Monday, July 02, 2018

Anniversary Trip!

Ben and I just celebrated our 5th Anniversary.  Since it felt like a milestone, we decided we wanted to take a little get-away.  Ben has been wanting to take me to the North Shore of Lake Superior for a long time.  I've lived in MN for 6 years and never been to Duluth or North (which apparently is a big deal since every time people find out they gasp and look slightly horrified.)

At the time of planning, Toby had not yet been born, so we were tossing around if he would stay with Asher at my in-laws or if we would take him.  There was something appealing about being with no kids.  But I wasn't sure I would be able to leave him at 4 months old.  We ended up deciding (like the week before) to take him.  I didn't want to have to pump the whole time...and knew I would think too much about how he was doing and that seemed stressful.  Plus, 4 months is still very easy to haul around everywhere, with minimal disruption to our plans!

Our celebrations actually began on Thursday evening before our trip.  For Father's Day I had gotten Ben and I tickets to the Children's Museum for an "Adult's at Play" event!  It was after-hours and they opened the museum exclusively for adults 21+.  There were free desserts and beer tasting and trivia--plus full access to all the fun exhibits in the Museum.  I'll be honest, I wasn't sure how it was going to go...but it seemed like a fun date night.  And it was =)

Tables with random things to build and put together.  Ben loves this sort of thing! 

Balancing practice (he really needs this--poor guy has subpar balance!)

Strategically launching ping-pong balls

No, that is not a spider.  I wouldn't have done it if it were.  I can handle ants much better.  

Enjoying our yummy Chocolate-Espresso bars! 

Then the next day, we left early (7:30 am!) to head up to Duluth!

First stop was Canal Park to watch the ships come in

Tobes looks happy here. But he was screaming just a few minutes earlier...the loud horns and bells of the ships startled him

First meal.  Walleye cakes and a local beer flight!

This whole trip had moments where Ben and I would look at each other and say, "Asher would LOVE this!"  So we took pictures of things like trains and boats and stuff just to show him.  

So weird to see pictures with just the three of us.  It just didn't feel quite right without Ash.  And I also had this urge to tell all the people who stopped to comment on Toby's cuteness that we DO have another kid, and we aren't first-time parents! 

I think Ben got tired of all the selfies...oh well. 

Beautiful vista of the Lake

Went on a hike and saw some fun things, including this beautiful butterfly! 

These are "High Falls"--the highest falls entirely in Minnesota!  (there is one higher, but it is half in Canada...)
while beautiful, it made me miss the canyon falls of CA

Another great selfie opportunity! 

Took Gunflint Trail out about 15 miles into the open land of Northern Minnesota.  Found this serene and quiet.  

Stopped for donuts in Grand Marais! 

We ended up having our "fancy" anniversary dinner in Grand Marais at this cute little place called The Crooked Spoon.  

Some beautiful rapids that we pulled off the road to see! 
I love random stops like that which turn out beautiful! 

View from our lodge room! 
The Lake was so calm the first two days we were there, then the wind picked up on Sunday and there were actual waves!

History nerd in me loved visiting Split Rock Lighthouse.  It is one of the most visited/photographed lighthouses in the country! Such an interesting history to it. 

Climbed down 172 steps to get this view.  But it was totally worth it!  
(Especially when we found out that back when they first built this, they had to haul supplies and people up the 130 foot cliff face in baskets.  Although that would have been a fun adventure too!)

Last stop was Betty's Pies.  Ben had told me about this place a long time ago.  They are famous for their pies...and this fun milkshake.  They take a slice of whatever pie you choose and drop the whole thing in the blender with the ice cream and milk!  We got a chocolate layer pie.  It was surprisingly delicious!  Little chunks of pie crust gave it a nice texture and a slightly buttery/salty balance to the sweet!  Ben was obviously happy with it! 

The trip was everything I expected and more! I had been a little worried it wouldn't live up to the hype.  But it did.  It was beautiful to see more of this state that I've called home for 6 years.  

We came home rested, refreshed and ready to see our sweet 2-year-old!  

The report was he had a few moments of being weepy and requesting us (especially if he was being told "no" by Grandma!) but did well overall!
It looked like they had some fun!

Tractor Supply Co..."driving" a lawn mower! 

Picnic outside with Grandma and Sierra! 

Au Revoir! 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Why I Refuse the Echo Chamber

As much as I love social media, and rarely feel true anxiety about things... Facebook has threatened to change my sentiments on both fronts.  My newsfeed is full of posts that spew passionate commentary and links to re-posted articles from a myriad of perspectives.  At best, it is interesting, at worst it is confusing and maddening. 

You might ask yourself why I don't shut out the din.  Why I don't just delete my account, or better yet, just unfollow/block/unfriend those who are saying things so far opposite of what I believe.  And I'll tell you why. 

Today, I read a meme on the wall of someone who is one of the most opposite thinkers I have in my friend list.  Her and I have had some interesting discussions, all quite respectful, considering.  We do still strongly disagree with each other.  And honestly, she may never know just how much I disagree with the things she posts or comments on.  But that is okay.   *Sigh* I digress...

The meme stated something to the effect of how she is willing to lose friends or unfriend people who approve of things  that she disapproves of or vice-versa. 

As I mulled this over, and scrolled through the cacophony that is my newsfeed, I realized why I haven't weeded through all my friends to get my newsfeed to a quiet, clean, agreeable space. Are you ready for this?

 I am not grown as a person unless I am met with countering views.

Let me say it again for the people in the back:

I am not grown as a person unless I am met with countering views.

It is easy to stay in my bubble.  It is easy to find people that agree with me and only surround myself by them.  It is easy to find those who affirm my beliefs and encourage my worldview.  And its really good to have those people.  But I don't think it is good for me to only have those people. 

Now, for those of you who will raise the, "but what about..." questions after all of this, I just want to get this out first.  I am not saying that we never distance ourselves, create boundaries or even remove certain people from our lives.  There are definitely toxic, abusive, violent people out there who we choose to step away from.  That is not what I'm talking about here.   I am referring to the people who just live out different ideologies, theologies, philosophies and worldviews than me.  And unfortunately they may even use hurtful or offensive words now and then.

