s apparently Zoe’s job too.  Every day she’s hustlin…

IMG_3335Riley’s all, “seriously, Mom?? I thought that thing was supposed to be for ME.”

Riley remains peaceful and happy—basically, a dream baby.  She’s been out of newborn clothes for three weeks, which is so funny to me since Zoe was so shrimpy.  We have her 2 month appointment this week and I’m very curious to see how much she weighs!

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On a related note, Zoe is 25 lbs now.  I’m pretty sure 3 lbs of it are hair.  Check out this recent post-nap hair:

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My dad, mom, and teenage siblings vacationed at a nearby beach over Labor Day weekend. We didn’t want to subject the family to our nighttime wake ups, so we commuted back and forth every day for a few days.  It was so much fun! My parents made sure that I got a little “vacation” myself—I got to go paddle boarding twice, didn’t have to cook for a few days, and my dad watched Zoe during her nap times so that I could take Riley to the resort Starbucks and cuddle with her (one-on-one time with her is so precious to me.  As are iced soy lattes.)

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Like a true Florida baby, Riley was in the ocean at 6 weeks old.  She totally kicked back and relaxed.

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1.5 week later, Aunt Kelsey came for a visit to meet Riley.  All parties enjoyed her visit and craved her attention, as evidenced by this darling photo collage (click to enlarge.)

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She was a HUGE help in practicing my routine with the two girls, cooked us a few freezer meals, babysat Riley so I could get some one-on-one time with Zoe, and even encouraged David and I to sneak out for two date nights while she was here.  Since she left, Zoe has continued to thank God for “Ke-sey” before bed every night.  It is so sweet to watch my girls fall in love with my family.

IMG_3410Some personal updates: I am LOVING work right now.  I don’t talk a ton about work here, but right now I’m teaching an undergraduate public health writing class and am really enjoying watching my students engage with each other and our course content.  Public health writing is equal parts formula and craft, so there actually is a lot to teach and finesse even at the undergraduate level.  It’s fun to give thoughtful feedback to my students and watch them apply it, and to encourage and coach them in their career aspirations.  I’m also writing two grants a month for a local nonprofit through a grant writing business that I’m a part of, and just wrapped up the last part of my last summer consulting project, which involved training the staff of a local nonprofit on a 3-5 year evaluation plan that I created for them after working with them to help them define their desired impact.  I work on Mondays from 9-1, during nap times (the girls are coordinating their naps most days right now which is fantastic,) and as needed on weekends and early mornings.  It’s not too much, I love it, and I get to spend the majority of my week with the girls.

IMG_3381I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with both girls now and feel God’s goodness every day as He somehow equips me to do and enjoy my day.  I definitely don’t shower or cook from scratch as much as I used to, but I’m in a good groove otherwise.  There’s always clean laundry in our drawers (or at least in a hamper somewhere,) I can take the girls most places without having to over think it, we’re sleeping better as Riley is down to one nighttime wakeup most nights, and I’ve gotten back into exercising again  (I wasn’t starting from scratch, but it felt like it—my kudos to anyone who has recently started an exercise routine.  I had to legitimately pray and coach myself through some of those initial workouts!)

My goals for the next month is to keep that routine going, to eat real lunches (that hasn’t been happening lately, but I know that continuing to get back into an exercise routine will help my appetite get more regulated again,) to have two date nights with David, and to deep clean my house 1x.  (I know, aim big!!) I also want to keep having regular “quiet times”—whatever that needs to look like in my day 🙂

Photo on 7-28-14 at 6.45 AM #2I am also back volunteering with our youth group girls, thanks to some youth group moms who are making themselves available to watch the girls each week.  The support our church family gives us is unreal and we’re so thankful.  I am excited for the year ahead with my high school girls.

I will close with some gratuitous adorable pics, because I live for excess!

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That Time I Betrayed All My Principles (And Loved It)

Until Zoe was about 13 months old, I had a parenting philosophy that we were not going to “do” characters in our family.

