Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Children's Museum and Family

Yesterday our nephew Jonathan turned four years old. Andrew's sister and her husband and kids came up to Austin from Corpus for a quick weekend visit.  Andrew had yesterday morning off, and we all met at the Thinkery, which is the Austin Children's Museum. It is crazy to think that when we took Blanche to the old one downtown in this post, that it was a year and half ago. Blanche has grown so much since then.

We drove down to the museum Saturday morning and Andrew's mom and sister's family all met us there. The kids had so much fun. I guess on that day, since Jonathan was turning four, we had a four year, a three year old, a two year old and a one year old. There were things for all of them. I had to laugh because in certain moments I felt as though the adults might become more overstimulated than the children. Andrew's mom literally said at one point, "Want to go up and see the waterfall? Oh wait, look at that room! With all the lights!" Haha. There were all types of hands on learning areas. I know we could have spent all day there.

Jonathan really loved a control board that could control lights strung on the ceiling. He is opposite of Blanche is almost every way. A neat, orderly, mathematic type. See, exact opposite. Either way crazy Aunt Jeran suggested crossing the wires on the control board. Blanche thought this was a wonderful idea. Jonathan, not so much. So, in the black and white pictures above they are sharing the board by having it split down the middle. So we sort of had a left and right side of the brain thing going on. Except I think they were on the wrong side.

We had a very fun filled couple of hours, and then we all left to eat lunch and celebrate some more. The girls and I headed to Georgetown after lunch, and Andrew left to drive to work. The rest of the day was spent playing at Gigi's with their cousins, which is such a fond part of childhood. Blanche really took to her Aunt Becca this time. She wanted to hold her hand on the walk and even in the house. This made me even more excited that we have already made plans to drive down to Corpus and stay with them for Easter. We want to take the girls to the beach and spend time with family.

Days like yesterday are always refreshing to me. They are a bit of a mental break from the daily grind. It has been fun to see these little babies become toddlers and preschoolers and to start to really play with one another. I am also always thankful that I have such amazing in laws. Andrew's family has always been a calm and warm presence to me. I know my girls feel the same way, Rosemary wasn't holding Aunt Rebecca's hand yet...but I am sure she will be before too long.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Finding a Worm

Today through Blanche's eyes I was reminded of the beauty of life when it is seen so simply. I have written before about trying to simplify our days and schedule. Allowing us to just be. Sometimes though "just being" with two small children can be a bit mind numbing. There are lots of requests and demands and cries and needs. It can often feel like we aren't being anymore. We are all just in misery together. And for some reason isolating ourselves in the house. This of course is not all the time, but I think I know this feeling in the back of mind, so when Andrew is working I try and plan some small thing. Maybe we have a friend over a couple of times a week, or go to the library or meet outside with our neighbors to play. This afternoon as we were walking out the door to the library and target, I couldn't find my keys, and I remembered they were still in the van. Andrew was working until nine tonight, and he had the extra set. This made me feel a little trapped. Blanche was sad about not getting to go to the library. Thankfully, my brother was home and didn't mind a drive through the hill country to Whole Foods to pick up some groceries and get the extra set of keys. But by the time he had returned the girls and I had been playing outside for a couple of hours. We had been riding bikes and having wagon rides. Everyone was clearly burnt out and Rosemary was very ready for a nap. We simply had missed our getting out window. Because after nap it would be dinner and the evening routine.

Even though this is a very small thing, it left me feeling like our day was messed up somehow. And as I started thinking about this, I realized once again how heavily I rely on my own expectations. I am so thrown off when my expectations change drastically. This probably makes it pretty easy to have some bad days as a mom. Because a mother hardly ever knows what a day will look like.