In being friends (on Facebook and in the "real" world) with a variety of people, I have been questioned, challenged, ridiculed, forced to give reasons and evidence for "why."  I have been urged to get articulate, to stay grounded, to seek out Truth.  I have been discouraged and turned (pushed?) to my source of Strength.  I have had to go back to the drawing board of my beliefs and worldview.  I have made changes.  I have stood firm.  And I am a better person for it. 

I am more well-rounded.  I know what views are out there.  I know the arguments and counter arguments. I hear the passion.  I feel the passion.  I have learned empathy, because behind each opposite (or similar) view is a person with a different life experience than me. 

But my has been anything but easy.  I just called my mom today (one of those who sees the world similarly to me and is a good source of grounding perspective for me).  I needed to sort through my feelings.  I had just gotten through reading about 6 different commentaries on one topic.  All passionate.  All from people I respect with 6 different backgrounds and worldviews and religious persuasions.  And I all the sudden felt like I was on a little piece of bark in the middle of the ocean.  I was lost and really wasn't sure what I believed anymore.  My head and my heart were conflicted.  I was mad and resentful because certain commentary made me pit my political leanings against my spiritual beliefs.  

I'll admit, sometimes I struggle to acknowledge the rightness in someone's comments because of who is saying it!  I cease to look at their words, and instead stack up all that I know about them and their previous perspectives and I tell myself that I can't and won't agree with them.  We are fundamentally different, so there is no common ground. 

It is such a silly and immature response.  It is fact, it is more than okay... to have common ground with people I generally disagree with.  I can hear their perspective and learn from it.  Glean tidbits of truth and discard the pieces I find don't fit with who I am and what I believe.  And what is even more important than that?  Reminding myself they are human.  Just like me.  And that isn't something to be said lightly. We have all been made in the image of God and that deserves empathy.
I have one friend where one day we were having a pretty intense discussion about a certain social topic that we disagreed strongly on, and the next day were making plans to get together and hang out.  It was really neat.

And that is hard.  Really, really hard.  It makes me evaluate who I am and what I believe regularly.  It is exhausting; emotionally, intellectually and mentally.   I am tired of wading through the muck and stupidity (yes, there is stupidity out there!) to find the things that challenge and push me. 

But I won't stop.

The echo chamber isn't worth it.  And the more we hear our own ideas and feelings and passions repeated back to us, the deeper we pound in our stakes, refusing to be moved.  It can be a dangerous place when enough people refuse to be met with opposite thought and the group-thought is left unchecked.

 There is one thing I will pound my stakes in deep for, and that is Jesus Christ.  Other than that, I believe that life is meant to grow and change us.

 And as far as caring for my mental/emotional/intellectual health? 

"Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest."  (Matthew 11:28)

That is a promise that has held true.  That is how I can live outside the echo chamber.  Well, that, and those who are a balm for my mind and heart because they encourage and support my worldview.  Those people are necessary.  Those are my nearest and closest friends and family.  My church.  My husband.  
But if I'm honest?  No one thinks exactly like me.  Not my husband, my closest of friends or family...No one.  At the end of the day it is me and God.  I'm accountable for my thoughts and beliefs and actions to Him, and Him alone.  My path traveling in agreement with others will come to a fork at some point, on some issue.  Doesn't matter if it is big or small.  It will happen.  And it will make me continuously reevaluate the things I'm willing to break relationship for.  And I'm realizing that these days, it is less and less.  I'm not willing to make a judgement on someone's worth based on their perspective and belief.  

I may not understand them.  But talking to them might just be a way to gain that understanding.  I have found that it is way easier to see how both sides arrived at their conclusion if I stop drawing conclusions based on preconceived notions and talk with people instead of at them, or about them. 

Now, I will say on a practical note, I have chosen one or two people to unfollow for a time on my social media--especially during times of particularly high political and social tension.  People who tend to post numerous times a day about things that are incredibly biased and frustratingly ignorant.  I don't block them though.  And when I see them in person, we are still friendly.  But I know my personal limits.  And on days I'm feeling up for it, I go browse their timeline to see what they have posted recently...because I still find it valuable to see what "the other side" is saying about something.  

Anyway.  I get if not everyone can do this, especially on social media.  But I do encourage everyone to find some place (whether seeking out articles, real-life conversations, etc...) where you are met with opposing ideas.  Don't necessarily run from them or avoid them.  Just make sure you have a solid support network who you can bounce ideas off of, receive encouragement and bolster your non-negotiable beliefs.  

Thanks for hearing me out--and know that I appreciate the varying perspectives of those I am acquainted with on social media!

(An interesting TED talk on this topic is about: Empathy vs. Endorsement.  But note that even if I don't agree with or support his personal views (and definitely not the language used) it is still valuable information!)

au revoir!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

New Business Venture!

Let me preface this by saying that ever since being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), I have been looking for things to do...both to give me an activity outside of momming, and also to make a little extra money.  I have tried wood burning (still enjoy it as a hobby, but not making any money off of it), I've edited papers, babysat, driven kids for after-school activities...but none of it has really clicked the way I had hoped.  

So it all started when one of my friends from my Tuesday Bible study sent a somewhat desperate text to the group saying that her sister-in-law was visiting from out of state and she had promised to host a party for her cleaning supplies business, and through some miscommunication needed people to come, and would we be interested in doing that instead of our usual gathering activities?  

I'll be honest.  I heard "party" and "cleaning supplies" and was feeling rather reluctant.  I tend to be a sucker for things and buy stuff I don't need or won't use because I'm easily convinced and have a hard time saying no to pushy salespeople.  Also, I just didn't have a ton of extra money to spend, and therefore didn't want any temptation to spend.  But I also wanted to support my friend and so decided to go.  Plus she was serving 

Anyway, the whole presentation and demo time was so interesting!  I immediately was drawn to the products (non-toxic, easy-to-use home and personal care stuff).  The girl presenting it wasn't pushy in the least.  And when it came time for the demos, the stuff actually worked and was amaaaaazing.  I know I said I was a sucker...but seriously, it was awesome stuff!  

