Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Anna's Roundup

If you want to know how to spend your days doing only the coolest and best things, look no further. The cutest 14 month old in the world has a few ideas up her sleeve, and she's willing to share.

 1. Go down slides backwards on your belly.   You know, anything to show off your big diaper bum at the best angle.

 2.  Anytime the dishwasher is open, drop whatever you are doing and check it out at once.  If a big person closes it before you complete your advance, you'll have to bang on the door and wail. Because of course the dishwasher is the only thing that completes your existence.


3.  During the interim periods of your day, walk around the house carrying a small handkerchief or cloth napkin.  Clutch it tightly.  Whatever you do, people, don't lose the handkerchief!!!

4.  Schedule those cry breaks.  Don't worry, you don't have to explain yourself.  Just act like the only thing you can say is "ba ba ba."  


5.  Playground again!  There's never a good reason to leave a playground.  Ever.  Just try to come up with a good one.  Even if you only want to sit on the lowest step the whole time, it's clearly a million times better than sitting on anything at your house.  



6.  Listen.  They're gonna tell you learning how to use a spoon is important.  Pfffft.  I say it's highly overrated.  Hands forever!


7.  At the end of the day, sucker someone into reading the hippo book.  (Go for grandmas first, I always say.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Glory, Winter, and Thoughts on Turnips

On Mondays, I work at the courthouse, which is two blocks away from our house.  Needless to say, I walk to work, especially since parking on our city square is limited to two hours, and the city employee who marks tires also writes tickets with unflagging enthusiasm.  

If you were to walk home with me, you would see the set of a small, rural town - cracked sidewalks, weeds growing in the line where the curb meets asphalt, power lines dipping to and fro across the street, low-slung cement block buildings where cars are sold and restaurants operated.  The empty cavern of the old Hallmark building yawns through plate glass windows.  The tan apartments wear black doors and one lonely white door on the end, as though someone never got around to painting it.

Last night, on my way home at 5:00, the center of the western sky was a flaming circle, smudged out from the horizon in gradations of yellow and orange.  It was glowing above streets I would not always call beautiful.  Blazing light and hope over things the hands of men have laid and built.  

Just a sunset.  But, in that moment, a message so bold.  The glory of God is everywhere.  This world decaying and fading isn't beyond His reach.  No, it's very much still His, every inch of it.  His light busts through the seams of heaven and onto the blue canvas of our dusk, and He says,

This world is mine yet.  

*  *  *

Today, the temperatures dropped into the 30s, and anyone who mentions the weather will inevitably say, "Did you know they're calling for snow on Saturday?"  It feels like blustery winter blew in today and is not going to leave for a long time.  I miss the fireplace from our old house so much this year.  I can't figure out how our current house, built in 1928, doesn't have a fireplace.  My daydreams often wander to lovely brick chimneys with wood-burning inserts.  

But, meanwhile, Anna and I layer up with boot socks and cardigans.  I am teaching her to love the cardigan from an early age.  It seems only right.  


Cardigans and food just might be my coping mechanisms for a winter with no fireplace.  I baked lemon blackberry scones this morning (if you try them, only bake for 15 minutes).  


I'm making acorn squash curry tonight, and for our life group which comes over at 7, an apple gallette.  With the last little bit of the pumpkin spice candle sputtering, we'll make the most of this winter gig.  
*  *  *

Turnips.  They were more of a garden experiment than anything.  Aaron was perplexed when I showed him the seed packet.   I was a little perplexed too, to be perfectly honest.  But who can plum the mysteries of the gardener's heart?  I just wanted to plant turnips.  They did AMAZING.  We have more than we could eat or freeze.  So far, I've offered them to a couple friends with no success, and this is what I want to know...why are turnips scorned?  They're pretty and when you roast them with olive oil, they're awfully tasty.   

So what do you say, are we going to bring turnips back? 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Five Things


Sometimes, all the small, incredible things my husband does on a regular basis pile up in my heart, and I feel like I could burst for how lucky I am.

Sometimes, instead, the things he is not great at (writing flowery epistles declaring his undying love and affection for me being one) pile up in my heart, and I feel quite sorry for myself that I didn't happen to marry a man with the poetry of Byron in his heart.

Since I'm a feeler, I flop back and forth between these two extremes quite often.  Possibly even in the same day.

All of the time, it is good to focus on truth, yes?  And the truth is, that while Aaron doesn't write me a ton of poignant love letters, neither do I give him nearly as many backrubs as he would like.  The more important truth is, that while we're both faltering lovers, we've covenanted to the Lord and each other to stay the course and figure out how to falter less, love more, and head toward Jesus through it all.  

That being said, I want to share five things my husband does that are amazing.

