Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Sunday

Well, our move got detoured a little bit. We were supposed to move into our townhouse on Friday but it actually isn't ready for a week. So in the meantime, we're staying at Jon's parents. Frankly, I don't really ever want to leave. I have extra parenting help. I don't have a whole house to clean by myself and the other Colyer cousins are over constantly so they always have playmates. It's pretty ideal. I think when we're ready to build a house, we need to just build a little grandparent's cottage onto the back. 
Our Easter Sunday was really wonderful. The big boys got Easter baskets before church. The last couple of years I've taken the opportunity to buy them some sort of Christian books or DVD's since they don't own many. A couple of friends recommended the kids books by Francis Chan and then they got some Larry Boy DVD's. My brother-in-law was hanging out the night before so I put his incredible artistic ability to use and had him decorate their presents. 
I love the morning light in Judie's house. Our last house didn't get any direct sunlight until about 4pm because we didn't really have any front windows. 
This is the only decent picture I got with my boys and the only way it happened was with all of them eating fruit snacks. I'll take it.
I'm still learning to use my DSLR camera in manual mode and it had been a while since I last used it. I had my settings completely wrong and was shooting too fast to notice so these are quite overexposed. But thankfully with outside pictures, there's room for error.
I love pulling out the same sweet blue shirt on Easter Sunday for the third time. I'm going to have to save that one. 
Channing absolutely refused to sit or stand still for a picture. I didn't have any bribing tools with me. I plunked him on that fence railing to at least get all three in a shot but he was not happy about it and was pretty much screaming at me while I snapped these two. I didn't care. They're still cute.

I kid you not, I didn't pose Dawson like this. I told Bennett where to sit and I told Dawson where to sit and then he laid back and I died right then and there. My adorable boys in their Easter best, cuddling up together. Am I allowed to say this is the cutest thing ever?? At least to their grandparents, I am. This next one is getting framed on a wall in our new house.

Don't let these pictures fool you. I'm constantly yelling one thing or another, like, "That's far enough! Come back!" "Don't throw rocks in the horse trough!" "Stop/Stand/Sit for one more picture!" "You can't go under there, it's barbed wire." "Don't crawl under the barbed wire again. You're getting grass stains." It's not just a carefree jaunt down a pretty dirt road. But in the end it's always worth a little craziness.
At one point I handed the camera to Bennett and told him how to focus and click. He went to town. Unfortunately this was the best of the bunch and Channing's eyes are closed. Most of them were of the trees and field. There were several of me and Channing in the very edge of the frame. We'll have to work on that. But he loved it and I loved giving him the chance to do it.
The baby squat slays me every time.

Bare chested with a bunny bucket on his head. What's not to love about this chunky monkey?

Baby armpit fat is my favorite.
This was the first Easter of any that I can remember that we didn't need coats! There's something really special about an Easter day that actually feels like spring. All of the Colyer girls sat out on the deck during the babies' naptime and reveled in the warmth. Judie made a fantastic brunch spread. A three-cheese quiche packed with veggies and bacon will not soon be forgotten. It all just felt really relaxed and lovely, just the way a family holiday should. The big kids had an Easter egg hunt in the backyard, per tradition (2013) (2012) (2011) (2010) (2009). Poor Channing just had to scrounge around for leftovers. I promise I don't love you less, buddy. Someday I'll fill an Easter basket or Christmas stocking for you. Judie and I even snuck out alone that evening to see a movie together. Honestly, it was a glorious day chock full of love and sunshine and Jesus. (Side note, after looking back at those blog posts, I realized we haven't taken a family picture on Easter Sunday since 2009. All I can say is, you're welcome, Honey. And you sorta owe me one.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

a {big} update

A handful of things you might care to know...

