Advent + Christmas Day: New Traditions, Same Celebration

Advent is my favorite season. A time of anticipation, expectation (read last year’s post HERE), longing, desire, and preparation for a new birth. I always look forward to advent, maybe even more so than Christmas. There’s something to be said about foregoing the instantly gratifying option and embracing the stillness of WAITING. In today’s world we can often get anything we want at the touch of a button (if it’s not already at our fingertips). Everyone rushes around getting ready for Christmas day, but what about stopping to rest in those sweet moments of advent? If we never stop to breathe in the STILLNESS, we miss why this season is so special. Advent invites us into the WAITING that so often gets overlooked. The majority of December is not yet about celebrating Christ’s birth, but rather the HOPE and LONGING of ANTICIPATING Christ’s birth. I definitely made this a priority this season. We got out our only decorations, our multiple nativity sets from around the world. We told the story over and over in a variety of ways, and answered a billion questions from our two boys, now 5 and 3. I lingered over (multiple) cups of tea and spent more time than usual reading books (for fun! not for my Master’s). I played and practiced my ukulele more for fun too instead of solely prepping for church music, and I savored time with my kids out in NZ’s beautiful Summer weather.

the boys loved this giant tree at a nearby mall

Advent leaves us longing for something more and greater, EXPECTANT of a new life just waiting to burst forth.
What many call “the Christmas season”, advent is not about preparing for one day of gifts and cookies, stressing over not having purchased “enough” gifts or having everything wrapped in time for the big day. It is about PREPARATION for the BIRTH of something new. Jesus’ birth in fact, which changed the whole course of history.

we’ve had a lot of extra reading time recently

I always look forward to advent, but this season was different from advents of years past. For one, I’m on a different hemisphere; it’s warm this advent, and that alone is a bit disorienting. Second, something about the slower pace of life in NZ has encouraged me to slow down even more. It’s summer break here in NZ so it seems everyone and their moms are out of town (literally!). Everything seems quieter than usual, all the regular activities are canceled for a couple months, many shops are closed, and the only busy areas are the touristy ones with people taking the holidays to visit from all over the world. And not having nearly as many friends or family nearby, we weren’t invited to many parties or end-of-year get togethers. Third, I participated in the #Dressember campaign this year, raising money for organizations that fight against modern day slavery and work to rescue victims from human trafficking. There’s a lot rolling around in my head and my heart about what it means to advocate for a cause like this. What help can I be? How can someone who’s never known oppression firsthand fight for the oppressed?

Moses always wanted to be in my pictures for Dressember 🙂

Advent was filled with patience, desire, and stillness which led to a wonderfully joyous Christmas morning.
It was our first time celebrating as a small family of 4 and we enjoyed attempting to create new traditions and craft new markers for these seasons that feel so foreign and so familiar at the same time.
This post-holiday downtime reminds us that we’re a bit isolated down here and that can sometimes feel a little sad. There’s nothing like calling family to see them all laughing together to make you smile and then sorely miss being with them. I miss Kansas City Christmas: watching the Christmas trains at union station, ice skating at crown center, endless (dairy free!) hot chocolates and coffees from my favorite coffee shops, Christmas lights, bundling up for fun in the snow, caroling at nursing homes, getting invited to far too many Christmas parties to realistically attend, and BAKING (healthy) treats! It is far too hot here to turn on the oven!

gifts from family arrived just before and just after Christmas day!

This advent season was marked by:
Christmas Music, all the time- especially the Hawaiian Ukulele Orchestra’s Christmas album! It sounds very Summery and is a nice change from all the winter-focused songs!
Frozen Hot Chocolate- all the right flavors with a different temperature 😉
Christmas Eve Enchiladas– Dec 24th was not super sunny so we took advantage of the cooler weather and baked enchiladas for dinner! Mexican food is an annual Christmas tradition on the Carr side of the family, so it was fun to continue this!
And, eating cherries on the beach, seeing “The Star” movie in theaters, eating our meals in the back garden, helping the boys pick out gifts for each other, and taking advantage of a rainy day to bake and decorate christmas cookies.
cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning (a paleo version!)

Nearby Fruit Foraging- We live within walking distance of the Red Zone, an area that used to be neighborhoods with houses and streets but was devastated by the earthquake. Now it is a grassy area with loads of trees often ripe with fruit this time of year! We picked some delicious yellow and red plums.

playing with Wilder provides cuddly entertainment!

sunny trampoline fun!

