Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Dirty Thirty

I'm turning twenty-nine this August.

For those of you who are mathematically challenged......that's one year away from THIRTY.

And I'm okay with that.

In fact..........I'm kind of looking forward to a new decade in my life.  

Last summer I went to the 30th birthday party of a friend of mine from work.  During the course of dinner the inevitable "30th birthday" question popped up - was she dreading turning 30 and saying goodbye to her twenties.  

She cocked her curly haired head and pursed her lips thoughtfully.

"You twenties was full of change and instability.  I was a college student, a teacher, I got married, had two daughters and then became a stay-at-home mom.  I'm looking forward to the next decade of my life being more settled.  I know who I am and the path my life is on - there's no uncertainty and angst."

Okay.  I might of paraphrased a bit, but that was the general gist.

Her response has stuck with me because she's right.  I started my twenties as a college sorority girl in a relationship with an abusive alcoholic and I'm exiting this decade as a settled and joyfully married teacher and the mother to a beautiful little girl.  Not to mention the amount of roller coaster-ing I did in the years between.  I'm ready to enter a decade in my life where I'm secure in my marriage, my career, my relationships and most importantly.......MYSELF.  I don't look at thirty as a looming death sentence, but instead a breath of relief and an important milestone.

But no major milestone wouldn't be complete without some sort of fun adventure along the way so as many women do...........I am attempting a "30 for 30" list of things to accomplish before I hit three-oh on August 7th, 2013.  Coming up with a list is actually a lot harder than I expected - maybe because I have experienced a lot of the "typical" things people would normally put on something like this.

Here's what I've got so far:

1. Eat at a Chinese buffet.  I know, right?  I've NEVER eaten at a Chinese restaurant (besides PF Chang's which probably doesn't count as "real" Chinese food) because I was scared?  Of the sauce?  Unfamiliarity?  I'm not really sure why.  My parents didn't really venture out for Chinese (or Japanese or Thai or Indian for that matter) when I was growing up so maybe I just somehow convinced myself that I wouldn't like it.

2. Spend five minutes in The Anger Room.  Bear with me here.  I'm truly not a violent person but I think being in a room smashing everything to bits with a baseball bat for five minutes would do me a world of good.  The word cathartic comes to mind.  When I played competitive sports, I would release my aggression on the court and against the other team, but when I play with my 8th graders that really isn't an least if I want to keep my job.

3. Do something touristy in DFW.  I've lived here all my life but there is still so much to explore.  Apparently people come to Dallas and Fort Worth for vacation and I would love to see the area through their eyes.  Maybe the Stockyards or the Sixth Floor Museum.

4. Read a "classic" novel that I cliff noted in high school.  Since The Great Gatsby is coming out this holiday season I think that might be the one I choose.

5. Do one of those painting classes.  I see the pictures all over Facebook of fun Girls Night Out groups all proudly displaying their artwork.  I don't let it out much, but I've got a pretty wicked creative streak and I think getting a group of my friends together to spend the evening painting and drinking wine would be tons of fun.

6. Send birthday cards and small presents to all my friends celebrating 30 between September and August.  This will probably be the most difficult because I am TERRIBLE at remember birthdays to begin with, much less buying a card and a present and getting that all in the mail in time for the actual birth day.

That's all I've got so far.  Six.  Yikes.  Craig is turning 40 just a few months after me (December of 2013) so we've tossed around the idea of combining our lists and doing a lot of these things together.  His first thought was "I want to take you to Maui before you turn thirty."  Okay.  Well.  That sounds absolutely lovely, but I was thinking of stuff more budget friendly, but that's just the way that Craig thinks.  He has the big ideas and I pull him back down to Earth.

I introduced him to my list on Thursday as we were making the trek up to Frisco for Natalie's second hematologist appointment (still not where she needs to be, we're continuing iron supplements) and he suggested that we go ahead and mark the first item off the list.  So after we left Children's hospital we headed off in search of a Chinese buffet.

My plate with vegetarian noodles of some sort, some black pepper chicken and veggies, super yummy pineapple chicken and fried wontons.

And the verdict for me was...........AWESOME.  I don't know why I've been holding out on Chinese food all this time!  Seriously yummy stuff.

Unfortunately Natalie can't say the same.  I put just some noodles, zucchini and chicken on her plate but she was a wee bit apprehensive.  Good news was they had a fabulous selection of fruit and she was able to chow down on melon, strawberries and grapes.  Oh.  And ice cream because she was such a good girl when getting blood drawn - NO TEARS.  Whew!

And of course the best part of Chinese food is the fortunes at the end.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Water Babies

Swimsuit shopping.

Ugh.  It's not pretty.  It's not fun.  And most of the time, it's left me in tears.

