Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Every little bit counts

Friends, I have a confession. I have A LOT of stuff. I love stuff. I get attached to stuff. I fear getting rid of stuff, because "what if I need it some day?!" But if I've learned anything in the last 18 months of being a stay at home mom, it's this: when I make more room for stuff in my life, I'm making less room for the people in my life. When I choose to allow hundreds of toys into my life, then I spend more of my day cleaning up. When I choose to own 35 mugs, I do more dishes. When I hold onto clothing that I wore in high school, I am choosing clutter. That's just one more thing to move from house to house.

My life is beautiful and full with these four daughters of mine, and I've decided I need to stop treating my stuff like it's my fifth child. I give that fifth child so much of my time and energy, my patience is drained by it and my four real children all suffer because of it. It's time. Time to let stuff go, throw stuff out, sell, and donate. So in my home starting tomorrow I'm instituting Throw it out Thursday! Every Thursday I will continue this mission of decluttering my home. I know it will be hard work. I know I might get emotional (don't judge, m'kay?). But I also know that it will be SO SO worth it.

Do you have too much stuff? Do you feel like you're always organizing, cleaning, and putting things away? Want to walk this journey with me? Lets free ourselves! Here's where I recommend you start: go to your library or local bookstore and check out Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley -- The FlyLady. The book exudes her warm, loving, firm presence, and I could not have gotten started without her. I also recommend going over to The Purposeful Housewife with Allie Casazza. She writes about how minimalism is especially important to us mamas. If FlyLady got me started, Allie kept me going. She's got tips, tricks, and lists, with humor woven throughout.

I haven't been doing this for long, this decluttering mission of mine. I haven't even been doing it very consistently if I'm being totally frank with you. But I have noticed a huge difference all the same. Even the little bit of effort I have put into it has helped. I see the difference and I feel the difference because


So here is a challenge for you, with just a couple days until Christmas. Many of you are looking forward to opening up presents from under your tree. Your children don't know it yet, but they are getting new toys or new clothes. You may not know what you are going to receive, but you spy a few not-so-neatly wrapped packages under the tree with your name on them. Why don't you do some decluttering BEFORE Christmas? Why not make room in your house and in your life for the gifts you are about to receive? You probably have some things in your kitchen cupboards or drawers that you don't ever use and don't really need. Maybe you have three colanders or 30 butter knives. Maybe you have had a bundt pan for five years and not once used it. Or maybe you can start in your dresser drawers or your children's overflowing toy chest. I bet there are some things you'll find that you don't need, and you don't really want. Now in the spirit of giving, find a local "Pay it forward" group on Facebook, or create an ad in the "free" section of Craigslist. I bet there's a family who doesn't have what you have. There just might be someone who needs a little bit of the thing you have in excess. Maybe you won't find anyone who needs butter knives or a bundt pan. But then again, maybe you will. And to someone who finds themself in the dispiriting position this Christmas of not having money to buy things for their family or home,


So I encourage you, I challenge you, I implore you! In the midst of freeing up space in your home, reach out as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Well hello again

I am sitting in my living room, in the middle of my comfy couch, listening to the rain drip outside and the heater thrum inside. The Christmas tree is glittering in my peripheral vision on the left while the coffee pot lights glow merrily on the right - perhaps I'll have just one more cup.

I have missed being in this space! September and October were so fun blogging here, but as November came, and with it the National Novel Writing Month, I realized I wanted to dedicate the month to novel writing. I haven't ever written a novel before, and I didn't finish a novel last month, but it was fun to dedicate my time to that process for 30 days. I have two stories I was working on and I made a little bit of progress in each. So for my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, and with four kids 7 and under underfoot, I call that a success!

Now we are two weeks into December and Christmas Eve is just 10 days away! With the weather outside getting a little frightful (we've been having freezing rain, which is just not as magical as snow) I have been enjoying more and more of my 'winter activities.' I find that every winter, when the house is toasty and the outdoors are dark, cloudy, and cold, I want to get out my yarn bag and crochet, or lay on the couch and read, I want to play more with make-up, or cuddle with whatever daughter is amenable to unending snuggles! Winter is some of my favorite time of year.

So for today I think I will crochet. I think I'll lay on the couch and read, and I'll snuggle my kids. I will also probably do some dishes, vacuum, and make a giant pot of homemade chili, if I'm being totally honest. But first, I think I'll go have that second cup of afternoon coffee.

Coming up...
Throw it out Thursday!*

*Disclosure: this will not happen every Thursday. But it's a fun post name, right?!