After Rosemary went down for her nap, Blanche (who had been having a huge meltdown and was now in her underwear) wanted to go out to the patio to color. I told her I would bring my tea and cupcake outside to join her in just a few minutes. There are days when the afternoons can be really hard for Blanche. She is so similar to me in so many ways. She is not a huge napper, though she does really need one occasionally. But I do find she sleeps so much better at night without a long afternoon nap. She mostly just needs time to breathe, like me. But it is hard to teach her what that really looks like. Often it is me telling her to lay beside me while I nurse Rosemary. Blanche cries and screams saying she doesn't want to lay down (she only does this for naps). But eventually she wears herself out enough to crawl up next to me and tell me to hold her and tell her stories. I have been telling her stories about animals that talk to her and Rosemary or her good friend Sloane. One story she loved was where her and Sloane went outside while it was raining candy one day. And they turned their umbrella's upside down and caught as much as they could.

After stories today, while she was being sweet on the patio, she asked if she could put some of the dirt from our extra dirt pile by our patio onto her play table. I said yes. But to try and keep it on her table so we could clean it up easily if Rosemary woke up. As Blanche was playing she pulled up a dead plant. And inside the roots of the dead flowers she found one little worm. I was amazed at the love and care she had for that little worm. Almost all of the pictures above are her honest reaction to the worm. She hardly noticed that I was there snapping away. She moved that little worm to the lavender pot. She played and was in awe for probably twenty minutes with just this one little worm. It was a beautiful thing to me. The first reason was because for every terrible three year old moment, there seems to be a redeeming one. She is growing into a little girl with opinions and passion. She is no longer a baby playing games, she is a child learning and soaking in so much of the world around her. It also reminded me that we don't have to live on a farm for Blanche to experience nature. Nature is all around us if we stop long enough to look. I never would have seen that dirty and hidden little worm.

After thinking about how much life and happiness we have experienced on our small little apartment patio, I started thinking about life in general. As a parent I want the best for my children. And sometimes that means I try and give them everything. And tonight I was reminded that my children don't need everything. They need very little. My dreams as a young adult were to live on little and to live a simple life. Sometimes in the passion of providing for our family, I know it is easy for Andrew and I to wish and think we need a nice big plot of land. One day we will have a back yard and it will be beautiful. But I think it's okay that it won't be this year. And probably not next year either.

My mind kept racing as I was alone with girls tonight. Preparing a simple dinner but in my mind dreaming of getting rid of everything and living in an RV until we one day parked it on a plot of land. My mind and heart racing to the extremes. If Blanche and I had a meaningful experience with a worm than that must mean we should get rid of everything and just go live on the road, one experience at a time. Actually, I would love to do that... but this is probably not the season. All these thoughts did make me think more about some of the things Andrew and I have been wanting to do for a long time, and have started talking about again.

We talk about camping and being out in the state parks and living outside... but so often our life just takes control and we are just hanging on. But as I woke and walked over to the kitchen table this morning, I saw Andrew with a booklet we had just picked up a couple of days ago about Texas state parks. He was drinking coffee and excited and making plans to start seeing these state parks. So much of the time life can seem too tiring in this stage to go do those things. Really to even travel to see family as well. But I think we are both realizing that we are just going to have to do it. Because if we don't maybe it will never happen. Life is tiring and crazy even when we don't leave the house... why not just take this crazy show on the road more. At least at the end of the day or the trip we will have memories or sunburns and be filled with the happiness of the wild or family or whatever it is we are driving towards. Sure we have to make money and be parents... but we can make what we want to of these years.

Maybe this post is weird because I am rambling about a worm and simplicity and then driving all over Texas. But I think what I am really trying to process is that a lot of lessons need to be learned, and then there are a handful of lessons I need to unlearn. I need to let go of so much of the extra... and let myself be free to enjoy the simplicity of having my beautiful small children... that really need so little. A worm can be a great companion. Once again I don't have to put on an extraordinary show of excitement for each day. And maybe if I do let go of those extra parenting worries... I can save my energy for bigger things like camping and seeing family that live far away.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Walnut Creek

Today was a good day. I woke up feeling a little awful, maybe with a cold or allergies. I asked Andrew at about 7:30 if he would mind taking Rosemary. Then Blanche was up. Then I heard all the normal hustle of the morning routine. Blanche needed to go potty, Rosemary needed her diaper changed, they were hungry... Oh I should get up... but sometimes getting to ignore all those needs even if its just once a week is really nice. I woke up about an hour later to Andrew making strawberry pancakes like he had promised the night before. Well, what actually woke me was both girls yelling about something... probably the pancakes. We tried to eat breakfast as both girls played and fought in small ways. Rosemary kept knocking Blanche's blocks down.

