We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. - I Thessalonians 1:2

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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year End Reflecting Pt. 2

Hey, It's Papa E. I felt led to share some of my reflections here as well, during one of the most turbulent years in my life. As you've been reading from my wife's posts, from the birth of our son, my loss of employment and a shakeup of our family dynamic, I've been forced to wrestle with some big questions. Here are some of the answers I've found.

What does it mean to provide for your family?
As head of household, I'd heard several biblical references as to what my role was, and that often centered on a theme of providing. This idea troubled me for a while, until I was encouraged by some friends that providing can be in the form of taking care of my kids, keeping our house in order, and being the spiritual leader of our family. I can't say that I've mastered even one of these, but I am doing my best to provide in this way, and know that God is blessing it.

What's my next move?
This one probably bothered me more than any other question, and lead me into a rather dark period for almost a month. I felt angry with God, betrayed, let down by people in my life, and all for very selfish reasons. I felt that I had essentially wasted so much of my life on training and things that didn't matter. I felt I have no real marketable skills or assets to highlight on a resume for if and when I am able to get a job again. I was angry at the people who told me to "follow my passions," since following my passions lead me into retail and many other things I didn't particularly enjoy simply out of necessity. I was really waiting for my Job moment when God would essentially tell me, "Ok. You've questioned me enough. Strap on your boots, and answer me. Where were you when I formed the world? ..." This moment never actually came. God instead showed up at a candlelight service at church and simply said, "I'm still here." It was all I needed. Over the next few weeks, I felt rather foolish for my anger and lack of gratitude, and spent the rest of the holidays simply thanking God and others for all the blessings I've been given.

How do I lead my family?
In Humility. That has been a hard lessen to learn, especially through my daughter's rebelliousness and mischievousness, and trying to time manage with preschool, feeding schedules, cleaning and the like. My temper has far too often gotten out of control, and my words have not always been encouraging. But when I am able to accept criticism and think clearly, I can be humble, and apologize for my faults and get us back on track. That has lead to some great moments with my children and my wife.

What is worth writing about?
This seems like a trivial question, but if you look back at some of my posts in this blog, you can see that I liked to make broad social commentary. I think I had a compulsion to honor God with my thoughts and somehow enlighten people. In retrospect, many of my comments were not only ignorant but entirely conceited. The only thing I have any authority to write on is my life and the life of my family. I will focus on them.

Now that I feel like I've got some answers to some questions, I'm going to be open to new questions this year, and be honest about them here. A few quick things I would like to resolve to do this year (mostly inspired by and stolen from my wife):
1. Grow Spiritually - I witnessed my wife grow closer to God this year, and would like to emulate that.
2. Be more creative - My daughter has become engrossed in music and I want to foster that. I'd also like to write a couple of songs, and maybe start working on another choral piece.
3. Be more thankful - from new friends and new beginnings to family and physical blessings, I want to express my gratitude whenever possible.

On that note, I think I'll go hang out with the fam. Happy New Year and Cheers!

- Papa E

Friday, December 30, 2011

Year End Reflecting

2011 was a year of change. Physical changes in my children were perhaps the most noticeable.
Brennan went from snuggly, smiley, newborn to not-quite-a-toddler.Cate lost the little bit of toddler she still had left in her face and is a full-on kid now.
She's one tall, lean, drink of water and I'm fairly certain she's going to be the object of many a school boy crush. Other changes were obvious too-- Eric's change in work, my 8 months as a stay-at-home-mom (which I think made me both a better mom and a better teacher, if that makes any sense), Cate starting school, Brennan starting to crawl, the physical changes as I dropped some baby weight and then A LOT of weight with all the crap I dealt with in November and the first part of December (mostly under control now-- I wouldn't mind a redo of November and part of December though).

Eric's job change gave us the blessing of being able to spend the summer at home together. We spent a lot of time at the pool in summer of 2011.
2011 was the year that Eric learned to brew his own beer.
It was the year Cate learned to write her name, and the names of others since she knows her letters.
Brennan learned so many things, it's a whole other post in itself (well, actually they're all mostly documented in various posts on this blog).
I learned to knit something other than scarves and dishcloths.
I found beauty in the silence before the kids get up and I have a hot cup of coffee or tea in my hands...or in the silence after they go to bed, when Eric and have taken to watching DVDs and playing games (like real Scrabble, not Words with Friends on our iPhones).
I found peace and focus of a gentle yoga practice (I'm really, really, loving yoga right now).

