2016 is here!

I love this time of year when everyone is doing “best of” and “countdown” shows and blog posts. It’s fun to look back over the year and remember the highlights.

I’ve not been good at keeping track of favorites, but these are a few that come to mind right away.

  • Simply Tuesday (book) — I’m 3/4 through this one and I feel like I need to buy a copy for myself instead of borrowing it from the library, just to laminate some pages and put them around the house. There’s a certain portion of the book that I’ve read over and over because it hits such a good spot in my soul. It’s inspiring, healing, freeing and empowering. The whole book is full of things to re-read again and again.
  • Jessica Flannigan on The Lively Show (podcast) — This episode with its theme of being “intentionally average” really stuck with me.  Her encouragement to focus on a few important things (and be okay with average instead of amazing) was perfect for me. I listened to it in the same season that I heard Andy J. Miller’s episode Do Less More Better and I was really digging the theme of specializing and using my time & energy on only the things that matter. I think I read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” around that time too. Now that I think about it, I did start out 2015 with the goal to Just Do One Thing. Sounds like I might as well hang on to that goal for 2016 too.
  • Enjoying the Small Things, Micha Boyett, Orangette, Addie Zierman and Sprouted Kitchen (blogs) — all of these women have been staples in my soul-food diet. They always make my day better.
  • Mommy-daughter dates (family) — These were a big highlight this year. I love taking my girl to get a snack or drink and bringing it to a park or the boardwalk, or sitting in the car by the water, depending on the weather. We’ve had so many little dates and it gets more and more fun the older she gets. Right now she loves to dance around on the wood floor of our favorite cafe after she’s done with her muffin or cookie, and while we’re there she’s the official greeter to anyone who comes or goes.
  • Time as a family in Europe (travel) — Sometimes I can’t really believe that we all made it to Vienna and Split last year! I love thinking about the new memories we made and the good conversations we had with friends. The word that summed it up for me was “encouraging.” It was definitely worth every penny and every minute I spent working for it.  I can’t wait to go back again some time with just the two of us so we can have different adventures and see new things without the special needs of a small traveler and a pregnant woman.
  • Fun at work (career) — Tidy Little Office had a great second year and I felt like I found a bit of a routine. I love this job so much. This year I’d like to get my schedule a little more solid and dependable, maybe in the fall when baby boy has some structure.
  • Baby boy! (family) — Another milestone for 2015. We really were looking forward to either a boy or a girl (and my first reaction to the boy was a small moment of panic). I’m so glad we were able to find out this time! It’s awesome to feel him moving around (so active but not nearly as strong as the Bluebird) and to talk to him as my son – he’s usually “little buddy” or “Lefty” or “brother.” Still haven’t landed on an official nickname. But we’re so excited to have a boy in the mix with Ana and I’m pretty sure she’s gonna love growing up with a brother.
  • Less debt (finances) — Even with the big trip and the untimely death of our recently purchased truck, we still managed to pay off a lot of debt. It’s exciting to think about the freedom we’ll have next year when we’re not putting so many of our resources into paying it off. Good Cop is an amazing partner when it comes to that stuff.
  • Deeper friendship (relationships) — Going through a dark valley with a friend really brings out the truth about your friendship. 2015 brought an unexpected death of a son within our circle of close friends, and it changed all of us. I ended the year feeling grateful that I have friends who’ll be there for me in the hard times, and with new memories of how God is there with us in the darkness.

There are so many highlights that come to mind the longer I think about it, but I’ve been working on this post for six days already so it’s time to move on. Welcome to the new year!



Dinner prayers, yeah

Bluebird, darling, you’re in another charming stage. You’ve really mastered the art of responding to questions or comments with a “yeah” or “no” depending on how you feel (or how you guess you’re supposed to respond based on our context). It’s pretty adorable to see you thinking for yourself and replying out loud with the right tone of voice. This afternoon you were talking with Daddy about your morning with me and you replied to each question so casually, laying on your tummy kicking your heels together, all grown up. But you still have a sweet baby voice and way of saying your words. We love all of it.