Now add in having some extra squishiness from carrying an eight pound baby girl?  

A million times worse.

I made the official switch this summer from bikinis to one piece swimsuits for a multitude of reasons, the first being that squishiness mentioned above.  I've also gotten a wee bit more modest in my older age and not everyone needs to be seeing me parading around in teeny tiny pieces of fabric.  And then there's the practicality of the situation - Natalie is bigger and more active in the water and I have to be comfortable to move quickly and easily when playing with her.

So one pieces it is.  Once I had made my decision the hard work began - finding a swimsuit that flattered my figure and wasn't a gazillion dollars.  

As with everything else in life, when in doubt.....GO TO TARGET.

I was pleasantly surprised at the selection and quality of the swimsuits.  I honestly thought that I would be quickly going down the one-piece swimsuit rabbit hole and would wind up spending my summer sitting by the pool in a swimsuit a la the Duggars.

But instead I found lots of great fashionable styles that fit my body well and still made me feel "cute" but covered up as well.  Without further ado, here is what I'll be sporting in the sun this summer.
  I have the top (which also comes with a attachable halter style strap) but not these bottoms.  I bought bikini style bottoms in the same horizontal black and white stripe.  I mostly wear this swimsuit around our pool in the backyard and I rarely use the strap so that I can get a nice even tan on my shoulders and neck area.
This swimsuit kind of caught me off guard because it's totally out of my fashion comfort zone with all the hot pinkness and blingity bling. looks and fits fabulous and again, I can lay out in the backyard with the neck straps down and not get any tan lines.

Alright.  You're going to need to use your imagination on this one.  I found this swimsuit HERE but this is not the swimsuit I actually own.  Picture this style but with a turquoise top and black bottom - keep the ruching though.  Got it?  Okay.  The reason I couldn't find the link on the Target website is because I actually bought this particular swimsuit LAST summer and therefore any sort of link to it has disappeared into internet oblivion.  This is probably the most flattering swimsuit on me because it sucks in my belly the most and then the ruching covers up any remaining jiggle.

And the wee one?  It's much easier finding a swimsuit for an adorable toddler.  Never mind the fact that she has absolutely no clue that she can't swim.  We have certainly evolved past the cruise around in the baby float stage and she is squirming all over the place - learning to kick, stroke and blow bubbles in the water.  The best part of having a daughter that just might be part fish?  The water WEARS.  HER.  OUT.  And the second best thing.......she's inherited my Italian-olive-easy-to-tan skin and there's nothing more adorable than tan lines on a little baby butt.  

Natalie hates being dried off with towels so I can throw this over her body and get her dry without the tears and fighting.

Here are Natalie's two main swimsuits - one serious swimming suit up above in the pink and then a fun and frivolous girly suit complete with ruffles.  I'm not big on two piece bikinis on little girls; I'd like to hold off on that battle as long as possible and plus, with all the running around and hard core PLAYING that she does in the water, she needs something that will stay on her body and not interfere with her activity.  

I know.  Toddler sunglasses.  But they're turquoise and they match her ruffly swimsuit.  And she's only little once.  And they were really only $5.99.  And believe it or not - she does wear and keep them on her face about 65% of the time.  

Best swimming purchase ever.  The concrete is hot and the pool deck is rough.  By putting these on Natalie's feet, she can confidently play in and around the pool without fear of burning or scraping her precious little feet and toes.

So that's what we're sporting this summer.  I love that my girl loves the water and shows absolutely NO fear when it comes to getting in and splashing around.  Swimming has always been a summer staple with my grandma, my mother and myself and I've been loving watching Natalie find the same enjoyment in water as I do.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Toddler Terrorists

A lot of times when people ask me what grade and subject I teach, their eyes grow huge and they ask the inevitable question:

"How do you deal with middle school teenagers?"

I get that.  I do.  Out in the wild where I can't control them, I'm not a big fan of teenagers either.  They're loud, obnoxious and awkward.  But the good news is...that's pretty standard and normal behavior for their age.  We were ALL loud, obnoxious and awkward at that age.  Seeing teenagers out and about reminds me why I'm so glad I'm not in middle or high school anymore.

But in all honesty, when I am working with them at school, they are the least of my worries, problems, frustrations and concerns.

They just don't bother me that much.

