May 27, 2015

a photo reminder.

These side-by-side-oh-my-goodness-they've-grown-so-much photos do something. They remind me: this too shall pass. 

In the messy and busy day-to-day, I often don't realize how much they've changed. Only when the weather turns unseasonably cold and a search for long pants turns up only unintended capris, do I notice they've grown inches taller. Only when a virus passes through and fever wakes him in the night, do I realize he is no longer the cause of my lack of sleep. Only when I'm covered in vomit from the baby, do I realize that they no longer have the horrible reflux that caused such destruction to my rugs and walls and clothing and everything in between for that first year of their life.

One of the boys has taken up sleep walking. Apparently, this is hereditary. My Nana is famous for her antics while asleep. Cooking chili on the stove, purchasing items online, eating... all while sound asleep. And, my younger sister has a tell-tale sign to know she is sleep walking: she is mean. If she calls me in her sleep and I ask if she is awake, she will reply in an angry tone assuring me that she is NOT.SLEEPING. We all know: angry Lori = sleeping Lori. Anyhow, last night, one of our little guys peed into a basket of toys in his sleep, thinking he was in the bathroom. He adamantly refused to admit that he was asleep. It was eery. And, exhausting. Because, even though he didn't mean to do it, it still left a giant mess for me to clean up.

So, really, I need these reminders. I need to remember that time slips through our grasp so easily. This life is fragile and hard and beautiful and exhausting and exhilarating. And I spend so much time just just making it through the day, that I often forget to look up and see it.

I need reminders to seek joy and gratitude each day. Reminders that they won't stay little forever. I had better soak it up and enjoy these wild days.

{We are continuing the end of the year traditional celebration my mom started when my siblings and I were young...last day of school shaving cream fight!}

Therefore, I will be grateful for the crazy days and the messes that need cleaning up because without all of these precious littles, there would be no messes. My house may not {be even close to} perfect. But it is so very full of beauty. For that, I am grateful.

*I started a new Facebook community for all of us seeking to soak up the joy in the midst of chaos. Join us HERE

May 21, 2015

Charlotte Turns One.

If a pictures is worth a thousand words, then what are a thousand pictures worth?

Kidding. I won't share that many photos. But, I may cut it close.

You guys. My baby turned one. We had a sweet little celebration with family and collectively marveled at this little firecracker. She is spunky and sweet and cuddly and fearless. A perfect combination if I do say so myself.

We started the day with a waffle breakfast and then she opened a couple of gifts. My favorites were the ones the boys wrapped for her...they found a couple of their old toys and wrapped them up special for their baby sister. These boys are enamored with this little gal. Future boyfriends beware. 

We had a fun little party that afternoon. Overload of pink and cake. What else do you need?

My friend, Julia, made the gorgeous cake and little smash cake. She is so talented!

A first birthday party is a perfect excuse to print off 15 billion photos from her first year.

We made homemade pizzas for dinner and snacked on watermelon and feta salad, caprese salad and twenty different types of yummy pizza. I didn't stop eating the entire time.

I'm slightly obsessed with fresh flowers. 

Drink station: pink lemonade and raspberry mint champagne punch. Because, we were celebrating.

She's wild. Particularly when I'm trying to get a photo with a headband on her head. It lasted 5.5 seconds.

Headband is gone...replaced by crazy hair!

My parents and younger sister and niece came to town for the big day. It was so much fun having them here!

Dave's side of the family...{Sylvie's expression is hilarious - she gives Nate that look often}.

My fam...

Similar to her disdain for headbands, this girlie is not a fan of adorable bibs. This is the only photo I managed with that cute bib actually on. She was clearly thrilled.

Cake time!

She loves to share her food {didn't learn that from me]...

This photo cracks me up. I don't know where Sylvie learned this new trick but it's her go to for photos right now. Charlotte is chowing down on her cake. Nate is either angry or very serious, not sure which it is. And, Ben is just being his sweet, smiley self.

Somehow, Papa ended up opening all of the gifts. It was mass chaos and hilarious. All of the kids were pitching in to help.

Can this car be any cuter?

I'm sorry, she looks about twelve here. Nothing to see, just reading her card aloud...

As we do, fireworks had to be involved. 

This makes me laugh! They were shouting,"yes! awesome!" after every firework.

No surprise here. Nate was right there helping daddy.

I'm so thankful for such a sweet day to celebrate our littlest love. She has added so much joy to our lives and we are so very blessed by her presence in our little family!!

Charlotte-girl, you are loved to the moon and back and around the globe times a million!

May 11, 2015

slow healing.

Charlotte is in to everything these days. And, she is fast. I turn my head for a second and she is pulling down the wall shelving from the hair salon while Sylvie gets a trim {everyone was fine, just a little shaken up}.

Most recently, she pulled over one of my lamps and the bulb shattered leaving glass pieces scattered on the floor. As I leaned over to collect the thin, sharp bits of glass, I was suddenly struck by an unexpected imagery.

