Monday, December 30, 2013

Our Top 10 of 2013

Yesterday was Reflection Sunday at our church and we sat in groups of 8-12 people looking back on the year; opening up about what we've learned and how we'd like to grow in the next year. Pastor Kevin encouraged us to celebrate the year, but also to examine it. Shane and I went on a dinner/movie date Sunday night and while we ate a delicious meal overlooking the Spokane Falls we made a Top 10 of 2013 list. It was meaningful, painful and graceful. And since this is my first year of being on Instagram, here is our list with some of my Instagrams (and a couple not mine) to help tell the story.

  1. Bought a minivan and I couldn't be happier with it! First year as a family of five, yo.
  2. Took a road trip to Redding, CA to visit Shane's grandmother and stopped in Bend, OR to visit his brother, Moshe. The scenery was incredible, the memories unique, and it felt like a real vacation!
  3. My sister, Ali, as well as my parents flew up for a visit on separate occasions! Big blessings!

  4. Found out my sister, Olivia, and her husband are having their first baby! So excited for baby Ezra to make his entrance this month!
    From Marcuss' Instagram. Photo Credit: Josh Adkins
  5. Shane and I officially have all of our student loans paid off and are DEBT FREE.
  6. Oliver started kindergarten this year and goes to a homeschool co-op 2-days a week.
  7. Shane ran his first half-marathon.
    Not an Instagram shot. :) Photo Credit: Outdoor Monthly
  8. We had a near-tragedy that shifted our priorities and deepened our gratitude. It's a story we are not yet ready to spread beyond family and a few close friends, but it was the defining moment of 2013 for us.
  9. Shane applied for a job that he did not end up getting, but in the process we nailed down some very important vocational and family goals. This was huge for us and we're thankful for that late night of hard questions and honest, hopeful discoveries. "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

  10. We connected with new people in our church and Oliver's school, hosting more people in our home this year than any year before. Hospitality was one of our goals for 2013, and even the times we didn't ask for it we accepted it. God is gracious to grow us when we are willing.

What would be on your top 10 list for the last year? What do you hope will end up on your 2014 list?

Monday, June 24, 2013

I'm prettier with makeup.

I'm going to make myself a little vulnerable here on the world wide web. Now that I have a daughter, I'm facing some hard questions about myself. For instance, makeup is a topic I'm personally struggling with off and on, especially since my oldest son has asked me on more than one occasion what I was doing while applying makeup and WHY I was doing it. I had no good answer and I stumbled over my words trying to explain myself. Why do we wear it? ESPECIALLY since my husband thinks I'm more beautiful without it (which completely floored me when he expressed this before we were even married). When I ask myself this question, I find that most of my answers sound pitiful and more like excuses. For example:
  • I look prettier when I wear it.
  • My eyes look small and beady without it.
  • I look washed out without it.
  • Makeup makes me look more awake and put together. (It's literally a mask!)
  • I get more respect in the work place. (has not been solidly tested, but I tell myself this)
  • I don't want my blemishes/flaws to be distracting in conversation. I want people to see me and not my flaws. (How ridiculously backwards that sounds!)
  • Women (and sometimes men) have been wearing makeup for centuries and it's a normal, expected way of life!

Maybe it's different for you. Either way, what matters most to me is the opinion of God and my family. And neither of them are putting pressure on me to wear makeup. So who is? Our culture, peers, media, makeup companies. Why do girls think they look prettier with makeup? Because all the famous, "pretty" people do it, I suppose. And because makeup/fashion companies are selling us that idea. It frustrates me to realize that I'm so swayed by that. And it also frustrates me that men (the other half of the human race, you know) typically don't wear it to even out their skin-tone, cover dark circles, etc. They aren't lining their eyes to make them stand out and putting blush on their cheeks to look sun-kissed. So this is obviously a female issue. We consider ourselves equal in value to men, yet we tell ourselves that our physical appearance needs major improvement and their physical appearance does not. We're covering up our faces so we look different than how we really appear. Are we that hideous? Really? Who told us that? I feel pretty brainwashed when I think through this topic. I'm sure there are a ton of articles and opinions already out there, and I could take this to an unhealthy extreme. And I don't think girls are supposed to be the exact same as men. But I think this question of makeup is a good one to ask ourselves. But I also want to be careful as to not press my own revelation and discovery on this topic onto others. I do not and will not judge women for wearing makeup (I'm wearing makeup as I type this, although I left off eyeliner and blush this morning due to this inner battle I'm having.) I'm just struggling with the idea of it altogether because when Mirabelle or Oliver or Benjamin ask me about it I want to have a confident answer and I want my actions to be true to what I say is the truth.

