Thursday, February 28, 2013

Decorating Evolution

Starting in elementary school, I used to lock myself in my room for a few hours.  I would clean everything, roll up my rug, put my furniture on washcloths  and rearrange the furniture.  I would stand at my dresser and organize my creamer collection and other knickknacks until they were just so.  The process took two to three hours, and I would emerge out of my room, high on decorating and having my own space my own way.  For Christmases and birthdays I asked for things for my room.  Over the years, I received a desk, bookshelves, carpet, a stuffed chair and ottoman, mini TV, my own phone, a large mirror, and a white comforter.  {I remember shrieking when I opened the comforter.}  I had my little room and I liked making it my own.  Even if the combination didn't work just right, I loved the process of it learning myself in that space.  The change was good, even if it didn't last long and even if it I switched it back to the best way my little room worked.  And it most certainly had a best way.  It was 11 feet by 10 1/2 feet, and I crammed a lot of stuff in there.  I made it work. 

Now, I like to do the same things.  I don't change things just for change, but I do let things evolve.    I've figured out the best flow for some of my rooms: my master bed will always be where it is, my living room sofa can only fit on one wall, the dining room table will always be in the dining room, I think.  The living room (the first room in my house) is a great example of how things are evolving.  While some would say they are getting better, that's not accurate.  What's happening is that it's changing with me.

Below is a picture of our room the way that it was shortly after we moved into this house.  That was almost seven years ago.  The couches and chairs are in the same spots, but most everything else has changed.  Again, I would not call them improvements or bettering the room.  It's evolving.  It's becoming more me, and more us.  

This room has seen some changes.  While a few of them can be considered improvements, I would say that most of them are things that evolved to fit our needs and our wants.  Here's the list:

We scraped the popcorn off the ceiling
We sawed our bookshelves in half to fit on the half wall
We added a coat rack
We built a $20 computer desk and file cabinet
I spruced and I still spruce
I painted some wallpaper

Those things have transformed the room into what it is today.  It's a little more happenin'. There's more life, because there are more lives here.  Take a look below.

Here's the thing: it's not that different, but it's really different.  I've stayed true to the things that I know that I like: natural elements, bright, calm.  But, I've let it become more of who I am.  Less knickknacksmore pictures, little layers of color, plants.  I like doing that.  I do this because it's fun and it's how I've always lived in the space that I've had.  

It's not about styling.
It's not about striving.
It's not about making it better.
It's not about completion.  
It's not about getting it right.

It's about having fun and being free in our space.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Winter's Day In The Woods

Mama's happy.  I packed up the kids and got a hit of quiet, woodsy mother nature today and it did a body good.  "Packed up the kids" makes it sound like it was a ton of effort to go for a little adventure.  That is misleading.  It is really as much as hoping in the car and going. There was a mental switch that I had to do shortly after having Burl and again after having Fern about leaving the house.  It doesn't have to be a huge production.  I don't have to make preparations similar to those if I were going on an overnight trip, which I used to think.  I keep the car stocked with diapers and wipes, and the rest I consider luxuries. Change of clothes, sippy cups, a day's worth of food, if!
When we've gotta go,  

Today I had to go.  I've been hankering to head to this park for a while now.  We've been there several times before, and it's always good fun.  Today was the perfect combination of time available-good weather-and go get 'em attitude.  

If it's rained enough, there is a babbling brook just a few steps from the parking lot.  I didn't even get out a stroller or baby backpack for this.  Sixty seconds of walking and we were there.  It's perfect for throwing rocks.  I snapped pictures, taught Fern how to throw, found big rocks for Burl, and soaked it in.  

After a while, I got tired of holding Fern back from getting in the water.  Give it a month or two, and we will be all about splashing, but for now it's just too cold.  I let the kids laugh and run and act silly on the bridge until Fern started to try to jump off, then we were off to our next stop.

I loaded the kids in the car and we drove the loop to our next stop.  Picnic area #3 is picturesque.  It's this little grassy spot with a few little trails leading off.  I don't know why I love it, but it's just gorgeous.  We sat right at the beginning of the trails and the kids did their thing.  Their thing is the same whether they are at home, the church nursery, a playground, or in the woods: They play with what they got. 

Fern started digging at pebbles, rolling in leaves, and picking at bark.  Burl found a wonky branch and started raking leaves. I sat there and got calm.  It was so relaxing.  While we were there, a guy from the newspaper pulled up.  He got two huge cameras, walked over, introduced himself, and asked if he could take some pictures of us.  "It's a slow news time" were the exact words he used.  We made an agreement that he would email me some of the pictures.  We talked a little bit.  He was younger and had never been to this park before.  He asked simple questions, but they got me thinking.  Between "you probably have your hands full and want to get out of the house," "do you come here often," and "do your kids like it here" questions, I realized that he was trying to figure out what the heck I was doing in the woods with a baby and a toddler.

Here's my full length answer: I need it.  I need to play with them when I'm not surrounded by my house and yard and the the upkeep it takes to maintain them.  When I'm in the woods, I just sit and watch and engage.  I don't think about the laundry that I should switch out or the grass that we can't grow or the projects that I would like to do in our home.  I'm just there, sitting on the ground, being quiet and still, and watching my kids.  

