Category Archives: finding the beauty

On being gone, being back, and hating homework.

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I just wrote my first blog post in over 3 months. It wasn’t that great, most likely, but it was done and I hit publish and I was happy. And it was time to eat a handful of dark chocolate m&ms and go to sleep, which is a very wonderful time of my day. I love bedtime. Then, I noticed that there was no text in my blog. Now, I know I’m not the best blogger in the world (I already mentioned my 3 month absence, right?) but I do know that text is good. And there was much angst when I realized it disappeared, but I have now devoured my chocolate and am fully prepared to recreate the messy thoughts I created mere minutes ago.

So, here’s the thing. I hate homework. Hate it. It was the bane of my existence as early as middle school, and I carried the torch with me through college. I actually ended up taking tons of extra classes in college and graduating an entire year early, because I simply couldn’t handle another year of homework. It’s honestly a miracle I survived that long, and I already dread the day my kids come home with homework of their own. It’s probably some sort of character flaw like laziness or lack of respect for authority, but therapy to overcome these issues would probably be way too expensive. So in the meantime, things that I really shouldn’t do are giving myself tasks that feel like homework. Things like forcing myself to blog 3 times a week. Because to me, that isn’t fun. It isn’t enjoyable, and it makes me dislike my blog.

Apparently in my absence, my blog still got viewed, usually by exactly 2 people per day. (Hi, mom!) So to those people: I admire your hope in me. It’s cute that you kept checking, even though I kept not delivering. I’d like to promise I’ll start posting more, but I think we can all agree that me making promises like that just doesn’t work.

I think the bottom line is that I don’t quite have my identity as a blogger yet. Without knowing that, it’s hard to think of what to write about. Am I trying to send a message? Am I trying to document my family in a day-to-day way? Do I want to capture the good moments without focusing on the bad? Do I want to include the bad, because there are certainly less than lovely moments in our family? And what about privacy issues–how much is too much? How can I be authentic without sharing too much? How can I encourage without being preachy? How can I be honest without being whiny? Do I need to be craftier if people read my blog? Funnier? Cleaner? More organzied? More spiritual? A better cook? Do I even WANT people outside of my family to read this blog? Do I want the responsibility of weighing my words carefully, of making sure I am being a light?

And what I have come to is this: social media is dangerous. I am sometimes nervous about the world my kids are growing up in, and what growing up in a social media obsessed world is going to be like. I think that there is a constant struggle to be present in the moment with my kids, to put away the phone and the tweets and the status updates, and I don’t want blogging to weigh me down and pull me further away from my life with them. However. I also think that as Christians we have a huge responsibility to be a force within social media–to understand it, to be part of it, and to help guide the direction it takes. I want to be part of that. I am happy to be part of it in a very small way, but I want my blog to be a light. I want to be honest enough that people can relate to it, and be positive enough that people are encouraged by it. But mostly, in my family, I want Jesus to be seen. And that brings me back to the same place I come every single time I think about this blog: I want to find the beauty. I want to live this one life that I have, and I want to find the beauty in the long, hard days and in the fun easy days and in the pain and joy that is life. I also love the community that is blogging, and I want to be a part of it.

I don’t really know what that looks like–maybe I won’t be back for another 3 months. But I’m hoping that I can find a way to share my life, and my life with my family, in a way that constantly points people up.

If I don’t succeed, the good news is my kiddos are super cute and sweet and these pictures of them should make up for all my blogging transgressions.

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This is what dreams are made of…

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First off, did anyone else go through a Hilary Duff phase? I’m going to guess no, since I was way too old to actually be a fan of hers. But man, in high school (and in college. shhhh) it was the best.thing.ever. to pop in my CD, roll down my windows on a warm day and BLAST “This is What Dreams Are Made Of.” In case you weren’t aware, that song is from the Lizzie McGuire movie, which I saw in theaters. On opening day. My senior year of high school. Coolest girl you know? That’s right. I am.