For a long time now Daddy has been taking your hand when we pray for dinner. This week for the first time you initiated it as soon as he sat down in his chair. I completely misread your outstretched arm and thought you were reaching for something on the table. Daddy knew right away. He grabbed your hand and my hand and we prayed for dinner. It was one of those milestone moments for us as parents and we both smiled so big. You might not understand what we’re doing but you know that we always do it together. We can’t wait until you have the words to pray out loud with us.

Another milestone moment came this morning when I asked you for a Kleenex. I didn’t think you’d actually do it, because I didn’t think you knew what a Kleenex was. But you stopped, looked around the room, and walked right over to pick one out of the box! Then you brought it to me! It was such a little thing but it was so cute (and so helpful). I love the ways you’re starting to understand and do things on your own.

In just two days we get to find out if you’re getting a little brother or a little sister. We’re so excited! If it’s a boy it’ll be fun to learn a whole new way of looking at the world and I’ll be so excited to get little boy clothes. If it’s a girl it’ll be fun to watch you two and see how you’re the same and different, and to see another baby in the clothes that were so cute on you. Either way we’re happy that we get to add this new person to our family. I think you’ll handle it as well as any two year old can; you’ll probably find it hard to give up your one-on-two time with us and you’ll probably go back to acting babyish in some ways. But I hope there are some things you enjoy about the baby right away. Maybe you’ll like bringing us a clean diaper, or maybe you’ll like sharing a stuffed animal. I’m almost certain you’ll love pointing out the baby’s eyes, chest, and belly. You really love naming those body parts on yourself and us.

You know what else has been amazing lately? Your potty learning is awesome! Today you had just three diapers for the whole day. That is incredible. You don’t have any trouble going potty in new places, and as long as we initiate the visit to the bathroom at the right time, you’re great at keeping your diaper dry and clean. You even had dry diapers for both naps yesterday. I’m so proud of you. We spend a lot of time reading books on the potty and you love it. When we give you high fives or clap our hands after you go, you just beam. You’re adorable. I’m a little torn over when to switch you to little-girl undies — part of me thinks you’d like the freedom and simplicity of them, but part of me knows that you’re not quite coordinated enough yet to pull your pants down anyway so I might as well enjoy your cute diapers for a while. Maybe when you start initiating the bathroom visits we can make the big switch. For now you can still hang on to that little bit of baby.

The Christmas tree is up and you definitely have favorite ornaments. The little nest with three blue eggs is often in your hands instead of on the tree. You just love taking off all the ornaments you can reach and piling them on the couch. This week you learned to say a new word: “mess.” As in, don’t make a mess of the dogs’ water, don’t make a mess with the ornaments, don’t put your food in your hair and make a mess. You say it so confidently. “A mess!” Yes, dear. A mess. Please don’t make a mess. Please help me clean up the mess.

We can’t get enough of you, little girl. You have our hearts always and forever. Thanks for loving us back. Your kisses are the sweetest.


Refugees and terrorists

This week I’ve been so annoyed, frustrated and embarrassed by the push to reevaluate the refugees who are coming here. I tried to stay quiet but last night I couldn’t fall asleep without saying something on Facebook. But that’s hardly the best place for a discussion about something that has so many facets and touches so many nerves.

Again, like it is for so many political and social issues, the part that really bugs me is the disproportionate fear that’s driving the whole reaction. The fear! Let me tell you what I fear for me and my family, roughly in order of the time I spend thinking about it:

  1. Cancer
  2. Car accidents
  3. People who target my husband because of his job
  4. Climate change
  5. Large-scale cyber attacks

Terrorists who infiltrate the legal refugee system are nowhere on my list! I’ve helped resettle several refugee families over the last few years and the process of arriving here is cumbersome, slow, and complicated. If your goal as a terrorist is to simply stay for a little while to plan an attack and then die while you carry it out, it makes no sense to go through layers and layers of screening, live in terrible conditions, and wait in line for a lottery that may or may not get you here after a year or two. There are so many quick options to get here. Refugee status is not one of them.

