Summer 2016: Two Weddings & A Frog

It turns out that life does not conveniently open up windows of time for contemplation and writing, so I’m choosing to say “wait” to a few things right now (and to give Zoe an iPad) so I can sit down and just type for a while.  It’s good for the soul!

Here’s a little recap of our summer!

We kicked off summer with a trip to Disney on Ice, also known as the ultimate in potty training rewards (go Zoe)! Little Riley got to tag along and was a surprise superfan.

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Every summer, David always goes on a few week-long trips with youth from church.  This means I stay home with the girls and have fun/survive.  During one of his trips this summer, the girls and I all got sick (it turned out that I had shingles, although I didn’t realize it until a few days later). We borrowed “Mary Poppins” from a neighbor and spent the weekend watching it over and over again. It was quite the emotional journey:

Mary Poppins, viewing 1: This movie is way weirder than I remembered.

Mary Poppins, viewing 2: This movie is way more creative and groundbreaking than I realized.

Mary Poppins, viewing 3: Time with my children is passing by faster than I realize…soon they’ll be grown and all I’ll have to show for it are hours spent working at a bank…am I seizing every moment or grinding at that grindstone?!! (Begin softly crying, then remember that I don’t work at a bank and curse Mary Poppins and my lack of sleep).

It was a gem of a weekend.

Every summer, we go on at least one trip solely designed to provide sanctuary from the burning inferno that is this state.  This year, we went to Seattle and had a rip-roaring good time hiking almost every day…0715161017crenting a rowboat and going out on Lake Washington…0719161041going to a family wedding with a ceremony that perfectly reflected the couple (congratulations again, guys…)!!Attachment-1drinking lots of coffee, seeing some Seattle sights, and meeting up with my college girlfriends and a precious new baby who has been added to our extended friend-family.

While on this trip, we also learned something exciting: OUR KIDS ARE ACTUALLY FUN ON VACATIONS RIGHT NOW. They can handle long flights, they can be somewhat flexible about naps, they eat real food and don’t require planning for purees or bottles, one is potty-trained with few accidents, and they can handle time changes without being completely miserable! AirplaneThis realization has set off a flurry of vacation dreaming and scheming for next summer. We’ve made it through the darkest time!!

This summer, I taught my “accelerated format” course for the second summer in a row, which meant that I had ten fast and furious weeks of grading, video recording, and answering student e-mails…plus all of my other work. This may NOT be an every summer thing.

This summer, I opened our toilet seat and found this monstrosity sitting in the bowl:0720162002This picture was taken AFTER 5 minutes of screaming, hitting the frog with a spatula, and general mayhem as we tried to trap and release this ridiculous amphibian as he hopped all over our bathroom.

I’m not sure my children (who were placed in a crib for safekeeping) will ever forget this incident. I share it with you in the hope that you can think of this story during a depressing day and realize: it could always be worse.  I could have a frog in my toilet. 

This summer, Riley turned two! We celebrated with a “Frozen in Summer” party with three of Riley’s buds, three blow-up pools, popsicles, and pizza.0727161606f 0727161623Words can’t express my gratitude for the gift of Riley. Our family would be incomplete without her!

This summer, David and I also celebrated our 8th anniversary. In honor of the occasion, we revisited the spot where we got engaged (Kerry Park in Seattle). Our children were thrilled by this trip down memory lane.0718161237eThis summer, the girls took swim lessons twice a week. Zoe has learned to actually swim, and Riley has learned that she cannot swim by herself.  Valuable lessons all around! We have switched to private lessons to amp up their progress and will continue through October. I am so proud of both of them.

This summer, Zoe stopped napping.  Get out your violins, people—not because she is growing up and I’m emotional about it, but because my midday 1.5 hours per day of work/personal time are over and I’m emotional about THAT.  Naptime was a joy.  “Quiet” time…well, don’t get me started.

IMG_0413(Unrelated photo I just thought was too cute not to share. A related photo would have been me chugging coffee with a crazed look in my eyes, which I’m sure you can imagine without a photo.)

