2015 Books

I have had several people ask me to share the books I read this year, and I actually kept track this time so that I can. Last January I set a goal: 60 books for the new year! I knew it was doable if I made it a priority; I would only have to read a book a week, and a few weeks read more. By May I was on pace to beat my goal of 60! You got this, Kelsey! 

And then…

Becks finished nursing in February/March [I can still hear angel choirs when I type those words…]. This meant that my 10-15 minute chunks to read throughout the day while feeding her were no more. 60 books was still completely doable though.

And then...

Out of no where the new part time position at our church presented itself. This would mean that my "nap time" during which I previously would get a few house tasks done, blog, and read read read was basically no more. If I wanted to balance my time well, I would have to use that time to accomplish what I needed to for that position. It didn't mean that 60 books was impossible, it just meant a chunk of my time would be gone.

And then…

Two big events happened all at once: I became pregnant with our third child and suddenly and quickly and quietly our dear Grandma Pat passed away. What do these have to do with reading? Well, for whatever reason reading and my first trimester do not mix. I am very fortunate with my pregnancies and am not overly sick or nauseas, but reading made me feel blegh and I simply couldn't do it. Couple that with the loss of the person who I shared all my books with, who recommended and shared books with me, and I had to grieve that season and let that go. The month before she passed away, Grandma Pat had given me Gone With the Wind. She couldn't believe I hadn't read it, and it was a favorite of hers. I started reading it shortly before she went to the hospital, and finished it a week after she passed away. And as I finished the last page I wept as I said good bye to her all over again. I had to take a break from reading to give my heart space in that time as well.

But just last month I picked it up again and am back in the game. I don't know what the new year will look like, but I'm going to set my goal at 52 for next year; a book a week. I'll be nursing again at some point, which will give me some time to read, but I'll also have three children. Who knows?! We'll see where I'm at next December.

And now, finally, here are the books I read this year with my brief comments in italics. I also labeled them F or NF for fiction and NonFiction.

1. A Painted House - F 
[John Grisham] 
A Grandma Pat recommendation. Different than other Grisham books. Steinbeck-ish. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend. 
2. AHA- NF
[Kyle Idleman]
Kyle was the pastor at our church in Louisville and I recommend any of his books. He is witty, but it is not "Christian fluff" and it challenges you. 
3. The Opposite of Loneliness- NF & F collection
[Marina Keegan]
This is a collection of stories and memoir pieces written by a brilliant young woman. As with any collection, I enjoyed some pieces more than others. I still remember the one she wrote about her first car passed down to her from her grandmother, and I will definitely use it one day with my students. 
4. Seabiscuit- NF
[Laura Hillenbrand]
I loved "Unbroken" so much that, despite caring less about horse racing, needed to read anything written by Hillenbrand. I was captivated early and her writing did not disappoint. 
5. Scary Close- NF
[Donald Miller]
I did a full review here. Not my favorite Miller book, but still good. I recommend "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" before this one, but it depends where you're at in life, probably. 
6. Bringing Up Girls- NF
[James Dobson]
I have been wanting to read this for awhile. I actually only read 3/4 of it at this point, but it's one I will pick up a lot in future years. Research heavy, but gold. I recommend if you are in the trenches of raising girls… at any stage. He also has one "Bringing Up Boys" if you flipped the opposite coin as Brent and me. ;) 
7. The Mockingbird Next Door- NF
[Marja Mills]
I didn't even know this book existed, and as soon as I saw it I had to get my hands on it, obviously. It's written by a journalist who grabbed a rare interview with Harper Lee, and swiftly became friends with the recluse and her sister, Alice. Eventually Mills moves next door to the two sisters. The best account of Harper Lee that I've read. 

