This thing called contentment

We are surviving this move! Everything is in. And the dust has settled but only because we don’t have time to unpack every box. Most of our energy is spent in the day-to-day living of eating, bathing, playing, dressing, changing diapers and keeping food in the house. I mentioned in my last post that I’d hired someone to come help organize. She was great.  My parents came to help too. But amazingly, we’re still not totally settled in. Oh, I’ll be so thrilled to kick all these boxes to the curb.

Old me wouldn’t be happy in this state. New me is content. I’ve learned to rest in the moment. Even and especially in the uncertain ones. Moving day was fun. I viewed it as an adventure and really wasn’t worried a bit whether I found anything I needed that night. We could eat out. As long as we had at least one bed up, we would all rest comfortably. Or… at least try. My friends who knew me in my old working days would remember a person quite different from the one who writes to you today. It seems so cliché, but I’ve learned to really lean into my savior. To trust and know he is taking care of me.

I’m learning to be content. The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned wrote in the book of Philippians that he’d learned to secret of being content. And it that was in the joy of the Lord. I used to hear those words and inwardly roll my eyes. Ugh. How embarrassing, I’d think, when I heard someone say, “the joy of the Lord is my strength.” And Now I find myself actually saying it… sometimes singing it… in the midst of frustrating circumstances. It truly transforms my inner state. From one of frustration, to elevation above the murky mire. I’m finding that now… amid boxes of books and Lord knows what else.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

It’s even helping me love on this house as we dream of remodeling. And it helps me avoid dwelling on thoughts that we may never remodel. And it reminds me of how comfortable life is when my concerns are those that I just mentioned. Knowing people across the globe struggle to stay safe and stay alive makes my concerns seem ridiculous. Sometimes, I even wonder if at the end of the year, if I’ll even want to remodel. Will I send the money to the mission field instead? I don’t know. And I’ll likely never tell.

Life is good. God is good and not because I live in abundance. He’s good because he lives within. He’s good because he’s transformed. He’s good because he’s God.

 

New and Noteworthy: Moving, renovating and surviving with two little ones.

I don’t have the time to deliver a well-written post. I’m slipping into new levels of acceptability.  I’m sinking to new levels of low expectations. Embrace it, I have! So, here you go… a few snippets cranked out as I sip green tea while my toddler (who asked to take a nap… wtw?) snoozes and the baby sleeps. Glory!

We’ve almost completely moved into our house in South Florida. It’s been an undertaking and someone recently asked how I am doing it. Easy, I started with the rule that food and sleep were most important and everything else comes after. We also take breaks for playtime and I tried heading off boredom before it dropkicked me into a tailspin of tantrums. That worked. On moving day, I sat my toddler in front of the TV and accepted that he was OK watching a Thomas marathon. He isn’t suffering and we’ve gone without TV now for almost an entire week. I’m entertaining thoughts of NOT hanging the TV for a long time. There’s been such little whining. For the baby, she went in a tight back wrap at naptimes and other times, I let her get into stuff, play with my keys and eat. Food is a winner, winner chicken dinner. without the chicken.  This also has me noodling (<— I’m so clever… ha!) the idea of eating more raw. Our snacks were fresh veggies and fruit. Nuts, and the healthiest chips I could find. The baked kind with few ingredients. The hubby is even on board with all of this.

Speaking of hubby. I initiated the beginning of this week, Father’s Day, with the gift that keeps on giving. I promised an entire week of no complaining. Tall order for a mom to an infant and baby, who is trying to settle into a new home with zero help during the day, eh? How do I do that? A lot of prayer and reminders that nobody likes a complainer. Sometimes I’m one of the worst. The root is typically discomfort of some type. Allowed to grow, it produces bitter fruit and general unhappiness. Been there. Glory to God, my life is no longer plagued by restless nights and zero peace. One of the benefits is that I’m free to think and love and live and create.  My mind is able to enjoy the chaos and I’m actually digging pretty deep to enjoy the house we bought. What about it? you wanna know… you do.

