In Minnesota we complain about the weather a lot. And with good reason. Half of the year it's below freezing and we're shoveling out our sidewalks and scraping ice off of our windshields. The other half of the year we're sweating in 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity.
But not today. Today was perfect.
Summer is right around the corner, but it's not here yet. This morning was cool enough that I wanted to pull the comforter up over my shoulders. Then this afternoon it was warm in the sun and comfortable in the shade. We opened the windows and a delicious breeze carried the scent of the peonies from the yard where they just opened up into the house.
I love this time of year. The grass is green and lush from the spring rains. Our lawn will be brown and crunchy by August but right now it looks great. The trees are thick with their foliage. The cottonwoods are in bloom, sending their white fluff flying through the neighborhood like a summer snow storm. Flowers are blooming everywhere, and the seeds in my garden are sending up shoots. Everything feels alive. Plants and people.
We've been outside every evening lately. The kids do a million different things. They load landscaping rock into toy dump trucks and cart it around the backyard. They spray water with the garden hose. They spill bubbles down the front of their pants. The get sand in their hair and in their shoes. They take their shoes off and get dirt in their little toenails. They skin their knees and require and dozen band aids to make it feel better. Their faces are a little pinker than normal and they smell of sweat and sunshine. We do baths a lot more frequently now than during the winter months.
There's no point in my telling you any of this. It's not a parable and I don't have some sort of lesson I'm trying to impart. Except that I feel really lucky that I get to spend these beautiful days with my family. And all of the things I tend to fuss and worry about really don't matter that much. This is what matters. These seeds of love and peace that we are sowing in our little backyard on these beautiful days.
I just love this time of year. And today was perfect.
It's always hard to say goodbye to summer, but it seems especially hard this year. Summer was this beautiful oasis of rest and family time and no obligations. And now it's almost over. Alex starts school on Monday, and the following week Johnny starts school and I start teaching piano lessons again.
Here's a little summer wrap-up before we dig back into schedules and homework and deadlines.
We redid our front porch! We have a three season porch on the front of our house that we like to hang out on, even though it sort of looks like it's about to fall off the house. But we had hardly used it this spring or summer because the carpet that was out there (for who knows how many years) was so dirty it would turn the bottoms of our feet black. I didn't like the idea of Trixie crawling around on it. We decided to rip out the carpet and just paint the wooden porch floor. But since we had the carpet out, we decided we might as well go ahead and paint the walls and trim as well.
I forgot to take Before Pictures until after we had started. So they're not truly before.
This was the first house project we'd done since Trixie was born, and it gave me a new respect and admiration for people who remodel/renovate their homes while living in them, with kids. It took us almost a week of late night painting after the kids had fallen asleep. One week and one Ikea trip later we had a new front porch that we absolutely love spending time on. But we were exhausted and I vowed no more house projects for the summer.
We decided to replace our bathtub!
The bathtub that was in the house when we bought it almost 7 years ago was a whirlpool, but we never used the the jets because they leak water into our kitchen. Over the years we've been sort of worried that the unused jets were just harboring all sorts of mold and bacteria, so this summer we decided we couldn't bathe our children in there one more time and we had to put a new tub in.
The online tutorial said you would need one day and two people to get this done.
I'll spare you all the gory details, but one WEEK later, we had our bathroom back to normal. Once again, I have no idea how you DIY-fixer-upper people do it. House projects make me really crabby. But I do love the end result.
During: I cannot handle chaos!!!
Mad props to Alex for getting this done without having to bring in a professional. (Besides my carpenter brother.) Now that's it's over I'm really glad we did it. But, #neveragain.
In knitting news. I made this sweater!
And also played around with some sewing and crocheting. Now I am turning my attention to Handmade Christmas. I'd like to make everyone in my family something, even if it's just a little thing. But I have to start now!
We lost control of the garden. I weeded once in July. But somehow we're still managing to get quite a lot of vegetables! Here's a list I made a couple years ago of things I like to do with my tomatoes.
Alex and I finally finished Downton Abbey! We had given up on it after Season 3. Too many people had been killed off, and the story felt too contrived. We didn't feel like we were missing out on much, but then I kept hearing from people how great the final season was. So we gave it another chance. Parts of season 4 were sort of painful, but once we got to season 5 I was thoroughly enjoying myself. And I cried my way through season 6.