Monday, October 24, 2016

This week's goals

I can't believe it's Monday again! Last week passed so quickly with Tristan being home, we did so much relaxing and enjoying and spending time together. The girls' moods were brighter, their attitudes better, and it was just SO nice. I didn't finish everything on my list from last week, and some of it will need to get done this week, so you may notice some repeats! I wanted to start this week off by getting up early and having 'me' time where I exercise and then read my Bible. Last night I set the alarm for 5:30, but when 5:30 rolled around and my alarm went off  my brain said "nope!" so I turned it off and didn't get up until 7. I guess I'm not quite ready for an early morning routine like that. Bummer. I'll do these things this week instead:

  • Carve pumpkins with the kids (Tristan suggested we do Larry the cucumber and Bob the tomato from Veggie Tales- I will post pics when we finish!)
  • Bake pumpkin seeds (yumyumyumyum)
  • Laundry (I'm down to about 1/3 of a laundry mountain ;)
  • Go to a local farm and get produce
  • Buy Christmas presents (I've got the shopping itch bad at the moment)
  • Make a fall/pumpkin/jack-o-lantern inspired craft with the kids (any suggestions??)
  • Shine my kitchen sink (this has been quite neglected lately)
  • Read to the girls at bedtime (we're currently reading Stuart Little)
  • Rearrange the furniture (okay, I probably won't actually do this, but I'm kind of in the mood to)
  • Vacuum. Twice. 
  • Start a new art project (I'm thinking a painting - maybe one with words!)
  • Read voting pamphlet - I like to make sure I know a bit of both sides of all the issues that I'll be voting on
  • Exercise during the day
  • Bible and prayer time
  • Prep the house for a weekend visitor!
Oh I have an exciting week ahead of me! I think I'll go dive in, starting with that sink!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Truth Be Told Friday

It's 7:58 as I sit here, drinking my lukewarm coffee and begin to type. I have been up for an hour and a half, breastfed my sweet baby, taken out the garbage, changed my three year old's poopy diaper (she's not potty trained yet, please don't judge me) and gotten my two older girls up, ready, and onto the school bus. I think I forgot to have them brush their teeth. This my dear friends, is real life.

Tristan has been off work this week, and so we have been on a 'stay-cation.' I haven't done as many dishes, nor cooked as many meals, I haven't put away the laundry that's been washed, I haven't even folded it. My house is a mess.

But do you know what I did do? I drew. I read. I watched football with my hubby (or at least read on the couch next to him while he watched football). I took my oldest daughter on a drawing and hot chocolate date. I took my three big girls on a play date. I exercised in the middle of the day. Tristan and I took our dog to the dog park. One morning, Tristan slept in till 11. One morning I slept in till 11! Our whole little family went to the pumpkin patch. We had a lot of great self-care time and great family time over the last week! And now, I think it's nearly time to bounce back.

Truth be told, my house looks like this.
My kitchen counters are covered.
My living room has laundry everywhere.
My coat closet has exponentially more on the floor than it does on hangers or in cubbies.
And it was all totally worth it.

I think the hardest part about self-care and choosing family time over cleaning is the mess that's there waiting for you when you're done. It's hard for me to not feel regret. Or shame. I come to the end of this really great week and really look at the state of my house and I feel ashamed at the mess and regretful that I didn't take care of it sooner. In those moments I need to take a deep breath and have grace for myself. My worth is not found in how tidy or 'pinterest perfect' my home is. My value cannot be undone by a messy house and my value does not increase if my house is perfect. I have worth because of who loves me. Because I was chosen and loved and sacrificed for by a really big, awesome, personal, loving God.

So today I will move forward in that grace. Maybe I will put my homes to rights today. organizing the coat closet, cleaning the kitchen, and putting away the laundry. Or maybe I'll just close the closet door, put the laundry baskets in the baby's room, and have one more day of vacation. One more day of drawing, playing doctor and patient with my three year old, watching my baby crawl, and cuddling with Tristan on the couch. 💕

Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Art - my not so recent work

I have been wanting to write a post with pictures of some of my artwork, and today, here it is! I'll include finished drawings, sketches, and half-done works to give a broader sense of my work. I would also be happy to do a Q & A post if there's any interest in how I got started drawing, how long I've been drawing, if I have any training, etc. Comment below if you want to see that!

Lorelai, First Halloween, Age: 11 Months

Fruit !

Melanie's Stuffed Bunny

Mimi and Melanie

Psalm 119:32

Bird and Flower


Drawing is so good for me. Yet, it's one of those things I often don't make time for. Can any of you relate to that? Do you find that just because something is good for you doesn't necessarily mean it makes it onto your busy schedule? That is one of my struggles every week. Making time for what is good for me. Lately I've been been doing more drawing and it has felt so wonderful! This is my self-care. It's easy to put off taking care of me in order to take care of my family or home, but I'm trying to turn the tide on that and getting back into drawing on a consistent basis is one step in that direction. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

This week's goals

I can't believe it's Monday again already! This week is a special week for us because my husband has the week off of work! His hard earned vacation time will be enjoyed as a stay-cation. So this week, most of my goals will be centered around enjoying our family time.

  • Take the dog to the dog park together (we first met at a dog park :) )
  • Go to a farm and get some produce
  • Bible study daily
  • Grocery and household shopping (I might even get to go sans kids!)
  • Carve pumpkins with the kids
  • Bake pumpkin seeds
  • Finish up my commissioned drawing (I'll be doing a post with some of my artwork soon!)
  • Exercise
  • Watch a movie with my hubby (haven't done this in ages)
  • Laundry, laundry, laundry (just all the time)
  • Meal plan the next two weeks
  • Day-Date with Tristan while our big girls are at school and our little girls are napping

I don't always complete everything on my weekly list, but creating a list still helps me so much. It gives my life focus and direction. It puts me in a position where I'm leading my life, and not just reacting to my life. It helps me know where I'm going and where my family is going, because I'm able to see what we are choosing to give our time to. 