I did not realize I read so many non-fiction books in a row… 

8. Ford County Stories- F collection
[John Grisham]
I had never read any Grisham until this year, but Grandma Pat loved him and recommended him. I'm glad she did. I was impressed with this short story collection as it reveals his ability to create such a wide range of characters. 
9. The Winter of Our Discontent- F
[John Steinbeck]
Not my favorite Steinbeck, but still excellent [because STEINBECK!]. I felt like his voice in this book is very different than most of his others, but his characterization and plot development were very true to nature. It's twisty ;). 
10. Let's Pretend This Never Happened- NF, memoir
[Jenny Lawson]
Umm, there were some parts of this book that I really wanted to pretend never happened. However, there were parts that had me laughing loudly, out loud, no matter where I was. She is a bit crass and there is a lot of language. It's not for everyone. Check out her blog first to get a feel for her writing and see if it's for you. 
11. Nourished- NF
[Johnson & Randolph]
I wrote a review here.  I didn't find this book super engaging or inspirational. I got it through the BookLook reviews I do, and probably would have put it down otherwise. 
12. Alice in Wonderland- F
[Lewis Carroll]
I borrowed a really great, old copy from Grandma Pat. I felt like I was on drugs the entire time I read it. It's so weird. 
13. Landline- F
[Rainbow Rowell]
This book was different and clever [what do you expect from an author named Rainbow?]. It kept me engaged. 
14. Women are Scary- NF
[Melanie Dale]
Full review HERE. I recommend to women who are at a place where they are hungry for female friendships. 
15. The Worst Hard Time- NF
[Timothy Egan]
This book is haunting and well written. It is heady, and slowed my pace way down, but I highly recommend it, especially if you find the Dust Bowl era interesting OR don't know much about that time period. If you know someone who was living at the time, grab ahold of them and this book and do yourself a favor and have a discussion with them about it. I learned some interesting things from Grandma Pat. 
16. You & Me Forever- NF
[Francis and Lisa Chan]
I'm pretty sure this is the best book I've read about marriage… and having an eternal mindset. 
17. Orphan Train- F
I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the flashbacks better than the present day story. [And this is another interesting piece of history you can study. Grandma also told me stories about the Orphan Train coming to U. Star after we read and discussed this book]. 
18. A Time to Kill- F
[John Grisham]
I had already seen the movie, but it had been SOOO long I didn't remember details, but it made me picture the main character as Matthew McConaughy which is not a bad thing. A great court room/legal drama. 
19. Unoffendable- NF
[Brant Hansen]
Full review here. Very conversational and funny. I recommend this book because I think we all struggle with anger and our own "offendability", and I think if Christians want to be more like Jesus we should love better. I have a friend who used this for a small group study and it worked really well. 
20. Travels with Charley- NF
[John Steinbeck]
This was a fun little book. If you like travel memoirs, great writing, and the companionship of a dog, you would like this book. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. 
21. Just Like Other Daughters- F
[Colleen Faulkner]
This novel is about a mother and her adult daughter with down syndrome who falls in love and wants to get married. Not the best writing, but a unique story with some twists. Some parts are predictable. 
22. The Undertaker's Wife- NF
[Dee Oliver]
Full review here
23. Every Bitter Thing is Sweet- NF
[Sara Hagerty]
This had been on my list for a long time. I'm glad I read it.  The tag line of the book is "Tasting the goodness of God in all things." It is beautifully written…almost too beautiful. What I mean by that: it's very poetic and almost "flowery." The best writers know you need a little break from line after line of super intense, poetic/lyrical writing, and she doesn't really offer that. However, the story is very powerful. 
24. Yes, Please- NF, memoir
[Amy Poehler]
Meh. It was funny, as you would think it would be by Poehler, but to me her humor doesn't transfer as well to the page as other comedians I've read. I found "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me" to be a MUCH better book in this same genre. [And even though Lawson was super crass…even more so than Poehler… I thought her book was funnier and a better read]. 
25. Not a Fan- NF
[Kyle Idleman] 
Brent and I were actually still in Louisville when Kyle preached this series, and it was one we won't forget. Super challenging. I recommend. 
26. The Memory Keeper's Daughter- F
[Kim Edwards]
This was the first time in awhile I've read a novel I simply did not want to put down. I've recommended it to several people who have said the same thing. 
27. To Kill a Mockingbird- F
[Harper Lee]
Well, since TKAM has its own TAB on my blog, I think it's safe to say you know how I feel about this book. :) I wrote this post when I read it again this year in preparation of the next book's arrival! 
28. Go Set a Watchman- F
[Harper Lee]
The fact that I just typed Harper Lee's name under TWO books on this list still makes me smile. I know this book was HOTLY debated. Here was my full take after my first read [in less than 5 hours], in which I discover Harper Lee does not, in fact, poop gold. I hope to read it again this year and maybe add some additional thoughts. 
29. What the Dog Saw- NF/ essay collection
[Malcolm Gladwell]
This was my first intro to Gladwell and I definitely want to read more. I was so intrigued by his range of topics, his insight, his writing, and his sheer brilliance. I don't agree with all of his thoughts, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have added a couple of his others to future lists. 
30. Gone with the Wind- F
[Margaret Mitchell]
I've seen the movie several time, and it is very well done, but this book was so fun to read. I'm so glad Grandma Pat recommended it to me. It is definitely a commitment if you're going to read it, but you'll be glad you did [Brent, I think, would rather have needles stuck in his eyeballs than read a book this long]. Have you read the sequel? What say you? 
31. Interrupted- NF
[Jen Hatmaker]
I actually read/am reading this with the church staff. If you want to be challenged about your faith, and if you're really living the Jesus way, I recommend this book. And Hatmaker is funny, so there's that. 
32. For the Love- NF
[Jen Hatmaker]
I need to write a full review for this book, but I find myself having a hard time. I struggled with it. It is at times hilarious, and at times compelling. However, it is SO disjointed and all over the place and I feel like her message of Jesus could be so much stronger if she didn't spend the next ten pages writing about leggings. I'll leave it at that for now. 
33. Handle with Care- F
[Jodi Picoult]
I had sworn off all Picoult-- she's just not my favorite-- but a friend loaned me this and I picked it up. It read it quickly, as it captured and kept my attention. It's told from several different points of view, and I didn't like several of them. I hated the main character and it didn't really redeem itself. I'm still at a loss for how I feel about this book. 
34. Creating Community- NF
[Andy Stanley]
I read this as I started thinking about small groups at my church. Really informative. Probably not one you're going to pick up and read for fun, though ;) 
35. Small Victories- NF collection
[Anne Lamott]
Lamott has been a long time favorite of mine, and a lot of this book's stories were repeats from me. [I actually didn't quite finish it for that reason]. At times her voice is a little too…hard? much?… for me, but overall I do like her writing. I recommend "Traveling Mercies" if you've never read anything by her. 
36. Building a Discipling Culture- NF
[Mike Breen]
I'm not quite done with this, as we are reading it together in our small group. Gives practical look at Discipleship and ways to live it out. 
37. Tortilla Flat- F
[John Steinbeck]
This was a quirky, quick read. An early Steinbeck, which was a treat. Not my favorite of his, but engaging. 
38. The Invention of Wings- F
 [Sue Monk Kidd]
I really enjoyed this book. Pre-civil war, slave-era novel, and I didn't find out until the very end that the main characters were based on actual historical figures. I enjoyed her writing and the story. 
39. Just Show Up- NF
[Kara Tippetts & Jill Buteyn]
This was a short read, but offered so much practical advice and tips for entering into and "showing up" during the suffering of those we love. I recommend it if you've ever wondered how to be there with someone who is going through something hard, or if you have ever wondered what you can do for someone during that time. 
40. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime- F
[Mark Hadden] 
I'm not quite half way through this. Told from the perspective of a 15 year old boy with autism, it's sort of a murder mystery…about a dog. But it's really about the boy. It's unique. 