I talked about our decision to move here. We sold our house sometime in January after just four showings. But then it fell through. And then it was back on again. But we still didn't have anywhere to move. So I didn't really talk about it much. We've also been walking through a very hard season of marriage, so frankly, the house stuff was the least of my worries. Selling a house and moving is usually a HUGE thing for people but its funny how it's barely been a blip on my stress radar. But lo and behold, our moving date is next week. Sooooo...probably time to start talking about it. It's also probably time to start packing. But I'm so close to the title of World's Best Procrastinator. I'm somewhere around third or fourth place overall. But I think by waiting to pack a single box until a week before our moving date, that will seal my title once and for all. I dare any of you to challenge me. I will dominate you.
And where are we moving, you might ask? For now we're moving into a three bedroom townhouse that's almost directly across the street from where we live now. (I'll probably just start chucking things across the street, rather than packing it all up.) Ideally we'd be moving into our perfect home in the woods, just a few minutes from my in-laws, but God's holding us up. The lady hasn't sold it to anyone else (it's been quite a long, drawn-out, process trying to acquire that property) so we're crossing our fingers that one day it'll be ours. Until then, we continue to look at pieces of land further out in the country. I just really, really (REALLY) don't want to live half an hour or more away from my in-laws since we're such a close-knit family and are at their house all the time. Trusting God fully that He'll lead us right where He wants us at just the right time. In the mean time, I'm pretty excited to down-size. For the past four years we've lived in a very comfortable home. Not too big, not too little. But this past year, as I've taken on more and more of the household responsibilities due to Jon's schedule (and our little caboose has taken on more and more responsibility of making messes), I've become increasingly overwhelmed to the point of sheer misery. It's always a mess, all the time. And I hate it. So I think this is a small way of receiving grace from God in this area. He's giving me a more manageable place for this difficult season. Also, I was itching to repaint the entire first floor of our home to something lighter and brighter, but was having a hard time wrapping my mind around accomplishing that with three little kids, so this gets me out of that too! ;) Now I can have a fresh start with decorating. 
(Random pictures for a random post. Seeing these compared to these, makes me want to get out my big camera again!)

A little Bennett story for you. He cut a chunk from the front of his hair several months ago because he wanted to "look like Dad". But when the time came to actually chop off all of his beloved curls, he chickened out (Phew!!). So we waited and waited for his patch of hair to grow back out in the front. It finally did. A couple days ago he got into some Silly Putty that I had hidden away. He knew he wasn't supposed to have it. He got a chunk of it stuck in the front of his hair. But instead of confessing, he decided to just CUT IT OUT. Because I certainly wouldn't notice a giant chunk of his hair missing right in the middle of his forehead. Y'all, this is no surprise coming from him. He's 6 3/4 and still a very destructive kid. He means well but his little hands never stop. He has a lot of love but he also has a lot of energy that isn't always focused correctly. (Hence, a huge reason that boy needs woods to play in. He can go to town on some logs, rather than on his hair and clothes and bedding and all the other things.) His punishment was no screen-time for a week. That's his kryptonite. His weak spot. I'd been wanting to cut way back once the weather turned anyway, so this was the perfect lead-in to that. Yesterday was five days in (five days that have been much more peaceful, mind you. Turns out that not turning the TV on at all is actually easier on him than watching for three hours and then having to turn it off.) and guess what he said to me? "Mom, I'm actually kind of enjoying this. I might just do it for two extra days." I about fell off of my chair. Glory to the highest, peace on earth, good will to men. I might have cried tears of joy. And if I didn't, my heart surely did. Lesson learned. Thank you, Jesus.
On the subject of Bennett, another major life decision I made recently was to homeschool him next year. He did well in Kindergarten but this year, in first grade, things sort of all fell apart. He begs and begs me to stay home and has shed a lot of tears before school in the mornings. I think it's a combination of things, physical, mental and emotional. Mostly, he's young (a June birthday, one of the youngest in his class) and he's so high-energy so having to focus for such long periods of time isn't easy for him. He's also bored. (I know....this can be a cop-out. But so many of the papers he brings home are things he knew when he was three or four. I know this is playing into it because he really enjoys the days when he's pulled out for advanced curriculum.) I think there are other emotional issues with other kids and teachers, etc. It's been breaking my heart hearing my joyful, smart boy saying he hates school.I'm also not keen on some of the language skills and attitude he's picked up from his peers. Dawson will be in four day preschool next year, so my goal is to just homeschool Bennett for a year, make it as fun as possible, reignite a love for learning (Lord, help me!) and then transition him to the Christian school for third grade. But if we love it, we'll just keep going. No pressure either way. If it ends up being horrible, we'll just switch to the Christian school half-way through the year. I decided a long time ago I was going to homeschool Dawson for Kindergarten and 1st grade (to avoid what happened to Bennett) based on the advice from Bringing Up Boys and Raising Cain. I really challenge you, if you still have a preschool aged son, to read Raising Cain before making up your mind about school. At the very least, look into Montessori options or half-day Kindergarten. But first grade is such a transitional year, that's going to be the toughest one. 

