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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

I've looking backwards today.

I'm looking backwards today, reflecting on what has transpired in my life in 2013.  It's easy to list what we've done in the last year.

Stephen and I spent a few days together in San Francisco.
Schroeder turned four.
Stephen turned thrity-one.
I turned thirty-two.
I stayed pregnant for 43 weeks and I was cared for so wonderfully by so many.
We celebrated our tenth anniversary on the same day we welcomed Etta Penelope May into the world.
We sold our house in Texas.
The company Stephen worked for, ExactTarget, was acquired by a company called Sales Force which we benefited financially from.
We took a trip to Destin, Florida.
Penelope and I travelled to Texas to photograph a friend's wedding which allowed me to see old friends and even preach at my old church.
We refinanced our Indiana house.
We re-DID our kitchen.
We bought my parent's van and sold our old one.
D'arcy turned nine.
Maggie Lu turned three.
D'arcy started 4th grade.  Julian started 1st grade.  Schroeder started pre-school.
Julian turned seven.
We travelled to Florida with my family to visit Disney World.
I had thirty-two photo sessions.
I photographed four weddings.
Stephen left ExactTarget and started working for Sendgine.
We purchased a 1972 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia to help Stephen get back and forth to work.

It's harder to take stock of what we've learned, how we've grown, what has hurt or scarred, and how this list of events has molded and shaped us.  Our faith asks us to praise God in the midst of this big stuff and invite him to guide us, shape us, and protect us through it.  That requires us to give time to praise and think and pray and read and reflect and listen, a Christian discipline.

Maybe, 2013 should be remembered by what we did in between these big events.

We went to church which was just hard this year.  It wasn't the getting there that was hard but the being there.  Just because it was hard doesn't mean it wasn't important.
I spent so much time this year snuggling and nursing a baby.  For the most part (definitely for the first five months of the year), where I was, she was.  If I wanted to hold her or she wanted to be held, I didn't talk myself into being productive.
I tried to find joy and fulfillment in rhythm.  Life is not a task to complete.  No matter who you are, life has it's daily tasks.  For me that looks like housework, figuring out what's for dinner, a lot hugging and disciplining and cleaning and playing with children,  occasional errands, spending time with Stephen, and a little photography.  I did a lot of laundry this year folks, but I haven't been able to check that one off my list.  I have to figure out a way to take joy in the process of life and not the projects.
I spent time with friends,  lots of coffee dates and MOPS meetings, games with my siblings.  I realized at the beginning of the year that a couple of desires I had for friendship had sort of surprisingly and unexpectedly been met.
I read books, Colossians and the AutoBiography of Malcolm X, books by Shauna Niequist.  I'm finishing the year by reading The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  Oh, and I've watched a lot of episodes of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.  He makes me laugh.

We didn't send out very many Christmas Cards this year.  I've been working on a project for First Friday in February that I felt needed my time.  We hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, though.  Looking forward will commence in twenty-four hours.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Let earth receive her King.

During November, I eagerly began buying my children's Christmas gifts.  Like previous years, I'm purchasing the majority of my gifts online.  I'm using Etsy, Amazon, and, this year, one gift for each of my children from Worship Woodworks.  I'm experiencing a little guilt thinking of all those Amazon workers who can't bring their cell phones into work, don't get appropriate breaks, and will get the boot come January 5th. 

I'm following my pattern of three wrapped gifts per kid and a stocking with three smaller items.  I really love planning and buying Christmas presents for my kids.  I look forward to seeing their excitement.  Then around Thanksgiving, I started seeing blog posts like these that sort of killed my buzz; "Why I Took My Kids' Toys Away"  and "The Gift of Not Giving a Thing".

A lot of people are thinking again about what it means to live more simply.  This has extended to mothers in my community and seems to be a theme of many conversations I have had this year.

I desire simplicity.  These ideas resound in my heart and head.  I want my kids to value relationships and experiences over stuff.  I want them to be free to think, explore, and create.

Goodness, their rooms would stay cleaner if they didn't have anything!  Our house can look more like a pottery barn catalogue with less effort on my part.

Whenever I go down this road, I start to look at every item I encounter with suspicion.  I find an innocent toy on the floor.
Grrrr...All I do is pick up after little people.
How often do they really play with you, anyway?
Less than five times a month?
We would all be better off without you considering you are plastic, made in China, and are sucking the creativity out of my kids and killing their attention spans.
I potentially place the toy in our seemingly never ending pile of stuff to take to Goodwill.
How much did I spend on you?
What could that money have gone to?
I could have put this money into our kids' college fund.
Or I could have bought it and given it to a child in need of more plastic toys from China that can suck out their creativity and kill their attention spans.
One way or another, I'm not being a very good steward of our money.

