My most important 2015 plan

I’m late to the 2014 reflection / 2015 goal setting thing, I call new baby to that… I mean hey, it’s still January.

Every year, in December, I make a photo book for our family that sums up our new year. Some we give away, one we keep.

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This year the back of that book said the following:

“2014: The year of Clara. And moving. And church planting. And Kel graduating. And Noelle starting school. And…. a lot of other stuff.”

Last year life exploded across the pages of our calendar. It was a mix of every feeling I’m currently familiar with: hope, joy, heartache, grief, stress, depression, satisfaction, infatuation and frustration.

As I look back through the pages of our 2014 photobook I can see the mix of emotion in our eyes, and as I do each one takes center stage in my chest and, in a small way, happens all over again.

Remember how happy we were when all that snow finally melted and the tulips broke the soil?
Remember how our mouths dropped with the test was positive?
Remember how proud you were when you saw him in his Cap and Gown?
Remember how scared we were as we peeked in on her, sleeping on Kindergarten eve?
Remember how relieved and grieved we were when it all came crashing down?
Remember how overjoyed we were when they brought her to your side and you saw each other for the first time?

2014 was all the things, really it was.

Continue reading

This is 33

I turned 33. A week ago, wow. I started writing this ONE post a week ago.

Ahem. Thirty three is busy.

Do you remember being a child and being absolutely sure that you were going to do life better than your parents? You believed this same thing in adolescence and in your twenties.

You’d say things like “when I grow up I’ll…..” or “when I’m a mom I’ll _____ with my kids / for my kids.”

I’d have a lot of dogs. (this was a young Leanne dream…)

No, Thank God. 

I’d drive shiny new cars

Nope! We own that old mini van and I love that.

I would travel extensively before I had kids and have books full of pictures detailing my travels.

I’ve yet to leave the continent. 

My husband and I would have a romantic date night every week.

Babysitters + Food = weekly budget breaker, monthly, maybe. But mostly takeout on the couch with board games… and to be honest… movies… and by movies I mean Netflix.

When I became a mom I would have a career but also spend tons of time with my children.

I own NO dress pants and 5 pairs of yoga pants right now so… there’s that. 

Those children would wear cute, gap clothes and never have to endure all the hand me downs of my childhood. 

I adore consignment stores and the kids wear 97.5% Used clothing.

The list goes on. Thirty three is nothing like I thought it would be.

I think I safely qualify as a grownup now. I have three kids and a mortgage so those certainly seem like grown up things and being a grown up? It’s way harder than I thought it would be.

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This is what 33 looks like, as seen in a dirty bathroom mirror full of toothpaste splatter.

The bags under my eyes have everything to do with my newborn daughter and my hair is too fun and doesn’t match my dirty mini van and lavender goodwill zip up.

When I look at that woman in the mirror I have a lot more questions than answers.

How I define success in thirty three years of living?
What story am I telling with my time and what sort of role model am I for my children, to whom I’ve dedicated my days and for whom I’ve decimated my boobs?

Am I just a Mom? Is that even a thing? “Just” a mom? It seems like a crock because “mom” keeps me busier than any job I’ve ever been paid for.
Am I just a wife? My career is voluntarily on the back burner these days and I have an associates degree in laundry.

I love being there for my people, but some days I go through life and wonder…. who is Leanne when she’s not being mom and wife?

Impressive Netflix consumer?
Latte addict?
Tidy-counter obsesser?
Worrier?
Whiner?
Pinner of newer, better ways of doing ALL THE things?

Who is Leanne and what was she put here to do, in motherhood and then… not in motherhood?

I’m learning that this is an important question to ask in my life, for all of us, but I think especially for Mothers.

Where are you in the midst of all the Mom?

You were before they were born and you will be again.

I don’t want to send Clara off to college and have no idea what to do with myself.
I want to show my girls that even if you don’t go to a 9-5 that you need to have things that you sprawl across the pages of your life and walls of the world that extend outside guiding them though childhood.

