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March Reflections: the importance of sleep and melting snow

March was a slow month with lots more snow and cold while rejoicing at every single sign of spring!

Above, Elsie is wearing a bonnet that I wore when I was her age. I love it. I think she'll be wearing it a lot this spring. Because guess what? She's a red head. Not sure when I can officially call it, maybe baby hair changes color? But at the moment it seems I will have a fair skinned, red head. (As if she could get any cuter!) I'm already nervous about skin protection.

Alright, without further adieu, here are my March Reflections:

Elsie is sleeping for 10-12 hour stretches now. And we are new creations. I still wake up and obsess over stupid things and am trying really hard to break the middle-of-the-night routine of self critique. Reading lots of books and having helpful conversations. Feels like progress.

Long Winters eventually bring Great Joy
Historically, I like winter. I always get excited about snow and on the whole, enjoy the season. But this year it was so cold and the ice made walks outside treacherous. So outdoor play wasn't really an option, walks seemed risky and the winter was/is long (25 degrees today...) Everyone is feeling it. Everyone.

However. When the snow does start to melt and the temperatures do warm up, there is a shared elation that it hard to describe. If it's 40 degrees we ditch our big coats and make fast runs from our cars into buildings. People attack their driveways with gladness, helping the water flow into the street, assisting the snow in melting faster anyway we can. Some shovel their banks out onto the road so the blacktop can melt it quickly. We get desperate. We are ready to see green grass and tulips and daffodils and tree buds. The sound of ripping the plastic off of our windows sounds like many hallelujahs. We are so ready.

Brussels Sprouts
I've been making brussels sprouts for lunch lately. And it was only after emailing someone about this new favorite veggie did I realize that the Brussels is plural. I've always called them Brussel Sprouts.

Now, if you're looking for something yummy, put some olive oil (quite a bit) and onion in a skillet, throw in your halved brussels sprouts, let them brown up nicely, cover with a lid and then add some chopped salami or ham or already cooked bacon. And then sprinkle with a bit of sugar (they are so bitter!) or some chopped apple and walnuts and finally some Parmesan cheese (I like shaved...)  It is so yummy and hearty and Rory likes it too.

Ivar does not.

I am not finished yet.
I hosted the Groves family for Easter yesterday. It was my first time hosting for a holiday since we now have the room to have the family over. The day was nice, but I didn't have the coffee stuff together for the dessert, didn't have the forks or spoons ready and just felt sort of scattered. I told Rory that I want to check out some Emily Post books at the library and maybe take one of those refining classes where you balance books on your head. Rory said, "you mean finishing school?" And I said, "Yes! I am not finished yet!"

And now, be sure to come back tomorrow for a big announcement. We have added to our family. More than doubled it, in fact. These pictures might kill you with cuteness.

holy week

A friend of mine pointed me towards Ann Voskamp's blog this week. The quote from above is from Thursday's post and her words gently reminded me of the gravity of holy week, of our savior who suffered and therefore knows our suffering. When I read her writing I remembered His wondrous love. It seems every holy week I am in need of a reminder like this. It's why I love Palm Sunday, Maunday Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday so much.

And then I read Beth Moore's imaginative story of what may have happened between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. If you have a few minutes I highly encourage you to go and read this retelling.

a request for prayers

 "Calvin is now resting in the Pediatric ICU. The surgery went well. Once started the plan to go forward with the graft proved successful! This was what we were feeling God said the plan would be. This is also the less traumatic to Calvin's body."

This came in last night. Please continue to keep Calvin in your prayers. He will be sedated until Wednesday so this fight isn't over, but the surgery went well and for that we are all so grateful. 

Earlier this week my favorite miracle, Calvin, turned two years old. I wrote last time about Calvin after he walked into my kitchen with his mom and dad. You can read all about that visit here.

Today Calvin is going back to the hospital for another surgery. And in the words of his dad, this is the most complicated and medically dangerous surgery yet.