How do you mark the season of advent and christmas?

The 2nd Birthday of Our 2nd Son

Two years ago today I woke up at 2am with a contraction. After confidently laboring at home for awhile we arrived at the birth center at 6am. Moses arrived after two (or was it 3?) pushes and was placed in my arms at 7:03am. A fast and furious labor, this boy has changed my life in more ways than one.
We call him passionate. Passionate in his joy and passionate in his grief. If he is upset, everyone in a 2 mile radius will know it (kidding, sort of). But his zest for life lights up the room and you can’t help but smile alongside him. Living up to his name, at age 2 he is already a great leader and encourages his older brother to follow after him. This usually results in both of them having more fun, albeit more dangerously than I prefer… We like to call him Mo, Mosey-bear, Mo-Mack, or Mo Mo.
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Self potty-trained before 23 months of age, this not-so-baby-of-mine is fiercely independent, but a great snuggler when he wants to be. Moses is very different from his brother in almost every way. They both have white hair and are named after prophets though, so there’s that. Two years have indeed flown by, and it’s been so fun, but also SO HARD.
It took me awhile to figure out how to have two kids as opposed to one, and it took me awhile to figure out that I don’t (and will never) know everything about parenting. This job on the day/night (parenthood) shift is no joke. Social media makes it look like all fun and games, sunshine and roses, cuddles and first words, but there are some incredibly frustrating moments where I am critical of myself and doubtful of my abilities to accomplish this difficult task. It took me awhile to learn how to extend grace to myself, and it took me awhile to forgive myself for things that were not my fault. Other people offer me grace all the time, why can’t I receive it from myself? I’ve learned a big lesson in this: the only person requiring perfection out of me is ME. My family doesn’t expect me to be perfect, and neither do my friends, and God definitely doesn’t require me to be perfect, He loves me in spite of all my failures.
But, this isn’t about me.
Happy Birthday to my dearest Moses. Birthing you made me aware of a strength I didn’t know I possessed, and parenting you has truly made me enjoy life more than I did before. It’s a blessing to be loved by you <3

Failure to Launch??

Failure to launch, a term made popular by the 2006 Matthew McConaughey film of the same name. Failure to launch is an increasingly popular way that Americans are describing the difficulties that young 20 somethings are having transitioning from one stage of development to the next.

The movie, Failure to Launch, serves to highlight some of the funnier aspects of this phenomenon. There are three main male roles, friends in their 30’s who all live with their parents. As the movie progresses we learn of the different reasons why. One is doing it for financial reasons, one because he is a crazy hippie, free spirit, who loves to travel, and one who had someone close to him die and he moved back in with his parents during the grieving process. One of the common themes in the movie is that all three sets of parents want their children out of the house.

Perhaps I am only saying this because Abigail, the boys, and I have elected to move in with her parents. Perhaps I am only writing this because I am in the throes of failing to launch. Nevermind the fact that I’m working full-time on my Master’s of Divinity, working as a Children’s Pastor, being a stay-at-home Dad, and I recently accepted a job to work at the Overland Park Farmer’s Market. Most cultures around the world have a structure in place for this stage of life. In many world areas, a couple gets married and then moves in with either his or her parents. This is the basic cultural structure for community. It actually creates a real community, not just the idea of one. Families live together and grow together. We are doing life with Abigail’s parents, and we are all growing together.

I know that it’s not an option for everyone to move in with their in-laws, or their parents. Nor am I suggesting that it would be healthy for everyone. But it is a possibility and it is healthy to build community with those with which you surround yourself. To intentionally dig into relationships is a key feature of life that many people miss out on. There is a profound implication that points toward worshiping God when you live in such close community, and have such intentional relationships with your neighbors that you are able to experience life together. What if it even went a step further than opening your house and inviting your neighbor for dinner? What if it became a lifestyle of worship? Remember this quote by Daniel Migliore as you go forward with an intentional heart to set up a community:

 

“To speak of God as triune is to set all of our prior understandings of what is divine in question. God is not a solitary monad but free, self-communicating love. God is not the supreme will-to-power over others but the supreme will-to-community in which power and life are shared. God consists not in dominating others but in sharing life with others.”

