12/3/16

That Last Minute Gift Guide



It's ironic, me creating a gift guide, for, as I've mentioned before, I am the worst at gifting. I think some people are naturals at it, always find the perfect thing for each and every person on their list. I, however, am not that person. I over think it; wanting the person the gift is intended for, to love the item and find it useful; and I penny-pinch, hard --I don't have a chance, I was born into a Mennonite family of German heritage, and both Mennonites and Germans are known for being stingy frugal-- which becomes frustrating too, because high quality gifts often aren't cheap.

But this season I'm trying to loosen up a bit, not over thinking it, and, without breaking the budget of course, learn to be okay spending a bit more to give quality.

So here are a few simple ideas that I think would make lovely gifts for any person in your life. If you're like me, never knowing what to give, maybe you will find this list useful too.

For the ladies:
Hammered Circle Earrings // fashionABLE  *I own these and LOVE them!
The Broken Way // Ann Voskamp *currently reading this
Commissioned Art Work // Esther Weaver  *she's cool
Fringed Crescent Necklace // Noonday Collection *on my wishlist

For the kiddos:
Wooden Sling Shot // Etsy
Curious George Treasury Collection
Wooden Camera // Etsy

For the men:
Shawl Neck Sweater // AE
 Leather Billfold // Parker and Clay
Granite Drink Dispenser 

What about you: do you have any fun gift ideas, link them in the comments below!

11/19/16

Twenty-five Before Twenty-six

Photo by LYNDSI Photography


I've had well over a year to think about this, and I did, somewhat.

But of course, I leave it to the last minute, two nights before my birthday, to sit down and hash it out, deciding what will make it on the list.

You might remember, back when I was a young thing, barely twenty-three, I came up with a list of twenty-three things I wanted to accomplish before I turned twenty-four. As the year progressed, I worked my way through the list, blogging about each item as it was crossed off. I didn't have a 100% success rate, but I did complete most of those items. That year stands out, prominent, in my mind, as fun and rewarding and fulfilling.

So here I am, back at it again, working on perfecting "The List".


Like last time, I want this to be a set of realistic goals, some fun and free, while others challenging, seeming a bit more like work.   And also, like last time, as I accomplish each of these goals, I'll be blogging about it.


1. Take a Sabbath from social media one day per week for the next three months
I love social media, but I do spend too much time on it. I'm going to use Sunday as my day off from it, not opening or scrolling through any accounts from 6 am - 9 pm. My goal is to be present with my family, or truly resting during that time. (Ultimately, I want to do this for an entire year, but I'm starting out small.)

2. Participate in a group workout with an instructor
This was on my 23 before 24 list, and sadly, I didn't complete it. We're giving it a try again. I'm thinking Crossfit and maybe a class of Barre too, if I'm up for it.

3. Write more love notes
A good marriage doesn't just happen. I want to be more intentional in telling Herm how and why I love and admire him.

4. Memorize three passages of scripture with Carson
We're almost through our first, Psalms 23. The two I plan to add are The Beatitudes from Matthew 5 and the Christmas Story from Luke 2.

5. Attend a writers workshop
Because my dream of being a published author will never happen if I don't make it happen.

6. Set up and follow through with a zero based budget
Hello Dave Ramsey, I'm coming to you!

7. Take dance lessons
So as not to look so Mennonite on the dance floor of every wedding reception we attend.

8. Try a new dish
Maybe with my foodie friends, or maybe just for us. It's got to be something I've never made with ingredients that are new to me.

9. Take the kids to the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester 

10. Write a handwritten note to someone I greatly admire
Maybe include a good bar of chocolate + locally roasted coffee.

11. Sew an outfit for Brooklyn
Top, bloomers, and a headband. And if I'm feeling super ambitious, make something to match for myself. Well, not the bloomers.

12. Teach Carson to swim
Either in group classes or by myself. This is something I want him to know soon.

13. Hand copy the book of Proverbs into a notebook *

14. Take a personal retreat
I deeply love my family, but it's always good to get away for a bit, so I can be refreshed to love them well all over again.

15. Teach Carson the entire alphabet
He's got a good grasp of this already, but I want him to recognize upper and lower case letters and be able to write them out.

16. Read a classic by Jane Austen
I never gave these a chance. Maybe it's time.

17. Channel my inner yogi by mastering a headstand

18. Visit a new country *
Two years ago I included this as well, thinking it wouldn't happen, but it did! I'm adding it again because I have a passport and am always eager to travel.