His dad wrote the following on his Caring Bridge site:
"Over the past weeks as the surgery date keeps getting closer we have felt the weight of the situation set in heavier and heavier.  We have been called upon by God to bring up this little boy and take care of him.  We know he is God and continually have had to give him up through this process time and again.  Although we didn’t have to wait like Abraham did for Isaac, we do feel Calvin is a promise and we have to bring him to the alter again.  I never would have known the weight that comes with this if he wasn't my own son, being a father puts a spin on it.  I feel these past two years have brought me closer to understanding God’s love for us, that he sent his son to be in our place.  

With that all said, a peace about everything has been given to us.  Please pray for continued peace, health, strength and endurance to keep up with this race.  Specifically for the surgery pray, for wisdom, that God’s hands will perform the surgery, a hedge of protection and quick healing for Calvin.  We are calling on you, our prayer team, to pray, enlist more warriors to join us in petitioning heaven for this little boys most complicated and medically dangerous surgery yet.  We thank you for standing with us.  The surgery will start at 3pm on Friday and is planned for 3 to 4 hours.  We will update once we have news to report.  Please comment and let us know where you are praying for Calvin, it comforts us to know our friends are with us."

So today, on Good Friday, please pray for little Calvin. And for Scott and Emily, his strong and courageous mom and dad.

a pop of color

Mara helped me decorate the Easter Egg Tree yesterday. There was a house in our old neighborhood that did this every year and I loved it. It was so cheery in the midst of a brown and grey (and this year, white) spring. The eggs are simple...I hot glued the strings to the top of the eggs. And the eggs are the kind that open but have a hinge so they stay attached if they open. We're excited for EASTER!

spring break sledding

My folks came over today with Mara, Sonna and Svea. Everyone went outside for a bit while we took turns pulling the sled. Elsie really seemed to enjoy the ride.

Mara is spending the night now for a special sleepover. When the little kids went down for their naps Mara and I decided to make chocolate milk. And when we poured the milk we were surprised by a few soggy croutons that splattered into our glasses. After a bit of investigation and recollection, it was determined that Ivar was busying himself during lunch while no one was looking. He was the only one sitting by both the salad and the nearly full gallon of milk.

Thankfully we had another gallon and had a good laugh while drinking our chocolate milk.

tapping our maple trees for syrup

We spent Saturday outside with the kids, tapping our maple trees. You might remember when we went to Murphy's Landing to learn more about making maple syrup. We did not know then that in one years time, we would be tapping our own trees!

At some point this winter we decided to give it a go and were thrilled to find a cluster of silver maple trees in our woods, as well as many in our back yard. We have tapped twelve trees so far.

Above you can see Rory drilling the hole, placing the tap and gently tapping it in. We used plastic bags with metal rims instead of the traditional bucket.

Tapping a Sugar Maple Tree from Becca Groves on Vimeo.

From the start, our maple sugar flow rate (sap) was about one drop per second. We think it might speed up as the weather gets warmer. The sugar maple sap is basically water: only 1-2% sugar content. It will take several days and maybe weeks to get enough sap to make maple syrup. After we have collected enough sap we boil off the water until it is a high enough sugar content for syrup. It can take 50 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! Now we know why the stuff is so pricey!

For the boiling process, Rory is building our own wood burning evaporator at the end of our driveway. I promise to document and share the whole process...

forest room art yarn

I have been waiting for a very long time to order some yarn from Sarah in the Woods. She dyes her yarn, uses a drum carder and then spins it. I like to pretend I understand what that all entails, but I don't. All I know is that she makes gorgeous yarn. So the week before my birthday, I decided it was time to pick out my own from her etsy shop. It arrived two days before I turned 32 and I opened that package with so much joy. It is so beautiful.

I have an idea for my art yarn. I am thinking about wrapping a hard cover journal with the yarn. I haven't thought this idea all the way through (how to adhere the yarn to the cover...) but I think it would be such a pretty way to see it everyday. Until then, it is set on our china hutch on display.