1.  He takes care of the important, mundane details of life that my dreamer brain forgets to attend to.  Case in point.  This morning he texted me, "I'm going to schedule all of our eye appointments, coolio?"  The fact that he said coolio at the end is the best part.  He knows that if I read a text just about eye appointments blah blah blah, I might never respond.  But put coolio at the end, and bam, my interest is perked.

2.  He loves Anna and is so good with her.  After giving me a kiss, the very first thing he does when he gets home is pick up Anna.  He'll play with her, read to her, wrestle with her.  He changes poopy diapers (we never fight over whose turn it is because he just does it), he gives her baths, he clips her fingernails.  He is Superman disguised as Daddy.

3.  He reads the Word every morning before he goes to work.  He's not even a morning person, but he gets up a few minutes early to read a bit and pray.  To watch the man who is leading our family humble himself before God every morning?  Well, there are few things that are more attractive, let's just put it that way.

4.  He's very intuitive with housework needs and helps without my asking.  Sometimes, he does all the laundry in a week.  Other nights, he does the dishes.  Without fail, he'll ask me if I need help with dinner, and he doesn't seem to mind that I've made him the resident chopper.  "Yes, can you chop this carrot?  Onion?  Celery?  Potato?  Meat?  All the things because I hate chopping???"

5.  He is a generous friend.  I was laughing the other night because it seems that Aaron is the go-to person for a lot of people in their time of need.   Flat tire?  Stranded at the airport?  Need help cutting wood or building a table?  I think it says a lot about his character that people know they can ask him for help, and he will help quickly and gladly.

This is my guy.  He is faithful, steady, and kind.  Not Lord Byron, but that guy was a creep anyway.

For me, a huge key to marriage contentment is this - to spend more time dwelling on the gracious gift that my husband is instead of mourning for the things undone.

Aaron Christopher, thank you for your love.  You are the best kind of coolio.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

One Year Later

Dearest darling,

A year and some weeks ago, I wrote you a letter.  You were new and fresh and itsy bitsy, and everything about you charmed us. While your arms and legs were filling my belly, a love for you was filling my heart  - and well, that love exploded the day you came.  Once, I heard a mom say having a baby was like having part of your heart split off to walk around outside of you.  I'd say that's about right.  You've carried a piece of me around with you for nearly 400 days now.  From rolling over to sitting up to crawling like a maniac to the two faltering steps you've lately managed, my heart's gone with you, all the way.    



In a classic case of chest-bursting parental pride, your Daddy and I are convinced you are the cleverest baby yet.  You aren't regularly using words (although you have said mama, dada, more, and go) but you respond to questions with a yes bob or a no shake, and you can fetch things for us that we ask you to get.  You like to point to our facial features and then yours, waiting each time for us to say what it is.  "Nose."  "Mouth." "Eyes."  In one of the books we read you, the daddy bunny tells his son he loves him as high as he can reach, and when we get to that line, you stretch both your hands above your head.









Your skin is so soft I can still hardly believe it, even after a year of touching your chubby thighs and kissing your cheeks.  You love the spray of the water hose, and when it rains, you stand at the screen door and cry to go out.  You stare strangers down with your big brown eyes and rarely proffer a smile at first meeting.  You can spot my purse from anywhere in the house and yank it down to the floor by its strap, pulling the contents out one by one.  You love to be chased up the stairs.  You crawl to your closet and yell for me until I come, and then you show me that you want to wear your shoes.


You are really into things you can't have, and this is where the most challenging part of being your mama comes into play.  Daily, I tell you not to touch the computer, my cell phone, or the toilet, and daily, you decide you'd rather touch those things and suffer the consequence of getting your hand swatted.  When I put something you can't have out of your reach, you throw yourself on the floor and scream.  I tell Daddy about our rough days, and he says he thinks it's only just beginning.  :)  He's right. This will be a lifelong battle, my sweet one.  The force of your will and selfishness will only grow, and you will always want things that are not good for you.  Mama knows from experience.  Yet.  There is One who will reshape your heart if you let Him.  Daddy and I pray that you will run early and run often to Jesus.

What a beautiful year it's been.  I love you, my sweetness.  And I forever and always will.

Love,

Mama

Monday, September 22, 2014

Birthday Blitz

In our little threesome of a family, our birthdays all fall within ten days of each other.  This year was a banner year - one of us turned 1, one of us turned 30, and one of us turned the age that is very, very close to 30.  

Aaron is first in the birthday train.  His birthday went something like this:

(Driving home from church, which means the time is somewhere around noon, aka, roughly 6 hours after we woke up, aka, this will become an important detail soon. )

Me: Hey, let's stop for a taco since we're not having lunch 'til later.

Aaron:  You mean like a birthday taco?

Me:  Oh hahahahahaha.  Oh my goodness.  Uncontrollable laughter.  

Aaron:  You didn't really forget my birthday.  

