The source of my contentment in the midst of being poorer and fatter than ever.

 

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{This is me in June or July – mostly covered by Gilead, but you can see it in my face. I’ve gained more weight since then because of pregnancy.}

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{This is me circa 2009 after having lost 30 lbs. I keep obsessing over looking this way again. Then again, I did have virtually all of my time to myself at that point.}

Ugh. It’s 10:19 on a Tuesday and I haven’t showered, haven’t made my grocery list, haven’t dressed the kids – who are watching Monsters Inc. so as not to (gasp!) play and disturb the downstairs neighbor while I finish trying to write an email. As usual, I have spent some time reading articles instead of getting ready and then flipped over to Pinterest for a moment. I shouldn’t spend time on this, but today it inspired me to write this post:

I am a recovering materialist. It came home freshly to me the other day when I picked up an Anthropologie catalogue and a Boden kids catalogue from the recycling container in our foyer just for fun – something I haven’t done in a long time. I think they stopped sending them to me when they realized I’m not going to buy anything from them. It gave me a new perspective on something I’ve been struggling with for years now.

Since I had my first son I have been carrying around various amounts of extra weight that I don’t want. Amidst trying to cope with two pregnancies (well, now three) and two kids right in a row, I have only started to acquire the discipline to actually make most of our meals instead of buying frozen pizza or getting take-out. I know a lot of moms who are better at this, and who are better at eating healthily but for me this is an almighty struggle. So, I haven’t made a drastic change to our diet that I keep fantasizing about. I had dreamed and planned to lose the excess weight before getting pregnant with our third but then we made the intentional decision to be more open and less plan-happy with the begetting of children (a whole other post which I may or may not get into here), and here we are. I’m just struggling to accept what things are now without despairing that I will ever have a healthier diet and lose the extra weight.

But here’s what I realized. I keep remembering this period of time after we got married and had put on a bunch of weight and then gotten on Weight Watchers and lost a bunch as a really happy time for me. And what I have been remembering is actually a few isolated moments of “happiness” that involved the buying of new clothes. When I picked up that catalogue I was reminded of how I spent the majority of my thought energy at that time – it was in scheming how we could afford for me to wear J Crew and Anthropologie clothing. (On one level I think this is hilarious because it shows how middle-class are my aspirations. I had no yearnings toward designer clothing, even though I’ve always been an avid watcher of Project Runway. And I love me some Ellie Saab and Marchesa (can I get an amen?). On another level it’s really sad that my virtual environment has me pegged so well – that I have put myself into a position to be sold-to at such a relentless pace) I was actually very dissatisfied and unhappy with my life. The loss of weight had only reinforced the idea that I could improve my life by making myself into the images I saw.

Circumstances since then have put us – and me in particular because there is less reason for me to have a lot of new clothing – in a place far removed from the possibility of affording clothing from those stores. Unless I happen to find something from J Crew at the Salvation Army (where I buy the bulk of my clothing). And I realized when I saw those catalogues that I’m actually, in that respect, so much happier and more content than I ever have been before in this respect. Even though I am much poorer and fatter than ever before.

In a kind of crazy revelation from God that I had on Saturday walking through the city to Ogilvy from North Ave. beach I started to see the polished newness of all of the stores and the glam appearance of many passersby in a new light. Juxtaposed with the many homeless people on the side of the street, I had the sense that not only were the homeless people suffering (indeed, that was obvious) but that all of those other people (myself included) – all of the bunches of teenagers and svelt couples in their twenties dressed so trendily and middle-aged women with huge rocks on their fingers – were suffering just as badly, if not worse. I began to see the oppression under which we all labor to be people, to be purely ourselves who we were made to be, to be holy (that is, set apart for beauty). I began to feel that never-satisfied hunger radiating out at me: the hunger to be seen, to be known, to be loved. And those edifices took on a new significance. I recognized, dimly, the longing I still have to go into Pottery Barn and just look at all the perfection; To be able to buy whatever I want and to feel a part of something that is socially enviable. But I saw, also, the utter emptiness those stores promised me. For a long time I have hated that on my own behalf, but this time I looked around – into the eyes of some of those precious souls surrounding me and I hated it on their behalf much more. I guess you could say that for a minute or two, I saw things as they really were – in the way Jesus sees them.

