Contentment Challenge

It’s October…how did we get here already?

125

Oh right. First Sean was a two-headed cow and tuberculosis (From Orchids to Octopi), then we were Iago and Desdemona (Othello), then we were Mollie Ralston and Sgt. Trotter (The Mousetrap), now I’m Shelby Eatenton-Latcherie (Steel Magnolias).

I love theater, always have, always will. It’s how Sean and I met, and a passion we share. And this has been an incredible year for roles. But it never seems to fail that I allow a show to bring discord into my home. I’m gone 3 nights a week. My home falls into disarray. We eat like crap. I feel like I’m always kissing my daughter good-bye as I head out the door. Natalie now mimics me, purse over her shoulder, waving bye and blowing me a kiss. I ask her where she’s going, and she says she doesn’t know. Now, as a daycare provider, I’m with her all day, it’s not like I’m an absentee mother. But for some reason this strikes a chord somewhere in me. Looks like I’m the one with separation anxiety issues, not the toddler. We’ve been constantly on the go, so much that it feels weird and I get antsy if we don’t have anywhere to be. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to just BE.

So I’m calling a time out.

Ok, maybe not a time out…a sabbatical?

149

Something has to change. I read about a Contentment Challenge first on photographer Nancy Ray‘s blog, then on my friend Lara Casey‘s, and I thought ‘maybe this is what I need’. But I decided that, instead of throwing myself into it immediately, I’d pray about it. Ask God if this is what he meant for me, if this is what I truly needed. I prayed for 2 weeks, and the pull never left my heart. Then, sitting in our friends’ apartment last Friday for our first Financial Peace University class, Dave Ramsey talked about how people forget about true contentment.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  (Phil 4:12-13)

Ding Ding.

My life is over run with STUFF. Clutter. Both physical and mental. Natalie’s incredibly impressionable, and I want to provide the best environment for her as possible, because this is her foundation.

120

The Contentment Challenge : October, November & December 2013

We will give up shopping for clothes, accessories, household decor, and “stuff” for 3 months, to focus our hearts and minds on the root of true contentment. We will actively pursue fulfilling activities that will replace our addiction to material things.

The Guidelines:

• For the next 10 days, your homework is the following: prepare your heart, organize your closet, and make any necessary purchases that you might need during these months. (This is not a last minute shopping spree! This is one final trip to the store for items you will need, and the opportunity for you to say your goodbyes to Target.)

• Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. There are so many great options at your local library. I will be choosing Love Does by Bob Goff and Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge

• Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a new dress or piece of decor during that time, receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. The point is not to be rude, but to learn more of ourselves and the Lord. Personally, I have a gift card to Ruche from my birthday that I am savoring  and will be utilizing at some point, but it will be for an item that is needed to .

• Necessities are okay! If you drop and break your phone, please go get a new one! If you lose your glasses, buy a new pair. Just don’t start justifying new purchases for items that you already have. (“I really NEED this bathing suit, even though there are 8 in my closet already.”) My exceptions to the challenge include a few extras for Natalie’s birthday (maybe some balloons to surprise her in the morning) and a Christmas tree.

• You must actively pursue something – anything – that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you’ve always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. I will be focusing on creating, simplifying and creating memories. Gifts for Christmas, planning my garden for 2014, purging our home and having a yard sale.

So, who’s with me?

122

Advertisements

Fifteen Months

You keep us going these days, Natalie. Fifteen months old and you grow by the minute.

The biggest news is, you are walking now! A week or two ago you really became a walker, as opposed to a crawler who occasionally walks. You always look pleased as punch when you’re toddling about, elbows bent and hands raised, ready to wave at passersby or catch yourself when you stumble.

301

You are a ham and cheese sandwich these days. You’ve learned which things are silly and funny, and you’ll do them just to get a laugh out of us. Whether it’s pinching and holding the spoon between your teeth, or dropping things and uttering the cutest little “Uh Oh!”, you know what gets us to smile.

As with all toddlers who are independently mobile, you get into EVERYTHING! As I type this, you are pulling bowls out of the cabinet in the kitchen. We’re trying to teach you what is ok to touch and what are “don’t touch” items. We’ve got a pretty long road ahead of us on that one.

288

You are smart as a whip. You have figured out the home button on our iPhones, and you’ve nearly uploaded photos (that you’ve taken) onto flickr! You’ve also mastered the signs to “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, and you ask for them frequently.