And then there are the arguments that their neighbors don’t even want to take them in, so we should take our cue from them. Do you know who their neighbors are? Friendly neighbors, like Lebanon and Jordan, are limping along as they try to help the masses of refugees that have come to them for help. Unfriendly neighbors are just that. Unfriendly places! Since when do we base our morals and our political action on the example of those unfriendly states? Why are we suddenly looking at the Gulf states as if they “know something that we don’t?”  These countries have serious human rights violations. They are not the model we want to work from.

And then there are the numbers. We agreed to take 10,000 Syrian refugees. That sounds like an awfully small number to me. We’re the best, most generous, most resourceful country in the world and we offer to take 10,000 of the 4,200,000 registered refugees from Syria? Overall we’re accepting 85,000 refugees from the 19,500,000 worldwide. The percentage is so small it’s not worth calculating.

And then Jesus. That dude is always going against the flow when it comes to self-preservation and generosity, isn’t he? Our overwhelming desire to protect ourselves, not put ourselves out, or take any risks is problematic when the Bible is full of commands from start to finish to love the foreigner and the oppressed, to welcome them, to live peaceably with them, and to help them. Why are Christians so concerned about safeguarding their families and their resources? I thought we were supposed to store our treasures in heaven, to turn the other cheek, to offer grace (or maybe even love?) to our enemies. I truly don’t understand the fear expressed by Jesus followers lately. Our government has taken so many steps to make us safe in the refugee process, even low-balling our ability to take refugees. We don’t need to freak out. We are not our own protectors. God is our protector.

This week I’ve been thinking often of the refugees and migrants I saw two months ago in Vienna. Families with very small children were sleeping on a cold floor with just some cardboard underneath them. Elderly people were sleeping in the same conditions. So many people, so many stories, so much heartache. Refugees are not moving across continents willy-nilly for the fun of it. They are escaping such terrible circumstances at home that the possibility of an uncertain future in Europe or North America is the wisest choice they can think of. What would you want the world to say if you were the refugee? What would you want them to do if you had left your three-bedroom ranch, the door frame with the heights of your kids, the scratched dining room table where you had homework and meals, the deck where you grilled burgers and ate watermelon? What if you were the one traveling with your possessions and your kids on your back? What if you were sleeping in a makeshift camp this winter?

I don’t have this thing figured out in my life. I understand how scary it is to give sacrificially. My generosity could use some serious beefing up. But this thing, these people, they’re not requiring much sacrificial giving from us. We can help them. We can be brave and kind if we want to. We can be remembered for our love instead of our fear.

New memories

October 9

The last three weeks have been so memorable, so out-of-the-ordinary. We traveled all over Vienna and Split with our little foursome on buses, trams, subways and car. Oh, and on our feet — logging so many steps every day it would have put us at the top for any FitBit challenge. We all walked and walked and walked! Even Ana, the intrepid world traveler, explored historic parks and toddled down ancient streets next to us when we had time to walk slowly. All in all she was a champ.

The air travel was plain hard, no way to sugarcoat that. She was not a fan of sitting still and she was overtired and didn’t sleep much. She did scream a lot. We bribed her with warm milk, cool water, tomato juice, pop, chocolate, cookies, apples, cheese, crackers, new toys, the air vents in the ceiling, peekaboo with the passengers behind us, our phones, my purse, my wallet, and my keys. We medicated her. And still there were many hours of misery for everyone. But we made it and all the planes landed eventually! I’m looking forward to never traveling in a plane with her again until she’s able to swear that she’ll behave nicely.

Really, though, she did as well as we expected. And once we got settled into our room in Vienna she was a pretty great kid for the whole trip. We all struggled with jet lag and middle-of-the-night crying for about a week but during the day she took naps, went on adventures with us, and ate mostly whatever we were eating. She made friends with strangers everywhere. She was fearless and curious about everything, and she loved walking on her own to discover new things. We followed her around Vienna and Split and watched her make people smile as she greeted everyone brightly. “Hi! Hi!”