I started "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean [NF] but didn't finish it. I just couldn't get into it at the time. 

40 books. 
17 Fiction.
23 Non Fiction.

It was a pretty good list. I think I read better books in 2014 though.
My favorites, of this list, would be: A Painted House, Seabiscuit, The Worst Hard Time, You & Me Forever, Orphan Train, AHA/Not a Fan, Unoffendable, Travels with Charley, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, What the Dog Saw, Gone With the Wind, The Invention of Wings 

What did you read this year that you recommend? 

Check back tomorrow for the list I've compiled for "I would like to read this" in 2016! 


baby bump 3: week 24

[this is really me at the very end of 24/ beginning of 25 weeks] And if you want to know what I look like at the end of the holidays…

Dear Baby,

I cannot believe we're nearing the end of our second trimester. Sheesh! Where did the time go?! At the very beginning of this week we did our glucose test: I really don't mind the sugary drink I have to take, but the worst part for me was that I didn't drink my coffee before my appointment because I take my coffee with sugar. I didn't want to add any extra sugar to my system because my numbers have always been close. They said no news is good news, and I haven't heard back from them so I guess we passed! It was Christmas Eve when we had the test done, and she said they would be out of the office until Monday so I wouldn't hear until then anyway so I could eat whatever I wanted for Christmas. And did we ever!

We've been oh so busy-- here, there, and everywhere-- the last week. I kept forgetting to snap a picture, so that's why we got the tired looking one we did. But it has been fun to be around family. They are all so very excited about your upcoming debut, and couldn't help but pester us about your name and make guesses. Your dad and I held firm though and it will still be a surprise.

One funny thing from this week: your dad got fed up with our old box springs and one night just took our mattress off and put it on the floor. It is so much better [we don't roll to the middle and we've actually been sleeping!], but when I have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom getting up off of it is so difficult! You wouldn't think, at 24 weeks, it would already be so hard to do, but I told him we have about a week left of this before we have to get a new box springs and get that bed raised back up!

We got our first snowfall of the winter this week. I know some people really despise cold and snow, but I figure if it's going to be cold, I love the snow. The blanket of clean and quiet it puts over everything never loses its magic for me. I have bundled up your sisters several times to go traipse around in it, their little footprints disturbing the landscape, and I can't help but think about you joining in on their adventures. Will you be more like Blythe-- who seems to outlast everyone in her tolerance of the cold and wet and just keeps on playing-- or will you be more like Becks-- who hates to get dressed, but then has a little fun but doesn't last long? It will be awhile before we find out, but I love thinking about how you'll fit right into the mix somehow.

We love you, baby girl.

Love, Mom

Brent likes to capture these moments as well. How nice. 


baby bump 3: 23 weeks

23 weeks...I think. I'm all sorts of confused. I'm not sure I figured right and I think I may be 24 weeks? In my Belly Book I have this being the 24th week, but I maybe have that wrong. I know my due date is the 40th week... but does your due date end on the 40th week or begin on the 40th week? Someone much smarter, without pregnancy brain, fill me in! Regardless, I'll keep plugging along with these letters like I was, but I may be a week behind?

Dear Baby,

I feel like I am fully and completely way pregnant now. I feel you moving frequently, especially at night when I'm laying down, and can even see you make my belly move with your stronger punches. My back feels it by the end of the day, which is earlier than with my other two pregnancies, but I'm also older so I'm not blaming it on you, sweet one.

