The End of 2014

The End of 2014

2014 began with this…

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And ended with this…

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A special year indeed. When I chose my word for 2014–Behold–I had big goals. I wanted to run 1000 miles this year. I wanted to go to Colombia with my dad and teach women about the love of their Savior. I wanted to start writing a book. None of those things happened.

Instead, I spent much of the year being the vessel for God to grow a beautiful baby girl. Which means I spent much of the year moving more slowly than I would have liked. “Be still,” I heard him whisper over and over.

We begged God to keep Ethiopian adoptions open, and I heard Him remind me, “Hold on.” I walked with two people I love dearly through the searing pain of divorce and heard the same reminder, “Hold on.”

I faced new fears, new doubts, new questions and felt the weight of the angels’ anthem, “Fear not. For Behold, I bring you good news of great joy.”

I never imagined Behold becoming so literal, but it did. Be still and hold on. Two things I struggle with greatly. I want to go and do and move and see. He asks me to be still and know that He is God. I want to abandon the endeavor when it gets hard or I think I might fail. He asks me to hold fast to my Hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful.

I loved studying how often God used the word Behold in his love story to us. It’s as if He knew we would need the reminder time and time again. It’s as if He knew I would be prone to struggle with control and perfectionism. He knows me so well.

Sometimes we run across the finish line and sometimes we pad gingerly banged up and bearing scars. But I’ve learned this year, what matters most isn’t the speed I travel but the Hand I’m holding.

He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it. (1 Thes 5:24) Someone needs to hear that promise today. Someone needs to be still. Someone needs to hold on. Someone needs to stare fear in the face and declare, “Behold.” We do not walk this road alone. And tomorrow we begin a new year, but before the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night we will have already messed up. But January 2nd we will begin again. And January 3rd and January 4th.  Our goals may change because God has surprises in store we cannot imagine. Some we will like. Some we will resist. But the promise we can always hold on to is that He is faithful. Great is His faithfulness. Morning by morning, new mercies I see.

With a grateful heart for the blessings and lessons of 2014 and with an expectant heart for what 2015 holds, thank you, Lord, for being my Sustainer and for never letting go.

Sweet Georgia

Sweet Georgia

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt is the eve of Thanksgiving, and over the past six days I have whispered the words “thank you” a million times to my Lord. Thank you for this miracle. Thank you for this new life. Thank you for this precious daughter. Thank you entrusting us with her life.

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow she will be one week old. While the five of us watch the parade in our pajamas and eat turkey and sweet potato casserole and Kitty’s recipe for broccoli cheese casserole, I will try and hold back the tears. Tears of immense gratitude for these blessings I call family.

Last Thursday morning, after maybe three hours of sleep we drove to the hospital in the dark of night. We got checked in and prepped, and at 7:45 am we heard “It’s a girl!” for the third time. It was just as sweet and exhilarating as the first two times. Matt and I both started crying, and my doctor asked what her name was. “Georgia Ray,” we both said. Georgia comes from a book I was reading this summer while we were at the beach. The author has a daughter named Georgia, and I mentioned it to Matt. We both loved it, and we especially loved the nickname Peach. Ray was the middle name of Matt’s paternal grandfather, and it means “strong protector.” I thought that was perfect since God has certainly been this little girl’s Strong Protector from the moment He created her.

When they handed Georgia to Matt, she immediately fell asleep. Sweet girl has her daddy’s laid back, easy-going personality so far. The anesthesiologist asked if he could hold her, and after a minute he held her up to my face. As soon as I started saying, “I love you, Georgia Ray” she popped open her eyes and stared right into mine. And the tears flowed faster.

Right now we are living in the newborn haze–wearing our pajamas all day long, eating snickerdoodles by the dozen, watching lots of Thanksgiving specials on Food Network, and taking turns snuggling our little Peach.

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough.

Momma and Georgia

Daddy and Georgia

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baby bear

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in bassinet

Hospital Bag

Hospital Bag

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetSince I went past my due date with Lydia, I took my sweet time packing my hospital bag with Charlotte. In true Lottie fashion, she decided to come early and quickly. So, I left my doctor’s appointment that Friday, October 5th with strict instructions to go straight to the hospital and check in immediately. Needless to say, my bag was missing a few things.

In an effort to be a little more prepared this time, I just finished packing my bag since Thursday is BABY DAY!!! (I’m just a tad excited, can you tell?!) My friend Kimmie posted what she took to the hospital when she had her son Sutton in April, and I thought it was so helpful. So, here are some of my recommendations…

Snacks: SmartWater and LaraBars are my go to portable snack. I love the seasonal flavors, especially Snickerdoodle. I’ve packed some snacks for Matt too.

