Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Our Year in Pictures...Part 2


JULY
Addison loved the pool, the pink, and the princesses! 
Addison started standing up on her own, with no help...although occasionally the grocery cart came in handy. 
Our first Independence Day as a family was a very special night!



AUGUST
As Mommy got ready to go back to school, Addison worked on poses for her upcoming birthday invitations. 
After all, it's never too early to start thinking about a baby's first birthday party! 


SEPTEMBER
Addison was informed by Mommy, much to Daddy's chagrin, that she was Sooner-born.
She was also assured that being the baby of the family would have its perks...someday.

September also saw Addison busting some serious moves...link above. Prepare to laugh!!


OCTOBER
In between laps around the coffee table, Addison got all dressed up to go trick-or-treating for the first time! In equally exciting news, Mommy and Daddy got the joy of stealing Addison's candy for the first, but definitely NOT the last, time.

NOVEMBER
Addison is walking!!
This was Addison's month! She took her very first steps just before her first birthday! You can click the link above if you are so inclined.
Addison got her first taste of cake...and her first skin stain.
Poppy finally got to reveal his beautiful, handmade birthday surprise!!! 


DECEMBER
We ended the year just as we began it, with a Thunder game. Afterwards, we made some New Year's Resolutions. May we all...
Keep our noses clean
Keep our noses to the grindstone
Keep our loved ones close, and...
Keep the magic and surprise of the holidays alive all year!


Happy New Year, and may we all have a better 2014 than we ever thought possible!!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our Year in Pictures...Part 1


JANUARY
On this cold day, I was charitable enough to invite a homeless man to the Thunder game with me. ;-)
In other news, Addison discovered her love of polka dots!


FEBRUARY
Addison was the best Valentine's gift we've ever received! 


MARCH
No pinching went on at our house...
But being force fed baby food was torture enough!


APRIL
We celebrated our first Easter as a family! (Okay, TECHNICALLY this was March 31st. But everyone knows that Easter is supposed to be in April). 


MAY
Addison decided that rolling around with Zooey was the most fun thing she'd ever done!
We, as a family, committed to raising Addison in a Christ-like home during her baby dedication.



JUNE

Addison gave Daddy his first Father's Day present!
And then an equally impressive gift...crawling!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blessed Beyond Measure

My Precious Daughter,

One year ago, I could not imagine my life as a mom. I could not imagine what it would be like to gaze into your blue eyes, kiss your cheeks, wipe your tears. I could not imagine a love so all-encompassing, could not imagine so many hurts in my heart being healed by such a tiny, perfect person.

It has been such a joy watching you grow and develop this year, my little pumpkin. I look back at your pictures from that surreal day of your birth, and I can't believe that you were so small. Even then, the nurses all commented on how alert you seemed for such a little girl. You were already straining to hold up your head in the first few weeks, eager to see everything around you. Those first several months you preferred to sleep during the day and stay awake all night. We spent many a day together snuggled in a recliner, dozing on and off. Those moments were the closest to heaven I may ever get on this Earth. I remember the first time you had a fever, your daddy and I were beside ourselves, staying up all night, taking turns sleeping on your floor. And at the first sign of distress, we were jumping up from our much-needed sleep; we would have done anything to make you feel better. Your first belly laugh came thanks to Daddy, and the sound filled the room and our hearts. We have never stopped trying to make you laugh…some days you are stingier than others, but we can always count on a sleepy baby to be just delirious enough to deliver one or two. The first time you heard music, REALLY heard it, your love for it was obvious. You would awaken from your nap immediately if you heard certain songs, and still will for some. Everyone who has spent any amount of time with you has laughed and laughed at your propensity to "shake it" to the slightest beat, your mischievous head tilt, and your sweet, sweet singing. You have so much energy and are continuously on the go! You love toys that light up or play music, but you are never content to play with just one for very long. We are constantly amazed at your curiosity, your determination, and your problem-solving. You have always done things early, and have kept us on our toes from the moment you first rolled over.

You are such a strong, independent baby. We smile wistfully as you twist from our lap towards your crib at night while we try to keep you our baby, wrestling against nature and your headstrong ways. We can't help but laugh when you loudly demand another bite, scream your displeasure when we take a toy away, or voice your disapproval to the dogs with a resounding NO…we know that you will never have trouble standing up for yourself, and that will serve you well. We have always prayed that you would grow up to have a discerning heart and to take the road less traveled; it seems that you indeed have a good foundation for those qualities already.

We have no idea what you will become Baby Girl. A veterinarian? Zooey and Koda are your favorite companions and you love nothing more than climbing all over them or throwing toys for them to retrieve. A dancer or a musician? You already have moves that you did not inherent from either of us, and your sense of rhythm amazes us! I have no doubt that music will be an important part of your life in some facet or another. A race car driver? You love your new riding toys and the faster you go, the more you smile and laugh. An author or a librarian? I will often catch you looking quietly through books by yourself, turning pages happily. I always take that opportunity to drop everything and read to you; I know that you are going to be a voracious reader regardless of your vocation. We pray daily for your future; your possibilities are endless.

We know that this next year will bring many things: new words, developmental growth, and a continued unveiling of who you really are, and who you will become. You cannot fathom how blessed we feel to have you, my child, and our hearts overflow. You have turned our world upside down and inside out, and we cannot imagine it any other way. Happy 1st Birthday Addison. Our favorite book to read together closes it best: "I love you more, so much more, than you've ever known."

Everything,

Mommy



Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Restoration Project...Part 4

#4 The Counseling Continuation 

Erik and I did not seek premarital counseling. If we had, we may have delayed our marriage for a few years working through all of the baggage we were bringing with us, but alas, instead we were married after just a month of being engaged. Erik told me about a couple the other day that is planning to not only get premarital counseling, but also seek therapy all throughout their marriage. I think that is so smart! Much like maintaining a car instead of waiting until it breaks down and leaves you stranded while picturing terrifying scenarios involving hook hands and horror movies (just me?), attending therapy in the good times instead of waiting for a crisis is one of the best tools (in my opinion) for starting and keeping a happy marriage.