We bought the ugly house I’d hoped for. We also purchased great bones… and a lot of potential. We also followed the #1 rule of real estate: Location, location, location. I plan on writing about this next week when my parents are here to help out. I’m thrilled about the neighborhood, the community and wow… we found trees! Lots and Lots (literally!) of trees! And the tree I’d been drooling over since we moved here… sits beautifully over my backyard. Ah, it’s a Banyan. God really does know this girl’s heart. All corners of it. The house inside is pretty ugly. What I’d love to share is our vision for making it a dream house. It’s pretty funky and not at all what I had in mind. But… I like it and I am digging that we’re almost on a river. The bugs are gross, but the views are spectacular.

I expect to be settled by the end of next week. I hired a professional organizer and unpacking service. She’s coming tomorrow to help me squeeze into our small kitchen. She comes with a hefty fee so I won’t be using her for the whole house. She and I will focus on the kitchen and guest bedroom. Beyond that, I’m on my own. But I never lost that rush to meet a deadline so I’m still really quick on my feet. Once we’re settled, I’m taking down cabinet doors, painting, and painting the ones that remain.  I’ll get into blogging that one next week too!

Thanks for stopping by. PLEASE let me know what you’d love to hear about when it comes to buying ugly. I’d also love to hear from those of who bought ugly with a vision to make it beautiful.

Mommy in charge? Oh yeah?

Today was an Honest Toddler meets Super Nanny in my apartment. My infants were taking over and then I laid down the law, or so I thought.

I’d call this a home instead of “apartment,” but home conjures sweet images of mamas baking cookies and showering their kids with kisses. The only showering I did today was on my own. For once… in three days. I may or may not have remembered my teeth. Gross. I know. I live with me. Yeah, I saw some stupid promoted post today about the lies SAHMs tell themselves. “I don’t have time for a shower” It pointed out. Blah blah blah. I do, actually have time… I don’t make time because it’s worth not letting the screaming banshee wake my toddler who yells “want mommaaaaaaay want mommmmaaaaaaaay want mommmmmmmaaaaaaaaay” as though he’s auditioning for Family Guy.

I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

I had two babies 16 months apart and THEN decided when ONE of them turned two and the OTHER hit the worst bout of separation anxiety known to man to PACK AN ENTIRE APARTMENT AND MOVE! We bought a foreclosure no less, one that desperately needs updating. Yes. We’re nuts. And it’s turning everything about who I thought I was on my ear. Ouch.

Realizing now that I’m not so proud of my parenting all the time. I fall into the “gentle” “peaceful” camp. In other words, I have NO CLUE on many days how to handle the demands. I want so much for my children to know that they matter and that they’re loved so I probably go overboard trying to keep them from getting bored. And then… like many a momma do… I reach the point where I’m give out and, I don’t yell, but I pull rank. And I do it the way I watched a friend.

A friend and former TV news colleague of mine has a son close to my toddlers’s age. She said something to her older boys when our little guys were babies that has stayed with me to this day. “Mommy is in charge.” When things start falling apart, as the baby is crying and the toddler is attempting his own stunts off the back of the couch, I remind myself that MOMMY IS IN CHARGE. I haven’t always actually told my toddler this. He knows it. Oh he knows it. It’s obvious when he’s demanding “that way! that way!” on our morning walk that mommy is in no mood to stop and inspect every ant hill or smell the flowers because she doesn’t go “that way! that way! No, she’s hightailing it across the complex to burn off the morning steam.

This week I started telling him, “mommy is in charge.” Firmly. Tight lipped. M o m m y IS IN c h a r g e.

I get a little puffed up and big-headed when his eyes widen and he falls in line like a little soldier. Marching to the beat. And then this happened.

IMG_0050 Big Mess

Remember a few sentences back? My “peaceful” parenting mumbo jumbo (I actually do like a lot of what I read in that camp, but can’t let it get in the way of a good story.) This mess was a result of me letting him fuss it out at nap time. Usually, he’ll fuss (never in distress) for two minutes tops and then he’s done. Today, it went on for 45 minutes. Never anything that gave my mama radar pause. He was just not interested in sleeping. His sister did the same thing, but fussed for a lot longer.

