Friday, April 27, 2012

Golfing--Or Something Like That

We went to the golf course last night after dinner so Eric and Ellis could hit some balls.  Or "make a strike," as Ellis said.  Hole in one, home run ... tomato, to-mah-to.  

You've got to hold your mouth just right to get a strike in golf.

Brother was just happy to be outside on a beautiful night.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Paper Trail

Nine and a half months: the age at which my young develop a preoccupation with household paper products. Messes abound (see below).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Saturday was our family's 3rd year at a local kite festival.  It was a really fun time.  We met friends, saw some neighbors, had a picnic, and watched the kites fly.  The weather was really great, except for one crucial element--there wasn't much wind.  We had a great time nonetheless, and look forward to making this a family tradition!

Ellis found a neighbor to read to him.

Eric provided entertainment to Ellis and our neighborhood kids.
The 2- and 3-year-olds tested the tape boundaries the whole time.  Naturally.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Thank-You to Nie

I want to share with you today about a book I just finished.  I probably won't discuss many books on the blog, as it's primarily to keep people updated with the kids, but I think this is relevant.  I just finished a book called Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson, who is the creator of NieNie Dialogues (a link to her blog is on my sidebar to the right).   I first heard of NieNie in December 2009, right before Christmas, when Ellis was 11 months old.  I had been struggling with what I now see clearly was postpartum depression, but didn't recognize at the time.  There were a lot of situational things going on that I was struggling with.  I won't bore you with all the details, but in a nutshell, I think that postpartum hormones and I don't get along very well, and combined with that,  I was struggling with my identity as a stay-at-home mother after having been in the professional world, my husband was working crazy-long hours, I felt isolated and persecuted because of my parenting decisions, and Ellis had (has) a very intense personality that took me off guard.

I think the reason I didn't recognize PPD was because I wasn't depressed.  I wasn't weepy, I didn't feel sad, I wasn't staying in bed all day or any of the other classical signs of depression.  I wasn't sad--I was pissed.  I was angry at my husband, I was angry at Ellis for needing me so much, I was angry that I couldn't take a shower (or eat or pee or do anything, really) in peace, I was angry that I didn't have help, I was jealous of people who did have help.  Get the picture?  I loved Ellis and I had many moments of really enjoying motherhood--don't get me wrong.  But there was a definite undercurrent of anger that first year.

I didn't watch much TV then--and still don't--because I didn't want anyone to think that I wasn't serious business about my new job as a mother.  Well-meaning people were constantly asking me, "What do you do all day long?" or "Don't you get bored?"  So I was not going to turn on that TV and let them think that stay-at-home motherhood was like some kind of eternal summer break where I watched "stories" all day long and ate bonbons.  This particular afternoon in December, though, I turned on Oprah.  Her guest was Stephanie Nielson, a dark-haired, green-eyed woman who was my age and a mother of four.  I related to her immediately.  Her husband, Christian, was a private pilot, like my husband. She was a mother, she loved the store Anthropologie (my favorite), she had graduated from school the same year I had, and we shared a similar dark-haired, fair-skinned look.

In August 2008, she and Christian were in a small plane crash that killed their friend and Christian's flight instructor, Doug, and burned both Christian and Stephanie severely.  Christian was burned over 30% of his body and Stephanie over 80%.  They both spent time in medically-induced comas and had a long, arduous recovery that will probably continue for the rest of their lives.

On that Oprah episode, Stephanie discussed her decision to recover, to engage in life again after her accident.  She discussed how she longed to do the simplest things, like lift her son out of the bath tub or pack a lunch for her daughters.  And here I was angry that I was doing all the bathing, all the diapers, all the bedtimes and naptimes.  That's all she wanted to do.  I felt like a total ingrate, and like I had been missing the point all these months.

I started devouring her blogs during Ellis' naptimes.  I had about 5 year's worth to catch up with, so it took me until that next April to get through all her blogs, but I was hooked. It was like peeking in through the window of the home of someone I admired.  Before the crash, she had blogged honestly about the challenges and joys of motherhood.  She took pride in her role as an apron-wearing, casserole-baking wife and mother.  She had not been to college and did not apologize that she preferred motherhood to any other profession.  She also had style; she and her home were cute as a button.  

After the accident, she blogged openly about her painful recovery, about accepting her physical self after being burned, and about the joy she experienced at reclaiming some of her motherly tasks.  In some ways it was a stark contrast, but in many ways she was the same Stephanie, donning cute headbands and snapping photos of her kids.  She was beautiful in a new way.

