Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lessons from a Crying Baby

I told Matt what Allie’s doctor said. Sounds to me like colic. Hang in there. That’s it. That was the extent of his advice. Hang in there. Well, I could have told myself that. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past month.

Allie cries through the evening almost every day. Every time there is a lull in the pattern, I get my hopes up that things are getting better, but it never lasts. We’re getting in a routine where Matt and I take turns walking laps with her around the fireplace. He tries a pacifier. I try to nurse her. We walk and sing and swaddle and bounce and do our best to eat our dinner and talk over the wailing. We switch back and forth between walking with Allie and playing with Reese and our alone time is rare. This is our life.

She’s only been doing this for about four weeks, but to us it feels like forever. It’s affecting my ability to enjoy the newborn stage, and lowering my patience for Reese and Matt and myself. One night after Reese was in bed, I handed Allie off to Matt and buried my face in my hands.

He put a hand on my shoulder, “Are you ok?”

“I just don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

“Are you saying we should put her on Ebay?”

I laughed through the tears, and asked if he would mind if I took a shower before my next turn.

For the past month, I have been asking God to make this go away. I begged him to calm her, heal her, and bring her peace so I in turn could have my peace. I want to remember this stage of her life as a happy time. I don’t want to look back and think, “Gee, that was awful. I'm glad that’s over.” I have said over and over to God what I had just said to Matt, I don’t know how much longer I can do this, and I've been angry that God doesn't seem to be listening.

Alone in the bathroom, I prayed as I often do in the shower. This time, however, I put my agenda aside and I asked Him only for acceptance:

Dear Lord, please help me accept my circumstances. Help me to be calm in this storm and grant me the peace of knowing that this will pass in your time. Let me be thankful for the things that are going well, and help me find greater joy in smaller moments. Please give me the strength and patience to be the mother you created me to be.

Then I returned to the living room to take my turn with Allie. Matt went to bed and I continued walking laps around the fireplace. Remembering my prayer, I started thinking about all that I've been thankful for in the past month - moments that made me smile and all the wonderful parts about having a newborn. I recalled the moment of her birth, her first bath, her first smile, the way Reese kisses her forehead, and the feeling of her tiny head resting in the palm of my hand.

Before I knew it, I was crying again, but instead of the tears of frustration, anger, and exhaustion to which I had grown so accustomed, they were tears of gratitude and joy. At some point, Allie had stopped crying, and her little head rested peacefully on my shoulder. As I continued walking, I sang three verses of Amazing Grace and thanked God for answering my prayer. Then I set Allie in her bed where she slept for six hours, her longest stretch to date.

When I first told Matt, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” I wasn’t even entirely sure what I meant. That statement doesn’t even make sense in a situation where there is no way out. Yet, I tend to say that during times when I’m faced with circumstances I’m not willing to accept.

I realize now what my heart was feeling when my mouth made that statement. I meant that I can’t continue through this challenge while focusing on the negative. I can’t face it without God’s grace. And I can’t continue holding onto the image of the circumstances I want rather than accepting the circumstances I have.

I don’t know how much longer this will continue, but I do know that if I continue drawing strength from God, keep picking myself up when I fall, and focus on being thankful for all that is well, I can do it. For as long as it takes.

Because although there may not be peace and quiet in my home, I can choose to walk through it with peace and quiet in my heart.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.
Join us today at Melissa's place!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Kid Logic: Cute Stories from the Mind of a Child

Reese just turned two and a half last month, and my favorite part of this stage has been watching the development of her language skills. It seems like she finds new ways to express herself every day, and I am amazed at her ability to learn and remember new concepts and words. I love the way she pauses in deep thought as she tries to reason through various aspects of her world, and her responses in those moments are often creative and downright hilarious. Here are just a few of my favorites from the past few weeks….


We were getting ready to leave the grocery store and she asked why she had to buckle up in the car. I said, “Because it’s very dangerous to ride without a buckle and if we get stopped by a policeman, mommy would get in trouble.”

The next time we got in the car she said, “I have to wear my buckle so mommy doesn’t get a time out.”


She looked out the window and saw a rabbit perched up on its hind legs and said, “Look, mommy! A kangaroo!” 


We were playing with alphabet magnets and I held up the letter R.

“R is for Reese.”

She looked confused and handed me the letter U.

“No, this one is for Reese.”

“Why is that one for Reese?”

“Because you say, ‘This is U.’”


We were at a friend’s house and she was having a hard time sharing the toys. Every time her friend touched something, Reese would cry and say, “No that’s my ball!” or “No, that’s my doll!” Finally her friend got so frustrated that she gave up trying to play with Reese. She sat on the couch and started singing, “Old McDonald Had a Farm….”

Reese interrupted her and said, “No, that’s my song!”


She and I went to get haircuts together. When Matt got home, he asked her what we did that day. She said, “We went to the hair doctor.”


Ok, this is my all-time favorite moment, and it doesn’t even involve my kid, but I have to share it…

On my mom’s 40th birthday we all went out to dinner. At the time, my two younger brothers were four and five. During dinner, my mom shared the story about her 30th birthday and how my oldest brother started crying and said that he was afraid she might die soon because she was so old.

We all laughed but my five-year-old brother looked confused and asked, “Why did he think you would die?”

The four-year-old chimed in to explain, “Because back then people only lived to be thirty.”


What funny moments have you shared with your kids?

Leave a comment here or follow the link to the facebook page and tell me your story along with the age of your child (I will change names to protect identity). I’ll share more from Reese and other readers in future “Kid Logic” posts.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Sign of God's Plan

In October 2002, during my sophomore year at ISU, an acquaintance invited my roommate and me to go out with some of his friends. We gathered in his dorm room at Watterson Towers where he made introductions and one guy in particular immediately caught my attention. He reached out to shake my hand and flashed me a smile in a moment that is permanently ingrained in my memory. He was a life-of-the-party kind of guy and so easy to talk to. Early in the evening, he mentioned that he was in a long distance relationship, and I told him about my Army boyfriend who was beginning a four year tour in Germany. We spent the evening laughing and dancing, and our whole group had so much fun that we started going out together almost every weekend.

We spent the next two years dancing at frat parties and blasting country music through the halls of his apartment building. We remained respectful of each other’s significant others, and I never mentioned the butterflies that stirred with every smile, every wink, every not-so-inadvertent touch.

Eventually, I ended my long distance relationship and embarked on a series of mediocre dates and short-lived flings. He still had the same girlfriend, so I never did get a chance to share my true feelings. Over time, our little group started growing apart, and soon I stopped scanning the room for him at parties. I stopped trying to run into him on campus, and even when I did see him I only waved from afar. After I graduated, I wondered if it had been a mistake not telling him how I felt. In my mind, he would always be “the one that got away.”

That fall, I went back to ISU to start my graduate degree. All my friends had graduated and the party scene lost its luster. I had just ended another relationship with someone who didn’t quite measure up to the guy I still couldn’t fully forget. I laid on the bed in my one bedroom apartment wondering where the next phase of life would take me.

Then the phone rang and an all-too-familiar voice asked me on my last first date.