19. Visit another National Park

20. Become friends with someone different than I *
In age, nationality, and/or religion

21. Learn how to make something new *
In other words, take crafting lessons from my sister or learn floral arrangements from my sister-in-law.

22. Interview and write about my Grandparents' lives

23. Re-read a book by Janette Oke
It was her Love Comes Softly series that made me fall in love with what I thought of as a chore, reading.

24. Do something about those wisdom teeth

25. Blog regularly
At the least once every other week


*subject to change because they were all on the other list

11/17/16

Currently







Reading: This summer the stack of books I was trying to work my way through, More Than Enough by Dave Ramsey, Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, were all but discarded, for every time I would curl up on the couch with the intent of reading, a cute little boy would snuggle in next to me, reminding me that it was my turn to read Curious George or Richard Scary's Busy Busy World to him -- for the tenth time over.

My love for audio books has greatly increased as a mom; it's in those mundane rituals of laundry folding and toilet scrubbing and dinner making where the magic of "reading" happens now. I use the app Overdrive to borrow audio books from my library. I can download them onto my iPhone, listen to them, and returns happens automatically - no fines for books overdue!

This week I downloaded Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult.

Picoult is known for tackling sticky issues, things that make most of us uncomfortable, this book is no exception -- it is about Ruth, a labor and delivery nurse, who was banned from caring for an infant because of her skin color. The father of the child is a white supremacist who doesn't want any Person of Color near his son.
In the course of events, the infant dies in the hospital, and even though there were others on staff as well, Ruth is the only nurse who was taken to court and tried for murder.
The author weaves three points of view through the book, that of Ruth, the African-American nurse, that of Kennedy, Ruth's lawyer, and of Turk, the skin-head father.
It's an eye opening book, and with everything that 2016 showed us about racism and how it's still so prevalent today, I encourage you to read it... I'm guessing it'll show you biases in your own life, and hopefully give you understanding into why this is such an important topic to work through individually and as a nation. I highly recommend this book.

*Book does contain explicit and offensive language


Loving: Leg day... or rather, the definition I've been noticing after months of "leg days", where I challenge myself with lots of squat and pliĆ© and barre workouts focused on my thighs + butt.

Since Brooklyn was born, I've gotten out for a few runs, but not the 3-5 runs per week that use to be my normal. It seems as though at least one, if not both of my kids, start complaining and crying when strapped in the stroller or I don't have enough time between naps and errands or, or, or... I make excuses and running suddenly isn't priority.
 I miss it.
However, I've been opting for short, intense workouts 3-5 days per week -- then, if I have the time or energy to get out for a walk or jog with the kids several times each week I do. Although, to be honest, I also count cleaning and chasing after Carson or going to get the mail as cardio too. :)

I love knowing that even just 15 minutes per day is completely worth the effort, and if done right, you will notice results. You don't have to be a gym rat to be fit or have muscle definition. I promise! Just add a bit of HIIT (high intensity interval training) into your routine.


Dreaming: The year I did my 23 before 24 challenge --where I created a list of 23 things to do before I turned 24-- was so much fun. I'm turning 25 next week, and I'm dream up a new list to work on this coming year; things like sew an outfit for Brooklyn, reach a new fitness goal (headstands? run 20 miles? try Crossfit?), take a writers workshop, memorize more scriptures with Carson, etc.

It's sort of daunting, coming up with 25 things to do... And I'm open to creative ideas. What should I add to this bucket list of sorts?


Wishing: Be warned, if you have a little girl to dress, Etsy is a black hole, which leaves me wishing for all the things. Like this and this and this.

You're welcome.


Thinking About: Dinner. Or rather, what's for dinner? I wish I had a better system in place for planning and preparing meals... It's one of my least favorite yet most important tasks each day, and I have zero creativity with it. Have you ever used Prep Dish or a similar menu planning service? Please, please comment with all your menu planning tips and tricks. I'm begging of you!
My husband would be most grateful.


Listening to: The belly laughter of Carson and the bear-like growls of Brooklyn as they are playing together post nap. I'm going to assume all is well... because with those two you never know.


What are you currently up to?

10/29/16

A Band-aid for Your Bleeding Heart





Carson, mister, what do you think you're doing?

I'm in a hurry. I fight it, trying to embrace the art of slowful living, to make sure my family knows I am present It's my nature, always trying to get as much done as possible, as quickly as possible, and as a result of that the laundry is washed and our house has been vacuumed and the kids are dressed, but I'm feeling hurried and empty --not taking time to feed myself, physically or spiritually-- before scurrying to get out the door. 

