Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Word to Live By

Happy New Year's Eve!

Every day, I think "today will be the day I start blogging again". Every day, I think, "I'll blog after ____ ____ _____ (the thank-you's are written, that email is sent, that event is organized, that meal is finished, that laundry is folded, that book is read)". So, ah, that's not working. And so today I will post something, even if it's one paragraph. So, today is the day, I fit one last post in before 2012. I really do hope to write more in the coming year, I feel dry without it and I know that it's something that I have to will during this season - if only for the sake of my heart, and for a keepsake for Karis. Memories are something I value so dearly, and typing them out (and sharing with others, if you so choose to read and keep up with our simple daily delights and, sometimes, disasters) is a balm for my heart.

There is too, too much about 2011 that I want to bottle up in my heart and mind and keep to take out for later. This has been a momentous year in many ways, and really we are just humbled to be in a phase of life that many times feels too good to be true: we're surrounded by faithful family with whom we get to see often and share special moments together, both having adventures and just enjoying the daily-ness of life. This year we spanned the spectrum of grief and celebration: from celebrating my best friend's wedding, to my Grandpa Bob's going to Glory, to the wedding of a dear cousin, to a DeKrey family reunion, to a trip to IN to see dear friends while Trev and his brothers/buds celebrated his 30th by kayaking the Minnehaha Creek and making our house a man-cave for a weekend . . .  celebrating Karis's 2nd birthday . . . a restored relationship with one of Trev's brothers, and skipping ahead to today when we are celebrating the engagement of one of our brothers' to a fabulous woman. Life is full.

There's a certain way I've been framing this past year as we fall into grooves/routines/rhythms in our daily family life: habits. Not a new idea, but one that I've been discussing with friends and doing some interesting reading on, habits have become a lifeforce as we navigate how to make the most of the days we've been given. It's a joy to watch them evolve, mostly we've been focusing on establishing good habits, and in doing that it seems that the bad habits are eventually replaced and shoved out of the way (although I have plenty of bad habits to work on, the positive spin and focusing on good habits is so much more hopeful!).

Our summer habits evolved to include two main activities around which our days revolved: outside time and reading time. We built Karis's endurance to the max by taking her to a nearby field where she ran, and ran, and ran. Can I just say, I LOVE watching that girl RUN! She is so free, so graceful, so uninhibited. She discovered trees, branches, a "balance beam", berries, the empty skating rink, pine cones, dandelions, flowers. She discovered that Trevor will carry her home on his shoulders, and that if it is a very special day that she will get to walk to the park. I clearly remember walking her to the park one day and thinking "I can't believe she walked that far". By August, that walk was a peace of cake. Again, the endurance. For all of us! We've never been so active, we're thankful for the physical abilities we've been given. The library became a favorite place for us, and books have become our dear friends. They became a means by which to cuddle with Karis, to connect with her in between those bursts of running. I never thought I'd feel anxious to read on the library's home page "As of January 1, you may only have 30 items checked out a time". I am at 31 right now and so we will make some returns today.

Our winter habits have revolved around holidays and most recently, advent, Christmas, the 12 days of Christmas, and soon Epiphany. Karis's favorite part is the nativity and the candles, she's getting quite good at blowing them out. She also adores Christmas carols and it's been our joy to watch her dance and sing - latest favorites are "Gloria" (Angels we Have Heard on High) and "Silent Night". We've also been blessed with daily walks (um, this weather - awesome!) to "see the reindeer" - which is a tour of the inflatable lawn ornaments in our neighborhood - they even play music. Bliss! I never considered such decorations until now, I feel like I need to write a thank-you to the houses who let us loiter in their yards as they sat down to dinner. Maybe if you visit our home next year, you can find a huge snow-globe in our backyard and hum the "Nutcracker Suite" with us. I look at Karis and can't help but think of baby Jesus, who was a toddler, and grew to be our Savior. To see Christmas through Karis's wide eyes is a gift I never expected to experience and I am grateful.

What new habits will 2012 bring? Well, Trevor is implementing some that work toward a fun goal: doing a race in May called the "Tough Mudder"! I continue to be in awe of Trevor's can-do spirit, he stays positive and present amidst what has been an intense, growing, and rewarding year of work and parenting and marriage (not necessarily in that order). I appreciate his example of adaptability, focus, spontaneity, & laughter. Trevor, I probably told you to read this post . . .  please know how much I love, adore, and respect you.