Even as we speak, Erik and I are back in the middle of counseling. We have done marriage counseling in the rocky times, individual grief counseling during our fertility trials, and now we are back to do a little maintenance as getting this right is even more important now that we have a precious baby girl. We want to make sure that our baggage stays where it belongs, that we handle disagreements with the utmost maturity, and that we learn how to manage keeping our marriage on track while being new parents. If you were to count up the time and money we have spent on therapy, it would be astronomical. So we don't. We just know that it's been worth every dime.

I have heard so many excuses from couples on the brink of divorce and it usually starts with money. As far as I'm concerned, if you can afford to eat out, go to the movies, or pay for your child's activities, you can afford to go to counseling. Or rather, you can't afford not to. Your child may miss their year of baseball, but I'm sure they would miss their mommy or daddy much more were your marriage to end! And it's probably cheaper than a divorce too!! Many counselors charge on a sliding scale based on your income, most take insurance, and there are some that are working on their licensure that are quite cheap, relatively speaking.

The other mistake that we've seen couples make is quitting counseling too soon. It is going to bring up tough, painful issues. You WILL want to stop going. Just remember, it often gets worse before it gets better. There would be nights we would leave counseling and not speak all of the next day. There would be nights we would leave and vow never to go back. But now, I value the dialogue it opens up, the forum it gives us to voice our feelings, and the communication it inspires once we leave. I like knowing that if and when life throws us another curveball, there is someone who knows our entire relationship history, who values the sanctity of marriage, and who will help us work through anything.
It has not been a quick fix, no. We will always be a work in progress, and we will continue to use her as needed, regardless of stigmas and without apology.

We have given the name of our counselor to more couples than I can count. If you would like her name and number (and she is amazing, trust me), just send me a message and I will happily pass it along. We don't get anything for referring people to her...otherwise we'd have a free lifelong pass. And believe me when I say that we wouldn't be ashamed to use it!


"The development of a really good marriage is not a natural process.
It is an achievement."~David and Vera Mace

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Restoration Project...Part 3

#3 Social Media Seduction

Ah, Facebook. Isn't it the best?! You can search for people you haven't even thought about since elementary school and then chat with them on a whim! You can spy on old flames, rejoicing that you picked the right spouse after all. You can reconnect with far away family, create invites to events in seconds, and tell the world about your dinner plans all in one place. Sounds harmless enough. And it can be. It can also be the most dangerous thing in the world to your marriage. 

It only takes a quick search on the internet to see how often Facebook is now being cited in divorce cases. The numbers are staggering as far as I'm concerned. Now, I understand that numbers can be skewed. Do I think 1 in every 5 people on Facebook is really having an affair? Of course not. Do I think that a rocky marriage is going to fall apart because both parties have an account? No. But I think that if a couple is not extremely, incredibly careful, they can easily become another statistic. 

Case in point: A person is having a hard time in their marriage. They reach out to a friend of the opposite sex, quite possibly someone they haven't seen in years. The "friend" listens. They compliment. They lavish praise and build up self-esteem. Suddenly a little hill in the marriage seems like an insurmountable mountain. The "friendship" takes on the shade of the greenest grass. Before they know it, they're in a full blown emotional affair, nothing to scoff at. Maybe it goes a step more, maybe it doesn't. But their marriage is worse for the wear, if not destroyed. Even if their partner never finds out, and they probably will, the affair will change that person. The guilt will consume them, turn them into someone they hate. And then they will take that anger, that self-loathing, and turn it around on their partner. And poof, their marriage completely self-destructs like the impossible mission it should never have been. 

I'm going to cut right to the chase on this one. I knew that this particular blog would be the hardest to write in the series (but also too important to me not to) because people don't want to admit that they are susceptible to this particular sin or even already engaged in it. I'll make this simple: If you have a password on your phone to unlock it and your spouse doesn't know what it is, if you are deleting phone calls or texts, if you are deleting conversations off of Facebook, or if you are getting rid of emails, then you are on a slippery slope towards the ruination of your marriage, if you aren't there already. You can build walls to hide from the guilt, you can blame your spouse to justify what you're doing, you can even get a divorce to continue living the lie, but sooner or later, reality will find you. And that wall you've so carefully constructed, well, it will crush the people behind it. The people that love you, rely on you, and believe in you. And they will never look at you in quite the same way. And honestly, when that wall comes crashing down, you won't see yourself the same way either. I know. I've seen it. I've watched it over and over. I've been there for friends in their anger, their justifications, their wake up calls. And none of them, NONE OF THEM, ever thought that they would be another social media casualty. 

If you are going through a rough patch, ask yourself if the temptation is worth it. For us, in the midst of our problems, Facebook was causing lots of jealousy and compounding the insecurity of a rocky relationship. "Why are you friends with them? How do you know them? Why are they commenting on everything you write?" Our counselor looked at us incredulously one session and asked us WHY we were holding on to something so trivial if it was causing us to fight?! Light bulb moment! We made a decision then and there to join our accounts and we have never looked back. We have all of each other's email passwords and we leave our phones lying around when we are at home instead of carrying them with us from room to room like lifelines. That may seem extreme or even ridiculous to other people, but since we've done it, we don't fight much anymore and the tension has disappeared in this area. I'm not telling you what is or isn't right for your marriage, but if it's causing problems, perhaps it's time to think about priorities. And if it's not, make sure to take steps to keep it that way. Your marriage is worth it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Restoration Project...Part 2

#2 Friends of the Marriage

I have amazing friends. I have friends that I teach with, friends that I've had since college, friends that have loved and supported me through so many things. So it's no surprise that when I felt that things were getting really rough for Erik and I, I sought the counsel of friends that I knew would support my point of view. Friends want the best for you. They don't like to see you hurting, and they don't necessarily like your spouse when you present your one-sided case.