My secret is really no secret except for the mercy of Jesus in keeping me from those things which targeted my weakness by the simple expediency of having a lot less money. The longer I’m kept from them, the easier it is to be okay with having just what I need and not everything I want. I keep telling myself that “if we just had more money” I could go to the gym every day and blah, blah, blah and feel better about myself and blah blah blah and have a better life. The other mercy of Jesus is just His gentle reminder that even when I had what I thought I needed to make me happy, it didn’t make me happy.

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This is my new nalgene. I lost my old one somewhere in Minnesota after Christmas. I got a great lakes sticker for it, which I just love. Those are carrot banana paleo muffins – sans any type of sugar – and that makes me happy because they were delicious and we’re back in the saddle. Plus the cake stand and dome makes me happy because I love bell jars and I finally have one of my own.

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This is Piggle’s first picture using the big heavy camera. Well, one of his first. It was on the multi-picture setting, so we got quite a few of this corner of the play room.

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Paleo chick-fil-a. It did not taste like chick-fil-a but it was delicious. And after all that work (most of these are in our freezer now), neither of my sons wanted to even taste one. Sigh.

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I love this quality of light and his little mouth making train noises. Getting rid of our t.v. has been unbelievably hard and unbelievably successful. Meaning, I’m seeing improvements in all areas: language, obedience, play, creativity. Also, I’m now VERY aware of the holes in his “education” thus far. Like, how he doesn’t know how to help clean up. Oops. Or sit at the table for a meal. But one step at a time. I find that, being engaged in life myself now, I am more able to be clear-headed about what needs to happen to get him where he needs to be, on a moment by moment basis. And that is worth getting rid of anything. I thought I couldn’t do motherhood without the break t.v. affords, and I find it’s actually quite the opposite. It was hindering me from much more than I thought. It wasn’t that I was constantly watching it myself (although it was happening far too often), it was that getting rid of that voice made everything else so much more clear.

Light

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I have been dwelling in darkness here lately, on this blog. At least it feels that way. Trying to dress up what are essentially complaints to make them more user-friendly. I knew I was doing it, which was why it was hard to justify continuing to post things. Also, our old computer was not working. I find, however, that we have this new fabulous computer at a time when a sudden growth is happening in my heart.

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When did this start? I can point to other little blooms of growth along the way. Times when I started to feel more spiritually stable, more at peace with where I stood in the world, more accepting of what I couldn’t change and didn’t like. Times when I spent more time doing and less time ruminating on what God wasn’t doing for me. Times when I would catalogue my life and get real about the people I’d hurt and the sins I’d committed and then go back and say sorry for them as best I could. And all along, all of my whole life, sometimes because of what I was taught sometimes in spite of what I was taught, I could feel that God was there. I would be moved by things not even understanding why I was moved. Embarrassed even, to be choked up in the midst of people who had more command of themselves. I would sit with my face in the window of our minivan watching midwestern fields slide by and just catch the glory waiting there, though it wasn’t grand. I remember long and solitary bike rides listening to DC Talk. One in particular where I rushed upon a field of new-budding something that was brightest chartreuse and I remember gasping, shocked by this jewel in the midst of dreary brown.

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When Gilead was born I felt this expansion. Actually, AS he was born. For weeks afterward even in my pain and the fog of first sleeplessness (when is it ever harder than that first time?!) I was giddy with new understanding  of God’s grace and my creatureliness. And, thinking I would feel it all over again, I was disappointed when Wyatt’s birth turned out ordinary. For the last year and a half I have been sliding. One long, slow, slide into the dark. I listened too much to voices not His, I looked to hard and long at things I didn’t have and I – as He recently put it to me – tried to merely rinse out my mouth in the stream of life instead of drinking long and deep.