Fuzzy socks & slippers: Since the artic blast has descended upon us, I am taking my favorite fuzzy socks and slippers for when I walk down the hall.

Pillows: I love my pillow, and I sleep much better when I have it. The colorful fabric at the top–that looks like honeycomb because you know my thing with bees–is a pillowcase I bought for the girls’ room a while back, and I’m borrowing it to put on my pillow so I won’t get it confused with the hospital pillows. I’ve got one for Matt’s pillow too and a blanket for him.

Boppy: I like to bring it with me to use for nursing.

Comfy clothes: I’ve packed my trusty lounge pants and my new Lindsay Letters sweat shirt along with some nursing tanks, nursing sleep bras, and a favorite long sleeve t-shirt.

Baby Book: I love this Sara Midda baby book. It’s the one I’ve gotten for all three babies. I packed it up so the nurses can put baby’s footprints in it.

Friends on DVD: I always take a season of Friends to watch in the middle of the night when I’m feeding baby and nothing else is on.

Lanolin cream and EOS lip balm: For the inevitable chapping…

Candle warmer and candle: This idea came from Kimmie. She brought a candle warmer and her favorite candle to the hospital room to make it more pleasant. I am a BIG candle person, and I loved this idea. I packed my favorite Tyler candle in fleur-de-lis scent and found a warmer for less than ten bucks.

Nursing pads, pads & dark-colored underwear: Because, let’s be honest, the miracle of birth has its less than beautiful elements too.

Going home outfits: I’m unashamedly wearing my black lounge pants home. I threw in a black maternity tank and sweater to wear with the lounge pants. I have baby’s going home outfit packed too. I didn’t pack much for baby other than the going home outfit and a few diaper bag essentials like burp cloths, a warm blanket, and swaddle blankets. Since we don’t know gender, I don’t usually do lots of outfits on baby at the hospital.

Toiletries: I pack all the usual stuff for going out of town. A couple extras I include are the facial cleansing wipes in case I don’t feel like walking to the bathroom to wash my face, more EOS lip balm because I have it all over the place, and bobby pins/pony tail holders to keep my hair back.

I can’t believe it’s only six days until we meet this baby and find out boy or girl!!! Matt thinks girl because he had a dream. I go back and forth. Lydia thinks girl, and Charlotte is still in denial that Momma is having a baby. So, that should be interesting. I would appreciate your prayers for a safe delivery and healthy mom and baby!

 

To 30 weeks and 30 years and apple cake…

To 30 weeks and 30 years and apple cake…

photo (61)I had two very stable, rational days, and then yesterday happened. I would love to tell you I lost it and burst into tears over something meaningful, but, no, it was over a lost package. Mom ordered me a new diaper bag a few weeks back. It was supposed to be delivered last Friday. Then, it changed to Saturday. Saturday the expected delivery date said N/A. I called FedEx SmartPost, and they placed a trace on the package and located it in Southaven, MS. The new arrival date was Wednesday, September 17th. Yesterday, I checked the tracking again, and it said it was delivered Tuesday. No, no. I think there’s been an error.

I called FedEx SmartPost again, and they said I would need to talk to my local post office since they handle the final delivery for SmartPost. So, on the way to Bible study I called the post office, and they put me through to my postman who assured me he had delivered the package to my door. I held back my tears and managed not to lose it on the phone, but I kindly told him I had been home all afternoon, and it had not been delivered. He told me he would “check the cove on his route that afternoon.” By the time I got up to my girls in Bible study, I was a mess–the stereotypical very-pregnant woman who has lost it over nothing at all. About that time, Jess slides over a warm apple cake she made me for my upcoming birthday. She made this cake for Bunco last fall, and I have raved about it ever since. Then, I was crying because I was thinking, “I don’t deserve these people, Lord! They are too good to me, too good to crazy, irrational, basket-case me.”

I looked around the cove once we got home from Bible study and saw a package on our next door neighbors. I was pretty sure I saw the Zulily logo on the side, but I had two cranky-needing-lunch-and-naps kids so I took them in and figured I would let the mailman find it. 1. Because I wasn’t sure it was legal to go take something off someone else’s front door step. And 2. Because I wanted the postman to know I was right and he was wrong, and he did not in fact deliver it to my door.

