Sunday, February 8, 2015

The best gift you can give your child is a sibling

You've heard that adage right? It's what I repeated to myself over and over while we anxiously awaited Agnes's arrival. And it's what I cling to almost every second of the day now, hoping desperately that this will prove to be true. You see, things are hard in the Caskey house as of late. My full-of-life, funny, energetic, loving and sharp as a tack two and a half year old is really struggling with loving his little sister, and it is like a pain in my heart. This isn't new either. The first 6 months of her life he mostly ignored her, but once she started crawling and then walking and talking and interacting more, its been a constant struggle to keep the peace between them. It's clear to me that she loves her big brother. She does what he does, goes where he goes, laughs at his antics. But, on Tommy's end of things, he spends all day shoving, pushing, and hitting her.

I guess this post is a vent, a confession and a cry for help. Deep down I know he loves his little sister (at least I pray) but he certainly doesn't show it. I know things aren't always as they appear, especially in our social media world, but I am plagued by facebook and instragram posts from other moms showing their littles holding hands, or playing together, with captions like "they love each other so much!" or "he loves his little sister!" This is not my reality, and it makes me ache.

I know, I know, I know...he's not even three! He's still little himself, and he's still working out how he feels about the world around him. And I know, I know, I know...I don't know what the sibling relationship looks like, having no siblings myself, and everyone around me assures me that this is normal. But...this is not what I pictured. I have admitted to a few people that I am terrified of what the arrival of a new sibling will bring (this isn't a pregnancy announcement, FYI :) ) If this is how much of a struggle it is now, how will he feel if another baby comes into the picture? (Not to mention, how to handle three separate sets of sibling relationships!) Will the two of them ever be friends, the way I dream they will be? At this point, I am even looking forward to the day that they join forces against me, driving me crazy in tandem. I want to believe they are a gift to each other, and I DO believe it. But for our family at this moment, it looks much different than what I see in other families.

I'm struggling to learn that this is okay, and that in this moment in time this is what God is placing before me as a mom. Because on the surface, that phrase: "The best give you can give your child is a sibling" sounds like one thing, but in practice for our family right now, it is quite another. For us right now it means lesson after lesson after lesson in love as a choice. And I can see what a blessing this will be for them down the road. Love, as we know, is not a feeling, but a moment by moment choice in action. I wasn't expecting to be teaching these lessons to my children yet. Lessons in co-existing, when we don't feel like it. And I certainly wasn't expecting the lessons I've been learning as a mom. Lessons in appreciating the little, mundane, ordinary moments. Being content with the life I HAVE instead of the one I WANT. Knowing that God knows what we need, and will provide that, but sometimes only that, and nothing more, at least for now. Knowning that sometimes love, and friendship are hard won, and don't come easy. Knowing that comparison really is the "thief of joy" in my life.

Because, love is messy and hard. Love doesn't always come wrapped in a pretty package. Sometimes, its sweetest when it's not so freely and easily given. I see this in my son. I revel in the simple-ness of him asking me where his sister is when he wakes up in the morning. I rejoice when he sneaks a package of fruit snacks from the kitchen, and brings one for her too. My heart aches at the beauty of them just sitting next to one another.

Oh yes...I can see that God is teaching me something, even if it isn't always clear what that is.

I am equal parts apprehensive and excited to see what the future holds for their relationship, and for our family as it grows. I know that all I can do is trust God to provide what we need, even in our relationships with one another. I know I have to trust Him alone for the grace to handle it all, because I fail in big ways in my attempts to mother these two souls. I am comforted by the thought that while being a wife and mother is my path to heaven, my kids are here on this earth to teach each other how to love, as well as to teach me. I know that even now they are a gift to each other in ways that I can't, and maybe never will see.

So at the end of the day...after all the time outs and the lectures (that probably go right over his head), and the ham-handed attempts at discipline, and the embarassment I hate to admit that I feel that I don't have this under control, and the ache in my heart for my toddler to show love to his little the end of all that...

I still believe it. "The best gift you can give your child is a sibling."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

First Birthdays and New Adventures

Oh gracious. Where do I even begin with this post?
So much has happened since the last time I posted. Bullet points maybe?