All I want to feed you is crispy M&Ms. All day long. Every day. I have consumed three of the big bags in about two weeks. Yikes. Your dad got some for my Christmas stocking [smart man], and I knew he had them in the house, so I told him we needed them and that he had time to get another bag to put in my stocking. He relented [smart man] and that bag is already gone. I guess we'll have to wait until Christmas ;).

I told your dad today, "I am so ready to meet this little girl." I love you so much already and I am starting to really long for those first sweet days with you where I just get to hold you and breathe you in and study your little face and try and figure out who you are. I am longing for those days where I get to tell you, "I love you, I love you, I love you" and kiss your tiny, soft lips over and over and over. I am longing to feel your sweet skin and smell you. But I know April will be here before we know it. This winter will be over and there will be new buds on the trees, new calves in the green fields, and in all of that newness I will get to meet you.

Blythe is more and more attached to you know. She counted our family the other day and then realized she hadn't counted you and quickly recounted: "We have FIVE people in our family!" She declared. Five. That number seems so large and I wonder how I'll handle all three of you ladies, but I know God's love is bigger than I am. There is a verse that says, "When I am weak, then I am strong." It's this wonderful truth that means that in my weakness, Christ's strength shows up. I'm sure you'll see me fail and be weak many times, baby girl, but I pray that in those times you also see Christ's power.

 Last night, I posted a picture of my pregnant self and wrote these words: It's my third time to be pregnant during the Advent season. I often sit down, exhausted and sore at the end of the day, and think of Mary. She felt the Savior of the world wiggling inside of her. I am often simultaneously terrified and awestruck by pregnancy. How much more intense were these feelings for her? And then, after labor in a barn, she got to hold Immanuel-- God with us. I'm sure she was humbled to tears, but I'm also certain she was overjoyed to finally meet, face to face, the one she had carried for nine months. The humanity of Jesus, and his arrival, are almost incomprehensible. And sweet girl, as we finish this week with Christmas I just want to say thank you for reminding me of the beautiful way in which Jesus came down to us. We love you so much and as much as I long to hold you, I am praying you stay safe and healthy inside for awhile.

Love, Mom

I thought it was time for a little comparison-- I pulled these pictures of me at 24 weeks [because I'm so confused]. Regardless, they're close enough.
With Blythe- 24 weeks

With Becks-- 24 weeks

With baby #3-- 23/24 weeks

I told Brent I definitely feel bigger than last time at this point! 


Christmas Letter

If I had printed and mailed Christmas cards this year, you maybe would have gotten this in your mailbox: 

I would probably have put these beautiful pictures Meagan took of the girls on the back of the card:

And then I would have felt like being a little more true to their personalities and including these gems somewhere:

And hugging against the card, on beautiful Christmas stationary, I would have included this letter:

Friends and Family~

I'm always amazed when I sit down to write our Christmas letter that another year has come and gone; and even more amazing is that the same truth prevailed this year as it did last year-- Jesus came down to earth as a human baby to save us and be our Emmanuel.

At the beginning of this year we had a two year old and an 8 month old. Very quickly Blythe turned three and, after a Finding Nemo birthday party, never looked back. She keeps us laughing constantly with her quirky personality. She has a huge sense of humor not just for her age but for anyone! Some funny things she has said this year include, "Nana, Papa gave me too much [chocolate milk]....pause...It's okay. I am drinking the too much." And after going to the bathroom, "There is no more poopy in there so now Jesus can live in there!"  She makes friends quickly and easily and doesn't seem to know a stranger. Just in the last couple of weeks she asked the clerk at the grocery store how old she was and invited a bank teller over to our house. She never stops talking, sleeps in like her mother, and looooooves anything sweet or snack-like like her father [a friend asked her what she wanted for a surprise next time she babysat and she said, "Uhhh, cookie dough." The friend asked if she should bring her a toy. She said, "No thanks. I just like cookie dough."] Like any three year old, she has her moments of disobedience and fit-throwing, but all in all we hit the jackpot with this one and she is kind-hearted, loves her sister, and is definitely already manifesting some of the traits we pray for her: joyfulness, hospitality, and compassion [we'll work on modesty later when she isn't a three year old who just wants to play in her underwear all day].

And then there is Becks. At the beginning of the year she was sweet as pie, still nursing, and weighed about 14 or 15 pounds-- a teeny, tiny bundle of sweet. In February she started crawling, and in May she turned one, and finally started walking at the beginning of August. And then, Lord have mercy, that girl got some spunk! We still don't know who she looks like [light hair, blue eyes?!], but we've clearly decided she behaves a little too much like how her stubborn mother behaved. Her personality is bigger than she is [her pediatrician did some fancy math and said she may one day be 5 foot], and is not afraid to let you know what she wants. But she's also as cute as a little doll, loves to snuggle and be scratched, and still has that sweetness she was born with. She loves to sing and dance, read books, and so far is our best eater by leaps and bounds [ahem. She has zero competition from Blythe's corner]. If Blythe is the child I always thought I would have, Becks is the child I never knew I needed.  She too is already exhibiting some of the traits we pray for her, devotion being at the top.

