Fresh Starts

‘Beginnings could happen more than once or in different ways.’

- Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

 

It’s been a bit quiet over here for a while. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say in this space, to be quite honest. Even now, I’m still wrestling with what my voice will sound like, look like – I’m finding I’m more comfortable with the thought of that, and accepting that it’s totally okay to not have all the answers for how the blog should look. I tend to not do something [okay, a lot of things] because of my ever present fear of failure, rejection and potential humiliation. I also absorb styles, voices, templates, and other blogs m.o.’s, to the point that I’m not sure what is my voice as opposed to a parroting of someone else. So these are baby steps, to restart something creative in my life and do it just because I want to, to see what’s really in my soul and thoughts.

I feel like one reason why the blog stumbled a bit last time was due super specific kiddo posts. That is, after all, where the idea for this space started, due to our major move. But one kiddo is old enough to be aware that social media exists, and rather consistently will only grant permission for a photo with the caveat of “But don’t post it! Wherever you post it to, don’t do it!” [Even that, she probably wouldn't love that I just shared]. I do respect social media autonomy. And her autonomy, just in general.

Beyond that, my life is more than just the kids.

Ha! Ehh … sometimes, anyway. I like to try and convince myself of that.

As I continue, they’ll be around, too, but I am going to free up space for what’s going on with all four of us and not feel like I have to box myself in. Do I want to write about knitting? Cool – that’s what I’ll do. Do I want to talk about the thousands of books I read this year? Awesome – there will probably be some really bad Instagramed photos of their titles. Will I make you totally jealous of my new-ish location with beach photos? Definitely. Do I want to throw up a dozen photos of the kids, while I’m at it? Totally [with permission, of course].

Will I also talk about world topics, national & local drama, or whatever else I’ve been mulling over in my mind? Probably. Potentially yes, anyway. Will I talk about things that I’m interested in, but maybe don’t know a ton on? Yes – hopefully with humility, tons of questions, and a smidge of wisdom, with the hope that the wisdom will only grow.

Whatever this space ends up looking like, I’m hoping you enjoy the journey! Also, pictures of the kiddos. Because let’s be honest, they’re cute stuff that I can reel y’all back in with! [And yes, she approved of the photos this morning, knowing they'd be widely dispersed!]

Also, come on? How do you not share this one? A mischievous pair, these two.

fabulous, restful weekends

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”

- Sir John Lubbuck

Happy mid-week, folks! I certainly hope this post finds all of you doing well this week, feeling well this week, and not merely surviving the week. Though, if that’s where you are, it is Thursday. [Say it with me: One more day, one more day, one more day ... ]

One more day until the rushing and the bustling and the coming and going pauses. Allow yourself some time to rest; to sleep in [as late as your kids allow you to]; to go to that Farmer’s Market; to drink a cup of coffee as slowly and deliciously as possible; to read, and rest, and find some peace.

We had that kind of weekend just a handful of days ago. It began with our awesome, fantastic #FridayNightMovieNight. Sophia chose Hugo, the Scorsese film about wonder and adventure and secrets and good friends. It was a delight to watch again.

Dr. M had an intense work week; among his normal duties, they had two job candidates in that required research & teaching presentations; plus extra research; plus everything else. When it rains, it deluges, am I right? Needless to say, he was burnt out. So, we decided to intentionally go slow about Saturday, and not rush about anything. Typically he works through the weekend. Not so, this past one. We watched, and introduced, Sophia to Napoleon Dynamite. It was a bit over her head; she giggled when we giggled, clearly following our promptings, and she decidedly loved the dancing sequence at the end. We loved the opportunity to just sit, and giggle, and quote lines that we’ve now known for close to 10 years.

We lounged, we read good books, we decided to go to the park at some point, we stayed in our pajamas way past the point of typical social acceptance.

In short, it was awesome.

Sunday was great, as well. Sophia and I went to church, while Dr. M stepped back into work and hung out with Gabe. That li’l guy doesn’t always do well at church, so it was a win/win. We ate bad-for-you macaroni and cheese, and sleepily watched football until we just caved into drowsy naps.