Anyways, the reason this song comes to mind is that today was IT. Today was the day that was the culmination of all the things I dreamed of doing when I was a part-time working mama. Today, we had friends over and made pretty Valentine’s out of glitter and fingerpaint. We played with toys and ate too many cookies. We went to the park and we had an adorable photo shoot with friends. We went to Chick-Fil-A and Daddy got off in time to do the chicken dance with us and we all got free dinner. The kiddos went to bed without a peep, and we had a whole day with almost no whining, no meltdowns, and tons of happiness.

And I could write a whole blog post about it. I could tell you all the hilarious things that Sam said, or I could post all the pictures I took (except as you can see, there was a giant smudge on my lens, so of course I don’t have hardly any good pictures.) But mostly today I found myself thinking a lot–I was thinking of how insanely grateful I am for days like this, and how disappointed I am in myself that these days don’t happen more often. But I think that maybe I’m being a little too hard on myself.

I have found in the past few years that moms are mean. Moms are hard on each other, and too opinionated, and give too much unsolicited advice. It actually starts before the kids are even born–we fight about epidurals and we fight about cosleeping and we fight about formula and breastfeeding and we fight about scheduling and on demand feeding and we fight about cry-it-out and we fight about discipline and we fight about where our kids should go to school. The toughest of all the fights for me though, have been that of the battle between working mom versus stay-at-home mom. I feel like as a part time working mom, I sort of exist in both worlds now, which is hard in its own way. I don’t work enough to really be part of the working mom club–but I work too much to actually be part of the stay at home club. I had these ideas in my brain of what life would be like when I stayed home more. I’d be less tired, and less grumpy. I’d have more clean laundry, and a more organized house. I’d spend less time on my phone playing and have more energy to be on the floor with my kids. We’d do more crafts and watch less tv.

And in many ways, this is completely true. I am less tired. I’m WAY less grumpy. I still don’t like laundry, and I’m still not that organized. I still play WordsWithFriends a lot, today is one of the first days we’ve done crafts, and Elmo’s World still makes a regular appearance here. And in some ways, that disappoints me. I had so many pictures in my mind of all the things I could do when I worked less, and even though many of them are happening, many still aren’t. But I think what I’m learning is that who I am as a mom isn’t decided by the number of hours that I work. Who I am as a mom is decided by who I actually am, and who I am putting effort into becoming. And some things just don’t come easy for me. I could quit my job tomorrow, and my house still won’t be as beautiful as one of my dear friends who works 40+ hours per week. I could never go in for another day and we still might have hot dogs and macaroni and cheese from a box. Homemaking is work for me–some parts that I enjoy, but many that I don’t. And I think it will always be a struggle for me to maintain my home and my family.

One thing though, that I will say, is that the days I am home are still easier than the days I work. I am still thankful for each day that I am with my kids, and each moment that I am able to put into the work of caring for my home and family. I love this life that we’re living, and I wouldn’t trade the time I have at home with them for anything–I wouldn’t even trade them to have my house back.

So maybe my pictures are going to be blurry. And maybe there will be dust bunnies under my couch. And maybe when you come to visit me, I’ll have to close my eyes while you pee because there still isn’t a door on my bathroom, even though I’ve lived here for a month. But ya know what? I love my kids. We have fun. We giggle, and they think I’m pretty and funny and they like that I give them fruit snacks. And maybe that matters more than everything else.

Today was the day that I dreamed about. But so are all the other ones. Finding the beauty–even in the blurriness.

 

Happy Birthday, Piper Joy!

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A little less than a year ago, I was standing in the kitchen when Geoff got home from work. He slid his phone across the counter and hit play on a YouTube song. The lyrics of “It Won’t Be Like This For Long” filled the room and for the first time that day, I felt a little big hopeful. Just a little though–not enough to actually believe that “one day we’d look back laughing at the week we brought her home.”

We’d just had Piper a few weeks prior, and her adjustment to life outside the womb had been, well…awful. For all of us. She cried and cried and cried and cried. Every time she cried, I cried. If we were both crying, Sam was probably crying. And everyone else in my life was trying to make ANY of us stop crying. The light at the end of the tunnel seemed so very far away. I remember asking Geoff if Piper could just go live with someone else, because clearly she wasn’t excited about the arrangement we had going on. I remember thinking that this might actually just be the first time God was wrong about something he gave me (obviously I was thinking SUPER clearly.)