When I think about what I desire in life it comes down to relationship. I desire a close relationship with God and honest relationships with other human beings. I want to be loved for who I really am and I want to know others for who they really are. I do love getting compliments about how I look like any girl OR guy does. But not any more than compliments on my character, intelligence and actions. Where do I get the idea that I look better with makeup versus without? What does makeup achieve for me? Have you ever confronted yourself with this question? Did you arrive at an answer for yourself? I'd appreciate honest thoughts, but let's be nice and respect one another if you do have something to share. As physical as makeup is, I think it reaches a deeper emotional place in us than we realize. Otherwise it wouldn't be so hard sometimes to go without it.

And lastly, I realize that my decisions about makeup and how I see myself will affect more than my daughter, but my two sons as well and how they see women and themselves. This is no light subject when you have a huge part in forming the worldview of other human beings.

Phew. There it is. I'm rarely one to stir up conversation or put forth opinions. Ever. I haven't even arrived at an opinion here and I'm still nervous! But thank you for listening and loving me through it. :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mirabelle • Seven Months

Um, so in the last month our home life has changed quite a bit. Mostly because Miss Mirabelle started crawling, putting every small, chokable (is that a word?) item in her mouth, eating some solid foods and just in the last week or so she has been pulling herself to standing. Nothing is going to hold this one back. She has been doing everything earlier than the boys did, it seems. She's also quite vocal and will hardly let you forget she's there. She just seems so excited to actually have the chance to DO SOMETHING other than sit and be cute. The opportunities! The adventures! We've started leaving her in the nursery at church on Sundays and it's going really well (for now). The boys make her laugh a lot just by dancing or being their goofy selves. And they love to hold her, squeeze her, and tell her "no" when she's being dangerous. She seems to enjoy this world and doesn't want to be left out of anything. It's hard to keep up with this girl. We're pretty wiped out at the end of the day and I hold her responsible! It's amazing how much she adds to our life though. I wish I could pinpoint her personality. I keep imagining what she might be like at the age of 9, 15, 28.... What I know for sure is that she's quite easy to love and snuggle with. Can't get enough. :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mirabelle • Six Months

Gee whiz. This is a high-speed experience, raising children. I'm turning 29 next month, have 3 kids now, and my youngest is 6 months although it feels like I just came home from the hospital last month. Mirabelle is mystically growing like a pan of bread dough rising on the countertop. She's just going with it though and so are we. The world seems to be a natural and altogether good experience for Mirabelle. I'm so thankful for her easy temperament and good health. I'm also thankful that Oliver and Benjamin seem to not feel threatened at all, and daily embrace Mirabelle as an extension and vital component of their life. What I love most about my life right now goes beyond "my family." I love that we are so finely knit together that we are one unit and cannot function very independently from each other. I find it very hard to view them apart from myself to see how a stranger might see them. Each child feels like a limb on my body. Shane feels like my Siamese twin (I understand that "better half" phrase now). Sometimes I wish I could just remove myself for a bit only for that chance to look from the outside and appreciate it as a beautiful piece of art. That's what it really is. God's masterpiece for our life. It's a daily challenge to view my surroundings objectively and always with a thankful heart. I'm just surviving most days and functioning in default mode. It can get pretty chaotic and there isn't much organization to our household, honestly. But thankfully we do have simple routine. We have God as our center for decisions, If we can pinpoint our constants, than the variables are less likely to throw us all off.

