Friday, September 30, 2016

Documenting Motherhood

I have all kinds of strengths and weaknesses as a mom. I am no good at decorating a fun and inviting home atmosphere, and right now in this season I’m no good at housekeeping. I’m great at putting together healthy meals, terrible at birthday cakes. I don’t do parties but I do build living room blanket forts. I have a lot less patience than I’d like, but I’m extra sensitive and compassionate. I don’t sing well but I tell excellent stories.

One thing I think I really excel at is documenting all the precious (and occasionally the not-so-precious, though I really strive to keep it positive) parts of motherhood/childhood. I take pictures and videos, but I don’t think they capture the moment the way words do.

I have a one-line-a-day journal but I also try to write in my paper journal most days and I write in a special journal just for each of my kids about once a month. The one-line-a-day is just for fun but I really like having a journal for each of them (I think I’ll give them to them when they are having babies of their own someday) and then one for myself too. My mom sent me my baby book when I was expecting our first, but then last year she asked if she could have it back. It was fun for me to occasionally look back on it and see how big I was when I was my son’s age or to flip through the photos in it, but for the most part it just sat on a shelf. It was a lot more meaningful to my mom so when I sent it back I felt even more determined to properly document this time separately. They’ll each have something special, but I’ll also still have my own journal I can look back on someday. Sometimes I even just copy something out of one book and into the other.

I’ve been reading (and absolutely loving!) Writing Motherhood and feeling even better about my documenting skills this week so I thought I’d share some suggestions or ideas with all of you.

-Try a one-line-a-dayjournal. These are really fun. My morning routine is to read a daily devotional, pray, and write about the day before. It’s so fun to wake up each morning and see what we were up to on this day last year/two years ago. Things like “I’m pretty sure I am pregnant, even though the test was negative” and “Nice lazy Saturday at home today… snuggles, hot chocolate, and a million readings of Goodnight Moon” or “She said MAMA today!!!”

-Make lists. List out the favorite words your child says (or said), noises he/she makes, facial expressions… last week I read a suggestion in the book to list out each of the questions your child asks you one day. I did and it was super fun!

-Recount a special moment. Write a full account of a special morning or a park adventure.

-Make a prediction. I once wrote in my son's journal that I predicted he'd be very introverted. He was, for a while, and then he suddenly spread some gnarly social butterfly wings. Now I think it’ll be fun to look back when he’s older and see if my initial prediction was right or if he stayed extroverted.  

-Speak in fragments. Some days my journal entries are just a simple chunk of fragmented blessings. I write them as I pray up thanks, and then I tear up when I re-read them later. A recent journal excerpt: “Ryan home for half a morning. Silly kitchen dance while we sing NSYNC songs. Kids looking at us like we’re crazy. Husband snuggling my babies and reading them a story. The smell of strawberry french toast. Pink cheeks on a sleepy toddler. Sounds a baby makes breastfeeding. Sweet friend texting and calling me a good mom. Little ones on tip toes to peek out the window. Gummy smile and a big burp. Free book-buying binge, courtesy of the library.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Things They Love

Lately I've been turning on my phone's camera and letting my kids run around taking pictures of things that make them happy. 90% of them are blurry or of a finger, but these (along with a few of all three of their faces) are the best. My favorite is when I tell them to take pictures of things that make them happy and they take a few of me too <3

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Recent Inspirations...

It’s a crazy world out there. Amongst the materialism and the temptations of the flesh, these things have been the more recent fuel that kept alive my passions for God, marriage, motherhood and philanthropy…

“And the truth is, romance can be nice, but it does not compare with a truly committed and loving lifelong marriage with the man you love.” –Missy Robertson, Ducky Dynasty (season eight, episode one)
I <3 romance, which does not come easy for Ryan, but very true. I would rather have a romance-free marriage to Ryan than an abundance of romance with anybody else.