Writing is your favorite thing to do. We’ll give you a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and you will scribble away. You’ve spent an entire church service writing on papers. Occasionally you’ll pause, hold out the page and study it with furrowed brow, as if to see what it’s missing.

284

You are becoming much more communicative. We’ve been trying to allow you to make your own choices on some things, because you do have your opinions! From what to wear that day, to whether you watch Curious George, Busytown, or Babar during special TV time, to what you eat for snack, you’re not shy to tell us what you do and don’t want.

290

We’ve also started introducing manners. First are “Please” and “Thank You”. You are very good at signing or saying them when prompted, but what has impressed me is how often you say them unprompted. You may turn into a little lady yet!

That being said, we’ve also entered Tantrum Territory. Like I mentioned before, you know what you want, and you don’t like hearing the word “no”.

297

We’re starting to see your imagination at work when you play. You like to tuck in your dollies, feed your fish stick to your chipmunk stuffy, and you LOVE to pretend to talk on the phone. Funny thing is, when we actually call someone, you clam up!

Little things give me glimpses of the little girl you’re turning into. I’ll catch you flipping through a book while sprawled on your tummy on the floor. You’ll ask to put on a vest after several attempts to put in on by yourself. You’ll pick up a bag and carry it about as if it were a purse.

302

One of my favorite things about you so far is your love for the cats. You love to toddle after them, pet them, and give them hugs and kisses. And I very rarely have to correct you on grabbing their fur.

Your love for hugs and kisses aren’t reserved to the kitties. Lately you’ve been snuggling up as I sing you to sleep, and I wish I could stay there all night, just like that. You’re no longer a baby, something I thought I’d mourn, but I’m enjoying watching you blossom.

Advent Calendar Day 1: Meet Santa

It’s our first Christmas season as a family, and while Natalie isn’t quite old enough to participate or remember some of the typical holiday traditions like baking cookies, looking at lights, or decorating the Christmas tree, I’m using this year as practice and training for the years she will remember and cherish. The added bonus of seeing her eyes light up is amazing as well.

I’m trying to do one holiday activity per day, and vary the bigger and smaller things. Some days, like today, will be larger things, like Meeting Santa. Others may just include watching a movie or reading a story. They will include a mix of religious and secular activities, since I want Natalie to understand and appreciate the true reason for the season. I’ll do my best to update with some of the bigger experiences and activities, and share our triumphs and stumbles.

One big way to kick off the Christmas season is with a visit to Santa! Our local library (where Natalie and I go for Tuesday morning story time) brought him in to visit today and Natalie was dressed in her very finest. She even left in the bow that I put in her hair. Now, Natalie is a very happy and social baby, but you never can tell how they’ll react to a stranger in a big red suit and hat with a fluffy white beard.

021 - Copy

031

029

027

 

I think she made the nice list!

Eleven Months

Oh my sweet sweet girl. I’m planning your one year birthday party…how did that happen? You are getting more and more beautiful as the days pass, and Daddy and I can’t believe how quickly you’re changing before our very eyes. We’ve been looking back at all the pictures we’ve taken in the past year and watch your chubby round face and limbs lengthen and develop. You’re less and less a baby and more and more a toddler.

No walking yet, but you have been standing on your own for half a minute at a time. Well, we have to wrestle our hands away from yours, you haven’t been to keen to try it on your own. But when you do stand, you are surprisingly steady on those little feet (which have a very hard time fitting in shoes with how high your arches are)!

You’re still obsessed with technology, and nothing beats the cheese face you make when you get a hold of Mommy or Daddy’s cell phone. Then you tilt your head up at us with that same cheese face to say ‘Thank You’.

You’ve started signing! First it was “Cat”…now everything you see is a cat. You’ve also signed ‘pet/gentle’, ‘more’ and ‘all done’. You’re pointing at everything, wanting to know and see everything.

 You love music, you love to dance along, and you’ll even sing. At story time you are always so enthralled during the songs. You also love the doll that they bring around to high five. You also loved Samantha when Daddy handed her to you during your invitation shoot. While you’re not quite old enough for Samantha, I think it is about time you got your own dolly. Good thing your birthday and Christmas are coming up!

