What I'm Into: October 2014

IMG_2287 As much as I want to complain about the time change, I'm starting to actually feel rested again after I complained about my fall fatigue here (even after Liam's Sunday morning 5:50 wake up). It may have nothing to do with the time change, but I do find my energy returns each fall around the time change.

Still, hours of dark in the evening can make the whole stay-at-home mom thing extra hard. I'm getting by with extra long naps and a much more flexible schedule. Liam has learned to point to or pat the ground when he wants us to sit and play with him which is always. It's wonderfully endearing and fun, but it can be a bit hard to explain to one so young that you need to finish the laundry or the dinner first.

The biggest event this month was our long weekend with Jon's family. I wrote a little bit about it here. Most of the family came, and we had a wonderful time. It was certainly the most beautiful weekend of the entire year.

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This month we also went to a fabulous playground near our home, stopped by a tiny apple orchard for apples and cider, and have continued our weekly breakfasts out (these almost save my sanity as I look forward to them all week!).

Liam was a cow for Halloween (which consisted of a drop-in at a friend's house before seeking warmth and shelter at my dad's). After seeing them on Alisha's blog, I made these beads for my niece's birthday. We didn't get around to pumpkin carving, but we have taken many fall walks. I'm definitely not ready for it to get cold!

With two months left, I've been going back through my goals to figure out which ones I need to accomplish. I'm encouraged by the progress I've made this year, and hope to share an update this week (plus I know you haven't heard much about my word for 2014 lately!).

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Reading:

Five Stars: Sweet Sleep, The Thirteenth Tale, Hold On to Your Kids, Kiss Me! (a reread)

Other Reads: Bronte's Shirley, Bossypants, My Child Won't Eat, Silver Bay, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Girl You Left Behind, Operating Instructions

Reading: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

 Liam's Top Picks: Books by Jonathan London (transportation ones rather than the Froggy series), Truck Stuck, Sheep in a Jeep, Little Hide and Seek Things That Go

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Cooking: 

Once again, we made Summer's chili (from the comments) for Jon's family. It is just amazing, and the smoked paprika makes is so unique.

We also love her broccoli chicken rice and we even made it with quinoa instead of rice. It's so comforting.

We made a quinoa enchilada casserole for our small group this weekend, and it was really good with tortilla chips.

I love Kate's ginger lovies.

I got a stack of cookbooks from the library and have especially enjoyed this one. Some crockpot recipes can be so "meh" when you're just dumping cans into the pot. This cookbook still involves work, but it's earlier in the day. Then everything cooks in the crockpot and gets some excellent flavors. I thought the french onion soup was amazing.

Loving: 

I love my capsule wardrobe and how it has simplified my life. Thredup and Twice are two great sites for helping develop a wardrobe. I've been surprised at how "like new" everything I ordered has been! (If you use my links, we each get money to spend on the site).

I'm working on compiling our phone/iPad/camera short videos into a longer home video of Liam's first year. I did a short video (with music and pictures) to celebrate his birth and first few days. But for the rest, I just want to hear our voices and see our home (isn't that the best part of home videos!?). What do you do for home videos?

Links I’ve Enjoyed:

My Writing

This month I was so excited to be featured on Coffee + Crumbs, a site whose posts I eagerly await on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Some of my posts on this blog have been my favorites so far because they've been in the works for so long. I finally posted about watching my husband become a father, learning to be a part of his family, and my baby's initial hatred for his carseat. I also wrote about my secret weapon and some lessons learned from getting rid of a pink striped shirt.

Raising Kids These Days

I haven't written as much for Raising Kids These Days this month, but I plan to start some book reviews over there. I did write about the lessons parenting has taught me about teaching and the lessons teaching taught me about parenting. I finished up my series on independence and posted about spoiled kids. I have a lot of thoughts swirling around that I'm working on nailing down into posts.

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer for What I’m Into. Head over to check out other posts.

How was your October?  