In October 2012, I gave birth to our second child and that child entered the world in a hospital room with a picture window. In the middle of the view from that window stood Watterson Towers, the place where Matt first shook my hand exactly ten years before.

The view from that window will remain forever in my heart as a reminder that God is behind every unanswered prayer, every time of uncertainty, every phase of waiting and wondering. He orchestrates each stage of our lives from beginning to end, and every so often if we are paying attention, He provides us with wondrous moments that bridge the gap between the past and present and fill us with assurance that He really does have a plan.

This is a Bigger Picture moment. Share with us today at Brook's place.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Brief Update

Well, it has been quite a month, and I think I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the sleep deprivation tunnel. I thought I would share a brief update before I attempt to get back into my normal posting routine (if that’s even possible. We shall see).

Allie is five weeks old now and perfectly healthy. (I know. Time flies, right?) We had a difficult first month with her sleep schedule, and she began showing signs of colic which makes for some tense evenings around our house. Lately it feels like things are getting better, but I think maybe that’s because Matt and I have simply grown accustomed to the walking zombie lifestyle.

Reese's broken collarbone is completely healed and we got the official okay last Monday. She handled the whole situation like a champ and never complained about wearing her brace. By the time Allie was born, Reese was back to normal and you never would have known she was injured. She loves being a big sister and - just like every other major transition in her little life - she has handled the change marvelously. 

As for Matt and I, well, did I mention that we’re pretty tired? This whole sleep deprivation thing is quite new to us. Reese was born in the summer when Matt was off work, and by the time he returned to a full-time schedule, we had a ten-week-old baby who slept through the night consistently. Not so much this time around. With Allie, Matt stayed home for one week; my mom came down the second week; and after that I was on my own with two kids and feeling like a first-time mom all over again. 

Already in this first month, I’ve had so many moments that I wanted to share, but each time I had the opportunity to get in front of the computer I found myself choosing to sleep instead (which was probably the wiser choice anyway). So I will likely backtrack a bit to some of those earlier blog-worthy moments I missed and as much as I would like to jump right into them all now, doing so would likely make this a contender for the longest blog post ever written.

For some reason it just seemed weird to start up again without filling in the gaps from the past four weeks. So that’s my only purpose today – to say that we are all alive and well and starting to get used to being a party of four. I hope the demands of my evolving role as a mother allow me the time to continue sharing my heart through this incredible journey. I thought I had learned a lot about things like life, love, and patience as a mother of one, but if the past month is any indication of what lies ahead then I have a feeling that the lessons have only just begun so stay tuned…

And remember that there are now two easy ways to follow along and receive automatic updates. Enter your email on the right or click my facebook link and "like" the fan page. Thank you for taking this journey with me. There's plenty more to come!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Love's Not Easy, But It's Worth It

I cried as we drove to the hospital. We were headed in for a scheduled induction, but my contractions had started earlier that afternoon, and I was pretty sure I was already in labor.

{I had been hoping to avoid an induction this time around, but two days earlier my doctor - who literally saved my life the day Reese was born – told me that she had to go out of town unexpectedly over the weekend of my due date. I sat on our patio praying for peace and clarity as I tried to decide whether to schedule an induction or risk my doctor's absence. I decided on the induction, despite my desire to experience spontaneous labor. Imagine my excitement when I started having contractions the morning of our appointment. Isn’t God awesome?}

As we made the 30 minute drive to the hospital, the joy and excitement were overshadowed by anxiety and fear as I wondered how I would possibly go through all that pain and exhaustion again. I worried about a repeat occurrence of the complications I suffered last time and I questioned my ability to do it all again. Matt held my hand as we drove, reassuring me that everything would work out and reminding me of the bigger picture behind the pain. The wait is over. We’re having a baby. Today.

Thirteen hours later, our daughter was born. If I took the time to fully recapture the details of those hours and the magnificence of her entry into the world, I’m afraid you might never see the end of this post, (and given my current state of exhaustion, it is unlikely that anything I write will accurately portray such a miracle).

That night, I laid in my hospital bed surrounded by the soft glow of the moon and the light snores of my husband asleep on the couch across the room. Next to my bed, our newborn baby squirmed in her sleep.

The events of the day replayed in my mind as I relived the magic of holding, kissing, and nursing my baby girl for the first time and the memories of Reese’s newborn days. No longer minding the pain, no longer worrying about the weeks of sleep deprivation ahead, no longer wondering if I can handle this, I lowered my head to the pillow and closed my eyes to join my husband and my daughter in peaceful sleep.

Ignoring the IV needle in my wrist, the cramps in my back and abdomen, and the stitches that hindered even the slightest change in position, I pressed the “play” button on my ipod, turned the setting to “random,” and let the tears of joy and gratitude flow onto the pillow as Francesca Battistelli began singing in my ear…. 

Love’s not a feeling
Love’s not convenient
But I know love will change your life
Love takes sacrifice
Love cuts like a knife
Sometimes love will make you cry
Love’s not easy
But it’s worth it…

Allie Marie
October 26, 2012 @ 1:01pm. 
8 lbs. 20 in.

Welcome to the world, Sweet Baby Girl.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.
Join us today at Alita's place.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maybe That's Why...

My heart has been heavy this week. Other than simple bumps and scrapes, this has been my first experience with the heart-break of seeing my child in pain; the guilt of wondering if I could have prevented this. Every time I see her wince as she tries to get comfortable, I find myself asking, "why?"

We saw an orthopedic doctor on Tuesday, and it turns out that the bone is cracked halfway through. She needs to wear the brace for four to six weeks, 24 hours a day. Matt carried her out to the car and we headed home preparing ourselves for the reality that we will have both an injured toddler and a newborn baby in just 10 days.

Why did this have to happen so close to the end of our pregnancy?

Why did this have to happen at all?

Why does she have to experience this pain?

Why? The question tumbles from my lips in an automatic response to life’s not-so-pleasant surprises. From minor inconveniences to major catastrophes, I find myself looking toward the sky and demanding an immediate answer or an easy solution. Sometimes I just freeze for a minute as I wait for God to part the clouds and say, “Just kidding. This isn’t really happening.”

And as much as I wish that my situation weren’t real, my questions for God extend far beyond the walls of my own home this week. The list of people we love who have been hit by difficult circumstances and tough uncertainties is so long that our dinner is cold long before we finish saying our prayers.

Morning, noon, and night, I am in constant prayer, asking God to provide strength, comfort, and peace to my daughter, my family, and my endless list of loved ones searching for reasons of their own. As I pray, my phone beeps with constant emails, texts, and facebook messages - reminders of the many prayers flowing into my life as my prayers flow out to others. People offer to bring a meal or lend a hand in the same moment that I am sending that same offer to someone else.

As I sit in the middle of this outpouring of love, the questions begin to fade and I am surrounded by a rainbow of gratitude. Because without these challenges, without these questions, we might forget how to love this deeply, how to pray this desperately, how to reach out this easily. We might forget what it’s like to come to him on our knees and feel His embrace. We might forget to surrender to His hands and His plan. And we might miss the peace and the joy of knowing just how loved we truly are.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.
Share with us today at Melissa's place!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons from a Broken Bone

I caught my oldest brother (who is both single and childless) eyeing my stomach from across the room, “What?” 

