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.