Friday, August 7, 2015

{Maylin and Hartlie} That Sister Love

When we decided to get pregnant again when Maylin was five months old, THIS is what I prayed for.

Built-in best friends for life.
The playmate that never has to go home.
Endless nights of sleepovers.
Peals of giggles from the next room.
A tapestry of memories woven together from threads of shared experiences.

Although I'm pretty certain I had no idea what I was getting myself into, I knew that I wanted children close together in age. There were many, many desperate times over the first year. Sleepless nights where both girls were up crying simultaneously; two under two in diapers; one wanting to be held while the other needed to be nursed; I could go on. {It's funny though, that now as I'm sitting down trying to think of the hardest moments of the first year, not that many really come to my mind.}

Now they are finally {finally!} at an age where they play together, and much of the logistical difficulty of having two children fourteen months apart in age is decreasing. More and more often I'm becoming the third wheel. More and more often they share with each other more than they share with me.

Sometimes God calls us to a marathon of prayer. Sometimes there are weeks, or months, or years before any answer is obvious. In this particular case, my marathon lasted a little over a year. But it was worth it. Now I'm blessed with a feast of joy while watching my daughters, and goodness, the fruit is so sweet. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

{Miss Maylin} Maylin Turns Two: A Letter for the Night Before Your Birthday

Dear Maylin,

You're Two! Two little years in your wake, two little candles on your cake. You wear Two well. You wear it in all it's two-year toddler glory. You wear it with confidence, with brilliance, with laughter, with pizazz. You wear Two unlike any toddler has worn it before. You wear it with your head thrown back in wonder and joy, peals of giggles bubbling from your soul. You wear it with a tiny, darling gap between your two front teeth. You wear it with stomping feet, and high pitched "No!"s, and flailing limbs. You wear it with the tenderest pat-pats on my back, the most undeniable "hep pease mama!" and the greatest love of bananas and apple juice the world has known. 

The You you are becoming is extraordinarily unique, the juxtaposition of the best and worst parts of your parents combined with attributes all your own. You are dainty and poised and feminine, yet stubborn and tempermental and emotional. You have unending wells of passion and a deep determination to hold fast your obsessions. You don't stop. You don't let go. You are tenacious and determined. You are my firecracker, my brilliant little firecracker that lights up my life. You are my strong little warrior, filled with what it takes to win whatever battle you've decided to fight. You are friendly and outgoing and willing to wring the life out of life, yet simultaneously quiet and reserved, thoughtful and pensive.

You have the endearing habit of calling Deuce "Bouf" or "Boucey." You respond with "No, I don thin so" when a simple no would work just as well. Milk is pronounced "pickle" and you call Hartlie just plain "Ha."  
You greet everything with a cheery "Hi!": 
"Hi soos!" {shoes}
"Hi red!" {any red object}
"Hi ban!" {banana}
"Hi no why!" {Snow White}
"Hi boo!" {any blue object}
"Hi shishy!" {sissy}
"Hi ap soo!" {apple juice}
"Hi lello!" {any yellow object}
"Hi Man Beahr! {Manni Bear}
"Hi Muh mah!" {Mama- my favorite}

My wish for you, during this next year while you're Two, is that you remain: curious, expectant, wide-eyed, wild-eyed, innocent, alert, brilliant, friendly, confident.

My wish for you, while you're Two, is that you grow: in compassion, in kindness, in thoughtfulness, in meekness, in gentleness, in patience with understanding, in humility, in graciousness. 

Above all, my lovely green-eyed girl, may you remain to your core the truest version of You- my Maylin.

Happy Birthday.  

Sunday, May 10, 2015

{Motherhood} Handling It

I took my girls to the mall yesterday. Solo.

It was a rainy Friday, and I was meeting my mom later in the afternoon so she could keep the girls for the weekend. I wanted an outing for us, an excuse to get out of the house, and going to the mall where we'd be meeting my mom later just seemed like the logically convenient and fun thing to do. I could look for a new shirt, the girls could ride in the stroller, we could see other human beings. It had the possibility of being a disaster, but I was mentally and physically prepared. Confident. A bit anxious, and probably overly laden with snacks, but confident.

When we left the house I expected to have a hilariously disastrous story to tell about some sort of meltdown or public fiasco upon returning home. But I don't. The day went surpisingly well. Smoothly. You might even say effortlessly.

It was an anti-climatic outing.

There was a moment, somewhere between watching the water gurgle up from indoor fountains and making a second trip to the bathroom, when the thought entered my mind: I'm handling this. I'm a mom with a baby and a toddler by myself in a very public mall, and I'm handling this. And {shocker} this is fun!

I'm handling this.