Go engage God, experience God with others, and enjoy God!

Our October Baby (Thoughts From a Year Later)

I slept terribly the other night. Maybe it was too many thoughts racing through my head, or maybe it was the coffee I didn’t finish until 4pm. Either way, I had a difficult time falling asleep and slept a grand total of about 3 hours. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to transition “home”, and asking where exactly is “home” now? I can’t help but think about how different our life was just a year ago. We were in this sweet joyful season of expectation. Expectantly waiting an international move, and expectantly waiting on our second child to be born. We had a happy and calm two year old who never gave us any trouble, and my belly was swollen with a 39-week-old mysterious life inside. I loved everything about being pregnant and was SO EXCITED to welcome this new baby, but not entirely ready to give up the amazing feeling of fullness that comes with carrying a child inside you.

After all, there are only a few times in our lives when we get to hold our babies so close to our hearts.

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10659405_3133219208076_7199090142194771931_nMoses came to us after only 5 hours of labor, 4 of those spent at home. It all started in the middle of the night; It was like I went to sleep with one son, and woke up in the morning with two! The first few months were rewarding, and difficult. The things I’d learned with Hosea weren’t applicable with Moses. I quickly learned that he was completely different from his brother in every way! After dealing with a tongue tie and breastfeeding struggles, a dairy sensitivity, packing up our important things and moving to Northern Ireland, and after settling into a new rhythym of life on the other side of the world, I learned to take a breath. 

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After all, we only get to experience our babies’

first year once.

11412265_3509443213441_5349062205543739562_n If I could choose one word to describe Moses, it would be ‘passionate’. Boy oh boy, is he a passionate fellow! He loves to imitate his brother, joyously screeching as loud as he can. He hears music everywhere, real music on the radio but also imaginative music in the banging of a highchair tray or the slamming of a cupboard door. He dances wildly and can do a million squats in a row with those chunky legs. He’s got the biggest 6-toothed grin and lights up when he sees Dada, Mama, or Bubba <<3 of his words. He also signs more, milk, food, and I’m pretty sure he said ball yesterday. When it’s warm (not too often in this climate), the sides of his white-blond hair curl up and I call him “Mozo the Clown”. Other nicknames include “Mosey Bear”, “Mo Bear”, “Little Mo Mack”, and simply, “Mo”. When we lie on the floor, he sees that as an invitation to jump and wrestle, pretend-biting any patch of skin where clothing has fallen loose. One of his favorite toys is a toothbrush. Our exercise ball is our lifeline; I used it during labor, but we also bounce him to sleep on it every night. He walks by cruising along the edge of the sofa and the coffee table and will walk all over the house if we hold his hands. As they say in Northern Ireland, he is “all go”! He loves all food, especially berries, and still nurses quite a bit too. He’s just transitioned to one nap during the day, a sure sign that he is indeed growing up. 

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After all, this first year can’t last forever and God’s presence is so evident in his growing up. Sometimes I wish he’d stay little, but then we wouldn’t get to witness his growth, inside and out.

11221295_3566285114453_7600441103134910882_nHappy 1st Birthday, Moses! You are a true joy, your passion is inspiring, and we praise God for bringing you into our family and allowing us to be your parents. 11393085_3520222162908_6188649816407841100_n  11402959_3512188762078_5919977489000002218_n

Traveling with a Toddler… How?!

ry=400Besides benefits for baby, there are also benefits of wearing bigger kiddos! In an overstimulating world, toddlers can retreat to the security of their carrier and feel safe on mom, dad, or the loved one who’s wearing them. Being worn helps toddlers to overcome meltdowns before they escalate, and provides a safe space to calm down if a meltdown has already occurred. Practically speaking, being up higher can help your toddler enjoy the same sights you enjoy, whether at a museum or on vacation in a new place. Also, it makes holding conversations with your toddler much easier! You wouldn’t believe the sweet comments my 2 year old has made while riding comfortably and happily on my (or my husband’s) back. Sometimes he even tucks his arms in to “hug” me from inside the carrier. I cherish these moments! <3 ry=400-14

ry=400-13Our toddler could easily be worn in our baby carrier because the weight limit on it goes up to 45lbs. We decided to purchase a Toddler Tula because it is specifically designed for use with older children and because, well, we need to use our baby carrier for our BABY. Ha! Glad we thought that one through 🙂 Our toddler calls the Tula his “big boy carrier” and loves the rocketship design. It has a wider seat for a toddler’s longer legs, a taller back for a toddler’s longer torso, and cushier straps for the wearer to support the extra weight. Most of the weight rests on your hips anyway due to the hip belt. We usually wear him on our backs, but it can be used to wear on your front as well. Oh, and it has a removable hood too just in case your toddler happens to fall asleep on you (*gasp*)! ry=400-1

