Monday, July 25, 2016

Emerson's Adventure Themed Nursery

I've had so much fun decorating baby Emerson's nursery.  I love to be creative and especially to express myself through anything involving aesthetics.  Something about eyeballing something to see what will look good and carefully putting together all the little details energizes me.

The original plan for the nursery was to go with a woodsy theme.  Philip is a hunter/fisher/camper.  He loves anything outdoors.  So that naturally (no pun intended) that seemed like a good fit.  Over time the decorating the theme has evolved a little bit, though.  While perusing Pinterest, my go-to for inspiration, I came across an "adventure" themed nursery.  I instantly fell in love with this idea.  It was still mostly based around the woodsy decor, but it also incorporated some travel elements--maps, globes, and suitcases--and a few nautical details--boats, whales etc.  Those three decorating schemes are some of my all-time favorites.  I loved the idea that they could all be incorporated and still mesh.  So, I went for the adventure theme in Emerson's room.  

As you can see, there is a little bit of everything in there.  There's some outdoorsy/tribal, some nautical, and some travel.  I used a lot of things that we already had.  I incorporated some of the decor from my nautical baby shower.  And we purchased a few things here and there.  The initial color scheme I was thinking included navy blue, grey, and white with touches of mustard and mint thrown in.  I think it ended up including a lot of neutrals with varying shades of blue.  I am so happy with how it turned out!  I love that I was able to use so many things that didn't cost us anything.  I love how it came together.  And I love that the different aspects of adventure make it feel less theme-y.  I think it's possible to go too far in one direction and I like the variety that the adventure theme allows for.

Chalkboard:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Nautical banner: Leftover from my shower (Target).  Map box reading "Be Strong and Courageous":  Gifted.  Basket:  Marshall's.  Laundry Hamper:  Already had (Bed Bath and Beyond).

Crib, sheets, and blanket:  Baby's R' Us.  Banner:  Leftover from my shower.

E:  made by my sister for my shower.

Love sign:  already had (bought at a charity silent auction).  Be Brave Arrow:  Leftover from decorating for Ross Point Camp (Target).

Chair:  Already had (Christmas gift from Mom).  Pillow:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Side table and lamp:  Already had (Ross).  Bottle:  DIYed.

Map: DIYed for our birth announcement.

Rocking chair:  Handed down from my Grandma.  Blanket:  Marshall's.

Fred the Moose Head:  Amazon.

"You are my greatest adventure" Shadow Box:  Marshall's (pictures collected from various ultra sound appointments).

Suitcase converted to toy box:  Already had (Piper Barn Show).  Couple/baby figurine:  Wedding gift.  Sign reading "Make More Adventures":  Marshall's.

Baby Gym Toy:  Made by my friend Reighan.

Sailboat decor:  Marshall's.

"Read" Pennant banner:  already had (DIY).  Globe:  Already had in my classroom.  Bookshelf and baskets:  Walmart.

Picture and frame:  Leftover from my shower (Photo from our Maryland trip).  Bottle filled with sand:  DIY (sand from our Maryland trip).

"Let all that you do be done in love" sign:  The Bookery.  Changing table:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Changing pad cover:  Amazon.  Antler:  Fancy Farmgirl Vintage Market.  Banner:  Leftover from decorating for camp (Target).

Look at all those little shoes!  Most of those were handed down or gifted, but I did buy two pairs of boat shoes from a consignment shop called "Once Upon a Child."

All we need now is a baby!  I know that he won't be using this room much at first, but it feels good to have it all finished.  I love to just go sit in there and take it all in.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

So I guess I'm a stay-at-home-mom, now.

What comes to your mind when you hear that phrase, “stay-at-home mom”?  Joan Cleaver?  I used to cringe when I heard it.  You see, I fancied myself a feminist.  “Women have come so far to be degraded back to spending their days vacuuming, feeding their offspring, and fetching men their slippers,” I thought.  Yet here I am, years later and I am going to be taking on that title.  Is this a permanent change?  Something for a just a year?  A few years?  I honestly can’t tell you.  What I can tell you is that I believe that there is no one right path—working-mom or stay-at-home-mom—and that I believe this decision is what is best for my family.