Creating a weekly goals list is like an architect designing before building. If all you ever did was get out there and put one brick on top of another brick and next to another brick, you're more likely to end up with a wall than a castle. If you want to build a castle it takes two things: Plans or designs for a castle that lay out where each brick will go, and it takes you getting out there every day and laying those bricks where your plan says to. 

Now that I have my plan, I'm off to start laying brick. Mighty things are built with small acts. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

This week's goals

Here. Goes. Nothing. I have decided to do a weekly post (probably on Mondays) with some goals for the week, things I want to accomplish, attitudes I want to work on... after all, I'm here with a desire to be vulnerable and transparent (which is a little scary). I got this idea of doing a weekly check-in from this blog that I love. At some point down the line, I'll have to do a post and share with you all some of my favorite blogs! But, for today, here are my goals for the week:

  • Refold all the laundry in my girls' dresser (I don't know if your kids do this, but occasionally mine will look for a specific item and unfold everything in the process!)
  • Work on my commission drawings (did you guys know that I draw?!)
  • Choose to bless Tristan when he works long hours instead of taking my day out on him
  • Deodorize the carpet with baking soda and vacuum
  • Bible study every day (found this daily scripture writing plan on Pinterest)
  • Laundry. SO MUCH LAUNDRY :)
  • Make a big batch of homemade chili (yummy recipe on Pinterest)
  • Cuddle with girls and pray and talk and snuggle and tell secrets for 5 minutes each once they're in bed at night. Best 20 minute decision ever.
  • Pack away outgrown clothing (since I've got four daughters, we keep quite a bit of clothing that each of the older three outgrow so that sisters can have a ready wardrobe when they size up! Unfortunately, I've gotten behind)
  • Read to my girls more <3 
  • Exercise every day - even if only briefly, every little bit counts!
  • Make a list of household items we need to buy this month
  • Have intentional away-from-kids "me" time
  • Budget our next check

I am so excited for this week! I have a lot of goals, I'd better hop to it!

Warmly, Susanne

Monday, October 10, 2016

7 highlights from the last 7 years (with pictures!)

LORELAI ~ She was our first baby, we didn't know what to expect, so looking back this labor was a bit of a comedy of errors. I woke up in labor at about 6 am, and by 7 I was certain this was it so I woke up Tristan. While I was panting and squatting and groaning, Tristan made himself pancakes. Yes. Pancakes. We both thought we would have about 24 hours of labor ahead of us, and I didn't want to eat, but he did. So while I was in crazy intense labor, Tristan was making himself a pancake breakfast. We finally got ourselves together and arrived at the birth center about an hour later (Tristan was driving 80 miles per hour on the highway). Upon arrival my midwife checked my progress and discovered I was already 7 cm dilated and entering the "transition" phase of labor. The birth tub was filled and Tristan got in with me, rubbing my back and holding my hand. I don't think he realized until that day just how strong my hands were. He begged me to squeeze less, and eventually took his wedding ring off. At one point he said he needed to get out of the tub and go to the bathroom, to which I growled "NO!!!" and my midwife and doula had to tell me that I could not tell Tristan he couldn't go use the bathroom, I needed to let his hand go. Reluctantly I did, and when he came back, he got in the tub with me and we were all limbs as I maneuvered my giant belly and got into a more comfortable position. Then my water broke... onto his foot. In a voice that clearly said "I'm not going to freak out but that is super gross" he told my midwife "UMMM... her water just broke. On my foot." It was only 1 hour later that with a mighty push, Lorelai was born. Tristan caught her and she was laid on my chest, lifting her head, opening her eyes, and snorting. Tristan and I became parents at 11:21 am, and I was more in love with him than ever.

GRADUATION ~ I finished college in December of 2010, just two months before Melanie was born. I could not have done it without Tristan's support. The graduation ceremony was June of 2011 and Tristan sat with my parents and our lovely babies (4 months and 1 and a half!) while they called my name and said "cum laude" as I walked across the stage. Four and half years of studying, two majors that didn't stick, and finally a double self-designed major that did, two pregnancies, and a wedding later... Tristan celebrated with me as I graduated with honors.

MELANIE ~ Only 15 months and 4 days after Lorelai was born, I woke up at midnight from labor pains. We had planned a home birth, so our midwife arrived a couple hours later. Tristan was filling an inflatable birthing tub in our living room, and heating water on the stove to fill it. We turned on some comedy tracks and laughed and joked together between contractions. This time, I knew what to expect. I could totally do this. The whole house (midwife Mel, Mel's assistant Jen, Tristan, my mama, and myself) was in this lighthearted sort of mood as we listened to Dana Carvey's "squatting monkeys tell no lies." It was an excellent labor. But I started to plateau, and I was staying at 7 cm dilated, so we decided to break my water. It was only 15 minutes after that that Melanie was born. Tristan caught her and she was laid on my chest, lifting her head, opening her eyes, and crying. Tristan and I were the parents of two beautiful girls and I was more in love with him than ever.