“So, pretty soon you’ll have two kids.” He said it as if no one had ever explained to him how this process works.

“Yeah… and?”

“Isn’t that gonna be a huge pain in the ass?”

Although he said it jokingly and I laughed out loud at the time, that really is one of my concerns. I don’t exactly voice it in those words, but I often think about how I will adjust to the added demands of a second child. Every day I have at least one moment where I wonder how this is all going to work. I have gone from being consistently punctual to chronically late; I have to sit and take a deep breath at least once a day; and I can barely function after 9:00pm. And I only have one kid!

Today I had one of those mornings. Everywhere I looked, another task begged for my attention and I couldn’t seem to make a dent in my mental to-do list. I bounced back and forth between my roles on the toddler entertainment committee and the cleaning crew, and I kept trying to picture a newborn in the mix. Maybe my brother had a point.

Just before lunch, Reese was playing on our bed while I separated laundry. I didn’t see her fall, but I heard the thud as her body hit the bedroom floor. I rushed to her side, trying to determine what was hurt. She pointed to her shoulder. I scooped her up and comforted her while I waited for the tears to stop. They didn’t.

I laid her on the bed and ask her to raise her arms. She only raised the right one. I asked if I could take her shirt off and she refused. From what I could see, nothing looked abnormal. There were no lumps, no swelling, and even though I felt like an overly paranoid parent, I decided to take her to Prompt Care anyway. I threw on a hat and a pair of flip flops, wrapped her in a blanket and carried her out the door in my pajamas.

On the way I called Matt at work and he wanted to meet us there. Great. Now we’re both overly paranoid. When we got there, the doctor wanted to do x-rays. Standard procedure. Or maybe he’s an overly paranoid doctor. I was surprisingly calm the whole time because I kept waiting to hear, “It’s nothing. Go home, put some ice on it, and wait for the bill for this unnecessary visit.”

That’s not quite what he said.

Fractured collarbone. Brace. Sling. Pain meds. Orthopedic referral.

We brought her home and took turns sitting with her on the couch while she watched re-runs of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and snacked on grapes and cheese crackers. The remainder of our afternoon and evening revolved around her. We ordered a pizza for dinner and Matt got displaced to the guest room so Reese and I could sleep in our bed.

As I sit here typing in bed with the computer on my lap and a sleeping toddler at my side, there is a wet load of laundry still in the washer, a dried piece of green Play-doh ground into my living room rug, and a puddle of spilled salsa drying on the bottom of my refrigerator. The messes that somehow seemed so dire 12 hours ago suddenly don’t matter at all. My mental to-do list now contains only one item, take care of Reese. Everything else has either been completely forgotten or termed unnecessary.

I would have guessed that a situation like this might worsen my concerns about having another child. Instead, it eased them - totally. Reese has never had an injury or an illness worse than a cold, and I had forgotten the ease with which this mode of motherhood takes over – the mode that gives us added strength and patience, that blinds us to the rest of life’s demands, that lowers our standards for the condition of our homes and the frequency of our showers, that carries us from moment to moment without a single priority beyond loving and nurturing the children who need us.

That's how a newborn enters the mix. That's how we accept the responsibility of dressing an extra body and feeding an extra mouth. That's how we deal with a child who has the flu or a fractured collarbone. To people who aren't ready for children, I suppose it would seem like a huge pain in the ass. But to the women who already have them, it's life. It's motherhood. And we wouldn't have it any other way. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Best is Yet to Come

Slowing our bikes to a stop, we gathered in a giggly cluster on the front lawn of my childhood home. A white limousine sat in front of the house across the street next to a group of smiley teenagers. We watched in awe, whispering as quietly as young girls can whisper while we cast our votes for the prettiest dress and the cutest date. When the limo finally drove off, we returned to our bikes and I pedaled down the street behind my friends, fantasizing about my own prom night and the many promises of a bright and beautiful future.

That was eleven years before I actually attended my own prom, and here I sit eleven years after, having experienced so many of the days that once seemed so far away – high school, college, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood. Through the first three decades of my life I looked toward the years ahead with such hope and anticipation. Every year brought another exciting “first” and the future was full of mystery and adventure. I wanted to look older, feel older, be older. The best is yet to come.

Somewhere along the way, my feelings toward the future began shifting away from excitement and floating in the space between indifference and dread. With so many major events now in the past, I feared that life would become perpetually repetitive, boring even. No longer able to fantasize about where I might “end up,” I wondered if the adventure was over, if I would begin to spend less time daydreaming about what is to come and more time entertaining thoughts of what might have been “if only…”

Yesterday I celebrated my 30th birthday – not the way I celebrated my tenth with a slumber party filled with popcorn and late-night laughter; or the way I celebrated my eighteenth with a huge bonfire in my parents’ backyard; or the way I celebrated my twenty-first with an irresponsible number of shots and a very spotty memory. Instead, I spent the day at the pumpkin patch with Reese and my mom, and then I enjoyed a pedicure and dinner with friends. It was quiet, peaceful, and perfect, and I celebrated because the repetition I anticipated has become the comfort I seek and the boredom I feared has become the contentment I cherish.

With one decade closing and another about to begin, the future is filled with a different kind of adventure. The identity-seeking years of wild parties and tangible firsts are becoming the peacefully stable years of security, consistency, and continued spiritual growth. With a greater appreciation for simple joys and deeper gratitude for even the smallest blessings, I have a renewed sense of excitement for all that lies ahead.

As 21st birthdays become 40th birthdays, weddings become 50th anniversaries, and graduation parties become retirement parties, I will always remember that little girl on her purple bike pedaling toward the road ahead with the wind at her back and a heart full of hope and anticipation for the promises of a bright and beautiful future. 

The best is yet to come.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.

Share with us today at Jade's place!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Keep the Fire Burning

I poured my Saturday morning coffee and settled into the recliner. Reese was still asleep and Matt had already left to work on the farm. I stared out the window, watching the sun rise over the treetops. In the corner of our yard, two empty lawn chairs faced the stone fire ring. Tiny strands of smoke rose intermittently from the center of the circle, the final remnants of the previous night.

Just ten hours earlier, Matt went outside to light a fire while I put Reese to bed. I waited for the sound of rustling bed sheets to fade away before joining my husband beneath the stars for a much-needed night of reconnection. Pulling our chairs in close, we took turns tossing in empty pizza boxes and pieces of shredded mail. The warmth enveloped us, creating a shield against the chill of the night. The heat pressed into our cheeks, forcing us to inch our chairs backward as we fed the flames. 

Alone in the dark, we reunited with the couple we were seven years ago, before full-time jobs, children, and mortgage payments began chipping away at our time, energy, and patience for each other. With no clock to remind us of the hour, we rekindled past memories, laughing as if we didn't already know the end of each story. We talked late into the night, ignoring our bodies’ pleas for sleep as we fed the flames of our marriage with laughter and simple presence.

