Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Failure and brokeness

Lately, I've felt like a failure. I pray and pray for God to help me to be more patient. More graceful. More loving. More joyful. To help me control my temper. Not be greedy. Man, I pray for a lot of things. Constantly. And yet, I see no fruit. I still yell. I still walk into my bedroom and punch pillows. I still get grumpy, focus on the wrong things, grow frustrated, ask too much and give too little. I fail.

Just a few weeks ago I was crying to a friend "I feel like I am more patient, but my kids are also requiring more patience so I'm still getting angry just as frequently!" I was so angry, so upset. I wanted to bask in my patience for at least a week before them demanding more of me. I wanted to pat myself on the back.

I wanted to feel successful.

Yet over the last few days, God has showed me that I'm not a failure. I'm broken. And those are two completely different things. I'm crying out to Him for help instead of relying on myself. I'm recognizing my sin and addressing it. I'm drawing closer to Him every day and He's showing me the things in my life that need to change.

And that, my friends, is success. However I might appear to the outside world, I recognize that I am not a failure. That I am broken but that I am on the right path. I am learning that it's not about my success, but about what He can do through me. And if I'm broken, He's getting me ready for something. Something big. Something wonderful. Because flowers won't grow if the soil is rock hard. It has to be broken up. So here I am, anticipating what the flowers coming my way might be. While I am focusing on the little details, my failures, He sees the whole story and what this time is preparing me for. And for that, I am grateful.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Meal planning

This blog will always be mostly my ramblings, but this is something I think I should share with you guys because it's been awesome for my family.

I've always wanted to feed my family healthy foods. Granted, healthy means different things to different people, but for me it meant cooking with fresh, non-processed foods. Only problem is that I don't have a whole lot of recipes that fit the bill and the ones I found that did were typically complicated and time consuming.

Meal planning always stressed me out- I would pick one or 2 "good" recipes and the rest ones I was familiar with that weren't necessarily the healthiest because I hated the amount of time it was taking to find the "good" recipes. The whole process of planning meals, making a list and going to the store is by far one of my least favorite parts of being a wife/mom. I enjoy eating at home and I don't mind cooking, I just don't want to have to think about it.

Enter The Fresh 20. I stumbled upon this right around the new year. One of the blogs I read asked for suggestions on meal planning, and tons of her readers recommended this. And there was a Groupon- $24 for the whole year of meal planning and grocery lists. Sold.

I'd heard of stuff like this before. I tried to do eMeals at one point, but realized they didn't really prepare the kind of meals I was looking for. I actually had a friend send me a ton of her The Fresh 20 meals right after Piper was born, but I tried to pick and choose meals that sounded good and wound up giving up.

Their premise is that they make 5 healthy meals from 20 fresh ingredients. They give you your grocery list and give you "meal prep" guidelines which is something you do on Sunday (or Monday) to cut down your cooking time the night of. I've found that when I do the meal prep like I'm supposed to, it's taking me about 30 minutes the night of. I would imagine most people would be faster. For whatever reason, I am a slow cook.

Some of the meals have weird names and I have made meals with ingredients I've never even heard of before starting this plan. Sometimes I set Chuck's plate on the table and he gives me a "really?" look. However, even he will agree that this has been a huge success. Ninety percent of the meals have been good, most of them have been really good. The ones that aren't good aren't horrible and I'm willing to deal with some not great meals every now and then if I don't have to plan them myself.

The meals throughout the week build upon themselves- for instance, last week I made a huge thing of BBQ for Meal 1 and they had you save half of it for Meal 3. This can make things more complicated if you don't want to make 5 meals that week, but a couple times I've just picked 4 and as long as you read through the recipes before picking which one to leave out, you'll be fine. For the most part, we have leftovers and we're able to eat those for lunch throughout the week.