This month, David’s parents moved here. They now live 6 blocks away…and are watching the girls for me every Wednesday afternoon! We are all excited about this! 🙂

Last weekend, I took my first kid-free trip (beyond my grandpa’s funeral) and went to my cousin’s wedding in California.  I had such a blast hiking, drinking delicious wine and coffee, eating some of the most delicious food imaginable, watching my cousin begin his family, and hanging out with family. Attachment-1-2I was surprised to learn that I am actually still a person when I get some time and space away from my children, AND I’m able to slip into that person very quickly, AND it’s fun to be that person.  To be honest, I haven’t been feeling a lot of ownership of my life these days, so realizing that I’m still there was such a good growth experience for me.IMG_5212That sentence probably sounds really melodramatic unless you have also had two children who are very close in age, or are a fourteen year old girl, in which case you feel me.

If you CAN relate, you will understand my mixed emotions at this photo: 0822161054This photo was taken at Meet the Teacher day last week. My girls just started preschool!

I’ll talk more about this—and work/life balance & what’s ahead for this fall—in my next post!

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The Waiting and the Harvest

Waiting for something is hard.  Every single day, you look to see if it’s time.IMG_4329But even if you’re ready, it doesn’t mean it’s time.  IMG_4332This is a lesson I’ve been teaching my daughter through gardening.  It’s a lesson I think she’ll be learning for a long time, if she’s anything like her mama.  When it looks like THAT, then it’s time.  Not before.  IMG_4333In the meantime, I tell her, we don’t just sit around.  We prepare. IMG_4337We put in the work.  We pray for God’s blessing.IMG_4338Then one day, it’s time.  And, bedhead and all, we are ready.  IMG_4362 IMG_4363 IMG_4364 IMG_4366 IMG_4367 IMG_4368 IMG_4369Waiting isn’t fun.  But harvest time is sweet.

Happy Birthday, Dear Zoe

Two years ago today, I was meeting this sweet girl for the first time.

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It’s funny, the things you hear over and over again as an adoptive parent.  Some of the most commonly repeated phrases I hear are, “what a blessing you are to this little girl!”

“She’s so lucky! She hit the jackpot!”

“You changed her life forever!”

Over and over I reply: she’s a blessing to US.  WE hit the jackpot and it wasn’t luck; it was the purposeful design of our gracious God.  SHE changed OUR life, and we are so grateful.

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My favorite explanation of adoption ever was something my friend’s almost-three-year-old said when she met Zoe for the first time.  She said, “Miss Sarah wanted a baby, and prayed for a baby, and the Spirit of God came and gave her a baby!”

Thank you, Spirit of God, for this beautiful baby—for all she has taught me, for all she will teach me, and for how she has changed my life forever.

A Photo Exhibit

Here are some photos that probably shouldn’t make the blog…but in the interest of promoting fine art, they will anyway.  MWAHAHAHAHA.  Crack open that cab sauv.  It’s about to get sophisticated up in here.

I call this one, “Who Woke Who Again?” 

Photo on 10-10-14 at 6.28 AM #3Contrary to appearances, I didn’t rouse myself at 5:15 am, that’s for sure.

This one is titled, “Hey Girl Hey.

hey girl heyJust catching up on the latest gossip.

This photo series is called, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Two of Us.  Also, Zoe Dressed Herself.” 

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This piece is called, “Silence is Suspicious.  Very, Very Suspicious.”  

IMG_3246(Me: “Zoe, are you eating cereal?” Zoe, through a full mouth: “No.”)

The following gem is from our recent professional family photo shoot.  During our session, Zoe went rogue and refused to smile unless David threw her into the air or unless the camera was pointed at Riley (in which case she would throw herself onto the floor in the background of the shot and roll like a log towards Riley screaming “cheese!” So helpful.)  

I call this, “Photojournalism at Its Finest, Birth Announcements at Their Worst.”  

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Lest you think I’m unfairly picking on Zoe, this photo is titled “WHO Did They Send Me Home from the Hospital With?”

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“Call Me Maybe” was the hottest song of the summer.  In 2012.  Hence, I call this photo, “Out of Date.” 

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And I’ll pick on myself a bit too.  Our next photo is called, “Why Mom Won’t Ever Be a Craft Blogger”  (alternate title: “Is that Minnie Mouse or V for Vendetta?”)  

