Feb 23, 2016

The war that doesn't exist.

The mommy wars.

You hear about them all the time. Online battles about vaccines and breastfeeding. Pinterest jealousy. Snarky comments about organic foods in the grocery store.

If you read every social media post and news story out there, you'd be convinced that every mom is sitting in the trenches of World War III. Some on offense, some on defense, all heavily armed with convincing research and biting blog comments.

But does this war really exist?

Here's the thing... We believe the cultural rhetorics that are readily available to us. If someone keeps saying something, we'll start to think it's true. The mommy wars rhetoric is well-defined and grows more prominent with each passing year and every new online platform. We are supposed to believe that every mom strongly aligns with one viewpoint or the other on every child-rearing decision. Every mom thinks her way is supreme and is out to judge and belittle anyone with different beliefs and practices.

If you baby-wear at the grocery store, a nearby mom is labeling you as an "attachment" parent as she sneers. But if you sit down to feed that baby a bottle, another mom might call poison control since your baby is ingesting "toxic" formula. The battleground is dark and foggy, and you can only catch glimpses of the uniforms. Moms are trying to figure out if other women are allies or enemies, scanning for evidence in baby slings, nursing covers, and amber teething necklaces.

Every mom is at war, and we all need to stop fighting right now. At least that's what the media says. It's time for a ceasefire.

But when I go about day-to-day life, lugging a toddler and a baby with me to church, the grocery store, or the gym, I don't see signs of this war anywhere. I never feel chided or belittled by other moms, whether close friends or practical strangers. And I've been writing online for over five years now and have read not received a single comment judging my choices as a mother. Sure, I've been offered advice a time or two, but never by anyone who was trying to meddle more than help.

I'm not saying that all moms are nice to each other. I've seen volatile comments online when a few women are too passionate about their breastfeeding or vaccination views. Those moments aren't pretty. And I'm not trying to invalidate a painful experience you might have had with someone condemning your choices as a mom. I know that happens. But what I'm saying is... I don't think it's the norm.

I think most moms are really nice, encouraging, and probably a little tired, just like you. I think they want the best for you and hope your kids are thriving and would probably babysit for free or drop off a meal if you were ever in need. When my daughter throws a fit in the grocery store, I see fellow moms with little ones smile softly from across the aisle as I try to discipline my flailing toddler. I don't think they care if I believe in spanking or time out or using the word "no." They just know tantrums are tough, and they encourage me with sympathetic eyes. In the parking lot, a middle-aged mother sees me juggling two little bodies and ten grocery bags. She walks out of the way to return my obnoxiously large race car shopping cart to the store for me, probably feeling nostalgic for the days when her own children would accompany her to the store each week.

We can choose to believe that every mom is donning weaponry, out to annihilate every other mom who disagrees with her. Or we can choose to believe what I think it more accurate, that other moms aren't really out to get us. Sure, all moms have opinions and sometimes they might not get expressed gracefully. And, sadly, we remember negative comments far longer than positive ones. I can specifically remember the two times (ever) someone left a mildly critical comment on my blog, but the thousands of uplifting comments I've received over the years are a blur in my memory. I can recall the one time (ever) that another mom made a half-way judgmental comment to me while I bought a coffee at Target, but I can barely recount the hundreds of kind, encouraging words fellow moms lavish upon me constantly.

It shouldn't be this way. We should speak words of gentleness, encouragement, and hope to other moms, and we should certainly celebrate and remember when those words are spoken to us. Because if you really think about, those uplifting conversations and small acts of love are happening between moms all the time. We just don't talk about them enough.

We need to change the rhetoric about motherhood. Let's stop glorifying this so-called "war." Most moms aren't out to fight a battle. They are trying to love their kids well, and they want to help you love yours too. We should spend more time celebrating the moms who are united by kind words, sympathetic looks, nods of encouragement, and laughter in the midst of chaos. That's a conversation about motherhood worth having.