When working with kids you have to keep things in perspective.  THEY  AREN'T ADULTS.  They do not have fully functioning brains to make rational decisions and to have a world view that does not focus on themselves and their own needs.  It's not that they're TRYING to be incorrigible and self-centered........that's the stage in development that they're at.  The terms "good" and "bad" get thrown around a lot with middle school students and I cringe when I hear kids being referred to as "bad."  That's just such a final verdict when the child isn't even fully grown yet.  Let's wait until they have a few convictions before we start labeling, no?  But in all seriousness, underneath all the bad attitude and disrespectful mouthiness..........most kids at their core are GOOD kids.  The "bad" kids are the ones that perhaps haven't been given a fair shake at life or haven't been set up for success by the habits and actions of their parents.  It's my job as an educator to cut through their "bad" facade and get to the good heart that lies beneath.

And most importantly, you can't take any of it personally.  Not the rolling of their eyes, the forgetting of gym clothes or homework, or even when they talk back.  It perplexes me when adults get so offended by the behavior of a teenager.  Frustrated I can understand, but offended?  They're just kids.  Half the time they truly don't know any better and isn't that kind of my job?  To point out their missteps and instruct them on appropriate behavior in an effort to guide them on their path to becoming an adult?!

There's a little disciplinary philosophy and program out there called Love and Logic and the basic tenets revolve around letting kids know that above everything else, they are cared for.........but that doesn't exclude them from suffering the natural consequences of their actions.  It takes the frustration of discipline out of the hands of the adults and places it squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of the child.  Why should my good day be ruined because a preteen forgot his gym clothes or because she talked back?

For example, when a child forgets their gym clothes, the conversation usually goes something like this:

Child: I don't have my PE clothes.
Me: Okay.  You'll lose points for no clothes.  And after three no clothes days you'll get a detention.
Child:  Okay........
Me: Alright, go have a seat.
*Child looks at me out of the corner of their eye and shuffles off awkwardly.*

The child is expecting to be reprimanded.  It kind of throws them for a loop when their behavior doesn't get a reaction out of me.  As long as you have a good set of policies, expectations and consequences you just let nature take it's course and all the stress is off your shoulders.  The natural consequence is that they'll receive a lower grade and if their behavior continues they will be given a detention and then referral.  And NO child, "good" or "bad," wants to be hanging outside the coaching office at 8:00 in the morning when they could be talking with their friends in the cafeteria.

The sixth grade class this year as a whole was pretty "advanced" for their age socially and knew much more about the world (and not in a good way) than many of our 8th graders.  As a group, they sent the sixth grade teachers and administration for a loop - we just didn't know quite what to do with them since all our normal methods of discipline didn't really seem to work or sink in.  I quickly gave up on trying to bring them up to where I wanted expected them to be (where other sixth grade classes had started out) and instead met them where they were, grabbed their hand and pulled them along the path I needed them to follow.

But this one young lady was a bit of a conundrum.  She was outgoing but her actions spoke of underlying insecurities.  According to her classroom teachers, she was a nightmare - never doing any homework and failing the majority of her tests.  I saw her as funny and charismatic, but a little damaged.  As a general rule, I try to keep in mind that no matter how you slice it, being in middle school is tough and it's not my job to make their lives more difficult but instead to hopefully be a bright spot in an otherwise very dark day.  With this child I knew that she and I would have to come to some sort of understanding about her behavior since she started off the year insisting that she speak at the same exact moment as me.  I leveled with her one day and laid out all the cards - I listed my expectations, how she wasn't meeting them and what would happen if she continued on her behavioral path.  We had a "come to Jesus" meeting one might say.  I was also in charge of the Advisory period which was kind of like a big silent study hall where the kids were expected to be silent and work quietly on homework.  This was a struggle for this young lady.  Not that I blame her but her behavior did get to the point where there were office referrals involved.  After one referral, she brought down the pink slip from the office and said to me while getting dressed for PE, "Coach!  You got me in trouble again in Advisory!  Why do you hate me?"  Whoa there turbo.  Let's back this train up for a second.  I explained things quite plainly for her.  "Giving you a referral for behavior that was inappropriate has nothing to do with how much I enjoy having you in my class.  In Advisory, my job is to enforce the rules and your job is to follow the rules.  When that doesn't happen, the natural consequence is an office referral.  I can still like you as a person but hold you accountable for your actions."  I didn't lecture or glare but just had a casual tone to my voice.  She cocked her head slightly and shrugged in agreement.  "Yeah, I understand that.  I just hate after school detentions."  And off to class she went.  No drama, no tears, no fighting.  Just an explanation of the rules and our roles as student and teacher.

I'm not saying that I'm the best teacher in the world but I certainly know my strengths.  And I'm really good at classroom management and connecting with students.  Any good teacher has to be able to meet their students where they are at academically and emotionally and then have a vision of where the child should be at the end of the year, as well as a plan to get them there.

My natural inclination is to apply ALL the above mentioned stuff about behavior management and discipline to my own personal child.