At the end of each suspicious encounter with the toy or piece of clothing or whatever item it is, I find myself discontent.  Discontent in our abundance.  How ridiculous.

Not many weeks after reading those blog posts on simplicity, I see another blog (which is to say I don't tend to read more than the first paragraph of these things) (so if you get to this point in this blog post you've exceeded my expectations) has countered their point with a post entitled "Why I'm Buying A Lot of Presents for My Kids".

So, now, whichever way I decide to go, I have other mothers on my side.  Win-win.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kids say the darndest things...

My sweet friend Melissa Rhoads who worked with me at American Funds in San Antonio sends each of my kids a letter from Santa every year.  They enjoy receiving them even if we don't officially "DO" Santa Clause.  Julian says, "Mom, I know this letter is definitely not for real.  You know how I know?  It says that I have been really good this year."  Chuckle.  "I've been pretty bad this year.  I would totally be on the naughty list."
I found myself getting a little defensive.  He's talking about my son!  Are you attacking my parenting skills?  "Well, Julian, I think you have been pretty good."
"Not really.  Didn't you just see me throw my backpack at D'arcy's head?"

Julian made a face at me and I said, "Oh, you look just like your Dad."
Julian says, "No, I don't look anything like Dad.  I look like Penelope."
"Well, then who does Penelope look like?"
Julian looks at me like I'm crazy ridiculous, "Me."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's going to be COLD this week.

So we moved this session up a few days.  This couple has four very sweet daughters.  The youngest two are pretty much the exact ages of Maggie Lu and Penelope.  Little Abigail was born in the same hospital P was just ten days earlier.  I love their dark curly hair.  One of the things that I'm inspired to do more of is have multiple people in 90% of my photos.  Even if other people are just blurred in the background, in my opinion, it adds to the richness of the photograph.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween was saved.

D'arcy came home on Wednesday saying, "Mom, Halloween has been postponed until Friday because of bad weather."
I then made them do their usual 20 minutes of chores.  She picked up her room and then came downstairs to work on our bookshelf.  I told her she needed to organize the books by color instead of just shoving them in there.  We always do this so most of them were already done, but she immediately started crying, REAL overwhelmed tears.
I say, "D'arcy breath out and calm down.  This really won't take you that long."
She says, "I'm just STRESSED.  First, they move Halloween, and now I have to do all this work."
I still made her do the work, but I was reminded that growing up is hard.  You learn that life includes a lot of work and that plans we are excited about can get messed up.

We ended up Trick or Treated on Halloween anyway because we had a funeral to attend on Friday.  For all the hubbalu of the night before, you would think D'arcy would have been happy.  It was raining, though, and the only place we really went was the Fountain Square Theatre.  In my opinion, they got plenty of candy.  D'arcy wasn't impressed.

On Friday afternoon, just as D'arcy is descending from the school bus, I get a call from D'arcy's very sweet teacher.  He said that when he asked the kids in his class what their plans for Halloween were D'arcy shared that she would not get to go trick or treating because Stephen and I had to go to this viewing.  He said she was holding back tears and it broke his heart.  He and his wife were having friends over to trick or treat and would D'arcy like to go trick or treating with his daughter (who goes to school with D'arcy)?

I asked him if D'arcy had mentioned that we had, in fact, gone trick or treating the night before.  Yes, she had, but she had mentioned that we weren't able to get very much in the way of candy.

Life is tragic, or in D'arcy's case ALMOST tragic.  We dressed her up and dropped her off at the party.

Did I mention she wanted to be a zombie princess?  Julian was a Ninja and told us he would protect us from the zombie apocalypse.

Sadly, there are no close ups of Schroeder. We sort of hand made his costume. He helped me pick out just the right purple pants and the children's second hand store. We sprayed his hair black. He was so happy, but not happy enough to sit still for a close up.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

P is five months old!

