Friday, April 26, 2013

Hey Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook World: I don't like to cook (and that's totally okay)

The other day, I signed on to Facebook and saw this picture:

What's that, you ask?  Why, that's just my (amazing/inspiring/incredible/resourceful) sister-in-law, making homemade pasta.

Why is this a big deal?  Well, it just so happens that this awesome family-member of mine works FULL TIME, has TWIN 4-year-old boys, and a NINE-MONTH-old daughter (who still wakes up at night to eat).  And here she is -- making homemade pasta on the weekend in her free time.

My first thought was, "That's awesome -- and so like her!"
My second thought was, "Why don't I ever do that?"
My third thought: "I'll do stuff like that someday when the kids are older."
My final thought: "No, you won't, Rachel."

And that's it.  Therein lies the truth.  I kept waiting to turn into a certain-type-of-mom-and-wife that I'll never be.  I gave up sewing long ago (sometime in college) after I whipped together my first (and only) sewing project: an early-20th-century dress.  After I finished the project, I realized that I found no joy in doing it -- I just rushed through it to get it done.  I never wanted to sew again (and I didn't, except for a brief stint in a costume shop).  

And over the last few years, as my social media feeds kept getting inundated with beautiful snapshots of fantastic dinners and baked goods, I kept waiting for "the time" to start cooking "that way."  Yet when I saw that picture of my sister-in-law, I suddenly realized that I will never do it.  It's not that I don't LIKE cooking -- it's just a practical thing for me.  It's not my least-favorite chore, and sometimes I find great peace in it.  But it's a chore to me, and I find no true joy in it.  AND THAT'S OKAY!  (Hurray!)

My sister-in-law said, "If I have a week where I don't have a day that I cook a significant amount, I start to get kinda stressed and restless."  If it's not Thanksgiving (which is a cooking holiday, in my opinion), "cooking a significant amount" is a recipe of stress for me.  For me, cooking is about being practical:  what can I make in 30 minutes or less that's nutritious, yummy, and will give us leftovers?  That's how I meal plan, and I reckon that's how I will always meal plan.

So all this got me thinking:  what do I do to avoid getting stressed and restless?  If I had extra time on the weekend, how would I choose to fill it?

On a weekend with extra time, you will never find me making homemade pasta.  Instead, you'll find me outside in the yard gardening or running around with my daughter, doing some sort of high-intensity exercise, writing a blog post, reading a book, or taking in more time with my husband and family.  Heck, you might even find me cleaning my house (THAT was the kicker of the self-realization for me:  I actually enjoy cleaning my house more than I enjoy cooking).  But mainly, I think my top choice would be high-intensity exercise or a run with a friend (ahem BECCA ahem let's make a running date ASAP).

So here's the main point:  hurray! for who we all are, and for how different we are!  I celebrate that my sister-in-law loves cooking so much, and that it is a part of who she is.  I celebrate that I like being outside so much and working out.  And I celebrate YOU -- whoever you are, and whatever it is that brings you joy.

  • What are you doing this weekend with your extra time?
  • What activities bring you joy?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I swear, I have a MILLION blog posts my head

For real, I write THE BEST blog posts at 3 am.

The problem?  I'm usually holding a pretty baby in my arms.

The BIGGER problem?  The next day, I either can't remember the post I was thinking about, or I'm not nearly as eloquent as I was at 3 am.

And there it is.

Friday, April 19, 2013

measuring spiritual growth

"How are you doing spiritually?"

He asked the question just as simply as any other question.

It was a cold day and rain was tapping gently on the window.  I shifted in the chair as I glanced outside, as if the answers would be found out there somewhere.  The warmth of the fireplace next to me reminded me that I was, in fact, inside my therapist's office, and there was the silence of an unanswered question lingering in the air.

Spiritually.  How am I doing?  It's such an interesting question, I thought -- so much more complex than perhaps he realizes.  It's more complex than any of us realize most of the time.  In Christian culture, we ask it so flippantly.  But what do we mean by it?

My first inclination was to go back over the last week and think about how many times I had turned to the Bible -- how many times I had sat in quiet before the Lord -- how many specific, purposeful prayers I had offered.  With a three-week-old and a 21-one-month old at home, and some unsettled hormones inside -- not to mention a recovering postpartum body -- the answer wasn't great.  Maybe once in the last week, I thought, I had spent some time in the Word.

But that's not it, I thought.  That's what I jump to when people ask me this question, but that's not a true gauge of my relationship with the Lord.

It took me a couple minutes to answer, and I started with some "Ums," and, "Well, I guesses," and, "Okays," but eventually I realized my true answer.

"There are seasons," I said. "And I'm in a very specific season of life and of connection to God.  I may not be able to read the Bible as much as I'd like to, but ... I don't feel like I'm sitting in judgment from the Lord because... I'm just in a different season."