I know some people are scared of this plan because they have you making almost everything fresh- the BBQ sauce for the BBQ last week, for instance. But (gasp) no one from The Fresh 20 is standing in your kitchen making sure you do everything their way. I actually did make my BBQ sauce, but didn't make my bread crumbs for another recipe that week. Store bought are just fine, thank you very much.

So there ya go. If you want to cry doing your meal planning like I did, let someone else do it for you :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Piper grows up- 15 months

Piper- girl,

Yesterday you were 15-months old. I can hardly believe it. It seems weird, but I still feel new to Oklahoma, which makes you 6-months-old in my mind. And then I see you walking and talking and doing all of these things and I'm just blown away by how quickly it's all happened.

Since the letter I wrote at 12 months, you have made the switch to walking. And climbing. Oh goodness the climbing. I've been around babies much worse, so maybe I shouldn't complain but if I find you in the bathroom sink playing with the soap one more time I might lose it. All doors in the house are either closed or gated thanks to you baby girl. You have no concept that you can fall off the stool in the bathroom (even after doing it) onto the hard tile floor, so closed door it is.

You have just recently begun to talk a bit more. Your words aren't quite as clear as Jade's were at this age so it's taken me some time to figure out that you're saying the same thing consistently and that it is your word for certain things. For instance, every time you see Belle, you say something. Just (I thought) a little piece of gibberish. But then I realized that you were saying the same thing every time. Not sure if you're saying Belle or dog, but I'll count it as a word :) You also say swing (or something like it) every time you look in the backyard. Other new words are book, uh-oh, all done, eat (which is mostly the 'e' sound), Minnie (me-me), and you hoot like an owl (of course). You haven't bothered to say dada yet, but we know that you love him so he's letting it slide.

You are also signing up a storm. Not a ton of signs, but that's not your fault, it's mama's and daddy's for not teaching them to you. You sign all done, milk, eat, more, bath, diaper change, and are starting to try water. Because you learned the sign for milk, I feel like a cow again because every time you see me you sign milk with both hands like that's all I'm good for. I'm assuming (hoping, haha!) this is a stage that will pass rather quickly.

Because of your joy in being able to sign milk, you're nursing about 10 times a day. At 15-months old. Most of the sessions are very short, but when I say no you generally pitch a fit. So yeah, I have no desire to wean anytime soon, which I've decided you very much appreciate. If we're out and about you don't nurse that much, so I know a good bit of it is that I'm here and you're bored and you are slowly starting to accept distractions so I expect that number to go down a bit here shortly. You also *love* to eat table foods. You are getting a bit pickier, just like your sister did around this time, but for the most part will eat anything. And a lot of it. You love oatmeal and have that most mornings along with a banana or some other fruit and some cheese. And then you ask for more, so I generally wind up giving you multiple pieces of fruit. You're still a bit sporadic with meat, but other than that and avocado and a few other things I can't think of right now, you'll eat basically anything. You're tummy is still a bit sensitive and you've thrown up just from drinking too much or eating too much, so I figure we're a ways away from trying eggs again and I'm holding off on the peanut butter for a while as well.

You've finally learned how to point and will now point to things in books when I ask you where it is. You also know your nose and I'm pretty sure you know your eyes and ears too and just think it's funny that you point to your nose every time.

We are wrapping just as much as we were at 12-months. I probably wear you around the house at least once a day (generally to cook) and oftentimes more than that. I always wear you when we're out because if I have to take sister to the potty, it's a whole lot easier if you're not walking around touching everything in the (gross) bathroom. For the most part, you love being worn. Every now and then you want to get down, but you generally lay nice and still while I wrap you and hang out on my back for as long as I want you to. I love babywearing :)

You are starting to outgrow your 9-12 month clothes. Or at least your 9-12 month shirts. They've started to ride up fairly consistently (which helped you find your belly button-yay!) but your pants are still pretty long so I'm not sure how that's gonna work out. Can't wait until it's shorts weather and then it won't matter!