We had a very brief stint of potty training. Johnny doesn't have to be potty trained for his wonderful deaf and hard-of-hearing preschool; they don't want any barriers between DHH kids getting the aural training they need. But I thought it might be nice to have him potty trained for this fall anyway. Day 1 went ok. Day 2 was a nightmare which left me in tears and consulting all my mama Facebook groups. And this, my friends, is why it takes a village. I got so much encouragement and helpful advice. I felt released from trying to get him potty trained right now, and I didn't feel like a failure because of my decision to quit. We are going to wait a few more months and see if Johnny takes any initiative. Thank you everyone who advised me!
Calling all bloggers! My friend Jacqui and I are planning a Midwest-region Catholic Women Bloggers Conference for March of 2017 here in St. Paul. We're still in the early stages of planning but I can guarantee you it's going to be so much fun!! If you blog and you want to stay in the loop about this you should join our Facebook group. We want to see you all there!
Shortly after Beatrix was born we had my amazing friends come over and take some family pictures for us. I wanted to have some professional photos of Trixie has a baby, as well as family pictures for my picture wall and for Christmas cards.
When I got the disc back and eagerly stuck it in the computer to see the pictures, my first thought was "We look AMAZING!" which I guess is why people hire professionals to take their pictures.
But it also made me laugh, because looking at those pictures you'd never guess that not 30 minutes before our photographer friends arrived we were literally cleaning poop off of almost everything in our bathroom. I'm not joking.
We had given both of the babes baths that morning so that everyone would be freshly clean and without bedhead. After Trixie's bath, while Alex was getting ready to re-diaper her, she fired one at him while he was unawares. I had my backed turned, so I didn't see it, but I heard it, and it sounded pretty high velocity. It was all over the changing table pad and all over Alex's arm, which thankfully was not in picture clothes yet. Yes, we learned while Johnny was a baby that you don't get dressed in good clothes until babies have their diapers on.
Then it was Johnny's turn for a bath. He did a good poop on the potty chair right before going in. Then he pooped in the tub. Then he pooped in the towel after getting out of the tub. Then he got his foot in it. And then he walked all over the carpet. It. Was. Awesome.
By the time we had everything and everyone sufficiently sterilized I had about 4 minutes to get myself ready. I half blow-dried my hair, frantically put on some make-up, and then was running around looking for my Spanx because, you know, 3 weeks postpartum. And I could not find them anywhere! I knew that I had 2 pairs, I knew exactly where I had last seen them, and they were no where to be found. I still haven't found them. It's a complete mystery. So I was fuming and stomping around trying to come up with a plan B.
But the pictures don't show you any of that. The pictures show you two fairly put together parents being all googly-eyed over their cute kids who don't look at all like they could have just fouled up a bathroom, or do any of the other inconvenient or annoying things that regularly happen around here.
Well, except for this one. Johnny looks pretty capable of naughtiness in this picture.
But it got me thinking about the over-saturation of our social media networks with beautifully curated, perfectly posed pictures. Sometimes it seems unrealistic and disingenuous. Because we all know that life is far from perfect. I'm guilty of it too. I tend to only post pictures of myself after I've put on my make up, or the corners of my house that I've managed to keep tidy. It doesn't mean my life perfect though. It just means that all the messy stuff, well, I tend to keep that to myself.
So why do I do it? I certainly hope it's not to dupe you into thinking my life is beautiful.
But wait, my life IS beautiful! Maybe I'm the one who needs to be reminded of that.
I'm glad my pictures are beautiful. I'm glad I have an Instagram feed full of tranquil moments and super cute pictures of my kids. That way when the going gets tough (which you know it does. Often.) I have over 700 (yikes!) photos to remind how beautiful life- my life- is! It's amazing. My children and my husband are amazing! They're the greatest things that have ever happened to me. They are enlarging my heart, teaching me virtues, and preparing me for heaven.
Another end-of-the-year link-up. This one hosted by Dwija at House Unseen.
12 photos, one from each month, so sum up the year we had over here.
If you are new to The Hearts Overflow, I hope this will bring you up to speed.
If you've been reading for a while, I hope you will enjoy reviewing these memories with me! //
We spent 16 days in the hospital with Johnny while he had his 3rd and 4th surgeries to take down his colostomy and then clear up a bowel obstruction. It was by far our most difficult hospital stay, full of many set backs and much discouragement. But we made it through and got to take home our little man fully recovered.
Cloth diapering took on a whole new dimension as Johnny began having poopy diapers for the first time ever! So much excitement, and so many poopy diapers. It was also the WORST winter of all time. I may have had one or two melt downs.
Winter continued to be awful. And I got bangs. After vowing 5 years earlier that I would never ever get bangs again. I guess I learned that I shouldn't keep my promises to myself? I also hosted a series called NICU diaries, a special salute to babies who have had a rough start.