In the midst of it all, however, a bud. Something. Hope. Bright spots in the dimness. I attended a couple of classes, I had spurts of praying more and I could occasionally see beyond the fog I’d created for myself. I found myself wondering whether those moments of womanish emotion I’d fought so hard to keep hidden in groups all my life were actually, maybe, the movement of the Holy Spirit in me. As soon as I admitted this might be a possibility, the floodgates were open. The more I admitted might be possible, the more I could see, the more I could feel, the more pointed the messages I received. He’d been trying, trying, trying to speak to me all along, all the time, over and over. It was never more clear than at the ordination of two men in our church. I’d never been at an ordination before. It was the most sacred, most joyous thing I’ve ever witnessed, excepting the birth of my two sons, I think. When I shared with Fr. Gregory Whitaker (one of the men) my impressions of that day which were just too blindingly real to be ignored, and also substantiated by Henry’s impressions, he told me (among other things) it was because that ordination was FOR ME. To build and affirm the body of Christ.

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So recently I’ve returned to the spending of time God in the early morning. It’s the only time I have. Much of my complaining at home and to friends has been about not having time and not having resources to feel like a person. And it was largely centered around Henry’s not being there for me in some way. There were many ways in which I felt this was the case, at different times. And then it got centered around, if I was honest, God not being there for me. Getting stuck in this situation where we’re in our 30’s with kids and ONLY NOW starting a career, and myself not having a career because who can count raising kids and keeping house as a career? Anyone could do that, I would say to myself and anyone else who would listen. And who cares if I mop the floor today? By this time tomorrow it will look the same as it did yesterday. Breakfast and Dinner are eaten together, yes, but punctuated by much, MUCH screaming on some days and over in about 5 minutes for all my slaving at the stove. My job just doesn’t matter, I would say, and I don’t have the wherewithal – or the resources – to lend it a bit of grace via some beautifully crafted blog or Etsy store.

And you know what? I don’t know what got me to the point where I could pray the prayer that started the change, but I remember when I finally realized it was the only prayer I could pray because there was no other answer.

Willingness.

That’s it. Willingness to do what I have to do.

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I’m telling you, as SOON as I prayed that prayer. It feels like, as soon as the IDEA of praying the prayer entered my head I felt better. It was a small, no, tiny turning. But that’s the Kingdom of God…like a mustard seed. The tiniest of seeds grows into the largest of trees where birds can make their homes.

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I don’t have time to write about everything that has happened since that moment. The highlights are that we have found what feels like a home in our small group at church. This didn’t happen because we were actively seeking or because I was especially virtuous in any way. It just sort of happened. But I could immediately tell that they have so much joy. And I can say from longer friendship with at least one of the couples – the joy is there because of practice. When they lost their first baby three years ago just after I’d given birth to Gilead, to my astonishment their first reaction was literally to worship God. It would be one of life’s greatest gifts to walk alongside people like this.

The other thing that has enriched many of my days since then has been the gift, by my Mama, of two books: Jesus Calling and One Thousand Gifts. I wish I could tell you that I received them in the spirit with which they were given, but when I did finally open them I found only (as ever) a reiteration of the message I have received from God since the day I was born: “join the dance. Be part of the beauty. Come, run with me.” As I see it now, a flood of images and words and beauty that He has lavished upon me, because He loves me. All I have to do is to say yes.

I was pondering that mystery today as we took a walk through the neighborhoods in our 40-some degree weather. Do you ever have the experience of being moved by something and not even knowing why? I remembered this image from the Planet Earth series. I can’t remember if it was the opening overview showing images from around the globe or if it was in the jungle segment, but it was a time-lapse shot of the jungle floor. At first I didn’t realize it was a time-lapse and I remember being about to make a joke that the movements of the small plants were a little too sexual-looking for me: They would swell and grow a bit larger with each “breath”, heaving themselves upward toward the light. And then when I understood the time lapse I thought about how that must be how God sees the world – or could see the world if He chose – everything stretching, breathing, straining toward Him.