Knowing the morning would come all too soon, we finally made our way back to the house. Behind us, the fire began its slow death. We didn’t even bother to fully extinguish the remaining flames. The lack of attention would be enough to seal its fate. Crawling into bed, we snuggled a little closer, held each other a little tighter, kissed a little longer…

Sitting in the recliner just a few hours later, I wondered how I would possibly muster the energy for a full day of toddler mayhem. Regret began crowding my thoughts as I silently scolded myself, you should have gone to bed earlier…

My inner voice suddenly quieted as I watched the fire take its final breaths, completing its descent from a beautiful burning blaze into a lifeless pile of ashes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pondering a Miracle

People often ask me to compare pregnancies, which I appreciate because that's often the only time I stop to think about it. The demands of a toddler have kept the time moving forward at warp speed, and I haven't been following the progression of What to Expect fruits, but it sure feels like this baby went from fig to pumpkin overnight. Still, I have managed to find quite a few differences this time around. 

The morning sickness was much better, but the physical discomfort of the last few weeks has been worse. The bladder control issue is definitely new and I change my pants at least once a day. My cravings have switched from hash browns and fried foods to applesauce and fresh fruit (which has kept me about ten pounds lighter, quite the bonus). This baby is a lot more active, and I'll be shocked if I make it to my due date without some kind of internal injury.

Yesterday I was snuggling in bed with Reese when the baby started distorting my stomach into the oddest shapes. I took Reese's hand and pressed it against my belly. The baby pushed out against her little fingers. She smiled up at me, whispering, “Mommy, there’s a baby in there.”

Her hand lingered on my skin. The same hand that once pressed out from the inside now rested on the outside, perfectly formed and belonging to a flawless little body and a beautiful mind. Created by us and our love for each other. Created by God and His love for us. And soon we will be blessed with another child, equally perfect, equally reflective of the depths of unconditional love.

My gaze shifted from the intermittent protrusions from my abdomen to the toddler at my side. It's still so unreal. I can feel the baby's kicks and see it's movement. I can hear Reese's giggles and hold her in my arms. Yet a part of me still questions the possibility of it all.

I hear that no matter the gender, no matter the number, every pregnancy is completely different from any other. Judging by my experience thus far, I would be tempted to agree, but one thing always remains constant...

From the double line on the plastic stick to the bright lights of the delivery room.

From the very first flutter of life to the toddler running laps around the kitchen table.

From the feeling of a tiny hand pushing out from the inside to the sight of that same hand now resting on the outside.

The awe.

The wonder.

The miracle.

Of life.

Of love.

Of motherhood.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment.
Share with us today at Hyacynth's place.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My Kind of Budget

It’s Saturday morning. Two steaming mugs of coffee and an apple juice sippy cup rest on the patio table while a happy toddler chases bubbles. Matt and I pass the bottle back and forth, seeing who can blow the most bubbles with a single dip of the wand. We have no time limit, no agenda. I live for these mornings.

And I am beyond thankful that these days are not few and far between. This is a typical Saturday. This is our lifestyle – one of the many reasons I chose to stay home. The groceries are bought. The house is [relatively] clean. There are no errands to run, no bills to pay. My days are filled with diapers and coupons and bills (oh my!) so our evenings and weekends can be filled with snuggles and bubbles.    

At times, this life is not easy. We sacrifice a lot to have it this way. Our kids may never go to Disney World or have a fully paid college education. Christmases and birthdays are small and the gap between what we want and what can afford is often big.

All around me I see people taking vacations, refurnishing rooms, upsizing, upgrading. And it is tempting – oh, so tempting – to join the race.

Until Saturday comes again and I sip coffee with my husband and blow bubbles for my daughter with no time limit, no agenda. Because everything else is already done and there is nothing left to do but relax and be thankful that we may have to budget our money, but at least we're not short on time.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Through a Toddler's Eyes: Work

Reese and I walked hand-in-hand toward the playground. To our right, the tiny lake shimmered in the sunlight as a flock of Canadian geese waddled along the shore line looking for the perfect spot to enter the water. 

“Look, Mommy, those geese are working.”

Working? I asked if she meant to say “walking.” She corrected me, confirming that in her mind, those geese were hard at work. Trying to wrap my head around her logic, I challenged myself to answer the question - if they’re not working, what are they doing? Well, they’re just doing what geese do. They're just… being.

It took me a minute to fully process the beauty of her statement. Somehow, she had come to understand that to engage in your “work” is simply to be as you were meant to be, to fulfill your basic purpose.

That moment has completely changed the way I see my daily routine and the way I think about the “work” to be done in my life.

I walk the aisles of the grocery store like an eagle in flight.

I empty the dishwasher like a bumblebee gathering pollen.

I dust my furniture like a rosebud turning its face to the sun.

And I sit at my computer spilling the contents of my heart like a flock of geese waddling along the sandy shores of a shimmering lake.

Now, I can stir a pot on the stove, fold laundry, or pay bills without wishing I could stop and just simply be. And I can read a book, paint my nails, or write my heart out without feeling like I should get on with more important work. In every action I am working, fulfilling my purpose, turning my own tiny gear in the giant wheel of creation. I'm just doing what moms doing. I'm just being.

And when Reese is constructing her tallest block tower, splattering soap bubbles on the mirror as she washes her hands, or picking up her toys at the end of the day, she's just doing what toddlers do. She's just being. But she tells me she's working, and I just smile and agree because I've forgotten that there was ever a difference.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.

Share with us today at Corinne's.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Creative Soul

This is a departure from what I typically share in this space, but as a part of a journey so close to my heart, I felt compelled to share it today in the hopes that your dreams will not lie asleep below the surface of your life for even one more day… 

Last weekend I attended the Creative Soul event through Bigger Picture Blogs, my first-ever retreat for women with creative passion. It was my official first step toward the pursuit of my long-repressed dream to call myself a writer. I drove four hours into unfamiliar suburban territory only to enter an even less familiar setting full of people I didn’t know and a day full of activities with which I had no experience - writing on the spot, opening my work up to critical review, and holding a paintbrush for the first time since the paint by number canvases of my childhood. Needless to say, I was more than a bit nervous.

As I entered the coffee house, the quaint setting and soft music reined in my terror. The small, intimate meeting room with its circle of wooden chairs calmed me even more. Then, a familiar face - the unlikely person from my past who invited me. She welcomed me with a warm embrace and I no longer felt like an outsider. The last remaining fears melted away and I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

I spent the day surrounded by passionate women and the creative energy flowed freely, inspiring each of us toward a greater fulfillment of our own unique gifts. Bound by a desire to serve God by adding to the world’s beauty, it was easy to forget that many of us were strangers to each other just hours before. Giving voices to the stories within us and breathing life into our talents, we filled each other with encouragement.

That night I drove home with the fruits of my creativity lining the backseat of my car, proof that I am capable of more than I realize. Believing for the first time with every ounce of my being that I am chasing the right dream down the right path, I thanked God for bringing this group together and for His gentle nudges that sealed my decision to be a part of it.

Thank you, ladies, for a refreshing, inspiring, and life-changing day. I am blessed to have experienced it.

Below is the edited version of the piece I wrote during our twenty minute Writing Circles exercise....

The Awakening of a Dream

The Lord beckons me toward the edge. I back away, afraid of the fall. He calls me back, whispering softly, “Come closer.”

I can’t.

