Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up

In the way that the Christmas card is limited in space and post, the blog is boundless. Here's our year-end letter, of sorts, for 2016.

What a blur of a year it's been!! This has absolutely been the fastest year of my life. Having a baby two months into 2016 made much of this year a whirlwind of love, laughter, newborn cuddles, baby-wearing, and warmth.

Our hearts grew twofold, more than we could have imagined, as we welcomed this darling boy into our fold. Owen David's made our family complete, full, and endeared each one of us with his scrunchy smile, and expressions that show a glint of his funny, clever, and knowing personality.

Owen was born on February 10, 2016 at 6:11 AM, weighing 8 lbs. 12.8 oz and 21.75 inches long. Our best Valentine's day gift ever, he arrived four days earlier than his holiday due date. We were so thrilled to meet him early. His labor was one of redemption for me and it was absolutely empowering. It was a fully natural, nine hour labor. After less than ten pushes, he entered this world straight into his papa's arms.

Since that day, he's charmed literally everyone he's met. His smile is contagious and his personality endearing. And we are the fortunate souls who get to call him our son and brother.

Somehow he's already ten months old, crawling, waving, cruising furniture, and climbing stairs. His favorite words are "dah" (dog), "mama," & "pa-pa." And his favorite game happens when you are holding him. He loves turning your head to look at his by using his hands or leaning with his face into your line of vision and then smiling SUPER big when he locks eyes with you. It's the sweetest.

Papa's shoulder has become his favorite place to nestle-in, Mama's the apple of his eye, and Ian is his constant companion, playmate, and biggest fan. His placement in this picture is appropriate, one arm on each of the guys and leaning in to Mama. He, in his own way, has knit us into an even tighter family than we were before February 10th, 2016. We are forever changed for the better.
Ian Forrester, somewhat hesitant at first, gallantly stepped into the big brother role about five days after Owen arrived and has never looked back. Ready to bring him his favorite toys, help him, hold him, or interpret his needs or wants, he has amazed us with his love and zeal for being a big bro.

He still attends Parent's Morning Out (PMO), now one morning a week, where he has many friends and is adored by his teachers. While there, Ian enjoys craft time, songs, books, outside time on their wonderful playground, many fine and gross motor activities, and social skills. This year he comes home telling stories about his friends and all of the things they do; far more than last year. It's so fun!

Ian loves to tell stories, recount events from different times in his life, turn everything into song, sing songs, and play with Owen and Leif. If he could do all of those things outside ALL OF THE TIME, he would ;) And we love that about him.

He starts each day asking, "Where are we going to go today?" If we aren't going anywhere, then he wants to know, "Who is going to come to our house today?" He's very social and loves our routine weekly engagements with friends, MOPS, PMO, and church.

But, he also enjoys a nice, slow day at home. Owen still takes morning naps, so we have a special time of Mama-Ian bonding on those days. He chooses the activity and we both enjoy our time. Our huge backyard and the playground down the street also make for nice comfortable days of staying home while still getting outside and being active without pulling our car out of the driveway.

Ian brings such exuberance, intelligence, and athletic prowess into everything he does. He's already giving us a run for our money, as any self-respecting three year old would do, but he brings such delight and joy and energy into our home and hearts.

Jim is in his third and final year of his family medicine residency!!!!!!! This means that come June, he will be officially done with his training. It's been a long seven years are we are thrilled to be at this point. I am so proud of him for working so hard for our dreams and family. We have one more interview trip for a potential job before we start really narrowing down the best fit for his career and our family. It's an exciting time :)

This was his second year on the Blacksburg Rugby team and his team is, so far, undefeated this season. He's really loved the opportunities for fellowship, fitness, and playing an athletic sport again, that have all come with being on this team. It's a great group of guys and they hope to make it to the play-offs again this year! He also played in a few Rugby Sevens tournaments this year and enjoyed the fast-paced and uniqueness of this play, too. Almost daily, you can find Ian and Jim rucking in our living room or in the backyard. A love for rugby runs strong around here, and Ian is always his biggest supporter!

He continues to be passionate about all things permaculture, homesteading, environmentally efficient building, and baking delicious bread and wholesome meals for our family. When he can, he enjoys the occasional woodworking project, working in the garden, and dreaming/planning toward future dreams. Jim is a great father, making time for reading books, playing in the yard, and doing puzzles before getting his own work done, often sacrificing his own sleep. We're blessed to have this man as a husband, father, & best friend.