 If you're looking for a very one of a kind, unique, glorious gift, be sure to check out Forest Room Art Yarns.

ten things I learned in my 31st year

Well Happy Birthday to me. My father-in-law told me that he remembers thinking while he was 32 that 32 was his favorite year. I love that. And it makes me excited for this year ahead.

I have been thinking about all of the things I learned or re-learned in my thirty-first year. (I've written about some of these before, but thought they were worth mentioning again...) Here they are, in one random list:

1. When you're feeling ugly, don't go and chop your hair.
I remember watching an Oprah where a young girl's mom died of cancer. But before the mother died, she made countless VHS tapes of herself, telling her daughter life lessons, truths she wanted her to know. It makes me sad to think about it. They showed one video during Oprah's last season, now fifteen or so years after the mother had passed away. On the video the mom told the daughter, "when you're feeling ugly, don't go and get a drastic haircut. Wait a week or two, get a trim, buy some new makeup, and then decide if you really want to cut your hair off." I remember watching that woman on my television and having my own Oprah Aha Moment. What wise, wise words this woman spoke.

Fast forward to this January when I was reading this awesome blog post by Meredith. She said one of her new years goals was to grow her hair out. Initially I thought it was a funny resolution. But then all day long I kept thinking about how that is how you grow your hair out: you commit to not cutting it! So I jumped on board. Resolved: I'm growing my hair out in 2013 (with an occasional trim of course...)

2. Buy Warm Socks. Just spend the money.
I figured this one out last winter. But it has changed my life a bit. I live in Minnesota. I have chronic cold feet. And you know why? Because my whole life I have been buying packs of socks that are paper thin. Not anymore. Socks that cost ten or twelve dollars a pair are worth it. The price makes me a little sick inside, but  I'll pay it now. Because winter is a long season and winter feels much longer with cold feet.

3. Two kids are more kids than one kid.
Do the math. It's true.

4. Food can be marketed and made trendy.
My sister-in-law Stephanie and I were talking about this while on the North Shore this September. We talked about how cupcakes had made a comeback, how arugula had been such a big deal on pizza for a while, how popular pomegranate juice was for its time, how trendy ramps and truffles are, and how roasted brussels sprouts and kale chips are in style and thanks to pinterest, so are a whole host of crock pot recipes, smoothies and homemade granola bars. Recently everywhere I turn I find bundt cakes. Apparently bundt cakes are the new cupcakes. It's so weird! How can food be fashionable?!!

5. Reading my Bible is fruitful every.single.time.
I started a Bible reading plan at the new year and I still love it. I think I'm two weeks behind, but there are no dates on the plan, so there's actually no way to be behind. Every day is a new book of the Bible, Sunday is Genesis, Monday is Romans, Tuesday is Job, Wednesday is Psalms, Thursday is Isaiah, Friday is Matthew and Saturday...ah, well I missed one somewhere in there, but whatever. You get the idea. Again there are no dates, so you can start today if you'd like. I promise, you'll find it worth the time. God speaks through his word. I'm hearing lots. Print this and get started!

6. There is a countdown for the next Olympic Games.
It is like a digital paper chain. You're welcome.

7. The best help for our marriage has been sharing a dream.
Rory and I are going to this three hour class every week about living on the land. We're learning the basics of what we need for what we want to do with our property. Last week focused on tractors and sustainable agriculture. It was awesome. It got us so excited and we came home and talked at the kitchen table til the wee hours. We have shared hopes and dreams and that turns life and marriage from routine into something really exciting and full of possibilities.

8. Yeast shouldn't be scary.
I've made a few successful breads and pizza doughs. Wish I had started this years ago. Hope I continue to try new carb loaded treats.