I got the girls lunch, put them down for rest time, got myself a big ole piece of apple cake and turned on Parenthood. A couple months ago I started watching Parenthood during the girls’ rest time. Word to the wise: do NOT start Parenthood when you are pregnant. I realized immediately that this was going to be the episode where Zoe decides to keep her baby and Joel and Julia leave the hospital empty-handed and brokenhearted. Yesterday would have been a good day to buy stock in Kleenex. Of course, we don’t have Kleenex around here, so I was stuck with toilet paper and texted my bestie with every crying emoji while I watched.

After all that crying, I felt much better, but I have decided I need a maternity shirt that says, “Fragile! Handle with Care!” to wear for the next nine weeks. (Make that nine months because you know I’ll be a mess after baby too.)

Around 4 PM, I realized the mail had already been delivered and the postman had not remembered to look. So, in my pajama pants I trekked over to the neighbors’ house, knocked on their door two times, and then took the package and ran. I now have my diaper bag, and, hopefully, I didn’t commit a crime.

Today I hit 30 weeks and tomorrow 30 years. Sometime in January, Jess told me she had a feeling something big was going to happen around my 30th birthday. Her own 30th had brought with it news of a precious baby waiting for her. When I looked on the calendar and realized I would hit both milestones within 24 hours of each other, I smiled and thought of her words and her prayers. For surely this baby kicking and squirming and using my bladder as a squeeze toy is a dream I wasn’t even brave enough to dream, a prayer I didn’t have the courage to vocalize.

This past year has been the best and the hardest of my life. It has been this beautiful, messy swirl of moments I never want to forget like Charlotte’s first birthday, eating Lou Malnati’s with Matt in Chicago, crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles, that beautiful plus sign, and watching Lydia read for the first time. It’s also been a year where I have had to confront my issues with perfectionism and control like never before. This morning in my Bible study book Children of the Day these words burrowed into me, “You’ll never find a perfect perfectionist.” I also need a shirt with that on it. I’m realizing I will battle these things for the rest of my life, but I’m surrounded by a village that pushes me and sharpens me, encourages me and kicks me in the butt. And that is a pretty special gift.

Here’s to 30 weeks and 30 years, apple cake and best friends, great memories and hard lessons, emotional days and knowing I’m not alone.

Waiting to Find Out Baby’s Gender?

Waiting to Find Out Baby’s Gender?

Processed with VSCOcam with m3 presetThe question I get most often these days is, “What are you having? A boy or a girl?” When I respond telling them we are waiting until delivery day to find out, I get a few different different responses.

“Oh, that’s so fun! That’s how we used to do it back in my day.” (Usually from a sweet, older lady who wants to chat somewhere between the zucchini and tomatoes in the produce section.)

“Really? I didn’t know people still did that.”

“I could NEVER do that. I am such a planner.”

The last one cracks me up, especially when it comes from people who don’t know me very well. I am your stereotypical type-A, first-born, recovering control-freak. (Hallelujah for the recovering part. It’s been a journey, but God has brought me a loooong way.) All that to say, yes, it’s possible to be a planner and wait to find out gender. If you are so inclined to wait to find out gender and this is your first time to do it, I thought I’d share a little of our experience with you.

If you are the type who wants to know, then go for it! Thank goodness for ultrasounds, right?! My bestie gave me the honor of getting the envelope that told the gender of her second-born, and I got to go to Muddy’s to get cupcakes with blue icing for them to open after dinner that night. I loved being the first to know–especially since he’s now betrothed to my Charlotte. (At the age of 48 when Matt actually lets her get married!) 😉

If you want to wait, here are a few tips from our experience…

Remind, remind, remind. You must remind the ultrasound tech and your doctor that you do not want to know the gender. I have had a couple late ultrasounds the past two weeks because my amniotic fluid is on the lower end of the safe range. At my appointment last Friday, I had a different ultrasound tech than my usual. She had the wand on my tummy and said, “Now, do you know what you’re having?” In a loud, shrilly voice I said, “No! No! We don’t! I’m so glad you asked! We don’t want to know!” Woosh…that was close. Every time, just kindly remind them that you don’t know want to know what you’re having.

Nursery. But how do I design and prepare a nursery? The answer for us was to go gender-neutral and then add a few girly things after our babies were born. We would have done this regardless because Matt and I are both frugal, and I didn’t want to have to buy all new bedding and nursery decor a second time if we had a different gender down the road. Our nursery has stayed virtually the same through all three babies except the letter above the crib and a few little accessories. We used a lot of aqua, yellows and greens, and a fun, colorful rug from Anthropologie. I’ve known other people who have waited until after baby came to finish the nursery, and some bedding places let you design two different collections and your ultrasound tech can send them the gender so they have it ready for you when baby is born.

