"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 15, 2017

Favorite Friday

It's Friday again.  I had such fun last week that I'm doing it again.  It's a fun way to focus on positive things.  Think of stuff you are currently loving, give thanks for such things, and then share it with me!  Last week a couple of you shared your favs with me (um, I TOTALLY love Amazon Prime, too!) and at least one of you took my recommendation for Christmas gifts! 

1.  Naps.  I do love a good nap.  I like to take a good nap every once in a while and I super duper love it when Eleanor has a good nap.  I'm so grateful to have a kiddo who sleeps like a rock star.  Yippee for good, long, restful, refueling naps. 

2. Music.  It's magic.  On the radio, as a movie/tv soundtrack, played by yourself or someone you love, or live in concert.  It's just good.  If you don't like a certain song or style, there's so much else to choose from.  Sometimes it's great as background noise, sometimes it's great to turn up and listen to carefully. And who doesn't sing in the shower?  If you said no, I don't believe you.  If you said no and you're telling the truth, you need to live a little.  Everybody sounds good in the shower, and since you're in there by yourself, there will be nobody to disagree with what a rock star you are. 
I didn't realize I have been singing Les Mis songs around the house until today when Eleanor finished the verse for me.  

Me: When the beating of your heart...
Eleanor: ...beating of the drum!

We had such fun singing together that I thought I'd turn on the movie to listen to while we played.  That's how I learned that toddlers should not watch Les Miserables.  I had to fast forward through multiple inappropriate parts, but we were singing like fools and enjoying ourselves... until Eleanor zoned in on the screen, turned around to me and...

Eleanor: Is she dying, mommy? 
Me: Um, what?  No.
Eleanor: Is she sad?
Me: Yes, yes.  She's sad.

She wasn't wrong.  Eponine was dying, but I wasn't prepared for that conversation, so I turned off the television and distracted her with something different. 
Point of the story?  Listen to some music, y'all, but I don't recommend watching Les Mis with a 2 year old.

3. Shutterfly hard cover photo books.  I have a problem with photos.  I take millions of them and I just can't stand to think that they will stay digital and never be printed to be flipped through in the future.  So I print them.  But then I have hoards of printed photos and it's a miracle if I get them organized into albums.  Also, when I'm choosing what to print, I get overwhelmed and can't choose, so I just print LOTS of them.  Nobody needs 200 photos a month.  Nobody.  Not even me.  So I used a Groupon for a hard cover photo book from Shutterfly and then spent a couple of hours filling it up with the highlights from the last 6 months.  It took me that long because I had to choose what to include, but when it was done I felt so accomplished.  You can choose from lots of different layouts, so each page can have one large photo, or you can do what I did and put multiple photos on each page.  I did a page for a camping trip, a page for our vacation, 2 pages for Eleanor's 2nd birthday, and other pages for other moments or chunks of time.  It arrived today and I'm so pleased with it.  6 months of photos in a 20 page hard cover book that will take up minimal space on the book shelf and still give us something physical to pull out and look at for years to come.  Here's the GROUPON if you're interested.  Or do your own research and find coupon codes for Shutterfly or any of the other photo sites.  (I should mention that Shutterfly is decent quality.  Definitely fine for these purposes, but if I'm printing photos for gifts or to hang on the wall, I always use Mpix.)  I chose the 8x11 20 page book and it was $13.99.  Be aware, you will have to pay for shipping from Shutterfly when you're done.

Those are my favorites for this week.  What are yours?

Other stuff from this week...

Sometimes we wear our Olaf costume around the house just because.  And this view cracked me up.  Olaf & Mac. 
 I spent Tuesday doing some cooking from my new cookbook.  Olaf helped make the lemon bundt cake. 