Also, I feel so much more excited to see my children play imaginary things and explore new things while we're outside than when we're at home with their toys.  Fern loving and hugging her doll is adorable, Burl sorting and stacking his toys is great, but there's something special about them playing outside.  There are two parts to it.  

First, I think their little senses love it.  If nothing else, feeling the textures of the different elements is great for them.  {Sometimes they play in their food at dinner and I always take that as a sign that they need to touch more than their plastic toys.}  They were busy and dirty and happy.

Second, playing in the woods is simple.  It's a great reminder to me that they don't need all the stuff that I think they need to be happy.  They're happy and flourishing right there in the woods.  

I'm sure there are books and studies and information about how good it is for kids to play outside more than inside, but I don't have any of that science on it.  I just know that it feels refreshing.

 As we packed up and drove away, Burl told me that he wanted to come again.  Fern was bouncing her head back in forth happily.  We saw two deer.  I took those as signs that skipping a few hours of laundry day was a good decision.  We'll be making this a regular thing!

I hope that you all find big and small adventures to go on with friends, family, kids, or solo.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

This Week's Menu

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables.  That's the name of our game these days.  John is constantly thanking me for cooking vegetables and also craving more.  He's on this kick of thinking of new ways to cook vegetables, more of them to try, and getting excited about talking about them.  It's fun, and something that can only be good for us.  

Here's what I'm making this week:

Veggie night: Roasted potatoes, grilled okra, sauteed green beans, roasted beets
BLT salads
Jenny's roast, peas, carrots
Vegetable quiche

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Words Of Weakness

Thank you for the comments and messages that were sent my way yesterday.  I had several people read what I wrote yesterday, then tell me that they've all felt the same way.  Ladies, to know that I'm not alone in that feeling is so good.  Thank you.  

It's true what they say (whoever they are): There is strength in sharing our weaknesses.  There is strength in sharing our weaknesses.  There is strength in sharing our weaknesses.  A-to-the-men!  Thank you to the ladies who shared with me.

It's definitely helped color my day with my children today.  I'm so grateful for my time with them, even when it's challenging.  These kids are gems, and I treasure them.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Being A Mom Right Now

Lately, I have had a difficult time staying present while at home with the kids.  I'm having a hard time slowing down and soaking up my little fragile, delicate, perfect time with my babies.  It's been hard on me.  John and I have talked about it.  On Monday, I got to get away for quite a bit and have time to do some things on my own.  At the end of the day, I felt so happy and full.  I told John about it, because I felt guilty, like major guilt for feeling that way.  

He was great about it.  He understood what I was feeling, and assured me that I should not feel guilty for my good Monday.  That talk helped.  It didn't fix my attitude, but it was good.  

This week, I'm doing the little things that help me when I feel this way.  I think of fun little adventures to go on with the kids.  I take lots of pictures of them as they make their own play.  I talk about it with John and my friends.  Then, I remember that prayer would be pretty helpful as well.  Duh.  

Besides the prayer thing, the other little snippets are just temporary fix-its.  They're not solutions.

I'm adding something to my fix-it list.  This one's good: I'm accepting it.  I'm accepting that no matter what I do, I'll always have mom-guilt.  I'm accepting that I have my down days, and sometimes they last a few days.  I'm accepting that most days I eat these children up with a spoon (and I hope those are the days that I remember).  

I'm also learning that it might be something deeper going on inside me, and I'm also learning that it might not be.  I might just be chronically restless.  

As I process this and think about hitting publish, I'm starting to feel better.  I'm starting to feel a little freer. There is power in sharing our weaknesses, right?  I hope so.  Here is my weakness right now.  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Some Great Advice On Raising Girls

My little Fern is walking more and more these days.  We're talking 70/30, walking/crawling ratio.  She's a little late to the walking scene, but I'm ok with that.  There's no rush from me.  This little girl is just so much fun.  

Recently, I received some of my favorite advice and insight on raising daughters.  I think that the same can be applied to raising sons as well.  It came about when my friend posted pictures of her daughter's room.  She has two teenage daughters, and I think that they are the bees knees. I left a comment that I loved the style of the room, and said something along the lines of "way to let her decorate like she wants to.  The payoff will be good in the long run."  Her response was epic, and I want to post it here.  I want to share it, and I want to have it permanently tattooed on my parenting playbook. 

The funny thing about teenage daughters and style is this: If you have a close, loving relationship with your mom, you don’t want to disappoint her.  So you agree to what she suggests, even if it is not your thing.  The challenge of a  mom (and you will experience this when your kids get older) is to see that is happening and make VERY clear that suggestions are just that. It’s a tricky thing, as parents we are all about being a certain kind of family “ climbing family, no tv family, artsy family,  humorous family, etc. “ and when our kids gravitate to those things, our egos can make us a little blind. It took me awhile, but I caught on that she was agreeing with me about stuff to be a pleaser.  Getting her to pick a paint color was like pulling teeth. I suggested a banner/ lights/ garland thing for her ceiling a few weeks ago…she put her foot down big time. Proud moment for me.