I’m sitting here a year later–and Darius? You were right. This week, that baby turned one, and I laughed at those days and how I had no idea that my life was about to change.

It’s funny–when you’re pregnant with your first kid, EVERYONE tells you what’s going to change (they also tell you horrific labor and delivery story, ask questions about your cervix and boobs, and make comments about your weight. Pregnancy is a weird time.) They warn you about that moment when you first see the baby you carried. About how your heart just gets ripped out of you and you hold it. About how it will just crumble you to see your husband cradle that little one. There’s a this talk about how being a parent will change you. And it’s all true–every bit of it. So I was expecting it. I didn’t know what it would feel like, but I knew something was coming. I knew when he came, that he would change me and grow me and stretch me. I knew there would be new sacrifices and an entirely different life.

But no one warned me about the second one. I figured I had this whole mom thing down. Just gotta juggle two of them. The very first words I said to Piper, as soon as she was placed on my chest was, “you look different than I thought.” (You can drop my mother of the year award off anytime now.) I was SHOCKED that she looked different than Sam.

And now that I’ve had her for a year, I’ve learned something. It isn’t just being a parent that changes you. It is these little people–these specific little souls that have been specifically entrusted to my care. All the times I thought I didn’t understand what God was doing–he knew I needed Piper. I needed her sweet little spirit, her funny laugh, her stubbornness. He knew that Piper was going to change my world as much as Sam did, and that my heart was going to crumble all over again.

This week we celebrated a year of the little girl who has taught me to let go of my control of my life, and trust the one who holds it all. She is just the sweetest, bubbliest, girl ever (and a vacuum cleaner at meal times. She eats evverttyything) I cannot believe how blessed we are to have her in this family.

Happy Birthday, my little Piper Joy!

Resolutions

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Last night I rang in the new year exactly the way I have for the past 4–sound asleep in my bed! Sbux has really ruined my ability to stay up light (not to mention the pregnany/postpartum years never had a shot to see midnight) so last night I had high hopes of actually seeing the ball drop. Didn’t happen, though, and it seems like maybe this is just my new years thing: sleep right through it. And as with every other year, the launch of 2012 has me making decisions and goals to better my life over the next 12 months.

Generally speaking, my new years goal is to shed whatever number of pounds I’ve deemed over my goal weight. The exciting part of this year is that all my pants fit, I trained hard for a half marathon last year, and for the first January of my life, losing weight is NOT at the top (or even on!) my priority list. This makes way for way more fun resolutions…such as, blogging!!

I LOVE blogs. Love, love, love them. Love reading people’s blogs that I know, love reading stranger’s blogs, and I especially love the strangers whose blogs I’ve been reading become friends. (Or BFFs even! :)) And whenever I read someone’s blog who keeps up with it regularly, I think to myself, “Wow! I wish I could do that. What a great way to preserve memories!” And then I list the reasons I could never do it–I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I’m disorganized, and I’m messy, and I work, and I have 2 little kids, and I’m trying to exercise, and I like to go to bed at 7pm. So I couldn’t possibly be good at blogging regularly. There’s just no way.

Well, move out of the way, excuses, cuz here comes 2012–the year of blogging! This year my goal is to make my computer use more productive and actually record the wonderful, difficult, hilarious, crazy, messy, silly, and beautiful parts of my life. And I’m not going at it alone–my friend Crystal had posted a blog recently about how she wished she was preserving her families memories as well, so we decided that we’re going to help each other out. Our goal is get posts up a few times a week (and we may or may not have set up a reward system as a small incentive.) I am SUPER excited about having a buddy along the way–and hoping that a bit of Crystal’s sweet spirit and wonderful parenting might rub off on me 😉

So, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re ready for the ride! 2012 is going to be a year of stretching and growing and changing for our family, and I’m excited to document the journey. Join us!