 It was all fun and games until we had to put the cake in the oven instead of eating it immediately.  Melt. Down. 
 But y'all.  I am super proud of this.  It was beautiful and, if you like lemon things, it was super delicious.  P.S. Eleanor didn't like it!  Ha! 
 And a pot pie.  I messed with the recipe because I wanted to use ingredients that I had on hand.  So I used smoked pork instead of chicken.  It was pretty and it tasted okay, but if I make it again I will stick to the recipe.  Still, yay for trying new things (and making a gigantic mess in the kitchen). 
 Play date at the park with her friend Lucy... where the girls played in separate areas about 90% of the time and us mommas barely got to even visit.  (We had another play date like this with Heidi & Silas this morning, except Eleanor was Miss Bossy and didn't want to share anything.)  Ah, toddlers.  Good times. 
 We had a house sitter this weekend while we were gone so that the dogs could stay home and be normal.  Foose didn't take it well.  He barked a lot, refused to come inside, and slept on the freezing cold back porch just to avoid being in the house with anyone who wasn't us.  Since we got home he has been stuck to one of us like glue.  Do you do much in the kitchen?  Have you tried doing it while a 95 pound anxious lab maintains body contact with you? 
 I have this little photo of Alex & Emma on the dresser in our closet. It's from Christmas 2005, when Alex was not quite 3 and Emma was about 9 months old.  I just love it and I keep it out because it makes me smile.
I often take note of how similar Eleanor looks to Alex.  Then the other day I noticed that the photo on my dresser was a good example of just how similar.  So I compared.  Eleanor on top, Alex on bottom. 
 Ah, my girls.
Eleanor's last day of school for the semester was on Thursday.  So I decided to spend the day doing things I wouldn't be able to easily do with her in tow for the next month.  I started with a quiet cup of coffee at the new bakery and then took myself for a pedicure (the first one since I treated myself to this very thing on her first day of school for the semester!). 
 Eleanor has finally grown into this OshKosh hand-me-down dress from her friend Annabelle and I just can't handle it.  It's adorable and she LOVES it. 
 Lunch date for Mexican food with Grandma LaGayle.  Yummy food and lovely lunch dates. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Expectations

I'm a big Jen Hatmaker fan.  Today she shared a blog post that she wrote and I wish I had written it.  It's titled "Sabotaging Big Days" and is about big days (or seasons... I'm looking at you, Christmas) and expectations.  Oh, expectations.  It rang a few bells for me.  Maybe it will for you, too.  Read it HERE
So, if you actually clicked on that link and read Jen's post then you probably picked out a few things that ring true for you.  You may have felt convicted over being the one who over hypes everything and then feels disappointed.  You may have been able to identify that person (or people) in your life that seems to crush everyone else's good time.  Perhaps you have a person in your life that sets such unrealistic expectations that they could never possibly be met and so everything feels like a downer by comparison.  Maybe you're the one who gets overwhelmed and acts weird, even though you really do love everyone and want to have the best time ever.  Okay, fine, that last one is me, but maybe it's you, too. So much of what Jen said clicked for me in some way, but one thing she wrote could have been written in neon with a flashing arrow pointing at me. 
"Big Days can be a reminder of what should have been but wasn’t, all that was lost, all that will never be."  
Duh.  I'm sure we all have a touch of this.  It's something that I have dealt with since Emma died and especially so since Alex died.  We tried to manage this for our first Christmas without both girls and, while it wasn't well received by all of our loved ones, we made the decision that we needed to make for our own well being.  That back fired when my dad died only hours after we landed in Mexico.  It was fuel on the big, awkward, painful, sad fire of Christmas expectations.  Then Eleanor came and her first Christmas was highly anticipated with big new hopes and I couldn't quite put into words why things just felt different.  Last Christmas my Grandpa was in his last days on this Earth.  It's just a whole lot of stuff to carry. 
Ugh.  Expectations.   What messy, bulging, looming, daunting things they can be.  Even if you've figured out how to live without expectations, I'm willing to bet the farm that someone else has expectations for you. 
I have mixed feelings about the quote "Time heals all things."  I mean, time heals nothing.  It's what you do with that time that heals.  Time does do something, though.  It doesn't heal, but it does change things.  It's been nearly 4 years since Alex died and 5 1/2 years since Emma died.  What the heck?  What a strange chunk of time that is.  It's a lifetime ago, but it was just the other day.  Our girls are a part of me, so I'm never really without them, but it's just really hard not to think about your kids at Christmas.  As a Christian, Christmas is about the hope & renewal that came with the birth of Christ.  As a mother, it's nearly impossible for me to read this scripture and not imagine how Mary must have felt.  As a consumer and participant in current culture, I also take part in the materialism that envelopes this time of year.  Decorations, lights, presents, Santa... all things that we do to feed the magic of the season for our children.  So far it is impossible for me to separate the season as it is now with Eleanor from the season that was with our older girls.  I remember what was and what is no more and what is again (in a kind of the same, but really quite different, sort of complicated kind of way).  I don't sit around and steep in the sadness.  I'm not wallowing in the grief.  It does not consume me.  It's just a thing that is there.  Sometimes the weight of the grief is palpable.  Sometimes it's just a whisper in the background.  But it's there. So the season of Christmas comes with some weird stuff for me. 
Blessedly, we have a 2 year old who is super pumped about all that stuff.  She hears "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" on the radio and she exclaims, "Jesus is  born!"  She hears jingle bells in any song and loses her mind with excitement.  She talks about Santa like he's a close friend and asks "Is Santa coming?" about 20 times a day.  When you ask her what she wants for Christmas she says, "Presents!" I dare you not to smile when she squeals with excitement over Christmas lights.  It's all super good stuff.  It's big, happy, joyous, awesome, renewing stuff that also comes with expectations.  I'm trying to be careful with those expectations this year and just soak it all up.  The season started with  messy emotions for me, but I've been covered in prayer by some special friends and I surely have felt a new peace as the days have passed.  I'm really enjoying these times with Eleanor and Drew and I'm just so grateful to be where I am.
Drew and I have surely re-evaluated what is most important for us this season and, so far, I'm so pleased with it all.  Yes, we have a big tree and some lovely decorations, but we don't have so much that I feel overwhelmed by it.  Having lived in a place where our ability to buy gifts for our children was limited, we are enjoying our current ability to purchase gifts for our kiddo.  It is a privilege and we are finding joy in this giving and giving thanks to God for our ability to do so.  In contrast, I feel super fulfilled with the decision for Drew & I to give each other the gift of time & attention instead of wrapped gifts under the tree.  I'm loving spending less time with the television and more time listening to Christmas music.  To be certain, there will still be big emotions and I will likely have moments where it feels overwhelming, but I'm thankful to have read Jen's blog post and have some new ways to describe these complicated emotions and experiences.  I hope that you are able to stand up to the expectations that can often be burdening on big days and during big seasons.  I hope you are able to identify the things that are most important to you and make those things priority.  I pray you are able to set personal boundaries to help manage any stress that may come with these big days.  I hope that you are able to extend grace to those in your life that might make all of this difficult.  My sincerest hope is that we all get to experience big, happy, joyous, sincere, and hopeful things this Christmas, even if (and perhaps especially if) those things don't come prepackaged in the expectations of you or those around you.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