Now let me be clear: I'm not saying that reading the Bible isn't important.  I'm not saying that disciplined time with the Lord is superfluous.  What I'm saying is that those things aren't always possible in one's life.  When they aren't possible, God finds other ways to minister and work in our lives.  Our spiritual growth is not dependent on checking off that "Quiet Time" box on our to-do list.

In the last few weeks, I have had to be really conscientious of God's work in my life.  It's a 3-am-feeding-prayer instead of a 9-am-focused-prayer.  It's in the moments of "God-Help-Me!" and "God-I-need-you-right-now!"  It's when God gives me a song instead of tears -- when I need to be patient with a daughter and need prayer to get me through -- when I have a choice between a TV show and reading a book about spirituality.  It's in these moments that God is choosing to mold me and make me into something new.
"I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul...about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, "Am I growing in love for God and people?"  The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming.  Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important -- not because they prove how spiritual we are -- but because od can use them to lead us into life.  We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ."
- John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted

  • How are you doing spiritually?
  • How have you answered that question in the past?  
  • What's your first instinct in answering it?
  • What do you mean by the question when you ask someone else? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

guest post on breastfeeding

Right before I gave birth to Amelie, I started joining in on the Tuesday Baby Linkup over at Every Breath I Take (Jennifer is just one of several bloggers who host, but she was the one I happened to know first).  It has definitely been my favorite linkup because I've gotten to meet a lot of great people and join a community of moms devoted to supporting each other.

I started reading every single blog post on breastfeeding over at African Babies Don't Cry.  Christine is running a breastfeeding series called Mommy's Milk.  Knowing I had some trouble the first go-around, I read frantically, asked questions, and got to know a lot of other cool mamas out there.

Christine's blog and the community from the Tuesday Baby Linkup has meant so much to me, and that's why I am SO EXCITED that Christine is hosting a guest post by me for her breastfeeding series.

Alright, here's my deal with breastfeeding. 
Everyone posts about how it's not easy but it's amazing, and then they give a gazillion pointers on how to get through the rough patches.  But can I tell you about MY rough patch -- the one that tends to get glossed over? 
It absolutely drives me crazy to hear things like, "Latching is as simple as X, Y, and Z."  Because you know what?  I've tried X, Y, and Z.  A million times.  And latching has never been that simple for me or for my babies -- not for my first daughter, nor for my second.  For whatever reason, latching has been and always will be a source of great difficulty for this small little family.

Read the rest here and please comment!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

one of those days

It starts really early in the morning.
The first noise I hear is a cry.

It doesn't matter who makes the first noise --
whether it's the small baby with no other means of communication
or the anxious toddler just looking for company after 12 long hours of lonely sleep --
it's still a cry
first thing.
in the morning.

As the day progresses, I can tell it's going to be
"one of those days,"
where if I put the baby down, she'll cry frantically until I pick her back up,
but once I pick her back up, the toddler cries because suddenly she needs
a hug
a toy
a doll
a snack
a something that will make me put the baby down,
who then -- you guessed it -- cries.

Just one of those days.

They'll happen quite frequently, I'd imagine.

And as a newly-inducted mommy-of-two, my instinct is to yell or join in on the crying...
I have been praying for gentleness.

God, let me be gentle with these little girls...
...whether in discipline or in fun, let me be gentle.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother is also praying for me on this day.

The prayers are felt.

In the midst of the most frantic moments --
when I am so wiped out that I think I might cry --
when I am so frustrated that I think I might yell --
when I am so hungry that I think I might pass out --
when I am so run down that I think I might fall asleep --
gentleness courses deep within my soul, and a song emerges from my throat.

Instead of yells or cries, You have given me a song.

And so I sing my way through
one of those days.

  • How do you get through on one of those days?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

birth announcement? put a bird on it!

(Even if you don't have babies, you'll still want to read this post for the videos. Unless you don't want to laugh today.)

Have you seen this Portlandia sketch?  
(Disclaimer: I believe there is at least one curse word in this clip, so you may not want to watch it in front of your kids).

The joke is that hipsters put birds on everything.  The joke on ME is that I DO put birds on everything.  You should see my house.  There are birds.  On.  E-VERY-THING.

Why do I love birds so much?  Well, besides the obvious (they are soooooooooooooo pretty), the roots go deep.  My Mom Mom kept birds and had birds on almost everything in her house.  She also had a beautiful garden full of birds -- her bird feeders must have had some special sort of food that caused all the birds of Long Island to flock to her yard alone.  It was like a bird sanctuary.

So.  I love birds.  Hipsters love birds.  What does this have to do with birth announcements?  Well, when I was looking for birth announcements with birds on them for Gwendolyn, it took a while for me to find something.  This is no longer the case!

Lucky for me and everyone else out there that love birds, hipsters are way in, which means birds are way in, which means you can find almost any type of birth announcement you want with a bird on it.