By the way, Mirabelle is crawling now. I'm pretty sure the boys didn't crawl until 7 months. She's a go-getter. She's babbling, drooling and eating occasional solid foods. Isn't it amazing that my milk is enough to sustain that ball of dough?! No wonder I'm down to my high school weight (Don't hate. I'm feeble and without muscle other than my right arm that holds a baby on my hip.).

If you haven't already discovered Shane's blog, you will most likely find it a gazillion times more entertaining than mine. He's so creative and gives a glimpse into life as a stay-at-home dad. I'm more of a milestones blogger these days. :) You can follow me on Pinterest or Instagram to see more daily happenings and interests.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mirabelle • Three months

I love this picture Shane took because her blue eyes stand out. But I couldn't decide which one of these is better...

We're full swing back into our routine except with an extra child on our hands. It's going really well considering. I'm very much enjoying my time at work and at home. Each brings a greater appreciation for the other. Life seems well balanced for the time being. The only things that have held me back this month are a kidney stone (Yeah, it's pretty close to the pain of childbirth…minus the pushing.) and giving up coffee, morning cartoons and eating out for Lent. All those who love me think I'm nuts. Why make things so hard on yourself? It's edifying and revealing though. Just believe me. If anything it's a way of arriving at a place of simplicity and purity while preparing inwardly for Easter.

Shane's helping our friends move out of their house today before they leave for Tanzania for three long years. One thing we can never forget is that life doesn't stop changing and God never stops moving. Let's be thankful.

P.S. Take a look at these amazing faces! These gifts from God.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mirabelle • Two Months

Mirabelle is gaining some nice rolls, yeah? She's semi-giggling too (about time). Her smiles are soul-enriching, her temperament is peaceful and the one thing she loves almost as much as milk is what you can expect from any girl: being adored. She's happiest when someone is loving on her and talking to her, and yet she never demands it. She kindly seems to understand that there are sometimes other priorities. I don't know how she does it.

This picture was taken on the 10th (exactly 2 months after her birth). But due to an impromptu family road trip to northern California, this post got a bit delayed. We visited Shane's 90-year-old grandmother and aunt for a few days but split the trip up both ways by spending time with his older brother who lives in Bend, Oregon. It was a great way to end maternity leave with a bang. It's hard to describe these last 12 weeks at home in full sentences - too many juxtapositions for my wee mind to express (Know what I mean?!).

But in all, I've realized a lot about the current state of my family and my role in it. It has been difficult to stretch myself between being a passionate wife, passionate mother and full-time flippin' passionate designer for a passionate ministry!  *wipes brow*  It feels like I'm never giving enough to anything. Wouldn't I be much more effective if I poured myself into one thing instead of four or five? But I'm starting to better see how God is orchestrating pieces within each of these areas of life and how they all benefit one another. It's more cohesive than I thought.

Time is good for us. It shows us where we've come from and what a gift today is, which in turns gives motion to what's ahead.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Birth of Mirabelle

I expected her to be just as punctual as the boys, but I went into labor 3 days after her due date. It felt like 3 weeks. My good friend, Stephanie, flew in from Brooklyn to photograph the birth experience and she missed it by about 14 hours.  It was a lovely time with one of my oldest friends, but somewhat sad that our plans did not happen (She did capture the intimate last days of waiting before the birth, though).

About one hour after Stephanie left our house Shane's sister, Amanda, showed up with the off-chance that baby would arrive the next day (her day off that week). She mentioned that her coworker who is a doula recommended a foot and hand massage that has more often than not induced labor for the women she has worked with. So Amanda gave me the longest foot/hand massage of my life, and a couple hours later I started getting some strong contractions 8 minutes apart. I could tell these weren't just practice contractions, so I suggested we pack the car up and make last minute preparations before heading out to eat. Of all things to eat, I scarfed down a reuben sandwich and sweet potato fries during the early stage of labor. "You're probably going to throw that up, you know," Shane said. Yeah, but I was hungry and it tasted aaaamazing. By the end of dinner I was positive we would have the baby in the next 24 hours. We went home and I tried to stay relaxed and even sleep (didn't happen) while contractions were getting painful and I asked Shane to stay close to me. Movies and TV shows make the husband seem like someone you don't want around when contractions are intense. Women on screen yell and curse their men. That has never been the case for me and it's reassuring when during labor I get a sense of needing him close to lean on - reassuring that he is the best person for me. 

