June has been a full month, dominated by all things pregnancy and home as I trudge through my second trimester and we settle into our new house. With my time and brain space largely spoken for, it’s required concerted effort to step back and reflect on how I’m feeling, where I’m floundering, and what I am learning. Today, I’m particularly grateful for this monthly practice that allows me to listen and tend to my heart, mind, and soul.

1. Curtains are a lot of work . . . but worth it.

Other than blackout curtains in Charleston’s rooms, we have never hung curtains in our home, but this house has some large, open windows that were begging for a little dressing. I hadn’t realized what this would entail: picking out rods and panels, endless measuring of said rods and panels, hanging the rods, hemming the curtains (or rather, asking my MIL to hem them), ironing curtains, then hanging them. . . only to discover they were the wrong length. Now that the curtains are hung, I’m so glad we have them and even more glad to be done with that process.

2. Thick skin is detrimental to creativity.

I know from experience that pain and hardship make me a better writer (and human). But I’d never considered the correlation between thick skin and creativity until it was mentioned by the interviewee on this podcast. I’m extremely sensitive (i.e., my skin is about as thick as sheet of cheap toilet paper), and this isn’t a quality I love about myself; it’s encouraging to think how this lack of emotional armor is actually beneficial in some areas.

3. Millenial dads have very poor DIY skills compared with their Baby Boomer counterparts.

John and Sherry recently discussed the lack of Millenial dads’ skills as outlined in this New York Post article. While the sharp decline in DIY skills is shocking, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Luke (who, for the record, has mastered all of these skills #eaglescout #proudwife) pointed out that these statistics likely say more about the dads of Millenials (who didn’t bother to teach their sons these skills) than the Millenials themselves. I also wonder if the decline in high school shop classes and the increased access to hired help are contributing factors.

4. Libraries pay more money for eBooks than other book formats.

I almost exclusively borrow audiobooks and eBooks from my library (outside of picture books for Charleston), so I was saddened to learn what a burden they are on libraries. Costs and restrictions vary by publisher, but libraries pay an average of $25 per title, and these books are only available for 2 years or 52 checkouts before they must be repurchased. Some publishers don’t sell to libraries at all. The cost and effort means that the current model for lending eBooks is not sustainable for most libraries.

5. The library is a great place to work.

File this one under: How Had I Not Realized This Before? In the past, when I’ve needed to leave home to get some writing done, I’ve always gone to a coffee shop. This month I started heading to the enclosed work rooms at a our local library. It’s quiet and distraction-free, and I don’t feel the need to pack up my laptop every time I need a bathroom break. As a devoted library lover, I’m ashamed that I hadn’t been doing this for years.

6. Framed calendar prints make lovely (inexpensive) wall art.

We were looking for a fun, low-cost way to add color and creativity to our playroom, and this Thomas Kinkade Disney calendar was the answer! I let Charleston pick out his six favorite prints and we framed them in these frames that I bought with an Amazon gift card. The calendar itself had been a gift, which means that our entire art gallery cost me zero money and it’s something our whole family loves! (I also saved the additional calendar pages so we can easily swap them out when we want a change.)

7. Make sure SOMEONE has an extra house key.

In the past, we’ve always had landlords who could let us into a locked house in a pinch; now that we’re homeowners I no longer have that safety net. This wasn’t something I’d thought about until Luke went away for a weekend men’s retreat this month (to a spot several hours away with no cell reception). We only have two house keys, and Luke had taken his key with him, so I spent the entire weekend terrified that I was going to lock myself out of the house and have no way of getting back in. I kept my key on me at all times, and made sure that at least two doors were unlocked whenever we left the house (probably not a great strategy now that I think of it), and thankfully we had no problems. But I would have felt much better knowing that a neighbor, friend, or family member had a spare key just in case.