9. You have to work to build community.
When we moved to our new place I knew I had to get to work finding play groups, moms groups and friends fast. Because winter was coming. I felt like a squirrel or something, preparing for the season ahead. Heh. So I googled for Beth Moore bible studies in the area and went to the Baptist Church every Sunday night and met a bunch of women that way. Then I started going to the library toddler group with the kids and met moms there. Then I joined a Thursday morning Bible study and met some great friends. I started a small group for moms where all we do is meet to eat out twice a month. And even on Friday, I ventured over to MOPS to meet more mom's with wee ones.

Sometimes it's exhausting. But it is rarely fruitless. Every single time it seems I make some connection or share in a helpful conversation. And sometimes I come home having made a new friend. Which is the whole point.

10. There is no one way to measure the productivity of a day.
I have a feeling this lesson is going to roll over into my thirty second year as well. I'm smack in the middle of learning this one. I like to have things to show for my time. A job out of the house would offer a tangible measure for me. But because I am at home, my measures are often deceiving... a lot of times my kids are in need of a bath, there is laundry that never gets put away, piles of dishes that I despise, and emails I can never seem to respond to. To base my worth on any of those tasks would make me feel embarrassingly behind.

But I am learning to measure my days differently. I'm starting to take a long view of things. To see my work as a calling. To treat my days with my kids as my vocation. Because if I based my days worth on the cleanliness of the kitchen counter, well, I  probably would have been fired long ago.

my 32nd birthday

Well, it was going to be a hard birthday to beat. My 31st was epic...a picnic lunch at Lake Harriet. Perhaps my favorite birthday ever. So this year had quite the disadvantage from the start.

Knowing this, and also knowing that my birthday bar is crazy high to begin with, I was proactive and planned my day accordingly. So this morning we set out to go to the zoo. I thought a walk on the tropics trail with Rory, Ivar and Elsie would be perfect. But as we started driving it became quite obvious that today was not a good day to drive places you didn't have to go. We probably could have made it, but we didn't have to.

So instead we went to K-Mart to look at the sit and stand stroller I've had my eye on. And then we went to Menards to make a return. Then we went to the local hoagie shop for my free birthday sub, came home and put the kids to bed, I cancelled my plans for dinner with girlfriends due to the weather and Rory made pioneer woman's lasagna for supper.

Instead of cupcakes I decided to make caramel rolls, which perhaps sum up the day the best: for something that was supposed to be so awesome, something went terribly wrong.

ivar quotes

We had a sick little boy at the beginning of this week. Lots of clifford, carpet cleaner, crackers and cuddles. It's so hard to watch your little one feel so miserable. He didn't like it and neither did we.

(Side note: Rory saw the picture of him and the kids above and he said, "don't put that on your blog. people are going to think all I do is lay on the couch with broken legs.")

And now for a few favorite Ivar quotes:

Ivar is into dramatic moments lately. They're not actual tantrums, because I can tell he is sort of amused at his drama. For example, I was demonstrating how to put his dirty clothes into the new laundry basket I got for his room. I had just done the laundry, so there was only a pair of pants and a shirt to put in the basket. This disappointed Ivar. He started crying, "I need dirty clothes! I need more dirty clothes!"

Later, while buckling him into his car seat, I pointed out the belly button on the monkey he was holding. In the mess of his jacket and buckled car seat he was freaking out, trying to pull his clothes up, "I want my belly button, Mama! I want my belly button!!!"

And yesterday we were talking about the days of the week. I told him, "Today is Saturday, tomorrow is Sunday and then it is Monday." And he looked very concerned, "What's sad, mama?"

He thought it was Sad-urday.

in case you needed a little springtime too

I got this bulb garden a few weeks ago and each week it has looked completely different. It's fun to watch and makes me hopeful that springtime might be on its way.

And here's a crazy thought that everyone in Minnesota is talking about today: One year ago it was eighty degrees in Minnesota. You might remember, Rory and I took Ivar to Murphy's Landing to learn all about tapping trees for Maple Syrup last St. Patty's day. It was a bad year for syrup because it was so warm, but a great year for spring fever!