At the beginning of the year, I committed myself to taking more self portraits.  I hope that doesn't make me a complete narcissist.  It's an interesting, fun challenge for me.  I took the photo to the right in March when I was 34 weeks pregnant.  I took the second photo on the left yesterday with the help of my handy ring sling.  P is almost five months old.  
At 5 months, she is rolling over both ways and getting her chubby knees up under her bottom in crawling position.  She is eager to grab toys, and is starting to work to move herself towards a toy out of reach.  She coos and smiles at me all day.  On very special occasions she gives us a giggle.  She's stingy with those, though.  She is sleeping from 12-6 at night without interruption.  Upon returning from Florida last week, I started putting her in her crib at night (which is in our room).  The co-sleeper went up in the attic.  I'm hoping a niece or nephew will get to use it, but it will likely never be beside my bed again.  
She's eating rice cereal once a day, and is nursing is going well.  She dropped from 50% to 25% in weight at her last appointment.  I'm not worried, though.  My milk supply seems good and she always seems satisfied.  
I wanted to document what it is to nurse a baby at this age.  She uses her free little hand to grab my necklace, hair, and lip.  If I try to keep her hand at her side, she gets frustrated.  It's sweet and maddening all at the same time.  Sometimes (99.9% of the time) I just want my face to be left alone.  But, usually, she gets her way and puts her little fingers in my mouth so I can nibble on them.  It's weird but not unusual.  Her siblings did the same thing, and I'm guessing most babies do.
Stephen is looking into getting a vasectomy.  One hot August evening when I was nine months pregnant with Maggie, I rolled over and sighed.  I must have sounded miserable because Stephen said, "Melissa, I'll get a vasectomy."  That made me laugh.  I've told him it's his choice.  If I happen to die and he marries another lady, would he want to have kids with her?  I guess his answer is no because he is proceeding towards surgery. 
 A long time ago, we decided on five kids.  It breaks my heart just a bit to never use the name Ulysses.  If I was guaranteed a boy next time, I might be tempted to have another one.  But nothing is guaranteed and so we are content to stop at five.  
Maggie wanted her picture taken, too.  It was bunny's birthday.   

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Julian is 7!

So this kid turned seven.

He and his cousin Gabe are still best buds. They keep saying they plan to live together when they get older. He has a best bud at school now, too, named Leo. He also seems to really like his siblings, or maybe he just relies on them for entertainment. The other day we went to the YMCA. While D'arcy was in her tumbling class, Julian played on the indoor playground. The younger kids weren't around because they had fevers. Julian just sat there saying, "It's no fun without Schroeder."

He's a pretty reluctant kid. He knows how to swim, but refuses to without floaties. He knows how to ride his bike, but prefers to ride the one with training wheels which I've been trying to give to Schroeder. I finally put him in swim lessons so he can gain confidence. I'm trying to strike a balance between letting him do things at his own pace and demanding that he try it AND like it. Remember, I've never parented a reluctant kid. D'arcy is the opposite. I was proud of myself. We went to Disney World last week. I encouraged him to ride Splash Mountain. He doesn't like roller coasters or anything with too big of a drop. I'd never been on Splash Mountain, but for gosh sake, it's just a log flume! How bad could it be? He trusted me, went, and liked it! Two years ago, I probably would have tricked him into going on Space Mountain because, really, how bad could it be? I'm glad I've earned and deserve his trust.

I got an email from his teacher today saying he is a smart kid but a lazy learner. He told her he likes video games more than reading. We are working on creating a better reading routine. Two years ago, he wouldn't even pick up a crayon. He hated drawing, but we overcame that. I'm hopeful.

He played football last spring. He ended up playing center most often. After he hiked the ball, he would stay in a the same triangular position (head on the ground, feet on the ground, butt in the air) until the play was complete. I never want to forget that.

I've tried to start singing to him to help wake him up in the morning. Well, only if my first, "JULIAN GET UP!!!" doesn't work. Neither of us are morning people. I sing things like Zippidy Do Da! It usually makes him laugh. Our mornings have greatly improved.

It's getting cold outside. He was getting dressed yesterday and said, "All my pants are short sleeved!" Do you mean that you can only find shorts in your closet. Yes. This made me laugh.

When we were on the way to Disney World, he rode with my parents. At each stop, he would run up and say hi and give me a hug. He does the same thing if I come to school. He's a pretty cuddly, affectionate kid which I like.

He really loves his baby sister. He always has a kiss for her. It's fun to see him take joy in watching her grow.

Julian has such big eyes. The get bigger when he's excited and smaller when he's angry. When I think of him, I think of those eyes. He has the tiniest bit of brown in his blue eyes really close to the pupil. I thought brown eyes were dominant, but that's the only brown I was able to pass down. That brown makes me happy.