I celebrated mothers day as a mom for the first time. And Johnny turned 1! He has been such a blessing and answer to prayer, so we made 3 cakes and had all our friends over to celebrate.
Summer brought Alex's hardest semester of classes yet. He literally spent every night studying. That and the all the summer humidity made for a sometimes crabby mama. I taught summer lessons and Johnny and I tried to be outside as much as possible.
Alex was between semester, and we took a family vacation to visit Alex's family at The Farm and in Pittsburgh. It was so nice to get to spend two whole weeks together as a family with no homework or other concerns. Johnny loved being with his cousins. Also, I turned 28.
Harvest time. We so many tomatoes from the garden. I love September because we eat tomatoes basically everyday. Also, Johnny finally started to walk on his own!
I did the October blogging challenge. I though it might make me hate blogging, but no. Turns out I really like blogging. Alex and I celebrated 5 years of marriage. I know it seems obvious to say they have been the best 5 years of my life. But they really have been, and there's just no other way to say it.
This month has been full of family and celebrating and love. I had to remind myself to chill out on the to-do lists and just enjoy advent and Christmas, and when I did that things went way better. Johnny loves being with family. And his favorite game is peek-a-boo.
All in all, 2014 has been a great year. Life may not always be easy, but it is always good. We are blessed beyond measure. We are ready to welcome a new year and all the new things it will bring.
Thanks to Gina, from Someday Saints, for hosting this fun linkup. I always get so nostalgic at the end of the year and love thinking back and remembering things. The good and the bad, the Fun and the difficult, it's all these things together that shape us and make us who we are.
Here's some of what I learned this year.
1. If I stay up late, Johnny will ALWAYS get up early. Always. End of story.
good thing he's so cute.
2. Poopy diapers are a good thing. We have changed SO MANY POOPY DIAPERS in 2014. I kind of wish I had kept a running tally so that I could give you an exact figure. I can't, but I'm guessing it was something like 2,400. BUT I am so thankful we had all those poopy diapers to change instead of a colostomy bag to deal with.
3. How to knit cables. I've been wanting to do this for years, but always thought it was too advanced for my knitting know-how. Turns out, cables are really easy. And I love them.
thanks to my friend, Caila, for being my stellar model!
4. I like setting and achieving goals. I haven't done a lot of goal setting since graduating from college. I'm glad I don't have the stress of deadlines and performances anymore. But I think a little bit of pressure is good. Without it I would stay in my pajamas all day and watch BBC period dramas. Two of my personal highlights from this past year were getting my Etsy shop up and running, and participating in the October blogging challenge. Those may not be the most prestigious goals that were set in 2014, but it felt good to say that I was going to do them, and then see them get done!
5. Sleep deprivation is something I can get used to. This summer we drove to eastern Ohio to visit Alex family. On the way there we drove through the night because we thought that would be the easiest was to take a 15 hour road trip with a one year old. The thing that surprised me though, was that I did most of the over night driving. And I didn't even feel that crappy the next day. I guess nursing four times a night for over a year is good for something!
6. I am a control freak. This not a good thing. I think having a baby has helped me see myself for what I really am: someone who likes to have things done HER WAY.
7. And closely related: There is more than one right way to (fill in the blank) a baby. Feed a baby, Change a baby. Bathe a baby. Hold a baby. Dress a baby. Play with a baby. I do it one way, my husband may do it a completely different way, and they are both. fine.
8. How to say no. We used to help with music at our church every week and lead bible study and host lots of parties and go see lots of people, and we just can't do all of it any more. It's hard for me to say no because I like to be involved in lots of things, and I don't like disappointing people, but I'm learning I am happier when we have less going on. 9. Why people stay home so babies can sleep. I never understood why people had to cut social engagements short, or decline them all together, because their babies had to sleep. Can't they sleep at our house? Or later? Is it really that big of a deal if they miss a nap? Johnny was a portable sleeper for a long time, but not anymore. And I now I understand. If the baby does't sleep, the baby ain't happy. And if the baby ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
10. 20 students is enough. I have more students this year than I have ever had! YAY! I'm so thankful that I get to use my musical training regularly, and that I can generate some income while staying home with Johnny. But 20 students is my limit. I don't know how some people keep 40 or 50 students. 20 students means that on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays the only things I get done are Johnny's nap and teaching. 20 is enough. 11. It's ok if everything is not fun. I like to have fun. This last year, however, has not been so fun. Alex has been in class the entire year, some of his classes were really hard, and except for a few weeks of breaks, he's had homework to do pretty much every night. We want to hang out and have fun as a family, but after dinner Alex would go in one room, and Johnny and I in another. I just had to except that sometimes things might be lonely and not so much fun, but that we are working towards a goal and in the end it will be worth it. 12. I'm addicted to sugar. I love sugar and am always looking forward to the next time I can have a sweet. It's gotten so bad that I'm going sugar free for the month of January. Pray for me. 13. I love family time. When Alex doesn't have homework and we can just hang out and play with Johnny, and watch him do new things, that's the best.