We explored art with Cate.We explored our neighborhood.
We camped.
We canned.
We read.And we loved. Oh my, did we ever love. My heart is full to overflowing with the love I have felt this year-- for my husband, my children, my family, my friends. I laughed hard and cried hard this year. I played hard and prayed hard. And I left no room for regret.
I'm excited to see what 2012 has in store for us. I'm ending this year feeling incredibly blessed and lucky. I'm ending this year feeling hopeful.

Wishing you all peace and blessings this New Year!

~Melody :-)

PS...Here is a link to the resolutions I made last year. I'm happy to report that I've gotten much better at being more "present" in the moment, did learn how to knit more (still kind of sitting on the same set of sewing skills though), and experienced tremendous spiritual growth through prayer, study, and following a read-through-the-Bible in a year plan. Not sure yet what I want to resolve to do in 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Love is All You Need

I'm not going to lie-- there are times when I really wonder what in the world we were thinking when we decided to live off of one income. I really start wondering this when I browse blogs of perfect strangers and see elaborate birthday parties thrown for their kids. Or when a picture pops up on my Facebook feed of someone I haven't seen or spoken to in years enjoying some expensive, tropical vacation over Christmas. And I'm not even saying that I would do those things if we had the money (I mean really, hundreds of dollars on a one-year-old's party that he/she won't remember-- not very practical, no offense if you're someone that would do that though, I'm just practical--on the other hand, I'll take the tropical vacation). But still, the fact that I couldn't throw some elaborate birthday party for my kids even if I wanted to, sometimes gets under my skin, despite the fact that I know that even if Eric were working, his entire paycheck would be paying childcare for our two kids. So instead of an overwhelming amount of presents, I watched my little guy tear into a few simple things that he's been playing with non-stop since he opened them.
Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to rent out a space and have someone else entertain the kids, we crammed into our house, snacked and visited, and the kids made foam robots (he had a robot-themed birthday).
Instead of spending a lot of money on a cake, I made a cake, did my best frosting it, and watched my little boy cautiously poke his finger at the frosting and lick just a little bit before deciding he'd rather have some banana puffs. And afterwards, we watched him tear into a few more presents.
And really, two days before Christmas, I was overwhelmed with the amount of love shown for my little guy. I was so afraid that only Brennan's grandparents, great-grandparents, and aunts would show up. But friends stopped by too and made his (and our) day.
Then there was Christmas. Our house is cozy and you can still barely walk through it despite having moved many toys out of the living room and to the basement playroom. But there is no doubt in my mind that my kiddos are loved (by us, by family, by Santa).
I deliberately didn't take any pictures of Christmas morning as I wanted to be in the moment and not behind a lens. Pictures above are from Christmas Eve and later Christmas Day.

I say all this, because the lesson I've been reminded of these last few days has been this-- sometimes, love really is all you need (I love The Beatles).
Expensive birthday parties and exotic holiday trips are nice if you can afford them. But as I cuddle up in my new pajamas while Cate really gets into playing Playmobil and Brennan zooms his cars on the floor and my hubby listens to some new vinyl, I find that I really can't ask for much more. I've kind of got it made, really. A loving husband who is a fantastic father, two beautiful children who light me up with their smiles, a home full of love and history that comes with a mortgage cheaper than the rent we used to pay, family that is there for us in any situation, friends that laugh and grow with us. That's a whole lot more than most people have. That's a whole lot of love too, if you ask me.
That love may not buy a whole lot, but really it's priceless. Besides, we're saving up to take that awesome, exotic trip in 2014-- when we celebrate 10 years of marriage!

Love and peace to you all! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

~Melody :-)

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Sweet, Sweet, Boy

Dear Brennan,
Your presents are wrapped.
Everything is waiting for you to wake up.
I've scheduled this post to publish at 4:13AM, the minute that I met you exactly one year ago.
I never thought another boy would steal my heart. Up until now, your Daddy was it for me. But then you entered the world after 21 hours of labor that resulted in an emergency c-section and you had my heart from your first cry.
You were a perfect early Christmas present. You made Cate a big sister.
You showed Mommy and Daddy just how possible it is to love two kids so much!
Your smile and laugh are infectious!
You are such a smart boy. We've already heard you say "Mama," "Dada," "doggie," "cat," and "fish." You are curious. I'm pretty sure making car noises is a skill you were born with. And man, do you have an arm!
Thanks for being patient with us as we learned to use cloth diapers. And to make your food. And as we figured out that it wasn't a sensitive reflex, but big tonsils that caused you to gag so much.You were a great roommate for the entire year that you bunked in with Mommy and Daddy, not even stirring when we'd giggle to 30 Rock or Modern Family.
You crawl fast and cruise the furniture. You point at everything and want to know what it is. You are pure joy and delight and blessing all rolled into one perfect package. We love you so much! You are my sweet, sweet, boy! I'm excited to see what year 2 brings!