Ponderings on November First

DSC02258 We woke up to find a light dusting of snow this morning. It seems a bit much, but at least the snow waited until November. Every day we lose more leaves, but it has been so gorgeous out. I'm not quite ready to have to bundle up in order to leave the house.

I've been so tired this week. I'm not sure if it's the colder weather or recovering from the busyness of our trip last weekend. I seem to get super tired around this time every year. I always forget about it until the next year. But it has been very discouraging to feel so tired. I've taken long naps each day (even though they don't seem to help much), and I'm popping my vitamins.  Do you feel extra tired as the seasons change and the days get shorter?

While my oatmeal cooks*, I want to give you a few things I've loved this week.

1. I love this post about productivity I found through Modern Mrs. Darcy. The fourth point is particularly interesting. To me, it explains why sometimes it's okay to let housework and smaller tasks slide while you tackle a bigger project.

2. This post from Art of Simple articulated some of the thoughts that have been spinning around in my head recently. I love how she shows that simple living doesn't look one way or necessarily mean less of everything.

3. If you're in the trenches of sleep deprivation with an infant OR a child, this post from Coffee + Crumbs was perfect.

4. One of my favorite podcasts is Kat Lee's "How They Blog." She has a great idea I'm trying to implement about having multiple hats and focusing on one at at time. I could explain it, but you're better off listening to her explain it here.

5. I loved Lindsey's post this week about getting dressed. My capsule wardrobe has helped tremendously with this.

And I'll leave you with a picture of our little cow from last night. We found a cow suit in a bag of hand-me-downs and discovered that pressing the front of it makes it moo. Perfect.

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*and eat it and entertain a very demanding toddler while typing one-handed...

On Ghosts, Waterfalls, and Family

IMG_2851 I saw lots of ghosts this weekend--two little ghosts, both with brown straggly hair, running through the fields, jumping over fences, traipsing through the woods. They were clad in who knows what--they clearly didn't care. They spoke to each other and created games with their imaginary friends. In busy moments, I sometimes thought I heard their laughter or the sound of the bell--long gone now--that stood by the house to call them from the fields.

I see them jumping on the trampoline or trying to camp out in the back yard. They follow me as I walk through the fields, my son on my back. They stand beside me as I pull the bursting warm muscadines straight off the vines and pop them in my mouth. They're waiting at the red barn, ready to climb Ant Hill and dream of the house they might build there.

Those ghosts are grown now, and the girls no longer share the same last name. I am married. She lives almost five hundred miles away. So the ghosts follow me as I share our farm with the ones with whom I do share a last name.

Becoming part of another family was not easy for me. There were many struggles, many battles--both internally and with others. Sometimes I was just scared that by being happy with them, I would have to give up a little of my closeness with my own family. I didn't know how I fit into this new family; I couldn't be my real self around them.

A year ago, I shared our farm with them for the first time. Those ghosts haunted me inside my head. The feelings were too strong; it was painful. I counted down days.

But this year, those little ghosts scamper about outside.

One morning, we climb to the top of the ridge--just three women and my son. I taste the pine needles. I inhale the sunshine coming through yellow leaves. As we walk, they ask questions.

I tell the story of how two little girls finally found the waterfall.

They used to climb to the top of the ridge with dark chocolate candies in their pockets. They heard the siren call of the stream below. Weeks turned into months, and they went further and further down stream each time, convinced that maybe they could one day find a waterfall. Then by chance, they walked through sunlight coming through row upon row of straight, skinny trees. The trees were lined up nobly--like something you would see in Narnia. When they got to the end, they saw the drop. They let go and slid and slid and slid. At the bottom was the waterfall. It was more of a water-trickle than a waterfall, but it belonged to those two little girls who arrived at it a different way each time.

So my new family asks to go, and I agree to take them, a bit afraid that the little ghosts will be upset with me--that they might abandon me or diminish.

The day before our hike, a jeep pulls up. A man and a woman get out. "This used to be my great-grandmother's land," he says, as I show him around. "By the way, they always talked about a waterfall over that way." I can't contain my excitement as I say, "We searched for it our whole childhood. We finally found it!" His eyes light up, "They called it Rainbow Falls."