Instead, I run. I hide. I push Him away, refusing His call, closing my ears.

But the call of the Lord is relentless and even though He never yells, His whisper stirs my heart just the same. Ever so slowly, I step forward, hesitating with every move. The voices in my head overpower His gentle nudge as I issue myself a warning against the inevitable pain that will surely follow as I plummet into the unknown.

I stand frozen in place, heeding my warning. His whisper fades into the silence and He lets me stay there for as long as I need because He doesn’t shove; He only nudges. Instead, He wraps me in His patient embrace and He waits. As His love surrounds me, I begin to hear a new voice, quiet and weak. A hush falls over my mind as it asks, “What if I don't fall? What if I fly?"

This is my Genesis, the beginning of my voyage. This is my Exodus, the escape from my fear. This is my Revelation, the journey toward that to which He has called me. Finally, my ears are listening, my heart is accepting and I am ready to answer His call. I am ready to step over the edge, to let Him carry me on His wings, and to discover if I really can fly. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wide

The glass tipped on its side, spilling sticky orange liquid all over my kitchen table. Reese’s cries erupted from the other room as I reached for a towel. Forgetting the mess, I headed for her room where I discovered a wet bed and an even wetter kid. I stripped her sheets and threw them in the wash, cleaned her up and changed her clothes.

I finally returned to the kitchen to pour her some cheerios and paused in front of the table. The small puddle of spilled juice now spanned the width of its surface, soaking into the fabric placemats, dripping over the edges and pooling on the floor. A mess that originally required a few paper towels had now become a much bigger project.

I reached for the cleaning supplies, wishing I had tackled the spill sooner. As I wiped the table clean, I thought about the other “spills” in life.

Bad habits.

Negative thoughts.

Repressed anger.

Each begins as a tiny puddle, a slow drip. Left unaddressed, the puddles spread, spanning the width of our being. Creeping closer to the edge, they threaten to mar the other still-clean surfaces of our lives.

Our messes in life are best cleaned as we go.

Because the longer they’re left, the wider they grow.

Five Minute FridayFive Minute Friday is a blog link-up where everyone writes for five minutes on the same prompt. This week's prompt is "wide" and this is the product of my five minutes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Dream in Disguise

I'm a terrible singer.

Ask my nieces who, upon hearing my "Rock Band" rendition of Taylor Swift, offered me a permanent seat at the drum set. Ask my daughter who yells from the back seat every time I chime in with the radio, "No, Mommy, don't sing!"

Seriously, I'm awful. Arguably the worst. Ever.

Still, I always wanted to be a singer despite the full knowledge that I am totally and completely tone deaf. Even the best of singing coaches would not have improved the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound resonating from my vocal chords. Even so, I signed up for chorus and sang off key in the back row of the alto section all through junior high and high school. I performed for screaming fans of stuffed animals with my hair brush microphone and gave acceptance speeches for imaginary Grammy awards. But deep down I always knew I would have to find a different dream.

Oh, how I envied the golden voices of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston. To have a voice that carries people to another world and to share it with a passion that tugs at the heartstrings of the deepest cynics is to truly be blessed with a gift. What I would have given for their gift to be my gift! But deep down I always knew I would have to make a different wish.

Even though I always accepted the reality of my limitations, I still felt that once-in-a-while sting in my heart when I witnessed a moving vocal performance or caught the sound of my own warbling in my ear at church. How I wish for a beautiful voice…

In all those years, it never occurred to me that my wish might come true through a different path; that maybe I was pursuing the right dream in the wrong way.

Eighteen months ago, I launched a blog in a desperate attempt to reclaim my identity and have something, anything to call my own after almost a year as a stay-at-home mom without any personal outlets. So I opened a blank page and I started to write.

And wouldn't ya know it? It turns out I do have a beautiful voice.

If you have a dream that hasn’t come true, step back and look around. Maybe it has and you just can't see it from where you're standing. Maybe you're pursuing the right dream in the wrong way. You, too, have a beautiful voice inside you. You just have to find it and set it free.

This is my 100th blog post. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for hearing my voice.

This is also a Bigger Picture moment.

Share with us today at Brook's place.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

[Breaking] The Rules of Baby Talk

At our house, we eat mashed pee-toes for dinner

and bluebelly yogurt for breakfast.

Our favorite color is lellow

and our favorite animals are aff-lants.

We put checkup on our chicken nuggets

and we eat cereal with a foon.

A child development “expert” probably would have told me to cut the baby talk two years ago because infants begin to differentiate individual words in speech at six months of age (true) and the incoherent babbling and mispronunciation of words can inhibit language development (really?).

Well, if that’s the case, my kid should be way behind the curve because I am a baby talkin’ fool. I babbled like an idiot well into her second year (and I even still do it on occasion). Since the day she spoke her first word, I have absorbed her pronunciations into my own vocabulary, laughing every time I say one of my favorites.

People who subscribe to the “no baby talk” philosophy probably think I’m holding my kid back with my misuse of words and incorrect grammar. Well, today I have a fully conversational two-year-old and her language development hasn’t suffered one bit as a result of my unwillingness to stop saying “foon.”

In time, she picks up the right words and when she stops saying them, I stop too. Every now and then, we have one of these conversations:

“Do you need a foon?”

“No, Mommy, it’s a spoon.”

“You’re right, honey. It is a spoon.”

One by one, each word will take its place in my memory. But for the rest of my life, every time I pick up a foon, I will smile to myself and remember these times.

And some day when she’s all grown up, she will take a seat beside me in the kitchen and I’ll pour the coffee. She’ll ask for a foon and I’ll hold in the tears as the memories flood back. Then we’ll have the same silent exchange my mom and I have when I walk into her kitchen and ask for a sawamy sammich.

Don’t stop the baby talk. I promise their language development won’t suffer. Only the memories will.

Life is short. Grab a foon.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Focus

So much to do. All the time. Everyday.

Wash this.

Dust that.

Pay bills.

Birthday gift for Mom.

Grab bread, milk, and stamps.

Make plans for dinner.

So often my head is in the future, my thoughts wrapped up in what is yet to come, what must be done, what can’t be forgotten.

Suddenly, forgotten is the present moment. Now lost forever in a whirlwind of future plans for future moments that will no doubt be equally wasted. Because the future never fully arrives.

Forget the list. Forget the plan. But never forget the moment.

Breathe in. Be still. And focus.

Five Minute Friday

This is my first attempt at a new blog link-up. Everyone writes on the same prompt (this week is "Focus"), which given each Friday morning. The goal is to write a post in five minutes or less. No planning. No editing. Just five minutes straight from the heart. Click the icon above to read more Five Minute Friday posts from other bloggers.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Lessons from a Random Stranger

Sitting alone in a booth intended for four, I drizzled heavy white cream over my coffee. The spine of my new book creaked slightly as I opened its cover for the first time. I had one hour until I had to pick Reese up. One hour of total peace and quiet. One hour with the pastime I enjoy far too infrequently these days.

An old man shuffled past my table, leaning heavily on a wooden cane. A regular customer, I assumed from the waitress’ greeting. He settled into the corner booth and ordered a hamburger. I wondered how that would pan out since his tight sunken lips suggested the absence of even a single tooth.