The BEST IDEA I EVER HAD was purchasing a toddler carrier so that my husband could wear our 2 year old on vacation to Barcelona. (I wish we’d had it in the airport during our recent move from the U.S. to Northern Ireland!) I wore our 8 month old in our Onya and, paired with the Toddler Tula, the two carriers were a dream team! We were able to navigate the streets, metro, trains, and buses of Barcelona with so much ease.

The boys were able to observe their surroundings without feeling overwhelmed and “out there” in a foreign city.

They also napped on us while we got to continue exploring during the day, and we weren’t ever worried about our toddler running off somewhere to explore on his own! ry=400-4

When our babies are on us, we as parents are able to observe our surroundings better too. I’m certain we had a much more enjoyable trip to Spain because we weren’t preoccupied with our children, they were happy being worn and we were happy wandering the streets of a new city. Carriers are also great for taking hiking expeditions where strollers would be too difficult!

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It seems like we always come across toddlers and babies throwing fits while in buggies, strollers, or on leashes, and I just want to run over to the parents and say,

“It’s okay! We’ve all been there! …But have you ever thought about wearing your baby instead?”

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The Secret to Traveling with a Baby

ry=400-3My husband and I are big fans of babywearing. We love the many benefits that come with keeping your baby close to your heart! Babies who are worn cry much less, resulting in reduced stress hormones in baby’s brain. Because of this, they can calmly observe the world around them, match their heart rate and breathing patterns to the wearer, and have the feeling of being held. When we wear our babies, we are more in tune with their needs and can meet them before crying even begins! I’ve owned and utilized many different slings and carriers; from woven wraps, a moby wrap, an ergo, a beco, and done all sorts of carries: front, back, and hip. All of these have various pros and cons and I used to be seriously obsessed with my woven wrap, but I must say that my absolute FAVORITE carrier has been my Onya Baby Carrier. ry=400-10

This is called a soft-structured carrier and is very comfortable! People always assume my back must ache after a day spent wearing my baby, but because of the hip belt, most of his weight is resting on my hips so no, this carrier doesn’t hurt my back! There are two different pockets on this bad boy which are super convenient for being “on-the-go”. I always stash my phone, keys, cash, cards, etc. in there with easy access. It also has a hood for baby that can get tucked into a pocket when not in use. I  use this all  time when he falls asleep on me!

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ry=400-2 ry=400-12Another feature that makes the Onya the most brilliant carrier ever, is it’s ability to turn into a baby seat. Yep, anytime you have access to an adult-size backed chair, you can turn the onya into a “high chair” of sorts! This is so handy.

We recently moved from the U.S. to Northern Ireland with our 2 kids and having our onya baby carrier in the airport was a Godsend. We were able to coast through checking into our flights, baggage claim, security checkpoints, and never once had to worry if baby (or big brother, read about that HERE) was upset in the stroller and needing to be held.ry=400-7

We spent a week in Barcelona, Spain and I wore my Onya all day every day! It was so brilliant for navigating an unfamiliar city. Baby felt safe and comfortable, and I didn’t have to worry about him feeling upset or getting poked by strangers (because he was in my personal space bubble). Wearing your baby also makes discreet nursing super easy. Carriers are also great for taking hiking expeditions where strollers would be too difficult! ry=400-11

There are great benefits to wearing your big kid too! We use a Toddler Tula.

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January 2015 Update

I’ve decided this will be my last monthly update because they are SO LONG. I’ll be updating more frequently and also John’s started blogging more often so I think we’ll be covered 🙂

This month continued our 12 Days of Christmas Celebrations! We made spiced chai cookies on Epiphany because traditionally, people would eat spiced foods on this day to commemorate the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men.

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I attended my last MOPS meeting and had to continue saying goodbye at my last Make & Take meeting, lunches and dinners with friends, and our last trip to our favorite farmer’s market. We also had an evening to ourselves and went ice skating!

