Saturday, November 15, 2014

tula's heart

A picture perfect Tula.... capturing her personality perfectly!
 if you know me, know tula, or can tell anything from the picture above you can tell tula probably weighs the most on my mommy heart.  you see, she is just so tula.  very independent in what she wants to wear -this was a legit outfit that she fully intended to wear to the pool before nana's intervention.  very independent with what she wants to eat- thus the weight gain problem. and very independent in her thoughts and voices those thoughts loud and clear- think far left, PETA spokesperson opinionated! so tula wears on my mommy heart. we have said for years that she loves harder than anyone but can hate just as hard.  she has the attention span of about 2 minutes. she seems to be a little behind her peers academically. she has a memory like a steel trap for anything daddy and i have ever said but memorizing ABCs or counting past 10 is just not on tula's agenda. but this girl can talk, and her talks with people older than her are the most sincere, sweet, caring talks. and show that her heart is tender beyond her years for the elderly community.
Today Tula did nail care on Great Pawpaw, learning from the best nurse, her Nana.
 God's gift to tula may have not been academics or social maturity (don't get me wrong those things may come will hopefully come by the time she starts school). but for now He has instilled in her this beautiful heart for old people.  she gets old people and is not afraid in the least.  she asks to go visit her great pawpaw with her nana and pops because she genuinely loves it.  she knows the people who live in his home (a place for people with memory loss) and knows the quirkiness behind each one.  each day i learn something new about one of great pawpaw's friends that she has been storing in her little memory and waiting to tell a story about.  she is saddened to hear when one of them passes yet seems to "get" that Jesus has healed their minds and bodies now. 
Tula a year ago, looking at mail with Great Pawpaw.
we don't ever want to imagine our loved ones losing their mind and not being able to take care of themselves, but what if the reason behind it is to reveal the spiritual gift of my toddler.  when pawpaw moved into arden courts, the girls and i would often go with my mom to visit, to keep her company and add joy to her otherwise hard visit.  i can't imagine seeing my parents the way my mom sees her dad. and the craziest thing- it feels normal to my mom.  she is thankful that her dad is in his 80's rather than the early ages that she has lost the rest of her family.  she watched her own mom suffer from a disease that stole her mind in her 50's, her sister fought through a similar battle in her 40's, and last her brother died of muscular dystrophy in his 50's. my pawpaw is all my mom has but she is the best caretaker around. and tula has expressed such an interest in being with great pawpaw that she often gets to tag along, and learn from the best.

4 generations of love
i am thankful for my mom and her calling to be nurse but filling that role in a classroom where she teaches young people to be nurse aids. she teaches them to have compassion for their patients and does that through one of her clinicals at the nursing home.  she exudes joy every day- regardless of the story of her family.  she clings to her faith and knows that her family will be reunited in heaven. and i am thankful she has reminded me over and over again how special tula is for having this genuine heart and connection for the oldest of the old.  tula works a room of elderly people much like her nana- with a contagious smile, genuine conversation, a heart of joy, and like God is showing her her calling at the ripe age of 4.  

we are thankful for the life of my great pawpaw and thankful that tula has created some of my greatest memories of him. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

a lemonade kind of halloween

 sometimes life hands you lemons and you've got to make lemonade.  this year halloween was a "we better make some lemonade" kind of halloween.  joss came down with the nasty nasty hand, foot, and mouth early last week.  while we really knew she was no longer contagious by friday we were still too nervous (you can never be too safe!) to carry on our normal tradition of having the amburgey's over.  so as sad as we were we cancelled those plans but still planned to hit the neighborhood trick or treating.
 so throughout the week, we started to prepare for halloween.  the girls, daddy, and clove enjoyed carving our pumpkin.  the big girls painted their little pumpkins totally independently while mommy cuddled a very sick joss. and then tula enlisted the help of mommy and ivy to make cat cookies for her party at miss gina's.  even though joss was sick we still prepared all week for what we hoped would be a normal-ish halloween (even though we would be lonely without our friends.)
 sick baby=a dozen lemons
friday night weather=a dozen lemons
ewwwwww- what is one to do with 2 dozen lemons?...... i guess we better make lemonade.  when the rain started to come down, temperatures dropped into the thirties, and the wind picked up enough that our umbrella wasn't functional we decided to start convincing the girls of plan B.  indoor trick or treating!! the girls went to the store to pick out their favorite halloween candy. ivy picked a chocolatey mix, tula picked skittles, and joss likes everything! the 3 blind mice got on their outfits, painted little noses and whiskers, took some pictures, and grabbed their buckets to go door to door.  daddy and i hid behind doors as they knocked, shouted trick or treat, got their favorite candy every time, and then ran to the next door.  each time the girls squealed and joss quickly got the hang of maneuvering to the front to pick her favorite piece of sweet deliciousness!