And then today…I just got it. In a new way. It IS SEXUAL. Rather, sex IS this…this thing. This reality. Or one embodiment thereof. We ARE all meant to be pushing, straining, panting, longing after Him. Jesus. Pure light and life. That is why the rocks would cry out if we did not; because they ARE! We just mostly can’t see it. Or we can’t see it if we’re not looking. And the way to look is the YES. Stewart says it all the time in his sermons, C.S. Lewis says it in all of his writings, there it is in Ann Voskamp as soon as I crack it open. All it takes is one little turning, one little yes. So simple, so small, so unbelievably stark. A turn away from sin isn’t just a turn into nothingness as I so often have blinded myself into believing. It’s a turn from un-reality into that which is the only, utterly real in existence. And we have to say the yes to be with God because God IS the yes. All of God and all of creation come together in one big ecstasy of YES!!! THAT is why Jesus death on a cross isn’t the dark, shameful, horrible thing I grew up feeling it was – this thing that made me feel pity but not much more. Jesus didn’t want to go to the cross but He did. He said yes. And the Bible is actually very clear that that moment, unexpected by the very people who had been trained to look for it, that moment when He was stretched out – arms wide to the sky – abandoned and suffering for the sake of the world. THAT  was his greatest victory. His greatest yes. The emblem of all emblems of the essence of God.

He came so we might have life abundant. The only way to that life (not merely the life-everlasting of someday heaven, but the grab-it-by-the-balls LIFE that is thrumming under our feet and everywhere all the time)  is the yes – even unto death.

Wyatt turned One!

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I’m not a huge birthday person. I mean, I like my own birthday and I like to celebrate the birth of my kids and my husband, but not with huge parties every time. In fact, we didn’t even have cake for Gilead’s birthday this year. But for both boys’ first birthdays I just felt like celebrating. For a parent, it’s a huge milestone. I think making it through the first year of a baby’s life is akin to making it through labor and delivery. Although I have to say 3 is turning out to be as much of a challenge – if in a different way.

Anyway, I realized yesterday as I was perusing all of our old photos that I hadn’t posted these amazing ones Harold (Henry’s stepdad) took. There are many more beautiful images that didn’t make it to the post. He’s really good!

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Hard to remember it was this hot outside at one point.

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drinking the bubbles.

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What did you think about that Rosie?

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He took to cupcakes very easily.

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So, for the first time in a loooooong time I am going to link up to and post a {pretty, funny, happy, real} (Those of you who read this or know me at all or have ever had a 30 second conversation with me have heard me mention “the catholic lady blog,” which is my favorite. Every Thursday they do a context of contentment post. I like that. I look forward to it. I’m always mentally filing things under one or other of those headings.

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This is a picture from Henry’s sister’s phone. She came on his birthday to watch the boys for a little bit while we went out for dinner. She sent me this picture a month or so later. But my most amazing piece of {happy} is the new computer I’m using to type this entry. It’s the only way I could be typing it because ALL of my media was failing me. We got a HUUUUUGE tax return and decided this was a much-needed priority. Henry got it set up for me this morning and I am already in heaven.

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I told Henry this morning, we live in the Fortress of Solitude. Enough said, I believe.

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Right after Christmas we got (with the help of my family) the other apartment painted, finally. It houses our playroom and Henry’s office and  we’re renting the other part of it – hopefully soon to a nice gentleman. The difference of a coat of paint is amazing. And there’s the teepee I made. Three times. Third time is the charm, I guess.

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We moved our dinging table out to the common area, so it’s next to our living room furniture. Thus, I guess, feels more like living room furniture and made to be climbed-on-top-of. I am forever getting Wyatt off of the table. Here, I guess, they were playing nicely – which was nice – but on top of the table, thus the slightly guilty looks I got.

Nothing as I want it

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It’s been so long since I’ve used this space. Occasionally, I visit it and then run out of time or energy to actually write a post. I’ve separated myself from Facebook as well, maybe permanently, so I know if I write I will get very little   “coverage.” And, as with most things, it’s not really how I want it and I don’t have what I need to make it so, so an intention to post usually spirals down into a miserable puddle of discontent. “In the pipe!” as Piggle would say. He’s very into things going down pipes – namely, his poop.