Weekend Away

  Last week the fence around the pool was installed.  It looks great and doesn't obstruct the view at all.  I'm so glad we went with the iron fencing and I'm sure I won't mind looking at this for the rest of my life.  This next weekend Drew will be working on the new set of stairs off the back porch and then the entire pool area will be contained and only accessible to dogs and children when we say so. 
 On Thursday night my book club had our first monthly meeting.  We read The History of Bees by Maja Lunde.  It was lovely to have read a book and have intellectual conversation over yummy food and a glass of wine. 
 The round table for the breakfast area arrived and Eleanor helped Daddy put it together.  (Stay tuned for the final look at the end of this post.)
 Drew and I had decided that we'd rather have a weekend away together than to buy each other Christmas gifts this year.  So on Friday we left Eleanor with Kyle & Misty and we went to Kansas City for the weekend.  We stayed in the lovely, historic Aladdin Hotel in the Power & Light District.
I'm always trying to get a cute picture of us, so just know that for every approved picture, there are a hundred of these... me trying to take a picture of us while Drew's acts goofy.  
 Can we just talk about Ikea for a minute?  We've only been there once before, but we were still living in our little house at the time and so we didn't buy much of anything.  That was 3 years ago.  On Saturday I wanted to stop by there, but didn't have expectations of buying anything specific.  I just remembered it being a fun place to browse.  Well... we spent 3 hours in that wonderland and then we bought all the things.  All of them. 

 I hope that Northwest Arkansas never gets an Ikea.  If I got to go whenever I wanted to then it wouldn't be nearly as much fun. 
 And then to get ready for the highlight of our weekend... Les Miserables!  And... me secretly taking another picture while Drew uses a lint roller on my dress coat.  This is marriage... rolling the lint off of each other before date night.  We're so fancy. 
 The view of the music hall from our hotel room. 
 More awkward pictures...
 And finally a cute one! 
 Y'all.  I had absolutely zero chill over this.  We love the music of Les Mis and we even love the movie (which, apparently, not everyone did), so we were both pumped.  I think that this tradition of a weekend away and seeing a Broadway show is one I'd like to continue with Drew forever. 
 No photography during the show, of course, but this is the opening set.
I was slightly nervous because my expectations were so high.  When we saw The Phantom of the Opera in Tulsa before Eleanor was born, I had high expectations and left quite disappointed.  I didn't want that to happen again, but I couldn't help it.  But this show.  Y'all.  I can't even.  Remember how Alex used to get so emotional over such things that she would cry?  Her emotions just simply couldn't be contained and tears would just pour out?  Yeah, she got that from me.  I think at one point I squealed a little while applauding.  When Fantine started singing "I Dreamed a Dream", I was thinking "oh, she's pretty good." By the end of the song I was pulling an Alex as I watched in awe and tears rolled down my face.  I'm that girl and I don't even apologize for it.  All of it.  I just can't say how much I loved it.  The whole thing surpassed my expectations and I'm so glad we got to go.

