Wednesday, August 24, 2016

She gave up the swimmies

Amelia Jayne learned to swim underwater this summer! We went to my dad's a couple weeks ago and she didn't wear her swimmies once while we were there - even in the deep end! (Be still my quickly beating heart.)

My girl is independent. She can buckle her own seatbelt without help. She gets up and picks out her clothes and dresses herself each morning.  She runs out and gets the mail all by herself. 
And this independence has hit me like a ton of bricks. She's a big girl. She's not starting kindergarten this year, but she's only 2 months away from turning 5.

It's a weird thing moving out of the preschool years. I've been in them for so long now and they are truly a part of who I am. I feel like I've been down in the trenches for the past 7ish years. And it is a hard place to be, y'all. Maybe not for everyone, but it sure was for me.

I won't lie. There are things I miss about the baby stages. Their sweet smell and soft skin. Their funny dances and silly word pronunciations. Their littleness that cuddles so easily. Their amazement at anything new or different.  Rocking them to sleep at night. Oh, so many beautiful memories.
The kids and I found some old videos of them on my phone just the other night. We watched until my phone died - just silly things, but stuff that made me tear up and reminisce and count my blessings all over again.

But you know what? I really like where we are now. I like that everyone can use the bathroom by themselves and clean up their dishes after a meal. I like not having to schedule activities around nap times and not having to pack up the whole house just to go to the store. I love how I only have to get up a couple of times during meals to get something for the kiddos, instead of the 72 times  per meal I used to get up for them as toddlers. I love the conversations we have and how each day brings new questions and a different kind of curiosity than they had before. I like that we honestly like a lot of the same things and can sit down and really enjoy conversations with one another.

She gave up the swimmies. And honestly? Though I feel the overwhelming nostalgia at times, I'm pretty happy about it.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

What we're into...

I love doing a recap on what my kids are up to, and even what we've been doing together as a family! When they were little I was documenting more of their milestones and developmental processes, but now this seems more appropriate.

Star Wars. But the desire and love has waned a bit over the last couple of months. I'm sure it will have spikes when new movies come out or new books are found.

Pokémon Go. Yes, the craze has hit the Little Family! I think it's cute, but I'm not crazy into it. My nephew knows all kinds of stuff, though, so I had him give me a tutorial so Xander and I can do it together. David and Xander even went uptown early before a soccer game to go Pokémon hunting. :)

Soccer. David and Xander recently went to a soccer game uptown between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich. They both enjoy going to sporting events so much - I hope these professional soccer games can become a tradition and teams will play in Charlotte annually so they can do it each year. This is their second year in a row to go. I haven't yet asked Xander if he wants to play soccer this fall because I know he'll say yes. Our schedule looks fairly full already and I don't relish the idea of adding anything else to it. We'll have to wait and see.

Legos. He wakes up most Saturday mornings and goes directly into the game room to tear apart his latest creation and make a new one. He has a Minecraft set that can be made into 8 different things, so he's enjoyed following the instructions and making each one on his own. He's starting to branch out a little bit and get more creative with some of his freehand structures, and I love seeing that. He's such a rule-follower that it makes me smile when he goes rebel and does his own thing. Ha!

Just this past week I was home with the kids by myself and put them both to bed. When this happens I always lay down with Amelia Jayne first and then with Xander (he's better at occupying himself alone while he waits). When I went in to lay down with Xander he was reading a book. I think it was the first time since he could read well that I've found him reading a book for pleasure. Either he's ready for school to start or the love of reading has found its way into my son's heart. I hope it's both, but I certainly want the latter. Of course, I immediately went to work the next day and pulled some books for him that I thought he might like. Right now he's settled on the Captain Awesome series by Stan Kirby which is silly, dumb and completely ridiculous, but means it totally appeals to his little 7-year old brain. :)  I haven't seen him giggle that much in a long time. It made my heart sing.

Amelia Jayne:
Dolls. All kinds. As long as she can change their clothes she's happy. She has an American Girl itty bitty baby that she's named Rosie. They have a lot of matching outfits that she likes to change in and out of. She also loves changing the outfits on her barbie-type princess dolls.