Something I've read about in a couple places lately is picking a "word to live by" for every year. That idea just strikes this excited cord in my mind and heart, and I think I've received my word: GRACE. There are myriad reasons to relish this word, my favorites being:

1 - Grace is the meaning of Karis's name (and of my mom's name, so special!)
2 - The word "grace" has so many derivatives, all of which I am going to claim as part of the "word to live by": gracious, gift, gratitude, and more that I have yet to discover.

Grace is such an active word, even though it's a noun. We can give grace, receive grace, refuse grace. We can BE grace. We can SEE grace. We can FEEL grace. We can CHOOSE grace. Yes, Grace, enter into 2012 in whatever ways you can. I'm sure I will forget you, but please let me know that your nature is to forgive when I do. Thank you, God, for BEING Grace.

I have to say: I think New Year's Eve and Day are two of the most precious days of the year. Trevor is such a sport and humors all the endless questions of the "best of" - best book? best movie? best laugh? best cry? best road trip? best meal out? best date?  the list can go on, and on, and on. And then the looking ahead to hopes for the year to come - I may have mentioned last year that I choose to use the word "hope" instead of "goal", it's just so much more, well, hopeful. I probably could use some concrete goals, too (like, go to the dentist. take dates with your husband). Good thing the year is long - and technically, the new year hasn't even begun. Ah yes, there is a lot of hope indeed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Grief Observed

Yes, we're still here. Actually, we're here, there, & everywhere it seems. The end of May started a season of travel for our little family of three, and since then we've run the gamut of grief and celebration. My very dear grandfather passed away in May, I'm sure it would be nearly impossible to sum up everything surrounding the sadness of losing him and yet the assurance of his life everlasting. To be honest, the whole topic feels too tender and sacred to blog about publicly. Grandpa Bob was a remarkable man and his legacy lives on in a myriad of his family and friends.

Early June found us at a family reunion in Park Rapids, the same place we were at a year ago when Karis started crawling (it seems to be a habit to reference everything in relation to "a year ago when Karis was . . . "). Late June we were celebrating in Bismarck at a dear cousin's wedding, and last weekend Karis and I took our first "girly" vacation to see some of our very best friends in Indianapolis. The time together was supremely special, in ways I didn't even expect. Karis and her little friend "V" clicked right away and my friends and I fell right back into comfortable and companionable conversation for days straight. I'm still grieved that they live a plane ride away, but to see friends happily settled where they are meant to be launched me from denial to acceptance.

Grief is a topic I've been pondering a lot these last couple months, realizing that it really is such an ongoing part of life. Our days are filled with gains and losses, and I'm thankful that there is a word by which to frame our experiences. I recently read the following line in a book, the quote is a father speaking to his family after grieving the tragic loss of a family friend:

"There'll be deaths, births, marriages, fun, and sorrow . . . just meet 'em all fair and square. Face facts no matter how bad. Then, come what will, you'll be ready for everything. Pull yourselves together and just go on with your livin' like as always."

To be honest, we have so much to celebrate right now that any drama I create is contrived. Trevor is rounding a year at his "new" job, turning 30, and going to Panama on a missions trip (did I mention he had a "brother and friend birthday bash" here while I was away last weekend? From what I hear, everyone had a good time - Karis and I were thankful to be out of the way in IN!) 

Trevor and I are savoring the summer days of being outside with Karis, exploring, pointing out green trees and yellow flowers, watching her "whee" on the slide, tasting ice cream treats for the first time, learning how to use the "potty", listening to her vocabulary explode. Every day is gone in a blink, yet so full that I can't keep up with the changes. This week she is recalling our recent travels: "airplane. bye-bye. home", and friends "mimi, eeki, beh, ah-nie". She is obsessed with sitting on the potty (naked) and loves to read her book about baby shoes. She sometimes screams when we have to get dressed for the day and is often either needing to be in my lap or pushing me away. There is so much to learn about this little girl! Her very best friend is still "Dee", her name for the little boy that is here a few days a week. Dee's family have continued to be dear friends and confidants as we all experience first-time-parenting together.

Someone asked me recently if they thought my mind had atrophied since I started staying at home. My answer was no! I feel like I'm making a thousand little decisions a day, many on behalf of an innocent and somewhat helpless (yet very willful!) child. The topics to ponder, learn about and discuss are endless: discipline, routine, traditions, learning, faith, development, nutrition, activities . . . I am often overwhelmed with all I'd love to research and do. Karis and I start the day praying for our time to be used as it should, and that seems to be a good place to start. Every day is an adventure, there are always people from whom to learn and other people who need encouragement and blessing. I am constantly and humbly reminded that Karis is watching every move I make and that the best lessons will be taught by my example, not my words. That too can be overwhelming! She teaches me many things daily, and I thank God for her reminders to LIVE, have FUN, explore, be adventurous, laugh, give hugs. make eye contact, express how I'm really feeling.

