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.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

{Motherhood} Those Things

Things I Don't Want to Take for Granted::

{1} Lunch with my Girls~ it may be loud. It may be chaotic. It may be wild to the fullest extent. But right now, I get to have lunch with them. Every day, right here in our kitchen, at our table. And even if it's eating fish sticks and apple slices for Maylin, a handful of blueberry puffs for Hartlie, and a piece of peanut butter toast for me, I'm going to relish it. Because my girls, they're what make it gourmet and memorable and so, so unforgettable. And this sicky mess, this chaotic wildness? It's only for a little while.

{2} Afternoon Walks ~ The breeze, the sun, the monotonous yet familiar and comforting circle of the neighborhood. The spying of a cat, the bark of a dog, the frisk of a squirrel. Maylin's pointing finger. The delaying of the witching hour. The waves of friendly neighbors from driveways or front porches or passing cars. The walk that has brought and nurtured so many neighborly friendships, a community for this skeptical, hermit of a girl who never thought she'd enjoy living so close to people. The late afternoon light that promises the quiet of evening. These walks refresh my soul. {And make me believe that why yes, yes I can face dinner prep and bath time.}

{3} Storytime in the Teepee ~ This is my time. My attention can be pulled in a thousand different directions at other times of the day, but these few minutes before naps or before bed, this is MY time. This is where I pass on my legacy, what I want them to remember about me. This is where I share my love of reading, of literature, of delving deeply into someone else's story and letting it sweep you away to places far beyond your imagination. This is where I can share stories of courage and kindness, of spunk and friendship, of hope and humor and honesty and heroism. This is where I share stories that teach lessons, provide knowledge, and impart integrity. THIS is where memories are made and characters are formed that will bind themselves together into a cord, a cord that will become a heartstring, a heartstring that will forever be a piece of the deepest parts of the soul of Maylin and Hartlie. I may feel inadequate in so many other areas of motherhood, but THIS is where I shine. This is what no one can take away from me. This is what I don't want to forget.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

{Motherhood} Spoken Blessings

Recently I've become increasingly aware of the power of words. Not just the written word, with which I've always had a love affair, but also the power of spoken words. Particularly the power of positive truth spoken directly to yourself or directly to someone else. Words have a way of affecting us like little else does, especially if we hear the same words or are presented with the same idea repeatedly. We begin to believe those words, live those words. They become a part of our psyche, sometimes almost impossible to shake {body image, anyone?}.

Not long ago I participated in a Bible study led by Priscilla Shirer, which was not really about blessings or words at all, but during a particular video segment she mentioned her habit of speaking Scripture in the form of a blessing over her three sons. I was intrigued. I had not ever really heard of this before. Memorizing Scripture, yes. Reciting Scripture, yes. Writing Scripture, yes. But using it as a blessing spoken over someone? It was a little foreign to me. The concept is that she would routinely, several times a day, like when dropping her kids off at school or before bedtime, repeat parts of Scripture to her boys that she wanted them to believe was especially true for their lives. She mentioned that though her oldest is still in elementary school, he and his younger brothers could all repeat this blessing to her because she'd said it so often to them. The idea was fascinating to me. I loved it. And I wanted to do it for my girls.

After a little bit of thought, and not really much direction, I settled on saying a Hebrew blessing from the book of Numbers to Maylin {this was before Hartlie was born} as I rocked her to sleep. It was a short verse: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. {Numbers 6:24-26} It was a good blessing and I liked the cadence of the words, but after a while it didn't seem to be enough. I wanted more. This is not to imply that any part of God's Word is not "enough," because it absolutely is, all the time and in every circumstance. It's just that I wanted to put a bit more thought and effort into choosing what to say over my daughters. Especially after Hartlie was born, I began to desire a specific blessing for each of my girls, something that would be meaningful to them individually.

I began to really consider what truths I wanted Maylin and Hartlie to know and believe in their very core. I looked ahead to what their future might hold- to the teenage years, onto college, through marriage, and careers, and children, and potential heartbreak and probable tragedies. I thought about their individual personalities, the little quirks and nuances that set them apart from each other. I pondered the meaning of their names, and how amazingly through no fault of my own, the meanings of their names happen to fit right in with their personalities. I thought about what lies they might be faced with and what lies they might come to believe about themselves. And then I turned around and thought about my Lord, about His personality, His character traits, His promises. What about Him do I feel is essential for Maylin and Hartlie to know? And not just know, but believe as absolute, unshakable truth? Then I began to search the Bible, marking down meaningful verses, underlining certain phrases, making a list of passages I wanted to include. 

After some time, I landed on my spoken blessing for each of my girls. I finished Maylin's first, and have been saying it to her for many months. I speak it over her after our bedtime story, as we're either rocking or lying in the teepee, chest to chest and heart to heart. It's the final words I speak to her before she goes to sleep, and it's become such a routine that now when I begin speaking her blessing, she quiets down, her little body relaxes, and she listens. It's the final sleep cue.

I finished compiling Hartlie's blessing this week after waiting for her own personality to emerge. I will speak it to her for the first time tonight, as I'm giving her her final bottle with the lamp off, chest to chest and heart to heart.