It wasn't that I pitied her, or that she had it worse and so I should appreciate what I had. Her choice was what stuck with me--the fact that she had chosen to live, fight, recover, do hard things, and to make the best out of a terrible situation. It shifted my perspective fundamentally. I could proudly accept my role as wife and mother. I didn't have to justify that to anyone. Furthermore, I had value as a wife and mother; the work I did to keep up my home, feed my family, take care of my child--those were all valuable tasks even if they were tedious and sometimes mundane. It occurred to me that that was the trade-off in motherhood: it's monotonous at times, the work is never-ending and seems futile (meaning what I do is often undone mere minutes after it's complete), but in exchange for that I get to be the one who is here for every first step and new word. I'm the last person my kids see before they drift off to sleep--every time for their entire lives. I get the honor of creating the home that my children will remember as the one they grew up in. I'm in their daily childhood memories, and more importantly, shaping their lives. That's the big picture that I was missing: this life is a gift.

Fast forward two and a half years, and I'm 9 months postpartum with my second son. I won't say it's been easy, for sure. Having two children is its own unique challenge, and I've come to the conclusion that there may not be any easy transition to bringing another human being into the world and into a family.  What I'm saying is, I was ripe for a reminder about gratitude.

Stephanie's book came out earlier this month. I had preordered it and was excited the day it arrived on my doorstep. As I began to read it, I remembered why she had been so inspiring to me in 2009. I learned new details about how difficult and painful her recovery has been, both physically and emotionally. And, just when I needed it, she reminded me of what an important job I have been entrusted to, raising my children. How resilient we can be. How hard we have to work sometimes to achieve the marriage and family we hope for. And how resilient our children are when they have love and support in the face of obstacles. I especially needed to hear this now, when I worry about Ellis, who is still reeling from having his world rocked 9 months ago when Oliver first came for what Ellis thought was a "visit." It will take time, but he will be okay. He's already come a long way, and I have to give thanks for the progress he's made.

I need to give thanks for a lot of things. It's good to be reminded of that, gently, through someone else's trials. I hope that I don't always need to be slapped upside the head with that message, that I can learn it through joy and through others.

So I'm going to practice some gratitude: I'm thankful for my beautiful family, a wonderful husband who loves me, for a loving daddy for my children, for the opportunity to be "it" for my children day in and day out, for our health, for our provisions, for my extended family and in-laws, for a handful of close friends, for a support system, and for NieNie.

I would encourage you to read Heaven is Here if you get the chance.  You're welcome to borrow my copy, in fact.  It is sad at times, but the overall message of the book is not sadness.  It's about resilience and hope.  I think it's particularly relevant to anyone who has come through--or is still in the midst of--a dark time in their life.  And in some way or another, isn't that just about everyone?

Ellis and me, about the time I discovered NieNie  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Parking Lot

This sweet boy (and his mother) barely slept last night. I assume that last top tooth is giving him trouble.

I started to keep him at home this morning and let Eric and Ellis go on to church, but I wanted to be here when Ellis wore underwear to church for the first time. So Oliver fell asleep on the way to church, and Eric told me he went ahead and put Ellis in a diaper this morning. I wish I had known that, but we're here now and I'm not moving this poor sleepy boy, so I'm hanging out in the church parking lot.

Hope your Sunday is going this well, or even better!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Serious Play

One of Ellis' favorite things is playing with dried pinto beans and colored pasta.  He dumps.  He scoops.  He eats.  It's a seriously good time.

Back in December, I had this brilliant idea to have a sensory-play themed playgroup at our house with our Attachment Parenting group.  I filled an under-bed storage tub and a sand/water table with 20 pounds of dried beans and 15 pounds of colored pasta (gluten-free, no less).  Then invited over 10 of our closest friends and their children.  Chaos ensued.  I'm still finding beans in random places throughout the house...

Which is why, as you'll see, we take this activity outdoors now.  It's a great time.  There's something about this type of play that is particularly engaging and fulfilling for Ellis--I don't know if it's the textures, the colors, the shapes, the ability to make a giant mess, or some combination of all of it.  As you'll see, Oliver rather enjoyed himself as well!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Family Photographer

I take my role as the family photographer and historian very seriously.  So when my best friend--who is a social-worker-turned photographer--came to visit, I soaked up all the information I could.  She taught me about using evening light.  Here are some of my practice shots.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Saturday we took a trip to the zoo with our house guests.  The kids whined about riding in the stroller, wearing hats, putting on sunblock ... you name it.  But what's a trip to the zoo without a little whine, eh?  In the end we had a good time.  As always, we avoided "feathers" (birds) like the plague.    

Not the greatest photo, but it makes me smile. Such a cool dude.  
Ellis watching the polar bear dive in the water

He slays me in these sunglasses.

What a man!  Wearing a baby AND pushing the double stroller!

Ollie wasn't tolerating his hat well.


Ellis and an elephant behind.

Daddy and Ellis. :)