I struggle because I DO take her temper tantrums personally sometimes because I feel as if they are a reflection of my parenting abilities.  My brain and emotions are split down the middle when she acts out - one half of me reverts back to all those child development classes I dutifully sat through in college and I logically understand that she is desperately trying to establish her control over something and throwing a fit is the only way she has to express her frustration at this point in time.  I TOTALLY understand that from a logical and rational child development point of view.  But then there's the other part of me - I have a feeling my mother felt like this a lot when she was working with teenagers while also parenting a teenager,'s "normal" developmental behavior but you want your child to be better than normal.  To be able to be a role model and above average because then it reflects on your parenting skills.  I'm a teacher and navigate hormonal teenagers every single day.  I should be able to quickly quell a toddler's tantrums.

If only.

Some days it's a uphill battle trying to get her to understand boundaries, limits and making her feel reassured at the same time that she is loved and cared for.  But as difficult as it might be right now to establish and reinforce boundaries and proper behavior with Natalie, I'd rather do the hard work now and reap the rewards later.  

Craig and I were actually discussing this topic at dinner tonight and we both related it to how we approach coaching our respective sports teams at the beginning of the season compared to the end.  At the start of the season, I am a beast in the gym.  I focus on perfecting the warm-up, practicing and correcting proper passing, setting, hitting and serving technique as well as behavior expectations during practices and games.  There are lots of push-ups involved and the girls typically leave the gym sweating profusely.  Quite frankly, although I understand the importance of all the stuff that I'm teaching, it's absolutely exhausting for me to be that tough and strict on my girls.  BUT....the payoff is fantastic because by the end of the season, they can practically run their own practice.  They know when to start stretching, they set up all their warm-up drills and we can easily transition from one activity to the next without hardly any distraction or interruption.  Having them so obedient and respectful also allows for me to be more personal and engaging with them as individuals and as a whole.  At the end of the season, I'm jumping in their drills and we're having a great time playing a sport that we all love while Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber blasts through the speaker system.  Because they know boundaries, limits and have a healthy amount of respect for me as their leader and coach, my teams typically end the season on a high note with all of us genuinely sad to see the season come to a close.

So that's how we're approaching discipline, boundaries, obedience and respect with Natalie - we're beginning with the end in mind.  What type of teenager and young adult to we envision ourselves living with and sending off into the world?  So, with that goal in mind, what actions do we have to take now in order to produce that type of person?  Right now the word "no" is used with us getting down on her level and speaking into her eyes with a firm voice.  There is lots and lots of genuine praise when she follows instructions or makes a good decision.  And when there is a complete meltdown we take a time-out as a family.  Either myself or Craig will take her to the bottom step of the stairs in the entry way (away from most distractions) and we'll just sit, hug and talk calmly into her ear while she wails in an attempt to calm her down.  Sometimes she calms down.....sometimes she doesn't, but she has started to go to that step when she's upset so maybe she is making the connection between that location, feeling out of control and taking a necessary little breather from the situation.  Whatever the case may be, for the most part she minds very well and her meltdowns are few and far between.  BUT we're only at 15 months old so I know there we're just hitting the tip of the iceberg as far as her asserting her independence and making her opinion known.

How do YOU approach discipline with your toddler and do you have any great tricks or tips?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Girl

I'll be honest - for the first year of Natalie's life, I dutifully put together a monthly post all about what she was up to and all the new tricks she had learned.  They were upbeat, positive and raving about my precious little girl.  But most of the time (especially for the first six months) it was a facade....obviously I was protective of this little girl who had been brought into our world but she didn't quite feel like MINE.  Or I guess, in other words, I didn't quite feel like her mother.  I was putting on a show and going through the motions of what I suspected mothers who instantly felt that rush of emotions for their child did.

And here we are at fifteen months old as of June 8th.

This might be the first post where I am fully invested in the words that I write.

I am absolutely infatuated with my daughter.

She has me transfixed on her slightest moves and twitch of her face.  I have become that mother that is entranced by a peacefully slumbering child.  I truly want to capture every moment of her life (good and bad) because I now understand how quickly time can change a newborn to an infant to a toddler.

I have missed enough of her life.  I refuse to miss any more.

She is truly a beautiful little creature that has wandered into my life.  From the concentrated furrow of her eyebrows while coloring at the coffee table with me to the look of surprise and "uh oh" when the unexpected occurs.  The way she moves her toys around in the playroom, not quite in any discernible fashion to the observing adult but in a manner which is obviously important to her.  Although she doesn't quite have the words to explain it, there is always a method to her madness.