There have been times when I believed that working was the only way, and times in my life when I thought staying home was the only way.  At various seasons of my life I would’ve passionately defended either of those opposing points-of-view.  Now, I see the validity of both options.  There are many paths.  Neither is right for every person at every time.  I view staying home as a personal choice to do without some of your income in order to invest extra time and energy in your family.  I also see that you can raise your kids well even if they are in daycare for a good chunk of their lives.  Some women become better versions of themselves for their families by having a career.  Some women find other ways besides working to change the world, utilize their talents, and express their passions.  I know good, healthy, joyful women who work and parent, and who stay home and parent.  When I realized that, the choice of what was right for me only became more difficult.

For the past three years I have been called “teacher.”  I love/hate my job.  Teaching is one of the most gut-wrenching, draining, fulfilling, enjoyable things that I’ve ever done.  There is nothing like that moment when you realize that you have built a connection with a student--you can see in their eyes that they feel cared for and believed in by you. When something you planned just works and you see students engaged, thinking critically, and growing it is magical.  I know that I’m good at teaching.  I feel like it is important work.  Yet it sucks my energy like nothing I’ve ever experienced.  Kids are so needy.  Try being in a room full of twenty five of them all day long.  Then getting a new set every fifty minutes.  Each with their own unique mix of burdens, needs, challenges.  Not to mention the pressure of knowing that what I do every day could have a profound impact on their futures—for better or for worse.  As a teacher, I often felt like I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day long.

 Let me paint a picture of the typical day for you.  I would start with my prep period: an hour during which I often had to finalize lesson plans, make copies, print visuals, cut strips of paper, create posters, set up manipulatives, enter grades, check emails, meet with colleagues, the list goes on and on.  Then, once class started, so began the dance of greeting and chatting cordially with students as I passed out/set up materials, explained activities, monitored activities, answered questions, cleared up confusion, watched timers, supervised closely, reinforced positive behaviors, redirected negative behaviors, gave consequences, assessed for understanding, adjusted plans, listened to their stories, picked up materials, all without stopping even to pee (teachers are trained in the art of bladder origami).  I would come home at the end of the day exhausted.  It was a good exhausted—like wearing yourself out on a battlefield.  But still, trying to listen to my husband talk about his day on our commute home felt like trying to diffuse a bomb in the middle of a rock and roll concert.  I needed an hour plus of zone-out time on the couch just to feel up to doing menial tasks like walking my dog or helping out with the dishes.

I’ve tried countless times to imagine the life I’ve lead for the past three years plus a crying, pooping baby who won’t let me sleep.  I can’t fathom it.  As it is, refreshing myself enough to take on the next day of teaching while maintaining my sanity takes a lot.  It is the reason I go to bed earlier than my grandmother.  I can’t seem to wrap my head around being a run-down, sleep-deprived mommy in the evenings and then trying to do school the next day.  I know there are people who do both of these jobs and do them well.  To them I say, “Kudos!”  I know it is possible.  But I really don’t even want to try to do it at this point.  I already feel like often all I have to offer my husband are my leftovers.  I don’t want to do the same to our baby.  I think it’s also just my disposition.  I give my whole self to everything that I do.  I don’t know how to jump into something without throwing my whole heart into the mix.  I feel things deeply.  I only have so much energy for the outside world.  I need time inside my head.  My stamina wears thin easily.  For these reasons, I think that a being new-mommy-Chelsea, and teacher-Chelsea at the same time would translate to more of a zombie-Chelsea than a thriving human being.

  So, I am making a choice—the choice to focus just on loving and caring for my husband, infant, and our dog for a while.  I’ll admit I don’t really know what it’s going to be like having a child.  Perhaps I am capable of much more than I can imagine currently.  Maybe after a bit, my mama instincts will kick in and I’ll be rocking this thing and ready to take on a job.  I’m leaving myself that option.  Maybe I will love what I’m doing and decide to have another baby and keep at this SAHM gig.  Maybe I’ll decide that the right balance is working part-time or finding ways to earn income from home.  At this point I can’t say.  All I can say is that, at least for now, I am hanging up my dry-erase markers and taking on child-rearing full-time.  You don’t have to agree with my choice, you don’t have to fully understand my choice, but I’d ask that you respect my choice.  Just call me Joan.  Or don't.  Because I am hormonal, sleep-deprived, and a former wrestler and I just might punch you.

