Tuesday, October 22, 2013

: : Lessons : :

Our first two months in our new home proved to be more of an adjustment than I anticipated.  The parts that I expected to be difficult - downsizing, packing/unpacking, etc - ended up being the easiest.  I should have anticipated how deeply it would affect the kids.  I knew firsthand what it was like to move as a young child and I know how sensitive to change Mannchen is.  Regardless, I expected us to carry on as if nothing had happened once we were unpacked. 

Obviously we did not. 

Working outside the home was (still is) a major adjustment for the kids and myself.  It requires far more organization than ever before.  There is still the same number of tasks to accomplish around the home, but fewer hours at home each day to accomplish them.  I have had to work out how to get the grocery shopping and various errands completed without sacrificing the kids' free play time.  In the end, it has meant further simplification of our daily lives.  We had to adjust, re-adjust, and once-again-adjust the kids' napping and sleeping times.  In the end, naptime was dropped and bedtime is 7pm.  The kids are slowly emerging from an extremely needy phase - and during that same time hubby and I were experiencing the highest levels of stress thus far in our marriage. 

As soon as we start to make improvements in one regard, the shit hits the fan in another.  Right now every aspect of daily life with the little ones is exhausting and trying.  I have realized we don't hold the same consistent rhythm we used to, which I have committed to getting back to this week.  But at the same time, there's so much more than that.  There is at least one or two (if not more) scream-fests per day from Töchterchen.  They last for 10-15 minutes on average and really suck the life out of everyone around.  Mannchen has developed a potty mouth and quite the attitude now that he's four.  Between the two of them, I am really being "stretched" to work on my patience and ability to keep cool in the face of "adversity"...basically, I just want to quit, cry, and have a drink on a fairly consistent basis.  But, thankfully, I love my children and all their imperfections more than I ever imagined possible.  They are awesome kids, this is just the most difficult "phase" we have ever experienced and I feel more clueless than ever.  I have faith that it too shall pass.  (Please God, please, let it pass....)

While that aspect of our life is chaotic, most of the rest of it is settling down, slowly becoming normal again, and we are taking delight in the many lessons we are learning in this phase of life.  For the most part, this is a period of waiting - waiting for hubby to decide if he wants a master's degree or to go for his PhD, waiting for school to be over, waiting to see where we will go next, waiting to settle down for good, and so forth.  The silver lining, is so much is learned in the wait.  This is when we are stretched and molded.  This is when we develop strength of character and patience.  This is when we learn to find peace with the here and now, and start to live in the present. 

It seemed that we began to learn the lessons found in the wait a year ago when our plans to move first started to form.  However, now that we are in the midst of this transformation, I get the feeling that the lessons we learned last year were only the tip of the iceberg.  Looking back on it, it was easy to be content in an well built, well maintained 1400 sq ft single family home with a large backyard, on a steady, secure income and with ample time at home to enjoy my children. 

Yet, it wasn't more than two years ago that I felt anxious for more space, more income, and some days I couldn't wait for my kids to be older and off to school.  I did a lot of personal work to change my mindset and heart - to look at the positives of all I had, rather than all I didn't have.  Prior to our move, the preceding 12-18 months were some of the happiest and most content months of my life.  Now that we are here, I can see why it was so important that I find that I reach that level of peace with what I had then, considering how much less we have now by material levels...yet so much more of the things we find really matter in life.

So, what are these lessons life is teaching us?  In no particular order:

: : We don't need to be completely independent.  For the past five years, we have been hours from family, living an independent life, and sadly, taking pride in that.  Now we live five miles down the road from my parents, completely dependent on them for childcare while I work in the afternoons.  It was a tough pill to swallow at first.  I don't like to ask for help.  But through the process of relying on them, I have seen the relationship between my kids and my parents deepen.  We are learning what family really means - loving and supporting one another in times of need.

: : Living in a community is far more enjoyable than living segregated lives.  We hang out in the evenings with our neighbors.  All the dogs in the building play fetch together.  We share a gardening space and the food produced.  There has been talk of shared chickens - I may have been the only serious one, but I'm 200% serious.  Our upstairs neighbor is teaching us multitudes about insects and spiders - the kids find her absolutely fascinating, as do we.  Before we moved, we only spoke with two of our neighbors on a few occasions throughout the year.  It's a little sad to live close to people, but not know them at all.

: : A large home, lots of money, and more stuff is overrated.  We now live in a 700 sq ft apartment, on an income that is a fraction of the whopping teacher's salary we used to have, and we make no unessential purchases.  We feel freedom and relief in all of these things.  I enjoy the smaller space - it's quicker to clean and I love the people I live with, so I don't mind being close to them.

: : It is foolish to have pride, period.  The pride I felt from owning our own home, the pride I felt because my children had never given me attitude, the pride I had because we didn't have to rely on family for help, the pride I had because I felt like I really could do it all...it was all foolish.  All of those things have come to a screeching halt and as much as I hate it, I honestly believe it's because I needed to learn a difficult lesson.  I needed to be humbled. 