I’m trying to start the weaning process, but you’ve been fighting it tooth and nail. Mommy is the trump card these days, and you want nothing to do with toys or other people when I’m around. You’ll even put your arms out to person after person until you’re passed back to me. Sneaky little monkey. But it does make things tough when I’m trying to get things done and you stand at the gate and cry for me. But you love your Daddy so much as well. When he comes home, you wave and say “Hi Da!” It makes him smile so big!!!

You’re just waking up from your nap, so I’ll close this. I can’t believe the next update I write will be when you turn a year old! I love you!!!

Ten Months

Oh my beautiful girl. I don’t know how, but we’re already at ten months together as a family. And each day is interesting.

You’ve sprouted eight teeth, and we have a feeling your one-year molars may make an early appearance. But it makes meal time fun! You’re already eating table food (in a sauceless, saltless form) and you are most definitely a carnivore. You love chicken and pork, and you enjoy broccoli, sweet potatoes, green beans, and carrots. Thanks to you, I’m making healthier meals.

 Image

While you tend to jump from toy to toy with little interest, you are fascinated by books. You’ll sit in my lap and make me read Are You My Mother? or Is Your Mama a Llama? or your alphabet book over and over and over.

Image 

You are into EVERYTHING! While you don’t make many attempts at walking (you will take steps with us holding your hands), you are constantly pulling yourself up, opening cabinets and doors, pulling clothes out of drawers, and dashing about on all fours. Typically you want to get at or into the stuff you shouldn’t have. We’ve been going to play groups, and I’ve got the downstairs set up for my daycare licensing visit, and you love being able to go nuts in those spaces.

Image 

You are definitely pushing your boundaries. You’ll pitch little fits if we take the remote or phone out of your hands, and the biting is back. But unlike last time when you’d fuss when I’d sit you down and tell you “No Biting”, you now give me a sly smile, shake your head and dive right back in. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with you. We’ve also entered a clingy phase. You want nothing to do with playing unless you’re in mama’s lap, and while you’re still very social, you’ll lunge from person to person until you’re back in my arms. Tricky little bugger. This photo session was particularly difficult since you’d fuss and crawl into my lap every time I tried sitting you down.

Image 

You’ve been fighting a cold for the past month or so, ever since the season’s changed. Runny nose, congestion, cough, it hasn’t been pretty. We’ve been doing our best to run the humidifier and air purifier at nights to try and help. But, knock on wood, no ear infections or medications needed yet.

Image

You are getting such a personality, I love it. Words I’d currently use to describe you are: spunky, mischievous, dramatic, inquisitive and loveable. You love animals, and strangely enough, you are drawn to chickens! You’ve been to a petting zoo a couple of times, and the chickens and turkeys always get you the most excited.

Image

You’ve got my nose crinkle, and when you smile, your whole face absolutely lights up. Particularly when Daddy or I walk into a room. We’ve had to have family watch you a lot lately since Daddy had to step into a role in my play, and I feel so guilty. But it heals my heart a little when I see you beam at me as soon as I walk in the door.

Image  

New things we’ve learned: kisses, clapping, ‘Mama’ and ‘Dada’ (properly), how to pet the kitties gently, dancing (you do the cutest little bob up and down), and peek a boo.

Image 

You love to point to things so that we tell you what they are, or take you over to them.

Image

Apparently technology is for the young. You are drawn to our cell phones, and constantly hang up when we’re talking to Daddy on speakerphone. Grandpa showed us an iPhone app that you absolutely adore. Chippy the Chipmunk will react or sing or even toot depending on where you press. He was the first one you made ‘kisses’ at.

It’s hard to believe you’re getting so big by the day. I see less and less baby in you and more toddler. Slow down sweetie! We’ll be celebrating an entire year pretty soon.

 Image

Leaving on a Jetplane

Another first is coming up for Natalie. On Saturday, she will be taking her first plane ride.

This is my beautiful friend, Diana.

We met during our sophomore year of college and before the year was out I was engaged to Sean and she agreed to be one of my bridesmaids. I guess that’s what happens when you bond over Gilmore Girls and Ben and Jerry’s every Tuesday night. I don’t remember how exactly it started, but we call each other double mint twins.

We must have been prophetic, because Ms. D and her husband are expecting twins! Twin boys to be more specific. So Natalie and I fly out bright and early Saturday to go to her baby shower. It’s strange to think that my own shower was almost a year ago. I’m staring at the little person sitting on the floor next to me, babbling merrily into a yellow triangular block and it makes me so excited for Diana that she’ll have double the pleasure and double the fun very very soon.

