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The hard part about weekend travel is that it usually puts a lot of pressure on the other weekends we’re home. So much to do, friends to catch up with, and little people who demand a lot of attention. We just had one of those epic weekends where Jonathan and I both had individual time with friends, I was able to write, and we caught up on a few much needed chores around the house.

I spent a few hours back at the Santa Barbara Public Market on Saturday working on my May Coffee+Crumbs post, and I also go to see Jenny and Lisa who were both here separately for other reasons. When you live in a beach town, especially the beach town where you went to college, people visit all.the.time. It’s pretty awesome.

Next week my C+C post will go up, but today there is a huge giveaway for an organic Ergo carrier, a Halo bassinet, and 4moms rockaRoo. I will just say, as an accidental baby wearing mama, I am especially lusting after that Ergo!

Here are a few other great finds from around the web:

First, for the twenty something crowd (or parents with a twenty something in your life), I highly, highly recommend my friend Paul’s new book All Groan Up: Searching for Self, Faith and a Freaking Job. I loved reading Paul’s memoir, partially because I was trying to figure out all the girls he refers to throughout who I likely know, but also because I needed a book like this in my 20s. This book has been a dream of Paul’s for almost 10 years, and it’s so fun to watch the way his path to publishing happened. The book is well written, funny and also very practical. Congrats, Paul!

Robin is kicking off her Pilates Summer Series again. Are you going to participate? Her beachy videos are so great, and I’m trying to do one or two each day but it doesn’t always happen. Her updated series kicks off soon!

Loved my friend Bronwyn’s real story about a miracle that took place in her life a few months ago. Bronwyn is the real deal- a great friend, mom, and writer. Highly recommend this read.

Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. “The study found one key instance when parent time can be particularly harmful to children. That’s when parents, mothers in particular, are stressed, sleep-deprived, guilty and anxious.” What do you think?

7 best podcasts to try (This American Life has been a long favorite, but I still miss Serial.)

Hope your week is off to a great start!

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Wedding moments in Jackson

by Lesley on April 20, 2015 · 2 comments

in family,weddings

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When I married Jonathan almost 10 (!!) years ago, his sixteen year old brother Matthew was our best man. He didn’t particularly like me at the time, as I was the girl stealing his brother and best friend away, but when he delivered an eloquent and funny best man speech at our wedding I began to see a tiny hint at the man he’d eventually become.

It was a huge honor and joy to watch Matthew get married last weekend in Jackson Mississippi, to his sweet bride Elizabeth. As the last Miller sibling to marry, our family is now  complete (besides the growing number of grandkids) and there’s something really sweet about everyone having a mate. I always felt like there was someone missing at holidays, and  looking back, I think it was Matthew and Sarah’s significant others.

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed my influx of #mattaboutliz photos. All of us traveled to Jackson to participate in the wedding festivities. Jonathan was the best man and planned an epic bachelor party on one of the days that involved steak and crawfish and shooting things. Meanwhile, Katie and I entertained the cousins at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and got lunch and milkshakes at Brent’s Drugs, a legendary lunch spot in the area (and a scene in one of my favorite movies, The Help.)

Besides our trip to New Orleans a few years ago, I haven’t been to the deep South, and Mississippi lived up to my expectations. Lush green fields, so many trees, friendly people, thick accents, amazing (fatty, fried) foods, humidity, and a city oozing with history. After studying civil right leader Medgar Evers in high school, I really wanted to visit his home where he was assassinated in 1963, and Jonathan let me sneak in a quick stop the morning of the wedding. (I know, sort of a weird way to kick off wedding day, but, you’re only in Jackson once, y’all.)

The wedding itself was lovely, and the bride radiant and calm. Jonathan’s dad assisted in officiating the ceremony, marking the fourth and final time he’s been part of marrying his children off. Anna made it down the aisle with a smile, and despite a few wiggles up front, she fulfilled her flower girl duties well. (Let’s not discuss her and Owen’s behavior pre-ceremony, and just focus on her darling white dress and flower crown, shall we?)

