Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grace and God Winks

Life these days moves pretty quickly. For those who aren't looking for Him, it might seem like God isn't around anymore. It's hard to see Him in the troubles that this life brings. But He remains. He is always listening, and He is always interjecting in our lives in ways that sometimes we understand and sometimes we don't. But He is there. Seek Him. 

A "God-wink" is an instance in which God had his loving hand in a moment that is so obvious that it takes our breath away. That's my definition, anyways. If you're paying close attention, you will notice these God-winks in your life. Here's one of mine. 

The day that I found out that I was pregnant with my third child was not a good day. We had been traveling in Michigan for an entire week and on top of trying to divide our time amongst both sides of the family, and traveling with two toddlers who didn't like sleeping away from home, I was having these very strange hot flashes and moments of dizziness. I was stressed out, and I just wanted to be home. 

On that day we had driven 14 hours from Michigan to our home in Virginia. My brain was fried. I was done. There was a bottle of red wine at home with my name on it if I could just make it there. It was right after the thought of wine that I wondered if there was any chance that I could be pregnant. When we finally made it back home, I took off again to pick up dinner and a pregnancy test. Just in case. Or let's be honest. Just because I didn't need one more thing to worry about that night. 

After we put the kids to bed, I took the pregnancy test and was shocked to see that it was positive. Whhhaaaaatttt? This was supposed to be my negative-because-I-knew-it-would-be-negative-but-needed-the-extra-assurance-just-in-case test. 

I told my husband right away and starting crying my eyes out. Ken said to me, "But isn't this what we wanted? Why are you crying? Everything is going to be fine."

My husband has a knack for being very wise in times of great stress. And obviously, he was right. We were planning on growing our family. It was just in that very long day and new pregnancy hormones that I just felt like I could not handle it and that the world was crushing underneath me. 

It took my a little while to get used to the idea that I was pregnant. AGAIN. For the third time. 

Do you know what happens when you're pregnant for the third time (or more)? People become downright rude. 

"You're having another one? Why?"
"Was it an accident?"
"But you already have one of each."
"You know how that keeps happening... right?"

Within in a few weeks, my mood shifted from panic that I couldn't handle another baby at the current time to downright fear. 

Fear that my ungratefulness for this new life would somehow get this baby taken away from me. That something bad was going to happen. That something just wasn't right. That I didn't deserve this blessing that God had bestowed on our family. 

It obviously wasn't rational fear, but it consumed me. I cannot tell you how many hours I spent laying around counting baby kicks, paying too much attention to every gurgle and ache my body had. Instead of enjoying the miracle of having our daughter growing inside of me, I was too busy worrying about the 'what-ifs.' Instead of being thrilled to have ultrasounds done, I was terrified that my husband was unable to come with me, because I didn't know if I'd be able to handle any bad news on my own. I was a wreck. 

One Sunday, about 6 or 7 months into my pregnancy, everything changed. I was wiggling in my pew at church, obviously uncomfortable and worried. My husband knew my worries. He squeezed my hand and smiled. When it was time to go up to the altar for communion, I went forward and bowed my head at the railing the same way I had done so many times before. 

This time, however, our church Rector Chuck put his hand on my head and he began to pray over me. 

I cannot tell you what he said. I don't remember. I did hear the words sister and pregnancy and baby and birth, but all I can tell you is that at that moment I was completely consumed with waves of relief. I could feel God's presence washing over me. And when I sat down, I knew that God was with me, that He was for me. That I had this. I didn't know what would happen next, but I knew that it was in God's hands and that everything would be OK. 

And from that moment on in my pregnancy, I was able to embrace the goodness and be happy. The fear was gone. 

Shortly after our daughter was born, I shared this story with our rector and his wife. I knew it was not unusual for a rector to pray over someone at the altar. Our other rector, Mario, had done so over me when I was preparing for to be induced for my son's birth. But this moment was just amazing. That he was compelled to do so at that moment, and how it changed so much for me. 

God is with you, always. If you allow Him to show you His presence, He will. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Embracing the Season

There was a time in my life when I looked at Pinterest for hours, looking for examples of the perfect home. The perfect kitchen. The perfect pristine dining room. The perfect living room. 

There are a lot of perfect things on Pinterest, but most of those pictures are missing something critical. 


I am not the first, and I certainly won't be the last to proclaim that Pinterest is not real life. It's just not. 

This season I'm going through. It's just that, a season. And seasons eventually change. My children are ages 5, 3, and 1. And I know that with a couple blinks I will be sitting here saying that they are 15, 13, and 11. I really don't want to think about that. 

All that's left to do is embrace the season, and love it for what it is. 