Brent continues to work hard at the bank here in town as the compliance officer.  Regulations seem to keep piling up from the federal government, and he gets to be the one to sift through all the fine print and bring the news to the bank employees! He really enjoys his work environment, his hours, and his ability to come home every day to have lunch with all his girls. He also plays guitar for our church worship band, and continues to love running. He ran another half marathon in April in our old city of Louisville, and ran his personal best record of 1:29. He ran another half in June, bettering his time by a minute. Sometimes, because he runs so much, the feat of running these races can be lost on me until I remember just how incredible it truly is! Later in the summer he did another sprint triathlon, which is one of his favorite events, and finished first overall that day! You would never know this stuff though if he were the one writing this letter, because he still continues to be the humble guy he's always been. He turned 30 just last month, and instead of a big celebration, he wanted to run 30 kilometers [or 18.6 miles]. He also had friends and family [many of YOU awesome people] pledge a donation per mile to raise money for his upcoming mission trip to Haiti. It was cold and we had freezing rain, but he finished under his goal time and was able to raise support for his trip. What a blessing... and what a way to ring in 30 years! [No. I will not be doing this for my 30th. I am actually due to deliver a baby the day of my 30th birthday, which I think may be just as hard has running 30k. Don't quote me on that, I've never run more than a 5k. Actually, I didn't even run that whole 5k...]

I completed my last year of coaching high school softball this fall. Coaching has been something I have loved for the last six years, and I know I will miss it. I also started a new part time job at our church in August. I am the "Prayer and Engagement Coordinator" and have really enjoyed being on staff and getting to serve in this way, but am still trying to find the right balance of time for everything [as you may have noticed a huge lack in the blogging content]. I can fully say this year that I am 100% happy being a [mainly] full time stay at home mom, though my sweats and ragged hair may say otherwise. Even though it is exhausting and my patience runs thin, it is an absolute privilege to be with the girls all day. 

Two major things happened in our lives this summer: we lost our dear, dear Grandma Pat and we found out we are expecting baby number three. [We actually said goodbye the same day we said hello. If you missed that incredible work of God, you can read about it here.] I have grieved Grandma Pat's absence many times over in the last several months, and this Christmas season will be different without her, but we know she is with the same sweet Jesus we are celebrating. He is Emmanuel, God with us, and this year she gets to be with Him. We anxiously await the arrival of this third, precious girl in the spring, and we will be sure to tell her all about our God, but we will also tell her all about her Great Nini Pat.

And this Christmas we hope you take time to think about and worship this great Emmanuel. We hope you take time to sit in stillness and think about that baby born in a stable; we hope you take time to worship that Savior. And we hope you drink hot chocolate and "egg noggin" [as our girls call it], and eat your fill of treats. We hope you sit around large tables filled with people you love. We hope you care for those who don't have a large table to sit around, and maybe even invite them to yours. We hope you sit in a dark house lit up only by the lights of a Christmas tree. We hope you watch your favorite Christmas movies and bring cookies to your neighbors. We hope you let this advent season linger in your hearts all year.

Merry, merry Christmas!

Kelsey [Brent, Blythe, Becks, & baby girl #3]


Baby Bump 3: 22 weeks

Dear Baby,

Another week in the books! Good job. Christmas parties are underway and it seems like all the holiday food is pouring in already. And you and me? We don't mind one bit.  I do think I'm a touch bigger than I was last time at 22 weeks, but not too much. However, I definitely feel way more pregnant already.

You've been moving and grooving a lot more lately, especially when I am just still after I've been moving a lot. Blythe tried to feel you moving the other day, and she said she did, but I know she didn't because she didn't react at all when you jabbed a little. I'm excited for that first interaction between you two. She has also moved on from the name "Twizzler" and would like to call you "Ariel." She thinks it is a beautiful name and she keeps saying, "Blythe, Becks, and Ariel." Don't worry, that will not be your name.

As we move further into this Advent season, and closer to the celebration of the birth of Christ, I can't help but think about Immanuel, God with us. Being pregnant during this time is always a blessing, and it always makes me really think about Mary-- the normal fears she would have had just being pregnant, let alone knowing that she was carrying the Savior of the world. When he kicked and squirmed inside of her like you do now inside of me, was she moved to tears every time by the immensity of what was happening?

But that is how God chose to send his son, our Savior, to us. As a baby. The same way you will enter this world in a few short months. It's incredible. Birth is a miracle every time. And when you are born I cannot wait to whisper the truths about our Immanuel to you.

Love, Mom


It's who I am

It's quarter until nine and Becks is saying "All done" and then immediately covers her face with milk-sticky hands and I have to play the "I-need-to-wipe-Becks-up-but-don't-know-where-she-is" game. I move over to the sink to make my coffee when Blythe peeks her head around the corner and says, "Mom, you have to come to the place to pretend to buy some ice cream." And I'm thinking, "Can we pretend that Mommy gets dressed? And has her cup of coffee?" But before I get that out of my mouth [or buy my pretend ice cream] screams have broken out over who gets the harmonica. 
Before I have a chance to break it up, it's over and Blythe has found a plastic carrot and is telling me to "pretend you see a girl walking by you eating a carrot and she isn't talking to you but she's talking to her friend Becks, and you say, 'Talk to me!'" And then all of a sudden I am pretending that she "is Stacy and that Becks is Coach." And don't you know, Becks won't follow the rules of the first-born which is causing issues and for-the-love I am still in my pajamas! 