Laugh all you want, experienced parents: I was convinced that I could shield my daughter from becoming a pawn in the merchandising machine of Disney, Nickelodeon, and company.  We would spend our time playing with natural wood toys, painting, exploring the outdoors, eating organic food, and reading books with watercolor illustrations.  Our trips to Target would remain peaceful; Zoe would never demand Sponge Bob fruit snacks or throw a tantrum over not getting the Big Bird toothbrush because she wouldn’t know who they were.  

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

When Zoe was 13 months, she discovered Elmo.  We had never watched Elmo at home, but she discovered a small Elmo doll at Target, picked him up and hugged him, and wouldn’t let go. For the price of a latte and a small part of my soul, I could make her smile this big?! Okay, I thought.  We’ll let Elmo in our cart and into our house and maybe even into our hearts.  BUT JUST ELMO. She’ll never discover his friends.

IMG_2362Zoe with her favorite Elmo of the multiple Elmo dolls we now own.

Apparently these kid marketing people are, like, good at their jobs.  These little Sesame Street characters are everywhere, and once our family and friends realized that Zoe liked Elmo, they made sure that she owned the whole neighborhood.

Ok, so we’re sticking to Sesame Street characters.  They’re at least associated with education, I reasoned.  We won’t do any “fluffy” non-educational characters though, and she is definitely not watching TV.

I held strong until she was 18 months old and I was at my parents’ house trying to watch three kids and finish two grants.  It was miraculous: fifteen minutes of “Elmo’s World” once a day gave me the time to check my work, make a meal for Sam or Olivia, or do the dishes while Zoe sat still! Ok, but TV is only at Gigi and Papa’s house! I said.

A week after we got home, Zoe had an ear infection followed by the stomach bug and stopped eating or drinking for three days.  “She needs to stay as still as possible,” her doctor said.  “Try TV.”

Two weeks after Zoe recovered, Riley joined our family.

Let’s just say that I can recite entire episodes of Elmo’s World now.  (“Birthday” is my favorite.  Only a real Scrooge doesn’t like to celebrate a fictional fish’s birthday for 17 minutes and 34 seconds, and Mr. Noodle’s attempts to “wrap a present” on this particular episode are far better than his groan-worthy acting on “Play Ball.”)

Flash forward to two weeks ago, when David and I had the following conversation:

David: So, I’m still signed up to go to that conference at a Disney resort in two weeks.
Me: Can you get out of it? We have a newborn.
David: (checks) Nope.
Me: Well, I guess I’ll stay home alone with them for three days and three nights…
David: Don’t do that.  You guys should come for at least part of the time.  If you can handle them during the day, I’ll be able to help you at night.
Me: Okay.  “Night” and “help” in the same sentence? We’re in.  But I’m not taking both of them to a theme park.  I haven’t even taken them both to Publix yet.  What can I do around the hotel?
David: Hmm. Do you think Zoe would like a character meal?
Me: She doesn’t really know any of the characters.  (Brightens) Wait! We have two weeks.  That’s enough time for her to learn their names.  I’ll show her some videos on YouTube.

I’ll pause and let you re-read that last sentence.

MY MORALS HAVE SLIPPED SO LOW, GUYS.  

And last night, as I sat across from my chicken-nugget-eating, dessert-buffet-partaking, character-knowing, HAPPY little girl, I thought: I’m so glad!

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IMG_3296Some rules were meant to be broken!

But seriously, as I adjust to two kids, I have to have SO MUCH GRACE for myself.  It is hard work, and it would be easy to drown in guilt because I’m not as good as I want to be at it.  This night was a great reminder that sometimes, my expectations of what I “should” do and the rules I’ve created for myself about what kind of mom I want to be are actually blocking fun and enjoyment from my life as a mom.

Last night was the best night of Zoe’s life.  I am so glad I got to enjoy it with her!