And what's even crazier?!! In the pictures linked to above, I was just starting to show my pregnant belly and Ivar still wasn't walking on his own. That was just one year ago. A lot of life has happened in the last 365 days. We now have a baby girl, and our boy is walking. :)

Alison's favorite

We got to visit our former neighbor Alison. Last time we saw her, Elsie was still wearing her newborn outfits. 

We were scheduled to see her on a Monday afternoon, but something came up for Rory. I called to let her know that I could bring the kids or we could reschedule for another time when Rory could come. She said, "I love you Becca, but I really would like to have Rory come too." And then when we were together she mentioned again that she was so glad Rory could come. 

Rory was her neighbor first. Before we were married and before I moved in. And the two of them are good friends. He helped her with her garden beds or changed light bulbs that required a ladder. 

And wouldn't you know, while we were there, Rory was able to fix her dvd player...something that has been bothering her for five months. Rory figured it out, sat with her as she memorized how to switch the tv and dvd back and forth and she laughed with joy that she will finally be able to watch her learning dvd's again.

I sat back and took it all in. Neighborly love.

living on the land

Rory and I are taking a class together through University of Minnesota Extension. The class is called Living on the Land and is helping us with the practicalities of the dreams we have for our property. There are 28 of us in this class and everyone has or hopes to one day have a small hobby farm. On our first night the class discussed all the topics this series will cover: woodland management, planting an orchard, raising chickens, helpful equipment to purchase, permits for selling at a farmers market, fencing for different animals...

Rory and I spent a good chunk of time writing out the things we want to tackle this spring and summer, drawing up a master plan for our land and all the while getting so excited for every day that is ahead of us. We've got some work to do, but at the moment it looks so, so fun.

painting and parents

We had an awesome weekend here that included a sleepover with Grandma Margaret and Grandpa Paul. Rory and I went to a marriage seminar at our church on Friday night and Saturday morning so my folks came to watch the kids.

On Thursday night I had the brilliant idea to paint the bathroom while they were here. So before they came I got the paint, prepped the room, taped part of it and asked them to bring their painting clothes. My mom, dad and I painted the first coat on Friday before Rory and I left for the marriage seminar and then mom and dad painted the second coat on Saturday while we were gone laughing our way to a better marriage. How awesome are my parents?!!

The seminar was great and now I have a lovely robins egg blue bathroom. Thank you mom and dad!!!

John Denver

We're enjoying a snow day here. And as always, John Denver. 

Solo by Ivar, special guest Elsie joins in at the end...

being good to myself

I am so grateful for the emails, texts, phone calls and comments I got from Thursday's post. I suppose I knew on some level that by going there I was inviting a whole lot of room for response, but I think that was the point. Depression is isolating, and I've been alive long enough to know that a whole lot of people deal with this. Some long term, some short term, some in the winter, some after a tragedy, some after a baby, some while in transition, some while trying to put their life back in order. And sometimes things are just out of balance on the inside and it doesn't have much to do with what is happening on the outside. For lots of us it is some combination of a few of the above.

I really do think this is related to weaning. I found more information here, here and here. The timing lines up perfectly, and I did wean Elsie very quickly mostly because she finally took to the bottle and I was eager for some good sleep (Ivar slept great after taking formula). But I never even considered my own body's reaction as I stopped nursing.

I've been getting outside and that has been great. It's still cold here in Minnesota, but the sun has been shining and that feels awesome. The picture above was taken Sunday. Ivar insisted that his duplos come along in his stylish 31 bag. :)

now for a bit of levity: johnny pineapple

I've got more to say about yesterday's post. But for now, this seemed fitting for a Friday:

I worked at a nursing home for a few years as an activities coordinator. While going through some pictures I found this shot, and remembered an email I sent out telling the whole story. I found the email! 

January 15, 2007
Today Johnny Pineapple came to the nursing home to entertain our residents during our winter luau. He called us staff ladies up front for a little hula dancing and we worked the crowd. When Mr. Pineapple was packing up his things he asked if I had a moment to talk. I didn't- I had to go call bingo. He stuck around and an hour later tracked me down and made a job offer as his side kick, a Waikiki Wildcat hula girl. For real.