My mother-in-law, listening from the lawn chair says, "And what does our last name mean?!"

"Rainbow"--the meaning of my new last name, the one that connects me to a new family, the one I share with the tiny boy who has my eyes. A sign of promise and hope and newness.

So I strap my two-year-old niece to my back and talk to her the whole way to the falls. She jabbers back. We walk ahead, trying to scout the way. We get there--the falls is overgrown, and no one quite appreciates it the way those little girls did. I climb down through brush and sit at the top for a minute, alone. I finger the smooth stones and watch the ghosts climb the falls. A slippery black salamander slithers across the rocks. "It's still ours." I know that deep inside because no one sees it with those eyes.

I carry my niece as we leave the woods. My ghost self has given me new strength over the last few days--the openness and friendliness and energy of that former self. I tell my niece to duck under the limbs and feel her head against my back as she obeys in a dramatic two-year-old way. After this walk, I feel that I know her and she knows me. Our laughter echoes through the woods, mingling with that of those little girls.

When I see the Gator, I see a little girl in the back surrounded by flowers as her sister drives care-freely through the fields. When I see the pool table, I see the little families we created out of the pool balls, the endless hours we spent. I see our bedroom, the twin beds with the burgundy bedspreads, the constant rearranging of the furniture. I think of the years of closeness and the days of distance. I feel three thousand feelings at once, some incredibly painful of dark days, some so poignantly beautiful that tears jump to my eyes.

I weave bits of these stories throughout our weekend, keeping most to myself. The little ghosts smile. I feel them. When they do take a second to notice me, they say, "We're always here. We'll never leave."

The secret places are still ours. We alone see them as they are.

But my son and his cousin have discovered the joys of muscadines and rides in the Gator. My brother-in-law and father-in-law play pool with my husband, not knowing the names we gave the pool balls. My sister-in-law sleeps in our old room, the one with the pink cowgirl hat still on the hook. We all sit where the trampoline was and build a fire to watch the stars.

photo by my mother-in-law

They can't see the ghosts, and that's okay. But I live in the richness all weekend. And I know now that the ghosts won't leave.

Their little shades scampered around my own son and his cousin all weekend teasing, tempting, pleading. "Come play with us. Come imagine with us. Come explore with us. You can see as we do."

And I hope that one day, they will.

Written for my sister, my best friend.

Jumping on the Capsule Wardrobe Train (Fall 2014)

I considered  "Coming out of the Capsule Wardrobe Closet" as a more appropriate title metaphor-wise, but since you now know I at least considered that title, we can move on. I read Haley's No Brainer Wardrobe last year and loved it. I loved the idea of quality over quantity, and it seemed wonderful to open one's closet and love everything in it. But I didn't really know how to attempt it. I was only six months into motherhood, and only a year before I had established my first professional wardrobe. I didn't know what I needed for this motherhood gig. Could I go back to my college clothes? Would I live in athletic shorts and t-shirts? I needed to keep my clothes around and figure out what to do.

Now I am ready. I started the wardrobe planning sheets from Un-fancy, and I loved looking at Elise's capsule wardrobe. I am ready to love everything in my closet--to keep only what I actually wear.

I began my work the other day. This past year, I've been donating more and more clothes, but I still have too many.

I cleaned out my closet and moved my extra clothes to "sell" piles and to my son's closet for now (am I a terrible mother?). I want to see what I wear, what I need. I don't want to be rigid, but I need a closet with just the right number of clothes. I haven't focused on a number as much as "Do I really love this?"

Interestingly, I have suffered from terrible allergies for the last few days as a result of my closet cleaning (closet dust has always given me the most severe reaction). This further solidified my desire to purge--to get it down to the minimum and store what I'm not wearing and prevent that dust from accumulating.

Why I am attempting this and what I hope will happen:

Cleanliness and order: Clothes mess is my worst source of bedroom clutter. Whether it's "I can't find a hanger so I'll just put it on the bed for now" or "I have to rush out the door and am changing outfits," clothes litter the floor, the bed, and the dresser far too often. I want to see if this helps.