1. Agnes turned ONE! So let's chat about her for a moment. Phew, that girl. She is a being all her own. She has so much personality, so much joy, so much drive, and I can't believe a year has already passed. Here is a little bit about her lately:

-She learned how to hug and give open mouth kisses. The hugs are the best because she has never been a snuggler, so when those little arms wrap around your neck and squeeze tight it is like heaven.
-She wants to do ev-er-y-thing that her big brother is doing, much to his displeasure.
-She started walking a little over a month ago, and has been a walking machine ever since.
-She says Momma, Dada, night night, bye bye, what's that, diaper, doll, uh oh. Her favorite is to point at something and say "what's that!" over and over
-She's a daddy's girl through and through. When she hears his key turn in the lock at the end of the day, she is already headed to greet him, and she is really unhappy if he chooses to do something other than pick her up right away. She loves to dance with him and give him hugs. I love seeing how much she loves him, it is the sweetest.
-Still nursing about 4-5 times a day, and usually 2 times at night. SO far from where we were with Tommy at this age, but that's okay.
-Still waking up 3 ish times a night (still, still, still.) I'll sleep when I'm dead right?
-Has 8 teeth (They are sharp....she's also a biter)
-Now she is probably around 24 lbs, and following solidly in her brother's footsteps, and hanging strong at the top of the charts.
- She loves music, just like her brother.

It's amazing to me that it's been a year already. Too, too fast.

2. We are moving
The saga of Pat's job history since leaving FOCUS has continued, but things are so much better now than they were a few months ago. Long story short, he got a job, hated the job, got let go from the job, got a new job, LOVED the new job, and the new job is relocating us to St. Louis. It's an incredible opportunity for him, because the position that he will be filling in St. Louis is really meant for someone more experienced, but his bosses have so much confidence in his performance over the last few months that they were really pulling for him on this one. It is a great opportunity, but it was an incredibly difficult decision for us personally. We love it in Kansas City and after moving three times already in 3.5 years, we really feel at home here and have started to form a community. BUT, my parents and many of our close friends live in St. Louis, and it is just the next adventure for the Caskey Clan. We are really looking forward to the move, which is only two weeks away!

Alright so...maybe there were only two bullet points, but let this mark the beginning of my return to the blog. It's been too long, and I have some more fun (and belated) Christmas projects to share! I have a new post in the works, but it's pretty personal and I am still summoning the courage, so stay tuned.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Agnes's Quiet Book

I mentioned in a previous post that this Christmas has been dubbed a "handmade Christmas" me. What that means for me is lots of "sewing" and crafting and brainstorming and hurty fingers. But I am happy to say I have finally finished the first in a long list of projects, and I thought I would share it here!

After I made a similar book for a friend's baby shower, I figured I would make one for each of the kids for Christmas, with the theme being the letters of their names.

The Garden pages might be my favorite because they are the most interactive. I love that the vegetables can be "planted and picked." Kudos to bubbles and bobbins blog for the beautiful inspiration. Her pages are adorable and flawless!

This page with the sheep was probably the most time consuming. All those little french knots took quite a while, but I love the effect, and I like that this page has a "touch and feel" element to it, in addition to being able to lift the flaps.

I wasn't sure what to do for the last page, so I added a pocket, and hopefully I will be able to find some time to make a few little finger puppets to hide inside.

I am really happy with the way this turned out, although I do want to figure out a better way to do the binding next time. I tell you what, if you are interested in making one for yourself, pinterest is an amazing resource. I literally just searched "garden quiet book page" and "apple quiet book page" etc. and so many great and adorable ideas popped up. And if you really need some inspiration, or an extra incentive to make your own, go check out The Quiet Book Blog!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Thoughts on food, and baking bread

So I am the kind of person who is pretty susceptible to the power of suggestion, and I often find myself feeling guilty over the fact that my lifestyle doesn't match up to what other people's opinions of the "right way" to do things are. I know...its silly. But as a mom especially, if I hear someone touting a certain method or philosophy on parenting, I immediately become insecure and wonder if the way I am doing things is wrong. Trust me, it's not nearly as bad as it used to be when I was a super newbie mom, but now that I am oh so slightly more experienced, I am learning to trust my gut a little bit more. But I have been known to have the same reservations about my food-related decision making, especially as it pertains to feeding my family. As a mom and wife, I want the best for my husband and kids, and myself of course, when it comes to food. But guys...I am also tired, and in the tunnel of parenthood right now, and finding the time to pee alone is hard, let alone cook any gourmet meals. I also happen to be surrounded by a few people who are of the paleo persuasion, and my insides quiver anytime I hear someone talk about how great, and amazing and healthy they feel after going grain free, or doing a whole 30. I can't help but think twice about what I'm feeding my family. But then I remember...I love bread. I LOVE MUFFINS. I love to bake and I can't deny it, its just in my soul. We don't have a problem taking in enough fruits and veggies in this house, but we do eat alot of grains, and we love them. And I think I have finally found my middle ground when it comes to feeding my family well.

Have you seen, or read this blog? I am becoming more and more interested in the idea of a "real food" diet, and while I know we still have a lot of changes to make in order to be eating more real food than not, I am really happy with the progress we have made so far. And I think the reason it appeals to me so much is that it doesn't seen to far off from what I have been trying to do in our home anyway. When I was pregnant with Agnes I became obsessed with baking. I have always enjoyed it, but never to the extreme degree that I reached during those nine months, and ever since. I'm talking more muffins than any sane person should ever make. And bread.