Normally, I’m very excited for Mondays. I tend to get bored over the weekends; I feel especially pent up with the kids over the weekend, and I don’t like the lack of structure. Not this weekend.

This weekend, I mildly dreaded the grind of the upcoming week. I wanted the loose scheduled we had created over the past two days. It was lovely.

That being said, it was just the refreshment I, and I think all of us, needed. I woke up on Monday, on time and ready to workout [gasp!]; Sophia was well rested and ready for school to kick off; Gabe was in a fine mood all day. We had been so busy recently, running around with the folks and then the next week struggling in survival mode through my stomach bug. This Saturday and Sunday helped rejuvenate us in an amazing way.

We’re in the midst of another normal, typical week, but I’ll say my attitude is significantly different. I am beginning to see the value of rest; not just for its own sake, but also as a catalyst to be a more proficient worker, a better mom with a smile on my face, a more agreeable wife who helps to carry the stressful load that is being a junior professor.

I hope this upcoming weekend, even as it sets up a busy holiday week for many of us, is one of joy and rest and comfort. Even if it’s just one day of this weekend, find a spot to be still and calm and allow that rest to restore you. I’ll probably be greedy, and hope for both!

family visits & family love

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.”

- George Bernard Shaw

It has been busy, busy in the Mighty Milner household. Between Fort Sumter, school performances, stomach bugs, teething & the Holiday of Lights display, these last two weeks have been an utter blur.

Dr. M landed safely & securely from Denver. He had a heck of a time at his latest conference, hanging out with old and new colleagues. He was super tired once he landed [he doesn't remember most of our conversation on our way home from the airport], and crashed hard once home. He pulled himself together, though, and got back to grindstone the very next day for work.

Sophia had that Monday off due to a teacher work day, so she helped me clean the house. Grandma and PopPop were headed this way! Yea, yea, yea! She was super excited to realize that not only were the grandparents coming in all their glory, but staying for TEN WHOLE DAYS! She was psyched, I was psyched, everyone was psyched. Even Gabe was excited; he didn’t do his whole “I-seemingly-hate-men-with-beards” thing and scream when they walked in the door. So, that was nice.

We had a full ten days in good ole CHS. We celebrated Halloween [Sophia was IronMan - not IronWoman, by the way. Get it right, other parents. Yeesh.] Mom & Dad saw her school, they took us to Savannah for a day-trip [super fun, by the way, and we'll definitely be headed back again], Dad & Dr. M went to Fort Sumter and came back gushing with all sorts of new facts about the Civil War, and we walked all over town and ate way too many delicious, over-filling meals. They also watched my kids, took Sophia to the movies, did my dishes, and blessed me in so, so many ways.

I texted Dr M this brochure - he was all the more excited to head to Savannah the next time around!

I texted Dr M this brochure – he was all the more excited to head to Savannah the next time around!

We headed to the famed Leopold's Ice Cream shop. Delicious doesn't even begin to describe [this is Honey Almond Cream, in their waffle cone] Oh my!

We headed to the famed Leopold’s Ice Cream shop. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe [this is Honey Almond Cream, in their waffle cone] Oh my!

Grandparents. Are. Awesome.

I got a huge break Friday morning, when my parents shoved me out the door, gave me some cash, and said “Don’t come back until school is over.”

Yeah, you don’t have to tell me twice.

I went to a bookstore. I ordered coffee; I browsed, slowly and thoroughly, and found titles that desperately wanted to read. I went to clothing stores; I browsed, slowly and thoroughly, and found clothes that filled out my wardrobe for both now and the summer. I shopped for Christmas; I browsed, slowly and thoroughly, and found the perfect paper, the perfect ribbon, the perfect gifts.

A book I knew I wanted to buy, and was excited to see on the shelves of the local B&N. I read it in a day, and will definitely reread it as I continue on my faith. It's amazing.

A book I knew I wanted to buy, and was excited to see on the shelves of the local B&N. I read it in a day, and will definitely reread it as I continue on my faith. It’s amazing.

Never once did I say “Sit down”; “Get back in the cart!”; “And just where do you think you’re going?”; “Oh, okay, we’ll find a bathroom ASAP”; “I know you’re tired, just five more minutes”.