Sylvie left everything she had ever known ten months ago when she boarded a plane to join our family here. She left the people, the sounds, the scents, the songs, the familiar tastes and food, the dirt and the dust. She arrived a broken, frightened little girl. Shattered soul. Sharp edges. Fragile heart. 

Healing for our Sylvie girl tends to look a lot like that light bulb. We work to gently pick up the broken pieces.

Healing comes slowly. We find ourselves stepping on tiny shards of glass in unpredictable moments.

Even with the sharp glass strewn about, we have the most immense privilege: a front row seat to redemption. Glimpses of Glory shining through the ordinary.

Last night, little feet silently tip-toed into our room. I hear her coming. This hasn't happened in a while. I can't remember how long - days, maybe weeks? I remain still. Waiting. I know from experience that she will stand at the edge of the bed, waiting in silence, for someone to turn and provide comfort. Maybe it's fear that prevents her from crying out in the dark of night.

But, instead. Instead, she crawls right over Dave's legs onto the bed and lies down at our feet.

This may seem small. It may seem insignificant. Yet, I see it. I see the healing. The comfort. The trust building. The vulnerability. She felt safe enough to climb up on that big bed knowing that her people were up there.

I also see that trusting momma wholly is still very scary. Daddy's side of the bed is safer. Mommas always leave. 

Not this momma, baby girl. Not this momma. I am here always. Waiting. Bending low to pick up the sharp pieces of pain and work on the mending. Fully trusting in the only One who heals and restores.

May 7, 2015

lessons from a second chance at a first year.

In one week, the little surprise that rocked our world is turning ONE. A full year passed by in a blink.

There's a perspective that comes with your fourth child that you can't possibly comprehend with your first {if we want to get technical here: Charlotte was our third at home, my second pregnancy and birth and our fourth in order of age - is that confusing at all to anyone?!?!}.

This little one took us by such surprise, I never expected to have another chance to parent an infant. It was such an unbelievable gift and my heart swells every time I think of how precious these days are.

Because I don't want to forget any of this, I thought I'd record a few surprising lessons I've learned the past 365 days with this adorable little gal...

Lessons learned from a second chance at a first year:

1). Your capacity to love expands exponentially.

I know many moms who are worried about having another baby after their first. They're worried that they can't possibly love another babe as much as they love their first little love. I was so anxious about this. I had two little guys that had my whole heart and a girlie across the ocean that occupied space there, as well. It just felt like there wouldn't be enough room for them all.

When in fact, there was. More than enough room.

Our Charlotte girl has lit up our lives. She has shown us that love is not confined by numbers or by our plans. She has given us a surprising glimpse of our Father's love. The way He can love us all - which always seems a little overwhelming when I think on it. Now that I have this little princess {let's stop here for just a moment and acknowledge the fact that the royal family clearly decided to name the newest princess after our own Charlotte Elizabeth, but I digress}, I have received a new perspective on His unending and unfathomable love for little ole' me.

2). Having older siblings is pure joy.

Babies are fascinated with these creatures that are closer to their own size than mommy and daddy. Dance parties are entertainment, silly faces are hysterical, and crazy loud noises induce belly laughter. I love having the older three to distract Charlotte when she is fussy during a diaper change or challenge them to make her laugh when she is screaming in the car. They are built-in baby entertainers. And, their love and devotion to their baby sister is astounding. Watching the gentle way they care for her and love on her makes my heart swoon.

3). Each moment is a treasure. 

Watching the little ones run past me who once occupied the same crib as this babe gives me a daily dose of reality: this season is short. This baby will grow very quickly.

The squishy baby rolls and adorably chubby hands and feet will soon lean out and be replaced with a lanky little person who no longer fits on my lap. Rocking a baby to sleep gives way to bedtime routines that no longer include the slow fading to dreamland in my arms.

As much as I want to rush the rocking and the nursing at the end of a particularly long day, I bring to mind the hard truth that this is just a {very brief} season. The dinner dishes can wait. This baby needing her momma won't last forever.

4). Let it go. 

You release the pressure of doing it all. You learn to say "no." You learn to let go of perfection. You cut yourself some slack.

You know that milestones are not predictors of future successes. You know that sleep will return someday {and repeat the daily mantra: I will sleep again. I will sleep again. I will sleep again} and survive on coffee and baby snuggles.

Strict schedules held with your firsts go out the window and you let your baby lead with her own hunger and sleep cues. You hold her often. You know that she can't be spoiled and you don't listen when well-intenders tell you otherwise. You finally stop comparing your baby and your parenting style to others. You relax enough to let life unfold and learn to just enjoy the ride.

5). You will surprise yourself. 

When those two pink lines appeared, you may have second guessed your ability to do this again.

Because, well, life was cruising along just fine. You had just started sleeping again. You had just cut diapers/pull-ups/wipes out of your budget. You had just replaced sippy cups with little cups without lids. You had just received a taste of the freedom that those four hours of pre-school provides: no littles at the grocery store. Cue the Hallelujah chorus.