I asked some questions about hosting a party and the business itself.  Apparently there is no one here in MN that is a distributor, so it would be a great opportunity!  My friend leaned over and whispered loudly, "YOU SHOULD DO IT!"  And it really was tempting!  I knew I needed to talk it over with Ben.  I had looked at doing other multi-level-marketing businesses and none of them clicked.  It was either a product that didn't jive with me or something I wasn't comfortable trying to convince people they needed/wanted, or it was a pricey buy-in.  Ben had been patient with my research and testing of products, but I anticipated a bit of skepticism.  He wanted me to try the products myself for a bit first, but ultimately was quite encouraging (especially when the stain stick took out some stubborn stains in his white dress shirts).  

All of this to say, I ended up signing up, doing the buy in and launching my own business as an independent adviser for the company 
H2O At Home.  

 Here are a few of my thoughts/feelings over this journey:
*Excitement:  I seriously do love these things so much and they have made me excited to clean and best is that they are easy and safe for my kiddos and dog (and Ben & I too, of course).  I'm excited for something to do that will have a social, financial and challenging aspect to it!  It definitely stretches me in good ways to get out of my comfort zone!

*Apprehension:  I'm one of those people who hosts parties, tries to get my friends and family to host parties.  I never pictured myself doing this, and in fact have kind of been a little judgy of those who do (sorry, full confession here).  I am realizing I'm not as bold as I have thought myself to be, and so it makes this kind of networking particularly difficult for me.  I also get a little embarrassed when I tell my friends about it.  Especially if I know their thoughts on people who do this kind of business. 

*Stress/Confusion:  Seriously, though, there is a stigma with doing this kind of work, and a lot of people either misunderstand or don't even offer you the time to explain why you do it.  One of my parties I invited close to 30 people.  Two attended, and I heard back from maybe 5 total.  Everyone else ignored me.  And I'll be honest, it was kind of hard for me.  I totally understand if it isn't for you, or if you're not interested...but a reply is generally a good thing to give. It has made some in-person interactions a little uncomfortable too.  I don't want to be pushy, and obviously some aren't interested or else they would have said they were interested.  I would like to know if they got the invite, but don't want to guilt anyone into coming by inquiring.   
Side note:  If you are ever invited to a party and don't want to go, a simple "Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I won't be able to attend!" will suffice.  No excuses or explanations needed. Just an acknowledgement that you received the invite and will or will not be attending!  If you really don't want to receive any more invitations or information, it is good to be up front and say you aren't interested.  It is better to be honest than to keep saying how neat it sounds and side-stepping.  We assume if you think it sounds neat, eventually you will want to hear more!

All of that to say, it is a total learning curve for me.  I am so grateful for Ben who reminds me why I am doing this, and that I am still me, even if people aren't totally understanding of it.  

Also (and this is important, and you'll just have to trust me!),  if I am with you and I tell you about this...don't take it as me just trying to sell you something.  These products are changing my cleaning habits and like I would with any product that impacts me, I get excited about it and will share about it.  Of course it is a business and it is always great if people want to host parties (and get free stuff!) or  just want to get some things for themselves, or even become an adviser themselves.  But ultimately I do this because it is a product I feel I can stand behind because it works, and cleaning is something everyone does...

Whew.  Now that that is out of the way, it won't be awkward when I see you and we chat about this and you wonder how in the world I could do this.  I love answering questions about the products, the business and really anything else about this process, even if you are just asking out of curiosity and aren't interested in buying anything =)

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Month 2 Complete!

This has been sitting in my draft folder for WEEKS.  And I totally forgot about it.  So you are getting this update a little late...but it is still pretty relevant I think.

{PSA: to whoever has been anonymously commenting regarding our dog:  Sierra is fine and well.  She was living with my in-laws for the month after Toby's birth but is back home with us now.  She is still big. Still shedding, although is doing so outside now, thankfully.  She probably doesn't get as much attention as she needs, but I try to walk her or get her to the dog park when I can! She turned 6 in January and has mellowed into a nice family dog.  While the hair is bothering me, we are glad summer is here so she can be outdoors more where she is most happy!}

It has been 2 months since Toby joined our family and we are pretty much settled into a rhythm (as much as we can be before something new pops up, as it inevitably does).

Everything is going pretty well overall.  Minus the weather.  This pseudo-spring is really getting me down.  I mean, as I type this, there is a super swell snow storm going on outside (how was that for alliteration?!).  I mean, so much snow for the middle of April.  And not just a one-and-done dump, but like, two days of continual precipitation (snow or freezing water junk) flowing from the heavens.

I am a little grumpy about this, I'll admit.  I mean, I really want need warmth and sunshine.  Not to mention the entirely unimportant fact that I have a lot of cute warm-weather clothes for Toby and he will be grown out of them by the time it is actually warm enough to wear them.  Grrr.

Okay, I'm going to stop that train before it crashes.  Back to life going pretty well overall.  It is true.  We are making it.  Some days feel like survival mode, but not all of them.  Some days there is minimal disobedience from Asher, there is contented laying by Toby, there is productivity by me.

*Side note:  that previous section about weather was written a few weeks ago and it was soooo miserable.  But now the forecast is high 60s to mid-70s and it is glorious.  Like seriously I am loving it and I feel like my spirits are lifted and my outlook is grand! (Yes, that is how much warmth and sunshine impact me!)