Feb 20, 2016

Saturday Snippets

Monthly duty days are brilliant...

Fellow teachers, a list of class discussion strategies...

Has anyone tried this email/to-do list app?

Hire a freelancer with ease...

Life after babies...

In case you were wondering how Insta-famous people edit their pictures...

Encouragement for homemakers...

My favorite necklace is on sale...

Currently reading...

Feb 16, 2016

The Move

"So how is California?" people always ask.

And I look at them a bit dumbfounded. I hear this question at least once a week and yet I never know how to respond.

Good. Crazy. Confusing. Expensive. Exciting. A million adjectives run through my mind.

I usually answer with something rather ambiguous... "Umm... pretty good, I guess" or the more straightforward, "I don't know."

Because I don't really know how California is. The postmaster might have changed our address four months ago, I still don't feel like I really live here.

I'm not sure why this is. A combination of factors I suppose. Maybe it's the fact that we've been back in Arizona every 3 or 4 weeks. At the end of October to sell our house and pack our furniture. At the end of November for Thanksgiving. For almost two weeks over Christmas and New Years. At the end of January for my defense. And once more at the end of this month for Micah to run a marathon. After that, we probably won't go back for a few months and then, maybe, it will feel real.

Or maybe it's the fact that we are moving again in just a few months. We signed a six month lease at our current home, which means we will move again this spring. Instead of crying over the idea of packing up everything once again, I am choosing to embrace it as an opportunity to purge everything more thoroughly than ever before. {Okay, and I might shed a tear or two as well.}

Maybe it's that we aren't sure where to move to... I am applying for academic jobs left and right, and we are hoping to know where I'll be teaching next school year in the coming weeks. Do we stay near our current neighborhood? Do we need to move 20 miles north to shorten our commutes? Is California a 1-2 year adventure for us? Or are we staying here for good? Are we more like a house plant that can thrive almost anywhere or should we be sinking deep roots in the sun-kissed SoCal soil?

Maybe it's because up until today we didn't have a church {but I think we've found one!}. Micah and I are not church-hoppers. We truly believe that when you move, you should find a good church quickly and get involved. If the teaching is sound and the congregation is faithful, it's good enough for us. We don't care if the music is from a hymnal or sounds like a rock concert. We have gone to mega-churches and tiny church plants. We are not picky, but finding a church here has been quite a journey. Aside from the fact that we've been in Arizona every third Sunday, we've run into some hazy theology at churches we thought, at first, we were going to love. That sent us on the hunt again, and we've now spent months giving campuses first and second visits and having no place to call home. Usually, we try to go to church as close to our house as possible - a few miles away at most. But in the back of our minds, we keep thinking, "Should we get involved where we live now if we are likely to move five cities away in just a few months?" I'm happy to say that I think we've found a place to settle for now, but we've gone four long months with no community group, no Bible studies, no consistency on the church front.

I feel like our current home is more like a tent than a house. It's a temporary dwelling, and we're just passing through. This is the house where we lived when Micah started a new job. This is the house that sheltered me as I tapped out those final words on my dissertation. I am thankful for this house, but I know it's not my home.

So right now, we wait. We don't know what California holds for us. We don't know where we will live or go to church three months from now. We don't know where I will work next year or what's in store for Micah's job. We long for friends. For stability. For a neighborhood to call ours.

But we will wait for the Lord. And we will trust that He is good. The Israelites used to move into tents for a week each year to celebrate God's faithfulness in bringing them through the desert to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 16:13). As I pack up boxes again in these coming weeks, I hope my heart remembers that God is guiding us on a journey. He is doing a new thing. He is bringing us to a new land. And where we end up in the coming months or years doesn't really matter. I pray we will will steward our present house well - practice hospitality, love our neighbors, serve a church, frequent local businesses - even as our garage fills with boxes for yet another move. Yes, this move to California feels long and hard, but may the discomfort of transition remind me that my citizenship is heaven, a home that is stable, secure, and eternal.