That is a phrase that I thought would take years for me to believe. An emotion I was unsure I would ever feel as a mother. There have been days over the course of being a mom to two under two when I longed for anti-climatic days, boring trips to the store, and uneventful public outings. And yesterday, that happened. I fielded and I tossed and I encouraged and I nourished and I manipulated and I laughed and I mothered. And it was fun. So, so fun. For the first time, I allowed myself to feel and believe that I had the whole motherhood thing under some semblance of control. And it felt good.

The highlight of the day was the carousel ride. The way Maylin's face absolutely broke open with awe and delight when we entered the center of the mall made me know before I could even formulate the thought that we'd be riding that carousel. It was as sure as if we'd already done it. There was no room in my mother's heart to deny her that pleasure, even if it meant spending some of the cash I had saved for eating dinner on a mom's night out later that evening. {Which it did.} I think the small sacrifice, though, of spending money I had earmarked for my personal pleasure made the carousel ride that much more special and satisfying. And her face. Oh, her face. This memory I will tuck away.

Afterwards, I "splurged" a bit more, and bought a pretzel for the three of us to share. Maylin, Hartlie, and I sat on a bench in front of the carousel and watched it go round and round, the taste of warm cinnamon sugar on our tongues. 

Motherhood can be hard, but it is beautiful and breathtaking, empowering and humbling. My girls are the loveliest, most exquisite pieces of my life that I never expected. I am their mother. God designed me to be mother to them. On purpose. Sure, there are times when the task of raising them, of "handling" them is daunting, but I've got this. No, more than that. I excel at this.

I excel at motherhood.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

{Miss Maylin} Becoming Real

This is Manni Bear. Say hello! He has been Maylin's naptime, bedtime, nighttime, teepee time partner and overnight travel companion her entire life. 

Right now, he's sitting on the edge of the bathtub. Can you tell? That's because, during nap time, he was involved in an unfortunate incident in which Maylin accidentally soaked his darling feet in tee tee. Maylin, not prone to waking up on sopping wet sheets, was traumatized about the accident. Really, she woke up screaming. So I calmed her down and cleaned her up and striped her bed and she resumed her nap. And Manni Bear came downstairs with me.

This potty training business, y'all. I mentioned on my Instagram this was one of my great fears of mothering a toddler. I have to admit it hasn't been that bad. But it's been long. And repititious. And a commitment for both me and Maylin. And it's not over yet! {Insert large grin emoji here} Although I do think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think. A small, small light. 

So, anyway, it's after 8:00 PM and I'm scrubbing Manni Bear's darling feet with hot water and lots of suds and I'm thinking about how soft and clean and new his fur was up until this point. I'm wondering, as I soak and scrub and rinse and wring, if he will feel as soft or look as new as he had before. I know he won't. He will be clean again, yes. But he won't be like new again. And that thought makes me sad.

It stops me, this thought. And I just sit there, with Manni Bear driping water all down the side of the tub, and look at him, and think about all he will experience as the bedtime companion of a little girl. All the tears, the sweat, the drool, and yes, probably more tee tee. But that's part of it, isn't it? That's the cost of being the beloved stuffed friend of a child. It will just make her love him all the more for it.

I know, you see, because my own stuffed childhood bear is my most precious, irreplacable possession. When I think about saving things from house fires, he is number one. I'm in fact so terrified of losing him to a fire that I pack him in my suitcase whenever we go on overnight trips. Strange for a grown woman? Yes. I am aware of this. Also, unashamedly not sorry.

This whole experience scrubbing up Manni Bear and tossing him in the dryer on the delicate cycle so he can be loved tightly against Maylin's warm little body made me remember this passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. Remember it? Probably the most defining paragraphs ever written in regards to the identity of a child's toy.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit...
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real... It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

So yes, Manni Bear's fur will be a bit more coarse, not as lustriously shiny, and perhaps a few threads fewer, but that will only serve to define him as Maylin's favorite bear. Manni Bear, welcome to life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

{Hartlie Anne} 3rd Month Memories


This has been our month of going and doing. We're finally getting out of the house and greeting the world. We have gone for walks in the park, bringing plastic baggies of grapes and bottles of water. We walk a bit, then stop for a snack. We make time to feed the ducks then visit the swings. The days are hot and sun-laden, as if August is making a final stand before the coolness of fall. 

This month you made your debut at church and stayed in the nursery like a champ.  Sunday mornings are no longer "easy" as they once were when we stayed cuddled in bed until the sun was high, but they sure are sweet. I get to see you all dressed up in your smocked dresses and big headbands and hand you off for an hour or two to worship. Then in the afternoon we have a little lunch and stroll around the neighborhood with Daddy and Maylin. This is probably my favorite day of the week.

