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!