8. Luke and I both benefit when we give each other time apart for personal, social, and/or spiritual growth.

Despite the key-related anxiety, Luke’s weekend away was a much-needed break for both of us. Sure, I missed him, and solo parenting for the weekend wasn’t easy, but I can’t deny the growth I’ve witnessed in him as a result of the retreat. On the flip side, I know that Luke and Charleston both reap the benefits of the rejuvenation I get from a Saturday spent writing or an evening out with my friends. It’s hard as a couple to get quality time together, let alone make time in the calendar for individual time, but it’s well worth the effort.

9. I kind of hate LEGOs.

I know, I know, I can hear the boos coming at me through my computer screen, but hear me out on this one: I think LEGOs are a great toy—they foster creativity, teach patience and fine motor skills, and lead to improvements in focus, concentration, and spatial awareness. Charleston has become a massive LEGO fan, and I couldn’t be happier about it. They just aren’t for me! While Luke was away, I got to take over typical Dad duties like bath time, Saturday morning pancakes, and LEGO building. And while I’ve played with LEGOs in the past, I’ve never assembled a kit, which Charleston requested that I do. (This kit was too difficult for him to do on his own.) Not only was I incredibly uncomfortable sitting on the floor for nearly three hours (yes, it took me three hours to complete the lovely fish you see below), but I kept losing pieces or having things break apart on me, which meant that I had to start back at the beginning at least three times. It didn’t help that I had both Charleston and Arlo trying to “help.” From now on, LEGOs will remain a father/son project.

10. There is a dearth of female artists in contemporary country music.

I’ve been on a country music kick and have been listening to the country music station in the car—which has lead to a lot of music time, since the location of our new house has us driving a lot more these days. I’m enjoying the male artists I’ve been hearing (current faves are Kane Brown, Dan & Shay, Blake Shelton, and Russell Dickerson), but am surprised by how infrequently I hear a song performed by a woman. I hadn’t listened to much Country in over a decade, and back then the male artists were balanced out by Martina McBride, Carrie Underwood, Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, and many other great female artists and groups. So I’m wondering, where have all the women gone? Has anybody else noticed this trend?

11. The components of God’s blessing over Jesus at his baptism directly counteracted the temptations he faced afterwards, during his time in the wilderness.

On Father’s Day our guest pastor gave a sermon on Matthew 3:17, in which God spoke these words: “This is my son, whom I love, in whom I am well pleased.” Each phrase contains a particular blessing: “this is my son” includes the blessing of identity; “whom I love” describes the blessing of God’s love; and “in whom I am well pleased” is a blessing of affirmation and belief. Just after Jesus’ baptism, he headed into the wilderness where Satan challenged his identity as God’s son; the fact that Jesus was loved and cared for by the Father; and the value of Jesus’ work and life. God’s blessing specifically empowered Jesus to deny these temptations! The pastor ended his sermon with this question: “When your sons or daughters are in their own season of testing, what words do you want them to remember and recall from you?”

12. Carrying twins is much more difficult than I had anticipated.

Since first learning that I was carrying more than one baby, I have been more focused on the logistics of caring for multiples after birth and not so much on the pregnancy itself. And I hadn’t realized how much harder it would be to carry two babies. By 20 weeks I had a bigger belly (and had gained more weight) than when I delivered Charleston at 37 weeks, and now at 22 weeks (23 tomorrow) I’ve already experienced several weeks of the back pain, achey joints, severe bloating, and swelling that usually don’t come until the end of a singleton pregnancy. My pregnancy brain and clumsiness seem to have doubled as well: in a single day I (my belly) knocked a butcher knife off the counter and directly into my foot; I dumped an entire glass of ice water onto the friend sitting next to me at book club; and I added the name “Arlo” to our baby name list. . . forgetting that we already have a dog named Arlo, whom we named just one year ago! I know that second pregnancies are generally more difficult, and it doesn’t help that I’m five years older this time around, but I’m sure most of the challenges are due to the fact that there are TWO babies fighting for space in my belly. I don’t mean to complain; during our years of infertility, I would have given anything to be “burdened” in this way, and I know that every ache and pain is evidence that my kiddos are healthy and growing. The experience is simply surprising and has given me a much greater appreciation for moms of multiples!

What is the most surprising thing you learned in June? I’d love to hear about it!

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