I have this grand idea for a redesign with a masthead based on our family “crest.” I’d love for Henry to contribute too. But all of the content I think about is currently in the form of daydreams – and honestly I don’t know how healthy they are anyway. Almost everything I want to do ends up making me feel thwarted in some way these days…

So this is a picture of some impromptu moment of “lovings” with my boys and is so typical of my life these days: unshowered, unstyled, 30 lbs. heavier than I want to be, in stained, baggy clothes sitting on a shabby, dirty couch and inundated with boys. I’m tired and worn out and can’t imagine an end in sight. I wish I could say that their love makes it all worthwhile – and most days there are bright moments in my day when I’m able to just be grateful- but in general, if I’m truthful, I feel sad.

Just saying that, of course, doesn’t give a reader the whole picture. You wouldn’t know that I’ve struggled most of my life with depression and certainly my whole life with discontent. Kids aren’t the problem, they only heighten the problems that were already there. You don’t know how I’ve been struggling my whole life with blood sugar problems that are tied into my depression and anxiety and that I’ve been trying – mostly without any lasting success – to change my diet to give myself a better chance at life. Failing in that, which is what I have been doing as I see it for the last 10 odd years and in a bigger way in the last 4, is a source of increasing shame and depression.

I know in my mind I should be grateful for all I’ve been given. I have it better than so many. I know that some of this is just the difficulty associated with being a mother and that so many women better qualified than me at living in the world of commerce have chosen it as a profession above what they trained for, and are embracing its deprivations. I see them and I admire them. I want to accomplish, as a mother, about 10 times more than I ever seem to be able to accomplish. I feel like I see many moms succeeding at things I can’t even approach. I know I shouldn’t compare. It’s just hard when you know there’s more out there. That you COULD be doing better and WANT to be doing better. I know some of these desires to do better originate in selfish desires, but I also feel so often that there has to be more than this. Surely, when Jesus said He had come to give us life and give it abundantly, THIS was not what He had in mind. I know my ideal answer is probably that I should pray more, but I find it hard even to get quiet enough to do that, for I am afraid to unplug and let the sadness in.

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Just being chatty

Image{All my boys were so dapper on Easter, don’t you think?}

We were outside all day yesterday. It was glorious.

Also, I changed the inner tube on our new double stroller (Christmas gift from Grandma & Grandpa Shuffle) by myself. I’m so proud.

I have been realizing lately that blogging mostly doesn’t fit into my life. What I want to write about is either a list of things I agree with that someone else has written about much more eloquently or too personal or complain-y and better put down in my journal and hopefully never read again. I’d like to post pictures of things that make me feel content in my life, but I never seem to find the time to take pictures!

[I’ve recently discovered that, lo and behold, I am perfectionist. Not in the “my house has to be immaculate for anyone to come over” way (although I know there are some of you who come to my house and comment on the lack of clutter…I know “clean” is subjective), but in a way that keeps me from doing things because I think I don’t have whatever I need to do it perfectly. Now that I see this, I realize it’s been a problem for me all along but in this season of life it’s particularly crippling in terms of doing things that feed my soul. I don’t have much of a strategy for dealing with it yet, just so you know. I just thought I’d share.]

Right now, Gilead is watching Toy Story for the 5th time since Tuesday and systematically destroying the living room. I haven’t showered since two days ago and the breakfast dishes aren’t yet washed. I’m going to have to get up in a minute to change the third poopy diaper of the day (poor guy has diarrhea stomach flu, awesome.)…all to write this little blog post. It hardly seems worth it.

The other thing my blog entries usually are in my head is a response to whatever I’m reading or watching. Maybe that would be more fun for ya’ll. I almost posted this on FB last night. We have been listening to The Fellowship of the Ring – mostly me and FOR me, but I think Gilead likes it. He liked The Hobbit – and Little House in the Big Woods. Last night while I was doing dishes I got to my favorite part, perhaps, in the whole trilogy: the council of Elrond. If you haven’t read the books and are relying on the movies to inform your knowledge of this scene, go read the books! In either case, I’ll just post the quote and not try to summarize. It’s my favorite moment, ever.

