The Summer That Never Was, Turning Six and Too Much Squash

Every day Facebook pops up these reminders, “Six years ago today…….” Pictures and memories flood back. I see my kids with their tiny round faces or a memory with friends I hadn’t thought about well, since last year when Facebook reminded me.

Some of the things I’ve posted on Facebook (especially in the early years) were kind of dumb. “I’m eating chicken and green beans tonight.” “I went to Target. It was fun.” Who cares what I ate on April 12th, 2010 and duh, Target is always fun. Why did I post about it?

I’ve honed my Facebooking status craft since then.

Then I get some reminders, like the one I got last week:

June 20, 2011

Had a great visit w/ Lil last nite. She thinks were at a hotelLOL They took out all my IV ports and put in a pick line; but its giving me tachycardia. Had 2 xrays and ekg & they may try to move it a little. Not painful, just uncomfortable. But its all good cuz we get to see Lil soon:)

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I get these memory reminders every June and July. It was our crazy summer from 6 years ago, when Henry was born. I sometimes call it The Summer That Never Was.

He was supposed to be born in September. He was born in June.

I was supposed to be in my home town hospital with my family waiting in the next room while Andy and I welcomed baby number 2 into the world. Instead I was 2 hours away confined to a hospital room and spending most of my time in bed.  When I gave birth to Henry, none of my family was there, not even Andy.

 

I was supposed to hold him in my arms when he saw the world for the first time. Instead I was still asleep from the anesthesia when he was born and wouldn’t see him for hours. I would see him later that day but would only be able to touch him gently with my fingers through a hole in his isolet. I wouldn’t hold him for days.

It was like God hit pause on the movie of our life that June. Everything that was normal, routine or familiar just stopped. Everything changed in an instant.

Getting a pic-line put in (which was actually very scary for me) was the new normal. Going two floors down to the NICU each day to see my son and hold him while he was being fed through a tube was now the new normal.

In August, the pause button was pushed again and life resumed. We brought Henry home. The movie of our life began to play again. I left my home at the beginning of that summer not being able to possibly fathom or imagine what our family would go through and learn. At the end of the summer we came home; but now everything was different. I was different.

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Now he’s turning six. How does this happen? How does time slip by so quickly?

This kid, he’s a force. He’s brought me before the Lord on my knees countless times. I don’t think he’s going to live a quiet or subdued life. He’s sweet and compassionate. He has an over abundance of energy. He’s awfully stubborn. He’s loud and can be overly sensitive. He’s smart and inquisitive. He’s the best cuddler. Did I mention he’s stubborn? I want to laugh and cry as I type this.

I love this little wisp of a boy so much. It literally hurts.

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He’s gotten really good at telling jokes lately and he likes to tell us really long versions of his dreams. I’m sure he’s making most of it up. I don’t care, I just like to hear him talk in that sweet high voice of his. He knows every name of every sea creature that ever was. I’m not exaggerating about this.

He gives the best hugs. He still needs naps. He’s want to do EVERYTHING on his own. (I think I’ve already mentioned that he’s stubborn.)

He’s been stubborn since day one at 3 1/2 pounds.

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He tells me I’m his best friend. My heart melts. He’s sentimental, like me.

He loves to go on errands with his dad. One of my favorite things he does is watch Andy through the window when he goes to work at night. He yells, “Bye, dad. I will miss you.” He says that when he grows up he wants to be a cop like his daddy. Heart melts again.

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This summer my biggest concern has been that I planted my squash plants too close together and my garden is being overrun by beautiful yellow summer squash.

What a far cry from our summer six years ago. That summer seems like yesterday and forever ago all at the same time.

I’m thankful for that summer, though. I’m thankful for the way it changed our family. I’m thankful for the way it made me see my Heavenly Father. I see Him as such a good Father. So good and giving us good things. Not always easy things; but good things. I saw Him time and again bring good from bad. Bring blessings from hard places. Bring peace from the scariest of places. Bring joy from despair.

It changed my perspective greatly. It changed me deeply.

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What’s your summer been like? Good, bad? Hard, amazing? Wherever you’re at, it’s where God wants you to be at this moment. Lean into Him for strength. Praise him for the blessings.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, H. We are so blessed to have you be a part of our family. This mama loves you more than you know.

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The Dead Sea, Clogged Toilets and a Spelling Bee Champ

Life is full of ups and downs. Dark days and bright spots. Days when you feel alone and like the worst spouse/parent on the planet and days when you feel like it’s all rainbows and green lights.