He does local gigs for area boy scout troops, nursing home events, father-daughter church banquets and is in need of a hula girl. He said, "my current hula girl is going through a really messy divorce, and I could just tell you can work a crowd...they loved you out there. Now you're the first person I've asked, and before you say no I've got to tell you, it's good money. $200 for 45 minutes of dancing. We would do an every other song thing...I'd sing for a song, then you'd come out and dance for a song and while one of us is on stage, the other is changing their costume just to keep our presentation appealing to the eye. We each have like 5 outfits"

You can check him out at  Part of me is tempted by the amazing writing material I could glean from this sort of work. The other part of me is tempted by the money. The other part of me is laughing my head off picturing myself shaking my hips in front of a bunch of cub scouts.

february reflections/ postpartum and naming my fears

I actually have felt myself growing this month. I feel wide open, aware of my weaknesses and am able to look right at them. Aware of my fears. Able to name them. It's not often I have this sort of clarity, so I am counting this as a blessing, though it is a vulnerable place to land.

I chose this picture to put with this post because I want my kids to forever see me growing and becoming the woman God made me to be. I want them to see me treat myself kindly, listen for God's leading and not afraid to be vulnerable and tender.

February Reflections:
A Humbling: Without going into all of the details I have been humbled this month like I have never been humbled before. In a task that I felt fully confident and empowered to lead, I think I may have missed the mark. And this has left me with my head bowed, my heart softened and my ego deflated.

God's Will: I have a dear friend who has lost three babies. I heard a story of three sisters in a fatal accident that knocked the wind out of me. I have a friend who just had her ultrasound and was told the very thing a mom and a dad hope never to hear. It has left me in a place where I wonder why some live to 98 and others will never take a breath out of the womb. But I've been reading my Bible and finding comfort. And that feels good. And better than good, it feels loving. I always feel so loved when God continues to teach me. Through Job and Isaiah, Matthew and Paul I am learning much.

Postpartum: I looked up symptoms and signs of Postpartum Depression. I found one very helpful site that listed six surprising symptoms. Anger and Irritability was number one. Trouble falling asleep and going back to sleep was number two. I've had these symptoms in spades and I took some comfort just knowing there really are intense hormones at play in my body. I also think this has been a long winter and that moving to a new home has played into my daily outlook, but I also think postpartum is real and I've been affected.*

Hard on myself: I think this is a result of the above, but I have been terrible to myself. I come home from gatherings and replay every stupid thing I said. I beat myself up for having talked too much. I replay conversations and feel guilty for having missed obvious topics that deserved a quality follow up question. It's ridiculous. I can write about this today because I had a nice day of good conversations. But I have spent far too many evenings laying in bed wishing I had acted differently, reacted differently, said something or not said something. It's exhausting. And it is time to start accepting myself, foot in mouth and all.

And so this is where I begin the month of March. I have a few goals for this new month:
1. Be nicer to myself
2. Keep reading my Bible
3. Pray and Meditate
4. Get outside for walks, take my multivitamin, buy more daffodils and tulips, drink lots of fresh squeezed citrus juice and play more music

March should be good. It's my birthday month, afterall!

bring on springtime

I bought these lovely flowers at Cub Foods last Thursday night as my own personal reminder that springtime will come. Last week was really cold and we were going a little crazy in this house. So on Thursday night we went to one of the hotels in town and paid five dollars a person to swim and hot tub for the night. It was money very well spent and felt like a little mini vacation.

And then I came home and made my favorite treat as of late: super pulpy grapefruit and orange juice. I got a little hand squeezer thing for a few bucks and love it so much.

We had the place to ourselves and the pool was warm as a bath. Ivar wasn't interested in getting in though. And we didn't push it. Elsie was in a great mood (I even brought her exersaucer so she could be self contained and happy) and Rory and I sat in the hot tub until I felt hot. What a great feeling!