An unexpected, but wonderful result of compiling and saying these blessings to my girls is that I have read and written and spoken them so often that I now have them memorized. And it's quite amazing how much these words, with which I started out intending to bless my daughters, have actually blessed me as well. I'm sharing them below.

For Maylin, my strong little warrior::

You are a woman of strength and dignity, a woman who speaks words of wisdom and kindness. You are confident and can joyfully laugh without fear of your future. {Proverbs 31:25-26} No weapon that Satan tries to use against you will ever succeed in doing you harm, for this is your inheritance as a daughter of God. {Isaiah 54:17} God is in the midst of you, my strong little warrior, surrounding you, you shall not be moved. God's help will rise at the break of day, as the morning dawns. {Psalm 46:5} Therefore, my strong little warrior, be strong in the Lord and in the full strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand firm against the schemes of Satan. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against forces of darkness and wickedness. {Ephesians 6:10-12} But you have already conquered all of these things through Christ who loves you. For I am convinced from the depths of my soul that nothing, neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor powers, nor things that are happening to you today, nor things that will happen to you in the future, nor depth nor height, nor anything that has been created can ever separate you from God's love in Jesus Christ. {Romans 8:37-39
This is my prayer and this is my blessing. I love you. Amen.

For Hartlie, my peaceful favored one::

You are a woman of strength and dignity, a woman who speaks words of wisdom and kindness. You are confident and can joyfully laugh without fear of your furture. {Proverbs 31:25-26} You are blessed, my little peacemaker , for you are a daugher of God. {Matthew 5:16} The Lord is your Keeper and He is a shade to the closest parts of you. Nothing under the sun will not smite you by day, nor will anything under the moon harm you by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil and will keep your soul. The Lord guards your every move from now through the rest of your life. {Psalm 121: 5-8} Therefore, my little peacemaker, let your light shine in front of all people in such a way that you illuminate your Father in heaven, so that you shine as a light in the darkness. {Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:15} For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake and fall, but the Lord's lovingkindness will not be removed from you and His faithful promise of peace will not be shaken, for He has great compassion for you. {Isaiah 54:10}
This is my prayer and this is my blessing. I love you. Amen.

Note:: I also wrote a little bit more here about praying Scripture.

{I have taken a few liberties with the verses by paraphrasing my blessing, but I believe I have not compromised the integrity or meaning of each Scripture.}

Saturday, January 24, 2015

{Hartlie Anne} 2nd Month Memories

Sweet Hartlie-girl,

It's full on summer now. The days are growing hotter and you're growing bigger. You've spent most of your first month sleeping, but you're slowly starting to spend more time awake. It's been fun to watch you "wake up" to the world around you. Time seems to almost stand still during those first few newborn weeks, when we're both surviving within two hour segments of nurse, change, sleep- all around and around the clock. Then suddenly, this month I woke up one morning and looked over into your little portable crib by my bed and realized with a start that you, my newborn baby girl, don't look so new anymore. You're looking and acting more like your own person each day. You have so many smiles, so many effortless and ready smiles, and we love it.

You're our laid-back, easy going gal. You only cry for very good reasons and you sleep like a dream, which makes this mama really happy. And thankful. Very thankful for sleep right now. This month we discovered you're allergic to dairy, which means no more dairy products for me for the forseeable future. I'm praying you'll outgrow this allergy- as  most babies who have it do- because can you imagine? Life without chocolate or ice cream or cereal {oh cereal} or milk and oreos?? I had the bright idea one early morning this month to attempt dairy free buscuits, and they turned out okay. But just okay. May the good Lord spare you from a life of "just okay" buscuits.

It's been incredible to watch you form relationships with our loved ones, especially with your daddy and sister. Daddy/Daughter love will always be heartmelting for me, and that sister-bond is unmatchable. This month we ate cupcakes together, went to the pool together, tramped through the park together, you snuggled up in the Happy wrap around my torso or in the padded stroller while we made memories around you. Sunday afternoon snuggles, all four of us piled in our bed, became my favorite activity of the week.

The sunflowers I planted back in April grew to the size of my shoulders and blooms as big as dinner plates burst forth in golden yellow glory as their faces turned toward the sun. And these verses became my matra for this  month as we continue to celebrate your life, sweet Hartlie:

"The mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10
"The Lord's lovingkindness indeed never ceases, for His compassion never fails. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness."
Lamentations 3:22-23

We love you, our dear girl.

Monday, January 12, 2015

{Hartlie Anne} 1st Month Memories

{Note: This series will be mainly retrospective, as Hartlie is now 7+ months old.}

Sweet Hartlie,

You are new this month. Brand new and we are smitten with love and ooey gooey emotions immediately. You arrived fast and with disregard to epidurals and time and Pitocin, but goodness, we couldn't be happier greeting you under any other circumstances. My wide eyed girl that made me a mama twice, you've made my mornings and evenings, mid-days and midnights so, so sweet. We welcomed you home with joy and love. I can hardly sleep at the sight of you. You are one of my two favorite reasons to embrace each morning.