It felt good to be validated and listened to. When they told me that I deserved to be happy, I held on to those words to justify the fact that I considered divorce to be the best option. After all, having to work so hard at something doesn't exactly bring happiness in the short-term. I don't blame my friends, because they did exactly what they were supposed to do with the knowledge they had. They are the best. But they are MY friends. What we needed were some OUR friends.

Erik convinced me to join a LifeGroup through our church during that time. This particular group was one for struggling marriages. I remember feeling that first night as people poured out their stories as though we had known each other for years, with no fear of judgement and no holding back, that we had found something special. There were many rough days that I texted the girls or called them crying, needing the kind of support that I never even knew I wanted. They would listen sympathetically, send me Bible verses, and most importantly, keep me on the right track without being judgmental. Erik would text the guys on his bad days and they would check in with him often. He would have dinner or coffee with them when his schedule allowed and they would talk him through his struggles. It was in those months that we realized that our marriage was worth saving, and we began to really try to put things back together.

There is one couple in particular that I really believe got us through our darkest days. Although we don't see them enough due to distance, we love them dearly and hold them in the highest esteem. We will never be able to express our gratitude to them for pushing us to work towards saving our marriage.

This is going to sound harsh, but when I see a person who is admittedly struggling in their marriage posting pictures of themselves with their newly divorced friends out at clubs or bars nightly, I can pretty much guarantee that their marriage will not make it. There's something about seeing a friend looking like they are living it up and enjoying their "freedom" (while probably masking a lot of pain), that makes a person who is living in the trenches long for a little bit of that same "freedom". Unfortunately, I have seen this play out quite a bit these past few months. If you truly want your marriage to work, you MUST invest in some additional friends that consider your marriage to be a priority, that will speak life into you BOTH, and will call either of you out on anything that conflicts with your goal. It may not be easy to open up, and it may be even harder to listen, but I believe at least one of these friendships is essential for the quickest healing. Even if the friendship only lasts for that rocky season, I can promise that its effects will last a lifetime.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Restoration Project...Part 1

#1 It's All About Me!

That sounds good doesn't it?! I am the first one to admit that in the midst of our problems, I felt like my dissatisfaction in our marriage was due to things Erik was or wasn't doing FOR ME. I wanted him to be more romantic, more complimentary, more spontaneous. I got annoyed that I had to ask him to do things instead of him being the mind reader I thought he should be after several years of being together. He should KNOW me by now! I felt that if he would just start focusing more on ME, things would be idyllic. 

Unfortunately, I now realize that the "All About Me" mantra is more of a gut-check. It IS all about me. It's about my attitude, the way I speak to my partner, the way I respond to them. Example: Erik calls, upset about his day. He's had a rough one and he's exhausted. He walks in and looks around...the house is a disaster and I just know he's questioning what I did all day. So, without him saying a word, I immediately feel defensive and jump on him about something HE needs to do/forgot to do for ME. He feels attacked, I get my feelings hurt, and we both retreat to our respective technological distractions for the evening. This was a weekly occurrence (among many variations) for us at one point. Here is what it looks like now (mostly): Erik calls, upset about his day. He's had a rough one and he's exhausted. He walks in and looks around...the house is a disaster and I tell myself that he is NOT criticizing me in his head. I ask him what I can do for HIM to make his evening a little better. I cook go pick up a nice dinner, and we talk and hang out for the rest of the evening. 

Obviously, this is just a snippet of the way your attitude during simple, daily interactions can affect your life. For some, throwing things and leaving may come after what started as a defensive remark. For us, some yelling followed by a deadly silence was the standard. These are dangerous patterns and a horrible example for future generations. Remember, YOU are in control of and responsible for YOU. I think that you would be shocked at how much a change in your thoughts can improve your marriage. This is embarrassing to admit, but when Erik and I would fight about something, I would immediately start thinking horrible things in my head. Call him names I would never say out loud. Convince myself that he didn't love me. My negative thoughts were out of control. I realize now that the tone of my internal dialogue was and is the most powerful indicator of how our day will play out. Once I started REALLY focusing on my thoughts, holding them captive, and changing them, I became utterly amazed at how it affected my words, trickled down into my actions, and altered our relationship. For me, it was honestly as simple, and as difficult, as that. 


I will end with one of my favorite quotes by Zig Ziglar. I have shared it before, but it's THAT good:
“I have no way of knowing whether or not you married the wrong person, but I do know that many people have a lot of wrong ideas about marriage and what it takes to make that marriage happy and successful. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible that you did marry the wrong person. However, if you treat the wrong person like the right person, you could well end up having married the right person after all. On the other hand, if you marry the right person, and treat that person wrong, you certainly will have ended up marrying the wrong person. I also know that it is far more important to be the right kind of person than it is to marry the right person. In short, whether you married the right or wrong person is primarily up to you.”

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Marriage Malfunction

Another ridiculous amount of time without blogging! It's amazing how days, even weeks, can slip away from you when you're a new mommy!! Truth be told, that's not the only reason I've been dragging my feet. Really, I've had this blog written in my head for quite some time. It's about a complicated, dangerous subject and I know it will bother some people. But, as you know, I've never been one to shy away from difficult topics, and I won't start now. Here goes...