Your personality is a lot more toddler-like than Jade's was at this age. I think because you have such a good example in your sister haha. You pitch fits, hit (mostly just trying to push me away, but it still hurts!), pull hair and scream when you don't get your way. But you also laugh super easily and make the most awesome faces that crack me up. I have a feeling you might be up and down a bit like your mama. Nothing wrong with that ;)

You are still adored at MOPS and church. You moved to the "walkers" room at church and your first week I asked how you did and they said "she really loves snacks". Ha! That's my girl :) You aren't as quick to smile at strangers as you used to be and have perfected a scowl which I find hilarious. When you would walk up and reach for perfect strangers, it scared mama a little, so I'm ok with the scowl!

We love you so much Piper girl, and can't imagine life without you.

Lots of love,

15 month stats-
weight: 20 lbs, 13 ozs, 18%
height: 28.75 inches, 8%
head circumference, 32%
compared to Jade

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on a 3-day weekend

Yesterday was Presidents' Day. Which meant Jade did not have Mother's Day Out. And also (thankfully) meant that Chuck had the day off.

And I have to say it- I don't know how mom's who have husband's that travel a lot do it. Not how they manage while the husband is gone- although I don't really know how they do that either. But how they adjust constantly between him being gone and being home. Because I suck at it.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when Chuck is home. The girls are so excited to have daddy here and it's really nice not to have to sit on the stool in the bathroom to nurse Piper while I'm waiting on Jade to go potty. That combined with the fact that I do genuinely enjoy his company makes for some fun times.

Ahem. But I also find that he's constantly "in my way" or "not doing what he should". I have such a good routine going during the week that when he's here I find that I get *way* less done and this weekend in particular I got so incredibly frustrated.

His answer to this predicament is that he can just not come home. Uh, no. I find my attitude to be completely ridiculous and get so ashamed at the way that I act. Here I am, expecting Jade to behave and have a good attitude and I can't even manage that! Last night, I found myself laying in bed thanking God for the patience and grace He extends towards me and asking for the ability to extend that to my kids.

I don't think this post actually has a point. I guess I'm just wondering if anyone else has a hard time adjusting between the weekends and the week and how they handle that. At this point, I wouldn't blame Chuck if he didn't want to come home because (let's face it) the kids can be all over the place emotionally and currently I'm not a whole lot more predictable. This is an area that God is really bringing to my attention that needs to change, that I need to repent of, ask forgiveness for. Am I alone?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Some photos

I mentioned to you guys last week that I was starting a photo course this week and I would post some of the pictures.

So here I am. Mind blowing, I know.

First, one of the main reasons I wanted to take the course is because I was sick of my nice DSLR sitting in the camera bag. Well, I've taken 300+ photos this week. So if nothing else, I've achieved that goal.

The other reason I was taking the course is because I never like the way my pictures turn out in auto (particularly inside), but I have no idea how to use manual. And I would like to learn. I haven't gotten to that part of the course yet, but I plan to read through it tonight and try the techniques out this weekend and I'm pretty excited about it.

I'm taking this class. I read this girls blog (and if you don't, you totally should) and I love her photos and her general perspective on life. And she just adopted a little girl from China, which I think is one of the coolest things ever. So I sold a few things around my house to raise the money for the class- even though some other courses might be cheaper, I love that I'm supporting a person that has the same values and perspective on life that I do so it was worth the extra money :)

Honestly, not the best picture composition wise, but I just love her smile.

Again, cropping was bad, but the grin!

In love with this one. Ashley Ann did recommend leaving her hand in next time.

I love the light on her hair.

Definitely one of my favorites.

She might look like she's falling over backwards, but she's actually walking forwards.

Working hard.

We got some snow this week, and Zoe enjoyed every second of it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On making friends

The title of this post is making me laugh because it's all serious like I'm about to write a dissertation with step by step instructions on how to make friends.

I'm not.

But God's been showing something to me lately that I think is worth passing on. It's definitely not rocket science, it's something that maybe other people already do or at least already try to do, but it's been a hard thing for *me* to do despite being well worth it.