People. My little social butterfly continues to be a huge people person. She is so cute! (And mortifying at times, I won't lie.) She loves being with people - those she knows and loves, strangers, acquaintances, and basically anyone off the street - as long as I talk to them first. She doesn't usually run up to people and start talking to them, but if I start talking to them then they'd better watch out. She not only talks, but hugs, touches and clings. Have I mentioned that her love languages are quality time and physical touch? Yes, even at 4 years old this is obvious.

Her brother. Oh man does she love that boy. She wants to marry him. She wants to do whatever he's doing - karate, soccer, even scouts. She looked over at Xander the other day and said, "You're my best friend." Of course he informed her that they were siblings and that they weren't really friends. Oh, brother.
But he also wrote her a note telling her he loved her. He can be sweet sometimes, too. ;)

Swimming. She's great at swimming on her own now and has taken off the swimmies! I still put them on her in the lake (but I still make Xander wear a life jacket in the lake, because murky waters are a bit terrifying to me.) but outside of that, she's swimmy-free!

They've been to karate camp for three weeks this summer and love it. Xander tested this past week and is now a blue belt - his seventh belt. Amazing.
Amelia Jayne isn't officially in karate right now, but she has been accompanying Xander to his classes since they offered a "bring your friend to class for free" all summer long. In fact, she could also do classes the weeks she was at camp and often would do two classes a day - on top of camp! Boy were they worn out!

The Olympics! We've had so much fun talking about the different countries, looking at their flags (hello, vexillologist), discussing the different events and the amazing abilities these people have, and just generally being together while we do it. That's what I think is so fun about the Olympics, it's meant to unite people, right??

Family Time - I have really coveted our time together this summer. It doesn't matter if we're at home helping each other with chores, putting legos together, having Family Movie Night, or out on the town. We have had so much fun together this summer! I love my sweet fam. :)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

12 Things I learned this summer

1. The Avett Brothers still rock my world.
Have you heard their new album, True Sadness? It is so good! Squeeee! It is folk-y and moody and blues-y and rock-y and beautiful. There's even some yodeling, y'all. This is some good stuff.
I love that we've been following them for over 13 years and that we "knew them when." I love that they're local (from Concord, NC, baby!). I love that mine and David's first dance at our wedding reception was one of their songs and the last song played at our reception was one of theirs, too.  I love that we've been to see them in concert almost a dozen times and that we still love listening to their music. I love that this is one more beautiful part of mine and David's history together.

2. I have amazing willpower. I don't always use it, but when I do - it is freaking amazing!
We did Whole30 back in April. I'm on day 18 of my second time through. I feel so much better when I eat fresh fruits and veggies, cut out the dairy and sugar, and lay off the grains and alcohol. I'll admit it's not the most fun experience and going out to eat is a nightmare, but it feels so good to exercise that willpower and have some restraint. I've found a load of great recipes that I have in my repertoire and can pull out at random. I feel like every time I do this I'll get better at it and reinforce in my own mind that I CAN do it. Eating healthy is the new ice cream. Or something like that.

3. I truly love what I do.
Just see this post if you're wondering what I'm talking about.

4. I enjoy a challenge.
See #2, first of all. But also, one of my business partners posted a challenge to use our face regimen every morning and night for 30 days. And I only missed ONE night! If you challenge me to something, especially if it's something I love and believe in, then I will do it. Also, I need reminders. My brain sometimes forgets about things.
My 2016 Reading challenge is another example of enjoying a challenge. I'm almost finished, but I need a few reminders to help me along the way. Phone reminders are super-helpful, btw!

5. Erin can never be replaced.
Our babysitter graduated in June and left for NC State last Saturday. Her first day of classes were yesterday. (She did well, btw.) Before she left, I took the kids over to say goodbye and to give her a little something. Xander almost cried. The boy who never really seemed to care when or if Ms. Erin was coming over, broke down in tears the week before she left when I told him I was going to the store to pick up a going away present for her. She has left a big impact on my kids. And I'm so thankful we had that time with her. Now I'm working on finding another sitter. Not another Erin, but another sitter. Cuz Mama needs her date nights!

