Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Better Than The Last

I never imagined a time that I wouldn’t want to have a baby in the house.  I prided myself on being a “baby” mama.  I loved everything about the baby stage.  The sweet smell of newborn, small wrinkled bodies, content sighs of a baby at the breast, the way they fit perfectly in the crook of my arms, the weight of their bodies as they napped on my chest.  Even the midnight feedings, because in those dark, quiet hours, it was just Baby and I.  There were no other needs to meet, or distractions, or a mental to-do list in my head.  Just Baby, myself, the dark, and quiet.   There was very little I didn’t like during the baby stage, and Jon and I often joke that if we could keep them at the baby to 18 month stage, we’d likely have kept going. 

I so loved the baby stage, that I just couldn’t fathom life outside of that stage.  And yet here I am, on the other side, and I find myself relishing this new stage.  I look at my sisters, with babies and toddlers and preschoolers, and I remember it.  I remember how hard, how demanding, how… exhausting. 

The first eight years of my role as a mother, I was in survival mode.  I felt like my day was constantly spent trying to put out small fire after small fire.  It was a delicate balance of naptimes and schedules, of timing everything just right so the meltdown during the witching hour wasn’t as epic as the day before.  It wasn’t a matter of “IF” there was a meltdown during that 5:00 hour, but of how bad the meltdown would be.  And should one child miss a nap, or not get a long enough nap, or not eat a good lunch, there was a domino effect.  And the end result would usually lead to Mama on the couch, muttering to herself, while chaos reigned supreme until Daddy arrived home from work.

Deep breaths, Jenn.  Deep breaths.

Then something magical happened last summer, and we turned this beautiful corner.  It was the call of More.  More time, more space, more activities, more fun, just… More.  No longer did we seem bound to the nap schedule or the diaper schedule.  We no longer had to hover around the house for fear of a missed nap opportunity, or misread temperaments.  It was the first taste of freedom.

So we did.  We ventured outside of our schedules and our self-proclaimed house arrest.  We went hiking and swimming.  We went on car rides and picnics.  We made so many last-minute plans.  We had fun! 

It wasn’t that we didn’t do those things before, of course we did.  But I always felt like I was holding my breath, waiting to see which one would transform from my loveable baby to demon child in the span of two minutes.  Or I’d hover over the one being potty trained, ready to sprint from one end of the playground to the restroom at the first sign of a pants grab.  It was fun for the Littles, but never for me.  I was never able to let down my guard long enough to actually enjoy any activity we were doing.

But last summer, I fell in love with being a mother all over again.

Now we move along at a pace that’s comfortable for all; we take our time to stop and really see what it is we’re doing.  I can actually listen to the child that’s pointing out what’s interesting to them, I no longer have to keep one ear open for crying that could start at any moment.  It’s not perfect, heaven knows there’s still plenty to work on.  But I see effort and tangible proof that they’re trying their hardest to wait their turns, to be patient, to lend helping hands, to take initiative when I seem busy at that moment.  I’m seeing the beginnings of independent thought and action, and I’m loving watching it develop.

I’ve been telling my sisters and friends with babies, give it time.  Hang in there.  You can do this!  Yes, its hard.  Yes, its exhausting.  Yes, there are times you want to run away.  But its worth it.  There comes that one moment when you look back and you realize, we made it.  We actually made it through that part, and while it was both glorious and demanding, I’m breathing a little easier on this side of it. 

This side has new challenges, new heartaches, and a different kind of exhaustion.  But the rewards seem so much richer, so much more colorful, they have much more depth and beauty.  No one ever said this parenting gig was easy, and there are times that I often wonder what I got myself into.  But when I catch a loving moment between siblings… when I see one of the Littles aim for the stars and reach their goal… when I walk away from a conversation knowing that I got more out of those ten minutes than what I contributed… I realize that its those moments that sustain me in the in-between.