IMG_3564“Oh well,” Zoe says.  “I’ve already been exposed to V for Vendetta.  I’m cool with this.”

IMG_3565Zoe then added “eyes” (related: she recently pointed to my eyes and counted 1, 2, then to the lenses of my glasses and counted 3, 4…a wonderful flashback to third grade.)  

IMG_3567After making Minnie Mouse, Zoe requested that I use my mixed media “skills” to create “fire.”  Um, ok, little pyro.  I took my best stab at it, then invited her to paint it.

Things got a bit messy.

And…edible.

The resulting photo is titled, “If You’ve Ever Wondered What Goth Zoe Would Look Like, Here’s Your Answer.”  

IMG_3571I can’t even.

The second-to-last photo in our exhibit today is titled, “Don’t You Dare Pay Attention to that Baby.” 

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And our concluding photo, “Nobody Puts Toddler in a Corner.  No One Who Wants to Live, That Is.” 

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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!

Zoe’s Fancy Dress Party

Alternate post title: “I am DEFINITELY a stay at home mom now, in case that time I made applesauce in the crock pot didn’t tip you off.” 

Last Thursday, I hosted a little themed party for Zoe and her friends.  I was inspired to throw the party when I looked in Zoe’s closet asking myself, “when will she ever wear all these fancy dresses that other people have given us? We don’t have enough fancy occasions to attend!”

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To rectify this total first world problem, I decided to create my own occasion.  I invited a few of Zoe’s girlfriends to wear their fanciest dresses to “Zoe’s Fancy Dress Party,” which I said would feature “fancy snacks and casual playtime.”

I may have gone a bit overboard.

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I made these napkin and utensil holders.  WHO AM I?!!

IMG_2547Although it may have made me slightly question my grip on my sanity, as well as my internalization of our culture’s gender stereotypes, I had a BLAST planning and throwing this party for Zoe and her friends  (<–maybe this should be in quotations…I clearly threw this party for myself as much as for Zoe!!)  

It seemed like they had fun too!

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IMG_2573The best part of this party was that David was SO supportive of this idea.  He looked at my “fancy dress party” Pinterest board, patiently listened to my menu and decor ideas, helped me clean the house, woke up early to help me prepare on the day of the party, and even planned his work week so that he could stop by for the last 20 minutes of the party! Did I mention that I threw this party for a completely made up reason and had no justification whatsoever for the money and time invested beyond “it sounds like a fun idea?” He is the best husband ever! 

Any ideas for our next themed bash? 🙂

Loving Our Children Where They’re At

This is one of those posts that pretty much wrote itself.

The scene: Mother’s Day.  I have already admitted how much I love coordinating my outfits with Zoe’s.  Naturally, we needed to do this for Mother’s Day and then have a mother-daughter photo shoot! FABULOUS! With visions of perfect lighting and charming expressions, I convinced David to be our photographer and headed to a nice photo spot.

“Zoe, smile!” we said.

This was our response.

IMG_2522“Come on, smile!”

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“Please? Smile?”

IMG_2527“What do you want to do, babe?” David asked.

I knew what SHE wanted to do.  And I decided to let her do it.

“Let’s let her run.”

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IMG_2535My daughter isn’t a “stand still and pose for a photo shoot” kind of girl right now—she’s an “explore and run around” kind of girl.  And it turns out that letting her be herself is way more beautiful than anything that I could create with the right camera angles.

IMG_2542Oh, and I got the mother-daughter shot I wanted.

It’s not the most flattering angle, we’re not looking at the camera, and we’re sitting on the dirty street in dresses.  But it shows what I’m learning: to love my child where she’s at.  

IMG_2544In toddlerhood, Zoe is the most unencumbered and free version of herself that she will ever be. I want to love this person, this gift, as she is.  I want her to emerge from toddlerhood knowing confidently, I am smart.  I am beautiful.  I am worthy.  I am understood.  I am loved for who I am and where I’m at.  

It’s a tall order to teach all this.  But this photo shoot gives me hope that maybe I’m getting somewhere.

(A special thanks to my husband for fearlessly throwing himself into the street to get these shots!)