Book buddies in-law

2012 was one of the most formative years in my life – I experienced the sorrow of losing my father and the joy of connecting with the love of my life. When I married my husband the next year, I would be walked down the aisle by my mother, and there would be no father-daughter dance. Though the day was the happiest of my life, Dad’s absence was felt. I had no idea at that point that the man who pronounced us man and wife, my husband’s father, would one day be a dear friend and father to me.

The Hubby and I were long distance until about one month before we married. We met and knew each other’s families, but had not spent significant amounts of time with them. For the first five years of our marriage, we were lucky enough to live just five minutes away from my father-in-law, Verne. Through this proximity and the almost-weekly dinners we would have together, we had a chance to get to know each other pretty well.

One day, while at our house for dinner, Verne eyed my bookshelves and asked to borrow my copy of The Catcher in the Rye. He hadn’t read it before, and felt like he didn’t read enough fiction. This is one of my very favorite books of all time. Probably top ten. I was more than excited to share it with him, and then demand he share every thought and feeling he had about it with me. Maybe if he knew what he was signing up for, he never would have asked, but I considered the whole exchange an invitation to recommend him books until the end of time.

We are both big readers, me more of fiction and Verne more of nonfiction. I happily took up the challenge of finding fiction that he would love. Five years later, and we’ve read about fifteen books together. Books and stories have a way of going to the heart and helping people connect on a deeper level, and that has definitely been true for us. We’ve had so many great conversations about the books we’ve read, and I love when I’m reading a book and start to think, “Verne has to read this.”

We recently had the chance to talk books and reading with Anne Bogel on my favorite podcast, What Should I Read Next? I sneakily submitted an application to be on the show without telling Verne and shared our story and what it’s meant to me. I’m so happy they picked us to be on the show – and not just because it’s been a dream of mine to be on it. The reason is the reaction my father-in-law had when he got a chance to read my submission. I really thought he knew everything I wrote down, but it seems like it was news to him. If we hadn’t been chosen for the show, he would not have read that and may never have known just how much I value our relationship and love sharing books with him. Thank you, Anne, for the opportunity to share.

Anne says books are “a shortcut to talking about the things that really matter in life.” I’m glad my father-in-law and I have been able to take that shortcut and forge a meaningful friendship. At my brother-in-law’s wedding last summer, and I finally got the chance for a father-daughter dance.

Happy Belated Bubsday

At the end of December my Bub turned five. It is hard to believe it’s been five years since I became a mother. So hard to believe, in fact, that I put four candles on his birthday cake and even almost bought a number four candle. As you can see on the picture, I corrected the problem, but only because my husband noticed as I was lighting candles. (Also, Bub insisted on having a triangle cake. In the immortal words of Leonard Cohen, “I did my best, it wasn’t much.”)

To be honest, I’ve been afraid of writing this post all year. Age four has been tough. It’s not an easy age for parent or child, even if you don’t add a baby, a very emotional two-year-old, and a mom with PPD to the mix. I was afraid to write this because my relationships with my baby and toddler are so simple, those posts so easy to write. What does it say about me if it’s not as easy to write about Bub?

Benefits of being five? First library card!

But he’s growing up. As he grows, our relationship will grow, too. It will become more complex than it was at one or two. It will go through rough patches, and periods of adjustment. This is okay. It was a tough year, but we got through it. (pro-tip: Motherhood is easier when you’re not depressed. If you think you may have post-partum depression, get help – for you and for your kids.) Reflecting on this not-so-easy year, I’m seeing everything with a fresh perspective and learning some amazing things about my child.

Bub is so thirsty for knowledge. He is curious and inquisitive and wants to know the reason for everything. Or reasons, plural. (Actual conversation – Me: “You can’t go into the street, ever.” Bub: “Why?” Me: “Because a car could hit you and kill you.” Bub: “What’s the other reason?”). I couldn’t ask him to do or stop doing something without hearing, “Why?” This got very frustrating at times, but, I have no doubt that kid is going to learn a lot in his life and he’s going to love the process.

Bub is highly sensitive to his emotional environment. He is so perceptive and keyed in to those around him. Practically, this means if I’m feeling off, he’s feeling off. Of course this is challenging for me, but much more so for him. He’s too young right now to know what to do with all the emotional input he picks up on. It must feel uncomfortable to know intuitively when your mom isn’t at her best – especially when it lasts for a long time. With emotional maturity, this trait will develop kindness and empathy in him, and that is worth some temporary challenges.

