Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Morning

This may have been my favorite Christmas. My favorite one where I was on the other end, getting to see the magic on the child's face. We were able to have Andrew's parents (also known as Showpa and Gigi) over this year for Christmas. Andrew said this made him feel old compared to the young singles at work, all heading home for the holidays. He told them that his parents were coming to his house this year. Because we have all the magic at our house. Well, maybe that's not entirely true, but children bring innocence and life and on Christmas morning it can feel a bit like magic.

Andrew and I wrapped the last of the gifts on Christmas Eve. Andrew decided to open the little train set he had wrapped for Blanche and put it around the tree. Blanche woke up early that morning. I sat on the bed whispering to Andrew who was still sleeping next to Rosemary, "Do you want to get up? I am not opening the door yet because of what you set up under the tree. But it was your idea so you should get up to see her face."

We both let Blanche open the door to the living from our family bedroom, we followed close behind and someone turned on the tree lights. She looked at her little train set with happiness. She said, "Oh a new train and my old train!" Andrew had put them all together. She played for a couple of minutes and then said, "I am so excited!"

Rosemary was quick to wake up and walk out to inspect Blanche's gift. The girls then literally seemed to dance around the tree and kept looking out the window for Showpa and Gigi. Once they finally saw them, Blanche ran to the front door. Rosemary raised her little hand and waved out the window. Showpa said that was probably the cutest moment of the day.

Andrew said that during Christmas shopping and deciding what to give the girls I had an identity crisis. I bought a bunch of dollar items at Target and then returned almost all of them. I probably kept talking about it to Andrew for five days. It isn't that buying dollar items from Target is really wrong, it is just that I could tell I was buying stuff. Just buying stuff to have stuff and to try and get a huge reaction from Blanche. And as I caught myself doing that I realized that wasn't what I really wanted. I wanted a few simple and natural toys. I wanted open ended toys that allowed Blanche to use her imagination and that did not require batteries. I also did not want to spend money we really did not have. I think overall I worried way too much about the entire thing. But I think I was trying to process what I wanted Christmas to really be for our family.

When I look at these pictures I can see that this Christmas was what I wanted for our family. We were together. We had sparkly lights and a few nice gifts. We had a homemade breakfast and lunch made by Andrew. There were fun times playing with Showpa and Gigi. It also means so much to me when they not only come over or have us over, but that they truly play with Blanche and Rosemary. Most people like babies and toddlers, but not a lot of people really know how to play. Gigi and Showpa do. Showpa played all sort of games with Blanche that day under the Christmas tree beside her train track. And to finish a beautiful day we took a walk in the woods behind our apartment. By that afternoon we were all full and warm and happy. I hope that each year some of these things can become traditions. I also pray my girls will see that family, togetherness, and the celebration of the birth of Christ is what matters the most.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Overcoming Perfectionism

A few days ago I woke up in the middle of a rainstorm after a nap. The room was dark and my babies were beside me snuggled under our quilts. I laid there, I had woke before the two of them. I had probably just had a cat nap since I am not use to naps anymore. I breathed the room in slowly. We had the diffuser misting with essential oil and the sound of that mixed with the drizzling rain made me want to snuggle into the bed even more. I thought to myself, "you know, life isn't perfect but it can get pretty close in some moments."

I taste the moments that feel like perfection and I often strive to make that a constant reality. Which it can never be. I am a dreamer and planner and visionary. This can result in a lot of expectations which I don't even realize I have had until my world crumbles when things are not going like I had hoped. I think my need for perfection is rooted in my artist mind. I see beautiful pictures, not even my own but others that capture the beauty of their days and I know that life often can overtake a person with it's beauty. But it is also so hard at times.

Recently I have been posting pictures on my instagram of the bulldozing going on next to our apartment complex. I have been so sad about it. I told Andrew today that I know that in a big city expansion is going to happen. It is just sad to see it happen right next to us, when it was so wild and lovely and filled with life. Even more so they are building a preschool and after school program there, and they didn't leave a tree. After reading more of The Last Child in the Woods, and being outside with my girls, it often makes me sad that so many children have such little access to the wild and nature. And then here is a beautiful plot of land and instead of building creatively to give the children a nice play area, it is flattened to the ground, paved, and plastic slides are put in. Once again I am dreaming of a world that stays forever but also moves forward.