It was heaven. Seriously – heaven.

*All moms of small children, you know you’re nodding with me*

They left on Saturday, after a send-off breakfast. Those good-byes are always so sad; so full of thank yous, I love yous, of almost tears [that later morph into real ones]. The kicker this time around is we have no definite date as to when we will see each other again. We’re not going to Kansas City for Christmas, so the next guaranteed time is summer. That’s a long, long way away. Sigh.

Sophia was definitely sad. We swapped stories about how sad we were, and about how when I was a kid, I used to be sad when I had to say good-bye to my Grandma Dee. She’s smoothed out now, and is focused on Atlanta and Thanksgiving and the next round of family she gets to see.

No sooner had my folks left than I got sick. It was/is no good. I thought I had indigestion, because let’s be real – I ate like I haven’t in a long, long time. We had a Thanksgiving dinner on Friday and I ate a funnel cake at the Holiday of Lights [awesome, by the way - the lights, I mean]. So, I chalked it up to bad food and tried to get through my day. But I didn’t get better. It’s now Day Six, and I’m mostly better. I tried to do too much on Wednesday, and paid for it yesterday. I slept all day long, which means Gabe had free reign of the iPad, because it meant he would actually sit still for more than five minutes. We snuggled on the loveseat after the school run, and when he went to bed, I went back to bed myself.

apparently I have the stomach of an 80 year old woman. and I didn't even finish it. yeesh.

apparently I have the stomach of an 80 year old woman. and I didn’t even finish it. yeesh.

I’m 90% sure I’m on the mend now; I woke up this morning feeling much better, and wanting to do things that normal humans do. Like, eat real food and drink coffee. Y’all know I’m sick when I can’t handle coffee, and I absolutely could not handle it for the last five days.

But, there’s always something to balance the good, right? Gabe is teething [I'm pretty sure it's all four of his #4s - oh. my. god. He is a crabby mess]; Dr. M came home yesterday, worn out and sick with a head cold. I’m crossing my fingers that he’s not totally, super, stuck in bed sick. We’ll see. Sophia is fine; she had her own fair share of illness last month, and I’m hoping we all get it out of our systems before the holidays. We’ll leave it on a positive note. How do you see this smile, and not feel happy? Try it, I double-dog dare you.

see? she's peachy-keen and loving herself some Cheetos.

see? she’s peachy-keen and loving herself some Cheetos.

the one where I talk about hair. a lot.

“There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.”

- Calvin Coolidge

Thanks for all the kind words since my last post. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling with a budget. And food. And the lack of desire to cook all the time.

Speaking of budgets, frugality, and thriftiness, I definitely cut my kids’ hair this week.

Oh boy.

Do you know what? It was actually all kinds of awesome. So, the Gabe-ster needed a haircut bad. So, very bad. Here’s him, about three weeks ago.

just eat up all that adorableness

Just eat up all that adorableness. And crackers.

I loved, loved, loved his hair. It was soft and adorable and he had beautiful baby curls in the back. We also had visions of him looking like a surfer dude all his days. [I have grander visions of him becoming an actual surfer, but that's for another time] I didn’t cut Sophia’s hair for a long time, and was in no rush to have Gabe’s cut either. The problem for him, though, was his hair never stayed out of his face. It grows pretty straight, smack into his beautiful li’l eyeballs. Insert complications of coordination, stumbling, and overall falling over. [Now, he still does fall, but now it's no longer my fault. the dude is too fast on his feet] I also got a gentle smack-down from our GP, who informed me that Gabe’s eyes will develop inappropriately if the hair is in his face all the time. Stuff about how one eye will overcompensate for the other, since it has hair dangling in front of it. Given that our GP is not an over-emotional or sensationalist guy, I thought I’d rely on his judgment. He saw how hesitant I was to give Gabe a trim, though, and he said even if it was just the bangs, it needed to go.

So, I go home that afternoon, “researched” [read: I watched 1 YouTube video one time, didn't look any further, and thought I was ready] how to cut li’l kids’ hair. I did no prep, had poor equipment, and just chopped it.

eh. that is definitely not the greatest haircut I've ever seen.