Me:  Oh, no, I mean yes, yes I did.  Still hyperventilating laughter.

Aaron:  No you didn't.  You have something planned and you're just acting like you forgot.

Me:  Still laughing while wondering how in heck I am going to dig myself out of this one and also wondering why he didn't say ANYTHING about it being his BIRTHDAY for an entire HALF of a DAY.  

So, obviously, I am Wife of the Year.  

I made up for it by getting him not only a birthday taco but also the most expensive and peanut-buttery ice cream cake Dairy Queen offered. 


Am I exonerated? 

Anna's birthday was next.  You're right, you're right!  She's the one who turned one.  We had a little outdoor party at my parent's house for her.  I wanted to call it a soiree on the invitations.  Aaron talked me down from that one.
Aaron also talked me out of making her a healthy banana muffin-cake.  The girl got the real deal.  Chocolate cupcake with white brain icing, complements of a mom who doesn't know her way around an icing tip.  She played with the brains for a while, then gingerly ate about half of the cupcake.  It was an entirely underwhelming first cake experience.


After she was through, she wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin and said, "Thank you, mom, for my first experience with refined sugar.  But I think for my next soiree, I better stick with a banana muffin."  

My 30th birthday tied up the celebratory forenight.  It was a sweet and simple day.  Breakfast with my mom, lunch out with Aaron and Anna, and a dinner I didn't have to cook at my parents' house.   Also.  My husband remembered my birthday.  I am sure I could write a whole post about my feelings on 30, but for now, the story is that I am grateful for a new decade and this skin feels more comfortable than ever.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Trading Up

It seems I have traded in my running shoes for walking shoes.

Oh, they're still the same pair - green and white Asics I bought halfway through training for our marathon.  A few days before the race, I decided they were not broken in enough, and I made a wild last minute decision to run 26 miles in my bedraggled navy New Balance shoes.

The Asics are good and broken in now.  They've got tiny holes in the mesh at the bottom of my baby toe.  The stitching is coming undone near the top, and they aren't so much green and white now as they are green and gray.

Where are the days when I had time to schedule a three hour run?  Sometimes I wonder this.  Three unbroken hours for anything is a chapter in the imaginary book I keep called "If I Had Free Time and No One Depended on Me."

So I lace up the old Asaics and pull out the stroller.  We go walking in the morning, before the heat rises to its peak.  It's possible to beat the heat, but the humidity is an early bird, and by the end of our walk, Anna and I are both sweaty.  

As I walk, I look down at her chubby feet.  The farther we go, the farther down in her stroller she slouches.  Her legs swing over the edge, and she flexes her toes up and down.  Those chubby, short toes!  If she's getting bored with the trees and the wind and the birds, she pulls her left leg up to her ear and babbles like she's found a new friend.  Hey, it's my foot!


























On every walk, I think, "I wish I could preserve those sweet baby feet."  I know in ten years, when I might have the time and energy to take up running again, I will remember the chunky legs and pudgy bare feet of my first baby.   How her bare feet meant she wasn't yet walking, she was riding.  How she needed me to carry her when we collapsed the stroller and slid it back into the shed.   How she wanted me to carry her, how she snuggled her head into my shoulder, how she pulled at my shirt when she wanted to nurse, how for that short time, I was totally and completely her world.

Free time?  Don't have much of it.  But as it turns out, I would trade every infinite minute of it for two plump feet.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dressing a Baby Girl on a Budget

In my dream world, I would buy all of Anna's clothing from Zara, Baby Gap, and Tea Collection.

Money is a moot issue in a dream world, right?

I love picking out Anna's clothes.  The fact that we don't live in a dream world, but instead, a world where we only have one full-time income, means that the process is creative and challenging. While I would love to exclusively dress my daughter in outfits that are spot on current trends, the budget - and, if I'm honest, my convictions about where our money goes - say nope.

Last week, Shannan shared her secondhand genius for girl shopping, which got me thinking about sharing Anna's fall/winter wardrobe.

I have a few guiding parameters when shopping for Anna.  One, I steer away from animals and cutesie sayings.  Two, I don't buy a ton of pink.  I'm not die-hard against pink, but neither am I a huge fan of lots of pink and ruffles.

My basic process is to start with garage sales and thrift stores.  During the summer, I look at the online classifieds to find garage sales that specifically advertise baby/toddler girls' clothes.  Anytime I'm at a thrift store, I take a few swipes through the baby racks.  Anything I find that is cute and cheap at these places comes home with me.

At this point in Anna's life, it works best to have her clothes paired into outfits.  So after I have an assortment of secondhand tops/pants, I pair them together and take notes on what I still need.  I still keep an eye out for those gaps at garage sales/thrift stores, but I also start looking on Ebay or ThreadUp.  (More on ThreadUp at the end.)