Feb 15, 2016

2016 Goals

It feels so good to write out my goals. After writing out my yearly and monthly goals consistently for years, I completely stopped doing so this summer and fall in the blur of having a baby, moving to a new state, and finishing my PhD. A few days after I finished my dissertation last month, I suddenly remembered I could and should set goals for 2016. Two main goals have been driving my days for the past four months... finish your dissertation and keep your kids alive. That's it. That was seriously all I could focus on. But now... suddenly... I can have goals again. I can think about my health and our finances and making sure my kids are thriving, not just surviving. I can think about organization and rest and play. I'm so excited to have goals again. I know they are a bit belated, but here are my goals for 2016.

Return to the homiletic method of study Scripture
Increase prayer - written and when driving
Memorize Romans 8
One encouragement note per month
Read the Bible to the girls most days

Bible reading - I am still finishing up my Bible reading plan from 2015. Having a baby in June slowed me down a bit, but I am almost done with it. From there, I plan to return to the homiletic method of studying Scripture, and I am praying over some other Scripture/teaching ideas for the year.

Prayer - I've been in a pretty good rhythm of writing down prayers for Micah, Z, and Talitha each month. I want to continue this and also pray more out loud... especially now that I have time in car alone two days a week.

Scripture memorization - I truly want to engrave God's Word on my heart through memorization. I made it through verse 11 in Romans 8, but I haven't worked on it at all since Talitha was born. Lord, give me the discipline in this area. Memorization is so valuable. May I treat it as such.

Encouragement - Send one note a month by mail to someone who needs it - a friend, a family member, someone who is practically a stranger. It took me a couple of years to turn this into an almost-habit, and I only fell out of practice when we moved in the fall. It's time to start back up again. I love using my gift of writing in this way.

Bible with the girls - I really want to read the Bible with the girls more often. I'm trying to make it a habit during our morning time after breakfast and before Talitha's nap. It doesn't happen every day, and sometimes only Z pays attention. My goal is simply to do it most days each week, and I'm using a goal-tracker to watch our progress.

Tone 3x/week
Run a half marathon

Toning - Ever since turning 30, I've had this nagging thought in the back of my mind... "I need to do more resistance training. Weights are more important than running for my long-term health." But it's been so hard to implement a weight-lifting plan that works, especially since I want to continue running also, and my workout time is limited since having kids. Since November, I've started doing workout videos at home. What?! I'm a self-proclaimed gym rat, but I now do a 30 minute strength-focused workout before the girls wake up. My goal is to do it at least three days a week. I'm using a separate goal-tracker to chart my progress in this area.

Half-marathon - I haven't run a half marathon in five years, but I am a much faster runner now since having kids. Weird, but true. I am hoping to PR. There will never be an easy time to train with kids in the mix, but this spring seems slightly feasible now that my dissertation is finished and Talitha is in the final stretch of breastfeeding. I'm hoping to run the OC Half Marathon in early May.

Finish girls' baby books
Organize and cull computer files
Get new computer

Baby books - Zianne's baby book is almost completely done, but I kind of hate it. I tried a Project Life album for the first time, and it's so bulky. I am considering deconstructing it and using a Lucy Darling book for both Z and T.

Files - I consider myself a pretty organized person in most areas of life, but my computer is an absolute disaster. My tiny computer was my closest companion throughout all of grad school, the glory days of blogging 5x a week {hey, 2011!}, and now holds a million drafts of my dissertation and job application materials. The machine itself is on its final leg, and I need to get my files sorted to some extent before I move to a new computer. I don't even know where to begin, so if you have any digital management tips please pass them on.

Get new computer - See above. I think this will be my graduation/got a job gift to myself.

1 book for fun/month
Read for 15 minutes a day

One book per month - Having a baby completely derails my reading. In 2014, I finally reached my goal of reading one book for fun each month. I read six in 2015, then Talitha arrived in June,and I don't think I finished another book for the rest of the year. I just finished my first book of 2016 yesterday, so I have a little catching up to do to get on pace.