Lately, I'm not full of fun, inspired posts of things we've done at our house, just a random post here at there to fill you in on how things are going.  Right now we're still stuck on figuring life out a little more and hopefully it won't be much longer until we're back in the rhythm of it all.

Friday, October 18, 2013

{ this moment }

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
Inspired by Soule Mama.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Little leaves fall gently down....

"Little leaves fall gently down,
Red and yellow, orange and brown,
Whirling, whirling, round and round,
Quietly without a sound,
Falling softly to the ground,
Down and down, down and down."

Our second unit this fall involved the falling leaves, acorns, and identifying trees.  Between a week of colds and a few other adjustments, we didn't do as many of the activities as I originally planned.  But we did spend a lot of time collecting the colorful leaves that have started to fall in Western Virginia and talking about the different types of trees. 

We also collected a bucket or two of acorns.  We noticed most of the trees didn't produce many (or any) acorns this year.  Wondering why, I did a little research and we learned that oak trees have a two or four year cycle - so there is typically a "boom" year with a large amount of acorns produced, followed by one or three "bust" years with little to no acorns.  It took some searching, but we were able to find two oak trees that were having a "boom" year.  We intended to make a wreath with the acorns, but just haven't gotten around to it yet. 

We pressed our favorite leaves for about a week in a heavy book and then tried to make these lanterns with them.  Our leaves didn't want to stick to the jars very well at all, but a few of the thinner ones did. 
We don't have any field guides to trees, so I found these basic leaf identification pages online and printed each kid a set.  We have been able to find most of these trees and I like that it's not a whole book filled with various trees.  At the kids' current ages I think it's best to keep it simple.

One week we did wet-on-wet watercolor paintings with red and yellow - resulting in a lot of orange.  After they were dry, I drew a basic leaf shape on the back of the paper and let the kids cut out a bunch.  I also cut out a few more complicated maple leaves.  We collected a few sticks from the yard and made this mobile for the hallway.

Pardon the poor photograph quality, but another craft we did with our pressed leaves was create window cling trees.  I cut out a trunk from brown construction paper and stuck it to contact paper.  I let the kids select the leaves they wanted to use to make the leafy part of the tree.  They didn't really get that they should arrange the leaves in the branch area of the trees, but had a good time sticking them all over the contact paper.  I put them in our kitchen window to block some of the dark and dirty window well view.
Next up is the unit we are all most excited about - pumpkins!

Friday, October 11, 2013

{ this moment }

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by Soule Mama.

Friday, October 4, 2013

{ this moment }

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Inspired by Soule Mama.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

To My Daughter - You Are Perfect


You're a little young for this letter now, but I think about this often and one of my great goals as your mama is to make sure you believe this with every fiber of your being - you are perfect, just the way you were created.  I watch you in front of the mirror, admiring your perfect little self and my heart swells with love that my daughter, at age two, is so sure of herself.  I pray at night you will always hold this in your heart and mind. 

You are perfect.  God created you with a purpose and a plan.  He gave you the body you have because he knew it would be strong and capable of many great things.  Your light strawberry blonde hair with a curl at the bottom of it, your big blue eyes, your mile long legs, the round shape of your face, and every other detail of your body was made by a perfect creator who makes no mistakes.

Sadly, the world will do all it can to try to convince you otherwise.  You will hear message after message throughout your life that you need to do something to become beautiful.  You will hear that you need to pluck your eyebrows, wear make-up, color your hair, dress a certain way, reveal certain body parts, cover up other body parts, wear high heels, lose weight, grow bigger boobs, change the shape of your hips...in order to be beautiful.

No, no, NO, sweetheart.  You are beautiful because you were made with love and purpose.  You are beautiful because you just are.  You are no mistake and the body you were graced with is no mistake.   You don't have to do a damn thing to be beautiful, no matter what the world tells you.

And the ironic thing is, when you do find peace and love for your body just the way it is, the world will try to make you feel shame for being so confident in yourself.  Take it from me, there is no shame in loving yourself.  Be proud that you don't fight your own body, that you accept and love what God gave you.  Be proud that you don't need high fashion, fancy hairstyles, or make-up to feel gorgeous.  Don't be boastful, cocky, or showy, but be confident in yourself.  It truly is ok to love yourself for who you are.  How you display this to the outside world will have a lot to do with how the world sees your inner beauty, the beauty that truly counts.  Love yourself and love others.  You come from a line of women who do.  Just ask your Oma, she knows these truths also.

And please, make sure that any man you date, and especially the man you marry, believes all these things with you.  Your daddy has told me for years how much he loves me and finds me beautiful, just the way I am - fresh out of bed in the morning, in complete exhaustion from childbirth, while wiping up your pee off the floor late at night after an already long day, with puffy red eyes and tear streaked cheeks because life is beautifully hard...always.  That is beauty and that is love.

You are beautiful.  You just are.  You are because you are, nothing more, nothing less.  Know it in your heart, feel it in your presence, and kindly show it to the world with love and compassion.

Your Beautiful Mama