Dawson's still my hilarious, passionate boy. Full of surprises every day. He's still very tough to deal with at times, and get's into the "Red Zone" (a term from Raising Your Spirited Child, that he understands and we talk about a lot.) when he's using a baby voice and usually flailing around and completely unfocused. But if he's not too far gone, I can usually use a few calm words to help him identify it and he'll get himself back to the "Green Zone". (Only after a year of work, is this possible.) Sometimes though, we still have major tantrums and meltdowns that we deal with as best we can. He and Channing clash a lot these days and he's most at peace when he can play by himself, completely uninterrupted for long stretches. 
He's always had heightened senses and being too hot turns him into monster child. He'll start flailing and kicking and screaming and crying and is nearly inconsolable. This winter I learned that he would have to wear his coat to the car but once inside the car, we'd have to take it off. I can't tell you how many times I had to pull over to remove his coat halfway home because he'd get overheated and would absolutely lose his mind (while the rest of us sat comfortably). And since the weather has warmed up, he's already been complaining that the car is too hot and it's only 60 degrees outside. I think I'm actually going to have to buy a clip-on battery powered fan for the car. I don't think either of us will survive the summer without it.
Channing is at such a fun and equally horrible age. His vocabulary is really picking up and he's starting to communicate better. His fit throwing is altogether hilarious to watch sometimes. I've never had a child throw themselves face-down onto the floor so much. Sometimes he does it with just an unhappy little grunt and lays there in silence. (But sometimes there is A LOT of screaming happening. That's not hilarious.) The last week or so, he's had considerably fewer tantrums and I'm praying it sticks. He's taken up wandering out of the yard, though. I actually had to call 911 last week when I was helping Dawson take off his coat and boots inside and by the time I went back out to grab Channing, he was nowhere to be found. And it was cold and windy. He was gone for about twenty minutes total and was found by a bus driver, who knows where. He passed him off to the police before I got to them.  It was horrible and scary and left me feeling like the worst parent ever. Let's move on, shall we?
He's been a tough nut to crack. I see glimpses of such incredible tenderness, it makes me melt. I took Dawson and Channing for a long walk in the woods yesterday. At the end, on the way back to the car, Dawson kept running ahead. He had a bright blue shirt on, so I kept my eye on him (honestly....I do watch my kids most of the time. ;) but I kept having to shout at him to stay within my line of sight. He was way ahead of us for quite some time. And when we finally caught back up to him, Channing squealed with delight and went and hugged him. He always starts whimpering in empathy when either Bennett or Dawson is really upset about something. It's so sweet to see. But boy, is he touchy around people he's not completely comfortable with. He's incredibly shy and slow to adapt to new situations. He has a hell of a temper and is by far my pickiest eater. But it's interesting noticing the subtle differences after having raised a spirited child like Dawson. Its so hard but yet, it's different. Not as intense. His tantrums don't last as long. And if he's being outright naughty, he'll actually respond (some of the time) to a very stern voice or firm squeeze of the hand (or a very, very occasional spank.). All the things I could never say about Dawson at that age. So I have hope that as his vocabulary increases, his screaming will decrease. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hope Spoken

I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to put into words what God placed on my heart this weekend at Hope Spoken in Dallas. At the end I was talking to Jami Nato (I am a shameless name dropper. Deal with it.) and she was like, "You have a blog right? Are you going to write a post about this? I'm not sure if I'm going to." And I was like, (in the calmest voice I could muster because...hello, I was talking to Jami Nato...who really made me feel like I had met Kristen Wiig in the flesh. Which makes it doubly amazing.) "I don't know if I'm going to write about it. It's just so personal. How do you even begin to put it into words?" But then I thought, it's too big not to. I have to try. Forgive me for the length. Sometimes I lack the ability to edit. It all seems important in my head.

(In case you are wondering, I did not play it cool. I was running up and attacking people all weekend professing my great love for them. It was usually well received ;) After the conference I was at lunch with several of these girls and was talking about my introvertedness and Joy Prouty said, "I have a really hard time believing you're an introvert." So evidently I'm an outgoing introvert. Who knew.) 
Here's the thing. I struggle with friendships. I struggle with connecting deeply with women. I moved around so much throughout my childhood, I was constantly wondering if people wanted to be my friend. I was constantly friends with people who already had a lifelong best friend so I often felt like sort of a third (or fifth) wheel. That, coupled with a family that was not very close-knit, I started making poor choices that made me feel better in the moment. A lot of poor choices that changed the course of who I became. That has carried through into adulthood. I still wonder if people really like me and want to be my friend. I have about two best friends (like deep, rich, fully connected friendships, where I don't doubt where I stand with them). One of them is here in Des Moines and one of them lives in California, who I only get to see once a year, if that. I've never had a group of friends I belong in. I wanted the 90210 or Saved by the Bell model where each one is a valued member of the group.
This weekend I became real life friends with a few women who I'd already developed incredibly deep, real friendships with over Instagram. Women I missed desperately and loved before I'd even met. I found my people. I found the women whom my soul longed for. This might sound crazy or overly-dramatic to some but I think most of you women will understand. That need for us to have women in our life who feel like true bosom buddies is a God-given real need. And I was just incredibly humbled by the lifelong (yes, I have no doubt they will be lifelong) friendships God finally brought me through social media and a weekend conference we all took a chance on. I'm humbled because they are all amazing women. Godly, kind, generous, funny, incredibly talented and beautiful women. Sherry, Kirby and Naomi- you each took home a good sized chunk of my heart.