Read for fun - I love reading, but I forget how much I enjoy it until I actually start doing it. I love reading before bed, but I also want to work reading into other parts of my day because it's so restful for my soul. I want to stuff a book in my purse and read when I'm sitting in waiting rooms. I want to sneak a few minutes of reading during nap time instead of instantly rushing to get work done. It's not just about the quantity of books I read, but about creating a rhythm of rest in my busy days.

Feb 13, 2016

Saturday Snippets

Tricks to Facebook marketing...

A list of bold prayers...

We cannot say "abortion is murder," unless we serve those who are pregnant...

The heart of a mother is always ready...

Lauren Graham and Kelly Bishop talk about Gilmore Girls revival...

A challenge to try out slow parenting...

An encouraging motherhood post I missed a couple years ago...

How to battle bitterness...

I don't have any sons, but I enjoyed this article on how boys need their moms...

Always intrigued by possible changes in higher ed...

Ethically-made kids' clothes on clearance!

Shopping for my first "fancy" purse now that I'm done with my doctorate... Gray two-toned // Grainy leather satchel

Feb 10, 2016

Talitha Joy {seven months}

Growing // Talitha's growing has slowed way down since she's become mobile. I'm not sure how much she weighs (around 20 pounds?), but she has been holding steady in 12 month size clothes since November! She is finally transitioning to 18 months pajamas, so I know she's getting taller, but she is virtually petite compared to Zianne at this stage.

Eating // Talitha loves solids. She eats so well and rarely chokes on her food. I've given her almost all foods, except for meat. I remember being so concerned with Zianne about which foods she should eat at which age, but I pretty much feed Talitha anything off my plate, and she loves it all. Veggies, fruits, potatoes, rice, beans. She's all about solids and definitely wants three real meals a day. She is still mostly nursing five times a day, but I'm pretty sure she will drop a feeding in the next few weeks. 

Wearing // T is still in 12 month clothes, and they are getting quite shabby with her crawling and messy eating habits. We just transitioned to 18 month footie pajamas about a week ago.

Doing // Sitting, crawling, army crawling, pulling up onto low items like stools and the toy basket. Standing up and leaning on the couch or ottoman as long as we give her a boost into position. Wrestling sissy. Going to daycare twice a week. She just started waving a few days ago, and it's the cutest little open hand, finger wave I've ever seen.

Loving // Baths, crawling to the bottom step and beating on it like a drum, chewing on wooden puzzle pieces, ALL food, drinking from a cup. 

Loathing // Getting dressed, getting in the car seat, having her face or nose wiped.

**Read other monthly updates here.

Feb 8, 2016

Dear Talitha {seven months}

Dear Talitha,

Most of the time I feel like I know you so well. We spend almost all our days together. You love it when I hold you. You still nurse five times a day. In so many ways, we are as close as can be.

But sometimes I feel like there is an air of mystery about you, like there are parts of your personality you haven't disclosed to me yet. Sometimes I sense it in your half-smile as we play or when you grab your solid foods and aggressively stuff them in your mouth. Sometimes I catch the mystery in your whimper when I pick you up from daycare or the nursery at church. Sometimes I notice it when you are standing or army crawling or attempting to wrestle your sister, and I wonder what your physical agility will amount to in the future. I know you are more sensitive to strangers than your sister was, and I wonder if you will an extrovert or an introvert, and what your spiritual gifts will be as you interact with others in the future.

I don't know why I sense the mystery. Maybe it's because I don't have endless amounts of time to study you as I did with your older sis. Maybe it's because, as a firstborn myself, I am curious about how children develop when they have an older sibling around them at all times. Maybe it's because I now know all the wonders and joys of having a toddler in the house, and I am eager to know what your affinities and mannerisms will be. Will you be shy? Loud? Will you building with blocks best? Or reading books? What funny phrases will you say? What will your favorite songs be?