“No one answered. The noon-bell rang. Still no one spoke. Frodo glanced at all the faces, but they were not turned to him. All the Council sat with downcast eyes, as if in deep thought. A great dread fell on him, as if he was awaiting the pronouncement of some doom that he had long foreseen and vainly hoped might after all never be spoken. An overwhelming longing to rest and remain at peace by Bilbo’s side in Rivendell filled all his heart. At last with an effort he spoke, and wondered to hear his own words, as if some other will was using his small voice.

‘I will take the Ring,’ he said, ‘though I do not know the way.'”

There are parts of this story – and this is one – which never fail to bring tears to my eyes. They are heartening tears. Tears of courage. The older I get the more I see the joy in life is not the joy I had planned for myself. It doesn’t consist of the career I wanted or the house I thought I’d have or vacations taken or parts of the world seen. It helps that my choices right now are very limited and therefore black and white. I am JUST starting to settle into that and embrace it, which also means leaving behind some of those natural (and perfectly fine) longings because if I didn’t they would hinder me. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know when I started out on this journey that it wouldn’t look at all how I thought (I mean the journey of family and building a life with another person) and that the current hardships would be in place for what feels like such a long time. It’ll be at least 4 more years before we can go anywhere. We had another brief flirtation with living on my grandparents’ farm for the free rent (not to mention the glories of 16 acres!), but decided that Henry can’t quit his job to finish school faster and that keeps us here. Which also keeps us in this very nice two bedroom apartment. I’m so thankful that I’m thankful for it. I’m thankful for God’s faithfulness in opening my heart to Him this year. I have to say, the faith I had to offer Him was very small indeed. But in this year I have been able to see, more than ever, the people around me – so many families in our own parish – are struggling in the EXACT same ways.

Can I tell you something amazing? Henry’s grandpa is GIVING us his car. It’s 13 years old but has 40,000 some odd miles on it and because he is a Shuffle – THE Shuffle – it is impeccably maintained. We weren’t praying for a new car and the anxiety of our current car’s needing maintenance we won’t be able to afford was only in the back of our minds, but this was a small miracle. Another proof for our doubting hearts that He hears our prayers and answers them in concrete ways. He will take care of us in this apartment for however long we need to be here. And after that, when we have more choice, He will guide us to where we need to be.

I love this passage from The Fellowship… because it’s such a perfect picture of how life in Christ feels to me.

In the daily snippets from Little House that I hear, another longing is stirring in me once again – and hope that some of it can be realized no matter where I live, even if it’s here in a place with a small, shaded yard that we don’t own in the midst of the suburbs. Although he has long since forgotten about it, I often try to answer my friend Chris’s question about why pioneers were so endlessly fascinating to girls. For me the answer lies in my bone-deep satisfaction at just hearing about Ma making cheese [Or hats! From oat straw! For Pete’s sake!] and the sense of harmony in their lives and love in their home. In the most recent issue of Martha Stewart Living (don’t judge me for having a subscription. It was a gift. I actually don’t much like that magazine or her way of life despite having many similar interests to Martha. But that is another post for another time), there was a small article about a woman named Bea Johnson, who wrote about book – Zero Waste Home – about her decision to fundamentally change the way she lived when they downsized homes. Something about that – the clean aesthetic, the high function, extreme purging??? – appealed to me and I want to Spring clean like never before. As usual, I have a ton of thoughts about what I’d LIKE to do and haven’t gotten to any of it yet amidst the serious NEED FOR TIME AT THE PARK going on at our house, but as long as the sunshine holds, I’m being positive about it, instead of doomsday. I will do one small step at a time. I should read that book, too. It’s making me re-think all this packaged stuff I buy and wanting to make a lot of it for myself. Little House is making me realize that it all might be more work, but it’s still pretty simple to make things at home. And infinitely more…homey. Not just healthier, although that is a good reason, but somehow richer. Closer to God? I’m trying to put words to a gut-level feeling I have about it. Wouldn’t you rather roll on a deoderant made with love out of edible ingredients than something marketed to you by someone who doesn’t care about you that will give you cancer? Speaking of home-made deoderant: I sure hope it works. The natural Tom’s sure doesn’t and I STINK lately.