I finally get the girls in the bathroom to brush their teeth and Becks "brushes" and insists on more "toothpash" and then "brushes" and insists on more "toothpash" and then brushes and insists on more "toothpash" and I say no more and she screams until she is consoled with a little more water on her toothbrush. Blythe, meanwhile, is done brushing and gets the idea to set up a store and while I'm finally finishing my hair [read: putting it in a messy ponytail] she brings me a purse and some pretend money and tells me the store is open.

I manage to make coffee and "buy" it at the store, but only after Blythe is screaming because "Becks wants my cash register but I WANT it, and I CAN'T share because I NEED it but Becks wants to take my cash register..." tears. fits.

I buy my coffee and some ornaments from our tree and promptly remember the load of wash I started yesterday that is still sitting in the washing machine. So I throw in some of those scent booster things and run a rinse cycle. When I close the door to the laundry room I notice the pencil scribbles on the door--- one of three doors that was marked by artistic Becks--- and make a mental note to come back to it.

I then happen to glance under the kitchen table and Lord have mercy on my soul for how disgusting I let that get. There are two spoons tossed haphazardly and an undisclosed amount of cereal and two peaches cemented to the floor. I ask the girls, "Do you want to play Cinderella and scrub the floor?!" Because they are three and one and this works for now, my floor gets flooded but also cleaned as I follow them around with a huge towel. 

This also means by quarter after ten the girls I had somehow managed to get dressed are now naked again because their clothes are sopping wet.

Some days are easier to embrace than others. Some days I can step on another cheerio and mash it into my living room carpet and continue in my game of hide and seek. But most days I struggle with embracing the chaos and the mess. If I just didn't have to keep the house clean, I could really enjoy this time with the girls. If I just didn't have to think about what to make for supper, I could go for a walk right now. If they could just stop needing me every blessed second and I could drink my coffee in five minutes of silence, then I could face this day. 

The truth is, even if I had a cup of coffee that was still hot when I finished it, and even if I could get ready all at one time without needing to stop for twenty different little things, and even if my house was clean and I perfectly focused on the girls, I couldn't face the day. I couldn't face a single day without Jesus. His kind of love embraces the imperfect, the distracted, the flawed. His kind of love looks past the mess. His kind of love allows me to be okay with the crazy role I'm in right now.

It is exhausting work. Physically. Emotionally. The whole gamut. Sometimes I just want to have an adult conversation instead of pretending to be a turkey.

And then this afternoon when I felt like everything had been spent, and Blythe wasn't even being naughty but I was out of patience, I thought about the Chris Tomlin song, "Good Good Father". In it he sings You're a good, good father-- it's who You are.... And I am loved by You-- it's who I am. It's such a simple truth but everything hinges on that. He is good. And I am loved.

And so, even after a morning of scribbled on doors and wet floors and exhaustion, I sat down with Blythe on her bed and I looked into her big brown eyes and I said: Blythe, did you know I really like you? And a smile spread across her face. I like how you have such a big imagination and can pretend all sorts of things. I like how you love your sister and include her when you're playing. I like how you are kind to other people. And I like how you can make me laugh because you're so silly. She was beaming. And then she gave me an example of one time she was kind to someone, and then she made a silly face to make me laugh.

And I didn't say those things to her so she would like me and forget about all the rotten ways my heart had spewed that day; I said those things because I have a good, good Father who loves me despite it all. I said those things to her because that good, good Father calls out good things in me that I sometimes can't see for myself. And I said those things because I want her to know that love of the good, good Father, even when my lack of love may get in the way. 


Baby Bump 3: 21 weeks

terrible lighting, sorry. I went to grab my camera and it was dead so another iphone picture. boo.
Dear Baby,

I feel like 21 is a big week, because now we are on the downward climb of this journey of ours. I understand there is still a long way to go, but we have less on this end than when we began back in August. Incredible.

I’m starting to brainstorm some ideas for your nursery. Most of it will stay the same: same wall color and curtains and bedding that your sisters had, but I want to bring some other stuff in just for you. I will obviously display your name somewhere prominently so there is no doubt that it is now your room. Your sisters were both in our bedroom for a little bit: Blythe for one week and Becks for about 2 days [she was so loud! You’ll learn soon enough that she still is!], so you’ll stay with us for a short little while, but we like putting you in your own space quickly. For that reason, I want it to feel like your room.

When I think about that, about actually having a new little baby girl to lay in that crib, I can hardly believe it is a reality. Didn’t we just do that? Yes and no. Are we ready to do that again? Yes and no. I think a person is always only mildly prepared to become a parent, or become a parent again. There are so many unknowns. Obviously the first time it’s all brand new information, but even the second time I realized I was becoming a new and different kind of mother than I had been, because I had a new and different kind of child. Which makes me wonder what kind of mother you’ll bring out in me that I haven’t gotten to discover yet?