Don't believe me?  Check out these beauties:

Birth Announcement Postcards Tweeting Trio - Front : Blush

Winter Boy Birth Announcements Winter Owlet - Front : Pool

Girl Photo Birth Announcements Birdie Vine - Front : Linen

Boy Photo Birth Announcements Forest Friends - Front : Canary

Girl Birth Announcements Wonderful Woodland - Front : Watermelon

But here's the one that we're most likely using to announce Amelie's birth:

Girl Photo Birth Announcements Birds and Blossoms - Front : Chenille

(This one totally reminds me of my Mom Mom.)

(All of these bird-inspired baby announcements came from this awesome website called Tiny Prints.  Birds not your thing? Not to worry -- they have LOADS to choose from!)

And just in case you didn't get your fill of birds yet, check out this video of flamingos dancing.

No, really.  You'll want to watch this.

  • What are your thoughts on birds?
  • What did you do for birth announcements?

Monday, April 8, 2013

breathe in, breathe out: pray without ceasing

"Pray without ceasing."
1 Thessalonians 5:17

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.

When I was in college, I attended a class called "Actor's Lab."  It wasn't what you'd first expect from an acting class.  We didn't spend our time pouring over scripts and marking out character choices.  Instead, we focused on body alignment, creative impulses, and breath.

Breathe out.
Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Breathe in.

Each day, we'd start out on the floor.  We'd lie fully prostrate, backs down.  With our eyes closed, we'd just breathe.  And release.  Breathe.  And release.  We'd release all of the day "into" the floor, imagining that with each release of breath, we were sending our struggles and joys from the day out of our body.  

Breathe out.
Breathe in.

Most times, we lay in silence as we performed this first exercise.  But sometimes, we were reminded of the prayer we were already taking part in.  God gave breath to Adam, and we were still breathing that same breath that God gave us.  Each breath was a prayer, whether or not we accepted it as such.

Breathe out.

And with each breath, our professor reminded us to consider what it would be like to pray... 

with. each. breathe.

Breathe in.

Jesus Christ

Breathe out.

Son of God

Breathe in.

Have mercy on me

Breathe out.

A sinner

Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes: a venture gone awry, angelina ballerina, & dizziness

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 210)

- 1 -
my first venture out

It's sort of been a slow recovery for me emotionally, so on Tuesday when I started watching the girls by myself for the first full day, I was very excited.  We all went to the post office so I could get stamps to send out a ton of thank-you cards to those who have helped over the last month, and then the plan was to do a bit of grocery shopping.  Here's the report:

The Post Office:  Gwendolyn listened oh-so-carefully to me -- holding my hand in the parking lot and standing in line beside me and her baby sister.  She was a-MAZ-ing, folks.  Seriously -- a 21 month old, just standing in (a long) line at the post office for 10 minutes?  I was SO proud.

The Grocery Store:  After the post office, I was debating whether or not to even try the grocery store.  "We had such a good trip," I thought to myself.  "Why jinx it?"  Sure enough, as soon as we got in, Amelie woke up and wanted to eat like WHOA.  Granted, she was in a wrap around me so that probably didn't help.  So the trip turned into a "GET-WHOLE-MILK-AND-GET-OUT-QUICKLY" trip.  So in that sense, it was a success.  And honestly, I was glad I tried it because it's the most I've done in about four weeks and it raised my confidence.

- 2 - 
stomach bugs

But then.  Then, the next day I regretted going out.  You see, stomach bugs have run RAMPANT in these parts, and I am P-A-R-A-N-O-I-D of our family getting sick again.  So since Ame's been home, we've sort of just all stayed home as much as possible.  Of COURSE the ONE trip I make out of the house, I get a stomach bug the next day!

Oh. My. Goodness.  I am a healthy person.  I usually only get "stomach things" once every five years or so (except when I worked at Starbucks and went to grad school simultaneously -- crazy hours plus exposure to germs all day caused me to get sick once a month.  I even got the swine flu!).  So imagine my surprise that I got a stomach bug not once, not twice, but three times these year.  The first two happened while pregnant (bookending the pregnancy), and this one... well, my baby just turned 4 weeks old.

Thankfully, my mom came down again to take care of us.  I swear, she might as well move in for the amount of time she's spent/will spend here in the last month or so.  But I told her I WILL be capable of taking care of my family, once I can actually function as a human being again.  


- 3 -
angelina ballerina

This "Quick Take" is rather quick.

If I never see another episode of Angelina Ballerina, it will be too soon.

My own little ballerina loves this show, and when I was sick, I was sure thankful for it.  
But seriously.  I don't want to watch this show ever again.  
(That being said, I'm sure I will.  I just don't want to.)

- 4 -
arrested development

I love Netflix Originals.
But you know what I love the MOST about Netflix Originals??

