Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Deconstruction Work

Grumpy mornings begin in benign enough births, small circumstantial upsets that, alone, mean nothing. Yet pile them one on top of another - a precarious wooden block tower - and life feels unmanageable, hard, and IRREPARABLY BROKEN if we're going for drama.  (And I do go for drama.) A potty training accident.  Crumbs on the floor when I just swept.  A fussy four month old. Baby junk that has completely taken over my living room but that I can't quite find the courage to boot because darn it, the vexing teddy bear swing does work magic.

My words get sharper as the block tower grows.

A tiny voice asks, "Mama, my play on couch?"  I nod, and she rolls along the cushions, burrows herself into the corner.  She's so little and so big all at once, and my heart is struck with tenderness. How many days do I have to watch her play on that couch?  Not as many as I think.

The catchphrases for times like this are many: Choose joy.  Be present.  Live in the moment.  They're good reminders, but sometimes, a little skeletal.  What do they really mean, anyway?  It looks different every day, and I've got to flesh out that bone each new morning.  So, I take a deep breath, and I

smile at her.

Take a picture because I will want to remember her, like this.

Move the teddy bear swing out of the center of the living room and into a corner.

Ask her if she wants to make muffins.  And of course she does.

I often get tricked into thinking that a grumpy day must have a complete reset in order to be rectified. Call Aaron home from work, give me an hour to meditate, and why don't I change into a new outfit to seal the new start?  But that block tower can be dismantled just as it was built, one block at a time, and it sure makes less noise than toppling the whole thing over with flying arms.

In the spirit of honesty, this still happened.

Where does girl get her drama???

Oh yeah.

So we'll do this again and again.  Add a block, take a block, slowly, slowly, knowing all the time,

there's grace in every bit.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Five Kids' Books We're Loving

It's hard to find the holy grail of kids' books, is it not?  Some books my daughter loves but I feel as though I will need to go hide in the bathroom by myself for a long while if I have to read that book one more time.   Others I love but Anna just isn't ready to sit through yet.

Here are five that we both currently love.  Keep in mind that Anna is 2 1/2, so our recommendations might not appeal to your kiddos if they're much older or younger than her.

1.  Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson.  There are quite a few books in this series, but this one is my favorite.  It's written in catchy and masterful rhyme.  The words in this book are just delicious.  I love books that hold Anna's attention but also have a lot of vocabulary that she's not exposed to every day.  This is one of those.

2.  Angus and the Cat by Marjorie Flack.  My aunt gave this to Anna, and my aunt has raised and homeschooled nine amazing children, so any book she gives I take seriously.  It's one of three in a series, and it is a sweet little story about Angus the Scottie dog whose world is turned topsy with the arrival of a CAT!  The text is written with all-caps emphasis on certain words, which makes for fun reader intonation.

3. Feathers for Lunch by Lois Ehlert.  I love a lot of Lois Ehlert's books, mainly because she incorporates lots and lots of nature.  The rhyme stands alone in this book, but the labeled illustrations of flowers and birds are what makes it one of my favorites.

4.  Dr Seuss's ABC by Dr. Seuss.  I'm not an across the board fan of Dr. Seuss.  The Cat in the Hat annoys me and some of his stuff is just too much - Fox in Socks for one.  The ABC book strikes a nice balance of whimsical language and good flow.

5.  All Things Bright and Beautiful by Bruce Whatley.  The words of the classic hymn are set to gorgeous illustrations.  A little girl wanders through her life on a farm, and at the end of the book, I am always ready to go outside and explore!

Any good recommendations to add to our reading routine?  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tiny Letters

As previously confessed, I don't have a baby book for Judah.  I have one for Anna, but it's only filled in up to around six months.  I hope she never needs to know her 9 month old weight, because that information has floated away into the cumulus of all forgotten facts.


I do have these tiny books for them.  I love tiny things.  So much so that the phrase "tiny white dishes" has become a joke in our marriage.  I started writing letters to Anna when I was 20 weeks pregnant and we knew she was a girl.  I started Judah's a month or so after he was born.  I write with haphazard frequency, usually just once a month or so.  I keep them in the telephone nook in our hallway, which we aren't ever going to use for a telephone but is charming nonetheless.  I am probably charmed by it because it is a tiny nook!  All the tiny things together!

In the letters, I tell them the cute things they're doing.  I write down things Anna says that are hilarious and will do the same for Judah when he is able to talk.  I pray for them.  I tell them over and over again how much I love them.  

One of the things I've realized about being a mom is that it's good to capitalize on my strengths.  Oh, there are things that I have to hunker down and do no matter how I feel about them.  I wouldn't say keeping on top of the cloth diaper laundry is a strength of mine, yet it has to be done.  Of all the many things that are non-essentials, though, I can gracefully release the ones that aren't me.  I'm just not the mom that saves the lock of hair, the hospital bracelet, all the monthly stats.  And that's okay.  I can do letters, and more importantly, I will do letters because I love to write.  

