Archive for the 'Grace in Small Things' Category

Taking Stock

I’ve been fighting the winter blues for weeks. January is notoriously hard but this year probably takes the cake. Lots of looming questions about the future, short days, cutting out sugar; it can make everything feel terrible so quickly. The fog and damp cold gray days feel like a wet blanket clinging to everything and my tendency to brood has obviously gone into overdrive. After yelling at EVERYONE this morning, even the poor dogs didn’t escape my fury, I realized I need a new perspective. As soon as possible.

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So I cleaned my carpet and washed my windows. Two things I really didn’t want to do, but when I finished it felt like I’d scrubbed away a little of my bad attitude.

I went to bible study. I didn’t really want to go. But I went and I was encouraged and listened to and I noticed I felt a little better.

We talked about being grateful. About saying thank you and making that the focus of life…not all the stuff that makes us feel bad or consumes us with worry or draws us away from the truth. And the truth is that God is love and He never changes that way.

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So I’m wrestling with that, wondering how to change the way I think and drinking a cup of tea and listening to Mumford and Sons. Little by little my life is coming back into perspective. Just a little.

Today I’m grateful for a clean slate to start over. For random phone calls from my husband and texts from friends. For the peace lily on my kitchen counter and the sweet toddlers sleeping cozy in their beds.

When I take stock in my life, I am overwhelmed by its goodness. And I feel sheepish for being so cranky. Here’s to holding onto a simple truth: gratitude beats out brooding every time.

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Kinder Transition

Well.

The day finally arrived.

Kindergarten.

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One of those cheesy lines about your heart walking around outside your body would be appropriate right here.

It was just so…hard. Good hard, a little yucky hard, but as the week goes on, a little better.

There were tears. A few from him, mostly from me (after I dropped him off…I at least made it to the parking lot). It breaks my heart into a million pieces when he curls up in a chair and begs to not have to go. But today he was ready, no tears, and he played on the playground before school like a boss, lining up for the teacher when the whistle blew.

Luke, Scarlet and I walk home a little forlorn, feeling tangibly that we are missing a crew member.

We watch the clock, Luke asking several times throughout the morning if it’s time to pick up Jack. Finally, the morning winds down and we head out again. This week we’ve had it easy, just half days. Next week the full days begin.

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We are greeted by a happy boy. He is thriving already.

And my grief over missing him and worrying about how he’ll spend his days loosens just a bit. So many tiny moments of tender grace already sprinkled throughout our week. Encouraging text messages and phone calls from friends. The discovery of a new friend just down the street. Warm afternoons to play and swim and just be. A kind teacher who is understanding of high-maintenance worried parents.

I saw a bumper sticker a week or so ago that said ‘Fear Not’ with a verse attached (I can’t remember the actual verse. whoops). And at first, I didn’t give it a second thought. People’s religious or political opinions displayed on their vehicles don’t usually get a rise out of me, but for some reason I found myself thinking about that bumper sticker all week.

And now I’m laughing, because I hope the lady that plastered it to the back of her SUV knows that somehow that sticker actually did some good. Because, for me, it’s been this wonderful freeing reminder that I don’t need to worry. I just don’t.

So I’m trying to pray when I start to worry. And then I laugh a little to myself because I think of the bumper sticker and then I pray a little more and all of a sudden I remember that everything is going to be ok.

Jack will be ok. Our family will be ok. Whatever comes: the good and the bad, because there’s no escaping any of it, we will just take one day at a time. And in the midst of the grind and the hard, whether its the good hard or the yucky hard, we’ll just do our best to ‘FEAR NOT.’

I figure I have 10 minutes max before my dilapidated laptop crashes on me, but one of my resolutions this year was to write again and four months into the year I haven’t done a thing.

I decided my desk in the kitchen is no longer good inspiration. The debris from daily life is too distracting. So I unplugged and went outside. I even took a picture for proof…or maybe as a reminder to try this again another day.

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A mom at preschool drop-off this morning asked the ever-loaded ‘what are you up to these days?’ question. Why does such a simple question feel like a punch to the gut some days?

‘Just momming,’ I answered casually.

But it stopped me in my tracks. What am I doing these days? Mothering. Cleaning. Pushing swings, wiping butts, countertops and toilet seats. Driving my car, reading stories, cooking food, saying no, saying maybe, doling out timeouts, jobs, discipline, hugs and kisses.

Also, I’m working out. And as I was running today, the thought occurred to me that for literally six years to the month my body has been working hard at sustaining other people’s lives. I have literally been pregnant or nursing with only a tiny 3 month window from January 2008 through January 2014.

And when my body was working so hard during that time I was proud of it. All those flaws that bothered me faded to the background just a little bit. That stuff that eats at me when I look in the mirror and echoes in my brain; it was just background noise. I had this intuitive respect and kindness for my body. It gave me three precious babies and I fed them with my own body, watching them grow and thrive. You can’t hate yourself when you have such tangible proof of its usefulness.

And then that season came to an end. As it was supposed to. My baby and nursing years are over. And I’m all wrapped up in relief and grief. What is my purpose now? Of course it’s to continue mothering…

But I am connecting how much I appreciate the feeling of my body at work. And so instead of growing babies, I’m hitting the pavement. Slogging along, huffing and puffing, feeling equal parts deflated and elated as I compel my body towards strength, resilience. The soreness in my legs and the burning in my lungs, pushes all those thoughts into the background. Those flaws melt away just a little and I’m simply me. Breath in. Breath out.