Bread has always scared me. Muffins, cookies, pancakes, granola from scratch...easy peasy. Bread? Not so much. Every now and then I would make a loaf but it was always a special occasion kind of thing. In June of this past summer I started baking sandwich bread to see if I could replace our store bought version, and I haven't looked back since. I don't mean this to sound braggy, but it has really given me a lot of pride to know that for almost four months now we haven't had to buy a loaf of bread at the store. Nope that's a lie...I bought one, and it is still in our freezer waiting to be eaten, because I was too stubborn to break my baking streak. There's something so old school and romantic to me about baking things from scratch. Not only does it taste better, but (and don't mistake me for a health nut, or anything) it actually IS nice to know what you are eating, and there is something that feels so wholesome to me about baking bread for my family. Don't get me wrong here, we still have a ways to go in the healthy eating department, but I'm learning that sometimes you need to "start where you are" with just one thing that you can do. And for me that is bread. Baking, for me, is comfort, and love, and hanging on a little bit to the way things used to be.

Thank heavens for Pinterest, where I have found all of my favorite recipes so far. If you want to try your hand at making your own bread here are some of the recipes that have worked well for me, and are very easy (and I mean very).

This French Bread is a new one for me, but after I made it the first time I knew it was going directly into my recipe binder to be made over and over and over again. I got totally spooked by a terrible loaf of french bread I attempted about six months ago that I never tried since, but we made soup the other night and I knew we needed some good bread to go with it. We devoured an entire loaf, straight out of the oven and it was like a big warm hug, in carb form.

This oatmeal sandwich bread has seen the inside of my oven almost every week since June. It is delicious, hearty, makes amazing grilled cheese sandwiches, and it so incredibly easy, I could hardly believe it the first time I made it.

On a scale of 1 to expert baker, I would have to say I am about a 1, so I'm not claiming to know much about much of anything but I do know this: I love to eat, I love bread, and I would love to feed my family healthy foods with a big dose of love (barf...I know that was sappy, but its the truth) so I am slowly but surely learning how to make that happen. Give it a try, you won't regret it!

Monday, October 13, 2014


It has been quite the week in the Caskey household. To put it bluntly and without any kind of preamble, my husband was let go from his job. Fortunately for us, he was already seeking other job opportunities, but it was still a shock to find out that he wouldn't be able to work through the rest of this month. I have to admit I was stunned for a minute, but God has given us some incredible gifts this week, and I wanted to share them.

I have a tendency toward anxiety, sometimes extreme, but most of the time there is just this subtle twitching worry in the back of my mind about anything and everything. It can be overwhelming, especially during times of stress. But for some reason, both Pat and I have been pretty peaceful about the whole situation, and I know that that is a grace from God. Somehow, my always-worried-about-something-or-other brain has been able to accept this situation with the knowledge that God will provide, and He has.

His last day of work was on Wednesday. By Friday he had found two bars willing to let him come on to bartend a few shifts on the weekends, in order to help us make it through the next few weeks before he will start doing some seasonal work for an insurance company. He has also had a pretty promising interview in St. Louis that we are still waiting to hear back about.

In short, God is already making moves, and I am so grateful. He has always provided for us, and we have no reason to doubt that He will continue to do so.

More than ever I am feeling the reality of the "team effort" that is our marriage. I know I am blessed to be a stay at home mom, but have you read this article?? I find this to be so true (not to give myself a pat on the back or anything, but you get the idea) and it has really helped me to start to see the value in what I am doing at home with the kiddos again, because sometimes it's very easy to forget. But now that Pat is working odd hours at bars and working from home trying to find something more permanent, it really is a blessing that I am able to be at home taking care of our kiddos, and to be flexible enough that he is able to do whatever he feels he needs to do.

I know that our ideas about the way we want to live our life, and our reliance on God to carry us through this season may not make sense to a lot of people. I trust that we can live simply, and that we don't need much other than a lot of grace, and to have our basic needs met. My husband is my hero, and even more so right now I am realizing just how much he does for our family. I feel strangely hopeful about it all, and I am looking forward to seeing what God has in store for us.