But in order to get to my double mint twin’s home in Maryland, Natalie and I must make it through a plane ride. I’m probably way over thinking and over planning, but the way I see it, I’d rather not need what I’ve planned than be caught off guard. Luckily, the flight will only be about an hour and a half.

We will be travelling Jet Blue, an airline I have zero experience with, but have heard good things about, especially when it comes to family travel. The price was right, and their website was very parent friendly. They have a page devoted to travel with kids.

As a lap infant, Natalie is allowed a diaper bag, a car seat, and a stroller. However, since I am travelling alone with her, I will be applying a “less is more” approach. I’ve also purchased the Even More Space option which gives us a seat right in the front with more leg space (read, Natalie can stand to get out some fidgets), and allows for early boarding (earlier than the typical family boarding) so I’m settled with her rather than jostling with the rest of those on board.

My Game Plan:

  • Pack Natalie and my clothes along with the twins’ gifts into a carry-on roller bag
  • Pack diapers, snacks, and toys into Natalie’s diaper bag
  • Check Natalie’s car seat (courtesy for a lap infant) and pack and play (my free checked bag allowance)
  • Use the Moby wrap to wear Natalie – I don’t know if they’ll make me unwrap through security, but I’ll find out I guess (anyone have experience with this at Logan?)
  • Nurse or sippy cup through take off and landing

I’ll follow up after our trip with what worked, what didn’t, and what I’ll do differently next time. In the meantime, have you flown with an infant before? Do you have any tips or tricks?

Seven Months

You are growing by leaps and bounds these days.

You’ve become so interactive, and I love your personality. You’re such a happy girl, though the sweetness is currently replaced by a chew-crazy monster. EVERYTHING goes in your mouth, including mama…we’re trying to teach you that people aren’t for chewing. Nobody likes a biter.

You’ve been having a great time at Grammy’s day care, playing with all your friends. When I drop you off you’re ready to have fun, but you always greet me with the biggest smile at the end of the day. Thank you for making me feel so special.

Your new favorite thing to do is pull yourself up to standing. Sitting isn’t enough for you anymore. We’ll be playing on the floor, and you’ll reach for my hands (which, of course, I’ll give you) and up you go!

But pulling yourself up means you’ve had your share of tumbles too, something I’m learning just comes with the territory.

You are into everything you can get your hands on. You aren’t crawling yet, but you’ll get up on all fours and reach as far as possible with your tiny fingers.

I love to listen to you babble. You’ll test out your whole range, from sweet little “singing” to all out shrieks.

And you’re always so proud of yourself.

Eating is progressing as well. We’ve started giving you puffs that will dissolve in your mouth and you love them! At first you’d get pieces stuck in that awkward spot where you couldn’t swallow it, but it wouldn’t come back forward, but now you are chewing like a pro.

You are such a blessing my darling girl, and your dad and I are so happy to be your parents. It’s hard to think that a year ago you were a bloated belly and still “the peanut”. Our lives have changed so much.

Six Months

My darling Natalie,

I cannot tell you all the ways you’ve changed me in the last 6 months. And can I say how awesome it is that you turned 6 months old on Father’s Day? Seeing your Daddy become, well, a dad, has been one of the most incredible experiences as well.

This month was very strange for us. Your great grandma had a fall over Memorial Day weekend, and can’t live by herself anymore. So with two days notice, you and I packed up and headed to Maine for three weeks. You brought such joy to her, smiling and babbling and giggling as she walked about with her cane.

Thanks to that trip, we celebrated many firsts for you, sadly mostly without Daddy. We went on a picnic to a lighthouse, we went to the beach, and you met a lobster!

You have two teeth, bottom center, and you love to show them off. You jut your chin out a little when you grin and it melts me. I call it your bulldog grin. You also delight in licking and chewing everything, including people.

You sit up like a pro now! I’ve started leaving the car seat in the car when we go shopping and you sit in the carriage seat where you can see everything. You smile at everyone who passes by and dance and babble, and we can’t take two steps without someone proclaiming how beautiful you are. Yesterday we were mobbed by five women just stepping in the door to Wegmans!

Sweet potatoes and avocados are your favorite new foods. We tried applesauce, green beans, and homemade carrots to a less than enthusiastic response (you gagged, spit it all out and wiped your tongue with your bib…can you say drama queen? No? Well, we’ll work on it), but OMG!!!! Avocados and sweet potatoes are the AWESOME!!!!! Like, lick your tray awesome, you can’t get enough.