It's only taken me about 5 days to compose this post! Maybe "talk" to you again before the year is over . . . ha! Today's full-disclosure-you-have-to-have-a-toddler-to-appreciate moment: Karis took her first "2" in the potty. Let me tell you, it was a BIG deal. She was actually kind of frightened and didn't seem to know what was going on, poor thing. I tried to convey how exciting it was and we made a big ceremony out of taking it to the "big potty" and I taught her how to flush it. She loved that! The fun reward was splashing her hands around in a tupperware full of water on the kitchen floor - she was in heaven. Oh if only I could guarantee lasting bliss over such simple things.

Here are some recent pictures . . . 

Father's Day

 K and V, such sweet friends

4th of July special treat - her very own smoothie at Caribou

K with her "brother Dee", rockin out at 8:30am. These two know how to party. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Oh Karis, how did you get to be 18 months old? Trevor and I looked at some pictures of Karis at about 7 months old and I could have cried. Where did my little baby go? I say that to some people and the frequent response is, "Time for another one!" Well, sure, we'd gladly welcome another baby, but I really would love just one day with my baby Karis. I mean, look at those squishy cheeks, wouldn't you want to have her back for a day?

I recently read this quote from Brideshead Revisited, I thought it was an apt statement for what I'm feeling now: "These memories, which are my life - for we possess nothing certainly except the past - were always with me."  These memories will certainly be with me forever, and I'm so thankful to be able to relish in the past and look forward to the future (and hopefully enjoy the gift of the present).

Our 18-month-old Karis is thriving and amazes us all the time with all that she can comprehend and communicate. She's turning into quite the snuggler and gives the best hugs and kisses. She loves to go "up" Her recent favorite song and activity is doing the sounds and motions to "The Wheels on the Bus", in particular the "beep beep beep" part, during which she pats her ears. Speaking of patting ears, she's learning "gentle" and her sign for that motion is gently patting babies' ears. Oh, and speaking of babies, she loves babies and points them out when we're anywhere near one - and when I point at pictures of Karis, she of course says "baby!" Lukas, affectionately called "D", remains her faithful playmate and favorite person - today she was chasing him around and tackling him in an effort to envelop him in a hug. I did, however, catch her kissing Everett at church on Sunday.

Karis loves to shop and is always delighted to run errands (I'm thankful!). She charms everyone with her bright eyes and sensational smile - we hear a lot of, "what a cute little guy!" to which I politely explain that Karis is a girl with little hair and a cute green coat (with pink hearts!). She's starting to have clothing preferences, can unzip her coat, and brings me hooded sweatshirts and pleads, "pease" to have me put them on her. Her favorite toys seem to change by the day - last week she enjoyed carrying an old remote around and holding it to her ear "talking" on the phone. Later she used the same remote to put on deodorant (after watching Trevor apply his). We enjoyed that one! This little girl has personality, she keeps us on our toes.

This week has been pretty significant in our little world, it's held our first days of absolutely no nursing. I'll be honest, it was rough on all of us - Karis and I are somewhat active (perhaps tightly wound at times) and nursing really was a calming, connecting part of our morning routine. We've both been a bit disoriented, and I realized that both Karis and I really don't handle transitions very well. Ironically, it just so happens that this age and stage of life there are transitions around every corner . . .  so, this is a time of character refinement for sure, as well as tapping into creativity for distraction and ways to make change more palatable for us both. We're spending lots and lots of time playing on the floor and reading books and basically trying to entertain each other. It's a good season and we're all learning together. I'm also loving watching Trevor and Karis bond in new ways as he always finds new ways to make her laugh.

I just read this verse, however, which has called the no-nursing decision into question (along with some pretty weird and wild days around here): Psalm 8:2 "Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have ordained strength." I felt so sad when I read that, and doubted what we're doing. I pray that this is the right decision, it's hard to take something away from Karis that seemed to fill a need in her life for security and comfort.

And yes, I know Karis is a toddler, not an infant - but seriously, I didn't think the "end" would be like this! Karis is getting to enjoy her pacifier more than usual, eating lots of raisins (a treat!), playing tons of the "beep beep" song, reading lots of books and spending a good part of the day in my arms or lap.