Okay, so we’re also deep into the 5th season (I think) of Mad Men and loving it. Can I just say…I’m so late to this particular (what’s the expression? hoe down?) that it’s pretty irrelevant, but the first episode of season 4 – with all the mid-century decor. Stunning. A visual feast! I was practically salivating. And I’m reading the Wheel of Time series, by Robert Jordan. It’s a good read! And totally safe to own for when we have kids of reading age. Despite the horrible cover art, the stories are really good (if you like fantasy) and very clean. In a refreshing twist, most of the main characters so far equate sex with marriage as a worldview. So even though there is romance, it feels noble.

Other than that, I’m contemplating painting our kitchen cabinets, planting some kind of small garden in our yard or herb planters from our kitchen window, making baby hats and creating a more permanent craft space IN OUR HOME for myself. Our space DOES work well – in the words of my friend Emily who was over the other day with her 5 children and unless I was mistaken seemed hilariously envious [ I told her I’d love a 3rd floor play room and she said, yes, but then there’s SO MUCH JUNK. I see her point] – but I need a place to work here, in our house. Especially since we’re going to be here for awhile. I just thought of this: I guess I should just pray for a craft table that will fit, since God seems to be giving me stuff un-looked-for. 🙂

Adieu, Christmas break. We will miss you.

We spent most of our time in Kettering, OH this last week and a half and I was far too busy re-gaining 5 lbs, visiting with family and watching Rehab Addict to take photos. Here are  few from our last, precious days together.

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{We went to the Morton Arboretm train exhibit on New Year’s Eve}

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{We lost count of how many times he said “Yay!” By the way, his vocabulary is exploding lately. It’s so fun.}

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{a moody, album cover photo. I was playing with our new camera}

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{what Sprootle was doing}

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{naptime}

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{our family crest, on a onesie made by auntie Sarah, originally. It has a ship on the front}

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{zombie themed magnet poetry for H from J}

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{Auntie Jo and John hung out with us a bit}

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{fake tilt shift is awesome. way to go cannon.}

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

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{my little attempt at hand lettering}

So, for my birthday I received, from Henry’s Dad and Nancy, a new Canon Power Shot with camera case and memory card to replace the one stolen from us at the Milwaukee Zoo this Summer. Now we can actually take some video of Sprootle. I decided today to take some shots of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks and here they are, with running commentary.

Thanks to this Restarting class I’ve been in this fall, I have a whole new understanding of Joy, and therefore, of the Incarnation and a new lease on the season of Advent. I may get around to writing more on that later, but just as likely, I won’t. It is a busy season.

I’ve always loved Christmas carols – especially this one – which we liturgicals sing at the beginning of each service in Advent. We try very hard to be on time for church so as not to miss it. It’s the highlight of my week. My time spent on Pinterest has made me long to be able to do some nice hand lettering and one day I just said to myself: “you can do this.”

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{our new t.v. cabinet}

I took this because, yet again, our living room has changed. Yes, that’s Sprootle on the rocker. I had been praying for a t.v. cabinet, being convinced that the t.v. needed to be hidden for us to maintain some kind of control over how much Piggle watches t.v. You would think, being, in fact, in control of this that I would feel more in control of it. I do not. I do not feel in control of my own consumption of t.v. sometimes – which is one of my “good reasons” stated via a recent Facebook discussion on my advice from someone older and wiser than I to keep Piggle from watching too much, and myself from relying on it too much…for his entertainment and for my own anesthetization. Again, maybe more on that later (part of my class) but maybe not.