After thinking some about the field and the construction, I have decided to not focus on the negativity beside me and look to the back of our complex, which still has woods and a creek. Perfectionism often results in disappointment, but thankfulness results in not only a happy heart but it helps me to see where the value of my life lies. By seeing the woods completely flattened, I have come to value the creek and woods behind us even more. One day we may have our own land, but for now we live in the suburbs in an apartment complex and we are lucky enough to have this behind us.

Tonight as Andrew was working the girls and I decided to go on a little walk. Rosemary had skipped her morning nap and then took a nice and long afternoon nap. By the time she woke up I wasn't feeling ambitious enough to take the girls out in traffic to a park and hope Blanche didn't fall asleep in the car. Today I knew we should go to the creek in thankfulness. I asked Blanche if she wanted to bring a basket and collect interesting things. Along our way we picked up sticks and acorns and leaves. Blanche road her bike down through our complex until we got to the back part with the woods and creek. I wore Rosemary on my back and we all tried crossing the creek on the tops of the three large rocks that cross it. I was so focused on keeping my own balance and making sure to still have Blanche's hand, that when I looked back at Blanche following me, her first little foot was just standing in the water. We got through to the other side, and Blanche began to cry. I asked her to use her words. I asked her if she was frusterated that her shoes and socks were wet. I told her thats why we have to stay on the rocks and that I would wash them once we were home. She stopped crying and began throwing rocks in and crossing the creek back and forth. I didn't mind that her shoes and socks were getting wet. I figured even though it was cold, it was still about 50 degrees and ten minutes of getting her feet wet might do her more good than harm.

We hurried back to the house, and I made plans in my mind that we would all hop in a warm bath before dinner. With this apartment one of my favorite things has been taking short walks in the woods on cloudy and cold days and coming into a warm home. Actually we took a really dusty and hot walk one summer day as well, and it was equally as refreshing coming back into the house with both girls passed out on us, laying them on the bed, and then Andrew and I guzzling water. I guess my favorite thing about this house is our short little walks that we can take in the woods. I have found that to be one refreshing thing about apartment living, each place has something special. At our old place I came to love and really miss watching the rain storms roll in and pour down from our second floor patio. We had big glass doors that you could see out from the entire kitchen and living room because our place was just that small.

After the girls and I were back inside and had taken our warm bath, I made them dinner while they were in their pjs. I was rushing around, making lots of little and unimportant things. I had chicken nuggets going in the oven for the girls, broccoli on the stove, my leftover stir fry in the microwave. Blanche had pulled out applesauce and wanted juice too. We settled on just the applesauce and a few pieces of cheese with crackers as an appetizer. All this was happening as I tried to keep Rosemary out of the way while flipping their chicken nuggets. Rosemary was doing her usual balancing act of standing upright on two feet and hanging desperately to my legs as if I was the only thing that could bring her balance and life. She cried out, I sighed. Blanche asked what I was doing. I told her I was doing 12,000 things with both of them at my feet. She answered, "Yes but you are doing a very important job." She is becoming the age where she is always talking, and at one point in the day, she hits the nail directly on the head.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Tree Decorating and Early Resolutions

Motherhood is a juggling act, and I don't actually know how to juggle. I tend to throw everything up in the air at once and dive straight out into the air to try and catch everything. This results in me catching about 75% of what I am juggling. The rest of it falls to the ground, sometimes breaking and other times just rolling away.

Andrew knows how to juggle. Actually he really does know how. He can hacky sack and do other sorts of funny things like tap dance. Along with working he cooks for us. And when he is exhausted at the end of the day he doesn't overthink or get emotional he just goes to bed. Is there actually a correct method to juggle? I always thought it was throwing things up and being fast enough to catch them all.

I want to have a clean house that feels welcoming. I want to be the type of mother that really sits down with her children and plays with and teaches them. But I also want to work on my writing and photography. I am frustrated when I look at the pictures I took of the girls decorating the tree. Of course once again the best photos were taken with my phone. When I think back to that day I remember how I was trying to balance the chaos with trying to enjoy the moment. I was making coffee, putting on Christmas music, getting the step ladder for Andrew, removing Rosemary from the top of the step ladder, removing broken ornaments, helping Blanche and telling her to wait for Andrew to finish putting on the lights, oh and trying to take pictures. No wonder when I loaded them onto the computer I was disappointed with their blurry and rushed fashion. Even if I was being still, Rosemary was yanking on the camera strap. 