Horrible. That looks horrible. [And the photo is crappy. Man. Double horrible.]

It was super choppy, I didn’t do any shaping so it looked like a mullet, and then I kind of gave up. Because, you know, I do that sometimes.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and then I find out that our go-to stylist is moving out of town. [which is sad on a couple of levels, since she's our cousin and we'll sorely miss her] I also could not justify the prices of haircuts, for as often as both kids truly need them. Kids & mens are $25; if we went monthly, it’d be $75, plus tip and product, not counting my own visits throughout the year. [Right now, my budget is dying a little inside as I type this.]

So, I did real research. I watched several how-to videos from professional stylists; heck, I even RE-watched them. And took notes. How’s that for the real deal? I wrote down a list of supplies I needed; we made a mad dash to the box store in front of our place, and we set up a barber shop in our kitchen.

Dr. M is out of town, so 1.) he wasn’t there to document any of this in video and 2.) he’ll be in for quite a shock, either in reading this blog or when we go to get him from the airport tomorrow. All three of us went under the scissors, and are the better for it. Or, so I would argue.

Here’s Gabe, before and after:

He's a disgusting baby. A sweet baby, but a disgusting one all the same.

He’s a disgusting baby. A sweet, smiley, wonderful baby, but a disgusting one all the same. I have no idea what is on his tray & face, but it only got worse as we added candy and hair in the process.

This photo is a smidge blurry. It also denotes a calm, peaceful, happy baby. He was not any of those things while the clippers were on.

This photo is a smidge blurry. It also denotes a calm, peaceful, happy baby. He was not any of those things while the clippers were on.

 

Here’s Sophia, in just an after:

She's a sweet li'l thing, no? She said she liked having me cut her hair, because "going to the salon takes so much time and I don't get to watch Baby Avengers. So I like that you do it Mom"

She’s a sweet li’l thing, no? She said she liked having me cut her hair, because “going to the salon takes so much time and I don’t get to watch Baby Avengers. So I like that you do it Mom. Also, you give me candy.” [everyone, just shake your heads with me - this girl]

Her’s was a little more difficult, surprisingly so; she doesn’t like to sit still for anything, so the back ended up being longer than the front. I fixed it once it was dry, and honestly, it doesn’t look awful. I bought thinning shears, too, and took out a ton of bulk. She had a hair cut in August, so it was time. Her hair is just like mine, surprisingly thick and wavy. She continues to say that 1.) she never wants bangs and 2.) she wants to grow it out. As long as that is her goal, I’ll keep trimming it myself.

And here’s me, in an after:

well, how do you like that?

well, how do you like that? by the way, I’m loving that it’s cold enough for this scarf to be justified!

So, if you hadn’t seen my hair in a bit [I think my most recent photos were in July - face palm], it had been relatively short [see my Twitter photo for an example]. But, that was in May. My hair had totally bulked out, looked weird, and I kept throwing it into buns because I didn’t have time to style it. It needed something. So, like I did with the other two, I researched how to cut your own bangs. They’re a little choppy, but that’s how I like ‘em. They also look good pushed over. I think I’ve found a winner!

I’m also considering ditching shampoo, at least in the “traditional” sense. I’ve come across it in my perusing of the Interwebs; the basic idea is you use a baking soda mix for your “shampoo” and apple cider vinegar mix for your “conditioner”. I’ve seen a few folks talk about how they love it; I know some who already do it, and they love it. Pros:  you are saving money on hair care products, your hair is healthier than ever, and saving time because you remove heat and chemicals out of the hair care equation. Con: It’s a bit of an upfront commitment [apparently your hair goes through a detox process for a couple of weeks, where it looks gnarly and people might think you're a hobo. or a hippie. or something else equally unflattering.] have any of you ever done? thoughts, tips, suggestions?

I am a grown-up, I am a grown-up, I am a grown-up [Repeat until you believe it]

“Some people regard discipline as a chore. For me, it is a kind of order that sets me free to fly.”