6. I love eaudiobooks!!!
I don't know why I resisted for so long. Actually I do. They are not always the most user-friendly. However, when there was a book I wanted to read and I couldn't find it at the library on disc, but it was an audiobook, I decided to try it again. And now I'm hooked. I can listen to it anywhere - while I'm cooking, doing dishes, in the car, walking from the parking lot, shopping. It's fantastic. I highly recommend checking it out at your local library. I use hoopla, one click digital, and overdrive mostly. Fan-freaking-tastic!

7. Frozen watermelon is the bomb! (And frozen grapes make me happy, too.)
So, if I could have a popsicle while on Whole30, I might. A fudgsicle? Even better. However, I'm not allowed to have sugar. But you know what makes a great substitute? That's right. Frozen watermelon. It's cold, it's sweet. It's yummy. We've been eating frozen grapes for awhile now, so this just adds a little variety. :)

8. It's not so bad reading a screenplay after all.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Who's read it yet?? The format wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I just wish I could get into their heads a little more. I'm not even halfway through, so no spoilers, please!

9. I really don't like scary things.
David and I started watching the show Stranger Things on Netflix. It is so creepy. I had a love/hate relationship because I really don't like being scared. But I do love an intense, interesting story. So to make my way through it I just talk to the TV and tell the characters all the stupid things they're doing and why they shouldn't do them. David laughs at me. I'm thankful for him because he could easily have told me to shut up or resisted watching with me, but instead he chooses to laugh.

10. Camp Mimi and Camp Grandma get 5 stars! (Reviews by both me and my children)
The kids favorite camp this summer was their week with their grandparents. They really cherish each other. I think they all had fun (although everyone was exhausted by the end of the week). My kids and their grandparents are making memories that will last a lifetime. I don't take that for granted and  I realize just how blessed we are. Also, there is really something to be said about getting some time away from your kids. I love my kids and I enjoy them immensely, but after a week away from them I enjoy them even more! This post shows just how much fun David and I had while the kids were away.

11. Who knew sparkling water was good?
I don't really drink sodas anymore. The only time I do is if I have to share a drink with David (and most of the time he's willing to get tea for me if it's available) or if I'm mixing a little something else in it. (My favorite mixed drink is Diet Dr. Pepper and coconut rum, FYI.) However, since I can't have anything except water, tea and black coffee while on Whole30, I've gotten kinda bored with it and wanted something new. A colleague of mine brought in some lime flavored sparkling water (mostly because she's pregnant and needed something for indigestion) but offered one to me. I figured I could have it so I might as well try it. And guess what? I actually like it! I don't like seltzer water or any soda water that's unflavored, but I really like the flavored ones! And they're naturally flavored, so - Bonus! My faves are lime, black cherry and lemon. I don't love the coconut one, surprisingly.

12. It's okay to ask questions and not always follow the rules - even self-imposed ones.
Man, this is a hard one for me. I'm a question-asker, but also a rule-follower. I'm not a yes-man, but I don't buck up against the system too much. But let me tell ya, as I get older this is changing. I want to know why and what for and what's the purpose and who's involved. I want to learn more for myself and not just take everything at face value. I am still struggling with the church thing - not so much because we haven't found one, but I'm more cautious, skeptical and firm in my opinions. I'm not as easily swayed as I once was. I've been reading the book, Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey and it has rocked my world. I'm going to go back and read Jesus Feminist next. Also in my queue is The Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle. There are so many things that I think we Christians have gotten wrong. So many things that, if the disciples and Jesus were living on earth now, would make them sad or angry or both. I don't know y'all. And I don't think I'll ever know all the answers, but what I do know is that Jesus commanded us to love God and love each other. So, right now, that's what I'm going to do.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Pondering what I "do"

There have been so many opportunities over the last couple of months for me to ponder my situation and to be thankful for what I've been given. There have been many times when I wish I was a stay-at-home mom. (Thoughts of full-time work only enter my head when I'm thinking of making more money - and that usually means I'm just being greedy and it's not worth it.) But then I go to work and I'm reminded of all the wonderful things I do, have done and have been a part of.