MEDFORD ~ When I was great with child (a little over 7 months pregnant with Elizabeth) we made the long trek from Lynnwood Washington to Medford Oregon. With two little girls (at that point, 3 and 2 years old) we drove over 450 miles to arrive for the Fox family reunion! Our time was filled with uncles, aunts, cousins, cousins-once-removed, nephew, brothers, and grandma. We ate good food, swam in a very cold river, slept in a small cabin,  and played and relaxed at Uncle's house. This was our first proper family vacation and it's when we fell in love with the hot days and cold rivers that mark an Oregon summer.

ELIZABETH ~ Exactly 2 and 1/2 years after Melanie was born, I woke up with labor pains. It was a Sunday in August and the sun had not yet risen, so I went for a walk to welcome the day and see if labor continued. It did not. Tristan went to work and I got the kids ready for church. I packed Lorelai (3.75 years old at that point) and Melanie (2.5 years old) into our giant double stroller and I walked, pushing them and carrying my 9 month belly the half mile to church. During church my labor pains got sharper, then went away while I walked home. It was like this all day. I tried to nap and labor kicked up, I got up and busied myself and labor stopped. Tristan got home and I told him we would be going to the birthing center tonight. I took a short 1 hour nap, and then couldn't sleep any more because labor was ON. Tristan drove me to the birth center where Lorelai was born, getting there around 8, and for a few hours it was just Tristan and I. The midwife and assistant stayed out of the room as much as possible (as per my request). I was throwing up the whole time, my water had not broken yet and I began to plateau at 7 cm again. Finally at 11:48 pm, my water broke and she was born at 11:51. Tristan caught her and she was laid on my chest. We had done it! We were the happy parents of three beautiful daughters and I was more in love with him than ever before.

EUGENE ~ Moving to Eugene was a surprise twist in what I thought would be an ordinary year. On an average day in June, as I was on my balcony, looking at the pool which had yet to open for the summer season, I opened the mail for the day. Then I called my mom in tears. I had just gotten a letter from our apartment community office saying our lease was up! I had remembered (apparently incorrectly) us signing a 12 month lease, not a 6 month lease! And to make matters worse, if we chose to renew and sign another lease, our rent would be increasing by a substantial amount. An amount that we could not afford. We were already in the cheapest apartments we could find within 15 miles of Tristan's work. We could no longer afford to live and work in the greater Seattle area. It was from this unexpected news that we began looking for work in another state. We had felt led to leave Washington, and the time had come! Tristan applied for work and was offered his position here in Eugene. We were quick to accept, and that was the beginning of a whole new chapter in our family's life.

EMMA-CLAIRE ~ 2 years, 7 months, and 6 days after Elizabeth was born, I woke up with some contractions, but they quickly ended. I ate some breakfast and had a cup of coffee, then boom they were back. Tristan had already left for work, so I was home with my mom and the kids. Tristan hurried home and got what we needed in the car, and we were on our way, arriving at 10 am already 7 cm dilated. I had a peaceful, easy labor, focusing during contractions, my favorite worship music on in the background, Tristan giving me light touch massage on my back. It was incredible and powerful! When it came time to push, I pushed with everything I had for 11 minutes, and then there she was, born at 12:19 pm! I caught her and brought her to my chest, catching Tristan's eye from behind the midwives and nurses. We did it! We spent the next 6 hours blissfully relaxing on a soft queen bed, cuddling our beautiful newborn, and eating giant burgers from 5 Guys. We were the glowing parents of four daughters and I was more in love with him than ever before.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

7 favorite photos of the two of us

In continuing the 7 marriage posts to celebrate our 7 years of marriage, here's my 7 favorite photos of the two of us!

When we met...

When we fell in love...

When we were engaged...

When we became parents...

When we celebrated the season at SPU...

When we toured the Seattle underground for my birthday...

When we packed up and moved to Eugene Oregon...

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Someone keeps making my bed!

I have now been a full time stay at home mom for 14 months. I am in the business of homemaking. And to be honest, it didn't come to me as easily as I thought it would. I expected that I would have my last day of work, and then fall into the most enchanting rhythm of cooking, cleaning, and running errands for our family. But it didn't happen that way. For the first 7 months of my being a stay at home mom, I was pregnant with my fourth. My daughters were 5, 4, and 2, and I could NOT make it through a day without a nap. It was a slow start, but I told myself, "it's just cause you're pregnant, it will fall together after the baby is born and your energy comes back." Emma-Claire joined us in March and after a couple months she started to sleep through the night pretty well and my energy began to return. But it still didn't happen. I didn't suddenly turn into Susee Homemaker, expert SAHM.

I kept thinking "what is wrong with me?" "why can't I keep on top of simple things like dishes, and laundry?" and then, to make matters worse, I compared. I looked at other homemakers, other stay at home moms with kids who were small like mine, and they did it all. Their house was decorated and tidy, they homeschooled, they canned, they were doing crafts and art projects with their kids, they disciplined with a level head. And I felt like I was over here, sitting in a pile of 7 loads of laundry, staring at a mountain of dishes, and screaming at my children "STOP!!! YOU'RE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!!" 