After breakfast Andrew suggested we go to Walnut Creek to hike, and then go to eat Indian food. I really didn't feel like moving, but I knew the girls would drive me nuts inside all day. I knew we needed to get out and have some wild and fresh air. I also knew my dryer was broke and the washer was about to break... and someone was coming today to fix it. I kind of wanted to be out of the way and not have to hear about all the details. So, off we went.

I love Walnut Creek. It's rustic and beautiful. It's the type of place where there's occasional graffiti and there's no real bathroom. But then you get onto the dirt trails and there are mountain bikers everywhere and people walking and letting their dogs run wild and splash in the creek. That's what is kind of fun about this park, bikes flying down the hill into the creek and dogs splashing.

It was fun to let Rosemary walk for a lot of the trail, and to see Blanche confidently run ahead. We went down muddy slopes and let Blanche get her feet wet. Well, her whole bottom half wet really. I kept begging her not to become fully soaked because I didn't pack an extra shirt.

Andrew is always amazing at carrying everybody to the car at the end. Well, I walk but he does carry both girls in carriers at the same time. After that we went to our favorite Indian restaurant and then to REI to buy Andrew his birthday gift of new Tevas after his had broke. We also got Blanche her first pair of Tevas, because I literally spent ten minutes wiping all the sand and dirt off in between her toes. I had to clean and dry each foot to perfection to put her socks and shoes back on after she had played the in the creek. I finally knew it was time she learned about what a water shoe can do to change your life. Or my life really.

Today was a good reminder to just enjoy the simple and beautiful moments. A lot is happening in our life, but it can often feel that way. There is a lot of unknown in my world, but on days like today, even though we still had our fair share of meltdowns, I am reminded that knowing everything and having a great master plan is not the key to happiness. I was just thinking tonight about when our family first moved to Austin. Andrew didn't work for the first two weeks. It was a new and semi stressful time. Andrew was trying to find more work, I was pregnant and trying to get insurance and find a doctor. But every afternoon Andrew and I would put Blanche down for a nap, make coffee, and sit on the couch eating cookies and watching through all the seasons of The Office. It was a simple time where we just got to hang out and relax a little. I know at the time I enjoyed it, but I love the memories of it now even more. We would take our mornings to explore Austin and come home to relax in the afternoons. Sure there were stressful factors, but everything worked out in the end. And the memories I hold now are the happy times we had together. Today was one of those happy times together.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Gardening and God

A little over a month ago, we had a couple of weeks in late January and early February that were a bit of a tease. The weather was beautiful. It was in the 60's and 70's, and the girls and I were meeting friends at the park and having picnic lunches. I started to wonder if I would even need to wear maternity jeans this time around, with a baby coming in September. Maybe it would just stay perfect forever. I started asking Andrew about our herb garden. He said late February or early March. But then again, it really may only freeze another time or two. Maybe we would be okay planting the garden in early February.

The day we went to pick our herbs was fun. We searched through the beautiful green house and huge nursery that wasn't far from our house. Once our searching was done we stopped to feed the hungry toddler and pregnant woman. We had breakfast tacos at an authentic Mexican restaurant. We then ran a couple more places but were still home by lunch time. I think Andrew and I both felt like we were taking charge of the day. As always, it was a bit of work trying to keep the girls occupied while Andrew tried thinking through what was going in what pot and so on. I will say, Blanche was such a helper and so much better than last spring. Last year I just remember Blanche coming in and out of the house a lot covered in dirt, and also running down the stairs of our apartment and getting in big trouble. So many things will change each year with age and one day a house of our own. But this year, Blanche was so proud to help her daddy. She got her own red hand shovel and helped shovel dirt. I think she probably helped for at least two hours,  until her hair was windblown and her whole body dirty and she had stripped down to her underwear, ready for a warm bath.

