Through My Doorways

Thursday, November 22, 2018

As I was moving through my home one day, puttering and tidying, something made me pause a moment in the hall by my bedroom and I looked into a doorway I walk into and out of all the time. And this time, instead of looking past the familiar, I looked AT it. Just stood and looked. And I realized that if I let myself, I could really love what I was seeing. The story being told in this one frame. How my husband has loved and collected Legos for as long as I've known him, and this dressertop has become a magical place where all his favorite sets get to stay. The bookshelf that holds the miscellany of books we read to the kids when we're all piled in our bed together and the books the kids thumb through when they have Quiet Time in our room. The "Bordeaux" sign I got Joe for a wedding gift becuase it was where he served his mission. The funny photos in the frame that used to hang in our entryway, but that I took down when we had Larkin, since her photo wouldn't fit in the 5-hole frame. A hastily-taped up Father's Day card to Joe from Quinn.Random catchall piles. A carpet needing vacuuming. 

All of this so commonplace to me that I mostly never really stop to notice anymore.  But in this moment, it was sweet to me. It softened my heart and reminded me of how infinite the blessings really are in my life. So I decided, right then, to go get my camera and stand in as many doorways in my home as possible. No tidying, no waiting for a good moment...just a pause in each doorframe and a photograph. So here, on a lowkey November afternoon, are some peeks through my doorways.

Through the doorway into the guest room:
Our guestroom has also been Noah's Lego workspace for a year now. He saved and saved and saved last year for that massive Minecraft Lego set on the card table, and was able to buy it for his birthday back in 2017. It was so big and complex that we set up the table in here for him to build it, and for it to have a home for awhile so he could enjoy the set. he has since added three-ish additional small Minecraft sets to accompany the big one, and while he loves sitting here to play, his absolute favorite thing to do with Legos, it turns out, is to commandeer the leftover bits and spare parts from every set and make robots and drones and weapons and other imagination inventions, all teeeeeeeny tiny, and make them the star of his playtimes. So funny! To have the huge sets, but love the teeniest bits best. 

Through the doorway into the kids' bunkroom: 
I took these photos during Thanksgiving break, and the night before, I mentioned to them that if they made their bed each morning, I'd give them a dime each time. Something about that shiny dime really inspired them, and my kids made their beds every morning for over a week before sputtering out and losing the habit. I should remind them again that the dime offer still stands. Ha ha!  We also had time earlier in the day before this photo to do some room-tidying. It truly almost NEVER looks this nice, so it was a really neat treat to happen upon a tidy room when I had my camera in hand. Also, unavoidable self-portrait here. Dang mirror doors.

Kids' Room, closeup of other side:
Looking pretty tidy here, too. Hooray! Not shown: the pile of dressups tucked against the wall the door frame is in. Conveniently easy to omit from this shot. 

Through the doorway into the dining room:
Our cheerful yellow walls that still have patching putty spots that never got painted over. Oh well. A moon that has a remote control to light it up into phases like crescent, quarter and full. Salt and pepper shakers up on the windowsill to keep them away from Larkin. Little plastic pig figurines on the windowsill for the Bad Manners Pig initiative at mealtimes (if you display bad manners at the table, a parent can bestow the Bad Manners Pig upon you. If someone else makes a manners error, then the pig goes to them. Last person to have the Bad Manners Pig has to clear the entire table at the end of dinner. We almost never play this game. But the pigs are there just in case we need to.) And Larkin's half-finished Happy Meal, abandoned. I make zero apologies for the occasional Happy Meals we bring home. 

Through the doorway, into the Photo Room:
Part playroom, part office, part music room, this front room recently got a cheerful update in the form of that beautiful red bench Fiona is sleeping on. I have NO ROOM for more furniture in my home, but when I walked past this bench at the fall Vintage Market Days, I fell so completely in love. It's so cute in its proportions, and the red color is perfection. The seat is a dark walnut color. I kept walking past and telling myself I had NO ROOM for new furniture in my home. But I went home that evening and walked around my house, and decided that if I had to, I would sell or store my little yellow school desk that has been in this spot since we moved here five years ago. And VOILA-- I now had a space for the red bench. Woooo!! And now, a couple of months later, I have NO regrets. Clearly, neither does Fiona. 