I quickly returned my attention to my book. Old people make me uncomfortable.

Minutes later, I looked up just as the old man was lowering himself onto the padded seat across from me. My eyes searched the room, confused.

Is he lost? Does he think I’m someone else?

The uncomfortable-around-old-people part of my brain encouraged me to bolt. Quick! Excuse yourself and leave. Or at least tell him to leave. Or at the very least pretend you don’t see him.

He either failed to notice my discomfort or completely ignored it. After a long awkward silence he finally spoke, “My name is Bob Smith. Would it be alright if I joined you?”

I felt my face flush red. People at other tables were staring, expecting a scene. Suddenly the manager peeked around the corner, “Bob, are you bothering this lady?” Then, turning to me, “Everything alright, ma’am?”

Here’s your chance. No I’m not alright. Check, please!

The thoughts fizzled before reaching my lips. I could tell from the manager’s tone that this was a common routine, an unwelcomed addition to his job description – steering Bob away from annoyed customers. Customers like me who want to read their books and drink their coffee and not be bothered by lonely old men.

“We’re fine, thank you,” I surprised myself with my own response. The manager turned toward the kitchen with a shrug. Bob continued talking as if there had been no interruption. He said he was a hundred years old. His sunken cheeks and toothless grin gave me no reason to doubt it. He said he had been living alone for the past 15 years, walking here several times a week. I wondered how long it took him to shuffle himself over from his apartment. Even if it were next door, the trip would likely take most of his day. He had the slouched posture of a weary traveler. The heaviness in his eyes hinted at the depths of his loneliness.

Pretend you don’t see him. The guilt threatened to swallow me whole as I wondered how often he gets that reaction, how often people brush him off as if he has aged out of the rights to dignity and respect. What makes my agenda so important that I can’t take an hour to validate the existence of another human being?

Closing my book, I cradled my coffee mug with both hands and forced myself to make eye contact with the stranger at my table. Bob continued to talk. I started to listen - not the way I often “listen” when Reese shows me the same toy for the tenth time, or the way I “listen” when Matt interrupts a writing session to get my opinion on a landscaping idea – but really listen with the kind of intent that whispers its message through the silence, “your story matters.”

He talked about the many decades of changes to the local landscape and how “none of this was here 50 years ago.” He bragged about his swing dancing skills and offered to take me for a spin around the diner. I said I wasn’t sure I’d be a very good partner, standing to reveal my baby bump. We shared a laugh as he asked what my husband would think about his pregnant wife’s impromptu date with this strange old man. I promised to keep it between us. We laughed again.

Suddenly I realized I was no longer nervous; no longer annoyed; no longer counting down the minutes. Eventually, I did have to excuse myself. I told Bob it was nice talking to him, and I meant it.

Twenty minutes later, with Reese now buckled in behind me, I listened to her talk about everything she did at Nana’s house. My fascination was genuine, my responses were more enthusiastic. Your story matters.

At home, I greeted Matt. He immediately started telling me about his crazy afternoon with an out-of-control student. My interest was sincere, my reaction was more concerned. Your story matters.

The significance of my random encounter suddenly started to make more sense. I hadn’t simply done a favor for a stranger. We were two souls brought together in a perfectly orchestrated universe, each possessing exactly what the other needed for the moment. I had been searching for peace and quiet with a closed mind and an open book. Instead, I found it through a closed mouth and opened ears. For one hour, my thoughts were quiet, my soul was at peace, and I remembered what it’s like to truly listen and let people know that their stories matter.

Thanks, Bob, for letting me listen.

This is a Bigger Picture moment. 

Join us today at Alita's place.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Another Monday Morning

I snuggled in bed with my pregnant belly draped over my body pillow. Tiny ribbons of sunlight peeked through the curtains. Next to my bed, a rooster crowed. Matt’s alarm. I felt his weight lift off the spot next to me. Drifting in and out of sleep, I listened to the running water of the shower.

Savoring the silence, I welcomed the gratitude that overwhelms me every morning when I wake up with nowhere else to be but here. I wondered what it’s like for Matt to go to work every day while I stay home and build Lego towers in my pajamas. I wondered if he envies my freedom to take walks in the park and meet friends for lunch. I thought about how hard he works to give us this life and how stressful it must be to serve as the sole financial provider for a household. Sometimes I even feel a little guilty.

Is this fair? Are we even?

Thinking I was still asleep, he snuck quietly out the door. Just as the garage door began to close, my alarm sounded on the night stand - a tiny voice over the monitor.

“Mommy? Mommy, I peed in my bed and I’m all wet.”

Nevermind. We’re totally even.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Lessons from a Rotten Apple

It was supposed to be a fun evening.

Matt put Reese to bed while I turned our kitchen into a makeshift applesauce factory complete with peeling, cooking, cooling, and bagging stations. Rinsing the first batch, I imagined how we would turn up the music and sing and dance while we peeled and chopped. We would make “someday” plans for our unfinished basement, retirement vacations, and imaginary lottery winnings. We’d throw skins at each other and make a sticky mess and when the last bag was in the freezer, he would chase me back to the bedroom and we’d deal with the pots and pans and floors tomorrow...

His voice brought me back from my fantasy life-before-children evening.

“Do you toss the bad ones?” He asked as he took up his post at the peeling station. He held up an apple that had definitely seen better days.

“Just take out the bad parts. The rest is still good."

Just two batches in, our fun was interrupted by a faint cry down the hall. The hoarseness in Reese’s voice told me to brace myself for a long night as I washed my hands and headed for her room.

Making my way through the dark, I clipped my toe on her miniature rocking chair. I crumpled into a ball at the foot of her bed and tried to take deep breaths between stabs of pain. I forced myself to turn my attention back to my child. Snot ran down her face; her skin was warm to the touch. I scooped her up and carried her out to the living room.

“She’s sick,” I said. Matt stopped the peeler mid-apple.

“You’re bleeding,” he answered, looking at my foot.

I plopped down on the couch, unsure of which problem to solve first. Sick toddler. Bloody foot. Sticky kitchen. This was so far from the kind of evening I had anticipated.

Well, this night is ruined, I thought as the joy of the last hour began to give way to disappointment. But the thought died before it reached my lips and I resisted the urge to grumble about all that had suddenly gone wrong. Those things determined the course of my evening, not the quality.

Just take out the bad parts.

I turned my focus toward making things as right as possible. I wrapped Reese in a blanket, gave her some Tylenol, and handed her over to Matt. Then I hobbled to the bathroom to find a bandaid.

Limping back to the kitchen, I started peeling again where he left off. On the other side of the counter, he rocked in the recliner and she drifted off to sleep against his chest. I peeled. He rocked. She slept. Our eyes locked and we smiled at each other, our hearts speaking through the silence. 

The rest is still good.

Suddenly, the joy returned to the moment. Not the fun, giggly, lighthearted kind of joy I had anticipated, but joy just the same - a quiet, content, peaceful kind of joy.

Just take out the bad parts. The rest is still good.