The Tobes is one growing baby.  I mean, he is pretty much fully in 3 month clothes, and could potentially be out of them before he is 3 months if he keeps up this rate of growth.  He isn't too chunky right now, but he is loooong.  Which is opposite of Asher, who was (and still kind of is) a bit lower percentile in terms of height.  Toby also sleeps a lot, and eats a lot, which makes me think he is in kind of one continual growth spurt.  He used to be pretty fussy in the evenings but that leveled out and now he is mostly pleasant all day.  At night he is sleeping 5-7 hour lengths of time (usually 9-4 and then wakes up again around 8).  And when we put him in his bassinet at night, he is awake and just lays there until he drifts peacefully off to sleep.  It feels like a dream that I know won't last and so I can hardly enjoy it, because it may be over any day.  So I'm trying to appreciate it and the sleep, for now.

Asher is expanding his vocabulary daily and has an incredible memory.  I will take credit for that, since it is probably my genes which gave him that fun ability.  But I'm talking names of random things in books that he heard once or twice (Umpire, octagon, Diplodocus, motor-grader etc...).  All the verses of random songs (It is Well, All Things Bright and Beautiful, 10,000 Reasons, Drops in the Ocean, The Greatest Showman soundtrack and all his slugs and bugs songs).  Things that happened days or weeks ago (Things he did with my mom when she came to visit, places we drive past that he will recognize from an outing).  It is kind of crazy.  And must have been what I was like as a child.

He was struggling with naptime a while ago...Like refused to stay in his room, wouldn't fall asleep for like two hours, and then was super grumpy.  It was a fight every day.  We tried everything...until we discovered bribery  incentives.  Pause this story while I fill you in on the other part of the story...

We had another problem that needed solving and decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I was bound and determined to be a minimal-screen-time kind of parent.  But what ended up happening was I had a 2-year-old who begged for video time a lot, and then threw a fit whenever we had to shut it off.  It was miserable.  There were times I wanted to let him watch a video, but dreaded the ending of the time and how hard it was for both of us.  So I decided that maybe we should have daily screen-time for about 15-20 minutes.  It would be often enough that hopefully he wouldn't freak about it being done...but seldom enough that it didn't take over our days.

Tying back in to naptime incentives, we decided to make that video time a reward for going down for a nap with no fussing and no coming out of his room til his little clock light turns green.  It has worked remarkably well.  We do give him a few warnings if he seems like he is going to come out of his room, but for the most part he stays in and earns the video time!   Now that he gets it more regularly, he doesn't seem to throw as big of a fit when it's time to be done, because he knows he will get it again tomorrow if he has a good nap.  Toss in letting him push the power button off and setting a timer, and he really does well with a limited video time.

Ash is also just so stinkin' cute these days.  The things he says, phrases he repeats...I'm loving this stage.  He wants to pray for someone specific every night.  Often it is someone who just so happens to have something "bigger" happening (sickness, travel, relationship problems, struggles at work etc...) and he has no idea, and just comes up with their name out of nowhere.  It is really sweet and makes me think he has some kind of sense of who needs prayer.  Neat way of seeing the Spirit working.

I am totally blanking on other things he says right now, but I'll write another post about his phrases again soon.

I'll post a few pictures of recent-ish happenings:

Asher had a nasty cough that worried me...bordered on sounding like whooping cough.  So I took him into Urgent Care.  They had a sign posted that if you had a cough you had to wear these little masks, and they had Disney ones for kids.  He was a little hesitant until I told him I would wear one too.  Then he loved it.  And wore it the rest of the day.  
(He didn't have whooping cough...just croup.  He had that horrid cough for almost 3 weeks after his 1-3 day contagious period at the beginning.  not fun)

I love this boy and his expressions.   

Asher is very into drawing dots on his easel.  He is precise (note the tongue), and likes to use all the colors.  He has now expanded to bigger blobs (he says they are chips), and lines.  

My dad came to visit us to meet Toby and spend some time together.  My mom was on another little trip and so it worked out for him to come while she was gone.  We had so much fun in those two days he was here.  He is such a great Papa and loves on us so well.  

Due to being out of the water most of the winter season, Asher was a little apprehensive at first to swim, but Papa won him right over and pretty soon they were splashing and jumping and doing all kinds of fun pool things! 

At our first bonfire of the season!  Toby ended up being happier than he looks here.  And Asher is a blur because he is always moving...

These are updated side-by-side pictures of Toby and Asher at 1 month old.  
Toby is on the left, Asher on the right

People keep saying how much the look the same, but I mainly see the distinct differences.  
I mean, they have similar facial expressions sometimes but Asher leans more to Ben's side and Toby leans more to my side.  

This was taken on my birthday morning.  Both boys cuddled up with me in bed as Ben was leaving for work.  Couldn't think of a better way to start 29! 

The Passing Days

I turned 29 at the beginning of April.  As always, another birthday makes me stop and ponder where I am, how I got here and where I'm going.  I'll admit, I don't feel like I always imagined I would when I arrived at the end of my twenties.  I used to view people at this stage of life far more mature and with things far more put together.  I still can't believe I have 2 (TWO!) children, a house, a car, a husband and all the grown-up things in life.  That includes the stress, the responsibility and alllll the bills =)

This is kind of a confusing season for me.  I don't feel confident that I'm adulting well.  I'm a mother, who feels at a loss at times on how to raise her children.  I love being a grown-up and having the independence and ability to do what I want.  But I also don't love the weight of responsibility for the choices I make with that independence.  I'm not a college kid anymore, but I don't feel any different than that girl, really.  My body is definitely aging, and I'm beginning to realize it only will get worse from here.  The number of silver strands in my hair is astounding to me.  I still struggle with being liked and seeking others' approval even though I've been a grown woman-who is technically established in who she is-for quite a while now.

All of this reminds me of what my true identity is, and where to run when I am feeling confused, lost or overwhelmed (and even when I'm not...)

After his bath or shower, when Asher is all wrapped up in his towel, he has this tradition of asking to snuggle with me.  He just leans into me, all damp and warm, and stays there...sometimes silent, sometimes just saying, "Mommy" over and over.  I ask him what he wants and he says, "I want Mommy."  I hold him close, remind him I love him and say, "I'm right here."