We're heading to Rochester, to the hospital waiting room, to be with good friends of ours who are currently experiencing one of the scariest times in their lives -- a brain tumor and a delicate operation. 

Carson probably sensed the angst in my heart, as I told him our morning plans, and now, when I'm trying to make sure I have everything we need for our drive, over an hour one way, he's sorting through a drawer in the bathroom, pulling things out and making a mess.  

I'm finding a band-aid, so Gina's mom feels better.  

He shoves two packets, white with blue lettering, into his Lightening McQueen backpack, now lost among the toys and coloring books and super cool silly bands, and he's ready to go, trusting that band-aids can fix brain tumors, because, when you're almost three, band-aids can fix anything.

I was taken aback. And as I drove through the pouring rain, my heart bleeding because it's October, I kept thing about the faith of a child, the simplicity of it. 

----

Anne of Green Gable and all of Instagram deem this month best of all. I use to think so too, October is beautiful, yes, but now bittersweet. 

Two years ago it changed, when what I use to associate with this season, the crunchy leaves and crisp air and pumpkin spiced everything, was replaced with memories of a month of prayer, of fear, of faith, of death. 

I still so vividly recall that morning, the shock and numbness that came with the news of his passing. The overwhelming grief, and in the months that followed, the anxiety that I would be the next mother grieving over a son.  

My faith was, and still is at times, so shaken. And on days like today, anniversaries of death, where I want to honor and remember, but don't quite know how, the longing for heaven and for wholeness is intense. 

I need a band-aid for my bleeding heart.

Ev, we haven't forgotten you. You left imprints on our hearts and called us to pursue relationships above all else, with family, with friends, with God. 

Today, and every day, we remember.

"There is a peace that cometh after sorrow, of hope surrendered, not hope fulfilled; a peace that looketh not upon tomorrow, but calmly on the tempest stilled. A peace that lives not now in joy's excess, nor in the happy life of love secure; but in unerring strength the heart possesses, of conflicts won while learning to endure. A peace there is, in sacrifice secluded, a life subdued from will and passion free. 'Tis not the peace that over Eden brooded, but that which triumphed in Gethsemane."  -Jessie Rose Gates





10/12/16

One Eye Laughing, The Other Eye Weeping




It was a rather rough day, one that started when the siren-cry filled the once silent early morning air, alerting me that all was not well.

Bed sheets were stripped, baking soda was sprinkled on the soiled area, plastic mattress pad penciled on the shopping list. I lay beside my child, the once-wailing-turned-chatty potty trainee who insists on wearing underwear day and night. He does really good but that chocolate milk before bed was a mistake. My mistake. Now I lay next to him, answering his endless questions at 4:30 am, wishing him back to sleep. 

Sleep finally happened about an hour later. We both dozed off in his bed. When my phone alarm rang at 6, reminding my of my commitment to working out ---which is currently boasting a 25% follow through rate for the week-- I hit snooze. 

So it'll come as no surprise to you but, I over slept.

Wet bed. Over sleeping. Rushed morning.

There was a list of errands that needed to be done, I couldn't keep putting them off, day after day. I hurried through breakfast, getting frustrated at the little boy who is always in a hurry, except for when he isn't. 

Come on, I coaxed for the umpteenth time, we've got to go!

9:23 am. The kids are both strapped in, the smallest protesting the injustice of a carseat.

We stop at the bank first, where we chat with our favorite teller, Christine. We drop a package --brown paper, tied up in string-- off at the post office, and waited in line for the local thrift store to open. The last errand (It wasn't going to be the final stop, but I easily talked myself out of the rest. They can wait for tomorrow. Or tomorrow's tomorrow.) was to pick up iced lattes for my husband and his employees, who were replacing the shingles on our house roof. 

It took a bit of time at the cafe. I chatted with several people I knew, Carson, of course, chatted with everyone. 

I had both kids strapped in, the lattes all accounted for, and we were pulling out of the parking lot when I suddenly remembered, he's wearing undies! Carson, how are you doing back there? I forgot to ask if you needed to use the potty. His standard response, the No mom, I'm fine, came first. On the heels of it came the one I dreaded. Mom, you need to pull over!

I knew I couldn't waste time. But I didn't want to go back to the cafe. That would mean getting both kids out of their carseats, hoping we would make it to the restroom in time. And even if we made it in time, there is still always the chance of a line...

There is a rest stop a mile down the road. I pulled off.

My plan was simple. I would get Carson out, he'd pee, we'd leave again.

Nothing went as planned.