Also new this month is that adorable dimple in your right cheek that shows up when you smile. Just like your mama. If I didn't already have enough reasons to kiss your cheeks, now I have one more. I'm not mad about it at all. You keep getting squishier and squishier due to your love of eating. You're such a good nurser, which makes my job much less stressful. You slept all night for the first time in your life this month. I felt so energized that I went for my first morning run since you were born. We both felt great after that night. Good for you, sister!

We made our first trip to the library this month. You stayed cozy in the stroller while we listened to the librarian read. We also ate breakfast as a family at our local coffee shop, and you were so pleasant. The interruption in your schedule didn't phase you a bit. You're a flexible baby with a good disposition, and you make everyday outings a breeze.

There are so many more outings in our future, doodle-bug, and I can't wait for a lifetime of new experiences with you!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

{Recap} Book Reviews

I committed myself in January to reading a book a month during 2015. So far I've read seven.


I had gotten a bit out of the habit of reading over the last year, so I wanted to remake it priority, especially since it's something I love doing. Part of reimplementing books into my life is putting down the phone, and my recent break from Instagram has helped dramatically. 

These are the four books I've read most recently, and I had pretty strong opinions about two of the four, so I thought I'd do a little amateur review in case anyone else is looking for their next late night obsession. You're welcome.

Astonish Me- Maggie Shipstead
I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this book. When I was in high school one of my favorite movies was Center Stage. Remember that one? About the ballet dancers? The one released with the influx of Never Been Kissed and 10 Things I Hate About You and all the other great late 90s movies? Anyway, I digress. This book was a bit like a grown up version of that. The storyline centered around ballet and I found the whole thing fascinating. The story was riveting in just the right places so that the technicalities of dance didn't get boring. When I finished I pulled up videos of Margot Fonteyne and watched them with a new appreciation of the discipline, control, diligence, and effort involved in making ballet breathtaking and graceful and exquisite. 

The Road- Cormac McCarthy
When I finish a book, I typically give myself 24 hours to digest it before moving on. I like to mentally mull over the story, letting it sink in, letting the story settle, hardening its meaning to an imprint in my mind. Then I start a new one. This book? I finished it four days ago and there's no new book on the mental horizon. Some books are just heavy. They make an impression. They don't sit well without deep thought. This book has been that way for me. The Road is a post-apacolyptic story of a father and his young son journeying and struggling and surviving and failing. It's deep. It's heavy. It's disturbing in parts and heartbreaking in others and shocking throughout.  If reading books about high stakes situations stresses you out, don't even bother with this one. While interesting, this book was emotionally draining. It was good, and I would read it again, but I will probably never be able to read it without a racing heart and tears.
{This author also wrote No Country For Old Men, which gives you a clue to the nature of this book if you've seen that movie.}

Dark Places- Gillian Flynn
This is the only book I do not reccommend reading, especially, especially if you're a mother. It's about the mystery surrounding the brutal murders of a mother and two of her four children told from the perspectives of the mother, the only surviving daughter, and the son who was convicted of the three murders. Sorry, Gillian; LOVED Gone Girl and was intrigued by Sharp Objects, but no, just no on this one. Yet I read all the way through it?? I don't know. There are some things even I do not understand about myself. Besides having an uncomfortable story line, it was also a bit vulgar for my tastes. Like I said before, Gone Girl and Sharp Objects didn't bother me, but this once certainly did.  It's not one I'd read again and not one I'd reccommend.

Station Eleven- Emily St. John Mandel
One of two post-apacolyptic books I've read in the past six weeks, this is the story of a troupe of surviving performers traveling from spot to spot several years after a deadly virus wiped out civilization. This story was not as realstic, and therefore not as moving to me as The Road. However, I did still find it entertaining. I liked the way the story skipped around in time from before, to during, and after the collapse of civilization. If you're looking for a bit of brain candy, something that's not too thought-provoking but still interesting enough to make you want to come back for more, this is your book. 

What about you? Read any good books lately? I'd love to know! I'm always looking for suggestions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

{Lifestyle} Disconnecting from Instagram

This year, for the first time in my life, I observed Lent. I'll have to write another post on another day about what I learned by participating, and exactly why I participated since I'm Protestant, but suffice it to say I rather surprised myself with the depth of what I took away from it. Today, however, I'm focusing on what I learned from taking a break, or fasting, from Instagram for 40 days. 