Clothes. This one is a little harder because I’m not a big fan of most gender-neutral clothes. But we have a few newborn onesies, gowns and footies that are gender-neutral to get us through the first couple weeks. We ended up not even needing them because when we got home from the hospital with Lydia and opened up the nursery closet an explosion of pink poured out. Some grandmothers and aunts had been hard at work. Then, with Charlotte, Mom just took all the girl newborn and 0-3 month stuff out and washed it all while we were still at the hospital. The truth is babies go through those early sizes so quickly that you don’t need just a ton of them. If you get plain white footies and onesies, you can have them monogrammed after baby comes too.

Coming Home Outfit. With Lydia, we had two outfits, one for boy and one for girl, and my mother-in-law simply returned the boy outfit after she was born. (With the tags still on and everything.) With Charlotte, I found a little white footie that could go for boy or girl and a knit pumpkin hat since we called her Pumpkin during the pregnancy. With this baby, I found a little cream cable knit outfit for baby to wear home. My friend Heather is not finding out this time, and she is taking her coming home outfit and her son Hampton’s coming home outfit to the hospital. I thought that was so precious.

Name. We pick out a boy and girl name each time. Our names have changed from one pregnancy to another, and I always say that I reserve the right to change the child’s name at the last minute. Not being able to get anything monogrammed beforehand is a little hard for this Mississippi girl, but we’ve made up for it after the fact. And it’s so fun to say your child’s name for the first time as you see that little red, screaming face make his or her grand entrance.

Baby Stuff. We went all gender-neutral with stroller, swing, baby bathtub, towels, Boppy covers, etc. I wanted to be able to reuse everything no matter what gender we had down the road, so this just made sense for us. You can always add in gender-specific items later if you want. For example, our car seat was neutral, but we had a pink and brown car seat canopy that we used for the cold months.

So, yes, there are a few things that are a little more difficult to “plan” for if you don’t find out gender, but for Matt and me it was totally worth it. After a scary delivery with Lydia, hearing our doctor say, “It’s a girl!” was the best moment Matt and I could have imagined. And I’ll never forget Matt squeezing my hand tight as he got to announce to the world, “It’s a girl!” when Charlotte took her first breath. All the planning in the world can’t prepare you for the moment you meet your child for the first time.

If you’re thinking you might like to wait to find out gender, we say go for it! And if you decide to find out beforehand, please invite us to your gender reveal. Because we really, really like cake–both pink and blue!

 

Thoughts After A Meltdown

Thoughts After A Meltdown

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetI had a bit of a meltdown yesterday. And since the meltdown began Monday that probably means it was more than a “bit” of one. It’s the heat and the seven months pregnant and the brokenness in people I love. And it’s Matt’s car deciding not to start which pushed our buying a van up a few weeks, and this planner still gets her panties in a wad when her plan gets messed with. And the firecracker who was fiercely independent at one is about to turn two and is bringing new meaning to the word “independent.”

I texted my bestie yesterday and told her that for two-year-old birthday parties I think it’s the parents who should get the gifts instead–things like pedicures and date nights and maybe a mild sedative. I know now why God gave her those honey curls and big blue eyes. He knew I would be spitting mad, take one look at her, and that Shirley Temple curl falling right down the middle of her forehead would get me every time.

After a good cry and a long trek on the Greenway this morning, I’m feeling better. The spinach and artichoke hummus I found at Costco last weekend didn’t hurt either. I was really craving a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing from Kimmie, but since she lives three hours away and I have my gestational diabetes test tomorrow I’m sticking with the hummus.

I was never an outdoorsy person until I started running last year, and then I realized how healing the outdoors can be. It’s the magical sunlight coming through the canopy of trees and the way dewdrops hang on a spider web. It’s the sound of mockingbirds and cicadas singing their songs, and it’s the sound of nothing at all. No IG pic showing me all the junk in the pumpkin spice latte I’ve been looking forward to for ten months. (Sometimes oblivion is bliss, people.) No Baby Center pregnancy reminder saying that I should be “resting now to prepare for baby.” They should really create a new set of weekly reminders for parents who already have kids with reminders like, “Breathe. And don’t kill anyone today.” “Yes, raisins and Goldfish definitely count for a well-rounded meal.” And “Get a pumpkin spice latte for crying out loud. They cost like four bucks a piece, so you’ll only get two, maybe three, all season anyway. Enjoy every last drop of that caramel color and preservatives.” I really think those would go over well, Baby Center people.

Usually my girls fall asleep somewhere around mile three. That didn’t happen today, but the outdoors must work on them too. A couple miles in after we had identified a few birds using their new bird guide “toy” from Chick-fil-A and after I showed Lydia a dead cicada and she freaked out, they quieted too. And for just a little while I soaked all that quiet in, letting it reset my heart and dry my tears.