I got Carson out of his seat, and helped him undo the button of his jeans. Brooklyn, meanwhile, is wailing from hunger, still angered at the injustice of her rear-facing carseat. My little boy, who is always in a hurry, except for when he isn't, wasn't. He took his good ole time, his sister beyond angst.

I couldn't take it anymore. Brooklyn was unstrapped, lifted out of her carseat, and nursed. 

What a sight we were, little boy, pants dropped around his ankles, now in a hurry, waddled all around the rest stop; frazzled mom, shirt lifted and baby latched, scurrying after her son, yanking his pants up, over his knees, over his butt. Somehow the mission was accomplished, in all that rush he had managed to pee. I sat on the picnic table bench, allowing the littlest to finish her snack. She slobbered and cooed, taking after her brother, who is always in a hurry, except when he isn't. 

Hey mom, I'm jumping over the bees! I glanced up. My kid wasn't kidding! He was hopping over a nest of ground wasps, three already wandering his shirt, most likely looking for flesh to pierce. I swatted them off, grabbing his hand and swiftly walking toward our vehicle. They were offended, beginning to swarm at us. We took off running, back and forth, opening the car door and clambering in as fast as we could. It wasn't fast enough. Carson's ear had already been stung. He was screaming from pain, his sister crying, not keen on her carseat, yet again, and I was more frazzled than ever. I tried to calm my kids, but mostly I just wanted to be home.

The crying and sniffles continued for the entire twelve minute ride home, and as we turned into our drive, it was all out wailing again from the smallest child. Her brother had noticed she was almost asleep and screamed in her face, Brook-win WAKE up. She gets so frustrated when he does that. Me too. 

I pulled the Tahoe into the garage, put it in park and switched the engine off. But as I opened the back passenger door to get the kids out, I realized Carson wasn't the problem at all, Brooklyn was crying, because in my frazzled rush to save ourselves from the bees, I forgot to strap the poor child in! She was scrunched in the bottom of her carseat, and I stood there, shaking my head at myself, praying for a better afternoon.

I know we often hear the saying Motherhood is Messy, and this little essay is letting you in on my messy. The messy I'm choosing to laugh at, because the only other option would be to cry. 

I need help. Send coffee!


9/9/16

It Was the One That Got Away




Years to come when I remember this summer, the summer of 2016, I will think of dust. The fine dry dust that comes from an earth, crackled and blistered, too parched to cry for rain, yes. Also the dust of things dead, the dust that leaves you wiping away discouragement at the corners of your eyes, the dust that settles onto shoulders, sagging from what feels like the weight of the world carried on them. But the memories from the summer of 2016 will also spark thankfulness for life because the series of events I'm about to tell you about left us shaken, greatly, but we realize, too, the 1,000 other ways the story could have played out, ways we are so grateful it didn't...

 I'm going to start the story on July 15th, although it could start much earlier, way back in the spring when it didn't rain, or even last winter when we didn't get a good snow fall to keep the water table steady. But it was on July 15th when we finally needed to intervene. Our well had gone all but dry, and our yard was completely brown, except for the many weeds popping up that seem to grow in any condition. In order to do laundry and take showers, we had to haul water in.

My sister-in-law was living in New York, working several market stands selling peaches, over the summer. Friday was her typical day off, and she often would come over in the afternoon to watch the kids so I could mow our yard. It had been several weeks since it was last mowed. The grass really hadn't grown at all, but the weeds had.

After almost two hours of going back and forth, row by 36 inch row, I was finally nearing the end. The sun was hot, and my skin was so dust covered I could write my name on my leg simply by dragging my fingertip across the canvas of thigh. The glint from sun reflecting off a windshield caught my eye. As I glanced up I saw Herm driving our Ford Ranger pickup truck, a large container for hauling water on the bed, in toward the garage. I made another round, in and then out, on the mower, when I noticed the truck heading back out the drive. It was going sort of fast and didn't really look like anyone was driving it - but the sun was bright and dust stung my eyes, so I didn't really think too much about it. I simply hadn't seen right.

As I turned our zero-turn mower, ready to make another round, I saw the truck again. It had just flipped across the road and over the ditch, the water container spilling off the bed, before running into a tree in our neighbor's field and coming to an abrupt halt.

In the matter of seconds so many scenarios played through my mind: "Had Herm been distracted and lost control of the truck?"  "Did the steering lock up?" I suddenly remembered that it didn't look like there was a driver. "Was there a small person driving it? Did Carson somehow manage to take off with the truck?" Panic rose in my throat, as I threw the parking brake into activation and leaped off the mower, running barefoot across the yard, over the road, and through the field, the whole way praying for the truck door to open and Herm to hop out. But the door wasn't opening! "Oh Jesus, no!" I screamed, running faster. The windows were all busted out of the cab, and the horn was stuck in a constant blare, the frame twisted in an angry sort of way, the roof, crumpled like a piece of discarded paper, on the back corner, near the passengers side door.

