Thursday, February 28, 2013

Memories that Matter

Reese at 4 months
Lately I've noticed that it has become harder and harder for me to lift Reese. I usually only carry her long enough to comfort a boo boo or to transport her sleeping body from the car to her room, and the days of loading the dishwasher and making dinner with her on my hip are long gone. I suppose I could take it as a sign of just how out of shape I am now that I haven't set foot on my treadmill in over six months (which could be part of it, but in my defense, people always ask me if she's four because she's so tall). What it really means, though, is that she's becoming more of a kid and less of a baby or even a toddler.

Next fall, she will start preschool two mornings a week. She doesn't want me in the room while she goes potty (which is often because she wants to unravel the entire roll of toilet paper without interruption, but still). She is now fully conversational in her speech, and sometimes she calls me "mom." When she was a baby I remember wondering what she would be like as a kid, and as much as I love getting to know her more and more each day, I really miss that baby.

Compared to her older sister, Allie is a stage five clinger. Reese was always pretty independent, and she never had those typical toddler meltdowns when I left her in the care of anyone else. Allie will likely be the opposite. She wants to be held all the time, and I get very little done while she is awake. I spend most of my day with her strapped to my chest and most of the night with her in bed beside me. I rarely did this with Reese. Sure, I held her a lot, but if I had to do something that would be easier with two free hands, I set her down and she was usually content.

I've spent a lot of time complaining about my inability to set Allie down for more than just a few minutes at a time, and I've spent even more time complaining about her refusal to sleep soundly anywhere except snuggled up beside me in the bed that I always said would be reserved only for Matt and I. Now, as I see the baby inside Reese fading further into my memory, I'm trying to spend more time cherishing these days and less time waiting to have my hands free and my side of the bed back to myself.

When I was pregnant with Reese, the most common piece of advice I got from other moms was "take a lot of pictures and cherish every moment because it goes by fast." Other than the taking pictures part, I don't know that I really took this advice to heart or that I realized just how fast it would go. Sometimes as I carry Reese in from the car or snuggle next to her in bed, I flip through a montage of memories of the baby she used to be, and I find myself wishing for the ability to go back and do it all again.

Last week we notice that Allie has started teething, and now she's clinging to me even more. She fussy and demanding, and sometimes I get tired of it. Then Reese comes up and says, "Hold me, Mommy." I strain ever so slightly as I lift her to my hip, but I never turn down her request because someday I won't be able to lift her at all. Finally I set her down because Allie is crying to be held again. I lift Allie to my hip and notice the difference in ease, and then I look into her four-month-old eyes and I know that my days with this baby are numbered.

Every time I lift Reese, I realize just how fast these years are going by. So instead of searching for the light at the end of the teething tunnel, I'm staying in the moment as much as possible. I'm cherishing the way she chews on my finger and the comfort only my arms can provide.

As with every stage of life, the hard part will come to an end, but it takes the good parts with it too. Someday, all that will be left is an imaginary montage reel of memories and the best way to preserve precious moments with our babies to make sure those reels are loaded with as many good memories as possible.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

On the Wings of Someday


I repeat that word to myself every time I fantasize about having a meaningful place in the writing world. And for some reason, "someday" is always enough to keep me content with my current state of affairs. It condones my habit of diving under the rug for weeks at a time when I feel discouraged by someone or something, and it lets me continue believing that I really do have every intention of pursuing my dream down the road when life is more convenient.

As much as I hate to admit it, I have been buying emotional stock in "someday" for quite some time.  

The first time I looked in the mirror and saw a writer inside me, I was eight. I wrote a story about a special teddy bear and it was "published" at our local library. Two years later I won a school-wide essay contest on the essence of the Olympic spirit. Throughout high school I never received less than an A+ on a writing assignment, and I still remember  the verbatim compliments of every teacher who encouraged me to pursue this as a career. In college, I applied for four scholarships with an essay component. I won them all.

I'm telling you this not because I want to boast. Actually, I'm rather ashamed. Sure, I'm proud of those specific moments, but what disappoints me is that I took every single one and stuffed it away as encouragement for the dream I would pursue... someday.

For twenty years after I held my very first book in my hands and knew in my heart that I was meant to write, I continued to stand on the cracked foundation of "someday." Looking back, I often wonder where I could have been if I had the courage to sidestep my pride and decide on any one of my 8,000 yesterdays that "someday" would be today.

Two years ago, I grabbed the tail end of a dream that I believed had slipped away and I slowly started reeling it back in. Two years ago today, I published my very first blog post, and in that moment I reconnected with that little girl holding her five-page, self-illustrated book about a missing teddy bear and the child determined to find him. Even though I still have a long way to go in the pursuit of that dream, I'm finally able to say that I have stopped saying I will and started saying I am.

Don't do what I did. Don't wait twenty years to start believing in your gifts, pursuing your goals, and reaching for your dreams. What plans have you packed away in the storage room of your future? Reach into that room and unpack that box. Then leap out and fly on the wings of your dreams so they never have the chance to fly off on the wings of “someday.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Perfect Kind of Love

I’m double-dipping again today and linking up with Bigger Picture Blogs and the Hearts at Home Third Thursday Blog Hop. In honor of the release of Hearts at Home CEO Jill Savage’s new book, No More Perfect Moms, the Hearts bloggers are teaming up to bring you a candid look at some of our own imperfections. Last month we all shared about our imperfect homes, and this month’s topic is “no more perfect marriages.” Enjoy!