When I was in the 5th grade I won my school spelling bee. I remember it clearly. The winning word was puce. More importantly, I defeated a 6th grader. That was a big deal. When I went into the school gym later, the kids cheered for me. That was a good day.

Then there was  hard day when someone thoughtlessly made a hurtful comment about one of my kids and their behavior/character. It was unintentional; but I still went into a bathroom stall and cried. I felt like the absolute, worst mom ever. That was a bad day.

Good days, bad days. We all have them. An amazing day can quickly be followed by a day you’d rather just forget

A few months ago, (Though now it seems like forever and a day ago.) The Hubs left on a  a 12 day trip to Israel. (I say two weeks because it’s sounds much more dramatic than 12 days. ) When your other half is gone and you are parenting solo for that long, there is bound to be some bad days.

Don’t get me wrong. I realize him being gone for 2 weeks is a drop in the bucket compared to those moms who are actual single parents. They do it alone day in and day out, every day. How about those military spouses whose partners are gone for months at a time? I am most definitely not you. You guys are amazing. You are strong and brave. My hat goes off to you.

But The Hubs had never been gone this long and definitely not while we had kids.

So as I said, The Hubs spent 2 weeks in Israel. When the opportunity came up several months ago it was a no brainer. Of course he had to go. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

As the trip drew nearer, I began to get more anxious. I  began to second guess my decision. Why am I such an amazing and selfless wife to let him leave me for two weeks with two kids and two dogs?!? Amazing and selfless were his words, not mine. I was not feeling so amazing or selfless, instead I spent the days leading up to his departure fighting back tears.

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//The Kiss Jar. One kiss for each day dad was gone. When the jar was empty,

dad came home//

The first week he was gone was hard. Just hard. It sucked. The calendar was full of commitments I couldn’t change. There was a lot of running around and finding sitters (or arranging drop offs with their Mimi) and just doing things alone. While the busyness of those days made the days go faster, it made for one stressed mama.

And I just missed his face.

Yes, there was a major meltdown (from child and me); the likes of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time. But what pushed me over the edge was the clogged toilet.

First, let me explain to you how often I deep clean my kid’s bathroom. Not often is the correct answer. Admitting that is really gross; but essential to the story. Well, I decided to clean that bathroom top to bottom. I scrubbed that toilet and sanitized every surface in sight. The floor was mopped and sink shiny.

And then one of my kids clogged the toilet.

And then I tried to flush when I should have plunged.

And then the toilet overflowed.

Thankfully most of the nasty stuffed had been flushed; but this murky toilet water gushed all over my newly cleaned floor.

Earlier that day The Hubs had sent me a picture of him floating in the Dead Sea. (Trust me. I see the irony here.) When I stopped to soak in how truly amazing that picture was and what a surreal experience that must be for him, for the first time I felt jealous. Up until that day I had felt nothing but happy for him.

I was holding down the fort and he was floating in the Dead Sea.

I was on my hands and knees cleaning up poo water and he was seeing and experiencing things I would have loved to see and experience.

The next day was church and though it may seem like it can’t get any worse than wading in poo water, it ended up being the worst day yet. I was just having some bad days.

One week down, One more whole, long week to go.

Monday, though, was a good. day. My girl was participating in the Spelling Bee. We had studied hard, she was stepping out of her comfort zone and we were both excited and nervous.

As we went through several rounds of words I thought, “Why are all the third graders such dang good spellers?”

The group started to thin out and it was down to one boy and my girl. At this point I was beyond proud of her. I knew she probably wouldn’t win and I was just giddy she  had made it this far.

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in my girl 100%; but this other kid was a spelling machine!! Remember Drago from the Rocky movies? He was like the Drago of spelling. He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t pause. Nothing was stopping this guy.

Did I mention I won the spelling bee in the 5th grade? I loved watching these kids spell. There is nothing like a good spelling bee!

There is something so heart filling about seeing your kids work hard at something and succeed, even if it’s not first place.

She got second place. (There was  no stopping Spelling Drago.) We were both so excited. Her huge smile said it all. I think mine was bigger.

My string of bad days melted away. In fact, as The Hubs return came closer, ( I could count the remaining days on one hand) the days slowed down and got better, easier. I thought, “I can do this.”

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So, I took away 2 pretty big lessons from my short stint as a solo parent.