I started to get nervous around 11:00 p.m. because there was an intense pressure and a slight urge to push during contractions (3-5 minutes apart). I really didn't want to spend a lot of time laboring in the hospital though. We waited until around 11:30 and I called my friend/doula/superhero, Ruth, to tell her we were leaving for the hospital. We pulled into the parking lot at the same time and the three of us walked slowly to the door stopping for a couple contractions. It seemed like my senses were especially heightened during this time and I remember reading about women feeling that same way during labor, but this is the first time for me to take note of that. I remember the air felt like winter for the first time this year. A kind nurse wheeled me up to the maternity ward and he tried to be very careful over the bumps between doorways, but I remember the bumps really hurting during the contractions. It seemed like a long, quiet, strange ride up to the room.

My room was small and dimly lit. I met my wonderful nurse, Coza. She was very humorous, straightforward and very understanding of our desires for an unmedicated birth. I was dilated to 6 cm and 70% effaced upon arrival. The next four hours are a blur of trying different positions to stay comfortable, leaning on Shane, Ruth pressing in on the sides of my hips to ease the pain of each contraction, taking sips of water and chewing ice chips - whatever it took to get through the pain and stay focused for the upcoming stage of pushing. I don't really remember transitioning to the last stage of labor. It happened very quickly. And I'll have you know that I never threw up that reuben sandwich and fries! When I was ready to start pushing, the doctor asked if I wanted my water broken. I've never experienced my water breaking on its own. A doctor has always done it for me right before or slightly after I started pushing. As I was contemplating this decision the doctor said, "We can wait and see how labor progresses, or we can break your water and you can have that baby in a minute." Hmmm, let's have that baby. I think he was a little optimistic though. And he had no idea our little girl was going to come out sunny-side up instead of face down like most babies. This made pushing very difficult. I remember feeling so defeated after each push because it felt like every time I finished a push, she would retreat back up the birth canal a little making the process very slow. I might have pushed for about 45 minutes. Shane sat behind me on the bed so I could still lean against him. She finally came out with the most perfectly round head ever seen. No wonder it was so difficult and painful! Shane says she just wanted to live up to her name which means "wondrous beauty." I was surprised by all of her dark hair. I can still remember the feeling of holding my newborn baby on my chest, skin-to-skin. It's one of the few moments that truly stands out from each of my births, crisp and clear.

Mirabelle Jane Morgan arrived at 3:43 a.m. on November 10, 2012 weighing 7 lbs. 6 oz. and was 19 inches long.

It was such a relief to finally be at the end. I had a lot of blood loss and needed 2 bags of Pitocin through an IV to encourage the uterus to contract so I wouldn't lose more. But the hardest part was over. I couldn't wait for her brothers to arrive and meet the baby sister we've been talking about for months.

They came in around 8:30 that morning, I think. Oliver was very happy. Benjamin seemed a little nervous, but I remember him letting out a giggle and saying, "It's funny," then finally getting the nerve to kiss her head.

I'd love to give an update on what life is like with 3 kids. It took me so long to get around to typing this out, so who knows when I'll connect online again. I spend most of my days nursing, playing with the boys and holding a newborn. We have had wonderful help from friends and family. I feel surrounded by hands of people ready to help and love us.

I go back to work full time at the end of this month. I didn't think I'd say it, but I'm looking forward to it. It's what God has chosen for me at this time in life and I'm starting to see why I'm suited for it and Shane for being at home with the kids. Some days it's hard to realize, but if I want to be present and move forward I must choose to be thankful. Either that or be run over with by emotions. I'll take the former. :) I'm opening my eyes to what I have right now and what God is doing. If there is one phrase I'm taking with me this year it is "Pay Attention." I must.