Is Mom enough for me? Should it be? Is this a controversial question? Should it be?

When in doubt I go and read “what my mother taught me” by Shauna Niequist … then I ponder.

Thirty three involves a lot of mom-ing.
A lot of rinsing cloth diapers and folding little socks.
A lot of grocery lists
Endless people feeding. Endless.
It’s a lot of running around cursing and picking up legos smaller than any toy ever should be.

It’s a bit of wondering where I went in the midst of the backpacks and bills.

But I’m learning that the best thing for my family is to be me for them, and I suspect that involves more than dishes and doling out snacks.

I’m trying to remember that when it comes to the number of people in my family that have needs that need to be met, that number includes me. I can’t keep ignoring myself and be the woman my family needs me to be.

I don’t really have a great handle on what thirty three looks like. I think it will involve more flossing than the previous years… and a lot of pondering questions like this.

This post doesn’t resolve. Nor should it. My life hasn’t resolved, it never will, it will end and leave a legacy that has and will continue to impact other lives. At least I hope it will.

Either way I’m starting off 33 with a commitment to think about such things.

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

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And Then There Was Clara (Part 2)

A few days back I started to share with you the story of how our new daughter, Clara, was born. In case you missed it, here is Part 1

I sat in yet another transitional bed and breathed deeply as the contractions amped up at what seemed to be an alarming rate, from every 10 minutes, to every 8, 5, 3. And as they sped up, they got stronger and more painful.

I squeezed Kel’s hand with each one as we waited for the nurses to work through the medical procedures necessary for our daughter to be born.

A steady stream of medical personnel made their way through the room, asking questions, running tests and filling little test tubes with blood for some last minute lab work.

Many of the staff mentioned that there might be a hold up centered around my breakfast. You see, even though I’d been having contractions, I had shared a bowl of oatmeal with our son around 9:00 that morning (3 hours prior) and the verdict was out as to whether or not the anesthesiologist would be okay with doing the surgery within five hours of the oatmeal.

Curses… I seriously knew I shouldn’t have had the oatmeal… 

Finally, gloriously, my OB arrived and took charge. Soon we had the all clear to move into surgery and were meeting with the anesthesiologist who, we were told, was the best one we could possibly get.

We talked about how I’ve handled spinal blocks in the past and I requested that an anti anxiety be “on hand” just in case I started to get panicky.

Minutes later, I left Kel in the room, clad in paper scrubs and was wheeled to the OR to meet our daughter.

I just told myself to keep breathing… in and out… in and out…  and praying, God be here… Healthy… Alive… See us through…and trying not to panic. Continue reading

And Then There Was Clara (Part 1)

Well I am insanely sleep deprived but I really want to take the time to get Clara’s birth story down before it’s lost in to the recesses of my brain forever. And I really, really want to share the story of her surprise arrival with you! 

I’m blessed, or lucky, or genetically gifted. I’ve gotten to carry all three of my pregnancies to term. So I try to keep the complaining to a minimum, because these babies are a blessing and I would never want to invalidate anyone’s struggle by complaining about my own blessings.

However, if I’m being honest with you, this pregnancy was hard and it took everything I have. It truly felt like carrying our daughter and barely sustaining our family was all I was capable of.

For months I operated in a fog at 50% battery life or less and to make matters worse I beat myself up about why I couldn’t carry more joyfully or with greater energy.

So,

As you may know our baby girl was due to arrive on November 13, but she came early on November 10. Here’s how that all happened.

All that weekend I had been having contractions that would come and go, but they were way worse than the Braxton Hicks, tight-belly only contractions that I’d been having through the second and third trimesters.10730843_541514449677_1758459000295678324_n

The evenings and overnights were the worst and I wound up calling my office’s on call doctor at 1:30 Monday morning to get her take. She told me to sleep if I could and call the office in the morning to get my Tuesday appointment moved to Monday.