This is a Bigger Picture moment.
Join us today at Sarah's place.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Only Sunshine

My day with Reese always ends with bedtime snuggles. I crawl into her big girl bed and lie beside her, rubbing her back and running my fingers through her hair. We read a book or two and she says her prayers and then I lay my head down on her pillow. She turns her face toward mine and we sing, our voices barely above a whisper:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. 
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, Dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away."

I usually leave with a smile. 

She is my only sunshine…

But lately I leave with a tear.

…for just eight more weeks.

Sometimes the tears come before I even to the last line.

Please don't take my sunshine away.

People often ask me how I think Reese will adjust to the baby - if she will struggle or get jealous. No one has ever asked about my adjustment, my struggle, my... jealousy? Is that what this is?

These are thoughts I haven’t voiced, emotions I haven’t shared.

Because I wonder, Am I crazy? Is this normal?

But the truth? The truth is a part of me is already mourning the impending loss of my only sunshine. For two years she has consumed my days, my life, my heart. I don’t want to divide my attention, split my focus, share my time. Our precious little moments suddenly seem so limited. I keep thinking about how much I’m going to miss her. It’s as if I forget that she isn’t going anywhere.

Still, I can’t help wondering how our relationship will change. Will we ever be the same again? Will we still have those just-you-and-me moments that I enjoy so much? Will I be able to divide my affection, time, and attention equally? Is there even room in my heart for another love like this? Can I possibly have two sunshines?

Then I look at my husband – my original sunshine. I remember how I experienced these same emotions about him before Reese was born. With just a few weeks to go, I cried on his shoulder as I thought about how much I would miss the alone time we had so recently learned to cherish. I couldn’t help wondering how our relationship would change. Would we ever be the same again?

The minute she was born I knew the answer. No, we would never be the same again, but we would never wish to be the same. Filling a void in our hearts we didn’t know we had, she made our family more complete and deepened our love on every level.

 When I lie next to Reese at night and the sadness starts to take hold, I have to remind myself that I won’t ever have to make room for another sunshine. I will always have just one. My family is my sunshine, my only sunshine. And rather than taking my sunshine away, each new addition will brighten its rays, further completing the circle of my life, and I will never wish to be the same again.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment. Join us today at Melissa's place.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Fail at Potty Training

I’ve tried everything – timers, ice cream, stickers, underpants, no pants, begging, pleading, bribing. I’ve given demonstrations and explanations and reasoned from as many possible angles as a two-year-old might grasp. Big girl. Big sister. All your friends are doing it. (Yeah, I’m sure I’ll regret that one in 10 years). We’ve shopped together for Minnie Mouse underwear and called grandparents to share the excitement of small successes.

She’s ready. I know she’s ready. I can tell by the way she talks that her mind understands. I can tell by the way she closes herself in the pantry to poop that her body understands. Yet, she refuses to surrender to the potty. She turns down my bribes and reacts to my enthusiasm with a blank stare. She holds her pee for hours waiting for my next distracted moment so she can sneak behind the recliner or under the kitchen table.

Potty days are some of my worst days. The excitement of the morning (Today is the day!) quickly fades away as the frustration builds and turns into tears. Sometimes they are hers. More often, they are mine. And when I find myself ducking in the other room to take a deep breath and cry, I don’t know what else to do but give up and give in and reach for the diapers. I’ve lost another battle and I criticize myself as I rinse her clothes and disinfect the floor and think about all the other kids who are already trained. What am I doing wrong?

With today’s disastrous attempt still weighing on my mind and ruining my day, I can’t help wondering why I put myself through this. Because I don’t want to have two kids in diapers for a few months? Because the cost of diapers is really that unbearable? Because I feel some invisible self-created social pressure to make sure she isn’t “behind” the other kids? I’m still searching for a reason that justifies this much aggravation.

If she got as upset as I do, I would never force her through this process. I would recognize that she’s not ready and wait for another sign that the time is right. Shouldn’t I grant myself that same leeway? I’ve followed all the signs that point to her readiness, but I’ve ignored the ones pointing away from mine. Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been waiting for her to surrender instead of surrendering myself.

So this is it. I’m not just waiting a week or two like I have every other time. No more denying that I will have two kids in diapers for a while. No more hoping that each box I buy will be the last. No more forcing. No more crying. No more potty. For at least four months.

It’s all going to be ok. We’ll get there. Someday. Until then, I can focus on enjoying the last two months of my pregnancy and the precious remaining days of one-on-one time with Reese. I won't have to worry about running her to the bathroom while nursing a newborn. And finally, she and I can both be at peace when she goes in the pantry and closes the door.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just Nine More Weeks...

My weekly pregnancy countdown has finally hit single digits and with my third trimester now in full swing, I have decided that I am definitely more uncomfortable this time around: round-the-clock trips to the bathroom; waddling like a penguin; trouble sleeping; roundhouse kicks to my rib cage; karate chops to my bladder; restless leg syndrome (which I assure you is a real thing); acid reflux; exhaustion; constant hunger; shortness of breath; the summer heat (which I narrowly escaped last time with a September to May pregnancy) turned out to be every bit as brutal as I've heard; and here's the latest one...

Sneeze. Squirt.

What was that?! Yikes! Am I leaking fluid?

I ran to the bathroom. False alarm. It's definitely not fluid. It's pee. Wonderful. I'm peeing my pants now too. Add it to the list. Surely, my first pregnancy was not like this.

Just nine more weeks, I reminded myself as I headed to the bedroom to change my pants.

On my way out, I stopped to make the bed. I moved Shamu out of the way (Shamu is Matt's name for my body pillow) and brushed a few stray granola bar crumbs into my hand. So much for my "ok, maybe I do crinkle my wrappers, but I don't leave crumbs" argument. I suppose Matt's request that I eat my midnight snacks in the kitchen is valid.

Just nine more weeks.

I returned to the kitchen where I struggled to empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher and couldn't reach the back of our lower cabinets.

Just nine more weeks.

The baby stirred inside me, probably trying to tell me to stop all the bending and reaching. With one hand on my belly, I stood completely still. Another kick. Then another. There is a person growing inside me.

Maybe that's why I don't remember being this uncomfortable last time. I never got far enough past the awe of the miracle taking place inside my body to notice anything negative. The kicks weren't annoying. They were amazing. The discomfort didn't seem terrible because I welcomed it as a part of this magical process.

Somewhere during the last few weeks, the tone of my countdown changed. I stopped counting the way I did toward my wedding day and started counting like I was heading for my last day at an awful job. I got so caught up in the discomfort and inconvenience that my focus shifted away from the bigger picture of this process and its end result.

There is a person growing inside me. A real, live person with his or her own unique features, personality traits, and gifts for the world. A person I will get to hold in my arms and call my son or daughter. A person who will pry open another hidden chamber of my heart and remind me that love at first sight is absolutely real...

... in just nine more weeks. 

This is a bigger picture moment.

Join us today at Jade's place.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Simple Ways to Stay Connected

This week, I'm joining the Hearts at Home blog hop again. On the third Thursday of every month, all of the Hearts bloggers share their thoughts on the same topic. With the start of the new school year upon us, the topic this month is: staying connected during the busy seasons of life.