The truth is, I was giving myself a headache. I was expecting myself to be as good at homemaking as other women I knew. Then, one day, I realized how silly that was. How can I compare myself, a newbie, to the mom who has been doing it for 15 years? Or the woman who is doing it without little ones at home? I would never have expected myself to be as proficient in a workplace as the coworker who had been there a decade and a half longer. Yet I was expecting that from myself when it came to managing the home. I had no grace for myself, and that needed to change. 

In a Bible study recently I read Galatians 6:4-5 which says "Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load." Since then, I've really focused on testing my actions. And I've decided the main action I'm going for is service. Before I start a task, I ask myself if I'm serving someone. Who? I think acknowledging the people who are benefiting from me taking care of the home helps take the focus off of me comparing myself to other homemakers. I don't do laundry to make myself look better to other moms. I don't cook in competition with other homemakers. I cook and I clean to joyfully serve my family, and that shift in perspective has made all the difference. It has shifted my task list, it has shifted my attitude, and all of that has been noticed by my 6 year old daughter. Lorelai is strong willed and she and I spend a lot of our time together butting heads. The unfortunate consequence of us butting heads so frequently is that she starts to think that I'm "always mad at her" or that I "don't like her." So I started focusing my homemaking towards her. I make the big girls an after school snack every day. Every day I clean out dirty laundry from their bedroom floor and make their beds. I stopped asking them to put away their own laundry, and their own dishes. I just do it. I needed an attitude change when it came to household chores, and I needed to set the example for my children. So I am doing all the chores and working on me. It's a lot of work, and I have to be careful with my time, but Friday it all felt very rewarding. Lorelai walked up to me and said "someone keeps making my bed!" and I replied "I know! That was me."

Friends, her face melted into the most beautiful, bashful, gee-golly-I-am-SO-loved smile. After weeks and weeks of her angry face, her sharp tone, her disrespectful manner towards me, who would have thought that the parenting maneuver she needed most was for her mama to intentionally serve? 

So after this nice and lengthy post, I have a challenge for you. Having a difficult time with your child? Irritated with your spouse? Mom getting on your nerves? Feeling completely unmotivated to do any housework at all? Go and serve. It really does make all the difference.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

7 favorite dates to go on

You know what's difficult? Dating, if you have kids and not a lot of money. In continuing to celebrate our 7th anniversary at the beginning of the month, this post is all about my 7 favorite dates. Now it has been forever since Tristan and I had a date, so I'm hoping the list will inspire me to ask him out for some quality time together. Hopefully you get inspired to ask your spouse out too!

Here are my favorite dates for this season of life we are in, with 4 young children, and not a ton of time or money.

  1. Going to a museum. My favorite was going to the Dale Chihuly exhibit in Seattle, but there are museum options in most big cities. Lots of museums even have a free day once a month, if you are looking for a free date, that is an excellent option! 
  2. Food hunt. Tristan and I love to do this. We leave the house without a specific dinner spot in mind, and we just wander around looking for a food truck or some hole in the wall restaurant to try. It's a great way to spend less on dinner and find new local favorites!
  3. Hitting the gym. We haven't done this one many times, because we don't always have a gym membership together, but when we are able, I LOVE this one. It's fun and beneficial to you both. Nothing brings a couple closer like sweat and endorphins!
  4. Game night at home. Sometimes, when we don't have a sitter, we will get the kids in bed nice and early, turn on some comedy, and play games at the dining table. I usually win. I think this date is more fun for me than for him ;) 
  5. Spectator sports. We have only gone to a game once, in Seattle, we watched the Sounders play some excellent soccer. But if that's out of your price range, make a date to watch a game at home, cook up some greasy food, and hang out on the couch together. Or catch a high school football game. I grew up not watching any spectator sports, but once I tried watching, it's actually really fun! So if you haven't before, and you're not sold on this one, pick a team to root for and give it a try before you knock it off YOUR list of favorite dates. 
  6. Dinner and a movie. It's a classic for dates for a good reason. Sometimes work was hard. Sometimes home was hard. Sometimes you need to eat food you didn't make at a restaurant you know you like then go and stare at a screen for two hours side by side. We have been on many of these dates, I appreciate having this one in my arsenal.
  7. Play video games. This one is great. You can play video games together at home if you have a tv and a gaming console, or you can go to an arcade. We have been to arcades together and we had such a blast. Being able to have an evening of playing together is such a nice change of pace from our day. And sometimes we even get to come home with a cheap stuffed animal from our winning tickets! 

Do my 7 favorite dates look like yours? Any new suggestions?

Now go buy some flowers or put on something nice and ask your sweetie out ;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

7 Marriage Books to Read in the Next 7 years

I don't know about you all, but I buy books about marriage. Books that have been recommended by friends, once, twice, a dozen times. Books that looked nice on the shelf, all bright, shiny, and new. Books that were sitting in my therapist's office. Used books that were an unbeatable price. So for various reasons, I buy these marriage books. And then they sit on my shelf, because the truth is, I REALLY enjoy reading novels. It takes some discipline for me to put a novel down and read something else! So I buy them and now I have several and it's time to focus some of my reading on marriage! Over the last 7 years, I have skimmed each of these, and during the next 7 years I hereby commit to read each of them in their entirety!