Fear and uncertainty may have tried to overpower you. But, you quickly learn something about yourself: you can do this. You lean on God. You draw strength and stamina and patience and compassion from HIS well. His supply is unending, while yours is very, very sparse.

You can do this and you can learn to find the joy in the midst of these chaotic early years. As the old saying goes, the days are long but the years are short. Oh, the truth in that statement. So, you embrace it all. The chaos, the tears, the hiding in the closet to eat your chocolate so that you do not have to share, the laughter and the mounds and mounds of laundry. You take an excessive number of photos and videos. You tell yourself that someday you will have the time to create pretty albums and they won't always sit in files on your computer. You get up everyday and do your best. You pour out love and you mess up and you ask forgiveness and you pray. You pray that you are holding up to your end of the deal: to be a guide, a nurturer, a safe place for these little lives entrusted to your care.

You take a step back every once and a while to take it all in. The profound honor it is to be their momma. And, you give a great big exhale of gratitude. You thank the Creator who formed these good and perfect gifts so lovingly and gently placed them each in your arms.

You know with certainty that the first time you held this little babe after birth was the closest you will ever come to Heaven on earth {the only other that compares was the day her brothers were born}. Newborns are so fresh from God, there's the faintest sense of the warmth of His hands remaining on their tiny bodies. You marvel at photos of that day. You close your eyes and remember the sacred and the holy moments of her entrance to the world. You make plans to gather your people to celebrate this year passed. This breathtakingly beautiful year.

May 1, 2015

fight for the beauty.

Discontentment, jealousy, comparison, disconnection. Thieves of joy have been cropping up in my heart lately.

It happens slowly, doesn't it? I hardly notice at first. Busyness. Rushing in the morning. Sidestepping my spiritual nourishment. Running on empty. Interrupted sleep. Harsh words. Sharp edges.

When I start to skip my time with God, in His word, seeking His voice, I notice how the smallest things can creep into my heart and cause disillusionment. I find myself comparing my life with the lives of Facebook friends posting all their good things and big adventures. I start to feel burdened by the weight of so many responsibilities instead of empowered by the opportunities fueled by passionate pursuit of God's best. I start to question my abilities and my purpose. I start to feel small in a vast sea of voices and opinions and needs and wants and hurts in this great big, broken world.

Over the past week or so, I've felt a pull to stillness and toward actively seeking gratitude.

Last night, while nursing Charlotte back to sleep, I read this article as tears gently slid down my cheeks. These words were my undoing:

"This is the season of boo-boos and spit up and dirt. It’s the season for 10 minute showers, half shaved legs, and one eyed mascara. You will get lonely. And jealous. And maybe sometimes you’ll begrudge your life and wish you had someone else’s. You’ll get frustrated and angry and you’ll want to escape. This will be the most unglamorous and unappreciated time of your life, and sometimes it just totally sucks. That’s ok. But have peace in knowing that this will be the season you look back on longingly. One day, we’ll gladly give up all the friends in the world to have our babies small again. To be able to fit them on our laps and read them stories and go on adventures and eat pancakes at every meal." - Kristen {When at Home}
Oh my heart, such truth. This is an unglamorous time. This season can be painfully lonely, even when you are never, ever actually alone. Yet, the crux of it all lies in the fact that these days are fleeting and precious. The memories created in this season will go on to build the foundation for the lives my littles will lead. 

Someday, and that day will come sooner than I'd like, they will stop asking me to lay down with them at night and sing songs and tell silly stories. 
Someday soon, they won't need me to kiss their boo boos or wipe their noses. 
Someday soon, they'll put shoes on the right feet and pants on in the right direction. 
Someday soon, they'll stop thinking that hanging out with their momma is cool. 
Someday soon, they won't spend hours digging in the dirt pile I consider an eye-sore and they consider a mound of buried treasure waiting to be discovered. 
Someday soon, they'll stop asking how to spell a word or what a phrase means. 
Someday soon, playing the rhyming game in the car will no longer be considered fun. 
Someday soon, they will run right out that door to conquer this world and chase their dreams. 

If there were ever a time to fight for peace and contentment, it is now.

It is right smack in the middle of these hard and lonely and frustrating days. It is right here in the heart of tickles and giggles and ice cream in the afternoon and dance parties. It is right now when laundry and dishes beckon from indoors while we choose bike rides and adventures outdoors. It is now when my coffee is cold and my calendar is marked two weeks in advance for a night out with the girls. It is now when my sentences are interrupted and my thoughts are scattered. 

It is now. In these beautiful, messy joy-soaked days. Often, we have to stop, count to 10, and look up to see the beauty right there in front of us. Beauty that we would have missed if we hadn't intentionally fought to look for it.

Let's be the mommas who keep on fighting for that beauty.

* I have a brand new Facebook community for Blessings & Raindrops. Join us for discussion and encouragement there!