First- If you think marriage is 50/50 you need to redo the math. It’s really 100/100. Sometimes, it may feel off balance like I’m going 30% and he’s doing 70% and vice versa. The Hubs has been very thoughtful and has been trying to “pay me back” for letting him go. And yes, I needed some alone time and I’ve been on a girl’s weekend since then. But marriage isn’t about keeping score or making sure things are even. He went because it was a great opportunity and he would have done the same for me if the tables had been turned. There will be times when he picks up the slack and does more in our partnership and then there will be times when I will do more. That’s called balance.

Second- I realized how I need to get away and recharge a little more. There are times when “Me Time” seems virtually non-existent. There is nothing like spending 2 weeks without a break to realize that taking some time out for yourself each week (or even each day) is not too much to ask. In fact, it’s essential. I would take time for myself and then feel guilty that I had been gone from the house for too long.

If there is something that brings you joy and fills your bucket, then do it. I’m trying to do that more. What can I give my family if my own bucket is empty?

I feared my post would come off whiny and complaining because yes, we all have bad days and we deal with it. I’m not the only one with kids who melt down, toilets that overflow or have to do bedtime alone.

I guess that’s the point, though. You aren’t alone. If you are having a really bad day or a never- ending string of bad days, you aren’t the only one. There’s another mom out there who is cleaning up poo water, too. It might just be me.

 

 

 

 

Hello December! Glad You’re Finally Here!

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Oh Dear December,

I look forward to wearing boots and hats.

I look forward to the Christmas lights, cozy nights in our living room by the Christmas tree, watching Christmas movies and trying not to fall asleep.

I look forward to peppermint hot chocolate and lots of crafts at the kitchen table.

I look forward to opening our advent house each morning and watching the kids in their anticipation.

I look forward to Christmas programs and singing carols.

I look forward  to shopping…. online and avoiding stores as much as possible.

I look forward to stealing kisses from The Hubs under the mistletoe.

I look forward to slowing down, not cramming in a bunch of activities.

I look forward to celebrating Christ’s birth because despite all the store ads and holiday clamor; He is the reason for December 25th.

December, I just look forward to enjoying you.

Sincerely,

Jen

My Christmas “Do Not Do” List

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I’m big on traditions. I’m a kind of a holiday tradition nut. I’ve blogged about our different traditions several times here on the blog. I’ll link those posts at the bottom of this post if you want to check them out.

As my kids get older and we get busier (and I seem to get more tired!!), I’ve taken a look at our list of traditions and sometimes feel like it’s becoming a list of to-do’s to check off. I’m starting to feel tired just thinking about them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this time of year and want to make it special for my kids and family. I also don’t want to be an exhausted wreck come December 26th.

So I’m doing myself 2 favors:

1.) I’m staying off Pinterest because hello, Pinterest is partially the reason how we get ourselves in our overextended boats.

2.) I’m cutting back on our yearly traditions and doing just the few that really bring us joy and involve the least amount of work for me:) I might do more next year; but this year, I’m giving myself a break.

Being together, talking, reading Christmas stories, watching Christmas movies, playing games, looking out for how we can serve others during the holidays, taking naps. That’s the ticket.

I read a great article here about what Not To Do during the holidays.

Here are past posts about some of our favorite things to do at Christmas.

Our Ten Favorite Christmas Traditions

Our Favorite Christmas Books and Christmas Movies 

 

Now, go eat some leftovers, put up your feet and watch Christmas with the Kranks.

 

Our Gratitude Pumpkin:: Year 3

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If I made a list of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned this year, at the top would probably be this:: Having JOY in life is a choice. ( Actually, it’s a command. I Thessalonians 5:10 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.) Being joyful is a reflection of who I am as Christian to others. It’s a reflection of Christ.

Being thankful and having a constant posture of gratitude is definitely NOT always easy. Like most things, it takes effort and repeated practice until the behavior you want to achieve becomes habit. Being thankful takes practice. Some days it’s easy. Some days it’s like pulling teeth to find something to be thankful for.

I am learning this in my life right now. And while I’m learning this lesson I’m also asking myself, how do I teach this to my kids?

Being an example and living it out for my kids to see is the best way I know to teach them this lesson. But, we  have come up with a fun way in our home to develop the habit of thankfulness – The Gratitude Pumpkin.

It’s just a fun twist on what a lot of people do during the Thanksgiving season. Each day we list something or someone we are thankful for. We write it on our pumpkin. By Thanksgiving our pumpkin is full.