Laundry: I hope that this will enable me to do my laundry more efficiently and easily. I will know what I have and what is dirty. I hope it will also enable me to plan ahead so I can wash my clothes in a way that preserves them (see this post for more!)

Finding my "mom style": I hope this helps me figure out what I would like to wear on a daily basis. I need a medium between comfortable/workout and more professional outfits. I want to dress a little better as a stay at home mom. I also want to find out what colors I love and what will go together. I'm getting better at this but want to be even more confident. I also don't want to feel guilty about wearing the nice shirts I love on a daily basis. They're doing no good just hanging in my closet. If I need professional clothes again, I can get them (I am keeping my hemmed wool pants though as I assume I will wear them this winter).

An experiment: I want to try this out as part of my word "play" for 2014

Fresh Spring Wardrobe: When I put away my non-fitting clothes during my pregnancy, it was like Christmas when I pulled them back out. Like rotating my son's toys, not seeing things helps me not take them for granted. I also hope storing my clothes carefully will help preserve them longer.

Less Overwhelm: When I got rid of clothes in my winter purge, I couldn't believe the guilt I had been feeling. No longer did I see a dress and feel guilty for not wearing it. I hope that this will help me know what's there, know what I love, and then be able to choose it. I want to know what I actually need and what I actually wear; then it's worth it to buy/keep something.

 My Fears:

Not enough Mom outfits: I am worried that too many of my clothes are too dressy for my life now. I tried to decide whether I should keep two pairs of dress pants out or not. For now I'm keeping them out for the cold winter we're supposed to have. I am afriad I've kept too many church outfits for now. I've considered doing as ___ suggests and maybe creating a separate dressy wardrobe, but I want to try this one first.

Warmth: I hope I have enough layers and warm clothes, but this time of year is also hard because some of my clothes are too warm. Conversely, in October I'm struggling to layer effectively so I don't get too hot.

Laundry: Will I keep up with it? Will I do it enough? I guess I will learn quickly if I don't.

Old Clothes: Most of my clothes are years and years old. Some of the shirts have maybe exceeded their wear limit (?). I hope they hold up because I don't want to buy many new ones.

Rules:

I don't want to buy anything other than possibly the items below.

  1. Hangers: I need to buy a few more hangers that match. This seems to be important. (Update: I bought a small set of wooden ones at Target. Over time, I hope to switch all my hangers to nice wooden ones although I like my cloth and narrow hangers, as well).
  2. New jeans: The zipper on my Old Navy jeans has been broken for a while, and I can only wear them with long tops because it slips open (tmi?). If I find the perfect jeans, I will buy them (I'm searching daily on Thredup and Twice for specific ones!).
  3. 1-2 new shirts: In photographing and taking stock, I realize that my t-shirts are mostly stretched out, stained, and some even have holes. I may replace a couple, and I hope to buy at least one striped one. (Update: I did buy three new t-shirts, one from Everlane, one from Twice, and one from Thredup).

What's in My Wardrobe?

Please note: Most of my clothes are at least two or three years old (or older!), so I'll include the info, but I will only link to clothes I purchased recently.

Everyday Wear

These are clothes I wear around the house or running errands. The sweaters may go more with the dressy wardrobe, but I usually pair them with casual clothes, so they'll stay here for now.

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chambray shirt (Old Navy), colorblock sweater (Loft), striped tunic shirt (through Stitch Fix last year), burgundy shirt (Loft) red button down (Cabelas), red and white striped shirt (through Twice), black dress (Loft), navy t-shirt (Everlane), black shirt (Loft), teal t-shirt (Loft), green and black striped knit shirt (Eddie Bauer), Gap striped t-shirt (through Thredup), red dot shirt (Loft), beige t-shirt (Loft), striped silver sweater (Gap), boot leg gray pants (Old Navy), jeans (Old Navy), black Jeans (Old Navy) 

Dressy Clothes

These are clothes that were my favorites from my teaching/professional wardrobe. They're mainly hanging around for church, although I may occasionally wear them to other occasions.