By golly we are packing and I’M DOING IT ALONE, (during the day)  so stop judging me, Deacon Drydust! I finally gave up trying to catch my breath and a break to go check on him. He’d pooped his diaper and popped the seam in his mattress. Stuffing everywhere.

He looks up at me beaming and says, “Mile made mess?”

Yes, I agreed, “you made a mess.”

I had to gather myself….

I took a deep breath, actually saw some humor in it. Realized nap time wouldn’t happen for at least another 30 minutes and after a book and diaper change.

We went to get a new diaper. He studied my face for a minute and has the nerve to say… in the tone of a question… “Mommy in charge?”

Not so much, kid. Not so much.

 

Why can’t we just say penis?

“Close your mouth, you’ll catch flies,” is what my paternal grandfather used to say if we took on the mouth breather type facial expression. You know… the shock followed by the dropped jaw? And since I dropped the P bomb, I figure… there are some jaws that need picking up. So, close your mouth, you’ll catch flies.

Can we talk about this?

My son is learning new words at lightening speed. He’s forming sentences and noticing the difference between present and past tense. He’s also noticing… eh hem… his penis. I don’t usually say anything. He hasn’t asked. But the day will come when he notices and wants to know what’s in his shorts. Confession: I’ve felt funny the few times I’ve said, “wash your bottom” and used the words, “penis too.”

Why is this so hard to say?

Why is the spirit of our land such that we have to make up silly names for body parts?

What are we teaching our kids early on about body image? Is it really THAT bad to say the word penis or vagina?

I mean, how creepy would it be if you needed to visit a urologist and he said, let me see your tally waker?

Just curious. Why can’t we just call it like it is?

SO you know, we are penis and vagina people.

I like to call a spade a spade and a penis… well, you already know.

 

 

 

I Opened Pandora’s Box

We made truffles.

Someone thought it would be a great idea for bonding.

Before you think to yourself, “oh, she’s such a good mom… willing to create such a big mess for her child’s experience,” well stop it… don’t. I think maybe I would need to have loved every minute to gain such accolades. I hated it. The impatience, the temper tantrum… the sheer anger and trash can pounding over having to let it set for two hours. Oh the agony and pain when you’re 2.

I don’t recall that age. Perhaps nobody does.

When we have to wait TWO HOURS to get our hands in the chocolate our moms let us help melt, we reel from the trauma, shutting out the memory for life. Not to mention putting it away to let it set overnight.

Then there were the stops and starts because someone has a baby sister who needed attention. Impossible to be king of the universe, you know, when you… aren’t. Misery.

Oh, we’ll do this again, one day. But not any time soon.

Not fun. Not fun at all.

Overall, he liked it and in the future, once I’m no longer sour enough to offset the chocolate sweetness, I’ll say his delight was worth it.

Today, I’m just trying to survive.

Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box

 

Pandora's Box

Pandora’s Box

DISCLAIMER: This is in no way indication it’s ok to give my child candy. Trust me, you do not want to press your luck with me. Got it? Thankyouverymuch.

I need some soothing now. He’s really going to love it when he looks tomorrow and they’re… gone?! Of course, I may need to hide in the bathroom to eat them.

Pass the chocolate.

Pandora’s Box indeed.

 

Kids Were Here

kwhbadgeI’m not sure how I found this group of photographers documenting the messes their children make. I want so much to remember what this was like one day. The days and weeks tend to blend in so much that I struggle to recall the little details. I know one day my little ones will be gone. My house will be immaculate, and I’ll long for the time that they brought overwhelming joy into our home.

I look forward to regular participation in this project.

To kick it off on this Mother’s Day, I shot a couple of images before cleaning. My husband took my little ones off so I could have some time to myself. I spent the time cleaning because, hey, I enjoy cleanliness too.

I’ll cherish these days, these weeks these months and years for the rest of my living days.

Everyday Evidence

Everyday Evidence

Everyday Evidence

 

 

My niche is I have no niche and a few stories to tell.

As my textbook “high needs” infant starts giggling and cooing more and screaming like a banshee less, I’ve had more time to myself in the mornings.