We live in a disposable society. A newer-is-better society. A must-have-it-whether-I-can-afford-it-or-not society. Let's face it, most of us don't really want to work as hard as we do. I think we would all love to win the lottery, travel the world, and never worry about money again. I think most of us would also admit that we have been lured in at one point or another by something nice and new (ahem...my new car). Whether it's the latest iPhone, the newest entertainment system, or the trendiest clothes, sometimes throwing away the old to welcome in the new, despite the cost, isn't quite the sacrifice that maybe it should be. Why should it be any different with something like marriage?

Marriage is WORK. It's HARD work. That's no revelation. But sometimes, when you're in the middle of the fights and the bills and the kids throwing up, and something easier or newer comes along (whether that's a divorce or someone else), well, the choice to leave seems easy too. Within the past few months, I have been witness to numerous spouses choosing the easy way out. Watching people give up on such a sacred, meaningful union saddens me beyond expression. And when kids are involved, it completely breaks my heart. I have spent my share of nights these past few months praying for these marriages, and occasionally even shedding some tears for them. I have seen dads walking out for other women, moms choosing their addiction over their families, and even just run-of-the-mill (sadly) fighting driving marriages to destruction.

It doesn't seem like that long ago when Erik and I were on the brink of divorce. I've referenced it a few times, but never really relayed the gravity of our situation. Our marriage was virtually over. There was so much bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, and alienation that it felt impossible to come back to a place of satisfaction in our marriage. In 9 years, we have gone through 5 miscarriages together and all of the insecurities, blame, shame, and devastation that accompanies that. The day that we married, we joined all kinds of baggage from the past, including our fighting styles, and they were very, very different. We both tend to be more "glass-half-empty" sort of people, and that has made for some very depressing conversations over the years. The kind that can suck the light (and life) out of any relationship. We have dealt with jealousy, hurt, and pain that cannot ever be written in words. And still, with all that we have faced, we made a choice. We FOUGHT. We looked at those easier choices, pondered them, even daydreamed about them on occasion. But still, we chose to stay and FIGHT. We fought for our marriage, for our future child, and for our commitment to each other and to God. And here we are, 9 1/2 years later, still together.

I'm no expert, but I do have the benefit of plenty of marriage counseling wisdom, my prolific reading on the subject, and our experiences! In my next few blogs, I will list some things that helped us find the satisfaction that we never thought possible after all the ruin. If just one marriage can be even the slightest bit better after learning from our mistakes, then this outpouring will be worth it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A MOMMY'S WORLD

I have discovered something incredible recently. It may sound unbelievable; it may even make you jealous. Here it is: Addison possesses magical powers. I know, I know...it sounds crazy. To prove it, I'm going to share just a few examples.

  • Addison can predict, with 100% accuracy, the exact moment the server is bringing the meal at any restaurant. She alerts us by waking up and screaming. Her alarm gives us just enough notice to have time to clear space for our entrees...such a handy power! 
  • This same alarm system also alerts me as to when I am about to buy something I don't really need. It sounds in the dressing rooms, in the checkout lines, or sometimes even upon entering a store. This requires an immediate exit, therefore saving us money! 
  • Addison can make whoever is holding her invisible...this power radiates to include any family member within a 3 foot radius. She will garner all the attention. She will be talked to, touched, smiled at, even asked questions...all while her proud mommy and daddy smile, unnoticed. 
  • Her powers of persuasion are unmatched. She has even convinced Daddy, with her special mind tricks, to let Mommy get an SUV without Mommy even asking. Remarkable! 

I have noticed some other unusual happenings around my house that have given me pause:

First off, my scale is showing me to be at pre-pregnancy weight. If that's true, then why does my body look so very different than it did back then? Currently, I resemble one of those BEFORE photos you see at a plastic surgeon's office. The ones that makes you cringe. Weird right?

Next, dirty bottles multiply on an hourly basis. I'll look up and see one, and the next thing I know there are three. Same with the piles of dirty laundry. And my stack of unread books. I'm just not sure what to make of that.

In a strange twist, other things have been disappearing at an alarming rate. Cases of diapers and wipes are here one moment, gone the next. Containers of formula are emptied as quickly as they are opened.  And working batteries (that were so plentiful before) needed for various baby gadgets are as elusive as our free time that has all but vanished as well.

Finally, baby toys are slowly taking over my house. Now I'm not saying that they converge at night to hold secret meetings a la Toy Story, but something is going on. I step on them in places they should not be, and I see them seeking refuge under couches and tables that they were definitely NOT under before. Some people might blame the dogs, but I'm not convinced.

Maybe I've finally gotten my wish and awoken to a parallel universe, my very own Harry Potter-esque world? Or, more likely, I'm living my dream of motherhood, my very own perfect, albeit crazy, reality.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Everyday Heroes

Monday, May 20, 2013. It started innocently enough, a typical manic Monday. As we all now know, it was to be one of the deadliest days in the history of our proud state. As I watched the news when I arrived home, and watched, and watched some more, unable to tear my eyes away, I was heartbroken as I heard of the students who lost their lives in Plaza Towers Elementary Schools. I was also so relieved to hear that there were some survivors and so proud to see teachers being hailed as unlikely heroes, symbols of hope in the devastation. I, however, was not surprised. I can promise you that those very same teachers were heroes long before they made national news.

I have seen things done by teachers that others would never believe, much less understand. A child in their class is a little (or a lot) behind, so they stay after school, without pay, to make sure that said child reaches their full potential. A child is without a mom, so they become like a surrogate, making sure to spend extra time, give more hugs, and speak more praise. I know teachers who spend hundreds of THEIR OWN dollars on their classes each year to make sure that they have what they need to reach a new group of kids, a generation who is quickly losing intrinsic motivations and one that must utilize technology in ways never before seen in the classroom. I know teachers who spend their coveted "summers off" planning innovative lessons, attending all kinds of workshops, and cheering on past students at various events. I know teachers who buy yearbooks anonymously for the kids in their class that don't have one (at $25 a pop) so that the kiddos don't feel left out. I know teachers that consider it the absolute highest compliment to hear these words when asked what they learned this year: "To treat others the way you want to be treated," because they know that a great teacher does so much more than math and reading. And they do it all without the expectation of recognition.