the normal trick or treating turned into hide and seek trick or treat once we ran out of doors.  we laughed and laughed and realized the girls didn't feel like they missed a thing when they collapsed onto the rug to count their candy.  i am thankful for the little things like the joy they get from getting candy put into their bucket.  i am thankful for sticky drool from their first sucker and the pitter patter of bare feet running door to door.  and i am thankful for how resilient kids are.  disappointed- i think not.  they had so much fun!

 i am thankful for a lemonade kind of halloween with the cutest blind mice around.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

fall time

fall break.  it was so needed.  it was perfectly perfect, despite the fact that 2/3 of my kids were sick, it was perfect. we were home. we were relaxed. we soaked up the together time and my heart healed.  it was healed by my girls.  it was healed by pajama days.  it was healed by knowing that many other working mommies (particularly teachers) are feeling the same way as i am feeling this year.... a touch overwhelmed to say the least.  it was healed by all things fall time.

this week i was able to go back to work refreshed.  i felt the prayers of so many people.  i know my students' families were praying for me. they told me they were and i felt it on monday morning before i even got there.  i felt it sunday night when i couldn't sleep. i was so in awe by how god took this little "christmas in the fall" called fall break and really restored my soul.  i went back to work after going through a whirlwind of emotions and i saw my students differently.... as what's most important.  i was able to put all things mandated on the back burner and just teach, reflect over their first nine weeks, watch them set goals, and man, i had that tingly feeling reminding me why i love my job so much.  then i was able to come home and play and do the mommy/wife thing with ease.  we even kicked off this weekend with a dessert first kind of night.  

i am feeling so. much. better. 

i am feeling blessed and thankful and my heart is overflowing with this thing called grace that comes from my heavenly father. 

i am thankful for fall time and that special week called fall break that was just what the Doctor ordered.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Pool days are the perfect days.

Summer was perfect.... I mean absolutely perfect.  Don't get me wrong their were days when my kiddos fought nonstop, days when I couldn't get nap times lined up, days when the whining outweighed the laughter but all in all summer was really really good.  I hit my groove on managing life with 3.  My big girls were great playmates to one another, Joss was so cuddly and sweet, and the sunshine outweighed the rain.

But more than anything we had downtime and the downtime was good.  I am always ready for summer but I also love teaching and the start of school but this year has been different- hard- and I'm drowning a bit. But this blog is a place for honesty, for reflecting, and a keepsake of the memories.  I want my girls to look back when they are in their own seasons of mommy hood- and probably being working mommies, if I could guess- and I want them to say wow, our mama did it and it wasn't easy but we can do it too.

 I didn't blog much this summer because I was in the moment with my girls and nap time left me busy with reading good books, playing with Ivy, and sneaking in a mommy nap from time to time.  And then school started.  I wanted to blog about birthdays and first days of school.  I wanted to blog about Ivy and Tula taking gymnastics.  I wanted to write about the two weeks that we weren't looking for a house but found one we loved, put our house on the market, and then it was off again faster than could blink.  But starting school paralyzed me a bit- so here it is, nearly 9 weeks later and my emotions are here in this space. 

Pool nights with Daddy
 School is different- there are the things I love, my students.  Man, I love my students.  They are the coolest group of third graders ever.  We can laugh, we can nearly cry, and we are learning this 3rd grade thing together.  I also teach with some of my best friends and that is something that I love.  You can't beat going to work with your best friends, it makes the days pass quickly and the support system is always present. The actual teaching part- yep, I love that too.  I love teaching kids to love reading.  And now I am teaching them that they are learning so much just from the things they are reading.  I just was grading their personal experience stories and they did a great job.  I love picking out the catchy beginnings or the way they used dialogue just like I taught them to do in my mini-lessons.  So what's not to love?