How that brings joy to my Mommy heart.  I can't help but think that that simple exchange is exactly what God desires from me.  A standing tradition of coming close, letting Him hold me and when He asks what I want, to say I just want Him.  And, as always, He is ready and willing to remind me of his love and just be with me.

My goodness, I love how these kids, who God gave to me, are being used as refinement and sanctification for me.  The bring joy and delight, causing me to praise and thank God. They also expose selfishness and pride, causing me to seek God for strength and wisdom.  It can be a painful process, but oh-so-glorious!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

FAQ Post

Frequently Asked Questions.  And when I say frequently...I do mean frequently.  I'll answer them to the best of my ability, and maybe then when you see me in person, you can ask me other things.  Things that I can give creative answers to, instead of the same-old-same-old.  Don't get me wrong, its not a bad thing you have all been asking the same questions...I just want to get it all out of the way so we can catch up on you, or other life issues, or the know, the good stuff ;)

1. How are you feeling? 
I'm feeling pretty good.  Tired most days, but that is to be expected.  But my body is generally feeling back to "normal."  Nursing is going much better than it was with Asher at this stage.  Ben says he notices my mood swings, which are still in the process of balancing out.  I get a little weepy from time to time, but most of my feelings and such are typical "Baby Blues."  

2. How is Asher doing with the change?
This one might actually fluctuate, so you can ask me again next time you see me.  He loves Toby.  Like wants to be touching him all the time.  This consists of "tickling" him or grabbing his fingers and prying his fist open to high five him.  Generally it makes Toby grumpy and I'm having a hard time with the balance of letting him love on Toby and telling him to give Tobes space. 
Bedtime and nap time were in regression before Toby was born and are now getting back to a good spot.  However, general attitude and listening have regressed now.  Some days I have far more patience and grace for him than other days.  Definitely exposing my need for Jesus and his strength and wisdom as I navigate my days home alone with the boys. 

3. How did you choose the name Tobiah (Toby)?
Ben and I were really struggling with finding a boy name we liked this time around.  We had a girls name picked out, but when we had our gender reveal, we had to go back to the drawing board for boys names.  We read list after list and asked everyone we talked to for suggestions.  Nothing stood out.  I was reading through lists alphabetically and literally reading every name to see if one jumped out.  When I got to Toby (which showed up on multiple lists), both Ben and I had neutral feelings about it.  I believe Ben's comment was, "I don't not like it..."  So we added it to our possibility list.  As we talked about it, and sorted through other names, it was the only one we never really changed our mind on.  And slowly it took its place as "the positive side of neutral" for both of us.  We didn't absolutely adore it, and yet we didn't really get over it, as we had with other names.  We realized that neither of us had anyone in our past or present who influenced the name, which is hard to come by.  We started to look up longer names that could shorten to Toby (I have a thing about liking names that can be nick-named easily).  Tobias and Tobin were the obvious choices.  For some reason, neither were doing it for us.  We tossed around just naming him Toby, but really wanted to give him the option of a longer, more "formal" name.  We finally found Tobiah.  And we liked it.  Since name meanings matter to us, we discovered that it meant "God is good." And we liked it even more.  
Yes, it is a Bible name, although the person in the Bible wasn't a particularly stellar guy, and we discovered him after we had already decided we liked the name.  
Jacob is a family name from both sides and we really loved the story of redemption that God weaved in Jacob's life in the Bible.  Everything from the stolen birthright to the Leah/Rachel debacle, to his sons becoming the tribes, to wrestling with God...his mistakes, his repentance...all of it is a testimony of God's faithfulness and willingness to walk alongside us, even if we mess up at times.

4. Do nicknames for Toby bother you?
This is not a FAQ, but I'm answering this so that people know.  Some people don't like any sort of nickname or shortening of their kids' names.  They gave them the name they chose and that is that.  I personally like nicknames, as I find them endearing and always liked having several of my own. 
So we've thought of all of these and are okay if you call him any of them...
 Tobo (that is what Asher calls him), Tobe,  Tobes, The Tobester, Toblerone or Toby Bryant (thanks This is Us), TJ and Tobemeister.  

5. How is Toby sleeping?
Really pretty good.  Most nights he goes about 3-4 hour stretches between feedings.  Which usually equates to a 3 am and 6 am feeding.  Some nights its every two hours...  But he is a pretty quick eater and goes right back to sleep.  While I'm tired a lot of the time in the morning, I don't feel ridiculously sleep deprived.  

6. Do you want more kids?  If so, when and how many?
I always find it interesting that people feel the need to ask this question right after I just endured labor and delivery and am in the throes of newborn life.  It's like they want my most biased and least reliably reasonable response.
Honest answer?  We would like more.  The when and how many are things we will play by ear.  I can tell you I don't want one this week.  Or in the next 9 months.  
Actually though, cool moment between me and God happened in the week after Toby was born.  Asher's birth had been a bit traumatic and while it wasn't enough to keep me from wanting more kids, it took a bit of physical, emotional and mental healing to get me in a good spot about going through it again.  And as Toby's birth got closer, I was experiencing a little trepidation and anxiety that I might have to go through it all again the same way I did with Ash.  It was so vastly different and much more manageable than the last one.  So I was showering (I do some of my best praying in the shower), and was thanking God for such a redemptive, smooth and healthy birth.  I was so grateful that my healing process was already much better and that the whole thing had gone so smoothly.  He told me, "I gave you the gift of Toby's birth because I want you to have another baby.  I wanted you to be sure and confident in that and not be scared of it."    
So, there's that. =)

That about sums up the most frequently asked questions.  If you have another question you've been wanting answered, I'm happy to do it in person, or if I get enough, to do a follow-up FAQ blog post.  
We really are doing well and are loving life with two littles.  I cannot wait until it is warmer and we can frequent the outdoors.  March and April are two of the hardest months for me in Minnesota because it feels like time just draaaaags and the weather plays games with your head.

another post coming SOON.  Like as soon as I can write it. Because this one has been sitting in my drafts forever. whoops.

au revoir. 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Toby: The Birth Story

I know, I is the post you have all been waiting for.  Well my two little boys are napping, my one big boy (Ben) is scooping snow and taking out trash, and I happen to have a few minutes to sit down and type this thing out.  Again, I share this story not only for those of you who love birth stories (can I see a show of hands?) but also because it is easier to type this for my own recollection than to write it in a journal.  And so without further ado, here's the story!   And it is long and kinda detailed. so my apologies...kind of. =)  If this kind of thing is too much for you, feel free to skip it and scroll to the bottom for pictures ;)

My mom arrived five days before the due date.  We jumped right in to grocery shopping (major Costco run!), and running errands to get things ready.  My mom is a motivator when it comes to getting babies out.  We walked all the aisles of Target (I'm not even exaggerating.  We maybe missed a few, but seriously, we walked the whole store).  We did squats, lunges and all other manner of extra movement.  We also did this at Hobby Lobby and the conservatory. 