I hope someday they read my letters, scrawled imperfectly but with every stroke a love mark.  I hope they are reassured that the love I have for them reaches far back, into times they can't even remember. To have been loved before one began is a strength and comfort of great proportions, and that love is a gift I can give them, all bound up in a tiny book.   

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Goal Tending

I'm late to the goal-setting party.  But in the three weeks since New Year's Day, I've kept two tiny humans alive!  That's the rub for me these days, perfectly illustrated in this exact moment: As I type, Anna is organizing a nap strike, and so this post, like nearly any task these days, will be completed over several snitches of time.  The tension of motherhood and my "doing" personality can leave me frustrated.  In a season of life when nothing ever seems completely done, it's cathartic to take a blank page of a new notebook, a mug of tea, and a few moments of brainstorming.

Some of my goals are lofty; I know they might not happen in 2016, but it gives me joy and hope to write them down on a tidy list.  Others are doable with hard work and focus.  A few more are things I would likely accomplish without a list, but I add them anyway because every list needs a couple lines you know you'll cross through.

  • Finish remodeling our 1928 bungelow.  We've been working on this beauty since May 2013, with breaks here and there, but this year, we've determined to put our hands to the plow and not look back!  Aaron and I created a calendar and some monthly goals to help us have the biggest projects finished by December.  
  • Stay within our budget.  We keep a monthly cash envelope system, but I am not the best at staying within the confines of the cash system.  When I make a purchase online, I often forget to remove the cash.  I want to shop online less in 2016 and not buy anything that I don't have the cash for.  Related to this is a handful of saving goals I have.  I'm keeping envelopes marked with the goal on the outside, and anytime we have extra money at the end of the month, I'm going to tuck it away in the envelopes.  I find that having the actual cash motivates me much more than figures in a savings account.  
  • Love our neighbors tangibly.  Two little girls come knocking on our door quite often, and I want to welcome them in even when it's not convenient for my schedule.  I also would like to invite our neighbors over to eat dinner or to barbecue once it gets warmer.
  • Go on one date a month with Aaron.  Date nights are harder to make happen now than ever. We have a list of quirky, non-chain restaurants to try, and though we don't want to abuse the privilege, my parents are great sports about babysitting.  
  • Earn extra money through Ebay and Craigslist.  I have a monthly goal I'd like to meet.  It's one I think I can meet just by listing around five items per week.  This money will go toward some of our saving goals.
  • Plant a big garden.  We've done this the last two years, but I would like to spend some time troubleshooting our past problems (squash vine borers, I'm looking at you) and laying out the most efficient plan for our limited space.  
  • Get caught up on photos.  Before Anna was born, I printed out all of our photos and organized them in simple albums.  I'd like to do this for the last three years.  
  • Start blogging again.  And done!  Maybe the goal should read "Start blogging again and keep blogging."
  • Get back to my pre-baby weight.  The pounds aren't sliding off as easily as they did with Anna, but on the positive side, I'm thinking more about what I eat and when I exercise, two things which are good no matter what the scale says. 
What about you, my friends?  What are you hoping for out of 2016?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

If You Say So

Anna is at that stage in toddler development when new words pop out in her vocabulary daily.  She's able to carry on a conversation now too.  Some conversations with her are incredibly illogical, but others are pretty fun.  A few of the best lately:

I was drinking my morning cup of decaf coffee, and Anna asked for some.  "Why not?"  I thought.  "It's decaf."  I poured her a tiny cup.
Anna:  Iss dangerous.  (Looking up from her cup of coffee.)
Lara: Your coffee is dangerous?
Anna:  Yes.  Coffee dangerous.  (Looks back down with concern and takes another drink.)

Anna: Poppa old!
Lara:  Oh that's funny. You think Poppa's old?
Anna:  Yeah.  Beard.
Lara: Poppa's old because he has a beard?
Anna: (Nods her head vigorously.)  No beard, young.  Beard, old!

Anna:  I have to poo-poo!  (Runs to bathroom.)
Lara:  I have to go potty too.  Can I join you?  But I don't have to go poo-poo, just pee-pee.
Anna:  Oh no!  Mama not potty-trained!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Letter to My Son

I'm sorry, little buddy.  Big sister got a debut on the blog at only a week old, and you're now four months old.  It's the life of the second born, but you've got good company in your Mama.  We'll commiserate together, and I promise, I will buy your baby book soon.  

There are perks to being the second child, though.  This time around, the new mama angst is blessedly absent.  The constant stream of worry that trickled through my heart with your sister is all dried up.  I've done this before.  I know we'll get to the other side.  I also know how fast the other side comes, so I've sat and held you when the house is subpar at best, minefield at worst.  I've kissed your chubby round cheeks again and again.  You're such a happy baby, and you reward all those kisses with big smiles and tiny chuckles.