I am seeing more and more of myself encapsulated in her tiny frame.  An innate love of water and dogs that is shared by the generations of women in my family.  Or tonight when playing at a friend's home, she didn't want to cook or serve the play food at the plastic kitchen.  No, not my child.  She carefully....methodically....put each cooking utensil, each pot and pan stowed safely and neatly away in the bottom of the kitchen.  Just like she does with Momma when emptying the dishwasher.  Or the pride and determination in her face and demeanor as she struts through the house pushing baby dolls and stuffed animals in a stroller.  But what really gets me about the stroller.........after she puts her baby or animal in the seat but before taking off on an adventure, she delicately gives her creature a kiss on the forehead.  I kiss her every time I put her in her carseat.  Every.  Single.  Time.  She is an observant little thing.

Dolls.  Stuffed animals.  Coloring.  Swimming.  Playing pretend.

These are things I understand.  This is the stuff that my childhood is made of.  Hours spent arranging and rearranging Barbie doll house furniture.  Or taking my Cabbage Patches on fabulous voyages across the world without ever really leaving my white wrought iron day bed.  Summers focused on perfecting my back dive and crawl stroke.....and my tan.  As I watch her at play, I can see the layers of her babyhood shedding off day by day and there is a little girl starting to peek out; MY little girl is peeking out.

She is brave, my girl.  Much braver than I ever was.  She has no fear of strangers and the unknown and instead walks boldly into new experiences and delights in discovery.  Even at fifteen months old, she is teaching me.  Forcing me to step outside of my own comfort zone and make contact and conversation with the woman she just happily waved at.  She is curious and contemplative.  She does not just look but seeks understanding.  Looking from her point of view, there is so much I take for granted.  A tree is a tree to me.  But to her it is all new.  She doesn't know about the soil in which the tree is rooted in.  Roots that lead up to a trunk protected by bark.  A trunk that provides support for the branches which give way to leaves.  And how without the rays from the sun and the rain from the heavens the tree would wither and rot away.  There is so much in the world for her to discover and find enchanting.

A year ago, the amount of knowledge my child had to learn overwhelmed me.  I was consumed with giving my child the best possible advantage in life.  I was determined to not make a mistake in order to not damage her.  Because sometimes there are things out there in that big enchanting world that can destroy sweet little girls like the one I was holding in my arms.  But just as she has gained her footing on this Earth, so have I in parenting her.  I take things step by step.  I protect her from what I can and from what I should at each step in our journey.  But I give her the amount of freedom she needs to grow strong and to be independent.

And strong and independent she is.  And smart and sweet.  And lovely and joyful.

A long time ago I couldn't picture a future for my family with myself in the photograph.  All I envisioned was a little bit lonely and a lot bit sad daddy raising his beautiful daughter all on his own, the best way he knew how.  In my eyes he was the one brushing hair into a ponytail for a basketball game.  There was no hairbow because there was no Momma to put on the finishing touch.  There was no Momma to teach her how to be tough and feminine at the same time.  I saw him completely flustered shopping for prom dresses with an impatient teenager.  A fight ensuing because there wasn't a mother there to help find the right fit, the right jewelry and of course the right shoes.  There were lots of meals spent with take-out and silence because there wasn't a Momma with a love for cooking hanging out in the kitchen and creating conversation at the dinner table.  I know what I bring to my household and I understand my value as a woman, a wife and a mother.  Sure.  If something tragic were to happen, he could manage.  He would gather himself together and raise our daughter to be an amazing woman.  But it wouldn't be better that way.  They need me.  Not just for hairbows, prom dresses and cooking but because of my lightness, my silliness, my compassion, my insight, my creativity, my direction and my ambition.  But above all of it?  They need my love.  My daughter needs me because God chose me to be her mother and raise her to be a wonderful Christian woman.  

In retrospect, I didn't see myself in the future because I wasn't existing in the present.  I was floating up and above my family, my body, my self.  I was so wrapped up in that damn fog.

But........right now?  I'm here.  I'm living in the moment and enjoying my daughter, my husband and even those crazy pups of mine.  I'm soaking in the sweet kisses, hugs and snuggles she freely doles out.  I giggle at her silly faces and expressions.  I relish in her creativity and curiosity.  I take pride in her independence and bravery.  I breathe deeply through her tantrums and tears, fits and foibles.  I have patience with myself and confidence in my abilities.  It's not always pretty raising a toddler, but I've found the groove the fits my family.

I didn't think it would get better.  Honestly.  I didn't.  I really thought that I would forever have a little black fog following me around as I navigated my way through her life.