In-Between

Knowing what I know now, I can’t help but imagine that each stage is going to keep getting better.  With that said, I especially can’t wait to see what memories we create this summer.  Because this year, I’m ready.  And I’m actually watching for the loveliness of it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Letter to Her

I’ve never understood the honor of cutting umbilical cords, its quite gross if you think about it.  But nevertheless, Jon had the “honor” of cutting the umbilical cords of all our babies.  Except one.  As soon as we found out that our second was a boy, I knew I wanted to be the one to cut the cord.  It was a symbolic gesture for me, a way of reminding myself that when the time comes that since I’ve cut the umbilical cord once, I can do it again.

I pray for each my children’s future spouses.  From the moment we found out we were expecting, I started praying for the person who would share their life.  And as we added daughter after daughter, I started praying most fervently for Hudson’s future wife.  She will have to be a brave woman, that is for sure.  Loving a man with three sisters is most surely going be a challenge and I already feel sorry for the women that will be put through the wringer.  But the one that survives, she will be brave.  I’m sure of it.

When I found out Hudson was on his way, I started a list of promises to myself, to Hudson, and to his future wife.  Promises that will be difficult for me to consistently keep, but I wanted a starting point to be the best mother-in-law possible.  So without further ado…

Dear Future Daughter-in-Law,

I imagine that someday I’ll print out this letter and wrap it with the rest of your bridal shower gifts.  I hope you take this with the loving intention that its meant.  I realize that I won’t always be able to keep these promises, but this is a sampling of my intentions as we move into this next phase of our relationship.  We are welcoming you with open arms, because we know how much our son loves you and if Hudson has chosen you, then you are the answer to our prayers.

  • I promise… that I will love you for you.  Not for the person that I think you should be, not with any expectations or preconceived ideas.  I will love YOU, as you are right now and for the person you’ll become.
     
  • I promise… that I will never stop by unannounced or without calling ahead.  I know that your home is your space, and I would never want to intrude on that without being invited or giving you a heads-up. 

  • I promise… that I will not hound you, nag you, or otherwise annoy you with questions about grandbabies.  This is your life with Hudson and it may not look anything like mine.  If you ever hear me begin to ask the question, shoot me a look.  Hopefully I’ll remember this letter.
     
  • I promise… to love you as my own.  I’m sure sisters-in-law can be daunting and a challenge (I can only imagine what three of them will be like), but know that I consider you ours too.  Which brings me to…
     
  • I promise… not to try to take the place of your mother.  I would never, ever want to get between a mother and her daughter, but know that should you ever need me for a shoulder or a listening ear, I am here and willing to be that for you.

  • I promise… that should the need arise, I will always come to you with misunderstandings or hurt feelings.  And always with love and grace.  I am a big believer in going to the source of the problem, and I want you to know that any issues that may arise will be kept between the two of us.

  • I promise… that I will always support your marriage to Hudson.  Its inevitable that problems arise in marriage, and should Hudson ever come to us for advice or support, we will always turn him back to you and his marriage vows. 

  • I promise… that I will never offer unsolicited advice.  Ever.  Life is about making mistakes and choices and figuring out what works best for you, your marriage, and your family.  And unless asked, I promise to keep opinions and advice to myself.

  • I promise… to love, encourage, and support you as a woman, a daughter, a wife, and maybe someday, a mother.  However that looks, I want you to know that I have your back!

I don’t want to be the other woman in Hudson’s life.  I want you to have the sole role of being the one and only woman in his life; I hope to play a supporting role.  And I hope that you feel loved and supported in the years to come.

I once heard that its not enough to make a list of things you won’t do, but substitute do’s for the don’ts.  This is a work in progress, but I feel it’s a great start.  I know that to be a good mother-in-law someday, I’m going to have to be intentional with these relationships.  I intend to do just that.

A Letter to Her

While I know that someday I’ll be replaced by another woman in Hudson’s life, I am currently loving my cuddly, tender, and sensitive little man.  I love being his first crush, his first love, his whole world, and the recipient of the picked dandelions.  I’m going to soak it all in while I can and relish every moment.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A Look Back

As I’m getting ready to rebrand and move Munchkin Land Designs from Blogger to Wordpress, I’ve been looking through old designs and I’ve realized I’ve been at this for a long time.  In 2008, I started playing around with Blogger templates and designs.  It wasn’t enough to have other designers bring my ideas to life, I decided that I need to have more control.  And from there, my love of designing grew.