In no particular order, these are the 7 marriage books I will be reading over the next 7 years:

  1. The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian. My husband has read The Power of a Praying Husband by the same author, and I have done a 30 day prayer challenge off of The Power of a Praying Wife, but I've never actually gotten the book and read through it myself. If it's anywhere near as powerful as the 30 day prayer challenge I participated in, then I think maybe I need to read this book every year. Prayer is a marriage's best friend, so I'm really looking forward to this one! Here's more.
  2. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I have gone to the website and taken the quiz but I have yet to read the book. Chapman has helped so many couples I know. Learning about the different love languages can help equip you to love your spouse well. I bet Tristan will notice a difference after I ready this gem!
  3. Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I'm sure lots of you have realized this already, but it turns out men and women are... different. Eggerichs talks about how men need respect from their wives most and women need love from their husbands most. When either spouse isn't getting what's needed, together they fall into the crazy cycle. I'm sure it will sound familiar to your own experiences: She reacts without respect. He reacts without love. Then she reacts without respect. Then he reacts without love. Repeat repeat repeat. This book is a Biblical look at marriage communication. For more you can check out the website. I am really excited about this one :)
  4. Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Oh, this book. So good. I don't know about you, but I have problems with codependency, which means boundaries are hard for me. I find that I don't really know what belongs on the "me" side of the boundary and what belongs on the "you" side of the boundary. I read part of this book and I was shocked to find out that my feelings are my responsibility, falling firmly on the "me" side of the boundary. And here I was, blaming Tristan for how I felt. That one nugget was a good eye opener for me and I think this book will be a good challenge for any couple. As a bonus, there's actually a lot of Boundaries books by Cloud & Townsend, you can look at more here.
  5. Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. Dr. Sue Johnson developed Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy which has an astounding 75% success rate (versus the 35% success rate of other forms of couple therapy). This book is all about creating a strong and secure bond with your spouse. Hold Me Tight comes highly recommended from my favorite marriage and family therapist, so it's a must read for me.
  6. Red-Hot Monogamy by Bill & Pam Farrel. Whew. Did it just get a little hot in here? Am I blushing? This book is about sex. But it's also about prioritizing the romantic part of your relationship with your spouse, which includes having weekends away, and consistent date nights. If you have children, it can be easy to let the romantic part of your relationship fade away as you settle in as co-parents, or co-pilots. Red-Hot Monogamy is a great little book about "bringing the honeymoon home." I find that 7 years and 4 children later, Tristan and I don't go on dates much, so I will enjoy the many challenges this book brings to break that trend. ;)
  7. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman has been researching couples since the 1970's. And the research has paid off, showing what really makes relationships last. Do you ever wonder why some couples last and others do not? Gottman did, so through observation and research he has realized what the lasting couples had in common. Then wrote about it in this book. I love how much research has gone into this, and I can't wait to read it!
Wow, now that I've told you all about these books, I'm actually quite anxious to wrap up this blog and go start reading one of them! What to choose, what to choose....

Until next time, 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

DIY Wooden Dolls

This was such a fun project! It's something that can be done by any level of artistic ability, and the finished product can range from tons of finely painted details to very simplistic smiley face dolls - it's up to you! You can spend a lot of time doing it or do it in one sitting, and I honestly cannot rave enough about how much I loved making these. I hope you have as much fun as I did!

What you'll need:
Wooden spools
Wooden ball knobs
Paint brushes

I chose to work with two sizes of wooden spools, because it's what I had on hand. The smaller ones are about 1.25" tall and the larger ones are about 1.75" tall. For the small spools, I went to Hobby Lobby (because I love the place) and bought a package of 1" ball knobs and a package of 1.25" ball knobs for the large spools.


~ ONE ~
Paint the spools - This is probably the easiest step. It's relaxing. It's fun. You're bubbling with the excitement and possibilities of a new project... just don't forget, in addition to painting all around the sides, you also want to paint that lovely color of your choice on one end of the spool. The second end can be left raw, because that will be what the doll stands on and it won't show. Have fun with your color choices!

~ TWO ~
Paint the ball knobs - this is the step where you can choose to be incredibly detailed or incredibly simple. The simple option is to paint two dot eyes and one smile line onto the raw wood ball knob. Now doesn't that look happy and sweet? I wanted to be more detailed because I was going with a Disney Princess theme for some of the dolls, and I wanted them to be easily recognizable for my 3 year old. I started each ball knob by painting a skin tone on half of it (I chose lots of different skin tones, but if you don't like mixing paint, it would be faster and easier to do them all the same color. Once that paint dried, I painted hair on each doll. Here I added more variety by doing different hair colors. Once those two parts were done, the entire round part of the ball knob was painted, and all that was left were the details- namely the eyes and smile. I gave each doll different eye colors, a black dot for the pupil, and then a simple black smile line on each. Some of the dolls got even more detail, like a bow in their hair, or freckles on their cheeks, and that wrapped up the face-painting stage of the project

Glue the spools and ball knobs together. After my glue gun had heated up I put a little circle of melted glue on the flat part of the ball knob and stuck it on the center of the painted end of the spool.
And with that, you're done! Wasn't that fun?! Now hand those fun handmade wooden dolls over, it's play time :)

If you do this project, comment your finished product below, I would love to see it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And All Was Quiet

Today is the first day of school for these two!