I have to emphasize here that with our previous two births I’d never had painful contractions, even though I’d been in active Labor. So my trust in my ability to identify what my body is doing when it comes to childbirth is fairly low.

And these contractions hurt, like cramps that started in my back and shot around down my thighs. New territory for me. Continue reading

The Power of a Plan (with meal planning / grocery shopping form freebie)

What is this blog formally about? I don’t know anymore. Today it’s about grocery shopping with a plan. Do you mind? 

I love a plan, I love a planner BUT… I also struggle occasionally to commit to a plan and I currently lack the energy to make one some weeks.

I’m a wishy washy planner, it’s a blessing and a curse.

Yet, I find that when I go into something with a plan it becomes a total game changer.

Take meal planning and grocery shopping. Last week I made a crock pot based meal plan with attached grocery list, all in one document.

I bought the stuff for the decided upon recipes and executed them early in the day when I had the energy.

Our entire week felt pulled together by this one act. It was insane.

I once heard a pastor say that flossing was his game changer or hinge habit. If he was flossing, it led to other healthy habits. When he stopped flossing? Things started to slide.

I think there is truth in this logic. When we feel good about the way we are approaching our week we feel more confident about adding in other good stuff.

Like last week I finished some sorting and got our coat closet and medicine cabinet in order. I give credit to the original meal planning.

I used to work at Franklin Covey, back when they had stores in the mall, and we sold a paper form called the meal planning / shopping list. So I sort of recreated it in google docs a while back.

Last week Monday I scanned the ads, pinned easy recipes and then acted upon it.

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One Day in the Life (2014 Edition)

For the second year in a row I’ve linked up with Hollywood Housewife to photo-document one day in the life of our family. (Here is last year’s post if you’d like to check it out)

I did most of this on Instagram, you can follow that here if you don’t already. 

You have to understand we are in a weird season, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and Kel is between church assignments so his work load is sort of minimal. Our typical life right now is really odd for us.

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5:30 (ish) The day started out early with Noelle requesting to crawl into bed with us.  I gave in and settled her in to the middle of our bed and snuggled for ten minutes before giving up on sleep myself and heading downstairs.

You may have forgotten but during the last few weeks of pregnancy, sleep is elusive. Comfortable positions no longer exist.

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5:50 Scoot the dishwasher over to the sink to get it started, open up a can of cat food. so Alfie will shut up already.

Yes, my dishwasher is on wheels. We prefer to think of it as “so euro” rather than “so ghetto.” While I AM thankful for this mini-rolly guy, I do miss a “normal” dishwasher… Continue reading

A letter to my Son After a Bad Bedtime

I just need to write, to process life through words and to blog, I miss it and even if it’s imperfect or not tagline worth I’m going for it.

So today I’m sharing this letter I wrote last week after a particularly bad bedtime, I bet you’ve been there too. 

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Dear son,

you fell asleep in the hallway tonight, laid your little body down on the cold and unforgiving wood floor in protest of something that, to you, seemed monumentally unjust.

I tripped on you a bit as I made my way down the hallway, because you’d wrapped yourself from head to toe in your quilt. You scared me, I had no idea you were in there, I was sure you’d given up and crawled into bed.

I have no idea why you chose to fall asleep this way, but I’m sure it has something to do with the protests you were yelling down the stairs to me, the ones I ignored by turning the TV up and repeatedly yelling “goodnight!”

The last thing I heard you were complaining about your sister breathing too loud, so I’m thinking your floor shenanigans had something to do with that. I never have any idea what to do with that request, by the way, people need to breathe, that slow rhythmic in and out is something to be thankful for.

It was a rough bedtime, with Dad gone and you making multiple trips down the stairs requesting a snack, a chance to give the cat a treat, some time to watch TV with me and of course the breathing complaints.