Well, within a couple of weeks the cold weather hit. It actually felt like winter didn't really come until we had planted our garden. In the last month and half, Andrew has moved the entire garden a couple of times right up against our house, and covered it for sometimes days with a tarp. Blanche would occasionally open the sliding glass door and peek under the tarp  and encourage, "Don't die garden! You are daddy's friends." And they didn't. Our garden hung on. Andrew put a lot of working into saving it, and it makes me proud and also excited for when we have land one day.

All of this time that little garden has been a little glimmer of light to me. I never realize until later that I think and live in metaphors and analogies. But I do. Maybe it is the writer's spirit inside. I just see that little garden, cold and under a tarp, away from the sun and fresh air. Maybe the tomato plants are yelling and gripping at each other under there like I do with the girls. But the garden is back out in the fresh air. It has gotten fresh rain and sunshine. It is growing and seems to be doing fine.

As I am growing up a bit, I am realizing that my emotions are not only based on my circumstances, but that those circumstances change as well. Today was a hard parenting day for me. I am so tired and so nauseous at times. The worst part is I haven't throw up at all this pregnancy. I would rather that at times and be done with it. But I just have this gagging and sickness right at the top of my throat. I keep eating bagels as a meal substitute. It really is pathetic. I do know I am lucky compared to many women, with so much sickness during pregnancies. I thank God I am able to take care of my children and do housework. I am just ready for energy. I am ready for a healthy stir fry (ugh) or salad (maybe with lots of dressing?) to sound good. I want to be outside in the sun and walking and feeling strong. Right now we have all had colds on and off, I feel fat but not really pregnant, and nothing ever sounds good to eat. But I know that this happened with both of the girls. And it didn't last forever. I just need to remind myself of this. And keep praying for strength. If you ever think of me, just pray I can be patient with the girls. I have discovered that it is no secret to my family that I become severely over touched and worn out during pregnancies. I have a baby who is still nursing and a toddler who doesn't even want to go to the bathroom alone. I get over touched and easily snap at times. I sometimes feel like so much of the day I am walking around at about 90% and something small will get me to full capacity. I don't want to be a mom that yells or scares my children, but I know I do at times. I need to learn how to take a break emotionally even when I am still with my children.

Blanche told me over dinner tonight that she misses me when I go to rinse out cloth diapers. Yes, that three minutes it takes me to rinse a cloth diaper out in the toilet. That's my alone time. And Blanche misses me during that time. It is all very flattering really. To be loved that much. I just want to be able to accept that love. And when that little love of mine is driving me insane with her constant wants and needs... I need to be able to mentally take a step back. I knew that naturally spacing our children would result in some really hard times. I have never once thought being a mom was easy. I am sort of scared for this next one and all that might happen. This is when I remember that deep down, I feel called to be a mother, not on my own accord, but this is what I feel God wants me to do.

I have started putting on a song I found on Andrew's iPod during moments where I am feeling empty. It is called Grace by Phil Wickham. I don't listen to a lot of Christian music, or even Phil Wickham. But every time I hear this song I feel a peace.

"The sky is grey and the light is far 
I turn my sight to the crashing waves 
I cry in the night just to be saved 
I need eyes to be my guide 
I need a voice that's louder than mine 
I need hope I need You 
Cause I can't do this alone 
Grace I call Your name 
Oh won't Your smile fall over me 
I'm cracked and dry on hands and knees 
Oh sweet grace rain down on me I need You grace 
I pray for dawn a new day to live 
I pray for mercy only Jesus gives 
Though darkness falls and a million cry 
I believe over all there's a greater light shining for us 
Come down and save me

The sea is a rage within my heart "

The lyrics always remind me that I believe God is asking me to do something that I cannot do alone. The line that sticks out the most is "I need eyes to be my guide." I need God's love. I need his love to even change the way I view my children and my life. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. I really suck at it on my own. But I have had this dream since I was only in middle school. I had a big family. It was a family that had love in the center. I know I can't make that happen on my own. 

Between the garden and God I know winter will eventually come to an end. My feelings of tiredness and falling short won't last forever. So much of the time the girls just simply want me as I am anyways. I just want to be the mother they deserve.