It gives me something to do with one of the 5 million pumpkins I have in the house. Okay, more like 20. Yes, I’m a pumpkin addict.

We got off to a little late of a start this year; but our pumpkin is filling up nicely.

2016

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Only 50% of us were willing to pose for this picture. And you can’t see all of it; but it does say scary spiders off to the left.

 

And here’s our pumpkins from past years.

2015

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2014

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This is actually something new we tried this year. We wrote what we were thankful for on a pumpkin throughout the month of November. We may not do this next year; but it sure was fun.

It’s funny that this was the caption I put with the picture because the tradition actually stuck.

 

How are you developing a heart of gratitude? I’d love to hear other’s ideas of how they are practicing this or teaching it to their kids.

 

2 Things I’ve Learned in October and 4 Things I’ve Realized

October is just about my favorite month. It’s also one of the busiest. A few deep (and not so deep) thoughts have slipped through the cracks, though. I thought I’d share those with you.

I’ve Learned:

1.) No matter how many times I swear I’m not going to let myself get too busy or overcommitted, I eventually get in over my head again. I think it’s just inevitable. Now, though, I know when I get this way that I need to take breaks where I just say “no”  for awhile, to everything. Everything. It’s how I recharge. Then I start again, re-prioritize and get back on track.

2.) No matter how much room there is, if I’m in the kitchen or sitting on the couch, every member of my house will be as close to me as possible. All five of them. The Hubs, Lily, Henry and the pups. I basically get dinner ready in a one square foot of space and I’m usually tripping over one of the dogs. I’m mom and right now I’m the center of our family universe. I get it. I love it that my family loves me. I’ll take it for as long as I can get it. But, if you find me hiding out in my room sometimes with the light off you know I just need some alone time. Hey, everyone needs their personal space.

I’ve Realized:

1.) Begrudgingly, that while I can (and do) own a white purse, a white purse cannot be my main, go-to satchel. It just can’t. And it makes me sad. My beloved purse looks so dingy; but it goes with everything. Do you see the dilemma? I could clean my purse I suppose. But, who has time to clean the outside of their purse? I barely keep my eyebrows tweezed. *sigh*

2.) I can eat tacos like 3 times a week and never get tired of it. I made tacos on Tuesday. Come Thursday, I was still eating the leftovers. You just don’t get tired of tacos. It’s the perfect meal.

3.) Some people think I’m old. Ok, maybe older is the better word. Heck, when I was in my late 20’s and 30’s I know, according to my sister who’s 10 years older than me, that I made “old age” comments unwittingly. I thought your 40’s and 50’s were old back then. Now I’m knee deep in my 40’s and I know better. But I see how others see me. It’s all good, though. In my mind I’m still young, spry, super witty and with-it. That’s all that matters.

4.) My puppies are 2 years  and 5 months old. One is a German Shepherd and one hasn’t started shedding yet. Between them and my kids, I sweep at least once a day. Every day it takes me about 15-20 minutes to sweep my house. (No carpet) Unless I want tumbleweeds of black fur wafting across my floor, I will be sweeping a minimum of 2 1/2 hours every week for the next 12 years. That’s a lot of sweeping. Between the dirt from all the feet in this house and the shedding hair ( I just had to get a German Shepherd!), this is my life now. I must accept this.

But look at those faces. It’s so worth it.

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There you have it. There was nothing too terribly profound; but there are my thoughts none the less. Now I’m off to make dinner or just maybe reheat the tacos.

Why We Had An Open House

As always, I wish I had taken pictures of the house right before we had our Open House a few weeks ago. My house was so clean and tidy.

It will never be that clean again. Ever.

I had the great idea to just clean corners of my house (one corner at a time) and take pictures. I’ll do this once a day over a week or so. Just know, the pictures will be deceiving. Know that just beyond the frame are small tumbleweeds of dog hair and a sink full of dirty dishes. Oh, and a certain little boy’s underwear will probably be on the floor.

So backstory on our house. It pretty much just dropped in our laps. Ok, really, God placed it there. It was a complete surprise to us, though.

See, we were not looking to buy a house. We were doing the exact opposite. We were happily renting a house around the corner from where we currently live. Our Aunt and Uncle owned it and our rent was amazing. I really liked that house and even though we were renters, they allowed us to paint, put in flooring and pretty much do what we wanted. We took care of it like it was ours. We had great neighbors; our kids knew everyone on our corner. Our neighborhood was exactly where we wanted to be.  As a bonus, we lived two blocks from The Hubs’ parents. And yes, I like living close to my in-laws. We were not looking to buy. Not in the slightest.