Spare yourself the mental gymnastics of what I’m likely doing wrong by not securing straight four hours eight straight hours of sleep at night. I’ve already exhausted the proverbial backflips looking for answers. I can only conclude: she’s unique, she’s a baby, and she breastfeeds… still… at night. (I’ve had many a mom confess theirs did the same. Some of them well into their second year of life. Don’t overthink it. Really. Save your energy.)

She's a Screamer

She’s a Screamer

My LO has a “strong personality,” and… well… probably going to keep me on my toes for life.

Eventually, I may work up to a good solid hour of free time. You know, at 4 am, after I chew my arm off to slip away. For a cup of coffee and to catch the news.

When I use the words, “more time,” I mean you’d be surprised at what you can pull off in five minutes. Or an hour, give or take.

I’ll bet you wonder how I spend my energy with this abundance of me time. It varies.

Lately, I’ve wondered about this blog. What am I doing? Where is it going? What can I do to create a niche? Can I reach the “tipping point” and monetize it? I’ve reached a conclusion.

I’m not changing a thing. I’m not a how-to blogger. I have no incredible insight into the plight of our economy, education system, medical establishment, society at large. I’m just a story teller. And I’m only an expert on what’s happening within the walls of my home.

So, I’m staying the course, as is.

I may rant, I may sing to the mountains that I’m happy with the choice and opportunity to stay home. That I don’t care if I ever earn another paycheck. My contribution to society is raising healthy children and that’s enough for me. I may offer light hearted self deprecation – only because laughing at my situation is often the best way to cope and get through. And I’ll certainly continue snapping pictures. Hopefully just enjoying the process while spending less time worrying over the perfect shot or getting better.

With all this free me time, I’m going to live… and tell you about it, and hope we can be friends even if what I do looks different from what you do.

With that, it’s time to go. The mournful wail from another room is heralding my immediate attention.

 

Because boys should be boys.

the tumble24 hours later, my toddler is still talking about tumbling into the retention pond near our apartment. We were collecting and throwing rocks. I figured since he wants to throw things, what better than a rock into water? We follow this up with an emphatic “plop!” It’s so much fun his little friend who lives right there by the pond brings his mom and they gather and throw rocks with us.

We were amicably chatting about how I was ok with mine splashing in water no deeper than his ankles and she didn’t want her boy getting even close.

“It’s full of bacteria,” she said. I appreciate that. But it’s rainwater, and it’s his feet. The fact that the ducks that swim there don’t have growth on their heads is a good indicator that his skin won’t turn green overnight. “He’s not swimming in it nor is he drinking it,” I replied. And in that moment I ate my own words.

In tumble turned somersault down into the water, he got a mouthful.

He’d moved away from the shallow water back onto dry land and was pointing toward water that was probably up to his waist. And darn it his foot slipped and he stumbled down the hill into the pond. I was so close that there was no time too feel fear on my part. He saw me reach down with his mouth agape and eyes wide as saucers, to pull him to safety. He did something instinctive too.

He held his breath.

I mentioned this to someone who is a former swim coach. “It’s good he did that,” she said, followed by, “and good that you didn’t freak out. That’s how they learn to swim.” “Let him jump into the pool, ” she added. With you in it, of course.”

I never really considered the “what ifs,” with him falling in. I was right there. Besides, if I start considering what ifs in everything, he’ll never get to do much. He’ll never get dirty and he won’t comfortably learn how to be a boy. And now that I’ve had time to think about it, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m glad he fell in. One day, he’ll be old enough to venture out on his own, I tend to think the experience now is good for handling the unexpected later. Little people tend to freak out less than mature adults. And the more he can experience the unexpected now, without me freaking out, the better he’ll handle it later.

My job in letting him be a boy is knowing when he’s beyond his limit. Since he can’t decipher for himself, I have to. But I also have to let him grow.

It’s my job to teach him about danger. But he’ll learn more from touching and tasting and doing than he’ll ever get from hearing, “move back” “don’t do that” and “stop.” Which, I assure you, he hears plenty of too. Yes, I know the world he lives in is not the world I grew up in. I know there are a lot more dangers to consider. I also know what happens to people who live in fear.

We cripple that which we inhibit and it’s not my job to cripple him.