I cried writing this post.  Sat on my bed with two precious pups next to me while Florence and the Machine sang on the stereo and tears rolled down my cheeks.  It's not the first time tears have fallen on my keyboard while writing about my journey through motherhood.  But it is the first time they are tears of joy.  Tears of relief.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Drive By Posting

- I've been circulating Alex Clare's "Too Close," Florence and the Machine's "Breath of Life" and Ellie Goulding's "Lights" on my iPod lately.  I can't get enough of those songs.

- There was a dance party in my kitchen and living room last night.  All family members participated.

- I do have my moments of brilliance.  The latest one was hiring the fifteen year old girl down the street (who I used to coach) as a "mother's helper" every week this summer for two hours.....or more if we need her during tournament preparation.  I was able to put down nice shelf liner in all the cabinets that we use on a daily basis.  Hopefully next Monday when she is here I will finish the rest of the kitchen and Craig will take those two hours to organize and clean out the garage.

- Craig surprised me with an early birthday present yesterday.  I will be flying out to Seattle on July 10th to see my very best friend Amy for four whole days all by myself!  After I wiped the tears from my eyes when reading my flight itinerary, I started getting a little nervous about leaving Natalie.  This will be the longest I'll have been away from her since she was born.  But then I think about the fact that Amy and I will be visiting my own personal version of Mecca (the original Starbucks) and scouting for vampires and werewolves in Forks, Washington.......and I get excited again.

- Natalie has been to two "gymnastics" classes at the WinKids near our house (kind of like Gymboree) and she definitely gets an A+ in climbing and bravery but probably a C- in following directions.  She is definitely a determined little girl who likes to stick to her own plan.  I don't know where she gets that from.

- My hand is healing up nicely; the wound has closed over and I'll be getting my stitches out Monday.  It's still a little sore at times, kind of like I've pulled a muscle and there is still some numbness in the very tip of my middle finger.  Natalie likes to flip over my  hand and feel my stitches while very seriously saying "boo boo."

- For Father's Day, Natalie is spending tonight at her Grandmama's house while Craig and I go to dinner and a movie.  We're going to see Rock of Ages and Craig, being a teenager during the 80s, is super psyched.

- I've got so many posts saved as drafts that I have to finish up....topics ranging from change, siblings, being 15 months and so much more....but right now since the munchkin is napping, I'm going to catch up on television while I fold laundry and clean up my bedroom.  Exciting stuff, I know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Purposeful and Productive Prayer

The other day I had to break it to my naive little sixth graders - live does not get easier.  I tried to break it to them gently and without invoking a fear of the future, but the fact of the matter's an important life lesson.

I remember growing up that I always thought things would be better once I got to that next stage.  Life would be awesome once I got my driver's license and could cruise out of my house whenever I wanted.  As soon as senior year hit I was ready to move out of the house, into the dorm and live the college lifestyle free of any parental restrictions.  But being broke and having my bank account at the mercy of my parents got old pretty quick and as graduation approached, I was dreaming of living on my own, buying lots of clothes and running around town in a shiny new car.  And that's what I did for two and a half years.  But the fun wore off and as I saw my friends finding REAL contentment as they became engaged, married and for some, even mothers.....I realized that I too yearned to be in that next stage of life where things settled down and became routine.

And here I am.  Married, a mother - the epitome of settled down and routine.

Except that it's not.

Life still throws us curve balls.  Things happen that we can't possibly plan for.  There is struggle and pain.  There is heartache and there are tears.

When God created me, he didn't give me a thick skin.  For whatever reason, a reason I have yet to figure out, he created me in a manner so that I FEEL EVERYTHING.  I am a sensitive person.  I take things to heart and I wear that heart firmly on my sleeve for all to see.  I love deeply and am handsomely rewarded by the intimate friendships that I have in my life.  But this sensitivity also creates intense hurt when loved ones struggle and experience pain or even when love is betrayed, damaged or rejected.

In the past I would cope with pain, worry, fear, unease, stress and all other negative emotions by drinking, shopping, and partying....among other things.  If I didn't have time to sit around my apartment letting my brain wander to things that were unpleasant, then it meant that those bad things and bad emotions didn't exist.  

Needless to say..........that coping mechanism didn't always work.

So now that I'm somewhat of a grown adult, I have been forced to find a different way of working through my anxiety and worry when it comes to the curve balls that life throws at us.  After all, anxiety is a sign that you're not trusting in God and in His plan.  If I can trust in God and pray for the guidance and wisdom that only He can provide, then my Earthly anxieties should be quelled because I have faith in His goodness.

The most surefire thing that I have found that adequately douses out all forms of anxiety and stress in my life is prayer.  Praying for the patience to get through the next five minutes or praying for the health of a friend's child.  Praying for wisdom, guidance and support.  Prayers to help me find the right words to use so that my message comes across clearly and with compassion.  A prayer to help me look beyond the surface and have patience with a struggling student.  Daily prayers that Natalie will grow up happy, healthy, secure and safe.  Continual prayers for the health and well being of all my family and friends.