Through the doorway, into the Photo Room, detail shot:
Quilts and dolls and a glaring kitty. (Don't take my picture. Harrumph.)

Through the doorway into the living room:
Look closely and you'll see three Southerland kiddos. Can you name that movie? Also, laundry baskets are always here behind the couch. At least one is empty?? Also, Quinn loves those red pants, and somehow always tries to pair them with that orange shirt. Yikes. Oh well. It's a cute detail I'll laugh at someday. I still hate these curtains, but they are NAILED IN, like, needing a CROWBAR to remove, so I continue to just live with them. It's all good. I spy #melaniequilt. 

Through the doorway into the kitchen pts. 1 and 2: 
Peekaboo, Lucy. ♥


It's simple. We have abundance and light. We just have to remember to see it. Really see it. I love my home. I love the people populating my home. And I love when I remember to say THANK YOU to all that I am blessed with.

The Day After the Snow Day

Friday, November 16, 2018

The three older kids have been put on the bus and the baby is still sleeping. The house is warm, and it is quiet. My focus for November was supposed to be, appropriately, "Thankful", and yet I've not done a great job at pausing to think of things I am thankful for. It's been so busy-- photo sessions and rehearsals and church callings and visits and lunchdates and flu shots and even a snow day. It's been challenged by upsets in the routine. By fresh things to worry about. By colds and coughing coming from various rooms in the house. 

But right now, the day-after-the-snow-day, with the older kids dressed, fed, combed, bundled, and sent off to school and the little bundle of energy and opinions still slowly stirring to the morning light in her room... with only the sound of the dishwasher and the furnace quietly in the background, I am taking a very intentional moment to pause and say, "this moment is a gift, and I am at peace." I am feeling the calm of the in-between. And I am thankful. I am the MOST thankful for the life in between the calm--- those crazy kids, that steadfast husband, the friends and the family and the adventures and the life experiences-- but this morning I am also profoundly grateful for the pauses in between, when there is enough space to reflect and remember. If not for these beautiful pauses, I'm afraid my life would just keep sweeping me along and I wouldn't be able to say, as I whipped past another experience, thing or person, "that was amazing! I'm so lucky! Hooray for this adventure/humorous mishap/life lesson!" Perhaps that's a skill I need to work on-- to be able to grab those realizations in the middle of the frenzy-- but that's a hard one. And I'm not there yet. 

So for today, I am relishing this sunny, quiet, peaceful morning pause. And with it, all the hard stuff and the crazy stuff and the good stuff I've been experiencing all this month are settling into focus and I am able to say THANK YOU to all of it. I am thankful for it, every bit. "Life is brutal. But it's also beautiful. Brutiful, I call it. Life's brutal and beautiful are woven together so tightly they can't be separated...So now I embrace both, and I live well and hard and real..." -Glennon Doyle Melton 

Happy second-half-of November. I hear a Larkin beginning to squawk, so this moment is nearly done. Time to get back to work. 

Halloween: The Year of the Waterbear

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018: The Year of the Waterbear

It's the yearly tradition of Halloween costume portraits, huzzah! From oldest to youngest (and weirdest to most common), I present to you my cute, crazy kids, all decked out and ready to trick-or-treat.
Noah, age almost-11:  He learned about waterbears/tardigrades this past year, and they have risen to the prime position of "favorite animal" for him. It made him extra proud to see them featured in the summer move Ant Man and the Wasp, and has read endlessly about them, sharing random facts about them at the dinner table. So when he decided to be one for Halloween, I wasn't the least bit surprised. His costume was the only one I had to make this year, and despite it being kind of epic, it was really really really easy.  Check out my fluffy, stuffed, fleecy, clawed waterbear:
And for reference:

This kid--- fantastic. One-of-a-kind. And REEEEALLLLY huggable in this getup. ♥

Lucy, age 7.5: Well, it was no surprise when she began talking about being a unicorn for Halloween. I figured the more rainbowy the better. But it was in early September when she took her idea to the NEXT LEVEL. Upon spotting a"ride-on unicorn" costume at HomeGoods, she begged to have it/be it for Halloween. Better yet, she decided that she didn't want to be the formulaic "princess riding a unicorn", she wanted to go ahead and still be a unicorn herself. So her costume became "Lucy: The Unicorn Riding a Unicorn."  Still with lots of rainbows. 