Recently we met David's cousin, Justin, and his wife Thea with their two young children at ImaginOn, where my office is located. And it was magical. I saw the building through new eyes. Thea kept going on and on about how amazing the place is. And how great it must be to work there. She's not wrong.

I had lunch with an old friend and colleague of mine earlier this week whom I hadn't really seen in a year or so. She's now the manager of ImaginOn and used to work right alongside me in Outreach, doing the same things I still do. She's a real go-getter, that one. She asked me what my future looks like and if I think I want to go to work full-time. I quickly told her that I wouldn't go back to work full-time while Amelia Jayne is still in preschool and I realized that this is my baby's last year. That can't be my excuse any longer once 2017 rolls around. But I also remembered what a great setup I have. Twenty hours per week, benefits, library perks. That's fairly unheard of these days, or so everyone says.

A new (full-time) position came available in our department not that long ago and someone asked me if I wanted it. I immediately said no, and then contemplated it briefly. And then remembered that I still get to be home with my kids a lot and am able to get Xander off the bus or pick Amelia Jayne up from preschool and watch her run around with her little friends there. I take her to dance and Xander to karate. I get to watch them grow and get better and learn and become who they're becoming - amazing little human beings.

I recently asked one of my friends and co-workers if she would go full-time if she were me. She confessed that she is jealous of my schedule and ability to work part-time. She's a single mom. She HAS to work full-time. Which means she misses out on a lot of time with her son. What she wouldn't give to have more time with him.

I had a conversation with one of my old colleagues on the phone last week - she's been gone from CML for 6 years and we haven't really spoken in about two. She's the director of the small library system where she lives - she asked me what my goals are and if I would consider doing anything different. I had to be honest and say that I really don't want to.

You see, I get to go into daycares and preschools where these children aren't always made the priority. They may get more TV time than book time - in a daycare, people. Isn't that crazy? Sometimes they children rush at me to give me hugs and I realize they may not get too many hugs. They may have never had interactions with a white woman before, but especially not one who loves on them and cares about them, one who remembers their name and asks them about their day.

I see children who possibly got dealt a rough hand - their parents struggle to make ends meet, they may not eat once they go home, there's not a lot of laughter or fun in their lives. I get to open up a whole new world of magic to them in the form of books.

I see children who are refugees. They were forced out of their country for various reasons and now live in a new city, a new country, with a new culture and language. They don't know what to expect in school and their parents don't know English well enough to help their children in that way. I'm able to come in, talk to them, read to them, play games with them, laugh with them, dance with them, sing with them and generally act silly. It's a FUN job!

AND I get to be home with my kids. How is that even possible? How have I landed the sweetest gig of all time? I am so incredibly thankful.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

This last week

The kiddos spent the week with their grandparents so David and I had a week to ourselves! We still had to work, of course, but we made great use of the time we had together. Out of 5 nights sans kids we went on three dates, I had dinner with a friend one evening while he had volleyball, and he ran some errands and worked late one evening while I had my Nourish group over. It was ah-mazing! I LOVE my husband even more after this week - we talked and shared and connected. It was exactly what I needed.

David and I couldn't have timed it better if we'd tried (and we didn't try). It was Charlotte restaurant week last week, so we were able to try two new restaurants that we'd never been to, which was so fun! That's one of our favorite things to do together - try somewhere new and different while catching up and chatting about life. We also went to see the new Star Trek movie - Beyond - one night. I just love those movies and we had a nice time rewatching the previous movies the week before. I'd been anticipating this one!

I caught up on some housework (read: my floors got mopped! YES!) and some reading and some alone time.