Tuesday 2/27-Due date:  I had an appointment at 11 am to see the midwife and check progress and get a membrane sweep.  The appointment revealed that I was about 3-4 cm dilated (what!?) and she was optimistic that the membrane sweep would be successful in kickstarting labor.  For those of you who don't know, the membrane sweep is where they separate the amniotic sac from the cervix in hopes of producing a hormone that will start labor, as well as generally irritating the uterus (not sure if that last one is true, but it should be...since that is precisely what happened). 

I had some crazy cramping almost immediately after the appointment and by 2 pm, I was timing contractions.  They were regular at about 3-4 minutes apart and lasting 30-40 seconds.  This went on for....

...wait for it...


All through dinner.  Through sitting, standing, laying, bouncing on the ball...they persisted.  I called the midwife and let her know that while they weren't crazy strong, they were persistent so tonight could be the night.  We packed bags, shipped Asher off to Grandma and Grandpas and decided to rest a little before things got crazy. 

Wednesday 2/28-7 am:  I woke up.  After having slept the whole night.  I had this sinking feeling like, "Wait, I'm still here?!  WHY AM I LAYING IN BED WITH ZERO DISCOMFORT RIGHT NOW!?" 

Everything had stopped.  And try as I may to feel any twinge or any cramp, there just wasn't anything, really.  Ben decided to stay home just in case.  We went out for breakfast.  I was willing it to happen. But it didn't.

Let me take a minute to let you in on my inner-most feelings at this point.  Well, they were outer-most too because I don't do a good job of hiding my feelings, lets be honest. 

I was SO discouraged.  I knew this baby would come eventually and I had done really well not being too impatient in the weeks leading up to this.  But for some reason, being past my due date as well as having such seemingly clear signs of labor starting, left me really frustrated. 

I doubted if I would know when I went into labor.  When should I call the midwife?  I felt so dumb for having a false alarm like that.  I was embarrassed to tell everyone it was a false alarm.  I was feeling guilty for Ben staying home when he could have been productive at work.  I was pretty much a mess.

Went walking with my mom, got lunch at the mall, and nothing happened.

I really needed a re-set.  Ben read me an excerpt from a book that he is reading about meeting God in our place of need.  That when we need Him, and really acknowledge we need him, that we can't do it ourselves and we have really no control...that is when he meets us, sustains us and brings us through whatever circumstance led us to acknowledging our utter need for Him.  It was timely.  I decided to just let go.

Thursday 3/1-  I woke up feeling much better.  Ben went to work.  I had plans for the day.  I was going to do some last minute decorating in the boys' room, I was going to get Asher from my in-laws and have some good play time with him.  Mom and I were going to run an errand or two...maybe squeeze in some light exercise. 

Then during breakfast (brunch, more like it...10:30 or so), I was sitting on the couch and felt a cramping and tightening.  It was familiar. But I kind of tuned it out because I wasn't getting my hopes up again.  It started to make my stomach feel gross so I stopped eating and just sat on the couch, chatting with my mom and mentally trying to keep my thoughts from going crazy. 

I decided to time a few of these contractions.  They were sporadic, ranging from 3-7 minutes apart and lasting anywhere from 25-60 seconds.  They were more uncomfortable than on Tuesday, but not unbearable.  I felt much more pressure down below, but it wasn't too crazy.  I laid down, they stopped for 10 minutes then picked back up in a some-what steady rhythm.  I got up and bounced on the ball and they stopped, then picked back up.  I was so confused.  I had no idea if this was the real thing or not.  I was really struggling to decide if I should call the midwife and Ben or if I should wait.  Around 12:30 or 1 I finally decided to tell Ben to head home.   Nothing had really gotten worse or more intense, but I knew I would relax more if he were here, just in case things picked up.

Asher had come home for a nap to give my MIL a chance to do some things, and so we were kind of waiting until he woke up to make any decisions.  I called the midwife around 12:30 as well and told her this could be it but I wasn't sure...and to just give her a heads up...again. 

Ben came home, Asher woke up, we took him to a friend's house since my MIL was still busy.  I told Mom and Ben that I just wanted to go to the birth center because I was pretty sure I would feel much more calm if I were there.  And if I absolutely was not in labor, then they could send me home (we live less than a mile from the birth center so it wasn't a far trek).  The midwife said they would check me to see if I was any more dilated and we could go from there.

My mom made a comment about how technically we could be home in time to sleep in our own beds tonight...  The birth center only keeps you 4-6 hours after birth.  I chuckled and said I would have to have a baby within the first hour or two of getting there so I wasn't getting my hopes up.

Around 4:45, we pulled into the parking lot.  The midwife and the student midwife who was assisting met us and took us into the clinic room for a doppler listen and a dilation check.  I had a really light contraction while laying there (the midwife had to ask if I was having one, that is how light it was).  She said she wanted to listen to his heartbeat through another contraction.  We waited....and waited...2 minutes, 3 minutes...still no contraction.  I was embarrassed.  She said, "So were they this far apart at home?"  Me *sheepishly*, "Yeah, mostly."   Finally after about 5 or 6 minutes one started.  And it was fairly strong, so that made me happy.  All the sudden there was a loud "WHOOSH" we heard on the doppler.  My mom and Ben and the other midwife were in the room chatting and immediately stopped their conversation because it was so startling.  I felt my water break and gush all over the exam table.  I believe my words were, "Well that just happened..."  The contraction continued and got waaaay more uncomfortable. 