The actual moments of decorating the tree were fun. I was glad we had the music and the coffee. One year the chaos will be less instead of more. I just don't know what year that will be. I am okay with the chaos most of the time. Chaos is my life. Its not bad chaos. Its just a lot of little things all going on at once. I told my mother in law this week that it is almost as if I can do about three things at once, but usually there are four happening. And that's why I often loose my phone or leave my keys in the front door for a few hours, or forget to sign for my card at the store, or Rosemary literally almost jumps out of the cart. There is a lot going on. And I only have two children. I think they are both at very active stages. Rosemary is at a point where she is very mobile but cannot be trusted at any height other than her own stance. Blanche is getting better, but is still only three. They both need me a lot. 

I write all this because today was a day when I felt like I needed to sit down and type. I read two different blog posts by mothers yesterday, and I was captivated by and jealous of their writing. I know deep down that I can write like them, with time and practice. But I really have very little time. Maybe there is laziness or tiredness mixed in. I can never tell if I am lazy or tired. 

I am excited for Christmas. Even just taking a small drive to Houston to see all of Andrew's family for a couple of days will feel like a get away. I am always so eager to go. I want to travel more. I think with small children traveling just results in moving. We are not settled yet. Our family doesn't know what the next five years will look like. We have goals, and no one really knows what the future holds, but by simply signing eleven or twelve months leases we are saying that we don't really know. I like the unknown in a lot of ways. 

One of the blogs I was reading last night, which I have written about long ago is The Road is Home.
I often envy her free spirited life and many travels. I know that my life and her life are very different though. But one thing she wrote really hit me. And I think she explained to me why I love traveling and moving around so much. She wrote: 

"That’s the beautiful thing about connecting with other people, you’re opening doors that will likely stay open no matter how much time has passed. In this way I kind of see every stranger as a door waiting to be opened. Stories and perspectives just waiting to be unlocked, laughter and love waiting to be shared."

Meeting so many people and seeing not only new place but new perspectives on life is so refreshing and cultivating to me. When I see her posts and photography I just want to go. There are days when I want to walk around the house and get rid of half or more of my possessions. I want to go. But I know deep down that going will not change my life. It will not change the need for me. That is the  heaviest thing to carry in motherhood. It is the need. I often sit to eat a meal and both girls are at my feet. Someone is maybe crying. I can rarely escape the need. And it is not that I do not like or even love being a mother. I do. Motherhood does not have to be something I either love or hate. I feel like this is where I am called to be. But the constant need and lack of personal time is what drains me the most. I use to think I was an extravert and that I got my energy from people. I still want to connect, but mostly with just one person at a time. And I want and need this time to just sit and write.

Blanche just came to me as I was finishing the last paragraph. She asked to sit on my lap so I could help her with her gold shoes. She is playing dress up and needed help. I could feel myself being even more relaxed than just a couple of moments ago. Sometimes just writing that I am tired of being needed is enough. I can then put it out there and remember there will be days when I wish I was more needed. And then Blanche told me she loved me, I kissed her and then she tooted on my lap. She has watched the same signing time dvd now going on the third time as I sit here writing this. I tried to get her to nap with Rosemary but Blanche seemed pretty awake. I also did not want to waste all my free time while Rosemary slept trying to get Blanche down. So I keep telling her to go play. I hear the clink of markers coming out of her glass jar on the wooden desk where she sits and colors. She has stollen most of my granola bar and bartered time alone with me simply just giving her a candy cane. Okay Blanche, here is your candy. Now go away. I will be a better mother once you go away for thirty minutes.

Well, once again I am back to rambles and forgetting what I was going to say next. I will say that typing is so much easier than handwritten journal entries. All of my old journals have posts that say I am going to write more. And I write more for about a week and then stop. But maybe I can start better habits. Better habits of pushing through and instead of zoning to social media I could sit here and type a bit more. Because deep down I was an artist first. The artist in me makes me the good and bad mother that I am. 