Living a {different} dream…

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Soooo, anyone who knows me knows that I have seriously, seriously struggled with working full time and having small children. This has been especially true since Piper has been born and I’ve attempted to juggle wife-dom, motherhood, friendships, faith, and a super stressful management position. I spent many a night crying, whining, complaining, and being generally ungracious to people around me, but in the final months of my management career had really made an effort to behave more graciously. I was thankful to have a job, thankful to have FREE childcare from my mom (who better to take care of your children than someone who loves them as much as you do?!) But still, the ache in my heart was there; the longing to be a better mom to my kids, to not miss out on these precious moments I have with them while they are still so little.

So we began to really pursue this dream of mine. I make the majority of the money in our house, so me stepping back from work is a HUGE deal. We rented out 2 rooms in our house to help cover the mortgage, and began diligently saving so that we’d have a backup in case anything went wrong. Once our savings was at a comfortable level, we really got serious. I spoke to many people throughout this journey who said things like, “God will bless you for wanting to stay home, and he’ll provide” or, “Every month we think we won’t have enough money, and then He makes a way!” and, “Sometimes you just have to take a leap!” So, after one particularly horrible day at work which left me in tears, we lept. And we lept big–I told my boss I was going to step down from management and take a part time position–giving up my generous salary to work an hourly rate that is MUCH less. But we would be ok.

That same day, we began to pursue a job for my husband that looked VERY promising–and, da-da-da, made *exactly* the same amount of money we’d just given up. I was giddy, and began mentally writing the awesome blog post of how good God was to provide like this for our family. I mean, I gave up a salary and trusted his provision, and then he gave us back the exact.same.amount. The inspirational story practically writes itself. Awesome.

I had put in a month’s notice to my boss so she’d have time to figure out my replacement, etc. Over that month I grew more and more excited, and Geoff went on several interviews that went really well. All the pieces of our plan just fell into place perfectly. The Sunday night before my very last week of management, we were sitting downstairs watching TV, and one of our tenants came down. She told us she had found a new place to live, and would be moving out–ON FRIDAY. Yes, that was 5 days away. My heart sank, as I knew we needed this money to make ends meet. I wasn’t too terribly upset though, because Monday was the day we were getting the final answer about Geoff’s job interview. Feeling pretty confident he would get it, I tried to relax and not freak out.

Then Monday came. Waited, waited, waited for the call. It didn’t come. All day long I stressed and then finally, my phone rang and I saw Geoff’s number. I knew this was IT. I asnwered, and heard, “Well. It’s a no.” And that was that. It was a no. It was a “now you don’t have enough money to pay your mortgage and your bills.” It was a “better go look for new full time job again.” It was a “God didn’t do what I thought He should do.”

And I freaked. And I cried. And I was mad. Because, I mean, really, this was a PERFECT set-up for God to show off some of his goodness by answering my prayers exactly like I wanted him to. Bump, set…all I needed was that spike. Why wouldn’t he spike??

I remember feeling like this a few years ago. My friend David had a surgery and suffered horrible, unexpected complications. As he fought for his life over the next few weeks, we got a few “close call” notices that maybe he wasn’t going to make it. And I never, for a second, thought that he wouldn’t. I KNEW he was going to be fine, because that was going to be how God showed his goodness. He was going to show it through miraculous healing, because that’s the way it made sense. The doctors and nurses were going to be astonished; the praying people waiting for him to come home were going to see that God said yes. I just knew it. Until one day, I didn’t know it. I woke up and realized, he could really die. That was Thanksgiving day–and the next thing I knew, he was gone. And I was heartbroken, and confused. Because WHY wouldn’t God answer that prayer??

And I have felt that way so many times in my life. So many times I have known exactly how God should operate and exactly how he should provide for me. And you know what? A lot of times, he hasn’t. He hasn’t operated on my terms, he’s operated on his. And every.single.time, he’s been right. Sometimes, I don’t even know why–I have no idea why Dave wasn’t healed. I have no idea why I had a miscarriage. I have no idea why our life seems so crazy right now. But what I do know is this: He is still good. He is no less good than all the times he HAS answered my prayers exactly as I’ve hoped (which has also been often.) He’s not good because he does what I want or what I expect, he is good because he is God, and I am not. And this side of eternity, I may never understand death and disappointment, but I do understand redemption, and I know that these things will be redeemed.