(And extra-special shoutout to my friend Beth Maue for the perfect custom unicorn shirt she made for Lucy. It became the perfect base for her costume! 

With two trunk-or-treats and these photos under our belts, Lucy has had plenty of chances to get her unicorn makeup done. She ADORES having glitter on, and probably would let me draw rainbows on her face daily. She also requested a tulle tail, so we made her a super-simple flowy one together. 

This last shot? My very favorite of her. ♥

Quinn, age 5.5: this cute kiddo had other ideas for his costume for most of the summer. But then Joe got them hooked on the new remake of the 80's robot cartoon Voltron, and that was that. Quinn decided he REALLLLY wanted to be Voltron. Luckily, A.) I'd only bought an $8 mask for his other idea and hadn't gone any further with it yet B.) The online shop for Spirit Halloween had a Voltron costume in his size. EASY PEASY.

 When Noah was this age, he had the equivalent style of costume as Bumblebee from the Transformers, and I think if a 5-year-old-boy wants to be a faux-muscled robotic character in the cheap polyester costume, THEY DESERVE THAT. It's a joy for them, and I love how they light up to become the character they love.  I mean, look at this cute kid. ♥

Larkin, age 2: I had a million ideas for this one. But I ended up going with one of the most classic kid costumes of all time. Second only, maybe, to a witch. A black kitty. She loves our actual black kitty Fiona,  she's down with getting a kitty face painted on (thank you, liquid eyeliner!!), and she has a perfectly darling "NEOW!" (yes "Neow", not "Meow"). Now that I have seen her all dolled up in full costume, I cannot imagine her in anything cuter than this. A perfect 2-year-old costume. 

And she was REALLY willing to cooperate for photos. So because of that, and because she's so CUTE, and my last baby, I just.... took ALL THE PHOTOS. And I'm sharing all the photos. I bet you money you won't get sick of them, even though you'll be scrollin' for awhile. I mean, all those expressions. She's a darling black kitty heart-melter. That's all. ♥

(She's saying "NEOW" here...)

For all the madness of getting costumes ready, and then getting them dressed at LEAST three different times during the season, usually beginning two WEEKS before the actual 31st (meaning I have to get to work earlier than I usually do, haha)-- so much work that Joe and I mostly don't even bother to attempt costumes of our own, which we want to remedy someday-- for all of that, I LOVE this. I love costuming my kids, finding a way to make their harebrained ideas a reality... And I LOVE seeing them so free and joyful in their final getups. And though getting the portraits is almost always a study in mom-photographer-frustration, I NEVER regret making them a priority and making them happen. I have YEARS of these portraits in my archives now, and hope to have years ahead of many many more. 

Happy Halloweeeeeeeen, friends! Have a spooky, sweet night! 


Four Yahoos

Monday, August 13, 2018

On the eve of the kids' first day back to school, this year featuring THREE of the four getting on that school bus, I wanted to say a few things. 
1. While I am READY and thrilled to send Noah, Lucy and Quinn on their way, and have fantasized frequently about what life might look like with just me and the Larkin-girl toodling around town all day every day, I'm grateful for summer break and for all the time we've had together. 

2. Even when that time together made the house kind of a mess. 

3. And kind of loud. 

4. And a little challenging.

5. Like, not easy to run errands with all four all the time. 

6. Still, these kiddos are pretty neat humans, and I sure love them. Love being with them. Love seeing them grow, watching their minds work, seeing what tickles their funny bones. 

7. So on the eve of the kids' first day back to school, (alternate name: the eve of the Era of Larkin and Mom Painting the Town) I just wanted to post a handful of photos of them in their natural summer environment, eating a late breakfast of cold cereal, being goofy/cute/silly/marvelous. We won't get this season back, and next year they'll all be even older and even more themselves... so this is for the NOW. Here's to loving it just as it is. 

Good luck tomorrow, my yahoos.

Only Love Today: Freewriting About the NOW

Thursday, August 9, 2018

At the beginning of this year, I landed on the idea that, instead of a full year's resolution, I would instead try for a monthly "focus". For someone as wishy-washy as me, it felt more likely to succeed. I always have grand intentions, but, like a lot of folks, after the initial fervor it's easy to let the intentions drift away. Too, what may be something I really NEED at one point of the year might not be at ALL what I need at another point of that same year. Choosing something monthly allowed me to sit in a quiet place at the start of each month and really ponder my wants and needs for that exact moment. Choosing the focus, I could then lean into that one area above others for those weeks when the resolution is still fresh. And then, by the time it was fading, it would be time for another sit-down-and-ponder and a fresh focus. 