And I miss my kiddos now. I'll admit that it took me a couple of days, but now I'm so ready to see them! So, let me get off this computer and go pick them up. Absence makes the heart grow fonder - I love those two with all my heart. Can't wait to hear of their adventures with grandparents, aunts, uncle and cousins. Peace.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Inner Struggles

I don't write a whole lot about my inner struggles. Today, I will. With everything our country is going through right now, I am uncertain. I am disturbed, saddened, dumbfounded and, frankly, embarrassed. From the shootings in Orlando, Minnesota, Baton Rouge and Dallas, to our political situation with the presidential election coming up in November. What is going on?!?!

I could probably break this into many posts, but I only have it in me to write this one.

As far as our country's unrest, I've struggled over the last few weeks with understanding what is right. I want to hear everyone's side and make the decision to choose the one that seems right to me.
I am a white woman.
I have family and friends in law enforcement.
I have friends and co-workers who are African American, Mexican American, Latin American, and Indian American.
What choice do I make?

And then it hit me.

The question I ask my kids multiple times a week:

Is it better to be right or to be kind?

And that's just it. It doesn't even matter if I'm right or wrong. The only choice I want to make is love.
Do I reflect the love and kindness of my Creator? Or do I judge and show mistrust and hate?

Honestly, I'm not sure there is a right or wrong. We all have beauty and we all have evil inside of us. We're all capable of doing wonderfully amazing things AND horrific acts. And I'm sure the blame falls somewhere in the middle.

This article, though. She has a way with words, I tell ya.

And Trump? Or Hillary? Please, God help us.

I won't go into how I feel about Donald Trump. If you've been around me at all for the past several months then you probably know anyway. (Lord, keep reminding me of Proverbs 10:19!) This letter does justice to my heart's feelings, though.

This article about Hillary and democrats is very interesting.
It closes with these incredibly insightful lines:
"Third, you’re going to have to answer hatred with love. Your tendency so far in your career has been to answer hostility with distrust, and secretiveness.
You’ve ended up projecting coldness but also weakness and hurt. People who build emotional walls amid conflict do so out of fear, not strength."

And that's where we are. Let's answer hatred with love.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Whole30 experience

First of all, if you don't know what Whole30 is, I recommend you read up on it.
In a nutshell, Whole30 is an elimination diet. For 30 days you cut out dairy, alcohol, sugar (real and artificial), grains, legumes (including peanuts), and soy.
For thirty days, you consume foods that are real, whole, and unprocessed.

This was a game-changer for me. I had moments that I didn't love the whole process. There's a timeline that amazes me with it's accuracy. Especially on the "kill ALL the things" days. But overall, this experience was extremely encouraging and gratifying. I was so proud of myself when I made it through all 30 days. Without cheating even once.

So, here's the thing.
It takes a lot of work: the meal planning, grocery runs, chopping and dicing and cutting and peeling, not to mention the actual cooking. But here's the other thing -the food is delicious! We've found some amazing recipes that I will continue to use. I'll share a few of them with you. In fact, just check out my whole30 board on pinterest for all of the recipes.
Some of our favorite meals:
Hearty Vegetable Soup
Buffalo Chicken Casserole
Shepherd's Pie w/sweet potato topping
Breakfast Pizza Quiche
Creamy Spinach Sweet Potato Noodles with Cashew Sauce (I added Chicken)
Whole30 White Chicken Chili
Whole30 Breakfast bowl
Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole (this was probably our all-time favorite breakfast - don't let the picture fool you. It's delish!)

I purchased a spiralizer through this whole process and we have been loving zoodles, curly fries (baked of course) and sweet potato noodles. It's been a fun new way to cook!

We have been finished with Whole30 (officially) since May 4th. I've mostly stuck with it though I've added in some honey on occasion, eaten a few grains here or there, a couple of sweet treats, two or three alcoholic drinks, but overall we've been sticking with it.

My goal is to continue eating this way as much as possible, but not stressing if I want to eat a piece of cake at a wedding or have a popsicle with my kids at the beach. However, I want to be intentional about what I eat and not have multiple treats in one day and eat unhealthily at most meals. It's a balance that I am far from mastering, but that I am striving toward.