It hit me all the sudden that this was labor.  And I had forgotten that it was a bit more painful than I remembered...but I was ready.  We were going to do this.  Hopefully across the birth center in my room, in the tub.   They said they weren't going to do the dilation check since my water broke so we never did find out how dilated I was.

*Side note: Ben said it was really cool to see my stomach during the contraction right when water broke, because he could see the outline of the baby on my stomach really clearly.  My view from laying down wasn't quite as cool. 

Anyway, I was excited because this was it...we were having a baby tonight!  I was all ready to hunker down and labor for a few more hours.

They helped me to the birth room, and I tried to find a comfortable laboring position while they filled the tub.  I had two contractions on the ball, and it wasn't really doing it for I moved to the bed in an effort to find a better position.  I had two excruciating contractions while on my hands and knees. Ben was talking me through them, rubbing my back.  The contractions were so much more painful than I remember with Asher.  I honestly wasn't sure I could do body felt like it was being ripped in two.  I tried so hard to relax and I couldn't do it.  The midwife kept telling me to relax my toes, because apparently I was curling them so tightly against the pain.  I was super scared because there was almost no way I could do this for a few more hours.   (Little did I know that THIS was transition and not just active labor.) 

I laid on my back and started saying I couldn't do this.  I was losing control and didn't know how to stop it.  My mom and Ben were on either side reassuring me that I could do it.  The midwives were getting things ready and together and apparently exchanging looks and comments that I was unaware of...trying to gauge where I was at.  After a long contraction, my body started pushing.  I remember thinking, "Wait, don't I get a break?" and "What is happening, I'm not even ready to push...I'm not even doing this?!"  I yelped that the baby was coming and I had to push NOW.  I also said I really wanted to get in the tub and GET MY WATER BIRTH! 

They helped me from the bed where I had another contraction while standing.  I was a little panicky and said that I thought he was coming RIGHT NOW.   My mom said, "It's okay, you can have the baby here, we'll get him."  I emphatically said no, and went as quickly as I could to get into the tub, with their help of course.  Just as I was getting into the water, I had another contraction and his head was out.  They all told me to GET UNDER THE WATER.  My legs were in the most uncomfortable position, so I tried to get into a sitting position while staying under water so the air didn't touch the baby's face so he wouldn't take a breath.  Then there was nothing.  It felt like FOREVER until the next contraction.  I sat there thinking, "Now my body decides to give me a break? I just want this baby out!"  They were telling me to reach down and feel his head and I could hardly focus enough to do that. Next contraction he was out and in seconds he was on my chest. 

It was the most surreal feeling.  45 minutes since we had pulled in at the birth center and he was here.  Everything I had pictured about laboring at the birth center, getting into the tub to experience labor in water, working hard through the hours of pain...None of it happened that way.  As it was I barely made it in the water.  The midwife later said that she was surprised at how determined I was to hold the baby in so I could get in the water. 

Tobiah Jacob was absolutely perfect when he came out.  He cried a little bit but not near as much as Asher did. I credit being in the warm water with Toby. 

Stats: 7 lbs, 15 oz- 21 inches long. Born at 5:26 pm

Recovery has been immeasurably better than with Asher.  I could hardly stand and walk to the bathroom after his birth.  And for Toby, I was up and able to go to the bathroom within 15-20 minutes.  I have much more energy and my body isn't near as sore as with Asher.  

Basically the whole thing was so opposite, I am fairly certain I don't have a "typical" birth.  The only semi-consistent thing about them is I am a slooooow laborer in the early stages of labor.  And nothing gets too crazy until my water breaks (with both boys).  

We are finding our new normal routine.  Toby sleeps pretty good at night (giving me four hour stretches of sleep).  He is up to 9.1 lbs and is already 22.5 inches (99th %tile for height!)  He feeds like a champ and is overall a really mellow baby.  I'm really thankful for this, as Asher is a little feisty these days and is taking a little more of the mental and physical energy.  Also grateful that Asher loves Toby and wants to always check in on him first thing in the morning and make sure to take inventory of his "cute fingers and toes...they're so tiny!"  

Okay, I'm done rambling. here are some pictures! 

Minutes after he was born.  Could hardly believe he was here! 

Fresh new baby!  

He makes the best faces =)

Grandma and Mimi helping introduce Asher to Toby! 

He was SO excited. Really, best first interaction I could have hoped for. 

It's a little blurry but I love this smile...

Strange face...but captured a few cute dimples!

Snapchat that my mom took as she was leaving for the airport!  So strange to see myself with two babies!  (Ha, notice the lineup of diapers on the railing.)

Learning to balance my time with Toby and this sweet boy. 

People often ask if Asher and Toby look alike.  They have some similarities, and you can tell they are brothers, but I think they look pretty different overall...Here are some comparison pictures.  Toby on the left, Asher on the right. 

If you have read to the end, you deserve a hug. And kudos.  
au revoir! 

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Night Musings

Preface: We have worked really hard on sleep training and getting Asher to sleep in a toddler bed all night.  It has been generally successful.  He is given to rising at around 6, so we made it a rule (for ourselves) that he could come in our bed at 6 and doze or lay with us since Ben gets up shortly after that anyway.  Any time before that and he had to go back to bed.

 Story: It was 4 am.  Asher had been up six times in three hours.  He obviously wasn't tired or falling back asleep.  He kept creeping into our room saying, "It's morning mommy!"  When I would explain that it isn't morning, and he had to go back into his bed, he would say, "But I don't like to go back to bed.  I don't like laying down.  I don't like sleeping."  