Everything else.  Teachers are under a new evaluation system and let me be clear- it's TOO much.  We have other new initiatives that are constantly fired at us like rockets one year after another and that also makes me feel beaten down.  Reflect on this, set goals for that, teach this lesson like this, and use this curriculum here, and pull a little of that there.  Make these students grow three years since they are a touch behind, oh and the gifted students- yep challenge them too, but don't make anyone feel average or less than. Oh and the summer slide back- no such thing.  You, teacher, are now responsible for May to May growth- never mind that your students did NOTHING academic for 75ish days.

 Teachers have so much direction given and have lost every ounce of teacher freedom. Teacher freedom- freedom to know what's best for our students- we should have this, right? After all we have a college degree and are forced to get our masters with little reimbursement and complete many hours of professional development each year.  With all that said- I can barely breath. So I am wrestling.

Summer adventures with Nana

I am wrestling to stay afloat for my family.  I come home to three little girls and one precious husband who need me each day.  They need the real me, not the me who can't seem to manage life as a working mom.  I am wrestling to find balance with a career I love and feel like I was very much called to do with having a family which is my first career which I also feel was a high calling from my Maker.  I am wrestling with why me- when I hear about stay at home moms getting to take their kids to daytime music classes, story time, and preschool parties while complaining about their stained yoga pants and how their kids don't sleep. I am wrestling with number crunching- trying again to see if next year I could take the year off.  I am wrestling with insurance and cursing at the fact that my family can't get insured in any affordable fashion other than through my benefits. So I must rest. 

1st day of school and Joss Maven's 1st birthday! 

I have to rest in His plan for my life and stop wrestling.  I know that God put the seed in my heart to teach when I was a little girl and I was even younger when I knew I would be a mommy some day. So I know that these two roles are super important and are bigger than me.  I also know that if there was any way possible and it was His will, I would be able to take a brain break from the education system and soak up these last years of motherhood with young ones at home.  I have to rest in the promise that I will do my best for my students and put the system behind the little people that I lead.  I have to rest in His strength to be it all.  And I have to rest that one day their will be jewels in my crown for trying to be everything for everyone August to May, Monday through Friday, for the next 20 years or so.

So I am surrendering to all the things I am wrestling.... and just letting myself rest.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Birthday Season!

Ivy Camille 
On July 31st my oldest baby girl turned 7!

Some of her current favorites, hopes, and dreams!
Favorite color: turquoise 
Favorite thing to do: draw pictures
Favorite thing in school: science

When she is in 3rd grade.... Wants Mommy to teach her reading
When she grows up.... An art teacher or a baby nurse

What makes her special? Having a July birthday and loving Jesus

She is growing like a weed and sticking to her pattern of growth:
Weight: 44lbs (16%)
Height: 30%

Joss Maven
On August 13th my littlest baby girl turned 1! (Cue the tears!) I am so sad at how fast this year has flown by and can't believe my baby has already celebrated her 1st birthday.

She loves: eating, climbing, paci, bunny, and has in the last month shown a huge interest in joining the Smorstad sister ranks of taking care of baby dolls.

What she doesn't love: being contained.... carseat, highchair, and even the baby swing, many vegetables are now being thrown from her tray,  being woke up from any type of sleep, and having things taken from her.

Her personality:  Loves family.... hugs, kisses, galore! She is also very independent and likes to do everything herself. 

Weight: 22lbs (can't remember % but around 50th)
Height: 30%

 Tula Belle
Then at the end of the birthday season on September 1st, my middle girl, cream of the oreo, turned 4!

It is hard to believe this little thing is 4.  She still seems so young to me.  She still LOVES hard and expresses her dislike just as much.  She is spunky, energetic, opinionated, and at the same time very tenderhearted.

She loves: talking NONSTOP, baby dolls, caring for old people, sucking her thumb (but she has declared she is stopping soon), and sweets of any kind.

She doesn't love: staying in place long, quiet play, when clothes are loose or matching, and being bossed around.