-Julie Andrews

And now, all I want to do is watch “The Sound of Music”. Anyone else? So, speaking of discipline, I hit a wall with our budget. It was an ugly, brick wall, where I got a nasty black eye and then I punched it because I was mad, but broke my hand, because, you know … it’s a brick wall. Silly me.

After some serious wailing & gnashing of teeth, I think I’ve figured it out[ish]. Dave Ramsey & I are now best buds, and what I previously thought were well-constructed budgets were not, and I’ve mostly fixed it them. All my researching and typing and [poor] math over the last week has been a good thing, and forced us to realize some ugly truths in our spending habits [because let's say it right now, Dr. M is not the problem in the money world here. He spends nothing. Ever.] The big issue I found in our money is food, pure and simple. I tallied what we spent on groceries and eating out last month, and oh-my-god-it-was-horrifying. Like, go hide under a bed and never show anyone that number. To anyone. Ever.

Part of the trouble was I hated [or, more accurately, still hate] cooking. I’m not that great at it [ask my family]; I have to do it every day [ugh - dishes]; and overall, I’d rather be reading than standing over a freakin’ hot stove in the subtropical climate that is CHS. I admitted as much to Dr. M, and got a wonderful stare down that made me realize how foolish I’ve been. Yes, I hate it. So, make it better and find a solution so that we’re not spending $30 every other night on pizza. [That stare was mighty powerful, right?]

So that’s my new goal. To not eat out [except for when it really, really is important & it's budgeted for] and feed my family. Streamline the dinner process, make it simple and realize that I will always be making dinner forever and ever, and get over it.

The big lesson I’ve learned over the last week is one of discipline. Saying, planning, and talking are all nice things – and you know me; I love a good list and organized calendar. But the bigger point is to actually do what you’ve planned. Make dinner for pennies at home, and then be able to put money in savings. Don’t buy junk food at Chik-Fil-A and McDonalds, and feel healthier AND have money in the bank. Amazing, I know. I just have been defaulting to what’s easy.

And easy has been killing us. Here’s to better health, eh?

 

the week where honesty destroyed me, and then fixed me

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself;

it’s thinking of yourself less.”

- C.S. Lewis

hello, and happy Monday people! sorry it’s been a couple of weeks since a posting. with my grandma passing away, and the travel that ensued to be with my family, I feel like I lost a week. I had a cruddy flight path for my return home, lost a ton of sleep in the name of catching up with my siblings, and then had to hit the ground running come Monday morning. no, no it wasn’t pretty.

my last week was a bit of a rough one. travel may have exacerbated it, but a lot of it was brought on by my lazy-bad-selfish-self. I was understandably tired on Monday; I gave me and the kiddos a bit of a break, napped extra long, and thought I’d be back to normal by Tuesday. Tuesday I tried to bake all of our breaded goods for the week. I made honey wheat bread; banana bread; snickerdoodles; and baked oatmeal.

failure. absolute fiasco.

the honey wheat bread was burnt, due to my lack of attention to it in its final stages; I made the banana bread with self-rising flour, omitting the salt [per online instructions] – we threw it away almost as soon as it came out of the oven, it smelled and tasted so bad; the other two were fine – yea. so, I was batting .500 and super upset with myself, for the time, ingredients, and money wasted. throw in a few tantrums by the babe due to his own exhaustion, and a fight with the kiddo because she was emotional and you have a rotten, no good, horrible Tuesday.

did I mention, it was awful? because it was awful. and horrible.

after mediation from Dr. M [who is awesome at this, because it maybe happens all-too-often between me and the kiddo], two things were revealed. Sophia needed to learn that a lot of the things she was saying, whether she realized it or not, were incredibly rude and bossy. [hence me boiling over and yelling in my attempt to make her understand. my way TOTALLY worked]. she acknowledged, once she was calm, that she had been rude and would work on her tone of voice.

and then came the killer. and I quote, “Sometimes, I ask Mom to play with me, and she says, “Not right now, I’m busy.” she keeps working, and I miss her. I want to play with her.”

ding, ding, ding – we have a winner for the most honest, poignant comment that has ever crushed a mom’s heart.