My husband mentioned that when our kids grow up and watch our old home videos, that they will most likely be like, "Wow... the house was REALLY messy back then." Well kids, it's not because we don't know how to pick up a broom or dust. It's because we were spending our time enjoying you as little ones. 

I have not always been this zen on life. When my first was a baby, I would spend an endless amount of time each night organizing her toys back to the exact spot that it went. If one piece was missing, I started tearing the house apart. It was unhealthy. And like my husband said, "It just doesn't matter."

I had to start letting go. If there is one thing that I have learned since becoming a parent, it's that the moment those little ones enter your world, you have to start letting go. At first it's obvious things, like letting go of your freedom and your sleep. Then, it's changing your routine to fit theirs. Doing things you would have never done before you had kids but now seem totally normal. 

Let me call the season we're in, the Season of Preschool Art. I LOVE preschool art. There was a time when I imagined a perfect kitchen, with one perfect piece of art on the refrigerator. Perhaps a piece of art I would change out each day. But you know what? That just didn't do The Season of Preschool Art Justice. 

I give you my real kitchen wall. 

Isn't it beautiful? 

Now I know there are people who have come to my house and probably thought that this wall looks messy or that I'm ruining the paint by using Scotch tape to hang up these beauties, but I just don't care. This is our season. I love every single one of these pieces of art. 

Because before I know it, the art will be farther and fewer between. Before I know it, they won't want to share it with me. It will be embarrassing to have their friends see their art displayed on the walls. The season will be over. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

What season are you currently in, and what are you doing to celebrate it? 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cats on a Plane

My darling cat Genevieve has been gone for two months now. I miss her, but I think it's safe to say that I have fully grieved and can now remember her as the amazingly awesome cat that she was.

Seriously, you have no idea how much I loved this cat. Which is why I have to share this story with you. A segment I like to call

Cats on a Plane.

Before I go any further though, let me just say that something happens to young people. Usually the 25 and under crowd. It's what makes you say "God bless her" or "kids these days" and it is called making questionable decisions.

Ken is part of this story, but we were still early on enough in our relationship for him to fear telling me "no"... so I will take full responsibility for Cats on a Plane.

Living in New York City was the most exciting time of my life. The only family Ken and I had there in our tiny living quarters were two kittens that we had adopted from North Shore Animal League: Genevieve and Nessie.

Baby Kitties, 8 Weeks Old
When it came time to go home (to Michigan) for Christmas, most of our friends had plans of their own, and at the time I apparently did not know about Animal Spas and Boarding. The only logical thing to do was bring them with us. Obviously.

Now I don't know what the rules are like now, but in late 2007 you could bring a cat with you as a carry-on item as long as you followed two simple conditions: the cat weighed less than 15 pounds and remained in it's carrier bag. Check. Check. I could handle this. 

Oh yea, and as long as they had their own "ticket." 

It was only $45. 
Per cat. 
Each way. 

Okay... so we spent $180 to bring two cats on a plane home for Christmas. Have you ever seen cats on a plane? Probably not. Probably because normal people don't do that. This is part of the whole making questionable decisions thing. Thank goodness Ken turned out to be as great of a guy as he is, because I was clearly not the most rational person in the world back then. 

As a side note: A child's ticket for a day at Disney World is $49. Somehow this seems steep to me, when prior to my rational thinking years I spent this ridiculous amount of money on my cats. Just sayin'. 

Before our trip there were other rational things I needed to do. It was December. Which in New York and Michigan both means cold and snowy. My cats needed sweaters. 

At PetCo they didn't have any cat sweaters. Do you know why? 

It's probably because cats. do. not. wear. clothes.  

But seriously. This didn't cross my mind. Just as in gender neutral clothes, I assumed the clothes at PetCo were species neutral and decided to buy my cats small dog sweaters for their journey. 

They were quite stylish. I wish I had a photo to share with you all of Genevieve in her little pink polka dots and Nessie in her black and white argyle. As a rational thinking adult I can only wish I was kidding. I know this now. 

But in December of 2007 I put my cats in their stylish cat sweaters and headed off to LGA for my flight. 

At check in we took our cats out of their carriers (which went through the xray machine) and proceeded to walk through. 

Hold up. 

The security agent was a very non-amused woman, who looked at me and said, "Ma'am, please take the sweater off of that cat."

Um. Ok. Sure. No problem. 

Now I am holding up the line at one of the busiest airports in the country because I am trying to take the sweater off of a cat who is already freaking out and trying to get away from me. 