As far as retail shopping, I rarely buy anything new full price.  Mostly, I shop online, because we live in a small town where the extent of retail shopping is Wal-Mart.  I wait for end of season sales or 30-40% off coupons and sometimes the stars align, and websites offer free shipping on top of the coupon.

Are you ready to peek into her closet?








Pajamas 
Monkey pajamas: $0.50, garage sale
Carter's cotton footy pajamas: $1.00 each, garage sales
Carter's fleece footy pajamas: $1.00 each, garage sales

Total: $5.50

(Soo, my animal rule does not apply to pajamas.  Let the girl sleep swaddled in a menagerie.)



Outerwear
Carter's aqua rain jacket: free, gift from Aaron's mom
Baby Gap yellow jacket: $6.00, Ebay
Old Navy pink fleece: free, hand-me-down
Old Navy navy/white striped jacket: $4.00, consignment shop

Total: $10.00

(She probably has too many jackets???)

Shoes
New Balance tennis shoes: $1.25, thrift store
Tan booties: $1.00, thrift store
Slipper socks: $2.25, Target clearance
Blue shoes: free, hand-me-down
Brown boots: $1.00, garage sale
Black Mary Janes: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $6.00

(Neutral is the name of the game for shoes!)



Outfits (Short sleeves for early fall but paired with cardis to take them into winter) 
Carter's hot pink cardigan: $7.00, carters.com clearance
Carter's love t-shirt: $5.00, carters.com clearance
Garanimals grey leggings: $0.50, garage sale
Old Navy white heart tee: $3.00, clearance
Old Navy heart leggings: $3.00, clearance
Old Navy gray cardigan: $8.00, sale
Old Navy yellow onesie: $3.00, clearance
Garanimals khaki pants: $1.00, thrift store
Children's Place white cardigan: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $31.00 (That seems like a lot after the other categories!)

(I'm obviously determined that she will love cardigans as much as I do.)


Outfits
Carter's peach top and patterned denim leggings: $4.00, JCPenney with $10 off coupon
Old Navy ivory pullover: $1.00, garage sale
Children's Place jeggings: $2.00, consignment store
OshKosh striped tunic: $2.00, consignment store 
Children's Place jeggings: $1.00, garage sale
OshKosh coral striped top: $1.00, garage sale
Garanimals brown yoga pants: $0.50, garage sale

Total: $11.50

(I think I would wear the patterned denim leggings myself, if I could.)


Uh, Mom, why are you laying all my clothes out on the bed?  That's weird. 

Outfits
Garanimals ivory top with lace: free, gift from my mom
Zara khakis: $6.00, ThredUp
Carter's chambray shirt: $12.00, carters.com
H&M flowered leggings: $7.00, hm.com
Old Navy green shirt: $1.00, garage sale
White leggings: $2.25, Kohls clearance
Circo white tunic: $0.50, thrift store
Orange leggings: $1.00, thrift store

Total: $29.75

(The chambray shirt outfit is her birthday present.  I really wanted to buy her this outfit, but $19.00 for a baby outfit is crazy expensive in our world, so that money came out of the present fund.)

Dresses
Old Navy coral dress: $6.00, ThredUp
Circo brown dress: $1.00, garage sale
Circo butterfly dress: $1.00, garage sale

Total: $8.00 

Grand total drumroll?  44 pieces for $101.75.  $100 still feels like a lot to me to spend on baby clothes, but it's spread out throughout the year as I pick things up here and there, and it averages out to $2.31 per item, which seems a lot easier to swallow!  

About ThredUp.  Have you heard of it?  It's an online consignment shop where I bought the Zara pants and the coral Old Navy dress.  Although you have to wade through some not-so-great stuff, it's a good place to find nicer brands for cheaper than retail.  Sometimes, the garage sales around here are full of animal/cupcake/pinkpinkpink little girl clothes.  ThredUp is a way to find some labels I really like but could never buy new.

The best thing about them is their referral program.  Every friend that signs up gets $10 credit, and if that friend makes a purchase, you get $10 added to your account.  Since there are a lot of things priced under ten bucks (even with shipping added in), it's a win/win.  Your friend gets something free, and you get $10 added to your account.  Obviously, I would be thrilled if you joined ThredUp through my referral link.  Then, go get yo' friends to join so you can get some credit too! Aaron teases me that this is my pyramid scheme - it isn't a pyramid scheme - but yes, I am excited about ThredUp.

And because I can't say pyramid scheme without thinking of that Office episode, here you go: 


"Yes!  Thank you!  You will get rich quick.  We all will!"  Makes me laugh every time.  

What about y'all?  How do you shop for your kids?  Secondhand all the way?  A good mix?  Wouldn't touch a garage sale with a pole?  Do share.