I am frequently amazed by how often God plants something in front of me again and again. I have so many examples, but recently it’s been all about not being afraid of life. Specifically, life with small children.
I love these people so much it is crazy. Once in a while though, I find myself holding them at arm’s distance because it is so terrifying to love someone so much, isn’t it? Because sometimes you say “I love you” and they say “I love you a couple bit too… but I just love Daddy more.” Because sometimes they fall off of something and get hurt, or some kid at the park says “I don’t want you to play with me,” and it makes your chest ache three times more than whatever they just felt. Because sometimes you hear a horror story about a child and something tragic, and you can’t help but think What if that was us?
I have a lot of anxiety and I am particularly terrified of losing one of my children. For some reason I was getting this verse—2 Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.—and I wasn’t feeling particularly antsy so it seemed a little odd. It turned out to be prep work because a friend told me about a horrific, tragic accident that happened to her friend’s two-year-old and I couldn’t sleep for hours, worrying and fretting over all the dangers lurking out there for our children. I woke up the next morning and read that verse again, then this post.
I’ll probably always be a little bit scared. It’s in my nature, and I think it’s pretty normal for parents to hear these stories and get a little worried. It does help, though, to remember that God has been there and done that. He gets where I am coming from. He sends me verses to get me through it. 

The song My Heart Sings by Sparrows Rising (Ryan’s cousin is one of the singers!) fitting in perfectly with my new blessing-counting lifestyle. I decided to count out 1,000 blessings right before I started reading Ann Voskamp’s book. I had reached 1,000 after about a month and felt so good I just kept doing it. I’ve shared quite a few of them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram recently.  I write them in my journal each night and I’ve been trying to remember to pray up thanks for each of them as I think of them. It has just completely altered my perception of the world around me and, yeah, my heart sings.

The book Undone by Michele Cushatt. It’s about a few different things, but I guess specifically the big three are motherhood, adoption, and cancer. There were a million great quotes, some of which I’ve been/will be sharing on social media too, but two of my favorites, both referring to cancer: “In my fear of death, I almost missed life.”  and “I don’t think handholding ever felt as good as it did that day. His hand swallowed my smaller one in its strength. However lost I’d felt before he showed up, I found myself in his grasp. I knew he had me. Regardless of what the next days and weeks of recovery looked like, he wouldn’t let me go. I gripped his hand like the human lifeline it was.”

I recently got my Overdrive account set up on Ryan’s Kindle so I’ve been borrowing library books on it, which is of course wonderful at night. I borrowed Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, which isn’t 100% appropriate but which I honestly loved. Any ways, it included the novella Larger Than Life in the back which contained this gem: “There is a reason people say being a mother is the hardest job in the world: You do not sleep and you do not get vacation time. You do not leave your work on your desk at the end of the day. Your briefcase is your heart, and you are rifling through it constantly. Your office is as wide as the world and your punch card is measured not in hours but in a lifetime.”
Those last two sentences, right?
I’ve always heard people say that marriage is hard work and the honest truth is that it has never been work for me, not for one single day. Maybe I’ve been extremely blessed or maybe we just aren’t there yet, I don’t know, but it’s always come pretty naturally for me. I think I was just meant to be Ryan’s wife and what he needs from me happens to already be written in my heart.
Motherhood though? Now THAT is work. Yikes. Little kids do not have respectful and equalizing relationships with you like adults do! It seems to me that it gets a little harder with each baby you have because now you’re pulled in yet another direction and you’re sometimes forced to make really hard decisions. I guess I kind of pictured that we would just all play together sweetly all day, and then they’d go play sweetly together if I needed to get something done. I guess in my dreams, my house cleaned itself and dinner cooked itself. Just when I feel like I cannot take any more though, something happens and my heart gets softened all over again because they are my heart, my life.

“I will give myself to the work, to the season, and I will—I can only—surrender myself to the Lord and ask for his grace as I learn to parent in a good way.” –Longing for Paris by Sarah Mae
I like the whole thing my favorite: as I learn to parent in good way, not as I parent in a good way. <3

This passage from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niquist, reminding me that introvert parents (like us) might need to pretend to be not-so-introverted once in a while, for the sake of extrovert kids: “I always wanted a home filled with people. Our home growing up was quite private. My dad worked long hours at our church, and my mom is an introvert, and those two dynamics created a home that was quiet, private, safe. It was exactly right for my family, but at the same time, I longed for a little loud. I wanted a full table, glasses clinking, laughter bubbling up over the music. I wanted cars parked all the way down the street, and people who came in without knocking, so familiar with our home that they mixed their own drinks and knew where to put the dishes after drying them.”