I told you the kitchen was closed, I threatened to take away screen time, but mostly… if I’m honest? I yelled at you. Continue reading

Church Plant Postmortem

Photo courtesy of Flickr, user serzhile

Photo courtesy of Flickr, user serzhile

Last year we made the official announcement that we were planting a church on the NorthEast side of Grand Rapids. This past January they gave us the keys to a beautiful old building, a well loved home for our new church. We soaked in the pictures of the beautiful sanctuary together, and you all offered your most sincere prayers.

We had so many dreams starting out, I was going to write weekly updates and blog about the church plant, both here and on our church website. We were going to be a place of authenticity that made space for brokenness and lament, a community that could weathered life’s seasons and hard questions together.

A community that engaged creativity

That loved our neighborhoods by being a part of them, shouldering burdens, being present.

I committed to bring my true self to this church, not the paper doll pastor’s wife I felt I should be.

We labored over a name and many of you got involved by taking a survey.

We bought a house specifically so we could be nearby the church and engage our neighborhood with Christ-centered hearts, loving honestly and opening our home. We wanted to be authentic members of our community with no agenda other than to show love.

I saw so many dinners and real-true conversations happening in these rooms when we walked through this home for the first time.

Sometime this summer I stopped writing about the church plant, because well, when things aren’t going well you’re generally not the first to bring it up, you deflect or hope no one will ask.

Last week Wednesday Kel and I sat in a meeting where we agreed that it was time to close the book on our little church plant. Continue reading

Superman’s Smile.

Yesterday was a really hard day for our family, I’m not trying to be cryptic, I’ll fill you in when I can. 

There are a lot of things I could be worrying on, freaking out about, angry over. All of them rightly so

But you know where I am fixing my gaze instead? On this picture.

supermanIt seems like I would say “I’m keeping my eyes on God” or “his provision” or “his faithfulness” and I am saying that, but for some reason no verse or quote is saying as much to my weary heart as this picture.

This picture says “everything’s going to be fine” and “God is watching out for us” to me in a way that nothing else can.

It’s not a high quality photo, it won’t look impressive to you in a frame on our wall. It was taken in the dressing room of a Halloween Store under dingy florescent lights.

We stopped in because I knew we needed to. I’d spent the morning paying bills, reducing this line and that on the spreadsheet until it all worked out…. ish.

Writing checks, calling doctors to pay uncollected co-pays with one ear as the other one was filled with the voice of a little boy.

“Mom, instead of numbers, let’s look at superman costumes on your computer! Mom! CAN WE LOOK AT SUPERMAN?!”

No, No, No buddy, please wait, not now… 

And then, you know what? Yes. Before we can’t anymore, let’s go get a superman costume. Continue reading

Thoughts and Feels on Being Judged About My CSection

Tomorrow will find me 32 weeks pregnant. Can you believe it? I can’t, but then I get up to pee for the 173rd time each day and and yup, I can believe it. I’m so ready to be done peeing.

This pregnancy has flown by and dragged on simultaneously. One the one hand I feel as though I’ve been expecting this little girl forever, then on the other hand I am completely unprepared to bring her home.

No, my bag is not packed. I actually don’t even have the things I need to pack, my nursing camis from the last two babies disintegrated and the yoga pants I brought to the hospital became rags after being bleach-stained beyond repair.

No, the nursery is NOT ready and it might not be before she arrives. Kel is working two jobs and we don’t see a lot of each other these days. When we do finally have a chance to be in the same room, painting is the last thing on our minds. Usually it’s more like, “hey come sit on the same couch as me, bring the remote. Let’s pass out.”

So I’m not ready, but I know our sweet new daughter will be here soon, just the same.

And if I need to have a friend or family member run to target to buy nursing camis and yoga pants and she sleeps in a pack and play in our room for the first months, so be it.

It’s not even a third baby thing, it’s a life-right-now thing. I’d rather have a sane family, a (sorta) rested husband and space to take it all in than kill ourselves putting together a pinterest-worthy nursery.

The state of our hearts over the look of her room.

However, there is one thing I am extremely ready for.

I’m ready for people to stop judging me about my C-section. Continue reading