Tula has always been petite but this year we have "fallen off" the growth chart.  We are doing everything in our power to help our very active 4 year old gain weight and go back in 2 months for a weight check.

Weight: 26lbs (0%)
Height: 13%

This year we did one ginormous celebration and surrounded ourselves with friends who are truly like family.  We felt so blessed that the stormy skies cleared just in time to host 50 of those closest to us for a pool party.
 The big girls table!
 Joss getting a visit from sweet Caroline!
 Tula loving her cupcake!
Ivy taking time to smile for a 7 year old picture!
Joss, who LOVES eating, couldn't eat her birthday cake because the song was so frightening. Awww!
The girls were excited to deliver a HUGE tub of food items for our church's backpack ministry with their party donations.  

Birthdays kept us busy for the last 3 months and now we will stop and enjoy our growing girls.  Time really does fly in this season of life and we are hanging onto each of the memories we are making.

Friday, July 11, 2014

missing ivy

 Dear Ivy,
        I am counting down the hours until I get to drive to pick you up from your first week away at camp and let me be honest, I am missing you like crazy!  I have to tell you, your couple days before leaving for camp weren't your best days.  I'd like to think you were suffering from the post-vacation, post-July 4th sleepies.  Or maybe you were dealing with a mix of emotions about if you were nervous, excited, anxious, or all of the above about going to camp for 5 nights.  But regardless the cause, you weren't in the loveliest of moods.  We dropped you off and when we got back in the car we said, "Well, I hope she has a great time, learns lots about Jesus' love, and that she will come home appreciating us a little more....."
        But guess what??? I have come to appreciate you a lot more with missing you these last 5 days.  I have learned a few tough things.  Sometimes you are the one that I am short with.  You are the one I lose it with.  And often you are the one who least deserves it.  I am sorry for that, Ivy girl.  I realized that you are the one who helps us get out the door when it's time.  You are the one who saves a couple minutes here and there when you buckle Tula's carseat and grab Joss an extra diaper.  You keep the sister's sane a lot of the time! You are the one who distracts Tula when she is about to lose her mind over something silly and the one who sings Joss her ABC's while I am busy.  You are my side kick and my have I missed you!
       I am so thankful for your helping heart and even when I can be so rude (who knew mommies could be rude???) you are always there to help me out the next time.  That is being just like Jesus.  You are already trying to be just like Jesus. That is offering me grace when I sometimes don't even say I am sorry.  That is loving me and our family even when I might not seem too lovable.  I hope you learned lots about Christ's love for you this week.  I hope I get to talk with you about salvation this evening when I pick you up.  If I could tell you my story of salvation I would make it pretty simple. 

1.  Before I accepted Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord and Savior, I knew I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a student.
2.  I learned that I was something even more great than that- I was a child of God, a daughter of the most high King, and part of His plan.
3.  I knew that I wasn't perfect- sometimes I was mean, grouchy, and unkind. I knew that God sent his only son, Jesus, to die on the cross for me. I wanted to accept Him as my savior.  I wanted to let him offer me grace and forgiveness for my mistakes. I wanted the promise of heaven.
4. As I have become an adult I am still learning about just how great His promise is to me. The most important decision I ever made and the most important decision you will ever make is this one- accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. 

I miss you, Ivy.  I can't wait to see you and hear all that you have learned this week.  My prayer is that some big seeds were planted in your heart- questions will be asked, it will be processed, and your understanding will continue to grow and mature.  You are only 6 after all.... for 20 more days!! Thank you for always being a helping hand at home.  We love you and have been missing you like crazy!
Love you,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take me back- Vacation 2014

This year we went back to Sea Grove, Florida and the beach redeemed itself after a very rainy vacation in 2013.  Everyone was there and we soaked up every last minute of family time.  We lived at the the sand and in the ocean.  Thankfully Graham and Joss have been formally initiated into the family sharing our great love of beach time!  Seriously, we couldn't have had a better week and now I am just screaming, "Take me back!!" 

By the end of the week we were all sharing Joss' exhaustion with the- we could fall asleep anywhere mentality- but at the same time we felt well rested, well loved, well fed, and were just overflowing with gratitude for the time we had together at the beach.  See you next year, Florida!