We didn't have hashtags back then, but this deserves one I think. #WINNING

Somehow I didn't let this get to me. Or think it was that weird for that matter. Love can seriously blind a person. Which I'm guessing is how all this happened and Ken is still with me.

Most people in the airport thought we were awesome. Children, mostly, I guess. "Look at the cute little kitties!"  "Aww they have kitties!"

But you know what happens when you get on a plane with two carry-on cats?

Somehow, not everyone is super appreciative. The following actually happened:

Woman: Those people have cats with them.
Flight Attendant: Yes. Yes they do.
Woman: They need to get off this plane. I am allergic to cats.
Flight Attendant: I am sorry to hear that ma'am. They have paid for their cats to be on this plane.
Woman: No seriously. I am deathly allergic to cats. They need to get off this plane.
Flight Attendant: Ma'am, just like you these cats have tickets to be on this plane. If you are allergic then you need to get off of this plane.

(It turns out that she wasn't that allergic after all, and decided to be quiet at this point. I never heard one sneeze or sniffle out of her.)

All was going swimmingly until we got into the air. Do you know what cats do at 20,000 feet?

Please stop reading right now and head over to YouTube to search for "whale sounds."

At 20,000 feet, cats croon a sad, sad lullaby. They moan deeply from the belly, in a sound that is like "aaaahhhhh---oooooooooh---waaaaahhhhh." It can only be described as whale sounds.

Somehow, most of the people around us did not know that we had cats with us. So when the cats started crooning, there was a lot of,"What is that strange noise?" I think it was at this point that we realized that maaaaaybe cats on a plane was not the most normal thing in the world.

We obviously had no choice but to pretend that we also had no idea where the weird whale calls were coming from.

And somehow we all made it. Not only to Michigan but back home to New York. It was however, the end of an era. The cats never were to fly again. (And honestly, I'm a little surprised that we don't have some sort of red flags associated with our IDs when we're going through security.)

This is just one of the memories I have of my dear little Genevieve. And what a freaking awesome way to remember her. How many cats can say they have had adventures like this? Not many, I'm sure.

And the next time so see someone young and naive, cut them some slack. We've all been there. Cheers!

* I feel comfortable saying that there were several factors that lead to this lapse in judgment on my behalf. Being young and in love is the first and obvious, but the rest can be attributed to living in the West Village of Manhattan, where many strange things were witnessed on a regular basis.**

**For example, a man walking around with a cat riding on his head atop his baseball hat. I saw this SEVERAL times. A man wearing leather underpants and being walked on a leash by another man. Children on leashes and dogs in strollers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

He Built Me a Table

When my husband and I were in our "early years," we had no shortage of romance in our relationship. We were living in New York City, and we literally had nothing. But yet, we had everything.

The entire world was new to us, and we were so in love. NYC can be an extraordinarily romantic place. Exploring its treasures was exciting, and when we did spend our money, we went big. A helicopter ride over the city. A day long excursion touring the wineries of Long Island. Dinner and a Broadway show. It was all so romantic.

And yet, that is not what romance is. 

In the last six years, I have moved across county. I have bought a house, sold a house, and bought another house. I have grown three children from scratch and birthed them. I have lost a grandfather and my cat. And yet, somehow my life has still been full of romance. 

No, my husband is not constantly wining and dining me, bringing me flowers and chocolates and writing me little love notes. Sometimes, he does, but I have learned over the years that romance is so much more than that. 

One of the most romantic things that my husband has ever done for me was to build me a simple table. 

Almost two years ago now, we moved into a colonial house in the suburbs. A true southern charm, with a gorgeous dining room. Something we had never had before. 

Ken asked me what I wanted to do with the room, and I told him my fantasy about having a large farm house table, with mismatched chairs and enough room to fit our whole family. Something that we could keep forever. Something classic, but not too fancy. Something that would never go out of style. 

Obviously, I was asking a lot. Shopping trips were made, to Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. The going rate for farmhouse tables these days is about $3,000. Yikes!

Sidenote: In our house we (I) measure money by Disney trips. Therefore, 1x Farmhouse Table = 1 Disney Trip. 

I basically resigned to the fact that it just wasn't the right time for us to have this imagined dining room. When given the choice between pretty much anything and Disney, I have a tendency to always choose Disney. We were not even planning a trip for the foreseeable future, but I just couldn't fathom spending as much on a table as I would a family vacation. I mean, especially with small children (ie the reason we cannot have nice things... have you seen my couch? I would post a picture here but my husband might die of embarrassment.)

Anyways. One night he brought it up. "I could probably build you a table."

The not so romantic follow up was, "If it turns out like crap we can always use it as a picnic table."