I can hardly believe that we have two kids in school. These precious little people who are with me 24/7, and whom I care for and cook for and clean for. My firstborn Lorelai and my second born Melanie. And now they're at school being cared for by their teachers. I find myself wanting to savor this moment, to remember all the details about what that was like the first day without them. Because this is our life now. They will leave for school and I will be home with their two little sisters and I don't want the excitement or the sadness or the magic of today to be lost in the sea of hundreds of school days to come.

So today I will stop. Breathe. Notice. And I will write.

The first thing I notice is how quiet it is. I haven't had a quiet house in so long. There is the occasional thump of Elizabeth tapping the ground with a back-scratcher as she walks, and in the background I can actually hear the cat eating her food. But mostly I notice the lack of sound. If I mumble to myself under my breath as I'm writing (which I have a tendency to do) I can actually hear that whisper of my voice. I can here the keys as I type. And it's foreign and strange, but let me tell you, there's nothing like quiet to help you stop, breathe, and notice.

The second thing that I notice in this quiet house of ours is how grown up these two girls are. As I look at the picture of them by our front door, I am struck by all the phases we have gone through with them. All the stages that felt like that would never end, and suddenly they are in school, gone 6 hours a day, and I realize those stages and phases ended long ago, and I didn't even notice when.

One, right after the other, they were babies and we had sleepless nights, and it was hard, and then it ended. There was the "empty all the kitchen cupboards" phase that they each went through around 12-18 months, and the tantrums and sass phase that Lorelai went through at the age of three, and the emotional roller coaster that Melanie was on when she was four. These stages that they went through that were hard, and where I sought out advice, and now I just suddenly realize we aren't in those phases any more. Instead of pulling everything out of the cupboard, they help empty the dishwasher. Instead of thrashing around on the floor and kicking her feet, Lorelai uses words and tone to express her feelings. Melanie still wears her heart on her sleeve with a lot of things, but she's able to articulate her emotions now.

When I hear other moms talk about the phases their kids are going through, it makes me realize how many things we've walked through with our two older girls, and that we are now on the other side of.
It's like being on a road trip and feeling like you'll never make it out of Oregon, because Oregon lasts forever, and then you blink and suddenly you're halfway through California. Look at all the ground we've covered. And honestly, I'm proud. I'm proud of me. I'm proud of my big girls. I'm proud of my husband. I thought I would be sad, and I was for a second there when we were leaving the school and the bell rang to start the day. But mostly I don't feel sad. I feel proud and blessed and accomplished. Because of how big they are and how far we've come. So for the remainder of my day at home with only two girls around me instead of four, I think I'll savor that feeling.

I will stop.



How about you?

Did your kids start school today? Are there any other Kindergarten mamas or First grade mamas out there who haven't done this first day of school thing before?

How is it going for YOU today?

Monday, September 5, 2016

7 Things I Love About My Husband

My husband's name is Tristan. Great name, right?! I agree. But even though it's a great name, it doesn't quite make it on the list of 7 things I love about him. Some of these things I knew about him before we got married and some of them I didn't discover until after we agreed to be together forever, and those were just the cherry on top! Here goes: 

  1. He is super hunky. It's been 7 years, and I STILL get butterflies when he kisses me! 
  2. Tristan is a great dad. He plays on the floor with his girls and does their hair and teaches them about Jesus.  
  3. My husband is an adventure-seeker who loves to explore. On his days off, when I might be tempted to stay in my PJ's and laze about the house, he likes to organize something fun! Like a hike with the kids, or a family outing to go swimming at the river.  
  4. He provides. But it's more than the fact that he "brings home the bacon," it's because he is a provider. He provides for us by working but he also provides for us by tending to the house or cars and making repairs to keep us safe and comfortable. When we have a need, he provides. (by the way honey, the girls broke their bedroom door...) 
  5. He is a leader. I just love this about him. I love seeing him lead with our children, and lead at work. He is strong and capable and he is so good at rallying those around him.  
  6. Tristan is supportive. This quality of his is harder to define, but it is so special. If I want to take on a business venture, he is 100% behind me. If I want to be a stay at home mom he is fully on board. If I want to dye my hair purple or cut it all off into a never-before-tried pixie cut the day before my brother's wedding, he tells me I can totally pull it off. When I really want to do something, I can always trust that my man has got my back.   
  7. He is always so willing to own his mistakes and make changes. Now that might not seem like a big deal, but it's probably my favorite thing about him. Do you know what it's like to be with someone who has the maturity to own their shortcomings and make changes? It's incredible! Proverbs 27:17 says "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." and I have found this to be SO true in marriage. And I've never met anyone who is a more willing participant in that being sharpened process than my Tristan. 