In college, they don't tell you that someday, you may have to confront a gunman in your school. They don't tell you that someday, you may be the only one holding it together for a classroom full of children in the middle of a tornado. That's how I know these teachers were already heroes. They did not consider their safety, they did not rely on training, they did not reach for a "What If" manual. They did what they had done every other day in their career. They sacrificed for the sake of their kiddos, and they deserve every bit of commendation they will receive, both for the things we know they've done, and the things that we will never know. Because of them, I have never been prouder to call myself a teacher.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

My FIRST Mother's Day

This year, I get to experience my first Mother's Day as a mom. I think that sentence, with all of its unspoken emotion, could stand alone as a blog entry.

It was on Mother's Day two years ago that I stood watching the baby dedications at church as tears poured down my face. I will never forget practically running out of the sanctuary to escape the pain. I eventually found respite in the bathroom of all places, and the locked stall served as a barrier to the rest of the world for a few moments. I prayed and raged and bargained, and in the end, I went back to my seat, utterly defeated. I'm pretty sure I cried silently through that entire sermon. I allowed myself very few breakdowns over the years, but that one is seared into my memory.

They offer those same dedications twice a year, and I knew without a doubt that I wanted to do Addison's on Mother's Day weekend. This year, our families were in the sanctuary praying for our family of 3 as we were promising before God and the church that we commit to raising her intentionally in Christ. We dedicated our gift back to Him, asked Him to guide our decisions as parents, give us wisdom, and bless our little girl as she grows. This year, when the tears began to flow, it was an outpouring of joy and thankfulness that I cannot possibly express in words.

They asked in our dedication class that we write a letter to our child affirming her, outlining our hopes, dreams, and prayers for her, and telling her about the importance of Christ. I can't imagine an easier assignment...

Our Precious Addison,

Today is my first Mother's Day as a mom. I want you to know how much and how long I have looked forward to this day. This is the day I get to celebrate my favorite thing in the world...taking care of YOU. From your sleepy grin first thing in the morning to your crazy antics right before you crash for the night...you make me smile and laugh more than anyone in this world ever has. 

Last night, on Mother's Day Eve, Daddy (or Dada as you like to say) and I took part in your Baby Dedication. We stood in front of the church and committed to raising you in the Lord, to setting an example for you in our faith, and to being the best parents we can be. Then our Campus Pastor, Chris Beall, came and prayed over our little family. He has prayed over us numerous times throughout the years, and recognizes what a little miracle you truly are. His prayer was powerful and moving. In it, we thanked God over and over for our greatest gift... YOU. 

After he prayed for us, your daddy and I had some time to pray on our own. I have so many, many hopes and prayers for you, my child. These are just a few of the things, big and small, that ran through my mind in those moments: I hope that you aren't as serious as I was; that you'll have an easy smile and an unapologetic laugh. I hope that you always feel safe and secure in your home, and within yourself. I hope that reading brings you as much joy as it does me. I hope that you love school, and that academics are very important to you. I hope that you have lots of true Christian friends who love you for who you are and never try to change you. I pray that today's selfish and secular culture will be mere background noise as you stand firm in your convictions. I pray that you will graduate from college to do something you love, and not just get a job you can tolerate. I pray that someday, when the time is right, you will meet a Godly man who cherishes you, respects you, and draws you closer to Christ. I pray that if and when you decide to have a baby with your husband, that you will have the easiest pregnancy possible.  But most of all, more than any of those things, I pray that someday you will make the most important decision of your life: to become a fully devoted follower of Christ. There is no choice in this world more significant. 

We also prayed for certain qualities and gifts to be exemplified in you. We asked for you to display integrity in every facet of your life. We prayed that you will be given a discerning heart when it comes to making all choices, including choosing those you surround yourself with. We also asked that on top of your already noticeable intelligence, that you be blessed with wisdom. There are so many spiritual gifts that you may be given, but these are some that we prayed specifically for, so that others may see Him in you. 

I have no doubt that you are going to be a candle in the darkness of this world, Addison. You can already light up a room with your infectious laughter and contagious smile. You have changed me, my beautiful daughter, and in the very best way. I know that last night was just the beginning of my pride as your mom. 

With all my love, 

Mommy



Addison's Baby Dedication ~ May 11, 2013
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Proverbs 22:6

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Defending "THE DECISION"

About a month after Addison's birth, Erik and I made an unpopular, unexpectedly controversial decision. Since then we've been called selfish, rash, stupid, and probably a few other things behind our backs. I'm honestly shocked that with our history and my blogs, that ANYONE we know and love would question our choice, but they have. I have been asked about it so many times, I'm going to give our answer and defend our decision publicly. Here it is: I am choosing not to birth any more children. Now, before you smile knowingly at the computer screen, let me add this. We took steps to make sure that we can't. You know, surgical steps.

I'm going to counter some of the things we've heard as to why we MUST give Addison a sibling. Yes, I realize that there are many stereotypes surrounding an only child: they are spoiled, they aren't social, they are egocentric, yada yada yada. Telling me all of that is not going to change my mind, because while I find the birth order effect endlessly fascinating, rarely does a child fit their birth order mold completely. We will try hard to make sure she is well-rounded and altruistic. Yes, I realize that an only child needs someone to play with. That's where friends and cousins come in. And we, as parents, will take extra steps to ensure that she has plenty of opportunities to spend time with other kids. Yes, I know that only children have a lot of responsibilities as their parents age and they have no one to share the burden with. But, as I've seen firsthand, there is no guarantee that more than one sibling will do the bulk of the work anyway. Plus, they get the inheritance all to themselves! :-) No, I don't think that we should have another baby "in case" something happens to her. As if a sibling could just take her place!? And yes, that has been given as a reason why we should have more than one baby. If I don't sound convincing enough, I'm in love with this article published in Time Magazine addressing this very subject.