Southerners know how to do weddings, and we fully enjoyed ourselves at the reception which took place at a boutique hotel in the downtown area. Unlike other weddings I’ve attended, this one had no set program or assigned seats. Toasts took place the night before, at the rehearsal dinner, which meant there was less of a program to follow. I loved this! When we arrived at the reception the food and drinks were already flowing. Grits station in martini glasses? YES. Mini chicken and waffles? YES. Carved venison, pizza, and warm cinnamon rolls? YES, YES, and YES. And when the live band started…let’s just say everyone lost their minds. This was a party, and we all partied hard including Anna, who made her own dance floor out of glow sticks and then raced around it all evening until we forced her to bed, in tears, at 9:30pm.

While our weekend was so fun, it was also exhausting. I do not prefer flying with children between the ages of 6 months and three years old, but we all survived our 12 hour travel days and (happily) do not have any other flights planned with our kids until they turn 18. Or at least four.

Congrats, Mr. and Mrs. Miller!

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It’s been a rough cold and flu season at our house. Like so many other families (yours, perhaps?) we’ve been through the wringer. It seems like we’ve been hit with one cold after the next. Throw in Owen’s newly diagnosed seasonal allergies, a few ear infections, fever, pink eye and our recent bout with the stomach flu and you’ll understand why I’ve basically turned into a hypochondriac. “What’s next?” I moan and lament. “What do we do differently?”

When Anna woke up sick on Thursday night, the second child to fall victim to a tummy bug, I cursed a few times under my breath. Jonathan was gone on a business trip and I’d already been trapped at home since Tuesday morning when Owen became sick. I was tired of cleaning up soiled carpets and bed sheets, and frustrated by the amount of work piling up before our upcoming trip. Plus, I was looking forward to MOPS in the morning and those plans would have to be cancelled.

And yet, as the long night wore on, and Anna awoke every two hours to vomit, my heart and perspective slowly (emphasis on slowly) began to change. These days, I have many opportunities to show up for Anna and Owen. I make them three meals a day, and bathe them. I take her to the park, and wash their clothes and kiss them when they fall. But, these caring moments are so frequent, so part of our routine, that my children take them for granted. At their ages, I don’t expect anything different.

But when I sort through the fuzzy and fading memories of my own childhood, I can remember the times my mother would hold back my hair and rub my back and lay down towels on the carpet next to my bed. These moments of physical agony, when we are completely helpless, is when the care of another person is so particularly memorable and meaningful. It is when we’re at our lowest that we truly appreciate and understand the meaning of love.

The last few days have provided many opportunities to pray over my children. I rub my new oils on their bellies, an anointing of sorts, and ask God to heal their bodies. I whisper encouraging words.

“I am so proud of you.” 

“I know this hurts.”

“You are scared and tired but you’ll feel better tomorrow.”

And when she does wake up, we cuddle and read and play all the games I’m often too busy to make a priority. Friday is long and busy, and when they sleep or watch movies, I do load after load of laundry, make meals, sanitize door handles, mop up messes. But in the midst of the crazy, I make an important realization: I am getting better at this job. I am confident. We have routines. I know how to clean up vomit effectively and contain an active toddler at the same time. I’m not a new mom…I am growing up. And the thing is, they are too.

These sick days are gifts, if I treat them as such. She will not always need me and he will not always want me. Someday I will wear a hat they find completely embarrassing, and I’ll cheer for them the wrong way at their soccer game. They’ll lambast me afterwards and I’ll probably cry, feeling like a new mom walking through uncharted territory. “Where did I go wrong,” I’ll ask? “What should do we do differently?”

When these days come, someday, faraway I hope, they will be new opportunities to settle into my motherhood role again. I’ll have to remind myself that just like babies be babies, teenagers are just teenagers. Colds and flus and temper tantrums and missed curfews are not an indication of bad parenting; they are an indication of growing up. And I hope and pray that in their desperate moments they will look back on the nights I rubbed their backs and held their hair, finding full assurance in the deep love surrounding them.

P.S. If you liked this post, you’ll love this article in today’s New York Times, “When My Daughter Called Me Sick, from College, I Got on a Plane.”

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The bucket swing is too small

by Lesley on April 2, 2015 · 4 comments

in motherhood

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Today I shoved her legs in the baby swing, because she insisted, and something about the whole operation didn’t feel quite right.  I’ve been trying to ignore the awkwardness of these seats for awhile but when I lifted her, so heavy and long, I finally acknowledged the obvious.

“I think you’re too big for this swing little girl,” I say. She smiles and throws her head back; eyes mischieveious and smile to match. She knows. Earlier this week she used the big kid swing, no problem, pumping her legs with precision and speed like she’s much older than three-and-a-half.