Bub never does something just because everyone else is doing it. I can’t tell you how many social situations where I thought, “This would be so much easier if you would just do what the other kids are doing!” He needs to know the why, and “because everyone else is doing it” does not suffice. This may make some awkward parenting moments for me, but I’m proud. I’m making a point of giving a real answer to why, and he responds so well to getting a real, respectful answer – often one I’ve never considered before. It’s amazing how much we just do without ever questioning why. This certainly won’t be a problem for Bub, my little individual who insists on a good reason for everything.

Happy belated blog birthday to my Bub.

I love my pants.

Fall is a special time for our family. We’re ready for fall sometime around June and rejoice when the cool weather finally arrives. Of course, we have the everyday wonder of colorful leaves, sweater weather, hot soup, and, well, everything everyone loves about fall. On top of all that, we celebrate my birthday in October and our anniversary in November. Fall always brings back fond memories of birthdays, newlywed days, and anniversaries spent at a cabin in the woods.

Last year, fall gave us another reason to celebrate: the birth of our first girl. Pantsy Pants made her arrival on a beautiful Saturday in October. I had been through days and days of false labor. We had my mom stay at our house twice during the week, because we were SURE she’d be born in the night. Friday night, we knew. Because Jaybird was 20 minutes shy of being born on the highway, and we live far from our hospital, we drove out late that night to stay at a hotel near the hospital until it was time to go – probably in an hour or two. Then I fell asleep and woke up to no contractions at all. We spent the morning around town hoping with some walking and time, the contractions would return, but nope. Though it was frustrating at the time, Pantsy was giving us a gift. We enjoyed a lovely morning alone together talking and enjoying the beautiful fall day. It’s one of our most memorable dates.

We drove back, sent my mom home, and spent the day like a normal Saturday. We took the kids on a hike, made a nice dinner, and had a movie night. Near the thrilling conclusion of Giant Robber Crabs (now a family classic), my water broke. I started freaking out, because last time this is where I went immediately into I’m having a baby mode. My mom’s Grama senses must have been tingling, because she was already halfway to our house when we called.

We call Pantsy our easy one; that started with pregnancy, and continued in labor. After twelve hours of active labor with Bub, and a whirlwind, barely-made-it-to-the-hospital labor with Jaybird, I had no idea what to expect. She turned out to be our Goldilocks baby – not too fast, not too slow, but just right. She kindly waited until we got to the hospital before labor started in earnest. Things progressed steadily, without stalling or going terrifyingly fast. I ended up making a last-minute decision to have a water birth (a great choice). After about two and a half hours, Pantsy was born. For several minutes I just held her, no idea if I had a boy or girl in my arms, just so happy to have my baby (and to be not in labor anymore).

Photo Credit: Kara Jo Prestrud

This girl’s default is to smile. She loves to meet new people, keep up with her brothers, and explore the world. She loves to grab my hair with a death grip and laugh at my distress with the cutest baby giggle. After two boys with stick-straight hair like Dad, I was delighted to see her hair grow into perfect ringlets. Pantsy takes her time with everything she learns, but once she is ready, she is determined – it is impossible to hold her when she wants to practice her new skills.

Every time I meet a baby, I am struck by how unique they are – how much personality radiates even from a sleeping newborn, and how many new things there are to learn from them. Pantsy girl’s personality has charmed us from the start. She has a cheery disposition and can-do attitude; she delights in learning, trying, and making friends. And there is still so much to learn about this little lady. I can’t wait. Happy birthday, Pantsy Lou Who.

Happy Birthday, Jaybird

In this new year, I have been reminded in many ways that I cannot take my three healthy, wonderful children for granted. Some of these reminders have been joyful, like Bub seeing a display of heart-shaped balloons at the grocery store and declaring we HAD to get one, “For Jaybird!” (Update: Jay somehow popped his balloon before two minutes had passed.) Some of these reminders, however, have been painful, but all have shown me what a great gift is each day. So today, Jaybird’s second birthday, I am thankful to God for every one of his 731 days, and every one we may be blessed with in the future.

Two years ago, around three in the morning, I went from, “I’ll probably have a baby some time in the next 24 hours,” to, “I’m having a baby right freaking now!” It had been a very snowy few weeks, but I lucked out and went into labor in one of the few hours it wasn’t snowing. Otherwise, we would certainly have welcomed our baby on the highway. Twenty whirlwind minutes after arriving at the hospital, my Jaybird was born.