That being said, I have not ruled out adoption. It was put on my heart long ago as I read Mary Beth Chapman's book, Choosing to See. It was like a bolt of lightning struck me as I was reading; I was SUPPOSED to adopt from China. In my mind, I have already named our second little girl. However, that same bolt has not struck my husband's heart, and unless/until it does, Addison will remain our only. And I'm just fine with that.

Now, on to the unsurprising reason behind our decision; it's very simple. There are no guarantees. This is true for every pregnancy, yes, but my odds are much different. "Habitual aborters" (my diagnosis still makes me cringe) are at a much higher risk for loss than someone who has had zero, one or even two miscarriages. I know myself. I know the roller coaster I was on before we had Addison, the craziness my husband was subjected to. Selfish to me is even considering exposing Addison to that mom who is drowning in loss, that mom who is so consumed with having another child she can think of nothing else. Am I choosing the lesser of two evils? Maybe so, but I don't see it that way.

We did not make this decision lightly nor did we do it without prayer. We feel that we are making the best choice for us, given our past. So now that the "When are you having a baby?" question is taken care of, hopefully this answers the unavoidable "When are you having another one?" that has started already. We aren't. God gave us Addison, entrusted His miracle to us, and unless He intervenes somehow, she will be an only child. We have the family that we've always wanted now, and someday, we will explain our decision to her. God willing, she will understand, even embrace, our choice. And that is all that matters.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MOMMY MUST-HAVES!

Have I mentioned I love making lists? Well, I'll say it again. I love making lists. They calm me down and bring order to my little piece of the world. Amidst the chaos of yesterday, I started writing a list in my head, as I tend to do under stress. I'm sure I would be much better off were my stress-relief some form of physical exercise, but alas, list-making it is...

I posted this question to friends shortly before Addison was born: "What was something that you REALLY used when you first had your baby?" I didn't want to register for things that we would either take back right away or kick ourselves for keeping later. 5 months into being a mommy, I have a pretty good idea about all that. I'm not going to include obvious things like diapers or car seats, but here are a few things I was extra thankful for or wished I'd had from the start...


TOP 5 MUST-HAVES FOR MOMMIES


1. A BASSINET. We didn't even register for one. After all, we had an adorable crib with custom-made bedding from my ridiculously talented friend Lori. Why would she sleep in anything else? Erik's intuitive mother got us one despite our ignorance. Well, after a month of sleeping on mommy or daddy's chest, a bassinet in the bedroom was the next best thing. We would push that soothing vibration button and she would be out like a light. And mommy slept a little easier too.

Our 5-in-1"Sleep System"

2. A SWING. I'm not talking about those cutesy little cradle swings that move gently from side to side...the ones that cost an arm and a leg. We started out with a Mamaroo, which is pretty much the coolest swing on the planet, and we gave ourselves mental pats on the back for finding a deal on Craigslist. Addison hated it from the beginning. No, instead she prefers the old fashioned ones...you know, the ones that swing you so high you ALMOST complete some sort of death-defying 360 degree loop? (Something I was terrified would happen to me while swinging on the playground). Yup, that's her. The faster and higher the better. This is something we still use and we wish we had had from Day One. Sometimes new technology ISN'T better.

Our magical Graco swing!

3. A BOTTLE WARMER. I know so many women out there use microwaves to quickly heat Baby's bottles. I'm not judging; I'm sure thousands of moms have done the same for theirs. But ever since I saw that supposed study on how microwaved water killed plants, I just can't bring myself to do it (even if the reporting websites completely lack credibility). It sounds just scary enough to be true. In a mere 4 minutes and 17 seconds, Addison's 6 oz. bottle is the perfect temperature. Dr. Brown's bottle warmer = $40. Peace of mind that my baby is most definitely not drinking toxic, plant-killing formula = priceless. Caveat: As one of my super-smart friends posted in the comments below, the plant killing experiment was not able to be replicated; I admitted as much above (see "supposed study" and "websites completely lack credibility"). Your microwaved bottles are most certainly safe. Probably...

We love our Dr. Brown's bottle warmer


4. SWADDLERS. For all you moms of sweet, dainty little girls and calm, happy little boys, soft swaddling blankets or even cute little gowns might be sufficient. For Addison, we required something resembling more of a baby straitjacket. It had industrial strength Velcro and a pocket for the legs. The first night we used one was the first night she slept through the night in her bassinet. We were ready to buy out Target's stock. Unfortunately, since our baby is part Hulk and part Houdini, even those failed to restrain her for long, but they were great while they lasted.

Our industrial strength swaddling blankets...

5. ONESIES WITH MITTEN CUFFS. From the moment Addison was born, her fingernails grew at an alarming rate. She used them to claw her face, poke her eyes, and stab us, her loving parents. She especially liked to wield her weapons while she was sleeping, ensuring that she would scream bloody murder and wake herself, and everyone else in the house, up. These little suckers put an end to all of that. We were actually starting to worry that we would delay some sort of sensory learning because she wore them so much. It was the only way we could keep her poor face scar free. For awhile I was actually thinking that we would have to have some specially made in toddler size!

Our saving grace onesies!

Honorable Mentions: A Comfy Glider/Rocker, Tuck's Pads, Mommy-sized Sweatpants, WubbaNub Pacifiers, and the NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

I would love to hear below what YOU couldn't live without as a first time mom! Maybe together we can save someone money...or help them spend more!!  

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Hope...