I may not have kids in school yet, but as the wife of a high school administrator I am all too familiar with the back-to-school routine - shopping for new clothes, stocking up on lunch snacks, filling the calendar with the dates of every football game, tailgate, and parent-teacher night. After enjoying two amazing months of freedom, Matt is back at work and our quality time together has already taken a nose dive.

In this phase of our lives, finding time to connect with our toddler doesn't seem to be a problem. She is pretty good at making herself seen and heard. We spend our evenings sorting plastic shapes, playing with Little People animals, and reading about hungry caterpillars. Add in my daily routine of household chores and Matt's full workday, and we are both zapped of patience and energy by bedtime (hers, not ours). At my house, the back-to-school challenge isn't as much about nurturing our family bonds as much as it is about nurturing our marital ones. These are just a few of the practices we've adopted to help us stay connected through the busy times...

1. Take technology breaks. Now that we both have smart phones, I'm amazed at how easy it is to ignore each other when we're both checking sports stats and reading blog updates (guess who does which). We keep our attention on each other by turning the TV off and leaving phones out of reach during certain activities - eating our meals, drinking our morning coffee, and playing with Reese.

2. Go to bed together. We almost always go to bed at the same time. When one of us is ready for bed, the other follows suit. And if the other person isn't quite tired yet, well, let's just say this tip is also on my list for finding time for intimacy.

3. Share about your day. Every day when Matt gets home, I stop what I'm doing and we grab some cold drinks and sit on the patio or in the living room and share the details of our separate days. It makes us feel like we're still together even when we're apart.

4. Notice Mini-moments. Our quality time doesn't just come in the form of an occasional kidless date night or after bedtime hours. It comes instead in simple subtle moments - stopping everything to dance when our wedding song comes on the radio, stealing kisses while we take turns pushing Reese in her swing, holding hands in the car.

5. Take Sunday back. We rarely do anything on Sunday that isn't fun or relaxing. Weeds don't get pulled. Yards don't get mowed. Blogs don't get written. We also don't talk about issues that can wait until Monday. For one day every week, we are reunited with the blissful quiet of summer and the peace of a restful day.

Read more tips for staying connected by the other Hearts bloggers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Different When It's Your Kid

After lunch I rinsed and stacked dishes while Reese finished eating her sandwich. Behind me I could hear her start to gag so I walked over and put my hand under her chin - she knows the drill. Suddenly, a slimy half-chewed wad of bread fell into my open palm. If any other person on the planet did that to me, I would vomit on the spot. Instead, I walked it to the garbage can with a smile thinking that it’s absolutely true what they say… it’s just different when it’s your kid. 

I’m sure we all remember hearing that phrase before we had children. Whenever I made comments about a public tantrum, a stinky diaper, or a messy chocolate face, there would always be a parent nearby to say, “Yeah, but it’s different when it’s your kid.” Since everyone says it, I always assumed it was true. But I had no idea just how true it was until the first time she spit up down the front of my shirt and disgust registered far below amusement on the list of immediate responses. After more than two years of hardly noticing the bouts of public crying, barely smelling the countless stinky diapers, and smiling at her chewed up bread wad, I know I've developed the mysterious immunity that all moms have toward the seemingly unpleasant parts of our jobs.

I used to wonder how there were moms out there with the strength and patience for twins, behavioral struggles, special needs, or medical issues. I would think, “God help me if I’m ever in any of those situations.” But I’ve learned that the request for help isn’t really necessary because God’s gifts are automatic. Just as He grants the blessing of a beautifully unique child, He also provides the strength necessary to handle the unique needs of that child and the maternal love that carries us through exhaustion and aggravation with patience and grace. There’s no need to look at anyone else’s situation and wonder how she does it, and there’s no reason to fear that if you were in that situation you couldn’t handle it. Just remember that no matter the situation, it's always different when it’s your kid.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dinner Can Wait

I dumped the box of Play Doh onto the table, my saving grace on napless days. This will buy me some time, I thought foolishly as she snapped the lid off the first container. 

I took one step toward the kitchen. Not so fast. 

"Mommy will play with me?" 

I sank into the chair next to her, disappointed that my escape plan failed. I rolled the dough between my palms and pressed the ball into the plastic tube. She pulled the lever and brown "ice cream" swirled into the plastic cone. She was amazed. I was bored.  

"Look, Mommy! An ice cream cone!"

"I see," I responded, feigning equal fascination.

I was looking, but I didn't really see. All I could see was the dust on the window sill; crumbs on the floor; dishes on the counter. Behind me, the oven timer counted down. Five minutes and eleven seconds. Ten. Nine. 

My mind tempted me with "shoulds." Grab a dust rag. Get the broom. Fill the dishwasher. Check the casserole. 

I backed my chair away from the table, preparing to make my exit. As I rose to my feet, a single leaf drifted toward the ground outside, dead from the consistent lack of it's greatest need. I looked into my daughter's face, and saw the desire in her eyes. The desire for my presence, full and undivided - her greatest need. Suddenly, the "shoulds" faded from my focus, the dishes vanished, the crumbs disappeared, the dust dissolved.

Ignoring the steady Beeeep Beeeep of the over timer, I returned to my seat and made another dough ball. She filled the tube. I turned the crank. Pink "sprinkles" rained on her little fingers. Her giggles filled the room. Her smile filled my heart.

"Look, Mommy! Splinkles!"

"I see," I responded again, this time with genuine fascination, and I realize that I'm no longer just looking. I really do see. 

This is a Bigger Picture Moment. Join us at Corinne's place today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Finding Your Inner Child

We unloaded the wooden rocking chair from my mom’s van - the chair she and my dad stained from naked wood before I was born; the chair that rocked newborn babies, entertained climbing toddlers, and smashed a few toes in its thirty years of service to our family. With my mom finally ready to part with it, I gave it a new home beside my bedroom window.

I ran my fingers over the nicks and dents from falling objects, flying toys, and rambunctious pets. I noticed places where the stain has been thinned by years of friction. Despite its scars, it remains mostly unchanged, a pillar of consistency through a life full of transformation. 

I sat in the very seat where my little toddler feet stood almost three decades ago and felt my earliest childhood memory begin to resurface. Facing backward toward the living room window with my little hands clasped around the dark wood, I would rock to the rhythm of the blinking light on the electrical tower in the distance, captivated by the red ball in the sky and completely convinced that my motion controlled its steady flash. 

That was before the reality of divorce, death, and taxes taught me that control is an illusion. That was before I became weighted with memories of the past and worries for the future. That was before I experienced emotions like grief and disappointment. That was before life disrupted the peaceful innocence of a toddler lost in a simple moment of joy. 

I have often longed for the return of that innocence and for years I wondered if the memory of it was the closest I would ever come to experiencing it again. Sitting in that chair, I felt the thirty year gap begin to close. I may have lost sight of that innocence, but the innocence itself was never really lost. I am still that toddler. Somewhere along the unstoppable river of time, that toddler is still rocking in that chair, still fascinated by the light in the distance, still peacefully lost in a simple moment of joy. 

I turned myself around in the seat and knelt on the faded wood. Facing backward toward the bedroom window, I held on to the back of the chair and rocked to the rhythm of the swaying trees.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment.
Join us today at Brook's place.