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We received word this month that we needed to raise $4,000 more than we had originally thought. Yikes! We had halted our fundraising efforts because we were almost fully funded, but then started them back up again. I was so nervous about raising that much money in 4 weeks but it has been coming in, and we are so grateful. I was reminded by God that I am not in control (even though I always try to be) and that HE is the one orchestrating all of this! His providence has been so evident to us during this month and funds are coming in ways that I had never expected!

One of my yoga instructors, who I’ve grown close with throughout this year, offered to teach a donation-based yoga class for me. I was amazed at the people that came and was so touched by the kind words they shared with me. We had pregnant moms, moms with babies, moms with toddlers, and seasoned moms (who left their older kids at home). It was awesome! They raised $268 for us! That afternoon was so meaningful to me because these are women I’ve spent time with weekly throughout the year and we’ve been able to advise and encourage one another in our motherhood journeys.

We also had the unexpected opportunity to speak at one more church service this month! Victory Hills Church of the Nazarene in KCK invited us to share our calling and about the 365m program with them on a Sunday evening. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people and visiting with my Great Aunt and Uncle who are part of this congregation. Pastor Howie Schute is new and has only been at Victory Hills a couple months. He was a missionary for almost 20 years in parts of Africa and was very supportive of us and understanding of the funds we had to raise. He challenged his congregation to give generously, and they did! We continue to be shocked at how fully God is providing for us.

We started packing up our stuff at the beginning of this month, slowly filling boxes and taking them to Catholic Charities or my parents’ house for storage. At some point in the last week or so we started moving all of our furniture and ended up with a home looking like a bachelor pad. We had no dressers and our mattress was on the floor, and I admit I kind of liked this setup! Hosea had been doing fine with the transition until we moved out our dining room table… he continues to state, “I’m looking for the table and I can’t find it! Where’s the table??” I’m not sure why he seems so attached to the table, other than that it’s the table we’ve had since before he was born. It was my great-grandmother’s, then my grandma’s, then my mom’s, then mine, and I’ve now passed it along to my cousin. tableSome of my friends threw me a going away party! It was great to see them as I had been fairly absent at our recent playgroups/nights out because of all our preparations to leave the country. They made deliciously healthy foods and we chatted for a long while 🙂 The relationships with these moms have been so important to me throughout the past couple years! We’ve shared so many highs and lows and I’m sad to leave behind this supportive community.

momsgroup   We had one last trip to the zoo as a family 🙂 We were trying hard to get in family-time before our classes started up and we were gone all day! The boys did great with my mom and John’s mom, but we also tried to have uninterrupted time with them in the evenings. Yaya took them on a few outings, and Narna did a lot of crafts with Hosea! In the evenings, John and Hosea loved playing in big boxes together.zoocraftstrainsboxplay

Starting around mid-January we had a few days of orientation, and then two weeks of intensive module classes at the seminary. The first class was called Short-Term Missions and was incredibly insightful! We learned a lot about best practices for people going on short-term mission trips, what to do, what NOT to do, and how best to form long-term meaningful partnerships in order to really see lasting change in both parties. The second class was called Ethnography, which taught us about how to research aspects of a culture by asking open-ended questions. For this class we get to do an ethnography project where we choose a topic and then ask people in our host culture questions about it. I think I want to research something birth related, I’m excited! The seminary also hosted a “sending service” during the chapel hour one day. This was a wonderful service where our families & friends came and prayed over our cohort along with the seminary community. ginny sendingservice

We had a great opportunity to get to know everyone in our cohort during these past two weeks. We took a field trip to the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum during our Ethnography class and had a great time. It was an unusually beautiful day in January! Among the 10 of us, we are traveling to Northern Ireland (3), Ireland (2), Scotland (2), Australia (2), and The Philippines (1). We will continue our online courses together throughout this year and be able to share experiences, ideas, etc.

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Friday night we had dinner with John’s parents, brother, and grandmother for one last goodbye. Yummy Chinese food!

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Then we stayed up late packing, repacking, and moving things from bag to bag. We woke up to a few more donations in our account and it turns out we are FULLY FUNDED!! Praise God for bringing in $4,000 in 4 weeks! Saturday morning we had breakfast with my parents and Gabe, and then we headed to the airport! Yaya did NOT want to say goodbye.

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