All to say, I’m not really sure what I’m up to these days. It’s a loaded question. Surely the sweet spot of balance is out there somewhere, maybe I’ll find it this year?

A New Day Rises

A post sitting in my drafts for two weeks and finally the words came. Little glimpses of the kids, what they are doing, talking about, the things I want to remember.

And when I go to grab a few photos to add to the post, the computer shakes and smokes, freezing up and forgetting those precious words.

Grrr.

Stupid technology. Stupid me for taking two weeks to write a dang post.

And now the baby cries from her crib, because that’s how it works. So much has happened this winter, packaged up in the regular everyday. The kids growing and changing and I want to remember. So for today, just pictures, and hopefully hopefully when I look back a few years now they will remind me and I will laugh. Luke’s first trip to the doctor for glue on his forehead three days before Christmas, Jack’s never ending love for all things Cabelas, an unbelievable family vacation, Scarlet’s infatuation with shoes and jewelry and babies. The sweetness and the chaos.

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Instagram is My New Blog

Instagram kind of took over my blog this year. I love sharing little snapshots of our days. I love seeing friends and family and all the little mini stories and photos they post.

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But Instagram is just a tiny piece. A singular moment. And blogging is a fraction more than that, but still,  it’s a little bigger. It forces words and thoughts. It’s storytelling. And I want more of that.

***

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I’m fully embracing my love of indie pop. Regina Spektor, Mumford and Sons and Of Monsters and Men are my Pandora stations of choice. I’ve been making a concentrated effort to eat less carbs and more vegetables the last couple weeks but then I make a batch of cookies ‘for the kids’ and eat the dough straight from the freezer when no one is looking. Ridiculous. In trying to fight the winter blues that chase me all through January and February, I cashed in a gift certificate a dear friend so generously gifted me for some hot yoga. The stretching and warm room are divine. I wish I could do it every day.

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***

The holidays feel like months ago when in reality they were just a few weeks ago. I took down all our Christmas decorations including the tree the day after Christmas in anticipation of our trip to Hawaii. It was so NICE to come home to a clean fresh house, but all the hustle and bustle this year combined with our travel really changed the feeling of the season. Maybe I’ll get around to posting some pictures one of these days. My computer just told me I uploaded 227 pictures from my phone, so I’m sure there’s something worth posting eventually.

 

 

Homemade Mac and Cheese

This dish is some wicked good comfort food and the perfect antidote to the dark cold fall nights upon us. While this dish certainly falls under the umbrella of ‘every once in a while,’ when it’s served alongside a spinach salad with pears and feta and a big glass of red, you just can’t go wrong.

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Over the summer while vacationing in Ketchum, Idaho, I stumbled into the cutest little shop. I immediately honed in on the cookbook, Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes by Jeanne Kelly. I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, so the cookbook came home with me. It’s the first cookbook I’ve literally read cover to cover.

Kelly’s recipe for baked ziti with cauliflower and cheese caught my eye the very first time I opened the book, but it wasn’t until just this week that I finally made the dish. I altered a few things based on what was in my kitchen, but seriously, make this dish. It is the perfect fall comfort dinner.

Baked Pasta and Cauliflower with Cheese

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups cold milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 ounces shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for sprinkling at the end)
  • 8 ounces Dubliner extra sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • 1 pound pasta (ziti/rigatoni/shells…whatever you like or have on hand)
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets, florets sliced into bite size pieces
  • 4 slices center cut bacon, cooked, cooled and crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Stir in garlic. Add the flour and continue stirring for one minute. Add the milk all at once along with the bay leaf. Cook, whisking the mixture until it comes to a boil and thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Add the cheeses, turn the heat to low and simmer until melted. Stir in salt, cayenne, pepper and nutmeg. Remove the bay leaf and season with pepper to taste.

Boil pasta in a heavily salted pot of rapidly boiling water until almost tender. Add the cauliflower to the pasta and cook until cauliflower is barely tender, about 4 minutes. Drain very well and stir drained pasta and cauliflower into the cheese sauce.

Transfer the pasta mixture to the baking dish. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon, fresh parsley and a handful of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with salt. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover the last five minutes to let the edges brown slightly and make sure the cheese is boiling.

 

Scarlet gave this meal a hearty two thumbs up. She has subsequently been eating it now for three days straight. Aaron and I both stood at the stove and ate second helpings straight from the pan. The boys ate it but didn’t rave. I’m choosing to ignore their neutrality.

 

 

Hapy Birthday Little Sister

Well. She went and did it. Scarlet turned one.

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We had a sweet low-key (but very pink) family birthday party for her. It was perfect. Family we love, good food, a baby in a tutu and warm sunshine. I couldn’t have asked for a better day.

Birthdays are always a little bittersweet for me. I tend to feel a little sad on birthdays as I reflect on a year that has passed much too quickly. And this baby’s first year flew by in a blink of an eye.

But her birthday was joy-filled and full of little moments of sweetness that reminded me not to pine (too much) for the past.

A few captures from our little blue-eyed wonder’s special day:

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Happiest of birthdays Sweet Scarlet,

You are our sunshine.

You complete our family. You are sass and spunk but dainty, gentle, sweet and so full of life. We love watching you grow and change into the amazingness of you.

We thank God every single day for you and can’t wait to see what this second year holds.

Love you baby girl.


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