There is so much in life that is completely out of my control and I cannot possibly protect myself and those that I love from bad things happening to us.  Babies will get sick.  Parents will someday die.  Friends will be in car accidents.

The only way I have found to deal with all my stress, my worry and my anxiety is to pray and truly place it into God's hands.  I used to think that meant giving up and being a sheep but I have found it to be so empowering.  It takes such a weight off of my shoulders that I can focus on being proactive and effective in my real life instead of spending so much time in the foggy haze of anxiety.

I have a dear friend Kate who in addition to being someone I have literally known since birth, she is also Natalie's godmother.  I chose Kate because she is the yin to my yang in a way that is lighthearted, carefree, spirited, mystical........characteristics I would absolutely love to have but find a hard time displaying in my day to day life.  In January Kate gave birth to an adorable little girl named Audrey and we were thrilled with the prospect of our two daughters growing up to be great friends just like we did.

Shortly after Audrey was born, Kate and her husband Karl had an epically rough night where Audrey refused to eat for several hours and subsequently went into a coma-like state.  Scary stuff with a newborn.  Long story short and after MUCH testing and debate, they were sent onto a specialist for more testing and the tentative diagnosis of VLCAD which is essentially a disorder where a person's digestive system cannot break down stored fat for energy leaving ONLY the food in one's stomach for energy.  Basically all of that meant was that for the remainder of Audrey's life she would never be able to have an empty stomach and would be on a very strict diet made up of foods that would maximize the amount of energy her body absorbed.  This also meant that for the time being, Kate and Karl had to feed Audrey on a very strict schedule of EVERY three hours with no rest.  

In addition to fear, worry and exhaustion, there was a sense of loss.  No cupcakes at birthday parties.  No Trick or Treating on Halloween.  And since this is a genetic disorder passed on by the parents....the possibility of no biological siblings as well.

All of this on top of caring for a newborn child and adjusting to the new roles of parenting.

It was a curveball.

And the only answer was prayer.  Lots and lots of prayers for a cure, a misdiagnosis, a lesser form of the disease.  

I prayed for their marriage.  I prayed for courage and strength for Kate.  I promised no sweet treats for Natalie when Audrey was around.  I prayed for the silver lining to the clouds that my friend was experiencing.  There had to be a greater lesson - something BIGGER that was to come out of all this.

I believe it was in April sometime when I saw the missed call and voicemail from Kate.  I listened intently to what she had said.  And then I had to listen again.  

And then I screeched.

All the testing that Audrey had undergone to clearly define and diagnose the extent of her VLCAD?  Came back negative.  She is one perfectly healthy and happy little girl.  

I was absolutely stunned.  Overjoyed and excited.  But stunned at the power of prayer.  Those results were better than anything I (or Kate) had allowed ourselves to hope for.  

There it was right in front of me.  The power of prayer and the evidence of a little miracle.  A little miracle with soft reddish fuzzy hair, big brown eyes that are always alert and skinny legs that are constantly moving.

I look at my own life and see the outcomes of my prayers - the character of my husband, the strength of my marriage, the health and vitality of my daughter, and the grace and wisdom I am gaining each and every day.

Life as an adult can get overwhelming.  At times it's hard, messy and ugly.  And for those of us that were created a little more sensitive than the rest, all that ugliness can be shattering and debilitating.  By giving up control of the situation and putting it all into God's hands and trusting the plan that He illuminates for me, I am actually able to feel more in control of my life and emotions here on Earth which make me much more productive and helpful during those stressful situations.  

I want Natalie to understand that someday......her life will get ugly too.  Things will happen to her that neither Craig nor myself will be able to protect her from.  And in those darkest moments (and then once back in the light as well) I hope that she will be able to call on God to help quell her anxiety as well.  My goal as her mother is not only to create a self-sufficient adult but a devoted lifelong child of God as well. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Family Photos

Here are a ton of the wonderful family photos that we took at the beginning of May - I feel like Natalie has already grown up so much since these were taken.

She loves balloons!

So excited - I got her little outfit at Old Navy!  So cute and so cheap!

And of course she had to wear her turquoise jelly sandals.

Loving on her Ajax dog.

I think this is the one that I'm going to get framed for the living room.

Love this one.

Ha!  We told her to hold up the sign and she certainly followed directions!

My big girl.

Showing off all her teeth!

I know I'm partial.....but she sure is a beautiful child.

And full of personality as well.

Natalie, me and my mother who came along to help wrangle the pups and Natalie.

They're both so silly.

I'm framing this one for Father's Day for Craig.