Anyway, TWO DAYS after I went to Great Lengths to bring home this cabinet (found something beautiful at the Salvation Army, in pretty good condition, but it had to be taken in 24 hours and they do not have a delivery serivce. So, I rented a truck from Home Depot and got some manpower to help us get it up the stairs. I had help with kiddo watching from my Mom. Whew!) Piggle destroyed our television. It was a nice flat screen HDTV which we’d inherited from my Grandma. I fell on the floor sobbing when I saw the “crack” in the screen and that the rest of it had gone dark. The next day found us wondering whether this was a sign from God or just a blessing or what have you. I think I am growing out of that particular line of thinking about the t.v. I don’t know though…we’ll see. Right now I just feel like God gives us freedom – even to own and watch a t.v. and that I am growing in my capacity not to turn to it for comfort just like anything else. Piggle and Henry got the stomach flu a couple of days later and since then we’ve been using our computer for basically the same amount of show watching we did before. Well, Piggle is. I am not watching much at all. Which is nice. And I have a book I’m reading. So…we’re keeping the cabinet which I like very much and am glad we have. And we’ve decided to purchase another t.v. with birthday money we received from Henry’s Grandpa. And that’s the end of that particular saga for now. I guess in an ideal world I’d be the perfect mother who had enough energy for her very high-energy son who doesn’t give me much rest between all of my other jobs which I do quite adequately, thank you very much, and could keep him engaged in the life of our home all of the time he wasn’t playing by himself like a perfect angel and not destroying other things in our home, but that’s not the case. Probably not for anyone. Sometimes I just need a break.

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{case in point: he was watching Word World. And there is our tree. It is fake and loaded with purple balls. Yay Advent!)

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{Henry’s childhood nativity scene given to him by a former teacher(?), which is missing Joseph. Whoops!}

This makes me so happy every time I open it each year. 1, because Henry in his little boy writing, labeled the box “God Seen” and in parentheses his mom wrote (scene), but I LOVE that it says God Seen. Indeed, little Henry, indeed. And 2, I love that my own son now plays with it and I get to tell him about baby Jesus and he actually gets it a little bit this year. And I love that we’re moving into our new church building (we did the 3.5 mile procession on Sunday night from the rented high school to the new sanctuary) at this time in the year when Gilead is really seeing the world for the first time. I mean, I can see that he is seeing the world. We spent a very long time on Sunday playing in the enormous, perpetually overflowing baptismal font that is set in the middle of our new space. I really would love to write more about this whole thing, but again, probably won’t. Just the memory of him playing in the “living water” is enough to make me cry. I just love Advent.

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{the new Shuffle Family Advent Calendar, which is not perfect, but in its imperfection, is.}

Which brings me to the one craft I have completed since Wyatt’s birth (I think. I can’t remember) in a flurry of activity and on the spur of the moment one Saturday in November. My own family had one with a moving star for over the numbers and we always fought over who got to move the star each day. I hope my kids don’t actually fight over it, but I surely hope they like it the way we liked ours. It’s burlap and then felt for the nativity scene and random fabric scraps I had for the numbers. I used hot glue. Oh, the star is felt too, with a safety pin hot glued to the back. I doused it in elmer’s and blanketed it in glitter and then let it dry flat for a week so when I picked it up it was stiff, just like I needed. Am I smart or what? Simple and done. I was going to, and probably still will someday, make pockets and insert dowel rods but the rods are too long for the door and I don’t want to mess with any sawing, so I just hot glued it to the door. It’s low enough that Piggle can touch the figures. And he is interested in the star, by the way.

Happy Advent to you all. I pray for you to feel the true longing for Jesus which characterizes the reality of all that is and also that you would know Joy – which is that God wanted so to be with us, and for us to be with Him, that He came here to make it happen.

Comparison

Here’s Gilead at around 8 weeks – his first smile on camera. I know, because Wyatt is fitting into this outfit about the same way right now.

Here’s the picture of Wyatt from the other day with HIS first smile caught on camera. They do look similar! I knew Wyatt was less chubby, though.

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