I had fully intended to sit down tonight and write a relatively light-hearted blog this evening detailing Addison's second month. In light of today's news however, my mind is somewhere else tonight.

I still remember April 19, 1995. I was in 8th grade. I don't remember exactly how I found out about the Murrah Building bombing. All around me I saw taut faces, hidden tears, kids being picked up from school early. I knew something bad had happened. But I'm still not sure that at the age of 13, I fully grasped the gravity of it all. Even as I visited the fence covered with mementos and stared past it to what was left of the Murrah Building, my innocence somehow stayed in tact, my mind unable to connect the horror before me with a person's capacity for evil. It sounds crazy, but when I saw that fence and the love and support it represented, the first word that came to my mind was hope.



At the age of 20, when the World Trade Center tragedy (that seems too light a word) struck, I wasn't quite so naive. My mom woke me up with a phone call and told me to turn on the news. I sat there for hours staring at the television, the coverage both enraging me and numbing me all at once. Although I didn't understand the lasting ramifications for our country that day, I felt unsafe, terrified that someone could think they were doing the right thing, furthering a cause by taking the lives of so many. Whatever shred of innocence I may have had left disappeared that day.

More recently, as a new mom, the shootings in Aurora and Newtown have affected me in a different way. I am no longer scared for myself. I cradle my daughter in my arms and I am terrified beyond words at what her future will be like. I shudder to think that instead of a future inevitable act of terrorism being a major event in history and in her life, it will most likely be as commonplace as a car accident. I cannot bear the thought of my beautiful little girl and her entire generation growing up either too frightened to step outside of their houses or so angry they probably shouldn't.

Today, as I sat and gaped at the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings, I was taken back to that day so many years ago - the day that my innocence shielded me from what people are really capable of, the reality that safety is most often just an illusion. My heart is broken for the children who just lost their innocence forever, for the families that went to cheer someone on, their hearts full of pride, only to end up crying in the streets, and for the pain of rebuilding lives that so many will have to endure. It also breaks for Addison. This is the world that she is going to grow up in. While I feel helpless to change it, I pray that somehow, some way, we can help her hold onto her childhood as long as possible. That we can make her understand but not be afraid. And if we do our jobs, maybe someday she will find the hope in the darkness just like I did so many years ago, but instead she will hold onto it, using it to make a difference. Maybe even change the world. Oh, how I hope...

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mommy Musings - Month 1

It's a good thing I didn't publicize any resolutions or themes for this year, because blogging more often would have definitely been on the list. Whoops! As all moms know, free time is at a premium and mine is mainly spent cleaning or playing with Baby Girl. Even now Addison sits on my lap, cheering me on with her squeals and baby talk. I am going to try to make my "Mommy Musings" a "thing"... a monthly update on Addison, mommyhood, and our life in general. This one will center around Addison's first month of life...I have a lot of catching up to do!

Month 1: Our first month as a family of three wasn't quite the fairytale I had imagined. I spent virtually all of my time while I was pregnant worrying about the act of labor itself. I figured motherhood would come naturally and as crazy as it sounds, I barely gave it a second thought. After all, I had waited three years for this miracle; surely I would bond to her immediately. They did put Addison on my chest as soon as she was born, but she was having a little trouble breathing so they took her very quickly; I barely caught a glimpse of her. They whisked her away for a very long time, and honestly, I was so exhausted that I barely protested. I had been up for about 36 hours at that point and I was borderline delirious. Several hours later, when she started screaming inconsolably, I couldn't help but feel slightly relieved when the nurse took her away. The only thing on my mind was sleep, and there was little room for gult.

Once we got her home, the constant screaming continued. She had trouble nursing and was jaundiced, so we had to supplement with formula to ensure she was getting enough to eat. She rarely slept at night, preferring to nap exclusively during the day, and even then only giving in to sleep when she was wrapped up in the arms of her mommy or daddy. Erik and I took turns staying up all night so that we weren't complete zombies. We saved all of our energy for Addison and left nothing for each other or ourselves. I couldn't help but wonder what we had gotten ourselves into.

I can remember one night in particular in which I came into the bedroom where Erik was sleeping at about 3:30AM. I was crying hysterically and Addison was screaming in my arms. I had tried EVERYTHING, and at that point she had been screaming in my face for around 4 hours straight. I felt like a failure, a lunatic, and a sleep-deprived time bomb all in one. He jumped out of bed, let me crawl into it, and took over for the rest of the night. I felt a new respect for single moms at that moment; I don't know how I could have done it without Erik's help.

I had another breakdown about the time I finally worked up the courage to look at myself unclothed in the mirror. I remember telling Erik at that moment that my body was "ruined." Up until then I had been wearing baggy sweats like a security blanket. All throughout my pregnancy I saw different magazines touting celebrities going from due date to physically fit in mere weeks. I was honestly shocked that after almost a month, my body looked nothing like theirs... never mind their stylists, personal trainers, nutritionists, chefs, nannies, and plastic surgeons.

Of course there were beautiful moments interlaced throughout each day. Staring at the beauty of Addison's angelic, sleeping face. Breathing in her sweet scent as I held her in my arms. Gazing into her big blue eyes. Those times helped me remember to relish her first month, to recognize that she would be walking and talking in the blink of an eye.

I'm still not sure why I was so unprepared for the intensity of that first month as a first-time mom. Sure, we had heard that we would have a lack of sleep. I had been told that I would be in a lot of pain those first few days months after giving birth. Those things were true, but it was so much more. I know we weren't alone in our difficulty, because once we revealed our experiences to close friends, we could swap similar stories for hours. Honestly, I think the truly hard parts just aren't talked about, unless you google "hysterical, hormonal, sleep-deprived mom of newborn" (which I may or may not have done). Is the difficulty kept quiet due to the fear of sounding ungrateful for the blessing of a child? Is it the worry of being thought of as a bad mom? I feel a little of both, but I also feel the responsibility to tell other women it's normal! It doesn't necessarily mean you have post-partum depression or a colicky baby. Babies scream, parents get tired, and moms are hormonal. And even though it may not subside quickly, it will pass. I promise. And when it does, you'll be happier than you ever thought possible.