When God uses a crappy situation for his glory.

*warning, this post not for the faint of heart.  If you can't handle talk about poop, here, watch this funny video about cats instead*

Sometimes God uses strange, even awkward things to bring him glory.  Even things like, say, pregnancy constipation.  Yep, that happens.  Can I just saying that pooping at eight months pregnant is the worst.  It feels like there's all this stuff--like a human child--in the way of your usual bowel moving muscles.  It's like your body is psyching you up for labor every time you have to drop a number two.  (Push!  Push!)  Whenever I have to go these days, I try to avoid it as long as possible, especially if I'm in a public place.

Anyways, I was at church (of course).  Philip and I had directed the Ross Point Camp Junior High Camp the week before.  I was reflecting on this, and thinking about how much I love being around Middle Schoolers.  Something about serving and loving them brings me life.  I felt a little sad in that moment, because I have resigned from my job teaching Middle School in order to stay home and care for our coming bundle.  I thought, "I'm going to miss being around them every day."  I asked God to continue to give me opportunities to invest in young people.  He answered my prayer quickly, and unusually.

We were half way through worship--which is my favorite part of church--and I felt the urge.  I had to use the bathroom, ahem.  I really didn't want to because A.  going while pregnant is the worst and B. I knew it meant missing a good chunk of the best part of the church service.  But, when you gotta go, you gotta go.  When I'd finally won the battle, and I was washing my hands this young girl walked in.  I recognized her because she'd been in my tent group at the church's middle school camp we'd served at the year before.  I'd formed a connection with her.  I specifically remember on a particularly moving night of the camp holding her, singing to her, and praying over her as she wept.  During this church service she'd run into the bathroom crying.  I asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"  She hugged me and then began to bare her soul.  She shared what she was feeling and going through.  I asked if I could pray for her.  She agreed.  So there I stood, in the restroom, of all places, ministering to a Middle Schooler.  The Lord had answered my prayer and was showing me that he will continue to use me to impact people in this stage of life even if I'm not teaching.  It's true what they say, "The Lord works in mysterious ways."

Singing with angels--in the shower.

I feel no shame in admitting that sometimes I like to sing in the shower.  The other day as I showered, I started singing Taylor Swift songs.  It reminded me how much I enjoy singing.  My voice isn't particularly beautiful, but something about belting out songs brings me joy.  That day, I felt like the Lord was nudging me. "Sing something to me," he asked.  I thought, "Ok, but what will I sing?"  The song "Good Father" came to my mind.  I began to weep as I sang. It's amazing how many times I have found solace in this song.  A good father loves, protects, provides, disciplines, guides, and cares for his children.  It is so encouraging to remember that God is doing all of those things for me.  No matter what I'm hearing, thinking, or feeling I need to be reminded that my identity is "Loved by God."

My husband, Philip, has some unusual spiritual giftings.  If you don't believe in that sort of thing, then you might just think he's crazy.  He is in touch with the spiritual realm.  At various times throughout his life he has been able to see things like demons and fallen angels.  He can discern darkness and often perceive the cause of it.  There was one time that he saw an angel, angel--like the good kind.  We took a trip to Las Vegas and the Lord showed him that an angel was present in our hotel room, watching over us.  That was very comforting because as fun as our trip was, Las Vegas is a city full of depravity and we could feel the weight of that.

This particular morning as I sang in the shower, Philip was in the room next door working on our nursery.  Apparently he was in ear shot.  He came in and told me, "When you were singing I could hear two voices."  Philip was convinced that what he heard was the sound of angels harmonizing with me.  Does that sound crazy to you?  That a hormonal lady with a swollen pregnant belly singing off-key in the shower could attract an angel to come and join in her worship to God?  I guess that I believe Philip.  I know that he has a sense for these sort of things.  And, to be honest, that sounds exactly like my God.  He would be pleased and glorified by something as simple as me crying and singing imperfectly to him as I shower.

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