Living in a state that experiences all four seasons is something I have come to appreciate. Pennsylvania sometimes gets what feels like the worst of them — harsh winters and humid, sweaty summers — but those things make spring and fall that much sweeter.
This summer was one of those humid, sweaty ones, but that didn’t stop this little family of ours from enjoying this season together. I can look back on this summer with fondness as I remember spending sweet time with my baby boy, watching him grow right before my eyes; as I reminisce about my brother’s beautiful wedding and all the joyful tears and laughter from that weekend; as I think about how proud I am of my sister and youngest brother who we sent off to college; and as I play back the challenging but worthwhile experience of bringing a baby to the beach.
In all of those experiences, I learned so many wonderful things, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you — just like I did a few months ago at the end of spring. Here are five things I learned this summer:
1. It’s okay to quit books.
Since Jesse was born, I’ve been extremely picky about the books I read. For one, I don’t have the time or attention span for subpar books (subpar in my opinion, anyway). That’s just where I am in this season of life, and so I’m embracing it. I’ve quit a handful of books this summer simply because they didn’t grab my attention fast enough. My friend, Grace, who teaches elementary school laughed when I told her that and said, “Us teachers strongly disapprove of that.” Ah, adulthood. So much freedom. ;)
Another reason I’ve quit a couple books this summer is because they made me feel awful. I got halfway through one book before I realized that I was experiencing a lot of paranoia, and once I closed the book, that paranoia dissipated. Another book was causing me to lose sleep because I couldn’t handle the build up of tension in the plot. Perhaps I’ve become more sensitive to difficult content now that I have a little person to raise, but like one friend said to me, there are ten million good books out there. If the one I’m reading is taking me to a dark place, it’s okay to put it down.
Despite the books I’ve decided to quit, I did read some fantastic books this summer, so that’s been a treat. :) (If you have Goodreads, follow me there to see what I’m reading!)
2. Spaghetti squash is delicious.
I tried spaghetti squash for the first time this summer! I couldn’t believe I’d waited this long to make it. I just cut it in half, scooped the seeds out, baked it at 400 degrees for half an hour, used a fork to scrape it out and ta-da! Spaghetti in the form of squash.
3. Celebrating special days is important.
This one might seem obvious, but it really hit me this summer. On August 1, Nate and I celebrated three years of marriage by going out to the best restaurant in town (in my opinion — I don’t think many locals would disagree!). His parents watched Jesse so we could enjoy some time to ourselves, and guys, it was so fun. We laughed and ate and drank and reminisced, and I realized was how important it was for us to do that together. We were celebrating the day that we made promises to each other, to love God first and love each other through thick and thin. That is no small matter.
I think celebrating days like anniversaries and birthdays and graduations is a neat part of being in relationships with other people. By acknowledging each other in a celebratory way, you’re saying, “I see you and I love you.”
4. Slow exercise is legit.
Thanks to an article in Real Simple, I don’t have to feel bogged down by the question of whether or not I’m exercising “hard enough.” In the article, the writer explains three ways you can slow your workout to get more benefit. Those three ways include slowing your cardio (like low-intensity interval training), slowing your strength training (literally slowing down each rep instead of trying to do as many as you can), and slowing your “roll” (using a foam roller to roll out sore muscles).
I started strength training twice a week at the very beginning of my pregnancy and worked out until I was 37 weeks. When Jesse was six weeks old, I went back to class, and now I still try my best to go twice a week, although that doesn’t always happen. That, along with an occasional walk in the city, is what I can manage at this point, and I used to feel guilty about it. The struggle of balancing caring for myself and caring for my son has been harder to manage than I expected. But after reading this article and learning about the benefits of light/slow exercise, I feel so much more freedom about where I am these days.
5. My baby is — surprise! — a baby, and also a person.
I’m learning that my little guy is dependent on me, but also becoming more and more himself every day.
Next week, he will officially be half a year old, and gosh. He has grown so much already. Jesse started the summer with a few basic milestones, but as fall approaches, he’s rolling over, sitting up on his own, and babbling on and on about who knows what. He has the cutest smile that he freely gives to anyone who looks his way. His laugh is the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard. He eats like a champ, and I am proud of him every time he sleeps through the night.
Still, we had some rough moments with our babe this summer. He went through a serious sleep regression around four months that felt like he was a newborn all over again. Part of that regression happened at the beach, and there were nights where I wasn’t sure we were going to make it through the rest of the week. There was also a series of weeks where I just couldn’t nurse him enough, which brought on a lot of frustration and screaming (from both baby and mom). And recently, he has become very expressive, which is wonderful but also loud, especially in public!
We are taking one day at a time, and all we can really do is try things. If it works, great. If not, we try something else. The role of a parent is a strange one — a constant push and pull — giving them all we can, but also letting them figure things out for themselves. And I won’t do this perfectly. But God will give me the grace to deal with each phase as they come. That’s what I’m learning the most.
Now we await fall, and the weather is already hinting at it. I started taking graduate classes again this week, which I felt very ready to do when Monday rolled around. I’m already loving the content of this course, and having work to do that doesn’t involve Jesse is waking up a part of me that I missed. There is so much to look forward to in the coming months, and to move into them with renewed enthusiasm is a gift.
I’ll take the things on this list with me as we move into a new season. Most importantly though, I’m thankful that God graciously continues to teach me things about his faithfulness and goodness, that he is at work in my life and in this hurting world, and that we have a living hope in the promise of the Cross.
We’re ready for you, fall!
PS – This idea of recording what I’m learning each season comes from Emily P. Freeman. Check out her blog for beautiful writing on creating space for your soul to breathe.