14. Patience is the hardest. I pray almost everyday that God would make me a patient mother and wife and almost everyday I have to ask forgiveness for my bad temper and lack of patience. Why is it so hard? I'm almost afraid to pray for it, because sometimes it seems like when I do, that's when all hell breaks loose in our house! Once again, pray for me.
How bout you? What have you learned this year? I hope you have some time to reflect on what has happened and how it has shaped you.
Sorting laundry. It didn't used to be complicated. It used to be the three basic categories: lights, whites, and darks. But then all the white socks were so much more soiled than all the rest of the whites and mom felt the need to wash them separately. But once you start making subcategories, it's a slippery slope. Next were the reds, they would bleed all over anything with any amount of white. So they got their own category as well. Lights, well, that's just way too vague a term. Do you mean to tell me it makes sense to wash a bright pink shirt with a pair of khaki pants? I didn't think so.
Until we had not 3, not 5, but 7 different categories for sorting laundry. And they are: lights, whites, darks, white socks and underwear, dark socks and underwear, grays and khakis, and reds.
This is how I learned to sort laundry. But this is one of the things my mother taught me that didn't stick. My first backlash came when I was in high school. Being a red-head I don't wear a lot of red, but I've always had one or two items of the right shade that I can pull off. Actually most of the people in my family don't wear a lot of red, But there it was in the laundry room, an entire hamper dedicated to red laundry. The time that elapsed from when you put a red item in the hamper to when there were enough items to merit a wash cycle was sometimes up to 3 weeks. Ain't nobody got time for that! So occasionally I would sneak my red garment in with a load of darks to ensure a quicker turn-around time.
Then I went away to college. Well, I only went 10 minutes away from home, so I rarely did laundry on campus. But when I went home I usually only had time to do one load, so everything, and I mean EVERYTHING went into one load all together. My mom of course was horrified, but I reassured her that I did it on cold.
Now, after having been through both extremes of laundry sorting, I have decided to go back to the original three categories. But I still think of my mom when I find a particularly dirty pair of socks that's about to go into a load of whites. I can't bring myself to send it through with the rest of the whites, and usually sneak it in with the lights instead.
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This is the only proper way to fold towels: in thirds the long way, then in half, and in half again. Hand towels, bath towels, kitchen towels, all should be folded in this way.
When I was growing up and would help my mom fold the laundry it used to drive me nuts that she insisted on folding the towels that way. I would try to just fold them in half and in half again and would always get caught. But wouldn't you know it, now that I am an adult running my own house I can't fold towels any other way. Now I'm the one insisting that other people (sorry Alex) fold towels this way.
I can safely and without a doubt say that I am turning into my mother.
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Making coffee every morning. Listening to the machine sputter and gurgle as it starts to brew. I pour a mug full, hold it in both hands and breathe it in.
Saying bedtime prayers for my son. My husband and I take turns each night. Kneeling beside the crib we whisper about how sweet he looks, and ask Jesus to watch over him. We always finish with a Hail Mary.
Getting ready in morning. Wash face, brush teeth, put on make-up, do hair. Always in that order.
Picking up the playroom. Everyday day Johnny goes into the playroom and dumps out all of his toys; blocks, balls, stuffed animals, stacking rings, and puzzles. Everything gets turned over. All the DVDs and books get pulled off the shelf. If I have a basket of laundry waiting to be folded that gets turned out on the floor as well. He takes everything out and then ignores it all.
I've stopped picking up after him while he's awake. Everything would be on the floor again in 7 seconds. Now I wait until he's gone to bed. I go into the playroom and put the books and DVDs back on the shelf. I stack the stacking rings, I do the animal puzzle and the police car puzzle, and I put all the blocks back into their basket. I tuck all the toys back into their corner, where Johnny will come looking for them tomorrow.
These are my rituals, the ceremonies the govern and fill my days. They are the things that I must do before doing anything else, and things that must be done before I can fall asleep at night. Most days the repetition is irritating. But when I remember to have patience with this phase of life I see a sort of beauty in my little rituals. They become my own liturgy of the hours. My vocation put into practice.