Sunday, August 19, 2018

The New Normal

18 years and 5 months ago, I had a little baby.  Our first!  She was a beautiful pink-cheeked angel and she stole our hearts.  She was our pride and joy and as we got used to what I called our new normal, I found it shocking how fiercely I loved her.  Her every move, emotion, and need became my primary focus, and I knew I had been right when I thought motherhood would be my calling.  Being her mommy (and her daddy's wife!), was the vocation I had longed to fulfill my whole life.  

As she grew, we added her siblings one by one, and life was good.  Oh, of course there were many moments of frustration, sadness, exhaustion and anxiety.  But my over-arching emotion toward motherhood was the same:  this was my calling.

And here I am, this week.  In four short days, my husband and I will be delivering that sweet baby to her first year of college.  I'm not quite sure how we got to this place so quickly.  The years have flown by, and my heart hasn't really had time to catch up.  But the time has come, whether my heart feels ready or not, and we must embark on this new adventure:  parenting a young adult from afar.  

I look at her, and I see the great things she is going to do, both in college and beyond.  She is ready to spread her wings and be on her own, learning and growing and blossoming.  She might be a little homesick and have some growing pains herself, but she is prepared to handle it all.  She is mature and rooted in her faith, and she is going to do great things, I feel sure of it.  

But remember my heart?  It's having internal conflict all the day long.  I want this for her (going away to college is absolutely the best choice for her), yet my heart just isn't quite ready at the same time.  I'm simultaneously thrilled for her and aching for what will change. While she isn't leaving forever (to my great joy I realized that she'll be home 1/3 of the year!), Thursday marks a definite change in what we've known for 18 years and 5 months - our girl being with us in our home, sharing her everyday life with us.  And that's a little hard to get used to.

So I'm praying for so many things:  for her to flourish and succeed and have an amazing college experience; for her to stay safe and healthy; for her faith to deepen and grow;  for her to meet new friends and have new adventures; for her to learn so many new things and grow even more in her excitement for teaching little ones; and finally, for all of us still here in our house - that we can adjust to our new normal with as much grace and peace as we can, knowing that while she isn't under our roof, she is still being held under God's wings. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Letter to Moms of Littles

Dear moms of little ones,

I remember the stage of life you're in.  You're deep in the trenches of motherhood and it's not always pretty. Nights are short, days are long, and sometimes it's really, really hard.

And then a well-meaning older mom tells you something like this:

"It goes by so fast!  Enjoy every moment! Soak it all up!"

And you want to punch her in the face.

Because you're thinking - how do I enjoy it more?  Everyone says these days go by quickly, and I see that they are, but seriously, is there something more I can be doing?

The answer is no.

Mammas, you ARE soaking up every moment.

You're taking in every breath of sweet baby scent, feeling almost light-headed with love for your child.

You're soaking up your child's first words, first steps, first bike ride, first day of school.

You're cherishing the cuddles with your little one and saying bedtime prayers, listening to her voice sweetly talking to Jesus.

You're listening with super human patience as your child learns to read, even when one page takes an eternity to get through.

You're there with kisses for every owie, hurt feeling, and disappointing moment.

And yes, you're soaking in even those horrible, soul-sucking moments, when you're sleep-deprived, elbow deep in poop, with a child crying, and another child feeding the dog yesterday's leftovers.

You're taking it all in and treasuring it, each moment in it's own way.  The spectacular, joyful, glorious moments as well as the mundane, tedious, heart-wrenching ones.

Motherhood is an all in sort of vocation.  You create a little life, (a entire person!) and your world turns upside down.  Suddenly this little one is everything.  But it's not always easy, and you wish time away, just when everyone is reminding  you to soak it all in.  

Mammas, hear me:  you are soaking it all in. The good, the bad, the ugly -- these are what you will look back on fondly.  And time has a way of making even those terrible, awful, no-good moments look appealing in hindsight.

So don't let anyone make you feel like you're doing it wrong, or wishing it away, or not enjoying it enough. There will be moments that are not all that pleasant, but you're still present and mothering through it, and that's it's own form of enjoyment and fulfillment.

Keep soaking in every moment, mammas.  Motherhood is your calling.


A mom of older ones

Monday, July 30, 2018

20 Years and Counting

20 years ago this month, my husband and I moved up north to start a new chapter in our lives.  My husband was a fresh seminary graduate, and we had been married just two years.  We moved in the hot July humidity, trudging our newish wedding-present-decor and our used, garage-sale furniture into our new apartment.  Several people from our new congregation helped us, and our new life as "Pastor and Mrs." began.

And here we are, 20 years later, still in this place, still with those same people who helped us move in that day, and still excited about ministry here.  When we moved that day, young and naive, I would never have imagined that we would stay in our first call so long; indeed, none of my husband's seminary classmates are in their first call, we are the only ones to have remained in ours.