Looking through these past designs, it brings to mind certain times in our life and I smile.  I’m so glad I have this place, my own little time capsule.

Pink 'n Brown Header 2Promise HeaderScroll HeaderFamilyFiveHeader3Summer2010DesignChristmas2010Header7ValentinesHeader2KDIMLChristmas2011Header1

WinterHeader13KDIMLFallWinter2011Header4KDIMLChristmas12Header5KDIMLWinter13Header4KDIMLMonkeyBusinessHeader5KDIMLSpring2012Header4KDIMLSummer2012Header13KDIMLSpring13Header8

Spring2010Header4 KDIMLSummer13Header1

There are some favorites, and then there are a few I wonder what I was thinking.  Regardless, its fun to reminisce.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

State of Worship

If you click through the ‘Life in the Key of Me’ label, you’ll find a number of posts that highlight songs that mean a lot to me or have shaped my life in one way or another.  I have always loved music, of all kinds.  I love that music can evoke emotions and memories, it can set moods and create backdrops.  We are a family that likes to blast music as loud as we can, we’ll play it during yard work or housework, we’ll take impromptu dance breaks, we’ll sing along, we’ll be loud and silly.  Music is constantly in the background of our lives, and we love it that way.

image

So its no surprise that its no different for me and church.  Yes, I love the intellectual content of the sermons.  I enjoy sitting in my seat, furiously scribbling notes while I soak in the wisdom that’s being shared that day.  But the worship…  Oh, the worship…  The sound of a congregation lifting their voices in praise.  The tingle that runs along my arms when I feel His presence among us.  The words and notes that are offered in worship.  There’s just nothing like it for me.  I often imagine what it will be like in Heaven when we get to worship Him with all the angels and saints.  Worshipping with the church is such a small glimpse of what is ahead.

But I don’t want Worship to be constrained by the walls of a building.  I don’t want the state of Worship to have a start and end time.  My God isn’t limited by time or walls or locations or corporate worship or by any earthly boundaries.  I want my Littles to understand that Worship happens at any time, in any place, anywhere where one is awed by the glory of God.  I see Him everywhere, I seek Him in the minute, small details of my life, and I pray that is conveyed by the life I live.

tozer-quote-true-worship

There is this spot above the family cabin.  It’s a hike from the top of the mountain.  It’s a trail that weaves through underbrush and trees, its travels up, then down, and then up again.  There’s a small valley, and a hilltop.  There’s a number of spots where its just us and the glorious Rocky Mountains.  Its in that space that I get a small glimpse of HIs majesty.  I look around that area and I’m in awe of a God who is able to create such a landscape, whose creativity knows no bounds, is able to have such a deep, sacrificial love for me.  That kind of love overwhelms me and I’m unable to resist raising my arms in Worship of Him.

When my arms are elbow-deep in dish soap and I’m loading the dishwasher for the second time that morning, I will hear  a worship song over the sound of running water, and I’ll just close my eyes.  It’s the most mundane of tasks, the cleaning of dishes, knowing it’ll be done again in just a few short hours, but to find that moment of joy in the midst of the ordinary, that is Worship.  To allow the words of a song to fill your soul while little arms and hands grab at your legs or shirt, that is Worship.

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The Littles are used to me stopping at random moments of cleaning to kneel on the floor of our living room, arms raised as I’m compelled to worship God.  Natalie Grant’s “Your Great Name” does it for me, every single time.

Jesus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain for us, Son of God and Man
You are high and lifted up; and all the world will praise your great name

Redeemer, My Healer, Lord Almighty
My savior, Defender, You are My King

It brings me to tears.  I Worship Him because He is worthy.  He is glorious and majestic and beautiful.  I Worship because my soul can’t NOT worship the One who has saved me from myself.

And when Jesus Culture’s “Oh Happy Day” comes up on the playlist, the Littles and I will meet in the living room for a major dance party.  Think House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and you’ll get a good idea of the chaos that reigns during that song.

Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I'll never be the same
Forever I am changed

I want the Littles to know that Worship is not defined by slow or fast, happy or sad.  Worship is everything, as your soul is moved, as God speaks in that moment to you.  Its raised arms and jumping and crying and laughing and thankful and reverent.  Worship is what we do in the every day.

A couple of weeks ago, Jon and I needed a family day.  A day alone, away from the house and routine, so we hopped in the car and cranked up the music.  Grungor’s “Beautiful Things” came on and I sang along, oblivious to the rest in the car, when Jon nudged my arm and gestured to the back seat.  I looked behind me and my heart rose in my throat and tears filled my eyes.

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

There sat my five-year-old little girl, buckled into her carseat.  Her face was raised to the sky, her eyes were closed, her arms were raised, and she was singing her heart out to God.  As far as Reagan was concerned, not another soul existed in that moment.  It was obvious that it was she and God, and no one else.  And she sang with such feeling.  She Worshiped Him like I have never seen her Worship before.  And it broke me.  It was the most scared of moments, and I felt like I’d intruded on a private moment between the two of them.  It was… beautiful.

I turned back around and Jon grabbed my hand and squeezed it.  I want to live in a State of perpetual Worship.  I want God to reveal Himself, in all His Majesty to me, to our family, and especially to my Littles, in such real and tangible ways that we can’t help but Worship.  Aware.  Awed.  Thankful.  Overwhelmed.  Reverent.  Humbled.

tozer-quote-worship

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dodged a Bullet

With the older two at school, I'm sipping coffee while curled up on the couch, and I'm listening to the imaginations of two little girls play out in the kitchen.  From what I can gather, they're grownups who live together, go to work (one's a doctor, the other is a teacher but only when the mood strikes), and visit their mom and boyfriends on a regular basis.

As I watch Reagan wander through the living room and hug our vacuum (her chosen inanimate object for the role of boyfriend) for the umpteenth time, I stop her.

"Hey Rea," I asked her. "What do you and your boyfriend do?"

She stops and turns around. I watch as she traces her toe in a circle on the carpet. "We go on dates." 

Such a matter of fact answer, especially for a five year old.

"Oh really?  And where do you go on dates?"

Without batting an eyelash, she answers.  "We go to hotels."

Oh, sweet moses.  Seriously.  How on earth am I going to explain this one?  And what have we taught our child, I wondered.  Trying to keep the panic out of my voice, "Okay... What do you do at the hotel?"

"We go swimming."

I think it was pure, sweet relief that came through in my laugh.  And with the most innocent of smiles, she returned to her game of make-believe with Ashlynn.

Whew.  We dodged a bullet with that one.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Define "Hot"

Hudson and Jon are going on a field trip next week.  They're hiking one of the local trails with the rest of the first grade.  In fact, one of the main reasons Jon decided to be a parent volunteer is because they're hiking one of the trails he helped build during his stint as a Trail Crew Worker.

As we sat around the dinner table talking about the field trip, Jon and I were trying to remember how old he was the summer he worked for the Parks & Open Lands Department.

"I was eighteen that summer," he said.  But I reminded him that the summer he was eighteen, he was traveling back and forth to Estes Park to work as a photographer in one of their old fashioned, western shops.  The kind where women put on saloon dresses, are handed pistols and empty jugs of whiskey, and are positioned on the bar or in front of "Wanted: Dead or Alive" posters.

"You were nineteen during the Trail Crew," I explained.  "You were blondest, the tannest, and in the best shape that summer. You were hot!"

Devyn groaned into her dinner, "Grooooosss!" The youngest two laughed, completely unaware but thinking it was hysterical.  And Hudson thoughtfully chewed his bite, swallowed, and asked, "When Mom says 'hot', does she mean like when someone is sweaty hot?  Or like when someone whistles at someone else?"

I burst out laughing, while Jon choked on his pasta.  I winked at Hudson, "I mean the kind when you whistle."  This prompted more groans from Devyn, and more choking from Jon.  What's the point of parenting if you can't gross out your children every once in a while?  Besides, sixteen years later, I still think he's pretty hot.

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