These roles of wife and mom, friend and confidante–they aren’t easy. They tear you apart and give you gray hair. They keep you up at night and make you cry. But just like it takes dirt to give us forests and sand to give us beaches, it takes the grit and grime of life to give us the greatest gift of all–the kind of hard-fought love that creates beauty in friendship, strength in marriage, and perseverance in motherhood.

Friday Fun

Friday Fun

photo (55)It’s been a fun, productive week. On our way back to Memphis from New Orleans last Sunday, we dropped the girls off with grandparents and they’ve been having a blast all week with them eating vast quantities of sugar and being spoiled completely I’m sure. What are grandparents for, right? Meanwhile, I’ve been able to get a lot of projects done around the house, have lunch with girlfriends and even sneak in a couple afternoons at the pool. At night, Matt and I have gotten to eat out, go on long walks on the Greenway and have lots of date nights. We do this every few months, and it’s always a great time of rest and fun for the two of us. Meanwhile, the girls get to spend lots of alone time with their grandparents.

I had several projects I wanted to tackle around the house–projects that take far less time when little hands aren’t nearby. My favorite project was finishing Charlotte’s wall in the girls’ shared room. I only purchased two things for the all. Everything else we already had on hand. I love the adorable Lindsay Letters canvas that reads, “Sweet as S’mores. Feisty as Fire.” That sums up our Lottie perfectly. The picture frames and gold “C” came from her nursery. Matt’s mom made that vintage frame with the chicken wire, and little clothespins hold up a couple pictures and her birth announcement. The pumpkin hat she wore home from the hospital because we called her “Pumpkin” since she was due in October and we didn’t find out gender before hand. The Charlotte’s Web book was mine as a child, and it’s resting on a piece of driftwood that I found on the beach from Charlotte’s first trip when she was six months old. I wanted a fun little something to cap it all off, and the gold dots were perfect because we call her Lottie Dot as a nick name. The hardest part of the whole project was putting the dots up in a “random” pattern. Random is hard for this perfectionist girl. Fortunately, they are peel and stick and easy to move. I got them from wallsneedlove.com. I love how the wall turned out. I also got all her clothes and toys moved over and organized too, so I guess next week we’ll move Charlotte from the nursery to the big girl room. Eek!!!

Let’s talk about running during pregnancy. Several people have asked questions, and I need to go ahead and let you know I am NO expert. This is my first pregnancy to run, so I’m a novice all the way. First, definitely talk to your doctor. Every check-up I ask Dr. Miller again if it’s still okay to run. She’s probably getting tired of the question, but my first priority is healthy baby. She has given me the go-ahead with a couple of cautions. I have to drink lots of water, and I have to make sure I don’t get overheated. The former is not a problem because aside from the occasional iced tea water is all I drink, and I’m part camel. The latter Matt took care of. Immediately upon finding out I was pregnant, he went to our local YMCA and got us a family membership. Sweet man wanted me running in the AC and not in the Memphis summer heat and humidity. So, aside from a couple of rare cool mornings I’ve been running on the treadmill since March. The view isn’t nearly as great on the treadmill, but they do have cable which we don’t have at home so that’s a plus. I’m 21 weeks now, and I’m running 3-5 miles four times a week. So, no long distances and my pace is much slower than normal. I also have a water bottle with me and drink water all throughout the run. As soon as I finish my run, I eat a snack with carbs and protein to refuel. I am a big believer in eating bananas every day to curb muscle cramps. On days I run I eat a whole banana, and on rest days I eat a half. I’ve been able to wear my normal running shirts up until the last few weeks, but now I’ve switched to wearing t-shirts because they are looser. They make maternity running shirts, but I haven’t bought one yet. My running shorts have an elastic waist, so they still fit just fine. I actually live in running shorts most days, so they get lots of wear. I think the running has helped with sleeping better, eating healthier and preventing swelling during pregnancy, so those are definite perks. Plus, I get to watch the Today show. 🙂

Have you had a KIND bar? I’m always on the lookout for things that are easy to throw in a diaper bag since I try to eat every few hours. My favorite go-to snacks are a mozzarella stick and apple, a handful of walnuts and banana, and recently I tried a KIND bar and loved it. My favorite flavor is the dark chocolate sea salt. They are very low in sugar and high in protein with no GMO ingredients. It’s always nice to have something fresh, but when I’m running errands or away from the house this is great to have on hand.

It’s rainy here today, so I see some Scrabble and Netflix in our future. Happy Friday!