Yet here we are, and I am so thankful for God's goodness in this place.  From the very beginning, we have been enveloped in love, and that is still true.  I recall in those first weeks the groceries given to us, the furniture, the help getting settled into our new town, and more.  And as time passed, and we began to make friends here, we realized just how blessed we were by the people of our new congregation.

As our family grew, and through both happy and sad times, the people of Trinity have rejoiced with us, cried with us, and loved us.  And we in turn have grieved with these people, ached with them at times.  And other times, we have celebrated with them, hearts full.

On that hot July day 20 years ago, I don't think I could have imagined the blessings God had in store for us. He has provided us with a true family -- one who loves us, supports us and cares for us. I am often overwhelmed with love for God's people here - they are all precious gifts from God.

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,  always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Phil. 1:3-6

Monday, July 9, 2018

Live Bloggin' It, Dinner-Style

4:45 - enter the house after a three hour shopping trip with three of the children to Game Stop, Target, the Dollar Store (lots of green/orange items for my newly painted preschool classroom!), and to pick up Bandit the hedgehog from his pet sitter

4:50 - finish unloading everything from car to hear screams of distress that Bandit's cage has dumped out all the care fresh (rife with poop I'm sure, but I can't handle thoughts of that right now) and it's "HIS FAULT!"

4:51 - send vacuum upstairs to the offending party with reminders that it was an accident

4:55 - head upstairs to help reassemble the cage and cut felt for the bottom instead of care fresh, because "none of the scissors will cut the felt"

4:56 - successfully clean up/reassemble the cage

4:59 - look longingly at the couch for a rest since I woke up inexplicably at 5:45 am, but head to the stove to start dinner instead.

5:01 - pour myself a glass of wine and eat some cheese and crackers while I work on dinner

5:05 - whilst making dinner, guide a discussion with my daughter about what she needs to take to college

5:06 - suggest she make a google doc

5:07 - listen to intense teasing from my oldest two about how late I am to the game of google docs, and how I want to make a google doc for everything

5:08 - laugh till I'm in tears

5:09 - switch laundry while hamburger is browning

5:10 - listen to the children laugh/talk/dance in ridiculous ways and realize just HOW LOUD my family is

5:12 - listen to the boys in the basement playing their newly purchased video game

5:15 - remind one boy for the third time that he can't shoot his brothers with Nerf Rival bullets

5:20 - finish dinner prep and sit down at the island, everyone engaged in something and the house now quiet

5:21 - realize just how much I love the craziness of our home

Monday, June 25, 2018

New York, New York!

My 18 year old daughter and I just returned from a trip to the Big Apple, and it was fabulous.  We took in the sights, rode public transportation, ate NY food, and had a great time together.  A few of my thoughts:

  • NYC and NJ transportation can be stressful.  But my competent daughter had all the apps (I did too) and led us confidently all over the place.  We learned a few things  1.  a Metro unlimited pass cannot be used by two people, unless you want to wait 18 minutes between uses,  2. if you don't wave a NJ city bus down, even if you are standing directly by the bus stop sign, it will fly past you without a second glance,  and 3.  it is amazing how many people can be packed onto a subway or bus.
  • Broadway shows are unbelievable.  We saw two - Come From Away (the story of the diverted 9/11 planes to Newfoundland), which was funny, poignant and full of talent; and The Play That Goes Wrong, which was a hilarious slap stick show complete with a collapsing set.  Both shows took place in impressive old theaters, full of history and Broadway tradition.  We loved them both!
  • Our NBC tour and taping of Late Night with Seth Myers were highlights for my daughter (along with Come From Away).  She watches SNL and 30 Rock, so it was really cool to be in that building seeing so much of what we've seen on TV.  I was hoping for a chance sighting of Jimmy Fallon or Al Roker, but no such luck.  We did have our tours done by NBC pages, which made us think of Kenneth (they were not as funny as Kenneth, sadly).
  • We ate at Shake Shack and a couple of other NY places, but we really didn't spend much time or money on food, oddly. We were focused on seeing what we wanted to see, and neither one of us needed a big sit down meal during the whole three days.  So we ate here and there quickly, in between all of our walking (and walking and walking!).
  • There are a LOT of people in NYC.  Of course we knew that already, but Times Square after our Broadway shows let out was insane!  I wouldn't want to be in that kind of environment all the time, but it was fun for our few days!
  • A "quick" trip to IKEA on the way home netted lots of college gear too - BONUS!
The best part of our trip was simply spending time together.  We laughed and talked and laughed some more.  I am thankful for the time we had there!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Week(ish) In Pictures

A little summary of the last couple weeks, photo-style:

This is a picture of our stairs, lined with Bath and Body Works Limoncello Body Cream.  This stuff is the best consistency and the best scent ever made.  And since I love the scent, it was destined to be discontinued (read more about that here).  I was in BBW with the kids (if you haven't been to BBW with multiple children, you haven't lived, btw) and saw they were on clearance.  I bought as many as our budget would allow, and some jokester lined them up when we got home.  I may keep them there as new decor.