That is his latest thing, you know... "I don't like_____."  He uses it when he doesn't want something or doesn't want to do something.  He often uses it for absurd things that he very obviously likes, but when he is feeling inconvenienced by them ("I don't like mac n cheese" or "I don't like Thomas underwear.")  

Back to my night musings. I had tried all my "tricks."  I had told him that he would get a consequence if he got out again.  I followed through on the consequence when he did.  I reasoned through why he should be sleeping when everyone else in the house was sleeping and it was so dark.  I made my voice firm.  I ignored him.  Ben put him back twice and that didn't even help.  He was bound and determined to be awake.  Finally around 3 am, I got so tired of this routine. Ben and I had a semi-conscious conversation about what to do next.  I finally realized that the only way he was going back to sleep is if we brought him in bed with us or if I rocked him.  

So I rocked him. (Because forbid I break our "not before 6 am rule). And I did it with such mixed feelings. 

 I was berating myself, "There you go, all the work you put in out the window.  Now he will expect to be rocked every night.  And all because you wanted sleep."  

I was feeling guilty, "You push this middle-of-the-night training too much and your kid will grow up to resent you, feel distant and wonder if you even love him.  You are ruining him with this sleeping in his own bed business.  Maybe just co-sleep and rock and basically give him all and everything so that he knows how loved he is."  

I was melting, "How sweet to be here, rocking your big toddler boy, watching him drift off to sleep.  It's been so long since you've gotten to do this, and soon he won't be the only boy around.  Don't even think about the "what-ifs." In this moment, just Soak. It. Up."  

It took a grand total of 10 minutes, and he was out.  I rocked him gently a little while longer and then transferred him to his bed, all without a hitch.  He slept soundly til morning.  

I, of course, laid in bed for another hour or so, unable to sleep and mulling over the whole incident.  I should have definitely just rocked him sooner.  But I was so scared he would regress.  I was determined to make sure that my kid slept independently and didn't require me to help put him back to sleep.  HE IS TWO, for crying out loud.  Why am I so set on this?  I thought about how things will change when the baby comes.  He will probably naturally regress and we will have to deal with it.  He will crave the rocking and snuggling when he sees Baby Brother getting all the middle-of-the-night (and daytime) energy.  And I don't know how to balance those moments with continued expectations of sleeping through the night.   I don't know how to have standards and be lenient at the right times.  How to pour out love on this sweet boy but discipline and guide.  Obviously this extends beyond bed time.  

This intentional parenting thing is hard work.  The thinking is draining, the carrying out is nerve-wracking, the guilt of a split-second choice going wrong is crippling.  And yet despite the amount of times I feel like I'm totally blowing it, this sweet boy still comes and lays on my lap, trying to touch as much of me as he can (as he is doing right now), he begs butterfly kisses, he follows me around all day asking what I'm doing, and he asks for snuggles.  It is so hard, but I also love it so so much.  I love him so much.  And he is so worth all this angst and middle-of-the-night insomnia.  He deserves intentional parenting and all the love I can pour on him, whenever I can pour it.  

Thank Jesus for grace and redemption of the brokenness I'm bringing to this parenting gig.  

Quick pregnancy updates: 
- I am 37 weeks...which is no longer considered "high risk" and technically baby can come any time. ( it is also the earliest the birth center will let me give birth there instead of having to go to the hospital). 
- Baby has definitely dropped and I feel like a lumbering ox.  Mainly because whenever I try to do anything I feel about as flexible as an ox.  And they lumber.  
- Sleeping has gotten difficult.  My hips and lower back hurt whenever I get out of the bathroom any of the 2847 times a night.  
-I have Braxton-Hicks (practice) contractions relatively frequently, but no sign of the real thing yet.  
-Baby must be feeling squished because he has been stretching his legs into my rib cage and lungs and it is quite the feeling.  
-I seriously cannot eat very much at all without feeling totally gross and sick afterward.  
-I am stuck in the no-mans-land of really wanting to nest and finish projects and having ZERO energy and actual motivation to get them done.  I also have this thing that once I do find the energy and start, I just keep going, and it ends up taking a really big toll on my body and I'm basically out of commission the rest of the day. Bleh.  

Soon and very soon. All this will be done.  


The following are all the sweet moments that Asher comes in bed after 6 am and snuggles back in to sleep next to me after Ben goes to work.  I really do cherish and love these moments. And he is so darn cute! 

We got a big snow...and it was beautiful and is still piled up out there, so that is fun! Winter cold is so much better when there is white all around instead of grays and browns. 

Playing in said snow!

These were our happy smiles at making it to Ikea, through a shopping trip and all the way home with DRY UNDERWEAR!  Potty training is going much better now that I just dove in and tried it.  Leaving the house was the most nerve-wracking for me, but he has done surprisingly well, as long as we go places with bathrooms easily accessible! 

Open play day at a gymnastics club.  He loved all the bouncing! 

Had a girls weekend with some of my friends and we did the very Minnesotan thing and went hot tubbing in the snow.  Cecilia (second from the left) is from Kenya and is experiencing all kinds of new things since she has been here...including this first-time adventure!  

Our latest before-baby project was to put a dishwasher in our tiny kitchen.  My handy husband (and his dedicated father) worked out all the details and measurements.  There is literally just enough room for the sink and dishwasher.  Like down to fractions of inches.  

And there it is!  We are still waiting on our countertop, but the whole thing is hooked up, doesn't leak and runs wonderfully!  We have been using it a few days now and it has made such a difference in how tidy our kitchen stays.  And since we have minimal amounts of counter space in general, every bit of tidy helps!  

This little guy loved the up-close view of Daddy working with all the tools!

Bump shot this week!

One of my jobs includes driving some girls to their sports practice at the sports dome.  Usually we sit in the lobby and try to stay entertained while we wait, but today we went inside to watch.  This really sweet girl who was practicing softball with her friends and asked Asher if he wanted to help pass her balls. He was so enthralled and loved being able to help.  It was so cute.  

Anyway, that is the end of the very long post.  
If you made it this far...warm fuzzies and hugs to you! 

au revoir.