I recently read a book that affirmed some of the angst Karis and I seem to feel at times: Your One Year Old: Fun Loving and Fussy. I appreciate resources like this one, and even more so I'm thankful for real-life-resources (read: family and friends) who empathize and encourage through the times of change and adjustment. Karis really does continue to be a true joy, her zeal for life is contagious, her range of feelings helps me to realize my own, her curiosity and delight in the smallest things is a marvel, her understanding and compliance are astounding.

I remember when I was young I always wanted a monkey - well, I think I got my wish. Here's my monkey! Karis still loves to climb and can now easily get up on the coffee table and on our kitchen chairs, where she likes to perch and have a sip of milk and her cheerios. She can almost climb up on our bed without any help, and I should start timing how long it takes her to scamper up and down the stairs. She also LOVES to run, my parents discovered that while watching her at a hotel while I was in a wedding a couple weeks ago - she just about ran her legs off doing laps up and down the hall.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Oh holiday season, to where have you gone? I just told Trevor that I'm feeling some post-holiday doldrums - probably exacerbated by going through pictures from Christmas, wishing we were still with all our families: being lazy, getting fed, enjoying watching them with Karis. 

That said, what a wonderful time we had and I'm now so excited for the new year. I've been processing 2010 in terms of "best of/most" (best book, best movie, best meal out, best date with Trevor, most memorable moment, most awkward moment, most emotional moment). There's a lot to think about, it was a truly grand year. 

I'm also processing the year ahead in terms of "hopes". While I think goals are great, I'm having an easier time thinking about hopes for the year ahead - it just seems more attainable and more fun to think of hopes fulfilled than aggressively seeking goals (at least for this time of our lives). Some hopes: 

- I hope I take more pictures this year
- I hope I can write more and be more creative this year
- I hope Trevor and I can take a short vacation together
- I hope to paint our bathroom
- I hope . . . to prioritize and take time for important things 
- I hope that our family of three can establish some unique traditions
- I hope to be open to anything and everything that God would lead me to and through these next months of 2011.

Karis hilarious is quickly on her way to becoming a 1 and a half year old. Some 17 month memories and milestones: 
  • Running around with her hands in the air and dancing on her tiptoes. So feminine and joyful! 
  • Saying "uh-oh" over and over and especially at appropriate times, e.g. tripping, dropping something . . .
  • Saying "baby" when she sees her baby doll or baby Jesus from her little nativity set
  • Trying to drop her morning nap (still needing it, not wanting it)
  • Dropping daytime feedings, just nursing morning and night (wanting it, not getting it)
  • Getting a molar
  • Sleeping wonderfully well through the night, about 7:30 - 7:30
  • Cuddling more and more. She loves to back up into my lap, which of course melts my heart
  • Scoot down the stairs on her belly
  • Loves to play with other children, but also loves her alone time. When we're with friends, I sometimes catch her off by herself in a different room having some time to herself
  • Is very attached to her grandparents
  • Says' "up" all day long, wanting to be picked up and put down. At this point, "up" means both up and down
  • Nods her head up and down to just about anything
  • Points to her and our body parts with great understanding: hair, ears, nose, eyes, mouth
  • Tells us when she wants to eat and brings us her bib on her way to the high chair. Proceeds to sit there for about a minute and take one bite and then says "up", which means "down"
  • Has a favorite outfit that she carries around and brings to us to put it on her
  • The other night before bed, ran into a wall. Full on just ran into the wall. 
  • Figured out how to get the lid off her snack cup. Makes it pretty purposeless, really.
  • Just tonight went c-r-a-z-y when a friend brought over a smiley face balloon for her to play with. I haven't seen her that excited in a while
  • Crying when I leave the room. Or like tonight at a pizza place, crying when I went to the bathroom. I could hear her the entire time. Poor girl. That leads me to . . . 
Reflections on moms in general: I noticed something over Christmas - there's something about moms - we don't always need them around, but we always want them around. I saw this with Karis - she sure didn't need me or want me to hold her, but she wanted me in the room and to know that I was there. Then there was one afternoon that my mom was gone and it was just me, Karis and my dad at the house. We had a great time of course,  but I sensed that we were both thinking about mom, wondering if she was having a good time, wondering when she'd come back. One night at Trev's house after dinner his mom was upstairs - I marveled at how every single person there within not many minutes asked his dad, "Where's mom"?  There's just something about a mom's presence, I think. I sometimes still can't believe that I am a mom. I'm so thankful.

Just to show how few pictures I took over Christmas, these are some of the most interesting
Christmas day, digging around the fridge

Christmas Eve, eating at what's normally bedtime seems to produce funny faces