**During Lent, I alllowed myself a few exceptions. For example, I kept up with my #52weeksofhartlie series, and posted a couple of times for memorable occasions, birthdays, etc. It was mainly the looking at my feed, the scrolling, scrolling, scrolling for minutes up on end that I refrained from.**

Lessons Learned while Fasting from Instagram during Lent::

{1} I spent more meaningful time with my daughters. I didn't feel that incessent need to bring a camera phone to every activity of the day. I got to thinking, do my girls get sick of constantly having a camera thrust in their face while their just trying to play? Probably. It's okay to leave the camera alone and simply interact with them.

{2} I was not as attached to my phone. I was able to leave it in one room rather than carrying it with me around the house. I didn't automatically click the home button to check for notifications, or mindlessly scroll during moments of transition or down time. This was a very freeing feeling.

{3} I had more time to read. During the times when I would have been checking Instagram, I read a book instead. I recently discovered my library's ebook database that allows me to download books to my phone/ipad. It is just as easy to touch that icon and read as it is to touch the Instagram icon and scroll. Reading is an activity that I've always enjoyed but haven't had  much time for lately, so it felt good to get back into that habit. I even completed two books! Even now that Lent is over, I still find myself automatically touching the ebook app to read more often than looking at Insta. Yay for making a new, constructive habit!

{4} When I wanted to take a picture, I reached for my "big camera," my Canon, more often than my iphone. This gave me an opportunity to improve my skill using it, which is something I've wanted to do for a while. Again, another constructive habit formed!

{5} Real talk time. Sometimes I get this feeling, I'm sure you know the one, when I look at other people's pictures. Their perfectly coordinated clothes; their modernly decorated and impossibly clean house with white walls and tons of natural light; their kids with the smocked dresses and clean faces; their spontaneous date night with their husband, complete with heels and a glass of expensive wine; their gourmet meals that somehow meet requirements of both Whole 30 and decadence. And I start wanting what they have, feeling discontent with all the good I have, and suddenly I'm in the middle of a pity party that discolors everything around me for the rest of the day. Or the week. And ya'll. I hate that. I hate that feeling. I hate comparing. It's a chronic disease I've struggled with for years. It's one I've battled and beaten with the sword of Scripture and the help of my God, and it's not one I want to be bedridden with again. Ever. So when Instagram, my current favorite hobby, starts looking a lot like comparison and discontentment and less like inspiration and community, that's when I know I need to step back. Funny how the enemy can turn your favorite thing against you, right? But not me, not from now on. A blogger I follow wrote a fantastic post about this exact subject, one that I bookmarked. Go read it if this is also a struggle for you. 

On the flip side...
{6} I didn't document as much. Sometimes an entire week would go by without a single new picture in my camera roll. I like having pictures of my girls at different ages and phases. I like snapping a selfie with Michael while we're on a date. For some reason, little random pictures like that didn't happen during this time period. This was a little disturbing to me and something I don't want to fall into the habit of.

{7} Instagram has become a hobby: photographing, editing, captioning, curating. I missed that creative outlet. In a lot of ways it has replaced my blog. While I still prefer my blog for longer posts about deeper, more detailed thoughts, Instagram is, well, instant. For most every day moments this is my prefered medium. If I had to pick one thing I missed the most, this is it. I missed the creativity.

{8} I missed the community. I missed knowing the snipets of life of family and friends, of the bloggers and fellow moms I follow. I missed being encouraged and inspired. I've spent a long time, months and months, curating the people I follow on my Instagram, making my feed positive, thought-provoking, inspiring, and refreshing. I like scrolling through their pictures and reading their thoughts in the same way I like reading blogs. I missed that during my fast.

So there you have it. The good and the bad of taking an extended Instagram break.
Would I do it again? Yes, when I felt the need. And I did definitely feel the need, as it had become an obsessive habit for me. Next time, I may not take quite as long a break {unless I choose to do it for Lent again}. I do feel it's constructive to periodically step away, if just for a weekend or a week at a time, just to put a little fissure in that obsesive link my mind creates between me and the shiny, colorful world of Insta.

One final note: Sometimes I'm afraid I've been trapped into thinking that unless I take the picture, I won't have the memory. Like, if I don't Instagram it, then it didn't happen. That is a complete lie and totally false. While I don't have many pictures over the last 40 days or so, I do have some memories. I remember dying Easter eggs. I remember wagon walks around the neighborhood. I remember playing at parks. I remember eating lunch al fresco with my husband in New Orleans. I remember watching Maylin put a sticker on the 1000 books chart at the library when she reached 200. The only picture I have of those moments is one in my mind, and that's okay. That being said, however, it is much easier for me to recall a memory when I see a picture that it represents. From now on I want to have a healthy balance of both mental and digital photographs.

Instagram is great when it's with balance and moderation. I'm glad to be back on, and I'm thankful for what I've learned.