Moving all the time (well, not all the time, but certainly frequently), gives me lots of opportunities to make new friends. Unfortunately, it's also given me lots of opportunities to judge people too quickly.

I used to have this attitude when I moved to a new place: find people that I have lots in common with, ignore other people, hope person I have lots in common with needs new friends, if they don't: go be sad.

Um. Wrong.

Oftentimes, those other people I was ignoring had the potential to be my bestest friend and I was ignoring them for pretty stupid reasons. "Oh, she wears nice clothes, she won't want to be my friend." "Oh, look at that pretty jewelry, I don't wear jewelry." "She wears makeup to go to the gym, I think that's silly." And most recently: "Her kid's clothes match, she won't want to hang out with my mis-matched Jade."

I've realized that my reasons for judging other people are often my own insecurities talking. Most of the time, that person with the well-dressed kid could care less that I let Jade dress herself.

So here comes my big point (wouldn't want you to miss it amidst all the rambling): look for things you have in common with people instead of things that you don't.


Haha, I know, I know. Not rocket science. But seriously? I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. For some strange reason, we often believe that we can only be friends with people that are just like us. This is incredibly stupid.

For New Years, my five bestest friends in the whole world got together at a cabin in North Georgia. At one point, I was sitting there looking around thinking "I don't have anything in common with these people". We've been best friends forever, and when we met we had all the important things in common. But now, 10+ years later, not so much. One stay-at-home-mom, 2 working moms, 1 pregnant working mom, 1 working girl that just likes being an Aunt. The list goes on. We don't dress similarly. We don't listen to all the same music anymore. (Of course, I mainly listen to Veggie Tales, but I digress) We don't like all the same foods, the same movies, or the same TV shows. We spend our free time completely different ways. If I met these people now, I might completely ignore them. Decide we don't have enough in common to pursue a friendship. Be intimidated. But these girls are some of the most important people in my life. We have everything that matters in common. We all have a zeal for the Lord and a love for each other.

So now, when I meet people, instead of judging or jumping to conclusions, I look for things we have in common. Sometimes, certainly, I'm still drawn to people I have more in common with. And there's nothing wrong with that, because I'm no longer cutting other people out without even giving them a chance. I'm realizing that iron sharpens iron and just because someone doesn't parent the same way I do doesn't mean I can't be their friend. That some people that take time to look nice every morning aren't conceited and generally they're not judging me because I don't bother.

The body of Christ is made up of people from all walks of life with completely different gifts and abilities. We can't operate without each other, so I was so often short-changing myself and other people by looking for people just like me. Now that I have given God a chance to show me how awesome people are that are nothing like me, I am realizing how full my life can be. How being around people that do things differently from me is a good thing. We truly need to stop judging people based on their appearances and one short conversation and really take the time to get to know people. It can be surprising :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The swing of things and balance

I always hear moms talking about trying to find that balance between husband, kids, work, cleaning, activities, cooking, etc. I really think that balance as most of us think of it is impossible. Because really, if you give your kids everything you want to, your house will suffer. If your house is as clean and sparkly as you want it to be all the time, your kids will miss mama playing with them. If you spend time with your husband every night after your kids go to bed, you might not get that blog post written. It's just not possible to do it all.

So what's that leave us with? Well, it used to leave me feeling
1. useless and
2. overwhelmed.

In case you miss it, those are both bad things.

I read something a couple weeks ago (don't ask me where- I can't remember!!) about how stay-at-home-moms need to train to be a SAHM. How it's a job like any other job and thinking that you can just jump in and do it is as stupid as thinking you can be an accountant without any schooling (this is definitely paraphrased).

The main thing that I kept thinking while I was reading this was "man, I wish someone would have told me this two years ago".