I still love being at home with our boys. The saying rings true, "The days are long but the years are short." I couldn't agree more. These years are flying; I cannot believe that we already have a three year old and, since this year went the fastest so far, I can only imagine that they will continue to speed by. My constant prayer is to slow down, to be present, and be intentional about making time for what is most important right now: nurturing our lads in these early years.

This year I am the lead coordinator for Mothers of Preschooler Students (MOPS) and it has been a wonderful, challenging, and exciting experience. I am really passionate about mothers having a community where they can feel welcome and accepted, where mamas can be with other moms and admit that motherhood is hard, joyful, exhausting, and rewarding. And where moms can get skills, community, ideas, rejuvenation, and love to help make them a better mama. Every mama needs a tribe. Every person needs a tribe.

My favorite pastimes include meeting a friend for coffee, listening to NPR, going for a long walk or hike, losing myself in/reading a book during naptime in the afternoon (and sometimes drifting off to sleep), playdates with friends, making a well-crafted meal for our family, taking pictures of our life and posting them on Instagram (riverandshore), writing about life on this blog, and enjoying a good laugh with our family.

There's much trepidation as I step into the New Year. My heart is burdened for the world and our country. My constant prayers are for peace. And for love. For reaching out to those who are different and hurting. For taking the time to listen and understand without judgement. There's so much growing and changing that needs to be done. Let it begin with us.

2017 will be a year of some changes for our family-- stay tuned!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Life with Them

There are some things you just don't want to forget as a mom. And there are some things you could really have blocked from your memory. Mostly I want my crazy mama moments to forever be erased from my memory & my childrens' memories. Motherhood is SO hard. A friend and I were talking about this last night at a Christmas party. It's just plain hard. So many needs, only two hands, two feet, and a few hours of sleep.

Having two children has stretched me so thin in some moments. Sometimes I wonder why I am so harried. Then I remember... We're in a bit of a crazy season of our lives with interviews, evaluating future pursuits & locations. Training is almost over which is INCREDIBLE and now it's time to navigate what's next. It's exciting, huge, and weighty. On top of that, sleep has been horrible for weeks (months?). Owen has about four to six teeth coming in and he's not sleeping well. For about two weeks there he was incredibly clingy during the day, due to his painful gums.

BUT, when I look back at just today, there are fantastic, beautiful, sweet, and adorable moments woven in even the hardest minutes.

I snapped one of the sweetest videos of Ian & Owen today as they head-bonked and cuddled each other. These two really adore each other and it shows. One year ago I was nervous about how this relationship would go and they have wowed me. Perhaps it won't always be this way, but thank goodness it is now!
Here are some of the moments I don't want to forget...

Ian has started trying to help and he's become quite thoughtful, in some instances. Today, while I was putting Owen down for his nap I heard the door open and Leif came charging in. Then I heard Ian scuffling about. I was so frustrated that he would let Leif in without asking and cause kind of a ruckus while I was putting Owen down for his nap. When I came out perturbed and ready to light in to him, he quickly explained that he had let Leif in to clean up the food that had fallen on the floor during lunch time. Oh... errr..... umm... Thank you?! Should have asked.

Another time was when I walked into the kitchen to find the entire diaper bag was dumped out on the floor. WHAT? I put everything back in and then forgot about it. Later I was looking at our Christmas tree and saw that the ornament Ian had made at the residency Christmas party was up on the tree. He had remembered it  was placed in the diaper bag and had taken it upon himself to put it in its rightful spot on the tree.

And then there's the sweetness in the cuddles that both boys request after naptimes. Ian comes and immediately finds my lap and wants to collapse into me for a few minutes before his usual active self kicks into gear. Owen, likewise, melts into me when I pick him up from the pack-n-play and rests his head on my shoulder for minutes on end. They just want to linger a little longer in that post-nap bliss... I get it. One day I will do that again too ;)
And then there's this boy & his cape/bib. He refused to wear bibs, from a very young age. Jim and I have always just stripped his shirt off, instead of worrying about it. Well, now that Owen has worn a bib (and now refuses, too), Ian wants to wear a bib! He actually requested one tonight while we were eating a lentil soup. As soon as he finished he told me that he was a superhero and took off around the loop in our house exclaiming that he was a "superhero", running to save the world! Oh, this boy.