Meanwhile, her little brother giggles from his seat. He walked much of the way to park, stopping to (roughly) pat Sparkles the Cat and yell, “MOW, MOW, MOW” before pushing his own stroller the rest of the way. Little man is turning a corner. The baby who I was convinced might stay a baby forever has suddenly, with no explanation, become happier. Giggly. Babbling. And (besides his severe dislike for being left in the church nursery) Delightful.

It’s mostly an ordinary day, full of routines and time outs and string cheese for snacks, but I notice his belly looks smaller, and her hair is longer, and I’m no longer feeling frenzied like I was for so many months prior.

As a mom it sometimes feels like I’m living in land of Oh, This Again. We’re going to fight about which cereal, again, and argue about whether she has to take a nap, and we’re going to clean up leaky sippy cups and read Little Blue Truck for the ninth time and I’ll insist on brushing her hair and she’ll cry before I even put my brush to her head because that’s all part of the routine.

As babies their growth was nonstop and marked by piles of outgrown clothes, discarded pacifiers, and a boxed up Bumbo. In the toddler and preschool years, growth is slower. Better paced. Agonizing at times. If I don’t look closely, I forget they’re inching out of one phase and into another. One day she’ll brush her own hair, and he’ll read Harry Potter, and they’ll rush out the door without eating a thing because that’s what teenagers do, if I remember correctly.

One day, today, the bucket swing will be too small.

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Happily home

by Lesley on March 24, 2015 · 2 comments

in santa barbara

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A year ago, today, we woke up in Sacramento for the very last time. We’d spent the night at the Melvin’s house, which was appropriate since they hosted us on our first night in Sacramento, and I tossed and turned with dreaded anticipation of the morning, nostalgic about how we’d arrived in 2006 with a tiny moving van and no money, and we left with a much bigger moving van, two children and handfuls of rich memories.

Our years in Sacramento went so fast, but also so slow. They were hard and good years, stretching and beautiful; full of change and growth and the unexpected. Our final days and weeks were no different. The move to Santa Barbara came suddenly, and it was sandwiched between weaning Owen, taking a new job, and saying goodbye to my Grandpa Frank, who died on moving day. In many ways, it felt like we limped out of Sacramento, desperate for a water station and a good massage.

We’ve been here a year, and it only seems appropriate to mark this date with an Amen and a Hallelujah and a Praise God. Santa Barbara pursued us, and we said yes with some reservations, hesitations, and timid feet. And while we still really, really miss the community we had in Sacramento, I think both Jonathan and I would say this last year has been one of the best of our marriage.

I’ve been trying to figure out why this last year has been the breath of air we needed so desperately. It is partly because Jonathan has settled into his new job and really likes it. (And I like that he can easily stop home for lunch a few days a week, when he’s in between court hearings.) I think we’ve also really appreciated a solid 12 months without any major changes, since pregnancies and babies and cancer seemed to flood the years prior. But, as a whole, the biggest thing is that we’ve tried to embrace a new way of living.

Santa Barbara is a vacation town, and we decided on our first day back that we never wanted to grow used to living here, and so we’ve made an effort to create small vacation moments throughout our week. We watch the sunset regularly, and take walks at the harbor on random weeknights. While we miss our little house in Sacramento, we don’t miss yard work, leaky faucet fixing, and all the other things that come with a home built in 1948. Without house upkeep, we’ve been able to spend many weekends as a family; playing on the beach, hiking or picnicking. The thick air, the smell of Eucalyptus leaves, and our church community have all revived my soul and body in a deep way. I also learned how to take care of myself as a mom this past year; accepting that I’m not a bad mom for needing time away from my very needy little boy, and finding small ways to have a break from his constant demands. I’m realizing just how hard I was on myself last year, when Owen was an infant, and I’m thankful that in the middle of a very difficult season with him I was forced to make some healthy changes.

I want to be sensitive to the fact that not everyone reading this is in a sweet season. Maybe you’re in a hard year, or simply having a hard day. Please know that I still have those too.  (In fact, our last week has been filled with a whole host of snot, fevers, vomiting, canceled plans, and mounting deadlines that I just don’t even want to talk about….) Life is never all roses and sunsets and beach days. But, I also want to give praise where praise is due. God brought us home to Santa Barbara, and we are so thankful for our current season of sunshine, and avocados, and new beginnings.

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