This isn’t the post I expected to write about God’s provision. But it is about his provision nonetheless. A few months ago, I had it all–a house we owned; a high paying job with one of the most respected companies in the US; 2 beautiful children, free amazing childcare…the American dream. Today, I’m starting to pack up everything in my house so I can move all my belongings into my mom’s basement so we can afford to make ends meet.

But…I’m working part time. That was the dream to begin with. And I am thankful for every second I have with these kids–I am thankful that my attention is completely focused on my home, instead of being on my job. I am thankful for the stress I no longer have, for the energy I have now that I’m not gone so much. I am thankful that we have my mom who is so gracious and willing to share her home–and thankful that my kids will get the opportunity to spend so much time with their grandparents. I am thankful we get to downsize and figure out what’s really important and not be so caught up in STUFF.

And you know what? That sounds like a whole lot of goodness, and a whole lot of provision. And I think maybe everyone was right–if you trust and take a leap, God WILL provide. But he may not do it in a way you wanted, or expected. But he will do it in a way that sanctifies and teaches and he will do it in a way that leaves you thinking, “I didn’t know as much as I thought I did.” And that, to me, is the beauty of faith–that he is greater, and I am less. And regardless of where I am, there is beauty to be found–and I will strive to find it.

Crazy?

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So. I’m going to Tennessee in December to run in a half marathon at St. Jude Hospital in Memphis.

Pause. Deep breath. Am I crazy? Perhaps. Or, perhaps not. Let’s go back to the very beginning….

I still remember the first blog I read. A friend of mine from high school had found out some devastating news about the baby boy she was carrying, and her blog address got passed around to most people that knew her from my small school. I read along and followed the journey of her pregnancy, the birth, and her son’s few yet impactful months on earth. From there, I learned of another family’s blog and followed along on a journey of a lung transplant and micro-preemie baby. From, there, it just went on and on….the world of blogs is vast and I’m pretty sure it has no limits. There are craft blogs, political blogs, medical blogs, mom blogs…you name it, there’s a blog about it. Having been quite the Xanga (come on, you know you remember Xanga…) fan back in college, I decided to hop on the bandwagon, and though I’ve never been the most faithful blogger, I have always been a faithful, if quiet, reader of my favorite bloggers. I never really found a niche of blogs, though, I just sort of dabbled around in the popular ones other people posted on Facebook or told me about. Then, I had kids, bought a home, and starting really living life, and I found some of my favorite blogs–blogs that have inspired me, encouraged me, and made me realize how beautiful life can be. I have found blogs that remind me of the grace of God in the midst of tragedy, and remind me of his love even in the little things of daily life. While many blogs are on this list, one of the ones that has been at the top of my list for a long time is Finding My Feet, a blog by a wife and mom named Raechel. I’ve been a silent reader for nearly the entire time, until VERY recently, when I realized that maybe it was weird that I read every blog post she wrote, and she had no idea I even existed 🙂 So I sent over a little tweet (that entire sentence makes me giggle. Twitter is SO weird.) I patted myself on the back for being brave, and went on my merry little way. Then, Raechel said she had an announcement for her readers.

Enter this post.

Now, most people who know me know that I’ve been saying for YEARS that I want to run a marathon. It’s just one of those things on my bucket list that I really want to accomplish. I’ve only ever run in a 5k though, and haven’t run consistently since before the kiddos came along. But a half marathon? In Decemeber? That could totally be doable. And just might provide the motivation to train. AND, I could actually MEET a person who, in a super weird way, is like a friend. Not to mention help an amazing cause and get to be part of something bigger than myself.

Me and Geoff after our 5k, pre-wedding. Forever ago, it seems!

The blog world is so crazy. To think that we *know* people because of a few snapshots of their lives; to spend time in a world so far removed from our own without ever making our presence known…but it’s also so beautiful. A community of people that come together with things in common–whether they be crafts, or kids, or loss, or death, or pregnancy, or recipes, or faith. And I am thrilled beyond belief to be part of this world, and to be stepping out and making this world a little more real. So, maybe I am crazy. But I told you guys, I am on a quest to find the beauty in life, and something tells me this is going to be a beautiful adventure. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds, and what I learn while I’m training. I am anticipating some hard days of tiredness, time management and discipline struggles, and wanting to throw the towel in on this crazy scheme. But I am also anticipating accomplishing a life goal of mine, learning discipline, and getting to meet some amazing people.