Micha Boyett’s letter in Mother Letters. Just the whole letter is beautiful but my three favorite pieces:
-“Grace. Such a word for such an act. It’s love, yes. But it’s love that offers free kindness, freedom, acceptance. Jesus gives me that kind of reality. It’s not an act that allows me free rein to ruin myself. It’s an act that draws me in with loving-kindness, that sets me up to use my gifts and my heart and offer to the world what’s good that’s already been placed in my hands.”
-“Motherhood is not a series of situations that have a wrong and right answer. It is a relationship.”
-“God has given you to your child and your child to you. And ever gift you own combined with the strength of God’s Spirit is enough to do this beautifully.”
Seriously, you have got to read the letter.

“Let your past rejection experiences work for you instead of against you by allowing them to help you sense the possible pain behind other people’s reactions.” Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
I really like this. I have thought a lot a lot about this concept over the past two or three years and how things we sometimes perceive as a horrible part of life actually end up being a gift. They hurt in the moment, but then you’re through it and you’re somehow stronger AND more sensitive, and far more equipped to help someone else through a similar pain. I really like that.

Really love this blog postSome of the things I can do to enjoy five minutes of happiness, beyond what she just listed: Read a story or play hide-and-seek with my kiddos, journal, flip through a family photo album, make a cup of chai tea. What can you do to bring yourself happiness in just five minutes?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Starting Over

Growing up, I always used to say I planned to live a life of no regrets. The funny thing is, I was actually living, right in that moment, a regrettable life. I don't mean that my WHOLE life was regrettable, but I certainly did some very stupid things as a teenager/young adult. I'd do a lot of things, some big and some small, very differently if I could.
I bet most of us feel that way, at least a little.

Starting Over, by Dave & Jon Ferguson, is a really great book for alleviating those feelings.

Maybe you don't have any big regrets but you regret embarrassing yourself at a meeting last week. Or maybe you regret not spending more time with someone, or the way you handled a situation. This is a really excellent book to remind you of God's love and a way to use that to move through your guilt and regret to start with a fresh page.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via Blogging for Books

Monday, September 19, 2016


Last night Ryan was doing a side job so I put all three kids to bed by myself.

I changed two diapers and took my little guy potty. I put three babies into pajamas. I re-filled two sippy cups. I read a fun bedtime story with a Biblical message. I stayed patient when they insisted on reviewing every page after I was done. I tucked them all in. I sang to them. I sat patiently in the room with them and read a not-so-great book because they don’t like to fall asleep without me.

They all fell asleep by 7:42pm and I was ecstatic. ALONE TIME! The best!

I spent said alone time working on a sewing project for one of the kids. I spent my alone time on them. I have read a book in the bathtub or watched a movie or written, but I had my babies on the brain and I wanted to make something that would make them happy.

I crawled into bed and couldn’t sleep. I felt anxious and guilty.

I forgot to brush their teeth.

Isn’t that silly? They hadn’t had any sugar that day. No juice, no fruit snacks, no cookies. They had brushed their teeth in the morning and could brush them again when they woke up.

It wasn’t ideal but it wasn’t the end of the world.

I did a great job, all by myself. It was a lot of work and I somehow managed to do it all quickly and calmly without any help. I was patient. I was smiley. I gave kisses and hugs. I used a sweet voice. They fell asleep happy. I was a good mom!

But all I could think about was the thing I forgot.

In that moment I didn’t think about all the stories I had read that day. I didn’t think about how I let them have five more minutes to play after I had initially said it was time to go home.  I didn’t think about how I pretended to be a sleepy elephant for him, how I whispered sweet things in her ear so she wouldn’t feel middle-child-y, how I snuggled with all three of them in the chair and told them a story about myself as a little girl. I didn’t think about all the healthy snacks and meals I had prepared or about how gentle I was when I brushed my little girl’s hair.

I did 19 things right and forgot thing #20. I was so focused on the one thing I didn’t do that I forgot to think about all the great things I did do.

Motherhood is hard. It’s really hard and it never seems to stop being so much work. Let’s all give ourselves a little more credit today.