My baby girl, so fresh and new, you caused my heart to expand 100% larger than it was already. Before you were born, I was secretly fearful I couldn't love you as much as Maylin, simply because I couldn't imagine the magnitude of that much love. I couldn't imagine that any heart had the capacity for it. But, my sweet girl, because of you I love 100% more. I love you 100% and I love your sister 100%. Thank you for bringing that much more love into my life.

We've taken this first month slowly. Easy. We've stayed in pajamas, taken leisurely walks, sat in the summer warmth on the front porch. We've spent hours rocking, hours nursing, hours snuggling and cuddling. Middle of the night nursing sessions became photo sessions as I snapped picture after picture of you in your nightgown with your wide eyes and your baby cap, wrapped in your swaddle blanket lying on my bedspread, your daddy snoozing beside us. I've watched Maylin become increasingly more aware of your presence and I'm excited to witness this sister-bond grow. 

Some things I've learned about you already- you never sneeze only once, always in sets of threes or fours, just like your daddy. You cry the biggest, most perfect crocodile tears I've ever seen, and when you're upset, they're immediate and constant, soaking your onesie or crib sheet or my shoulder in an instant. You're already grasping dangling objects. And your smile. Oh your smile. It slays us.

We are so glad you're here in the flesh, sweet little Hartlie Anne, so glad you're in our arms to stay. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

{Lifestyle} New Year, New Resolve

Well. It's been awhile. 

2014 was not a successful year for my blogging routine. I could be ashamed of myself for that. I could let that fact get me down. I could listen to the little lie that says I might as well give it up.

But I'm not going to.

Becasue when I think about what's kept me away- my two daughters- I'm positive I wouldn't trade the hours with them for all the blogging time in the world. I don't have much recorded to show for this year, to remember this year by, and I do regret that. In fact, when I think about all the months gone by of Hartlie's life that haven't been documented I get a bit sick inside. I didn't write much this year; I guess some years are just lean like that.

But now! New year, new resolve, and {perhaps most influentially} older babies who have adjusted and readjusted to schedules, which means now I have about an hour and a half in the afternoons where they both nap AT THE SAME TIME. Hallelujah chorus.

Speaking of the new year, let's talk a little about resolutions, since that's what everybody is talking about in January.

I'm hopping on the "word of the year" train, along with all others in the blogosphere, and choosing one word to live by in 2015. Although I will probably still write down a long list of goals because that's just the kind of person I am and when you put a Pilot pen and a cute notepad in my hand I can't help myself. I'll just have to break the rules and do both. {Living on the edge, I know.}

Jana's 2015 Word of the Year: Actionary 

Which, oh the irony, is not even a real word.

However, it infers the exact opposite of what I've been the past 22 months of my life- Reactionary.

Real talk time. Ever since Maylin was born almost two years ago I feel my life has been far from my control. More specifically I have felt lost, clueless, unsure, overwhelmed, maxed out, time-less, and not myself. I feel as if I somehow got attached to the wrong end of a long rope that keeps whipping me about from one place to another. I haven't been able to firmly plant my feet. Instead of acting, I've been reacting. Instead of being in control, I'd lost control. Instead of having a plan and being calm yet firm, I responded with anxiety, panic, and by throwing my proverbial hands in the air.

I won't blame my habit of being reactionary solely on motherhood, although the starting times of the two do coincide, and a lot of the things I've responded to with anxiety and panic {if I responded at all} are related to parenting issues. A lot of being reactionary also stemmed from an "identity crisis," in which I transitioned from teacher to mother to household manager to mother of two under two in a really, really lightening speed fast amount of time. Like, a "what is my new role?" and "where do I belong in society?" and "how does that merge with who I already am?" and "how do my dreams and wants fit in with this whole sleepless, selfless mother thing?" and "oh yeah aren't I suppsed to be a wife, too?" kind of identity crisis. {Mamas in the house, let me hear ya say yeah because I can't possibly be the only one? Or if I am just don't tell me.} 

So, I reacted. I reacted with my emotions. I  reacted with my time management. I reacted with my lack of planning. I reacted with my purchases. I reacted with my mothering. Most of the things I've done over the past two years have been done on impulse, as a response, and without thorough thought. The more I reacted, the more situations occured to cause me to react. And I'm sick of it. Therefore...


Here are a few ways I resolve to be actionary this year:

> Time- spend it intentionally // prioritize it successfully // organize routines
> Purchases- more thoughtful // less impulsive // abide by a list // no overspending
> Mothering- plan ahead // discipline plan // crisis management // relax and release anxieties
> Writing/Blogging- Do It // make time // photograph // document // nurture it
> Household management- meal plan // clean less // infuse my style in our home
> Emotional responses- calm // gentle // joyful // patient // confident // less guilt
> Spiritual well-being- journal prayers // daily Scripture // verse of the week

Part of being actionary is having a plan and sticking to it, thinking about what could happen and having a response for when it does, because it will. I want to know how I will handle situations before they happen, maybe not specifically, but with a general core of guidelines. I want to be prepared. I want to act, not react. 

So there it is. Resolution 2015.