Good Cop was an amazing travel partner, for real. He got Ana calm more than a few times on the planes and he took all the changes and new experiences in stride. I knew he would be great. He loved seeing all the history and the different ways of doing things. I think it was a pretty good first trip to Europe, especially since he got to see both a cool-blooded well organized city and a warm-blooded very relaxed city. I love traveling with him for all the memories we make and for all the extra time we have together. (However, the 24-7 with Anastasia for two whole weeks in close quarters was a bit draining and we were so happy to have a date when we got home! Thanks, Mom!)

For me it was fantastic to revisit Split and meet up with my old friends again. I had prepared myself to feel like an outsider since it’d been so long since I lived there, and since I’ve changed so much again in the last four years of being a wife and mom. But it just felt good. After being in Vienna for three days and not understanding the language or having a good idea of how the city was laid out, I felt so much freedom when we landed in Split. I knew how to get where we were going, I could communicate with people, and I knew where we were all the time. It was great! But then to be able to talk with friends every day and get caught up on the last five years — that was awesome. Everyone has changed, obviously, but there wasn’t one friendship that felt awkward or strained. Facebook helps with that, I’m sure. But it also helps that I got to know some of the most amazing people in Split when I lived there.

Being 7-9 weeks pregnant on the trip added an interesting layer. I was so exhausted by 8 pm, and usually asleep before 9. That helped with the jet lag. Thankfully the nausea backed off a little while we were there and I didn’t feel too yucky as long as I kept eating snacks and had big meals a couple times a day. (As soon as we got home it got a lot worse. I think God was answering prayers for a good trip!) There are some great foods to crave in Europe! One particular sandwich was amazing. I wish we could replicate it here. But aside from being wiped out and having to pace ourselves more than usual, it wasn’t bad. I’m glad we got to tell some friends in person. That was fun! And it really helped this first trimester fly by; in just a few days we’ll have our 11-week ultrasound and then finally we can tell everyone here! I’m really looking forward to that. It’s nice that we can tell this baby that they were on this trip with us.

It is so good to be home. That was something I took away from this trip: that we’re in the right place for this season of life. It was right to visit and encourage our friends, and it’s right for us to be here in our current jobs for now. I think the biggest benefit from being there is knowing how to pray for each of them now. There’s only so much you can gather from a prayer letter or Facebook posts. It’s so different to be in the same room, face to face. Since we got home a week ago I’ve been thinking of each of them more often and it’s nice to know what they have on the calendar, what their daily schedule is like, or what kind of needs they have right now. I don’t know when we’ll be able to be together again but it was a gift to have this experience!

A Big Adventure

We’re going on a big adventure soon! The three of us are visiting our friends in Vienna and Split (Croatia)! My head is spinning this week with all the final checklists and purchases, and I often get lost in daydreams about European coffee and the smell of the end-of-summer Adriatic. I can almost taste and feel the grainy, salty powder on my skin after a swim. It’s surreal that we’re able to take this trip together after I dreamed about it for so long. I finally get to go back to my second home with my husband and daughter in tow! I’m so thankful for my job and our church, the two things that are making it possible.

It’s been five years since I was in Split, and 11 years since I moved there the first time. I’ve been thinking about how I’ve changed since then. Really, living in Split formed my identity as an adult more than any other one thing so far. If I had to compare, I’d say that before I lived there I was like a nice little knitted blanket made from a few hundred bits of yarn. Lots of experiences, but pretty soft and safe. After I lived there I was like a giant quilt with a million small pieces, a stained-glass concoction of cultures, ideas, friendships and dreams. And inside the quilt is a layer of Kevlar. After all the shifting and jostling of the first few years – the uncomfortable work of rearranging myself and discovering who I was created to be – I came away with a strong, flexible core. Life can change and circumstances evolve, but I know who I am and what’s important to me. Now I get to share that history with Good Cop and the Bluebird. That’s amazing.