Addison at one month approving of the bookcase Daddy built her. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Doula Experience: Love It or Leave It?

What exactly is a doula? I heard that question several times when I announced we were going to use one for Addison's birth. Since doulas are not as prevalent here in OK as in other parts of the country, most people I talked to were not familiar with the term. (One of my friends sheepishly admitted later that she thought a doula was some new, hip baby toy). A doula, in short, is a labor coach. They are there to provide encouragement and support for the weeks leading up to the pregnancy and the birth itself. They can also be an intermediary between you and your doctor should he recommend something you don't want but are too frazzled to fight against. They usually specialize in one or two extra things as well, such as massage, placenta encapsulation, or even belly casting.

Because I am a procrastinator by nature, I waited until a couple of months before the birth to start looking for a doula. I found my options limited, but diligently looked over each doula's page anyway, weighed their pros and cons, and contacted one to interview.

I should have seen it coming. When we first sat down to ask the doula questions, I knew she wasn't a good fit. I knew I wanted someone extremely calm in the delivery room with me - a quiet, strong presence. She was too talkative and loud, very nervous, and not at all experienced. However, I am not good at saying no, so when it came time to tell her "We'll be in touch," knowing we wouldn't be, I instead found myself saying, "Where do I sign our contract?" as Erik looked at me in horror.

Over the next several weeks, I tried to look at the bright side. Her inexperience would hopefully mean that she was a little more eager and devoted to me and to getting things right, as she needed my delivery for her certification. I chalked our first meeting up to nerves, and tried not to dwell on it. She did contact me several times via text to check on me, which I appreciated. I was the ideal preggo, never calling to bother her or ask her questions. I did not speak with her again until the night I was ready to deliver.

When I called her a little after midnight to tell her my water had broken and we were headed to the hospital, she was somewhat surprised, I think, as we had planned to labor at home for awhile. She took it all in stride, however, and agreed to meet us at the hospital as soon as she could. The first hour or so was fine as she walked with me through the halls, encouraged me to listen to my music, and rubbed my back for a few minutes. When she fell asleep on the couch as Erik was helping me through a contraction though, I started to see the writing on the wall.

The initial reason I chose her for an interview out of everyone else was that her doula profile said she did lots of different massage techniques to ease the "discomfort" of delivery. Once the pain really kicked in, however, she became invisible, not getting off of the couch except to take a smoke break. No encouragement, no massages, nothing. My nurse and Erik were the ones championing me through it all, telling me I could do it. I did not hear a word from her through the 4 hours of really hard, pitocin-driven labor.

After the birth, we talked a little bit when I was coherent enough to realize she was STILL in the room. (We're talking HOURS)!! She told me that at one point, she had looked at Erik and said, "She's done," meaning I was about to cave and ask for the epidural. Can you imagine if I had heard that while I was laboring?! Knowing that the person you hired to coach you through your birthing experience not only didn't help you in that moment, but didn't even believe in you? That's disheartening to say the least.

Personally, I would not call a doula again were I going to have another baby, although I know that good ones are out there. All I can say is that IF you are thinking of hiring a doula, don't do what I did. Don't try to help someone who needs their certification if you don't think they're a good fit. Don't hire someone because they're a friend of a friend. And DON'T hire someone because you feel bad saying no. I think my experience could have been much more amazing had I gone with my gut and done just that. It wasn't all bad though. Somewhere between the moment our doula fell asleep and the moment I held Addison in my arms for the first time, I found my inner strength, and it turns out I didn't need a virtual stranger to help me do it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Satisfaction Acquisition


Wow!! The first month of 2013 is already drawing to a close! Last January I wrote a blog that talked about choosing a year-long "theme" instead of making a list of resolutions that I knew I wouldn't keep. My 2012 theme (2013's will be a later post) was to work on being satisfied in each major area of my life. As I looked back over the list today, I was awestruck at how God has worked in me over the last year, helping me to be more satisfied than ever. During my reflection on His goodness, I came upon this particular excerpt, and reading it STILL gives me chills.  

SATISFACTION IN MY "BABYLESS" SITUATION
Yes, we remain without child. DHS has had a big hand in that, because they never put us onto their adoption list! For six months we've been patiently and prayerfully waiting...all the while not being advocated for at all! I'm thinking God must have something truly amazing and miraculous in store for us because we've just been through too much. It almost makes me laugh (if only to keep from crying). Everytime another roadblock comes up, I just shake my head and look up...He has a plan. Meanwhile, I have learned to really and truly find satisfaction in my time (and our time) alone. I think I have to be satisfied with the silence before I am blessed with the noise.

When I wrote that, I had spent the previous three years questioning Him, pleading with Him, ignoring Him, and crying out to Him in anguish. I can remember days when I could barely get out of bed. Days when crying probably burned more calories than a marathon…those painful, screaming sobs that seem to rip right out of your chest, taking pieces of your heart with them. I can remember the anger burning in my eyes and spilling onto those closest to me, and eventually the bitterness dulling its edge. I remember days when I fought to the surface of normalcy, fought against the negative, and days when my hard heart pulled me under like an anchor. And I remember writing those words above when I was filled with hope, ready to surrender to the uncertainty of His plan.

Less than a month after that post, I was pregnant. And just a few short weeks later I was holding a positive test in my hand. It turns out God did have something truly amazing and miraculous in store for us…I sit holding her in my arms right now.