And I was also incredibly humbled (and yes, a wee bit intimidated) that I got to hang out with some of the Blogger Greats, who's lives I've watched unfold for years. Unbelievably inspiring and talented women who are using their gifts for God's glory. I can now officially call each of them a friend and that still blows my mind a little (ok, a lot. I might have teared up when I saw my picture on Ashley's blog this morning.) I was hanging out in a hotel room with all of these women until the wee hours of the morning and sort of asking myself, "what the heck am I doing here? I do not belong here." But as the night went on, I felt myself connecting with these women and realizing, it's not about how big your blog is or how great you are at photography. They wanted to be my friend because they liked me as a person. (at least I think so ;) Our worth is found in Christ, not in the numbers at the top of our Instagram account. That was a profound moment for me that weekend.

(hotel shenanigans captured by Joy Prouty and stolen by me, with permission of course ;) 

my favorites. 
So you're probably starting to wonder if the weekend was just about the friendships for me. Half of it was. But half of it was an incredible awakening in Christ. A realization of just how big our God is. Hearing story after story all weekend of God's redeeming grace was a beautiful thing. It was literally a sob fest from Saturday morning until it was over on Sunday. No one could stop crying. I don't think I've cried so many tears in a 24 hour time period in my entire life. We started worship on Friday night and my heart was hard. I didn't want to sing because I knew I'd start crying and I wasn't ready for that yet. I was almost embarrassed by it; to admit that to myself and to God. I've been walking an extremely hard road in my marriage for the last few years and specifically for the last nine months, coupled with very long days of lots of single parenting with three boys who suck every last drop of my energy and patience on a daily basis. I'm not ready to share my story on here (and not sure if I ever will) but have opened up to a lot of people about it one on one.
My soul is walking through a parched desert and this weekend was a stream in that desert. And I believe there are many more to come.
     Isaiah 43:19 "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? 
I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."
Leslie Padgett gave an incredible talk that inspired new hope within me. My favorite analogy she used was the Verizon Wireless, "Can you hear me now?" guy. He starts in the middle of the city, asking, "Can you hear me now?" Then he moves somewhere a little more remote and a little more remote until he's in the absolute middle of nowhere. That's like what God does with us. We start out in the middle of our safe and happy little comfort zone and He asks, "Do you trust me now?" Then he makes us just a bit less comfortable and asks again. Then He keeps moving us further and further away from our comfort zone until our whole world is ripped apart and we feel like we're dangling on a precipice barely hanging on and He says, "Do you trust me now?" Boom. Hit me in the gut. And my heart cried out, "Yes. I trust you." I'm trusting Him to restore and redeem and to make a way in the wasteland. A new and beautiful thing. And I perceive it. I feel it trembling and bubbling up in my soul. But I have to wait. I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the middle of the desert. 
And maybe my favorite quote of the weekend by Lauren Chandler,
     "When he walks us through that desert, he wants us to know that we need Him more than we need that promised land." 
I was slowly closing up my heart. I was saying I had faith and hope but I think deep down I had lost a sliver of that faith and hope. Lauren said, "Your stuff...your situation is not too much! Are you calling My cross not enough??" I tend to limit God's abilities in my mind. I tend to put labels on what just *might* be too big for him. I ripped those labels off this weekend. The God of the universe, who created each and every person and unique personality knows exactly what needs to be done. He knows the exact number of days we'll walk through that wasteland. But if we're giving it up to him in faith and prayer, not a single day will be wasted. 
Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"
There were a lot of stories shared this weekend. Stories of loss and hurt and heartache and pain. But God is the Great Redeemer. He put a girl in my car for the drive to and from Dallas who has walked an unbelievably hard road this past year. Like, the worst kind you could imagine. I won't tell her story but if you want to read it, you can here. I believe it was no accident God placed us side by side in that car, strangers before this weekend started. Two women who didn't have much in common but who's stories God wanted the other to hear. One of the most precious moments of the whole weekend came for me on that drive home when I was sharing my heart. Sharing about what God has taught me through a painful season. And, with tears streaming down her face, she said to me, "That might be the most profound thing I have heard all weekend." And I caught my breath and my heart skipped a beat and I just started repeating in my mind, "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you Jesus." I am deeply humbled...I mean really and truly humbled...(and getting choked up just thinking about it) that God might use me. Little old me. A mess of a mom in Des Moines, Iowa. That He might use my story and my ability to be open and vulnerable to bring some healing to someone else. I will keep telling my story. And I will keep thanking Him for what He's brought me through.
I used to be slightly envious of other people's great faith and their closeness with God. I now know that's a foolish thing to be envious of. You just never know the fire they've walked through in order to gain that faith.