Meanwhile in Arkansas... Eleanor was obviously being neglected.  She didn't get to do anything fun all weekend.  No parties, no shopping, no attention, no hockey games, nothing yummy to eat.  Just nothing fun at all (cough, cough).








 Props to Misty for not only caring for my kiddo all weekend, but for understanding that I'm the kind of momma that appreciates plenty of picture updates during my weekend away.  Also, Eleanor's note from her teacher today said...
A weekend with Braeden means that Eleanor was full of "Hey dude!" today.  Lol

Now, can we just take a minute to talk about how cozy my breakfast nook is now?  The new table fits perfectly and a few accessories from Ikea just pull it all together. 
Last night...
and in the daylight...
It's just cozy and lovely and I'm so pleased with it.
And this sassy girl was pumped up about wearing her Santa outfit today and especially psyched that the top has pockets. 
 I stopped for gas on the way to pick E up from school today and noticed this on the gas cap cover.  Little hand prints.  It's something that I used to do with Alex & Emma when they were walking and have continued with Eleanor... when we are getting into the car I sometimes have my hands full, but I need to know that she is sticking right by me and not running off.  So the game is to keep her hands on the circle (the gas cap cover) until I'm ready to put her in her car seat.  She thinks it's fun and, so far, it's proved effective.  I didn't even wipe these dusty hand prints off today, because they are just the best kind of mess. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Favorites

I have a Facebook friend who does Favorite Fridays.  She lists a few of her favorite things for the week and asks everyone to chime in and share some of their favorite things.  It's such a fun idea and makes me feel a little like Oprah, so I thought I'd sit down and try to make a list of my own. 

1. Sunshine.  I love sunshine.  I need it as much as I need anything else in life and absolutely must make an effort to soak some up every day.  It's good for my mental state and that's good for everybody.  It's 18 degrees outside right now, so I'm not going to go sit on the porch, but I have surely opened up every blind and shutter in the house to let the sun shine in.  Go getcha some, y'all. 

2. Jesus.  Every day.  If you don't currently have a devotional or Bible study, I would love to recommend THIS advent series. You can sign up to receive daily emails with the advent devotional of the day (Fellowship is awesome about not flooding you with emails that you don't want, so rest assured that you'll only receive what you sign up for) or you can simply visit this page daily to read a short devotional.  They aren't super long, you can easily read it with your morning coffee or while you're laying in bed waking up or, heck, you can read it on the potty.  Everybody has time for that. 

3. Wicked Good Slippers.  That's actually what they're called and they don't lie.  Warm feet, but not sweaty.  Comfy for the house, but with a firm sole in case you venture to the mail box. LL Bean for the win. 

4. Nickel & Suede earrings.  I have one pair and I look for opportunities to wear them.  They are big and dangly, but so light weight and easy to wear.  Every time I wear them I get compliments and feel a little fancy.  Everybody needs to feel a little fancy every now and then. 



What about you?  Do you have something you're especially enjoying this week?



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Haircuts and polka dots and sunshine, oh my!

What a lovely day this has been so far.  Eleanor had a hair appointment this morning, so we made ourselves pretty, took a selfie, and headed out this morning for a girl's day of fun.  
 Before...


She's lovely, of course, but we just needed to even up the back a little and ward off the dreaded toddler mullet before it took over.  We're still waiting out the front of her hair and avoiding cutting bangs at all costs!  
With Kendra...
 Eleanor and I ran a few errands in Siloam and then stopped for lunch.  That girl ate french fries and grilled cheese for an hour.  An hour.  She said hello to everyone, asked questions, said thank you & Merry Christmas, and held a lovely lunch conversation with me for an hour.  I was done eating in 20 minutes, but we just sat and enjoyed our lunch date.  She's growing up and I'm doing my best to just soak it up. Every last little morsel, just soaking it up. 
 When we got home we played in the chilly air of the front yard for a little while so I could get a few photos.  I take phone pics all the time, but it's been too long since I just sat outside, let her play, and took photos.  Y'all.  She's beautiful and her hair cut is adorable. 





 5 year journal prompts...
December 5th: What relationship did I nurture today?
Today I nurtured my relationship with my daughter.  Beauty shop and lunch date and conversation without distraction.  It was lovely and I'll hold on to this feeling for the next time her little toddler ways feel more irritating than endearing. 

December 6: What am I passionate about?
I am passionate about my relationship with God.  What a never ending process of growth and learning!  It's difficult yet rewarding.  Challenging yet fulfilling.  Stirring yet comforting.  He is ever the same yet my relationship with Him is ever changing.  We are currently in Advent, a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ.  Our church sends out daily advent devotionals and I've enjoyed taking a few minutes to read these each morning this week and focus my heart on the hope of Christ.  I am so very flawed, but my God is so very faithful.  Praise for that.