December 2019

The holidays are settled on the horizon of the next week as I write this. We plan to spend them quietly here without travel or much break in our normal schedule due to Aaron’s church obligations. We are yet to have a snow that sticks, which makes me skeptical about having a white Christmas. Regardless, we do have the warmth of the light from our Christmas tree against the backdrop of bare, skeletal deciduous trees across the courtyard. It does the trick to bring some seasonal cheer.

Christmas has never been a holiday I particularly looked forward to. It always had a sort of lack luster way of ending each year compared with how it’s advertised in stores and American Girl doll books. I think this is in large part because my family did not have stable traditions surrounding this holiday like we did for some of the others. Perhaps not this year, but in the years to come Aaron and I have sketched out some of the traditions we would like to establish for our nuclear family. It seems that the “magic” lies in the dependability of repeated expectation, rather than the razzle dazzle of yearly spontaneity.

Perhaps that is a good segue for my reflections on the year in general. There have been multiple transitions during 2019–Aaron’s graduation, our summer move, my role as stay-at-home mom. With each transition we’ve tried the establish new, or modify old, schedules and routines, i.e. traditions, for daily living. I just finished a book called Simplicity Parenting which emphasizes the importance of rhythm and routine for helping create a safe space for kids to flourish within the home. While it applies to kids in vital developmental ways, this year has shown me the importance of intentional simplicity for my own mental health. There is comfort in the pillars of shared meal times and naps, rotated casserole menus and the same nightly lullaby to anchor experience when there is an upheaval in other areas of life. Those are superficial examples in some ways, but not completely.

My January entry may contain fuller reflections on the year, but for now I sit thankfully in a warm apartment as my little one naps on, waiting for daddy to come home for dinner. Some mornings over coffee with Aaron, I wonder in awe how we got to this place. Married almost three years, a kid, two Masters degrees, and practical steps in place for our future. I couldn’t imagine this even five years ago. There is much to be thankful for.

November 2019

As I reflect on this past month, I can barely remember all that took place. It was a month of routine (much like the others), punctuated by a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering here with my family. Hosting takes a lot of prep energy, but I am finding it to be a really enjoyable way to spend time with people. The stress of figuring out what to do with Ethan is mostly eliminated which probably helps the most.

Oh, I do remember why this month is lost in a fog. The first two weeks of November both Ethan and I had colds. Babies with colds are notoriously bad sleepers, which meant my system was definitely fighting an uphill battle towards recovery. Ethan also had 3 molars come in–putting his current tooth count at 11. I know these statistics are probably the pinnacle of boring to read about in a blog post, especially if you don’t have kids or your children are no longer in this stage. But, new teeth and colds, tower building and spins are more effective markers for the passage of time than even days and weeks. Tangible development taking place in real time.

October 2019

“Hello Fall”

“Welcome Harvest”

Little signs printed on pillows and placards have started to crop up on neighborhood porches along with the standard pre-Halloween lot. Yet, it seems that every year fall comes with or without our permission and welcome. The seasons act according to their covenant with the Most High. They answer not to our whims and preferences. For that I am thankful. As thankful as I am to see another autumn ushered in. Sweaters, wool socks, and fleece hats have infiltrated our daily wardrobes.

I have been blessed by our women’s Bible study as we go through the book of Proverbs. There are ladies of all ages and stages in attendance, and the study has helped me engage with Scripture in a way I haven’t since seminary. I still hope to use my education in a more formal way one day, but even if that day never comes the experience will still have been worth it for the practice in critical thinking alone. We are inundated with “wisdom” at every turn, and it is no small task to discern what is true according to the rubric of the Lord’s revelation in Scripture. I have a lifetime of learning left.

Aaron and I continue to have daily conversations refining what we think the future might look like. I am thankful for these bit by bit refinements to help my expectations for what’s next. The anxiety lessens and the calm settles. The fear of the Lord takes its place with a peace which passes understanding.

September 2019

The days roll one into another with not much variation from day to day. I suppose this is the way most people carry on with life, and there is both rest and restlessness found within the boundaries of routine.

The end of September marks a year since my son was born. It is a momentous change but not one that will bring much change in our patterns. Eating, cleaning, sleeping, playing, walking, bathing, talking etc., these activities change slightly with each day of his development. He takes more interest in toys he never bothered with before. Or he plays with the same toys in more sophisticated ways. His displeasure and joy are both more liberally shown.

August 2019

August is ending with milder temperatures and cooling rain. Rain is usually a melancholy trope, but these have brought me and Ethan outdoor freedom and the refreshment of open apartment windows during the day. There is an internal and external stillness I feel today. It is not loneliness but peace. It is helpful to look back and see how much can change in such a short amount of time. Depression is so masterful at distorting time and space. I always forget.

July’s challenges required us to reevaluate our schedules and priorities for the future. We had to be able to think about, plan, and dream for what’s to come without breeding resentment for the here and now. We are still taking advantage of our resources to think about what’s next–like the public library’s collection of non-fiction with titles ranging from cookbooks to sustainable agriculture, pickling to homegrown berries, orchards and bee keeping. But these are fluid and subject to change. A state in which it is hard for me to remain. I want to see the house and the yard and start making intricate floor plans. Always getting years ahead. Patience is still the name of the game.