I was admiring the fabric of Alison Glass last night. This is the kind of quilt I’m thinking of! So gorgeous.


The perfect quilt to showcase this fabric, by Carole Lyles Shaw

We’re nervous about a few things, mostly related to traveling with a toddler. These are long flights and she’s a very active girl. But she’s also enamored with people and tends to be observant and quiet in new situations, so it could work out well. I’m trying not to spend much more time worrying about it. We’ll have our bag of tricks and if all else fails, we’ll just put up with a fussy kid for a while. The plane has to land eventually. As for sleeping in the same room for roughly two weeks, I’m not so sure what bag of tricks can help. We might get used to being tired. :)

I’ve been following the refugee crisis in Europe more closely the last few weeks, especially since so much is happening in Vienna. We might be able to help out with some of the organizations that are providing food & shelter. At the least it will be good to be there, rubbing shoulders with refugees and praying for them, seeing their faces next to ours and taking up the same space together. Although I’ve had several friends here who were refugees, it’s still hard to put myself in their shoes; to be so desperate that it’s better for me to leave my house and travel so far with so little, just to look for a place to start over. This is such an opportunity to show grace and love, and to ask for God’s wisdom in such complicated situations. Since I was little I’ve been drawn to the complexity of life. Rarely can you find an issue that has only one right perspective. I’m a big fan of “sometimes” and “maybe,” but “always” and “never” make me cringe. Just another piece of my crazy quilt, I guess. I’m looking forward to hearing more sides to this story while we’re there.

Dear little bird

September 6

Sweet tiny baby, just barely more than a few cells put together, and still you’ve burrowed into my heart for always.

You are a new thing, a thing I wasn’t expecting but was starting to hope for (you’ll learn that hoping and expecting are two very different things) and you are a gift. For a few months now Daddy and I were thinking that you might show up eventually. In the beginning when we were talking about you and when we might be ready for you, I was hesitant and anxious. I didn’t feel ready for you at all. Life has been full of so many changes since your big sis got here and I’m just now starting to relax into our daily routines. Even with those routines, it still feels messy and overwhelming, like I’m never doing exactly what I should be doing. It didn’t seem like adding you to the mix would be a good idea for anyone. But I started talking to God about that and he said I should trust that he knows all of it, and he’ll take care of it. One day a little while later I realized that I wasn’t so worried any more. Then another day I realized that I was looking forward to you. And eventually I got to feeling like my heart would be ready for you whenever you came, even if my life and my routine wasn’t ready. So that’s where I was last Thursday morning, living life with your daddy and big sis and waiting patiently for you. I was happy to keep waiting for a while just to give all of us some more time to grow up and settle down, but I was also starting to think about all your newborn babyness, your soft smell, your first smiles, your amazing grow-so-fast first year.

So on that Thursday morning when Daddy got home from work and I was still a bit “late” (you don’t need to understand that part until you’re older) I took a test and didn’t read it. I left it for Daddy to read before he came to bed. I don’t know why I did that; I really didn’t think it would say anything except “try again next month.” I had been taking tests every month for a while without waiting for him. I don’t know why this time was different. I went back to our bed and was playing with your big sis while Daddy brushed his teeth or something. He asked me, “What is it supposed to be?” I said, “Two lines if it’s positive, one line for negative.” He was quiet, and I figured there was just one line. “There are two lines.”

I was still in the bedroom and he was still in the bathroom across the hall.
“There’s a faint line and a dark line. What does that mean?”
“Wow. It means it’s positive.”
I was so shocked! I got up to look at it. Sure enough there was a little faint line, just a hint that you were here. For real. We all got back in bed together and I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe it. I’m pregnant. I wonder if it will stick.’ Babies are fragile things especially in the very beginning, and we knew the odds. Daddy said he hoped you would stick too. Your big sis was probably bouncing around as usual, climbing everywhere and almost falling off the bed every 15 seconds, throwing herself on top of us for kisses and wrestling. I don’t really remember what we said but I do remember saying, “Now I feel sick.” It was pretty surprising.