This little cutie sits in my spice cabinet, full of cinnamon and sugar.  When I was a girl, we had this very kind of shaker for our cinnamon and sugar, so when my mom found one, she snatched it up for us.  Every time I get it out for one of the kids, I am taken back to the 70s and my happy childhood.

Two pictures from my daughter's graduation party.  We had a chalkboard theme and I looooved it.  After a few weeks of buying decor for the party, I had to give myself a little lecture about overbuying cute chalkboard items.  We had chalkboard stuff everywhere - it was so fun!  My 16 year old son didn't think so, though.  He wandered through the dining room during the week of the party, saw the chalkboard paraphernalia being lettered and prepped everywhere, and proclaimed humorously, "All this chalkboard stuff is obnoxious!  There is no way we are having a ridiculous theme like this when I have a party!".  He cracks me up.
(And for the record, we will be having a theme for his party. :)

The other day I was at the eye doctor with three of my kids.  Our appointment was scheduled for 3:30, and we had to be at a baseball pregame practice by 5:00.  I knew time would be tight and I had prepped my son's coach that he might be a little late.  As we sat in the waiting room, a nice gentleman across from us struck up a conversation.  We talked about sports, hedgehogs, pet rocks, jobs, school and vision problems.  He was very friendly and after we had both been waiting for 30 or more minutes, he asked which doctor I was seeing.  When I told him, he said, "Oh, you must be scheduled after me".  With an inward groan I looked at my watch, knowing that we were going to barely make it for the start of the game.  A few minutes later, the nurse came out and called the man for his appointment.  He called her over and said he'd like to switch appointments so we could have his.  "I'm retired", he said.  "I'm not in a hurry."  I was so touched and thanked him.  Back in the exam room as we waited longer, I wrote him a little note and left it with the girls up front when I left. Such kindness and thoughtfulness to a stranger!  We were blessed by his generous heart!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Graduation Reflections, Part Two

Our girl has graduated high school.  It has happened.  Between Baccalaureate, Graduation, prepping for her open house, and hosting her open house, things have been a little crazy over here.  A few thoughts:

  • Upon hearing Pomp and Circumstance, I was instantly taken back to my own high school graduation ceremony and it felt quite impossible that I was not, indeed, 18 years old myself, but was watching my own 18 year old daughter enter the theater with her class.  
  • The only time I got choked up the entire weekend (can you believe it??) was when she and her class were instructed to move their tassels to the other side of their caps, indicating that they were now alumni of Marian High School.  Alumni!
  • Prepping for a graduation party is a lot of work.  We decided to do all the food and cupcakes for 100+ people.  But - I enjoyed all the preparations with my daughter, mom and mother-in-law.  Thanks to google, we were able to calculate how much of everything we needed (and even though we had more people than we expected, we still had leftovers).  We browned hamburger, baked cupcakes, shopped for decor, bought taco toppings, and generally had a great time doing it all.
  • We went to church on Saturday night so we could prep on Sunday morning for the party that afternoon.  All the girls and moms sat at the island, laughing and icing cupcakes.  My dad blew off the deck and sprayed for mosquitoes.  Everything ran smoothly and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we had together as we pulled it all together for our girl. That morning's preparations will remain embedded in mind as some of the best memories of the weekend.
  • Extended family arrived and with them, two of my dear friends from college.  They drove 8+ hours to come and run the kitchen for me during the party.  Yes - that was their purpose in coming - to celebrate our daughter, and to work. And work they did!  As people arrived, my husband, daughter and I stayed near the front door, greeting everyone, while my friends worked tirelessly, refilling food, drinks and cupcakes.  And looking fabulous while doing it!  I was beyond moved by their generous outpouring of love for me and my family. I guess I was wrong above, because I cried for the second time that weekend, when they left to head back to Missouri.  How grateful I am to have such friends as they are!
  • After everyone left, and all the dishes were washed, and the chairs and tables returned to church,  we sat down with our immediate family while our daughter opened her cards and gifts. After awhile we sent the younger kids to bed and it was just us with her.  And the emotions of the weekend caught up with her.  As she read everyone's kind words of support and love, she was overwhelmed.  What a blessing to feel overwhelmed with such things!
And now, as things are shifting from graduation into summer, we are able to rest again a bit.  What a beautiful week/weekend it was, watching her take that step toward college and adulthood.  She is ready and equipped for it.  There is so much ahead to look forward to!