When I first stopped working, I sat on the couch all day and watched NCIS. I cooked dinner and vacuumed and that was pretty much it. I was (in a word) lazy. But because it was just Chuck and I and the dogs, the house stayed fairly clean and I was able to get away with it. Then all of a sudden (at least it felt like all of a sudden) I had this other human being to take care of and oh my goodness the house was not staying clean. Laundry piled up. Dust gathered. Dog hair took over. I struggled.

Almost three years later, I finally feel like I have a decent handle on things. This has taken me realizing a few things:
1. I must get up before the kids do and be in the Word
2. Naptime usually does not equal break time for mama
3. My husband deserves more than a grumpy wife throwing kids at him when he gets home
4. My home does not have to be perfect
5. Comparing myself to other people will get me nowhere

I've always struggled with perfectionism. And because I've also almost always struggled with depression and anxiety, I was often in a horrible cycle. If I couldn't do something perfectly, I didn't do it at all. Well, that doesn't work around here any more. I've had to realize that my home is not going to be perfect. And that not perfect is ok. If someone stops by unexpectedly (which used to be my worst nightmare), it will be ok. Partially because I've got a better handle on house-keeping than I used to and partially because I've realized that people aren't going to inspect my house. And that most of the time, if my house is dirty, it makes them feel better because theirs is too. And I love making people feel better :)

Problem is, it's taken me almost 3 years to figure this out. To learn how to clean efficiently and not feel like the dog hair is going to take over my life and also have kids that get some good play time with mama. Please hear my heart: I am not saying I have this figured out. I currently have a guest room you can't walk in, a laundry basket with clothes that have been folded and not put away for 5 days and Chuck's desk corner of the office hasn't been organized since we moved in. I have curtain rods I bought before Thanksgiving that haven't been hung up. I certainly do not have all the answers. Not even close. But I'm ok with that because I no longer constantly feel like an overwhelmed failure.

I just wish I had known some of what I know now 3 years ago. I wonder if it's my fault for being so ignorant and not looking into parenting at all before I was a parent. I wonder if there were signs around me forever that I just ignored. I know my mom had a very good handle on things and I still wonder how she did it. Maybe *gasp* I should have paid more attention. I want better for moms that follow me. I want moms to know that they need help- just talking to other moms about how they do things has helped me so much. They need more than just a jumbled brain- they need lists and schedules and calendars. Because this is a job, not a vacation. Homes don't run themselves and figuring this out has been far harder than my job in the Air Force was (which was really hard, for the record).

So if you've been wondering where I've been for the past 2 months- this is where. Figuring things out. Making lists and schedules and trying to be more on top of things. Deciding which activities need to stay and which ones need to go. Digging into the Word for wisdom and grace. Finally doing some things I've always said I was going to do. So I let the blog slide- because balance is a myth and some things have to ebb and flow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I'm back?

Apparently, I need to schedule a break every year for the holidays. Somehow I wind up being so busy that everything that is non-essential is pushed completely off my plate. I assumed after I got back in town I would just right back on the blogging wagon, but instead I found myself completely overwhelmed by unpacking and getting back into the swing of things.

And well, here we are. Two months later.

There have been so many little things I have wanted to blog lately but I can't even remember half of them. But I'll try to post more consistently now. I know all 2 of you that read this will be very glad :)

I feel like I've been *so* busy lately, but honestly 90% of my time is spent potty training and retrieving Piper from places she's not supposed to be.

A picture recap:

Lots of fun attempts for family pictures at Christmas

This one isn't half bad! 4 generations.


Cheese #2

Chuck and I had FOUR NIGHTS without the kids after Christmas. And this is the only photo proof-
Fantasy in Lights

The sweet gift Jade made for Chuck and I at MDO.

Piper loves some necklaces.

I've been learning to sew.

The girls are "great" helpers :)

And love taking baths.

First bloody nose (second followed the next week...)

Joint nap boycott.

Cute piggy tails

And some sister love.

Not sure what's coming up from the blog in terms of me writing, but I am starting a photo course Sunday and I intend to post some of my pictures here. I can't wait to learn how to actually use my camera!