I reached the truck, peering in the drivers window, completely unprepared for what I found; it was empty. My weekend wouldn't be filled with funeral plans. My husband and my son were both alive! But where were they? Shaking, I called Herm. When he answered his phone, I was so worked up, I wasn't making much sense. "The truck! Where are you? You're alive. Babe, I need you." Somehow, in spite of the fragmented sentences and quaver in my voice, Herm managed to understand what I was saying. Within minutes he was beside me, as we both looked in awe and wonder at the truck we use to drive.

Herm knocked on our neighbors front door, a little unsure of how to explain what had happened. They came out of their house, laughing and telling us we should just let it there for a few days, you know, to get the other neighbors talking... "Looks like Herm's been drinking again." they joked. It was funny, but in a very unfunny sort of way.

The water container was undamaged, so as the afternoon wore on, Herm loaded it on a flatbed trailer and used his work truck to go get water. We were hosting a party on our deck the next night, and really needed the water so our toilets would flush.

That night as we sat with friends, eating tacos from a vendor at a local winery, we talked about all that could have went wrong; If the truck had jumped out of park only minutes before hand I could have been hit by it, as I was out mowing right where it cut through the yard. If Carson would have been outside, he could have been run over. If a car had been coming down the road they could have collided. If that tree wouldn't have been in our neighbors field, truck truck could have hit their two Lexus vehicles parked in the drive, it could have ran into their house, it could have ended up in among their solar panels or vineyard. If. If. If. But none of those things happened. In the end, it was only a truck we lost, and not a life, and trucks are completely replaceable.

In the scurry of our weekend, a weekend where events are sort of scrambled in my mind because so much happened, Carson's dog Mia, was driven over and died almost instantly. Again we were left with a bunch of what if's, and in complete shock we held each other, reminding ourselves that while we loved her (mostly) she was a dog, and not a child.

It was such a discouragingly dry, dusty summer -- one that left me aware of the very fragile nature of life, one that left me so grateful for more time with my people, my family. Each day is a precious gift. Material things are just that. Important, sure. But not really, not in light of eternity. I have my people, and for that, I am so grateful. And left still longing for rain for my dry and weary soul.

8/29/16

Carson-isms






There have been quite a few changes in Carson's life over the past three months. He's taken it, for the most part, in stride, and as he learns and processes these changes it's all I can do not to burst out laughing in front of him.

For instance: Shortly after Brooklyn was born he asked if he could feed her. She is breastfed exclusively, and I had only given her a bottle of pumped milk once, while we were traveling. I had told him that I need to feed her but that he would be able to hold her afterward. He kept persisting, saying he wanted to be the one to feed her. Finally I asked how he intended to that. "Mom," he said in an exasperated tone that hinted at my ignorance for not already knowing, as he pointed to a nipple, "with my little milks!" 

---

Me:"What would you like for lunch? A sandwich?"
Carson: "I would like a moomie. A queen moomie." 
Me: "No, you can't watch the McQueen movie."
Carson: *sighs* "No mom, a queen moomie. In a cup."

My child actually requested veggies, in the form of a green smoothie, in a cup, and somehow I completely missed the gist of the whole conversation.

---

It's somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. I'm in the bathroom, going about my business (TMI, much?) and getting ready for the day. Carson, never groggy-eyed in the morning, comes hopping out of his room. As he passes the the bathroom he yells, "Hey mom, are you pooping?" "Yes."
I hear some shuffling in the kitchen, and a few minutes later he proudly brings me an M+M that he got out of the jar on the very top of our refrigerator. "Good job, mom! You did it." He high fives me, because we are in the thick of potty training, and we both know pooping in the potty is the hardest and it deserves a reward.

---

We were taking a family day, something that doesn't happen as often as we wish it would. The kids are both buckled into our Tahoe, the snacks and whatever we might need for the outing are packed, and we are off. As Herm and I chat, we start to flirt with each other a bit, sort of like we always did before we had kids. No sooner had he slipped his hand across the console and onto my thigh, when a little voice from the back seat called out, "Dad, stop it! BOTH hands on the steering wheel!"

---

The kids and I are out running errands when we passed a police car. That same little voice calls out from the back seat, "Mom, you better slow down. He's going to get you."
My two year old has suddenly become my conscience.