Blanche just sang to me, "find a way to play together." I guess that's my cue. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

What Hiking Taught Me

In my last few posts I have talked about my "Project Get Outside" and "Hike it Baby 30." I haven't written as much lately, and I think the hiking challenge was the start of the writing decline. I think I go through seasons of not only needing to write, but even more so needing to be heard. I process by talking out loud and by writing through my feelings. I think often times this blog becomes a place where I can do both of those things. I know I can write through my feelings, and often times the next day I might have a couple of text messages about my posts. Just getting little messages is the support I need from those posts.

But once I started getting outside more, and then trying to hike more, there has been a little less time for writing. The Hike It Baby 30 was more of a challenge than I thought. Thirty miles is not that many miles. But when you are hiking there can be a lot of work put into a mile. Then add the baby, more work. Then add the toddler who wants to walk and also has to be carried at the end even though she still thinks she wants to walk. That's a lot of work. But we did it. I did flat dirt trails and brought my jogger when it was both girls and me alone. Andrew went with us for a few days and we did everything from a brand-new place with harder trails, to getting lost in a place we had been several times, to walking 6.5 miles along our greenbelt, and finishing off downtown along the river. It was a great month. I often felt tired and really did not want to get out on a few cold and rainy days. Andrew pushed us and so did the Facebook group full of other moms. There were many moms hiking miles in the snow. Which made me feel inspired to take my girls out in the beautiful Texas weather.

I think what I realized tonight though, half a month after this contest was over, was that hiking taught me something. It taught me that I can do more than I think I can. Even with stressful life circumstances (well stressful stages of childhood) like Blanche finally being ready to be potty trained (while we were trying to hike in the woods) and Rosemary getting four teeth all at once. We had a few bumps, but that is normal for any time with small children. There were days when I wanted to give up and not go anywhere because I had already dressed Blanche twice, she kept stripping down to use her potty, Rosemary would be crawling toward the potty with pee in it and then unrolling the toilet paper... all while I am trying to pack snacks... and we hadn't even hiked any miles yet.

But I think without knowing it, this contest pushed me into a new comfort level with the girls. I think I am braver at getting out, at meeting new people, at going to events and also have started making more goals for myself. During this hiking I stopped writing so much, but once the contest was over I didn't start back up with my blog. I moved on and started working on Rosemary's baby book that I had thought before that I just did not have enough time to work on. I started sorting and editing more photos, and even when I did feel like writing I have wrote more personally in my journal. One way is not any better than the other really, but I do find it interesting. I think I have less of a need to be heard. Less of a need to know the plan and a little bit more enjoyment with the everyday.

This last week we have had way more good days than bad. I would say even 6.5 out of 7. Which is really good. I'm not meaning bad as in horrible,  just exhausting. But this last week we have been doing so well! We have had a few really nice family days where it feels semi-relaxing and we are even home for most of the day! This is saying a lot with a very mobile baby and very active toddler. But they have played well and there have been almost "slow" mornings. That doesn't mean Andrew and I aren't still crawling out of bed each morning... because it will be awhile before we actually feel rested. But we are having fun. Andrew and I are play board games with my brother and card games alone sometimes. I am crafting and he is reading about wine. We have gotten our evenings back again. Oh the roller coaster life of parenthood.

Yesterday I had just been feeling off and a bit tired though. And Andrew took the girls to the park. Of course I was feeling a bit tired and grumpy and glad to see a few minutes alone. Then of course right as Blanche is leaving she shoots her soft and sweet little spirit right at my heart. She kept waving and waving goodbye to me through the glass door. When I finally cracked it open she said, "Okay, I have to leave now mommy okay?" After I told her bye one more time she asked, "Did you want to come mommy?" "Next time" I answered. She smiled and as she turned she whispered, "Yeah next time." I could have just fallen over right there. She had this little smile of assurance on her face. She happily ran to daddy. But that little whisper was like a thousand I love yous.

Once they were gone I started working on photos and listening to music. It just hit me that my entire world and life is my family. My job is motherhood. My job is wife and homemaker. There is nothing I would rather be doing. It can be a hard and trying job. Motherhood is difficult but it is worth it. I was reading a mom's instagram post just today and she was saying that in the end it really is no sacrifice at all. And I after reading some of her words and thinking through my own I know it is not. At least it is not me sacrificing things for my children that should not be giving up in the first place. All that my children are doing is making me a better person if I let them. They are making me stronger, one step at a time.