It won’t be long before you’re mobile. You’ve learned that you can go after things you want by lunging  and grabbing, which makes holding you difficult these days. You’re getting the lifting your chest up with your arms, and pushing with your legs to get your butt in the air, but not at the same time. You look like you’re doing cobra pose from yoga, and downward dog, only using your face instead of your arms.

Animals are cool. We’re working on petting, not grabbing. London’s less than pleased with you. One of these days he’ll learn not to dangle his tail where you can get it.

You’re such an inquisitive and and analytic little girl. You take in every new experience or sensation with a slightly furrowed brow, and you can almost see your brain examining and recording every sense.

Then the object goes in your mouth.

You’re starting to identify me as Mama. You’ll get excited when I come in a room, kinda sorta reach for me, and if someone else is holding you, you always keep an eye on me. What can I say? You know how to make a girl feel special.

I’m starting to miss the new baby phases, but I love the new stuff you’re coming out with! When they say that every phase is special they were right. You get more and more beautiful and spunky by the day, and when you “talk” I want to bottle your sweet voice and preserve it forever.

I love you baby girl with all my heart,

Your Mama

PS: This one was too sweet not to share…

Sean versus The Beast

For Sean’s first Father’s Day, since we were in Maine, I made lobster for dinner. Now, I’ve had lobster a gazillion, if not more than 25 times in my life, but I’ve never been the one to make it. So I may have had a moment a la Julie and Julia where she has to make Lobster Thermador.

Lobstah Killah!!!

I picked up three at the store, two normal sized ones and one…well, I thought it was large, but as they lifted it out of the tank, I realized it was HUGE!!!

Like, as big as my baby huge!

It’s a strange tradition we have in my family to “introduce” new babies or animals to the lobsters before we cook them.  Our mothers never told us not to play with our food.

Natalie, meet beast lobster. Beast lobster, meet Natalie.

Natalie, meet baby wipe.

Beast lobster meet pot of boiling water.

Here’s the recipe my family uses, though I hardly call it that, it’s so simple.

Saltwater Steamed Lobster

  • large pot
  • saltwater from the ocean
  • small clump of seaweed
  • lobsters (1 to 2 lobsters per person)
  • butter (1/2 stick per person)
Fill the pot halfway with saltwater and the clump of seaweed. Bring to a boil (this takes a while). Once boiling, add lobsters, headfirst. Water will not cover lobsters, but at least the heads (as horrid as it sounds, that’s what brings about their swift end). Boil/steam for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Now there are two types of lobsters, shedders, who have just graduated to their new shells, and have less meat to them, and hard shells, that are busting with meat, but are a workout to get into. What you’ll get depends on the time of year.

You can try asking when you buy them, but it’s tough to tell by sight. If you know you’ve got a hard shell, and you’re not big on saltiness, you can cut the saltwater with fresh water (half and half into the pot). The meat absorbs the salt, which isn’t bad, but when you dip it in the butter, it can get overwhelming.

The ones we got last night were the hardest that I’ve ever eaten. Beast lobster’s claw (which was the size of a dinner plate) wouldn’t fit inside the cracker, so Sean resorted to using it as a hammer, and bashing away til the shell cracked. Then the meat was so packed in there that he had to pull it out in small chunks and flakes.

I know, first world problems.

Sean put up a valiant fight against the Beast, but in the end, he couldn’t quite polish it off. He left a few legs.

Happy Father’s Day, my love.

#3 Beach Baby | Summer Bucket List 2012

#3 – take Natalie to the beach

My grandma lives right on the beach up in Maine, where Sean and I vacation every year. This year we’ll be vacationing in August, but God brought Natalie and I up a lot sooner than expected. My grandma fell over Memorial Day weekend, and the time has come that she shouldn’t be alone anymore. Whether that means visiting nurses or she moves into an assisted living home in Massachusetts remains to be seen. For the summer, at least, family members will be taking “shifts” staying with her, making her meals and taking her to exercise classes and church. Yours truly has the first shift.

Natalie and I have been up here since May 28, but the weather’s been so crummy that beach time wasn’t an option. Finally, over the weekend, the sun stuck around and while it wasn’t warm enough to break out the swimsuits, we were able to venture down so Natalie could dip her toes in the ocean and dig them into the sand.

…and so mommy could give the camera a workout (of course).