I love everything I know about you so far, and I am thankful there is even more to discover about your heart, mind, and soul. I am excited to watch the mystery unfold, darling daughter. I know it will be a captivating story.


Feb 6, 2016

Saturday Snippets

Because sometimes you have to share the sad, scary posts...

An oldie, but so, so good...

Nerdy tech info about Twitter...

I'm thinking we need one of these in our nursery...

Making these donuts ASAP!

A fun house flip...

This is the jacket  I wore when I became a DOCTOR!

Feb 4, 2016


So this is it. Life after grad school.

I defended my dissertation last week, and I am happy to announce that I am a doctor! Pending a few formatting changes, I will submit my dissertation in the next few weeks and await graduation in May. {Yes, I will walk. Yes, I will wear the crazy tam hat, probably for days on end. Yes, there will be a party.}

The journey is over.

You might claim the journey started when I decided as a kid to become a "doctor of books" someday. On a more technical level, the journey has taken up the past five and a half years of my life.

I have been in grad school the entire time I've been married, save the wedding day itself, the honeymoon, and about three days' time where we driving a moving truck from Seattle to Phoenix before my first classes began. We got married on July 11th, and I'm pretty sure TA training for my PhD program began on July 29th.

I had two babies during grad school. Two humans fully formed and birthed into this world. I took my last course the semester Zianne was born. I missed one class meeting for her birth and returned a week later, leaving my 9 day old daughter at home with her grandparents. I received an email notification that I had reached candidacy (formal speak for "all but dissertation") on Zianne's first birthday. I also happened to get pregnant that same week, and I spent the next nine months growing a baby and a dissertation at the same time. Week by week, month by month, the chapters grew as my stomach swelled. I was halfway done with my last chapter when Talitha was born, and I finished the manuscript with her sleepy, week-old body strapped to my chest.

We moved to a new state while I was in grad school. With the end of my program finally in sight and Micah eager for new career opportunities, we took a risk and moved to California this past fall. My final meeting with my dissertation chair happened via Google Hangouts on my phone while sitting in a coffee shop.

And now it's over. And I can breathe.

You don't notice that your oxygen is diminishing until you finally get a gust of air and inhale deeply all those gases needed to sustain life. It's almost alarming. Was I really living with 20% of my normal air supply?

And what does breathing look like? I'm not quite sure yet. Today, it meant taking the girls to the library.

In our new neighborhood, there is a park directly across the street from our front door. And the public library is just around the corner. Sadly, though, I haven't taken the girls to these places in months. Every second of life has been devoted to finishing my dissertation and if something wasn't necessary for survival {eating lunch} or my sanity {cleaning the house}, it just didn't get a spot on our agenda.

Last Wednesday, I was crying for lack of sleep. This Wednesday, I took the girls to the library.

I am still so busy, and in the back of my mind I laughingly wonder how I ever completed my dissertation. Today, I got the bathrooms cleaned, but it made us 15 minutes late for library story time. I let the girls linger afterward and checked out six books for them, which made us late getting to the gym. When we arrived, I had exactly 30 minutes to finish a 28 minute 5K before the childcare closed, but by the time I got the girls situated and made my way to the treadmill, I had to settle for an 18 minute interval run. Then I darted into a taco shop to pick up an easy, inexpensive lunch, which Zianne proceeded to dump all over the floor of TJ Maxx. We got home for a late nap time, and I quickly began addressing envelopes for an upcoming baby shower while the girls slept. I started dinner late, so we didn't eat until 7pm, and as I was cleaning up afterward, I sincerely questioned, "How I ever write a 150 page research manuscript?" But the truth of the matter is God provides... and we paid for a lot of extra childcare.

So this is me, just breathing. Life is still busy. I have two young kids and a job, and there is never enough time in the day. But the hugest burden has been lifted. My lungs are filled with oxygen once again, and I am excited to breathe in the fresh air at that park across the street.
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