I was skeptical at first. "Yah... OK honey." I'm not sure if that made Ken even more determined or not, but darn it... he said he was going to build me a table and he did!!

Over the course of the next few weeks, Ken spent an endless amount of time on the Ana White website. Trips were made to Home Depot for tools and wood. Research was done on finish. And over the next few months, my husband built me the farmhouse table of my dreams. Literally. I love it. And every time I look at it I think of all the time and love that he put into building it for me. It is perfect. It is better than any purchase we could have made, and I will appreciate it more because it came from his own two hands.

Romantic. The fact that Ken put many (frustrating) hours into measuring, leveling, sanding, patching, and staining into making something that I so longed for just lights up my heart. He learned a new trade, he literally built on our relationship.

I think that a lot of people jump into relationships with the idea that romance is an endless ride of flowers and special outings forever and ever. It's not. At some point, life will change. It's part of the human condition. A job will be lost, or a baby will come along, or a relocation will occur. But love can grow. It is in the little, every day things that romance is hidden in pockets. If we learn to appreciate that, if we learn to see the effort put in by others, beautiful things can happen.

I love my table. And Ken, I love you!!!

PS... Many people have asked if Ken will build their next table. He might be open to it, but you can't have this one at any cost. Literally. He built it inside the dining room. I don't think it will fit through the doors.

PPS... Did I mention I finally have somewhere to fold the laundry???

Dedicated to Ken. May our table bring great gatherings over the next many years, full of love, life, and laughter. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cinnamon Toast Crunch vs Organic Graham Crunch

We usually don't let our kids pick out cereal. Period.

Usually, our cereal purchasing follows two criteria.

  1. It's available in the Costco cereal aisle. 
  2. It's something either Cheerios or Kashi branded. 
So this Saturday during our weekly trip to the store, it was a big deal that my husband said the kids could pick their cereal. They pointed to the shelf, and my husband picked up the Organic Graham Crunch by Cascadian Farm

Big mistake! Within 1.3 seconds there were real, physical salty wet tears streaming down my children's faces. 


Their little fingers were pointing towards the tried and true Cinnamon Toast Crunch

At least point I'm pretty sure we had already reached our limit of two meltdowns per Costco  trip. We've learned to choose our battles. 

Let's get them both! We will see which one we like the best. 

And that is how, while my husband was sick and we had no plans this weekend, we decided to have a blind taste test between Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Organic Graham Crunch. 

Our results are not only highly scientific but they are also straight from the consumers ages 5 and 3.*

The boxes make the two cereals look relatively the same, but as you can see, the original Cinnamon Toast Crunch has a cute little cereal guy. The Organic Graham Crunch box made my children cry. I personally don't find the box very sad, but they could not even handle looking at it in the store. 

It should also be noted that the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch is 3lbs 1.5oz. The box the Cascadian Farm Graham Crunch is 1lb 12oz and was considerably more expensive. 

Now, let's take a look at the Nutrition Facts. 

This part actually really surprised me. I'm sorry if it's hard to see very well. Basically, the original Cinnamon Toast Crunch is 20 calories more per serving. While the Cascadian Farms brand has 1 more gram of both protein and fiber, I did not find this enough to be significant.

Also to my surprise, the Cinnamon Toast Crunch only had one more gram of sugar per serving! Not to mention the added vitamins and minerals, which are essential when your child lives life believing that all vegetables induce vomiting. The Cinnamon Toast Crunch had 25% of a child's daily iron, the Organic Crunch only weighing in at 4%.

Now the taste test.

Can you tell which is which?

My kids are not idiots. They knew that the one of the left was the true Cinnamon Toast Crunch. They did eat both brands though. Here is what we noted:

Cinnamon Toast Crunch has way more Cinnamon Sugar Flavoring. 

The Organic Graham Crunch actually tastes more like a Cinnamon Toast Crunch - Golden Grahams hybrid. It's quite yummy.

And the winner is: 

I would love to buy my children only organic food. After looking at this particular comparison though, I've decided that the General Mills Brand is not that bad to eat once in awhile. And it's a crowd pleaser. 

* I make no claims as to what is best for you and your family. This post is my opinion only. Thanks and have a nice day. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Trouble with Spoiled Babies

I'm about to be in big trouble, y'all.

Today is Harper's 316th day on this planet, and I am still rocking her to sleep every day and night. Every. Single. Time.

It can't be anyone else either. It has to be me. It has to be mama. Because she needs me. Because no one else can possibly know how to do it right.

Soon after Harper was born, a friend told me that in France babies sleep so much better, and are overall better babies and perfect little darlings because their parents start making them cry it out in the night at 4 months old.