And of course we couldn't forget about my four legged fur babies.

Like mother like daughter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Out of Commission

For once, I've got the time (summer vacation), little to no distractions (Natalie is with my parents) and tons of great blog posts saved as drafts that are ready for me to complete. Time to get down and dirty with thinking, writing and publishing, right?


Because THIS happened this morning.

I've been wrestling with a cyst on my hand since late February. I had it drained in April but it came back pretty quick so Craig a I decided to just get it cut out of my hand. This morning Natalie, Craig and I met my parents at a local surgery center and after a short 45 minute hand was bandaged and we were on our way home! Natalie is staying with my parents tonight and they'll bring her back tomorrow afternoon and my mother in law is bringing a delicious roast beef to us for dinner since I'm obviously not cooking.

I chose to have a local anesthetic with a bit of sedation so I actually slept through it all. The pain hasn't been too bad but its starting to ramp up as the numbing medicine runs out. It wasn't a life or death surgery but the cyst was very painful...hurt to touch or grab things and excruciating when I dove for a volleyball and landed on it. In the past week as it got larger and larger, my hand hurt like I had a bad case of arthritis and I was taking lots of Advil and even some Vicodin to go to sleep.

Needless to say, I'm glad I got it removed because it was painful and annoying. I've got two great four legged nurses laying right by my side just in case I need to "rehab" my hand by petting them. Ha! Anyways. Hopefully by early next week I will be back to the blogging/typing world. I've got lots to talk update on Natalie's doctors visits and her first "gymnastics" class!

In the meantime....I'm going to catch up on all my DVR and maybe work my way through some Harry Potter movies!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Here's a weekly insight into my life and a chance for me to debrief my own brain and sort out my thoughts.

This is where you can find other daybookers.

Outside my window...a little cloudy, a little sunny but a lot humid.  Yuck.

I am thinking...of the magnitude of God's creativity when creating people.  Yesterday I was at a friend's daughter's first birthday party and there were tons of little girls running around and I couldn't help but be in wonder of the uniqueness of each individual child.  And then multiply that times six billion for every person on this planet.

I am thankful...that Natalie has settled down into a better napping schedule.  She goes down relatively easy and then sleeps for at least an hour, if not more if she's really worn out.

In the kitchen...I'm making pot roast for dinner tonight and we had a penne pasta bake last night.  I think I might attempt to bake cookies with Natalie this afternoon - she "helped" make pancakes last weekend and quite frankly....involving her in the cooking is much easier than fighting the battle of keeping her out of the drawers and cabinets.

I am shorts from Old Navy, blue gauzy tank top from Ann Taylor Loft, lightweight white button up sweater from Target.

I am creating...a giant summer Honey-Do list for Craig.  I have always hated the idea of a "Honey-Do" list because of what it implies - that I'm just cracking the whip and bossing Craig around when I could be doing all those things myself.  BUT....there are certain areas of the house where his junk is laying around that do need to be organized and cleaned up.  THAT kind of stuff I'm okay with putting on a list for him to complete.

I am be spending lots of time in doctor's offices this week - the eye doctor for me, taking Natalie to the hematologist AND an ENT..........oh and my hand surgery on Friday.

I am wondering...what the above mentioned doctor's will have to say about Natalie's ears (there is the possibility of tubes) and her low iron count (anemia?).  I just have to say - thank goodness we've already met our deductible.

I am reading...The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells (who also wrote Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood).  So far it is VERY good and I've already shed a few tears.  She is one of my most favorite authors by far mainly because all her stories are set in Louisiana, the themes usually focus around the intimate relationships between women (mothers, daughters, best friends) and her female protagonists are always strong and spirited.  

I am hoping...that the surgery for my hand goes well and that the recovery time isn't too terrible.

I am looking forward to...Natalie figuring out that 5:30 is not always the best time to wake up during the summer.

I am get a lot accomplished during nap time.

Around the house...I've started on my summer cleaning and reorganization list - yesterday I cajoled Craig into rearranging the cabinets and we got rid of a TON of dishes and cups that we don't use anymore.  I also cleaned off the "junk" area of our kitchen and put all the bills and office supplies hidden away in a cabinet.  Now.  If I can just get Craig to STAY organized.

One of my favorite things...watching Natalie have so much fun in the bounce house yesterday at a birthday party.  She really has no fear when it comes to trying new things.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Lots of doctor appointments but I do have my last night of volleyball on Wednesday and Natalie's first "gym" class on Thursday morning with my friend Jill and her daughter Joley.

A picture I'm sharing: Just a glimpse into our family/one year photo session that we had at the beginning of May.  
Passing on the love of Converse to my daughter.