I thought that was great.  I want to digest that more and more, but I'm going to let it stay there, on its own.  Thanks for the advice, Tanya.  To her daughters (who I think read this blog), you've got one cool mama.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

This Week's Menu

I used to think that fish was for fancy people.  That's when I bought my seafood at the fancy store.  Then, I lowered my standards and got real.  Walmart has a ton of seafood that is frozen and we've been pretty pleased.  I bought some white fish there a while ago to make the bacon-wrapped dish below and it was amazing.  I served it to friends, and one them raved about how good the fish was.  Her dad and grandparents were fishermen, and she's pretty uppity about her seafood.  I took that as a good sign that it's ok stuff.  Maybe I should say that I have it on good authority that the fish at Walmart is good.  That's why we're able to have more seafood more often and I love it.  Here's what I'm planning to make this week:

Shrimp tacos, fruit
Tomato basil pasta with sausage
Cream of broccoli soup, strawberry and goat cheese salad

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Burl Tells Me How He Feels

I was talking to an older friend of mine.  Her children are grown, and she's working in a daycare right now.  She was telling me a story that I can't remember, but I remember what she said in the middle of it.  Since I started going to counseling when I was in elementary school, it rang true to me.  She said, "I really don't care about teaching them about colors or shapes.  I think it's more important to teach children to express how they feel."  Right on, sister, right on.  Lately, Burl has busted out with some pretty hilarious statements.  He's telling me about his emotions, and I'm loving it.  Here are the latest stories: 

The most frequent emotion that Burl has is sad, or at least that is the one that he tells me the most often.  I've noticed that he tells me that whenever he's bored, so he might have bored and sad mixed up.  I'm pretty sure that he got that mix-up from me.  I'm constantly mixing up bored and sad.  I'm not too concerned about that one, but I think it's cute whenever he says it.  I'll say this: it always starts a good conversation.

One time after I had to give him a discipline (gosh, I hate that word, but I'm using it for this space), he told me that it hurt his feelings.  That ignited another good conversation about why he gets in trouble for disobeying.  I think I got my point across clearly, or at least I hope so.  He can save the rest for the counselor.  

A few weeks ago, we ordered a new car seat for Fern.  She was upgrading to a face-forward one, and we were all excited about it.  Burl and Fern climbed on John as he adjusted the straps for her little frame.  A few weeks later, I was loading a DVD that I bought for Burl.  It was the Curious George movie.  Both of these things were very exciting to Burl, and they got the same response, "I so proud!"

This might be the deepest one.  I have titled it Introspective at 2.  Burl was looking out the window as we waited at the drive-thru pharmacy for his antibiotic.  Poor Burl had a double ear infection.  I heard him say something and had to have him repeat it to me, because I was sure I did not just hear this from my not-yet-three-year-old.  I did.  He said, "I thinking about my life, Mama.  I thinking about my life."  

My least favorite but probably the most important moment was when he correctly called me out.  We were cleaning toys, and he was dragging it out.  Every toy he picked up to put away got played with.  My patience was running low and I quickly gave up the opportunity to train him.  {Picking up toys seems to be the hardest thing to train.}  As he was taking a load of toys to his room, he was being silly and dropped them across the kitchen floor.  I was frustrated and it showed.  He started picking up/playing with the toys, and he told me, "be nice, Mama, don't be mean."  He nailed me, David and Goliath style, right between the eyes.  That led to a Burl-Mama talk where I got to apologize and tell him that I was wrong.  He spoke clearly about it with me, because he's Burl.  That's how he rolls.  

He can't say the c/k sound, but he can talk about feelings and emotions accurately and it makes me to proud.  I love talking with him, especially when I get to hear about what's going on inside his little world.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Women's Retreat, 2013

I spent the weekend with 57 lovely ladies from my church on a rowdy church retreat in the mountains.  Not only did a bunch of my favorite friends go, I got to meet (and play Nertz with) some new faces.  It was grand.

The fun started on Friday night when I met Patty.  Our ride of just the two of us, turned into five of us; our early departure turned into barely making it up there in time; and our quick stop for dinner at a local cafe turned into being sat at a nice restaurant where we were serenaded by that guy there with the guitar.  According to him, we look like a crowd that enjoys Brown Eyed Girl and Wagon Wheel.  He could not have been more spot on.  When he launched into Rocky Top, I had to pass him a couple bucks and tell him a nice thank you.  Thanks for the stories, dude.  Sometimes it's as much about the journey as it is getting there as it is the destination, and I mean that in the least cheesy way possible.  

It took little to no time for us ladies to relax and have fun.  On the way up there, Kathryn read us an article about some study that talked about the healthiest thing we can do for our bodies or something like that.  It said that over exercise or eating well or anything like that, men need a wife to be healthy and women need to be with women friends.  So much good stuff happens from those things.

Well, I don't need a study to tell me how much I needed this.  I'm all about some girl time.  All ranges of emotions were felt deeply this weekend as we talked, talked, and talked some more. If there is one thing that I love about my church it is that the women serve and nurture one another well.  

Women's Retreat 2013, you did not disappoint.  Good times were had, fo' sho'.