Speaking of being on the “downward” end of journey, I think this is my last week to make my non-maternity pants work. Time to bust out the full panel jeans. I’ve said this before though, and I will say it again: I do not mind the weight gain or the way my body changes during pregnancy. Truly. Sincerely. Sure, there are parts that are uncomfortable that I would like to do without, but I don’t mind watching my belly expand because it is you and it is this crazy reminder of the God we serve: He is a God of abundance and He gives life. It is a beautiful thing and I will never bemoan that.

I love you, sweet girl. Winter is officially here, so stay warm and I’ll try to drink plenty of hot chocolate and coffee for you :).

Love, Mom


something magical

Dear Everyone,

Please consider this a public service announcement. Do you know what is great about living in 2015??? Online grocery shopping.

I repeat: Online grocery shopping.


Yes. It is a real thing. And it is the best. Here's the scoop: I'm sure several places do this now, but near me that store is HyVee. They've always had great service and pretty great groceries, but I always thought they were a tad more expensive than other options. But then they offered online grocery shopping and they won me over.

So I shop from my couch. While the girls are asleep. Read: while the girls are not squirming in the cart or wanting food they see in every aisle. My girls have always done pretty okay at grocery stores, but when I would get to the checkout I was so overwhelmed. Unloading the cart, reloading the cart, keeping the occupied, getting the car, loading the car... whew. That was the really tough part. Not to mention it took up an entire morning since I have to drive at least 20 minutes for the nearest store. 20 minutes there, at least an hour shopping, at least 20-30 minutes to check out and load van, 20 minutes back, and then to unload and put it all away.

Online grocery shopping.

It was like Jesus said, "You know what? Grocery shopping is the pits. Here."

And so I shop online. And I spend the same amount as I did before because I'm not walking down the aisle and seeing things and throwing them in the cart even though they aren't on my list. And I can see the amount before I check out. And I can edit my cart if I don't want to spend that amount. And then I pull into the parking lot, I call a number, I wait a few minutes, and someone brings me my bags and I put them in the van. And then when I get home to unload them they are all packed according the sections: freezer, produce, cans etc. It is awesome. And it's free if I spend over $100. Which. Duh.

And I am kind of picky about produce and meat when I'm shopping, but they've done a great job so far.

No. This isn't a referral program. It's just something you should totally do. That's all. As you were. [Unless "as you were" is fighting through the grocery store.] 


I am trying...

I just opened my "new post" tab and this big, blank box appeared. And I breathed a deep, cleansing breath. I have missed this big, blank box. I have missed this space. I have missed writing.

But I'm also trying to figure out how to be a present mom, and how to get two girls to listen and obey and love Jesus and maybe, in the process, still like me at the end of the day: me-- the crabby woman grabbing for another cup of coffee who didn't take the time to put on real pants* today and who just used that exasperated voice on you [again] simply because you asked if you could have strawberry milk instead of regular milk [the answer is no, right now, but should I be exasperated that you asked that? No. Sorry. My apologies, I'll try to be better next time].

*to be clear, I view "real pants" as the kind that require buttoning or zipping of some fashion

I'm also trying to survive pregnancy exhaustion [and pregnant women everywhere raise their fists in solidarity].
I'm clearly NOT trying to keep mirrors clean or stop Katniss from practicing her bow skills [see the bow at my feet]

I'm also trying to stay ahead of household stuff like feeding my family [they protest if I skip this step], paying bills [people also protest if I skip this step], and figuring out insurance for next year because, oh hey, FYI "we are no longer offering health coverage next year, " says my current provider.

I'm also trying to do well at my "new" job at our church: I guess I haven't really said much about it here, but I am working part time as the "coordinator of engagement and prayer."

I'm also loving taking more pictures for people, and trying to get pictures edited and back to everyone in a timely manner!  I even saved enough to update my camera. You read that right: not a new lens but a whole new camera. Very big deal.

Also, at 9 oclock this morning while the girls were eating their breakfast [we're late rises...praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost], I took one look at my filthy oven and it tipped me over the edge and I just dove into it. 

So that mess is happening right now. You should have seen my burners. Yikes. It made me think of Grandma Pat because 1. at least 12 times a day I think of Grandma Pat and 2. the day we moved into the house we had a lot of helpful hands on deck, hers being two of them. She manned the stove and she got those burners sparkling and she said, "Now I expect it to look this way every time I come over." Thankfully I knew she was joking because it most definitely did not look like any time she came over. Maybe after today it will. Maybe.

Oh, yes. And I am also trying to get everything updated in baby books for Blythe and Becks so I can begin baby girl number 3's book. I am keeping a "Belly Book" for her, just like I did the others, and so help me I will document this pregnancy and baby. But really, forgive your parents if you were not the first child and they didn't buy you a baby book.

But I want to keep writing and processing here. Hang with me. Maybe someday I'll put on real pants again. But for now I'll write when I can and try to keep my girls from burning the house down...if my dirty oven isn't the first culprit. 


baby bump 3: week 20

Note: I had visions of only using my good camera and taking all my belly pictures in front of the brick wall in good lighting. That has happened once [the second time was a rushed job with not enough light] and the third attempt is an iphone picture at the end of a long day. But I'm trying. I didn't think I would crash and burn in my attempts to soon.
I was laughing so hard at Blythe during these pictures...