You'll get questions later about your middle name.  I know because Daddy and I have already gotten plenty.  Before you and before Anna, Daddy and I spent three summers in a tiny mountain town named Lake City.  We'll take you there, of course; we'll take you before you can remember it, and we'll take you when you're old enough to love it on your own.  It's hard to tell you what it meant to us and to our marriage, but the first time you stand at the edge of Windy Point and look down into the valley, I think you'll understand.  We gave you the name Lake for the freedom that we found there, that you would run freely in the grace of Christ that breaks your shackles of sin and overshadows the opinions of men.  The wide blue sky and far-flung northern hills where we learned to dream again - we pray that spirit over you, that you would never stop dreaming big for the Kingdom and for Christ.

Judah Lake, you are such a gift to us.  We delight in you each and every day, and that delight will never wane.  Whatever you do, whoever you become, you are ours.   We wanted you even before the first day we knew you existed, and we will never stop loving you.



Read Anna's letter here.

Friday, January 8, 2016

For All the Mamas

I work out of the house one day a week.  It's not much, but it's enough to give us some extra money that we've used for fun trips and will soon use for more responsible things such as a minivan.  It doesn't compare to working full-time, I know, but it gives me a picture of what working full time and being a mama is like, and goodness, the working mamas are amazing.

I stay at home with my two kids the other six days a week.  It's hard and long and rewarding and precious.  It's simultaneously a job I want for the rest of my life and a job from which I want to take a vacation, stat.  Stay at home mamas, y'all hear me?  You are also amazing.

These thoughts raise a glass to all the mamas everywhere, who are honestly changing the world with each day of their love and sacrifice.

- - -

On the stay-at-home mom days, I wake up at 7:30 to the sound of a tiny voice calling over and over again, "Mommy!  Mommy!  Mommmmmy!"  Judah is nestled in beside me, because I said we'd never be those people that co-sleep, so obviously, now we co-sleep.  I crawl out of bed, and despite my slow motion, I shift the springs enough to stir Judah.  I'm out of the room and down the hall quickly, before he decides to wake.  Our house is 87 years old, and Anna's door sticks exactly as badly as you'd expect.  When I give the top a hard push, it pops open, and she jumps up in her crib like a jack-in-the-box, her whole face a grin.  "Mommy!  Hot milk, Mommy?"

On the working mom days, I wake up at 6:45 to my alarm.  Aaron and I dress in the shadowed light of our closet bulb.  In the bathroom, I swipe the blush and mascara.  Take care not to drop my Sonicare toothbrush into the sink, because that will wake the toddler.  Pull my long hair into a low ponytail and hope it doesn't look like I did nothing to my hair.  (I did nothing to my hair.)  We eat bowls of oatmeal, or if I've had a productive weekend, there might be some granola in the glass jar on the counter.  My mom arrives at 7:45, and we are out the door in a flurry of grabbing coffee mugs and breast pumps and babe, can you get my jacket?  I don't have time to kiss Judah's chubby face, and if Anna is awake, it's a fifty-fifty chance she might cry when I walk out.

On the stay-at-home mom days, it's 11:00, and I am googling "how to get your toddler to poop in the potty."  Anna is begging for me to hold her, and I am trying to be more present, so I snap the laptop shut and find some books for us to read together.  Judah is happy in his bouncer seat until he isn't, and then I hold him in the rocking chair while trying to finish Ape in a Cape.  Anna cries because she's "kwished", and Judah cries because?  Well, I'm not sure.

On the working mom days, it's 11:00 and only an hour until I take lunch and get to cuddle my babies. I wonder if Judah has napped for Mom today and if Anna had any pee accidents.  If I want, I can get up and walk to the bathroom without anyone hot on my heels.  "Mommy, MY flush.  MY flush."  But gosh, it's also hard to concentrate on what I'm typing, because I'm always, always wondering how they are.

On the stay-at-home mom days, it's dinner time.  I prepped most of it during naptime because I've been letting Judah cry it out, and he's finally starting to nap better.   There's music on in the background, and Aaron is building blocks with Anna in the living room.  Oh BLESS that man for coming home from work!  Judah is hungry, but in-between setting the table and tossing the salad, I talk to him in that ridiculous baby voice, and it staves him off for a bit.

On the working mom days, it's dinner time, and dang it, I forgot to use the crockpot again.  I'm so tired, and I know Aaron would order pizza if I asked him to, but we should save money, and I should cook.  It's seven before we sit down to dinner.  Aaron eats and then goes upstairs to work on our house.  We're a couple months away from having much more usable room in this tiny, wonderful house.  A glorious thought, but the reality of tonight is that I need to put two kiddos to bed by myself and then tackle the dishes.

On the stay-at-home mom nights and on the working mom nights, I collapse on the couch.  This mom job is no joke.  I have the thought of flying to somewhere quiet, high up in the mountains, where I can drink coffee in front of a fireplace all day long and read as many books as I want.  I ask Jesus for wisdom, for patience, for grace, for forgiveness, for strength to wake up and do this all again tomorrow.

On every night, I hover outside of her door and open it as gently as that old wood allows.  The floors creak as I creep to her crib.  Her sleeping face is so beautiful it makes me want to cry.  I pad into our bedroom, and Judah yelps out.  I scoop him up and smell the top of his head, and for how rich I am, I can not believe.