Photo Credit: Kara Jo Prestrud

Since then, he’s lived up to his dramatic arrival – when he decides he wants something, whether it’s a toy, a new skill, or just to be born, he wants it now and goes for it. Jay lives in the moment like no one I’ve ever met. He is always 100% where his is, what he is doing, how he is feeling. As someone decidedly lacking that quality, I learn from him every day. I’ve never really been able to imagine Jay aging, because he perfectly embodies whatever age and stage he is in. When he was a baby, he was SO BABY. Now, he is SO TODDLER. He is a strange and wonderful combination of id and quiet wisdom.

When Jay is upset, you can be sure we hear about it (along with everyone in the county) and no attempt at distraction can calm him. This Sunday I was sick, and watched church at home; I could hear Jay in the background crying on and off throughout the service. Upon taking his seat at church, he decided he wanted different shoes, and refused to be consoled…for over an hour! He will not be diverted from feeling his feelings to the full. And when he’s done that, he throws himself into the enjoyment of whatever is next.

He tries new things with aplomb and, undeterred by failure, keeps trying until he succeeds. Jay fearlessly says words he’s nowhere close to saying correctly; he watches his older brother, sure he can do all the same things (usually he’s right, and we nervous adults are wrong); and he tries to solve problems himself before asking for help. Basically, he assumes himself capable, and doesn’t get discouraged by imperfection. At the same time, he is perfectly content to do things at his own pace, and won’t be pressured to do what he’s not ready for (or not do what he is ready for.) This is how I ended up with a baby who crawled before he could sit upright, and climbed around playgrounds before he could walk.

Two years old!

In a season of life where I’ve often had to sit with some uncomfortable feelings, Jay teaches me to let myself feel it rather than trying to distract it away. He teaches me not to compare myself to others, to accept what I’m not ready for and to assume myself capable of what I am ready for. He teaches me to live in the moment.

Which brings me back to the beginning, because living in the moment is the best way to combat a tendency to take things for granted. I try not to take my family for granted, but often that has turned me to fear and anxiety about the future. But anxiety grasps what it fears to lose, it doesn’t cherish what it is grateful to have. So I’m trying to be like Jay, to live in the moment with gratitude for all I have.

Happy birthday, Jaybird. By the grace of God, may I cherish every moment I am blessed to be with you, and continue to learn from your wise little soul.

So, What Happened to Us?

I suppose it’s rather ominous that my last post was over a year ago and detailed how me and my family were jumping into a brand new life and starting a business with just a few month’s savings. It’s been a busy year and I’m to jump back into blogging, but should probably provide some update on where we’re at first. Bear with me because we’re going to cover a lot of ground very quickly!

Well.

Our estimate of savings needed was correct! Exactly, terrifyingly correct. Just as we were reaching the bottom of our savings, the business hit critical mass thanks to the amazing efforts of my brilliant, hard-working husband. In the past year he’s turned a fledgling solo practice into a sustainable, stable business. And as I always suspected, he’s so much happier working for himself that every sacrifice to get his business rolling was 100% worth it.

Small space, big view

We spent the last year living in a small basement apartment. Despite its flaws the price made our financial goals for the year possible, and it was in an absolutely beautiful location. We were very lucky to enjoy this beautiful view every day for a year, and it made the inconveniences of a tiny apartment much more manageable!

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Bub enjoying our back yard last fall. We were so lucky to live in such a beautiful location!

Did I mention we had a baby?

Meet Jonathan (AKA Kid or Baby J), born in March 2019. He’s been happy, healthy, and HUGE (compared to our first-percentile Bub, at least!). He even started sleeping through the night at two months! (that’s about 18 months faster than our first!) The Bub loves him and has been a wonderful big brother. This, more than anything else, is the reason I’ve been absent from blogging. Moving, starting over in a new town, starting a business, and caring for a toddler was a piece of cake – but add in morning sickness, and it became a bit much.

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Photo credit goes to my amazing doula, Kara Jo Prestrud of Birth Made Beautiful

Where are we now?

We moved to a house in May (renting), and are pretty settled in after a few hiccups (turns out a new baby and a move are a bit hard for a toddler). We’ve been enjoying having a home office for The Husband, a proper kitchen for me, and lots more space for kiddos to roam inside and out!

What’s with the new name?

I’m back and hoping to continue blogging more regularly. I’ll be making a few changes to the blog – still writing a lot about frugality and simple living, but broadening my subject matter to include more on motherhood, books, and other interests. I’ve named it Very Good Mom Blog because I wanted to convey the quality of my work without seeming flashy (also because I love Parks and Rec).

I’m excited to be back!

(I know I covered a lot of BIG things very quickly here! So, if you’re interested in more details on anything or curious about some things I didn’t touch on, please feel free to send me a message or leave a comment!)