Boo-yah!!!  May 26, baby!
(And this is one of the many reasons we have Netflix.)

- 5 -
adjusting to two 

During the few short spurts when I actually felt semi-normal again and took care of my daughters by myself, I've realized a few things to "making it work" with having two kids close together.  I think I might turn this into a larger post, but here's the basic gist:

1) You have to get used to crying.  Someone is going to cry.
2) Trying to schedule feedings around naps for the older one is KEY to getting rest.
3) Resting is KEY to getting rest.  (Duh.  But not really "duh" for this overachiever.)
4) You have to live with the mess.

Our once-uncluttered house is now a house of clutter.  I don't think it will always be this way, since I'm sure once I'm back on the road to normalcy I'll start picking up everything again (or it will drive me INSANE!).  But on the other hand, maybe we're just going to be a house of clutter until the girls are old enough to help out.  Or old enough to move out.  And I just have to live with it.

- 6 -
shifting schedules

One unexpected glorious thing to bringing this baby home has been Gwendolyn's shift in her sleeping schedule.  This is a girl who has -- since she was a wee babe -- woken up around 5-6 am every morning.  I'm pretty sure she just got used to my rhythms since I get up at 5 am to work out most days (well, not right NOW, but usually).  So imagine our surprise that the day we brought Amelie home, Gwen decided to start sleeping in until 7 am.  And this morning?  EIGHT AM!  This is such a wonderful change for all of us, especially because she used to wake up at ANY stir around 5 am.  Now, I can answer a baby's cry, feed her, change her diaper -- and Gwen sleeps right through.

The biggest reason behind the change was probably daylight savings, but this never altered her schedule before... so maybe it was her "Welcome Home" gift to us.  
Thanks, Gwennybear!

- 7 -

My friend Sarah recently tagged me for a "Liebster," which means I have to answer a bunch of questions, ask a bunch of questions, and tag 9 bloggers who have under 200 followers (I really have NO idea how many followers I have).  Now, I am planning on devoting a post to this thing, but it brought up two things:

1) What is a Liebster?  Who is Liebster?  After searching on Google, I've found that it's a popular blogger award, and the origins are a little fuzzy -- however "liebster" means "favorite" or "dearest" in German.  Apparently.  Unless this information is wrong and you can correct me. :)
2) If you have under 200 followers and want to be tagged, let me know in the comments and the first people to comment will be tagged.  The sad truth is I don't know many bloggers with under 200 followers well enough to tag them.  So let me know!


...can I just mention that this post took me over eight hours to write up?  Because that's how wiped-out and dizzy I am...

Monday, April 1, 2013

in my free moments

Okay, Rachel.  Now's your chance.

Elliott's putting the older one to bed.
The littler one is sleeping next to you and isn't hungry.
The food has been eaten; the dishes are done.
You have both hands to yourself,
A comfy bed,
And a computer in your lap.

Now's your chance to do something productive --
To pick out those birth announcements --
To respond to all those e-mails --
To work out those guest posts you promised to other people.

Now's your chance, Rachel.  Use it.

Instead, I find myself doing what I normally do when there's a free moment of down time.


Allowing my body to sink into the memory foam and cradle my aching bones.

It's been 3 1/2 weeks since my baby was born.
It's been a slow recovery for this mama.

But the sun came out today, and I feel like the sun came out in my heart as well.

(Admittedly, a reeeeeeeeally old photo -- think: 2008.  I was still an actress back then.  I also had all my hair.)

I had the second half-day with the girls to myself.  (The first half-day was last week.)

And you know what?
It was exhausting.
And you know what else?
It WILL be exhausting.

...which is why I feel no shame eating the occasional flourless chocolate cake at nine in the morning (yes. I did that this past week... a couple times)...
...which is why I harbor no guilt spending an extra few (15) minutes in the shower (it's like a spa day for mamas)...
....which is why I take any and every opportunity to sleep (because, let's face it, I'm probably only going to get about four hours tonight anyways)...

...and the floors might be dirtier...
...the laundry might be piling up...
...the beds might remain unmade forever...

Instead, in the free moments, you'll find me lying down...

... reading all my favorite blogs (even though I don't comment -- I either don't have both hands due to breastfeeding, or I'm all out of brain power)...
...reading about newborn-ness that I failed to experience the first time around (what is UP with newborn gas??  I know they have underdeveloped digestive systems, but poor Amelie grunts and calls out like a mountain goat all night and it's tiring for all of us)...
...reading books (received Eat with Joy by Rachel Marie Stone from my best friend this week!)...
...watching movies (Pretty in Pink on Netflix??  Les Miserables from my MIL?  Score!)...
...listening to NPR podcasts (thank-you Peter Segal and all the panelists on Wait Wait for keeping me laughing)...

And simply: R E S T I N G.

  • What have you been doing in your free moments these days?
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