That felt so good :) 
What are your favorite things about your spouse? Did you know that intentionally bringing our spouses good traits into focus can lead to a better marriage? In John Gottman's book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work he talks about Positive Perspective and how impactful positive thoughts can be. So my challenge to you today is to make a list of your own, about your spouse and all the wonderful things about them. Go sew some positive thoughts and grow a happier marriage!

*Pictures are from our honeymoon on Orcas Island in Washington

7 things I've learned since getting married

I think this is such a good post for me to write. It's good to look back, reflect, and then put to words the lessons our marriage has taught me over the past 7 years. So here goes nothing...

Lesson One:
Marriage is a blessing. When I think about marriage being a blessing, I don't just mean it's a blessing to have someone who loves you, makes you coffee, or makes you happy. Those are all wonderful but chances are any given marriage won't have all that every moment. Sometimes your spouse frustrates you. Sometimes you're sad and your spouse cannot make it better for you. I think the real blessing of marriage is similar to the blessing of having parents or siblings. I've learned that marriage is a blessing because it provides you with a friend on the journey. Life can get scary. Life can get ugly. Life can be uncertain. Life can end. And I'm glad that as I've encountered the scary, the ugly, the uncertain, the death, that come in life, I've had someone to walk next to. I had someone to cry on. Just as I can turn to my mom or my brothers and say "remember when..." about something from my childhood, and they can say "yes, I remember when." A spouse is like that for your adult life. I bear witness to his life and he bears witness to mine. And when 7 more years have passed, or 20, or maybe when we're old and grey, we will be able to look back and remember the different times of our life together. Shared history is a special thing, and I'm happy we decided 7 years ago that we wanted our lives to become our life.

Lesson Two:
Marriage is an excellent place to work on your rough edges. Your spouse loves you for who you are, but you are not perfect. It is one of those rare safe places where you can be authentic and "in progress." Your spouse can tell you things that maybe you aren't really aware of about yourself (ie: "you tend to be very impatient"or "you're kind of inflexible and don't handle change well"). Tristan and I have done a lot of softening out the rough edges together.

Lesson Three:
I don't load the dishwasher right. I just load the dishwasher my way. Tristan loads the dishwasher differently, because he loads it his way. My way is not right, his way is not wrong, they are just two different ways to fill a dishwasher.

Lesson Four:
You need married couples to look up to. The media is filled with a negative view of marriage. Husbands are written as buffoons who do everything wrong. Wives are written as manipulative nags. I think we, as married people, need to be careful about what kinds of shows we watch, lest we allow these negative lenses to affect our own marriage. I like to avoid shows like that, but I also like to watch shows that have positive marriage interaction. I'll be honest, there aren't a lot of TV shows with made up couples that have that (at least not that I've seen!) so I like to watch Chip and Joanna Gaines on HGTV's Fixer Upper. Nothing warms my heart and encourages me as a wife like watching Joanna praise or admire her husband, particularly in front of their children. I need little examples like that of a wife respecting her husband. It's a really great show, you should check it out.

Lesson Five:
I have found in the last 7 years that I really need close friends who are for my marriage. Having intimate friends who are thinking on the inside "you'd be better off without them" can be incredibly damaging. A friend who is really for me must be for my marriage. Even in the tough times. Even in the ugly times. This is so important!

Lesson Six:
Counseling is a blessing that most marriages could benefit from at one point or another. I'm not just talking about couples counseling, I'm talking about individual counseling too. There were times in our marriage when I needed counseling or I would have taken everything out on my dear husband. Help your spouse out, see a therapist when you need it.  

Lesson Seven:
Marriage is about serving. It's not about me, it's about my spouse. Selflessness is a hard thing to learn in a culture that loves selfishness. The moment you start thinking "marriage is about me, my needs, my wants, my happiness" is the moment things head downhill fast. Because marriage cannot be all about you. Marriage is meant to be two people putting each other first, and let me tell you, it feels WAY better to have my husband put me first than it does to put myself first. Sometimes our marriage would go through a "selfish" phase, where one of us started putting ourselves first. The temptation in a time like that is to respond in equal selfishness, because if I don't put me first, no one will. Let me tell you from experience friend, that is not the way. Nothing brings me back into perspective like my husband serving me and putting me first despite my selfishness.

I hope you enjoyed these lessons I've learned!

Happy Anniversary To My Love - Update!

Friends, as I sit here, to begin writing a post about our wedding anniversary today, I'm just at a loss for what to say. 7 years of marriage. Wow. SEVEN. S-E-V-E-N. It seems like such a long time to me. I know in the grand scheme of things, on a scale of "till death do us part" seven years is likely just a drop in the bucket. But I'm only 28, and to a 28 year old, 7 years is a very long time. That's 1/4 of my entire life!

I am so lucky <3

So now that I took a moment to let the shock wear off that we have been married for this long, I will go ahead and continue with my post! To celebrate our 7th anniversary, I will be posting 7 marriage related posts during the month of September. 

So keep your eyes open for:

7 hopes and dreams for the next 7 years

*Update ~ The month of September flew by and I didn't have time to finish all 7 anniversary posts, so I will continue to celebrate our 7th anniversary by completing the 6th and 7th promised posts in October! Keep an eye out for 7 highlights and 7 hopes!