What?! French people sound evil. 4 months old just seemed entirely too soon to me. I never started to make my babies tough it out until they were at least 7 months old. And apparently this time around I let that 7 month mark fly by. I'll stick it to those French folks. Show them how compassionate this little Virginian is.

But seriously. I keep rocking her, because she could be our last baby. She could be the last one who needs me like this.

The trouble with spoiled babies is that they don't know that they are being spoiled. I rock her to sleep every night thinking to myself "ugh, this little stinker." But the real stinker is me. I'm putting off her independence. Her ability to self soothe. Her knowledge that she does not, in fact, need me to put her to sleep. As much as I wish she did.

This weekend I'm going to really start Ferberizing my sweet little angel. And it kills me. But I know it's the best for both of us.

In the long run, we will both get more sleep, because she'll know how to put herself back to sleep without me. And I will have a little more freedom. Ken and I have not been on a SINGLE DATE since before she was born. We're still husband and wife, but it would be really nice to reconnect over a nice meal in which food is not flying everywhere and one of us is begging the children to just eat nicely.

Pray for us.

The trouble with spoiled babies, is the longer you spoil them, the harder it is to stop.

Cleaning and scrubbing will wait ’till tomorrow, but children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow. So quiet down cobwebs! Dust go to sleep! I’m rocking my baby. Babies don’t keep. – Ruth Hamilton

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I'm not me when I'm not writing

I took a two year hiatus. What happened?

I'm not sure... but my children keep multiplying. First there was one, and now somehow there are three. Beautiful Amelia, 5 years old. Light of my life. Will be going to kindergarten in the fall. I'm not sure whether to cry or throw up. I cannot believe how fast five years can fly by. Tristan. He will be 3 in two weeks. Not yet potty trained. He's trying but stubborn as a mule. He told his father that pooping in his diaper makes him happy. That's correct folks. My son literally said that crapping his pants brings him joy. Sorry little man, but it's about time that you enter reality. A reality in which you stink... you seriously stink and everyone knows the smell is coming from you. 

Someday, my entire house will not smell like human waste. 

Do you ever think that you've got your act together, only to return home after running errands and realizing that your whole house smells like POOP? That it must have smelled that way for days and you just didn't realize it because your nose was so used to it? That during those days you had actual human guests come to your house that must have smelled the poop but were too polite to say anything?

That's pretty much what having three young children is like. 

Sweet little Harper. Planned but not planned so soon. Ten months old and the sweetest little baby in the entire world. I know that parents aren't supposed to pick favorites, but her dad and I know that she has been our favorite baby-wise. She is easy going, happy, hilarious, spunky. When my children are grown and they ask who was the best baby, the answer will be Harper. No sweet "Oh you were all lovely little dears." It was Harper. She was the best baby. Don't judge me. 

Anyhow. I'm back. Or I'd like to be back. I obviously can't prove anything with a single post. The think about blogging is that it is extremely personal. It's pretty much what's in my head at any given time.  Then some. 

What it became... back when I decided to take a hiatus, was something that I was not. I was getting paid (minimally, y'all) to write about stuff that I didn't care very much about. It was becoming less and less about me, and more about... junk. Hear ye, hear ye, come read some thing I've been asked to plug and then praise me for how glorious I am. 

Meh... I guess it works for some people. But I'm not going to fill my blog with nonsense, or ads that are placed that you will accidentally click them and I will get paid, or sob stories begging you to purchase through my affiliate links. 

It's not who I am. 

But I do need to write. It's what I LOVE to do. And if I am not writing, there is just something that is just missing. I'm lost in my own mind. The words are there but they have nowhere to go. It's like yelling in a cave with constant echoes. 

So I'm back. Read me. Or don't. I'll love you either way. 

New Year's Resolutions are cliche, so that is obviously why I waited until January 6th (Epiphany, y'all!) to write this post. Either that, or I'm just behind. You can decide for yourself. One thing I'm really excited about this year though is becoming more organized. Like, getting my act together. I might even blow dry my hair a few times this year. 

My husband helped me make this awesome menu board for our family. Please don't judge the incredibly simple meals... this is our first week! And on Day 2, I can say it's going splendidly. Who would have thought, that as long as the words were there on that board, that my children would stop fighting over what I should be feeding them and just go with the flow? It's been amazing. More to come. 

In case you were wondering... FYOF is Find Your Own Food. Mondays are a little chaotic around our house and Amelia has gymnastics in the evening, so we're just keeping it real. We have family dinner the other 6 nights of the week. 

And yes, I do still allow my kids to eat Pop Tarts. But only on Saturdays. And sometimes they eat the organic ones.