We had owned houses before; but at this time, owning a house was just not a possibility. Not even remotely. It had taken us some time; but we were content with where God had us and we were content with renting and not owning a house. That was a dream that I had laid to rest for the forseeable future, maybe forever. And I was fine with it.

Then we got an email from our long time realtor and friend. She and her husband wanted to sell us a rental they had owned for 30 years. They had never lived in it. It had only ever been a rental. They wanted to offer it to us before they put it on the market.

Unfortunately, I will not do this story justice because I can’t get into all the details. What I can say is they offered us such a deal that we were shaking our heads in disbelief saying, “We think we can actually buy this house!” We were in shock because it didn’t seem like they were gaining anything. The benefit was all ours.

The house, a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath 60’s rancher, definitely needed a lot of work. So, we prayed about it. A lot. After much prayer and consulting with family and friends who we know to be wise, we signed on the dotted line. Several times, actually.

Now, this is when our lives turned into an episode of Fixer Upper. We basically had a month to make this house move in ready. The bones of the house were fine; but after being a rental for 30 years, it needed a ton of TLC.

In one month, with the help of some very skilled friends and family, we…… (and by we, I mean me, Andy and bunch of other people) pulled  up the entire floor of the house. There were 3 different layers of linoleum in the kitchen, olive green vintage tile in the entry way and just nasty, gross carpet in the rest of the house. Our friend Mike (and Andy) took down popcorn ceiling from almost every room. Every room got textured and painted. Every, single room. New floors and carpet were laid throughout the house. The kitchen cabinets got sanded and repainted. And our friend, Mike, installed canned lights in our living room, which I absolutely love. The Hubs worked tirelessly. We had very good friends who used their skills and gave up a lot of their free time to help us. Family pitched in. We couldn’t have done it without them.

Oh, and we packed up a house.

That was May. May was crazy.

In June, we found ourselves in a new house, surrounded by boxes; but still in our awesome neighborhood. We were now 3 blocks away from our parents. We were still shaking our heads saying, “Wow, God, really?”

May and June were overwhelming and exhausting; but we feel so blessed. And we did nothing to have what we have. We weren’t looking or trying or even praying about a house. It was a gift, an undeserved one.

And that’s why we wanted to have an Open House.

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My fall mantel all ready for the Open House

About 12 years ago we bought a very teeny house. We lived there for 8 years. As our family grew, the house got even smaller. It was hard to do much entertaining in it. It was not in a convenient location and there was not much parking. When we moved to our rental, I was so ecstatic that I could actually entertain. And we did quite a bit of it.

Since then, God has really impressed on me the difference between entertaining and hospitality. I struggle with ” how my house looks” and “how does it compare to others”. I’m learning that hospitality has nothing to do with how put together (or even clean) your house is. Our beloved rental was still on the older side and I constantly had to battle the thief of comparison. Comparison steels your joy and the opportunity to bless others.

My way to fight that battle is to have people over. Ugly floors? Who cares. Hand me down furniture? So what! Come over and let’s have a movie night!

Now, we are in a “new to us house”. Though we had done quite a bit of work to this new house, there was still so much to do. We knew we couldn’t wait until things were picture perfect to have an Open House because  by the time we had made all the renovations on our to- do list, I would probably be a grandma!

I seriously had to fight the urge to wait until I thought the house looked “good enough.” So we picked a date and the evite was sent. No turning back.

The Open House was lovely. So many friends and family came. Our house was packed. It was so hot that day, I felt like I was on the surface of the sun. But, it was okay. I had envisioned The Hubs saying a few words about the house and what a blessing it was; but the day was crazy. So here’s what I wished we could have said that day.

This house was an unexpected gift, a complete surprise. And while I know that often times the gifts God gives us are not ones that are material, sometimes they are. They are at times small and other times huge, like a house. What I’m learning again and again is how good God is and how faithful He has been in our lives. The God that gave us this house is still the same, good God when life is hard and we are going through a deep struggle or hurt. He never changes.

And I know that this house is not really ours. It’s His. So, we can’t be selfish with it.  Our family has been blessed by this house and now we in turn can use it to bless others. Whether the yard is landscaped or not. (It’s not by the way.)

So here’s to more get – togethers, family dinners, birthday parties, Bible studies, coffee around my kitchen table and…. painting, bathroom remodels, new windows and so much more.