Dr. M acknowledged it honestly & correctly, especially as he’s told me the exact same thing for the entirety of our relationship – “Yeap, your mom gets in go-mode, doesn’t she?”

I don’t know what it is about kids, who speak such an honest truth that leaves you heartbroken and breathless, but that also drives you to better yourself. perhaps it’s because, especially with your own kids, you know they have no ulterior motive. it was just such an honest reflection of our relationship; that in the name of being a “good mom”, I was shuffling from one activity to another and missing what I was really trying to foster; a slow afternoon, reading books or playing in the park, baking together, coloring many, many pages, or building with Legos.

Dr. M is fabulous at this. so often, I see him not doing what he wants to do [i.e., playing video games, reading comics, watching his shows] in the name of the kids, and wrestle them until they’re breathless or build fantastic Lego creations that necessitate photo documentation. he doesn’t have a lot of free time during the school year, and yet what he does, he willing gives to the kids.

maybe it’s a “I’m-never-separated-from-you-so-I-need-to-find-a-break-when-I-can”; that’s partially valid. but guess what? I don’t home school and my toddler takes a 3-hour-nap daily. I have downtime.

what I needed was an attitude fix; I need to be intentional with my kids, and simultaneously realize I am not going to accomplish all that I want in a day. I need to reorganize what my priorities are for the day [i.e. THEM], and not see them as nuisances who mess up my to-do list. plenty of the things I do during the day are for them, and they are good things and things that eventually need accomplished. but some can totally be shelved to a day when everyone is in a good mood or when I don’t have five different errands/appointments/grocery store runs to knock out.

and if that means buying store bread, in order to tickle Gabe more often or intentionally doing the dishes in the morning so I have time to go to the park with Sophia, then that’s what I need to do. I’m intentionally staying at home, so that we as a family are not stressed out, raggle-taggle bunch, and so they have a parent at home who is always there for them. it’s time I fully embraced that role, and not begrudged my “time being wasted” by block building or book reading or bath time. because it’s obviously the opposite of that, and I want to better than that. I need to think of myself less, and focus on this adorable kiddos for the time that I get them.

we’re cool, by the way. the other awesome thing about kids is that they’re typically quick to forgive. that night, she helped me make dinner and we read two chapters of “Little House in the Big Woods” together. and the next day, we went to the park and I didn’t lose my temper quite as often.

yea for the small wins!

Grandma Betty: 1930 – 2013

“we cannot understand. the best is perhaps what we understand least.”

- c.s. lewis, “A Grief Observed”

Friday was a sad day for the Applewhite family. we were all notified in the middle of the day that Grandma wasn’t doing well; she had been in and out of the hospital for oxygen issues, and we thought it might be just another quick visit.

sadly, it was not. she passed away that evening, surrounded by her kids and kids-in-law. it was startlingly fast, and I know everyone was grateful they took note of the urgency in the medical staffs voice to be by her side. my parents made the trip down to Wichita with urgency, and her son and daughter in town where there for her, as well.

I had just received a letter from her, not two days before. she was sad – she had recently been moved from her retirement apartment to the skilled side of her community; she had to give up her kitty, and was sad about the adjustments. she had said she would be fine, and move on. my response was half-written, and not yet mailed – feeling sorrow for such a big move and sadness for losing her newest companion, cutely named Kitty.

personally, I’m incredibly grateful I made time to see her in July. while visiting family & friends in KC, my mom & I drove down to Wichita for an afternoon lunch and visit. she met li’l G for the first time, seeing him in all his crazy toddler wonder; she saw Sophia, growing into herself and producing incredible art; I got to see her for the first time in almost two years before I drove back out East. we spoiled ourselves and grabbed NuWay, with their horribly-delicious-but-so-awful-for-you burgers & fries. [worth it]

if you’re in Wichita this weekend, her service is on Saturday. if you’re not, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep my dad and family in your thoughts/prayers/good wishes. below is her obituary, and service information. feel free to send some love her way, to my family, and her friends.

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansas/obituary.aspx?n=betty-j-applewhite&pid=167017192&fhid=11455#fbLoggedOut

“do not let your hearts be troubled. you believe in God; believe also in Me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

John 14:1-4