Matt and I started dating almost eight years ago during a time when our lives were all about us, and we had all the time in the world for each other. Two kids, multiple life-changing decisions, and many miscommunications later, I’m finding that I need to adjust my image of what I always thought a good marriage was supposed to be. 

I realize that makes me sound like my marriage has failed to meet my expectations or that I've somehow been trapped into something I didn't sign up for. Let me clarify. Our disagreements are many but our arguments are few. Laughter is fairly constant and anger is rather rare. Quality time is a priority (well, at least as much of a priority as it can possible be with a toddler and an infant in the house), and "just because" cards are a common gesture. We are similar and different in all the right ways and our daily prayers reflect our gratitude to God for leading us to each other.

When I lay it out like that it sounds pretty perfect, right? Well, as much as I love him, I still roll my eyes when I see his side of the closet in its perpetual state of disarray. I get annoyed when he chews too loud, and I don't understand how he never gets tired of watching ESPN. And even though I can count our big fights on just one hand, we still bicker regularly about things like who should give Allie a bath, who left the garage door open all night, and who should get up with Reese at 6:00am.

As normal as all that may seem, I do find that the little annoyances and repeat areas of disagreement combined with our constant lack of energy have begun to transform our once-perfect love story into a run-of-the-mill tale of two boring old married people. So I've decided that I need to deconstruct my perfect image of the perfect marriage before I mistake contentment for apathy and forget the bigger picture of what true love really is.

I won’t lie. I have questioned my marriage. It’s not a notion I entertain willingly, but more of a fleeting invasive thought that creeps up after I’ve stormed out of the room and muttered something like “you just don't get it;” or when I realize that we haven’t kissed in two days and I start to fear that I might someday understand what people mean when they say, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.” 

Maybe it’s because I grew up reading Danielle Steel novels and watching movies like Titanic and The Notebook – stories that either completely omit the less glamorous parts of love or glorify them in a way that make you believe that perfect harmony really does exist. After all, in a world where the timing is always perfect and no one ever has morning breath, who wouldn’t find everlasting love at first sight? 

Or maybe it’s because I live in a society that portrays real love as easy and automatic, causing the belief that the need for intentionality and effort signals the permanent loss of “the spark” or that the inevitable switch from passionate excitement to quiet contentment means that you must have “fallen out of love.”

When those thoughts creep up, I always remind myself that it’s only the perfect image of easy love talking -  an image based solely on the fantasy world of Hollywood and brief encounters with other couples whose miscommunications and marital flaws are so hard to picture that they surely must not exist. And then I remind myself that no perfect image – whether it exists on a movie screen or in the pages of a novel or even in our own minds – could ever capture the depths and dimensions of real love in real life. 

Because real love burns beneath the surface of the sparks that fly in the early years when falling in love is easy, and it doesn’t waver even when it discovers that staying in love is hard. Real love comes from cleaning up each other’s vomit and knowing that you really did mean “in sickness and health;” and from holding each other’s hands in your darkest hours and knowing that you really did mean “for better or worse.” Real love doesn’t bat a concerned eye at occasional arguments, breaks in affection, or lulls in excitement. It stands by you even when you’re wrong, forgives you even when it hurts, and says “I love you” even through silence and distance and death. 

More than anything, real love knows that the moment when you’re wondering if you’re falling out of a perfect love is really just the moment when you begin falling into the only kind that really is.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

So God Made a Mother

By far, my favorite Super Bowl commercial this year was the Dodge Ram ode to farmers. After almost five years of marriage to the son of a hardworking, self-giving, family-honoring farmer, each line touched my heart with words that are all too true. As I listened, I couldn’t help noticing the many parallels between the cultivators of crops and livestock and the nurturers of children and families. So I decided that we moms deserve our own version...

And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, "I need a caretaker." So God made a mother.

God said, "I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, fold laundry, wash dishes, work all day, fold more laundry, wash more dishes, eat a cold supper, give baths, read stories, stay up past midnight, and then do it all again tomorrow." So God made a mother.

God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn baby and embrace the tears of exhaustion because she knows that she will one day dry her eyes and smile as she reflects on the bonds created through those long nights. I need somebody who can play the same games and sing the same songs every day for hours on end and who has endless uses for cardboard tubes, popsicle sticks, and ice cube trays. Who, during each of her children’s first 18 years, will finish her 40-hour week by Tuesday noon and then, tired but willing, put in the remaining 128 hours." So God made a mother.

God said, "I need somebody strong enough to set reasonable limits and instill self-discipline, yet gentle enough to dry tears and kiss boo-boos and nurture them through their fevers, who will give up her one free hour to snuggle with the child who’s still afraid of the dark."

I need somebody who will be fair and consistent and lead by example. Somebody to share, care, protect, provide, and teach, and learn, and hug, and hold, and give unselfishly, and love unconditionally. Somebody who threads her family together with enduring bonds of unity, who would laugh, and then sigh and then reply with tears of pride when her daughter says that she wants to spend her life doing what Mom does. So God made a mother.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

You Know You're a Mom If...

If you've ever answered the door looking like this...

If your living room looks like this...

If your toilet paper is rolled like this...

If you open kitchen drawers and find things like this...

If your camera is filled with pictures like this...

If your Friday nights look like this...

If your Sunday mornings look like this...

And if you do it all because of moments like this...

Smiles like this...

Bonds like this...

And love like this...

Because even when the job seems small,
you know that your purpose is so very big.