It's been really lovely. Truly a marvelous spin on New Years' Resolutions. And hey-- some months, nothing has felt like the right fit, and that's important for me to listen to as well. One month, over a week into the month, I realized that what I felt, every time I tried to come up with a focus, was this resistant feeling, and then the phrase "let it go". Like, "Okay, self-- don't fight for it so hard. If it's not apparent, that's okay. Let it go." And so that became my focus for the month. Just letting it go. Funny enough, the very next month was even more challenging, and I never did pick a focus (as you can see in the above photo). And that is okay too. When the project becomes a burden, it no longer serves its purpose. So having a month "off" was okay, too. 

But then August rolled around. And with it, a lot of feelings. Relief that it was a new month, a new chance to try... a building sense of being DONE with the summer mess and constantness of keeping four kids happy and healthy at home day in and day out. Less IRRITABLE than July, but definitely more WEARY overall. An itch for order again. For routine. A flutter of eagerness to have some space, time and solitude. Not because I don't love my kids or want to be around them-- but because I think for all the space and time we've had this summer, they also thrive in the drive and push and routine of the school year... and I think we remember to cherish our togetherness more when we don't have it all the time. 

I found myself tensing up at all the "buildup" of summer break-- both physical and intangible. A buildup of laundry. A buildup of energy unused because of it being too hot to be outside much. A buildup of STUFF that the kids would bring down from their room everyday, then forget to bring back up at the end of the day. A buildup of "to dos" on my end because of lack of solo-time and lack of energy, both being expended in summer parenting instead. A buildup of anxious "wishing" on my end-- wishing for things to be different, tidier, quieter, easier, more fun and less bicker-y. 

With all of this piling up, I found myself not in the moment AT ALL-- constantly annoyed at something or other because it had been this way TOO LONG. Time for CHANGE! New school year COMING, finally!! I was spending all my time waiting for something better and being annoyed that it wasn't better YET. 

So I stood in the middle of my kitchen one afternoon. I glared at my counter and all the JUNK everyone had contributed to its chaos. I glared at the recycling that my husband never seemed to see and empty. I glared at the trail of things Larkin had taken out of my desk drawer AGAIN and left scattered everywhere. I glared at the scummy spots on the floor. And I contemplated my focus for the month. Sharply, with annoyance, I considered doing a repeat of "Order". Or "Re-center". Hammering my heart and my life back into some kind of controlled schedule. Whipping things back into shape.

And it felt.... just as yucky as the mess. 

So I paused and tried to breathe a little. And soften. I tried to remind myself what was good about NOW. That soon I'd be sending three of my four off to school on the bus every day, which, for the moment, sounded like HEAVEN, but would also, ultimately, be bittersweet. I tried to remind myself that soon enough, SO SOON, I'd have so much more space for "order" and "re-centering". Soon it would be just me and the little yahoo (still making desk messes) and some flexibility and freedom in my days. Soon it would even be MY FAVORITE SEASON and we could all get back outside again. All of this-- so good, coming so SOON. 

But right now? Despite the mess and the noise, there was good in the NOW. We have all been luxuriously sleeping in every morning. Oh my gosh, it's glorious. We've all had slow, lovely, sun-filled mornings starting our days at our own paces. When I get Larkin out of bed, there is no hustle needed, and lots of time for games and songs as I get her changed and dressed. My kids have long ago settled into the rule of "no TV til afternoon" and it's been deeply satisfying for me to watch them disperse after breakfast to find ways to amuse themselves. And every day, no matter what our adventures or non-adventures of the morning have been, we have had a set Quiet Time while Larkin naps, and everyone has thrived with that hour of peaceful stillness all summer long. Despite the mess and the noise of having all four around me and my home all day, all summer, we've had a lovely "un-routine" and we've done okay inside it. Better than okay. 

And it's nearly over until next summer. 