The other big August development is that Ethan started walked at the beginning of the month. His wobbly self-discovery has shaped most of the waking hours here at home. We have had one outdoor walking adventure so far, facilitated by a new pair of shoes. They have pandas on them. I’m astonished by how big he’s getting. My little man.

July 2019

Blocks, books, and balls are scattered across the living room floor. In between waking and nap time there is a Sisyphusian futility in putting away toys during the time Ethan is still awake to play. The morning is still cool, so the A/C is set to off and the kitchen window flung wide to the sounds of passing cars, birds, and the periodic yaps of a neighbor’s dog. This is what this moment looks like. It is helpful to live moments at a time these days.

I know my posts have had a distinct color of melancholy lately. Looking back on these months with time, I am hopeful that I will see the arc that led us out of this valley. July was the first “real” month of the internship as it didn’t have any major travel to break up routine. We were able to see what the next year’s day to day would look like. Aaron works about 50 hours a week during the day, plus a number of nights. I know that this routine is typical for many people, but we have had to relearn the way we delegate and accomplish many of the things we used to share or do together.

We still don’t know where we will be at the end of next summer. We have internal vision boards that we collect research for some nights after Ethan goes to bed. Where? How many acres? New construction or remodel? Accessible airports? National parks and hiking trails? The problem is that these dreams are still quite far off, and dreaming does not have the strength to shore up the present. Even though nothing has externally changed, the past few days have brought a brighter perspective than the past month. In a conversation with my dad, he encouraged me to recognize that if I do believe God is sovereign over all things then I can take comfort even in trials of many kinds. Because I know that they have been chosen for me. Than they have been given to me at this time to prepare and strengthen me for what is to come.

So, instead of resisting and resenting my circumstances (as characterized July), I now am trying to lean in to the solitary rhythms of stay-at-home motherhood. My son’s laughter and learning. The daily ritual of tidying up. The swish of hand washing cloth diapers in the tub. The exhilaration of new recipes spurred on by our weekly vegetable subscription box. The giant maple framed by my front window as I write.

Shaken

It isn’t the end of the month, but I felt like writing tonight–an urge I get less often than I’d like these day. My emotions have run high lately, spilling out in conversations with my husband rather than on paper. I mentioned the difficulty of the transition in my last post. I think the word “difficult” has such a range and uncanny ability to mask the severity of most situations. So does depression. No day is the same. Sunday spoke like this:

Shaken. Tumble down stairways.
Dark. Without a window to the outside.
Tears. Collected in jars and glasses set out for those who couldn’t come.
Fear. The deep alone of leaving.
Life. The when and where of what is now.

I’m not there tonight. Although, I generally feel more on the edge of dipping down into those places than usual. An introvert fearing the long stretches of days in the apartment with a nonverbal little boy. It is amazing to me how sometimes the clouds roll in and completely drown the joy of what’s in front of me. How fear and loneliness loom so large I can’t see the promises that I have nothing to fear because I will never be alone.

June 2019

This has been a difficult month of transitions. The first of the month brought a new apartment, town, job for Aaron, and the beginning of full time stay-at-home motherhood for me. The first two weeks were an attempt to move in and acclimate (especially the baby) to the new routine, and the last two weeks consisted mostly of travel to two out of state weddings.

The combination of moving away from friends and family plus being home essentially 24/7 has left me feeling isolated and desperate for the hope to make it through the next eleven months of our contract here. Perhaps the absence of travel will help in that respect. The weddings were beautiful and not to be missed, but traveling by car and plane for long periods of time with a 9 month old cannot in any universe be classified as a vacation. Ethan was a champ, as always. But I am never not a mom. I gave up the luxury of being able to “check-out” or completely “unplug” when I got pregnant with him. I’m not mad about that; it’s just the reality.

So, my task is to figure out who I am and what I’m supposed to do in the midst of my alien isolation. What do my days look like when I’ve already cooked and cleaned and run all the errands? I don’t know that person. I hope to soon.

May 2019

This post didn’t make it up by the first, but for good reason. I sit here in a new apartment on the other side of Aaron’s finals, graduation, and the first move of our marriage. We are so thankful for the family and friends who helped us with the transition.

It’s funny, even though I graduated last year, this month felt like we were both graduating for real because it would lead also to a major upheaval of life routine and location. We only moved two hours from where we were, but Aaron is now working 8a-5p+ six days a week interning at a church and I am home full time with our little man. During this month, Ethan started crawling and pulling himself up (on everything…your pant legs are not safe). Baby’s new mobility makes managing chores and household responsibilities require more creativity. However, I acknowledge that there are many people who aren’t in our same situation. We discussed early on in our relationship that we wanted to make sacrifices while we could in order to eventually be a debt free, one-income family. And here we are. I’m thankful for good baby naps and leftovers and sitting in the grass under shade trees.

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