2014-10-24black pencil skirt (Loft), striped skirt (Loft), black wool pants (Ann Taylor), navy wool pants (Ann Taylor), gray sheath dress (Belk), ikat dress (Loft) (6 total)

Outerwear:  I also have a black down jacket I might wear if it gets really really cold.

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black fleece, denim jacket (White House Black Market from Thredup), burgandy vest, silver cardigan, houndstooth coat, teal cardigan (6 total)

Shoes: 

I am not big on shoes, but I am included a variety though I usually only wear boots, tennis shoes, or heels. (Let's be honest, mostly boots!).

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dressy flats (Anne Klein), Chacos, boots (Fossil), flowered flats (Unlisted), Sperrys, tennis shoes (New balance), black heels (Target)  (7 total)

(40 items total)

In My Drawer (but not counted):

warm boots for winter (if needed), some leggings, old t-shirts, and athletic shorts, socks, underwear, bras, a couple of scarves, tank tops for layering

My main goal for my wardrobe: to think about it less and love it more. I'll keep you updated.

Have you found any secrets for maintaining a wardrobe that requires minimal thought and effort? 

Note: This is not a sponsored post, and I am not compensated in any way. However if you purchase something through Everlane, Twice, or Thredup, I will receive a credit. Twice and Thredup will give you a credit for using my link as well! I recently discovered and love all three sites. Everlane does a great job of making quality, ethical clothing, and both Twice and Thredup are wonderful for getting quality second-hand clothes at great prices.

That Old Shirt and Abundant Living

IMG_1432 I've been cutting my wardrobe down to a capsule wardrobe (which I'll share later this week!), and in the process, I've been forced to confront my stuff again.

I often cling to clothes, and this particular wardrobe work has shown me my fears in this area. I am reluctant to get rid of clothes "in case I ever need them" in part because I don't trust myself to cull outfits. Since high school, I've been afraid of wearing the wrong thing and missing out--not deathly afraid, but it has always been clear I don't have the right fashion sense. This means that if I keep everything, maybe I'll have just the right thing when something comes into fashion.

The problem is: I know myself now (even if I'm not a fashion genius). I know what I like and what I don't like, what I wear and what hangs there lonely.

The other reason I cling to clothes is because of fear of lack. I'm afraid I won't find something I like again or that there won't be a new pair of pants to replace the ones that are wearing out.

I figured out the depth of this fear when I ordered a few new shirts. And I liked them. And they fit. And they were reasonably priced. And I finally wondered: why do I cling to holey, stained, ill-fitting shirts when I could have decent ones? I force myself to live in lack when I don't need to.

And part of it is rooted deeper. I hoard because I'm scared. I'll never find that sale again. I'll never find a shirt I like as well. I won't have enough or the right one. Things will go downhill and all I will have will be what I already have. For me, it is rooted in materialism. I value the material because I don't trust in the spiritual.

I often live like the man in the parable in Luke 12 who stores up his treasure in bigger barns and says,

"And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have ample good laid up for many year; relax, eat, drink, be merry."' But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" (19-21).

Right after this story, Jesus reminds them they don't have to be anxious about tomorrow or consume themselves with food or clothing. He will provide.

For me, it goes deeper still than just wanting to always have enough or have the right thing. I will keep an old shirt, clinging to the past memories of that shirt. I cling to the good of the past because I'm terrified the future won't be good. I cling to the old because I'm scared of the new. Rather than trusting--laughing at the days to come (Prov. 31:25)--I hold on tightly to the old so that at least if disaster strikes, I'll have memories of good times. I often think this is the best there's going to be. So I'm scared of each new change. And in clinging to that old shirt, I don't feel freedom (or have space!) to move on to a new, clean, better shirt. 

I read the story of manna last night. What always sticks out to me about that story is how God tells the Israelites they can only take enough for that day.

"Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat.." (Ex. 16:21).