On a slightly related note, I have once again dubbed this Christmas a "handmade" Christmas, in part because money is tight, but mostly because I have become a certified craftaholic, and whenever my kids are asleep or otherwise occupied, I can be found with my out of control bag of felt scraps and embroidery thread working on some project or other, and I am hoping to start sharing some of those projects here, just for fun. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 1, 2014

An apology letter to my two year old

Dear Tommy...
Whew. What a wild ride these last almost 9 months have been since Agnes was born. I will admit I can hardly remember what it was like when it was just you and I. It seems so long ago and you have grown up so much since then!
When she was born you were talking, and walking, and playing and growing and all of those things have multiplied and expanded and now you are telling stories, and pretending, and imagining and turning into a big kid right before my eyes. You seem so much older to me than just your two years, and I am getting more and more excited to watch you grow up. But these 9 months have been difficult, too. I have snapped at you more times than I can count or name. I have yelled, and gotten angry and been upset for reasons that you cannot possibly understand. I know I have hurt your feelings at times, and been distracted, or too overwhelmed to notice how you were feeling, or to ask you what you needed. It hurts me to think of those things now, even though I know you will not remember them. I am doing much better than I was in the beginning after your sister was born, and even though we have hard days every now and then, the good ones are starting to outweigh the bad. But I am so sorry for all those bad days. I know the older you get the more you will realize how imperfect a mom, a person, I am. Child, you know what buttons to push with me, and some days you are a mystery to me, but I know that I push your buttons too. We won't always get along, and as you grow older we may understand each other less and less. I've never raised a little boy after all, and I don't know yet how to teach you to be a man (you're dad will have a big role in that, and he can teach you so many things that I can't). But I do have to say one thing: In this house we know how to say we are sorry and start over. One of my only consolations when I think of how hard these past months have been is knowing that I always came to you and said I was sorry after getting upset. I hope that that is something that you learn from me as you grow up. It is a silvery lining to all of the not so great mommy moments that I've had since your sister was born. I am learning, love. I am learning, sometimes painstakingly slowly, but I promise to always try to be better, and to keep saying I'm sorry when I mess up. There is, however, one thing that I will not apologize for, and that is giving you this little girl, Agnes. You may not realize it now, as she drools all over your toys and tries to bite your toes and wakes you up with her cries, but she is one of the best things that has ever happened to you, to us as a family. I can't wait to see what kind of shenanigans you two get into as you grow, to see your friendship blossom, to watch you play and share secrets and sometimes share hurts too. We love you little boy, and Agnes does too. Thank you for hanging in there with me as we figure out this whole, wonderful, crazy family thing together. You are one special little boy, and you bless me every single day.

Love, your Mama

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oh, I have a blog?

Yes. Yes I do. And I miss writing in it, even though I have 2 readers. But it's ok! It's therapeutic. I don't have much brain power left tonight so this entry is going to be in list form, a little snapshot of life lately, if you will.

1. Agnes is sleeping through the night! HAHAHA no. no she's not. she's a stinker. But we love her and we are 99% sure we are going to keep her :) In all seriousness, her sleeping hasn't gotten much better, BUT we are surviving over here, and she makes up for her lack of sleep by being the most adorable, silly, precious thing you've ever seen. I can't believe she is 8 months old: crawling, eating big people food...time is flying too fast here at the Caskey house. Every once in a while I have a day where I ask myself questions like "IF I stopped drinking coffee, how many days would it take me to actually die?", but they are few and semi-far between.

2. Speaking of babies, this should have been number one on my list, but I AM AN AUNTIE! My nephew Jameson was born a week ago, at 32 weeks, and will be in the NICU for a while. But he is strong, handsome, healthy, and doing great. He is adorable, and although I havent gotten to meet him in person yet, I am eating up every photo and update from my brother and sister in law and I am so excited to be an aunt, and for our kiddos to be cousins. Even more, I am so excited to watch my brother and sister in law become parents, because really, is there anything better?

3. A month or so ago I decided that Tommy, Agnes, and I need a little bit more structure in our day in order to get through, and I implemented reading time and prayer time into our morning routine. After Agnes goes down for her morning nap, Tommy and I sit and read our library books, and then we go pray at our home altar that we set up on our desk in the living room. We pray a morning offering, a decade of the rosary, and sometimes tommy gives me some time to journal and do some personal prayer on my own. It has been a huge game changer having this built into our day every day, and I can tell that God is blessing this time. I am praying again, and it is good (Duh, right?). This morning I said morning prayer. Morning prayer! It was so wonderful! More on this in another post, maybe, but I had seriously let my prayer life slip and it feels so, so great to be making some headway in the right direction.

4. "The Nesting Place". READ IT. The combination of this wonderful book on homemaking/decorating/loving life, and a book by two christian moms called "Desperate" are giving me a good kick in the pants in terms of being more intentional in our home, making it a place of rest, and using what I have to make this a place that my family and I want to be. Again, more on that later if I ever get back on the blogging track. But seriously, I cannot recommend "The Nesting Place" enough: beautiful photos and ideas, but even more beautiful philosophies on making a home. Her tagline is "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." Enough said.

That's about all I can muster for now, but I'm hoping that I will be able to sit down and do this a little more often from now on. It might be nice to get back in the blogging saddle again ;)