This life will never be dull. Never empty, quiet, or easy... but I couldn't ask for more sweetness & joy.

Friday, December 9, 2016


We're snugly into December, but I am going to turn the clock back to November, just for a bit.

If you were to burst into our home, you would see scenes similar to this. Toys are EVERYWHERE these days. I pick them up, with the help of Ian, and pretty soon they are all out again. Both boys love to dump bins out. I know the scene below doesn't have very many toys but you can bet the rug where I am standing does!

We've arrived at the age when Owen can get anywhere on the floor, and quickly. He can also pull himself up. If Ian wants some uninterrupted play time, he has to play on the table or in his room. Most of the time, he doesn't mind playing with Owen, but there are those moments (I know I have them, too) when he just wants his toys to be his own. That's what I really love about this picture. It documents a scene where Ian has given Owen a choice few of his animals, while he plays with them on the table, his sanctuary away from baby hands.

There will come a day when this just isn't possible. For now, it's working for all of us :)

Oh yes, this is more like it. This is what our living room looks like most of the time. I will give you a small glimpes here. Inevitably, when Papa's home, there's often a moment that looks like this. Every single boy is on the floor, even Leif. He's a celebrity around here.
 November also means Thanksgiving! Ian made this adorable hat at PMO and loved wearing it around our house. We had planned on bringing it with us on our trip, but it got forgotten in the shuffle.
I love this little turkey.
First stop was at my parents' home in Paris. And, this year, everyone was around!
I'm not sure if Owen is looking at them in the picture above, but my dad keeps many bird feeders on his porch. Owen and Ian loved watching the birds flock to the feeders throughout each day. Ian would ask, "Do you want to sit and watch the birds with me?" Why, yes. Yes, I do!

Dad read Owen a book and hoped his first words would be things like "aardvark." ;)

 A couple of times during our visit we sang "Thanksgiving Time." My dad found the music to this song on a piano in Brooklyn Friends School, when he taught there. He never could find where it came from or who put it there, but it's been a tradition in every school he's ever taught in to sing this song during the Thanksgiving program. As a family, we sing it every year, too. I had been singing it to the boys before bed each night and they were captivated when Grumps started playing the piano.

 Willem & Samantha joined us in singing it on Thanksgiving morning, and then we sang it again with Phoebe later before we had to leave on Friday.
 Ian gets so serious and focused when Grumps plays the piano. He's fascinated. He sits so still and always on a little step stool.
 As if that wasn't treat enough, Grumps gave him another thrill by pulling him in the tractor trailer. My grandpa used to do the same thing with us when we were little. Ian even helped gather the wood they cut for firewood.
Ian just beamed!!!
 This was such a tender moment between Uncle Willem & Owen.
 And then it was feast time!!

 After the feast, it was time for our traditional hike to Paris View. Aunt Phoebe wore Owen :)

 And then it was time to return home, racing the dark. Time for a dinner of pies.
On Friday we hit the road for Philadelphia!! We were greeted by Seraphina, Aunt Erin, Uncle Russell, Aunt Christine, and her new dog, Penny!
Penny meets Uncle Jim
Who would have thought, but Jim won the homesteading board game that they played that night ;)

The next morning these sweet cousins continued to play. They were so fun to watch interact. Both of them are obviously big book lovers!
 Uncle Russ & Owen hit it off :)
 And these kids just kept reading. Really, they did to other things, too. Ha! I promise.

 Gramee & Grandpa drove in for the day on Saturday and that's when we had our big feast.
 Aunt Christine loves our little ones so well. Super aunt reading to three very active kiddos.
 Gramee soaked up every minute she could. And check out Seraphina's beautiful smile!
 Ian made it a point to snuggle with man's best friend, Leif. We continue to be so grateful for Leif's incredible patience; what a great, kid-friendly dog he is!
 "This is the life."
 Before Gramee & Grandpa had to go home, we took a family photo.
Sunday came and we hit the road back home, but first got a few last photos.

 I probably took twenty pictures and this is the only non-blurry one. I hope you got a better one, Erin!!
 Safe & sound back home, we bunkered down for a day. We hit traffic on the way home, making our trip much longer. We were grateful for time spent with both families, for the blessings of their love for us and our kids, for delicious feasts to share with them, & for safe travels.

Happy Thanksgiving!!