So, crazy? Sure. But what’s life if not for a little craziness sometimes? 🙂

Mother’s Day (Flashback Post)

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The following is a post I wrote on my old blog back before Sam was born. Every word of it is still true–and being Sam and Piper’s mom is a more precious privilege than I ever could have dreamed.

I love my mom, a lot. She’s really an amazing lady. She is generous, kind, funny, hardworking, and a lot of other things that I hope I picked up a little bit of from her (she’s also slightly OCD and a clean freak–which, unfortunately and MUCH to her dismay, I did not inherit at all.) But mostly, she loves me. A lot. Not in a “my child can do no wrong” sort of way (my mom is also very honest!) but in a, “you’re mine, so never forget how special you are” kind of way. When I was growing up, it was just me and her for the most part, and I never felt like I was missing out (luckily, I did get to see my dad on weekends, so I still had the father figure. Not saying he was absent. Just that the majority of my life growing up was the 2 of us.) My mom worked a full time job–I have no idea what hours she worked. The reason for this is that I have absolutely no recollection of her ever being gone. I cannot recall a single soccer game, tee-ball game, softball game, gymnastics practice, school concert, school field trip, or any other significant event that she wasn’t there for. I don’t remember ever remember going to bed being tucked in by anyone besides my mom. I remember playing Barbies on the floor (actually playing together. Not me playing and her watching.) I remember sitting in the sandbox together. I remember playing with my dollhouse, singing our Steve Green bible verse songs, dancing to Wee Wing videos, having popcorn with Full House, back when it was a new and exciting show. I remember a home cooked meal nearly every night, and I remember having fish, hamsters, and kittens all during my growing up years. I’m sure there were things she had to miss; I know there were lots of friends and family who pitched in and made my life a wonderful thing. I know that I always had the same clothes all my friends did (and that I was proud my mom knew how to find the same clothes at yard sales instead of department stores!) and I never missed an after school event, summer camp, or youth group trip no matter what the cost was. I didn’t notice then that my mom never bought herself new clothes. I probably didn’t pay attention to all the things I had, and all the things she did without–probably because she has never brought attention to them. She has never grumbled about the sacrifice it was to put me through an expensive private school because she wanted me to have the best education possible. She’s never once reminded me, or even mentioned a single time, the hard times she must have had as a single mother. Rather, she has told me every single day for my entire existence, how loved I am.

My mom told me once that one of the trademarks of people who are truly happy is that every truly happy person knows that they are someone’s favorite. The morning of my wedding, she told me I should be the happiest person in the world, because all my life I had been her favorite, and now I was someone else’s as well. And how right she is. I never even thought I’d understand how much my mom loves me. But the closer I get to meeting this sweet baby boy thats growing inside me, the more it inspires me to love this child with everything I have.
This week when I was on vacation, I thought I might have a lot of those “this is the last time I’ll get to do ::fill in the blank:: before Sam comes!” since it was most likely my last trip without a baby in tow for awhile. Instead, I found myself anxiously awaiting his arrival so I can show him the world. A seagull walked up to my chair and I thought “Wow, Sam would LOVE if a bird came this close to him!” We walked the boardwalk and I thought “Look at that boy playing the arcade games! In a few years, I will get to play them with Sam!” When I was wiggling my toes in the sand I thought, “I wonder what Sam will think of the sand? I guess he will eat it…” Everything I experience now I want to share with him, and I get more excited by the day to meet him and love him in person.
I thought the other day “Man, I should try to think of SOMETHING besides pregnancy to write about on my blog or facebook” but then I realized–for 24 years, my mom has been my mom. I wonder how many times she’s been referred to as “Ashley’s Mom” instead of by her name. And it makes me smile to think that now, I am “Sam’s Mom.” My husband is “Sam’s Dad.” We are beginning a whole new phase of life, and I am thrilled to have been loved so well so that I can pass that onto my son.
And maybe somewhere along the way I’ll pick up a little of the cleaning skills, too 🙂