Dear baby,

The halfway point. It's always kind of a big deal to get here. However, this time it began with a little scare. I wasn't sure you were okay and when that happened I had to force myself to breathe deeply and calm down. It was in that time that I realized something I already subconsciously knew: my love for you is fierce and strong, and my ability to love another child just expands with you.

On the way to my appointment to make sure you were okay, I listened a song that said, " Father of light, you made us one; you poured out your love when you poured out your son." And in that moment I was reminded that I had a God who is a father, a parent. And He is holding us. When we got to the appointment it didn't take long to confirm all was as it should be and you were okay. Such a relief. Such a reason to give thanks.

This week was also Thanksgiving. So far I've been able to get buy without many maternity clothes, but maybe not after this week! :)We had a pretty low-key week, all things consider, but enjoyed some good time with family.

I think we already have your name picked out! We like to have it pretty narrowed down by the time we have our sonogram and I think we know the perfect one... at least we hope it's the perfect one. It seems like such a big decision, but I've learned that in the end, no matter what, you grow into it and it becomes you. People are already begging us to tell them or give them hints, but we'll stay strong and it will be our little secret until you're here. We just have to make sure Blythe doesn't pick up on it and blab it to everyone. So far she's had some interesting names for you, Twizzler being at the top of the list. Blythe wanted to read you a book this week. We talked about how you can hear our voices, and one day at nap time she asked if she could read you a book before I read hers, and then she leaned down and kissed my belly. It was a sweet moment. Becks will point to my belly and say, "baby" but I have a feeling you'll be a big surprise to her upon your arrival.

We love you!

Love, Mom

and now... my little photo bomber who was slap-happy right before bed time. 


baby bump 3: week 19

Dear baby,

This was the week! The big ultrasound week. This time I had been lucky enough to get to see you a couple other times with an ultrasound, but this time you were big enough to measure important things and make sure everything was working. And you looked awesome. Your big sisters came with us and Blythe was really into watching you on the screen, but Becks wasn't so sure. You were laying cross-legged and facing my back, but eventually you rolled over so we could see your sweet little profile, and you were sucking your tongue!

And then the sonogram tech asked if we wanted to know your gender. Your dad and I eagerly said YES. It's one of my favorite moments during pregnancy because there are more specific things I dream and pray for you once I know your gender. "It's a girl!" she told us. I glanced at your dad and smiled at him great big and he immediately returned the smile-- we love raising girls. I really had no guess one way or the other as to whether or not you'd be a boy or girl, but when she said you were a girl it just felt right and I wasn't surprised in the least. I am so excited to add another little lady to our family.

After our appointment we met up with your Nini and PopPop and Blythe told them, "I got to see my baby and her name is Girl!"

Towards the end of this week I started having Braxton Hicks/ abdomen tightening. With Blythe I didn't get these until the very last month. With Becks it was a little sooner but not much. So this is new territory to me to have to listen to my body and take it a little easier this early on. But I am older and this is my third pregnancy. Speaking of being older, your daddy turned 30 this week. I will be turning 30 right around the time you're born. This seems like it should be a big deal, but he and I both just feel like we're kind of right smack in the middle of where we thought we'd be when we were 30. And we're so happy to be here.

Love you so much, sweet girl. So very much.
Love, Mom


It's that time of year

It's time to start thinking about Christmas gifts. Some of you probably did this a long time ago and are done. Bravo. If you're like me though, you still have some people pretty much everyone left on your list. Well, maybe I can help you out. 
Last year I offered gift certificates for photo sessions, and I decided to do the same this year! Just for you, blog reader. 

Okay. So here are the details. 

Here are my current prices: 
/ For a child/newborn session, two kids or less: $100/
/Engagement session: $100/
/Senior session: $100/
/Maternity session: $100/
/For a family session, or more than two kids*: $125/
/For multiple family session [i.e. grandparents who want entire families etc] : $175+ 
These prices include up to an hour session and full rights to all edited images. 
*I hate that I have to charge you more just because you have more than two children but it takes a lot more time to pose and edit for more than two children, so that's why I have to do that. 
Please feel free to contact me though if you have any questions and/or $ questions. I would love to work with you and see what we can come up with! 

 BUT, if you order a gift certificate, the last two listed will be $25 off! 
[Family session or more than two kids will be $100 and multiple family session will be $150] 

Maybe you want to buy your parents a multi-generation session. Maybe you want to give your daughter her senior pictures as a gift. Maybe you want to give your son and his wife a family session. Whatever! If you buy a certificate now it is good for the entire year of 2016.

For more examples of my work and the story behind my journey to photography, check out the photography tab in the top right.

If I can help with your Christmas shopping, just let me know! I'll email you the gift certificate as soon as possible!

Contact me:
kelsey [dot] irwin [at] gmail [dot] com 

…and if you're really lucky, I'll even be able to capture some "real" moments…. 

post signature