Call me old-fashioned, but I tend to think boys should be boys. Dirt, rocks, snakes, water… sticks, climbing. And any mom of a boy knows there’s a certain level of danger to that. Heck, as I girl, I grew up skipping rocks, throwing baseballs, touching snakes, examining spiders, bating hooks, hooking and cleaning fish.

And you know? I knew about danger because the adults in my life often showed or told me what could happen. “No” wasn’t something I heard all the time. And my mom didn’t stand over my every move in fear that I’d die. But my parents did teach me about danger.

I’ll parent my children the same way.

I want him to experience life with risk and capture all the beauty it provides in the process. Bacteria and all.

Life Simplified: No More Paper Towels

This Huffington Post article caught my attention in my twitter feed this morning.


The article explains the basic tenets of a zero-waste lifestyle, and what the featured family calls “The Five R’s.”

Applied in order, they are:

1. Refuse! Give back or send back what you don’t need. (including junk mail and free stuff!)

2. Reduce! Donate or sell the non necessities for comfortable living. (this one is obviously subjective and will look different from family to family.)

3. Reuse! Buy secondhand, swap disposable items for reusable and shop with reusable packaging. (I’m not sure I’m ready to use this technique 100%. Just not ready to ask the butcher to change his packaging method and then explain what I’m doing.)

4. Recycle! The zero-waste family suggests that if you’ve applied the first three R’s, you should have little left to recycle.

5. Rot! Compost it.

This story is perfect in its timing for me since we’re getting ready to move again. We found a house and will close at the end of May. I thought I’d cleaned out all the extra in my cleaning frenzy before our daughter was born, but I’m still finding mounds of clothes, toys, books, shoes, appliances, dishes… to unload.  I don’t want to haul stuff with us that we won’t use, so I’m starting yet another purge pile. I hope after this new lesson in waste, we won’t see a need to unload like this again.

No More Paper Towels

No More Paper Towels

But to take a step back and really change our lifestyle even more, we decided this morning to quit buying paper towels, opting instead for wash cloths and the small Chinese folds I used a little when both my babies were newborns. I have 50 of them, and they’re great for spills. For counters, I’ll use some inexpensive wash cloths I bought from Wal-Mart. In the interest of keeping laundry under control, we’re working on a system of knowing which cloth we used to wash hands, clean countertops and wash dishes.

I’ve already cut out buying new clothes and have opted for thrift stores and places like Goodwill. I’m always amazed at the great finds. I give myself plenty of time to look because, lets face it, nobody wants to look like they shop at Goodwill, do they? (Or is that my vanity rearing its ugly head?) At any rate, I’ve got some really cute clothes that you’d think I’d spent a hefty chunk of change on for well under 50$. I keep an eye on consignment stores for toys and clothes for my children. But that’s only when they need something. Since we spend a lot of time outdoors, we buy few toys. Most of what they have has been given to them. Yes, Leah plays with cars and trucks.

Bless her.

After the move, I have plans to start composting,and recycling again (we have zero support in our complex, and have decided not to spend the time or energy to haul it off ourselves. )

It’s not a huge change in the big picture, but it’s yet another move in reducing what we have, being environmentally friendly and teaching our children how to better govern their environment.  God gave us charge over this beautiful world. I find it’s my responsibility to change old habits and patterns so we won’t have to explain to our Father why spent our lives wasting so much.

 

The Princess and the light.

Somehow I’ve become an unofficial babysitter when we go outside. Several children flock to Miles and Leah when they see us and since their parents are never around, I end up supervising three siblings, and a friend or two. It’s both fun and frustrating.

This evening, one of the girls stuck the tiara on Leah while I was out practicing. I’m not a big fan of tiaras or princess stuff for girls. But I let it go. I was just practicing and shoot, why be such a meanie. For fun, and for this post, let’s just call my girl, “Princess Leah.” Once. Never again though. :)

These are my favorite takeaways from the 420 images I shot. So much of good photography is about lighting and man, it sure is perfect at the end of the day.

Princess Leah

Princess Leah

Lone Petal

Lone Petal

Water Boy

Water Boy

 

 

 

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