So instead of wishing it away, and trying to wrangle life into order right now, maybe it was time to lean into it. Maybe even LOVE it. And the title of one of my current favorite books, a parenting/advice book by the Hands-Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford, came to mind: Only Love Today. Only love today. You can read those three words a few different ways, and all of them fit what I needed for August. 

Only love today. 

Stafford writes in her intro, 
"Only love today, I silently repeated until the noise in my head quieted and I could be right where I needed to be-- in this moment.
... An unexpected blanket of peace settled over me, offering a crystal-clear perspective:
Those messy piles on the kitchen counter don't matter.
Those snug-fitting pants strewn on the floor of my closet don't either. 
That opportunity I missed fifteen years ago and still think about today will need to go now. 
That traffic I'll face taking Natalie to swim team practice won't faze me. ...
Even the nonstop rain sounds quite soothing as it beats down on the roof of my house for the ninth straight day.

In that forty-five-second pause to check the status of my heart, I received the ultimate reprieve: the distractions fell away... the pressure subsided... the worries dissipated... the weight lifted. What mattered most came into clear focus."

Only love today. Not annoyance at what ISN'T. Only love. Not wishing the days away until BETTER days come. Only love TODAY. Today. Love today. 

And so. As I have found myself tightening back up through the first week of August, hating the countertop, the laundry, the bickering, the feeling like I'm doing all the work... I have been able to stop, step back, and say to myself, "Love today." And then look around for something, anything, in the moment that I can appreciate or be grateful for. And it gets me back into the present and helps me see the good above the annoying. 

I have been able to walk past the messes that are making me lose my mind and whisper to myself, "That WILL get done. Be at peace. More time is coming. Until the right time opens up for it, though, let it go and only love today." The constant pile of papers and art messes on the dining room table (pictured above)?  It's okay. It'll get done eventually. But Larkin in her swimsuit atop her clothing, AGAIN? That's more fun to look at. The kids getting along during lunch? I will spend my energy looking at that and loving that, instead of glaring at the paper pile. 

The massive stack of boxes and baskets in my bedroom, filled with old baby clothes that need to be sorted, photographed and put for sale online (pictured below)? It's OKAY. It'll keep for another few months if it has to. I will look away from that and notice instead how sweetly Lucy and Quinn are playing together again this Quiet Time-- as they've done nearly every single Quiet Time this summer, devising elaborate Imagination Games together, without my help, like I've dreamed for my kids to do since before I had any. 

Only love today. There is a very dominant part of my nature that wants to wrangle control over my universe so I can step back and nod in satisfaction at how it all makes sense. But that is not how life works, and more often than not, very little is really in my control. Especially when it comes to the four little humans I'm raising here. Instead of finding reasons to be annoyed all day long, I choose love. I'm not great at it still-- I think it is my life's work to keep softening and seeing and letting go and learning to laugh at myself-- but I'm practicing it as often as I can remember to. I choose love. 

Only love. Today. 


(Photo details:
1. my "year at a glance" bullet journal spread, featuring this month's focus, "Love Today"
2. & 3. Blasted counters. I've given up. Groceries will get put away eventually. And the clutter counter next to it? I.... don't know. I give up. Maybe in September I'll put that stuff away and it'll be clear for three days. Until the buildup begins again. 
4. Laundry is now permanently residing behind our couch. But hey, it's all clean!
5. I'm really really done with providing lunch for four every single day.  McDonalds has been supplementing a LOT. I'm not going to apologize. At least the Happy Meals have apples in them. 
6. I think Fiona had just nibbled his forehead here. Not sure how that's done, but it's what Quinn claims happened. 
7. A rare, lovely moment where Noah decided on his own to play the cello and everyone came to hang out while he did. 
8. In a stroke of luck and brilliance, I grabbed a "shrinky dink" kit from Five Below last week and it has been a hit. Especially the watching of the shrinking. Also, we're nearing a bum-crack emergency here, obviously. Maybe I should sort out the too-small shirts from their drawers. NEXT MONTH. Only love today. 
9. Speaking of today, Elise is in town TODAY today. Like, THIS ACTUAL DAY! How cute is this Larkin/Aunt Elise selfie?
10. Lucy and Quinn during today's quiet time, totally immersed in their Happy Meal toys (for once) and playing so well together.
11. If we're gonna binge on cartoons, at least we're doing it together, snuggled and cozy.)
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