When they try to hoard it--to gather too much--it ends up stinking: "But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them" (Ex. 16:20). It's an exercise of active trust and goes against our American tendency to stockpile. It goes against my own tendency to keep and cling and hoard.

This is why I'm letting go of my stuff. I realize there is more out there. I realize there is good to come. And I know God has met all my needs and will continue to meet them. I can live abundantly rather than stuffing every corner of my house with stuff and memories. I don't have to have a pantry bursting with extra. I don't have to cram my schedule out of fear of missing out. I don't have to be afraid of the future.

When we trust Christ, we can live in freedom and abundance rather than fear. No, there's no guarantee I won't be in hard places or experience hard times, but I trust that God will bring me my manna then. I don't have to cling to it today, trying to make it enough for tomorrow.

I would be remiss if I ended right there. After all, God does tell them to keep a jar of manna.

"Moses said, "This is what the Lord has commanded: 'Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt..." (16:32).

What functions as my jar of manna? For years, I've considered this to be my writing, my journals, and our family memory books. They remind me of God's faithfulness more than a closet full of old clothes. IMG_9082

Because of God's grace, I can live abundantly rather than hoarding, clinging, and finding my contentment (or lack thereof) in my memories and possessions. I can live in the strength he provides each day and believe that in Him, the best is yet to come.

P.S. I loved this post about getting rid of old school papers. I had a very similar experience last year!

My Shameful Secret and Secret Weapon

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Most of the time, I kind of pretend I don't nap. With friends, I often say, "Can we get together at two? Liam will be napping until then?" I don't include that I usually nap, as well.

My son still wakes up multiple times during the night. It can be exhausting. But it's manageable if I take a nap each day.

At first I thought I was doing something wrong when I napped with my newborn. He would only sleep when he was with me, and those nursing hormones (and recovery!) usually knocked me out too. Looking back now, those summer afternoon naps are some of my favorite memories with my baby. And really, what better things could I have been doing? I attribute my relatively quick recovery in part to the sleep I caught up on through napping (what I'll do about napping if we have future babies is the question now!).

Plus, I've had a love affair with naps my whole life; I am suspect of people who claim they simply "can't nap." I wonder if they aren't robots. I think almost anyone can nap; it's just all about finding your nap groove.

Naps have been proven to be beneficial. People in some countries plan their days around naps. A midday respite can be the ticket to evening energy. I once read that the fatigue during pregnancy may serve the purpose of teaching you how to nap, a skill you often need to maintain energy levels when parenting little ones.

I was fairly productive throughout college and teaching, and a lot of this came from my quite frequent naps. If I was feeling like I couldn't make it through the evening, a pre-dinner nap rejuvenated me for a night of writing papers or leading a small group or babysitting.

And I would claim now that napping makes me a better mom. For one thing, it relieves my tension in fighting this nighttime battle. Yes, I wish my son slept longer, and we're working on this. Change takes time, but with naps, I can maintain my energy and patience.

I gave up caffeine for the first year of my son's life, thinking it led to some issues for him. But I stayed off of it for longer than was probably necessary because it impeded my ability to nap which made me grumpy and exhausted by evening. Even now, I plan my coffee around naps and my naps around coffee. I did the same when I was teaching.

My best nap strategy at this point is to grab a book (or my Kindle) and avoid the Internet. I force myself to clear my mind and stop thinking of all that needs to be accomplished. I rest for the first part of my son's nap. Then I get up and write, enjoying clarity and renewed focus, at least most of the time. I save most of the cooking and cleaning for when he's awake because he loves to help me (and if push comes to shove, we can turn on a little Sesame Street!).

I don't claim it often, but napping is really my secret to being a semi-sane, semi-kind person. I used to think my naps were lazy. I used to feel guilty--imagining all the  things I could be doing instead. But I've come to see them as the secret to productivity and energy.

There will always be reasons not to nap--things I could get done. But a twenty or thirty minute nap (or longer if it was an especially rough night), truly makes me a better mom and a better person.

Naps remind me that I am human and force me to pause and savor. And there's something beautiful about fresh sheets, a glint of afternoon sun, and a slow drift into sleep.