For the next couple of days I kept waiting for something bad to happen, for you to start leaving us. I took more tests every day and every day your little line got darker. It got to be as dark as could be and gradually I started thinking that you were going to stay with us. You made me so happy by sticking around!

And here we are, still together a week and a half later, thinking about how to tell our family and friends. We’re more and more excited to meet you every day! I’m still anxious and hesitant about adding you to the mix, but not like before. I’m hoping that you’re a much more content, happy and rested baby. It would be tough if you were as difficult as your sister was, and I try not to think about that. But we’ll manage either way. I’m so curious to find out who you are, what you look like, and what kind of personality you’ll have. Now that I know how addicting it is to learn about your baby, I’m even more excited to meet you than I was to meet your sister.

She’s going to be such a fun sister! She’ll be wild and crazy, full of ideas and energy, and probably pretty protective. I imagine she’ll also beat you up, pull your hair and pinch you. Sorry about that. She’s a firecracker and she’s amazing. You’ll probably adore her and get annoyed with her just as much as we do.

So little bird, you need a nickname. Daddy and I have been looking through a bunch of birds and haven’t settled on just the right one yet. I suppose you don’t need to have a bird nickname but I like themes and things that match. We’ll see!

I love you, tiny babe. We’re praying that you grow healthy and strong and that I’m a safe place for you until you grow big enough to live out here with all of us. Welcome to our crazy, happy house!

Stasia, 14 months

Girly, you have been coming into your new abilities and making so many decisions for yourself this month! You started walking all the time right around July 20. With you, it’s hard to pinpoint specific milestones because you take quite a long time to practice everything. But right around then you started to have fun walking instead of just doing it for the challenge. Now you like to walk everywhere, especially sidewalks and parking lots. Yesterday as we all walked into church together Daddy reached down to hold your hand (you’re still a bit wobbly) and you shook him away like he was a bothersome fly. Oh, you independent girl! You are so strong and determined. We knew that all along, of course, but the older you get the more tools you have to show us exactly how strong you are. You can pull the curtain down just to see my reaction. You can stick your hands in the toilet while you watch to see how fast I’ll pull you out. You can say “NO!” and walk away, you can pull my hair, you can grab at our glasses and fling them, and you can make a dramatic scene lying on the floor screaming and kicking. This morning you pulled that trick because you didn’t like me asking if you needed to go potty. After a few seconds of flailing you turned your head to see if I was looking at you. Silly, right? Neither of us thought it was silly in the moment but we held it together and soon you came back for another bite of blueberries & yogurt.

Speaking of the potty, you’re doing much better than I expected! When we started putting you on the potty at eight months I thought it might be a mistake and that it would just be more work. And it is more work some days, but most of the time it’s awesome. Sometimes you do so well that you have a dry diaper for a whole afternoon. You’ve even started walking yourself to the bathroom when you need to go. You’re definitely not consistent and you do this part of life in fits and spurts like you do everything else, but you’re really doing great altogether. It is so nice to cut down on the dirty diapers we have to change. I’m really proud of you. I don’t know if you’ll be fully potty trained before you’re two, but you’ll certainly be close if you keep up this pattern. I’ve started looking at little tiny underwear and it makes you seem so grown up. You can stay in your cute cloth diapers for a while. I still have some dream diapers on my wish list and I don’t want you to outgrow them before I get to buy them!

You’ve been extra passionate lately and quite grumpy. I think you’ve been working on a bunch of new teeth and you’re always dealing with a sore mouth. It’s been keeping you from sleeping through the night sometimes and it makes me anxious and edgy. I hate not knowing when you’ll feel better so we can have our happy, fun girl back again. Once in a while you seem to get a break from the teething and you have an easy day. Those are so nice. But mostly you have a sassy attitude right under the surface and I don’t have much patience for it. I don’t like being so impatient with you, and I don’t like it that you can make me so angry. Yesterday we were playing on the floor and I did something you didn’t like, so you reached up and pulled my hair really hard. I had to walk away because I was so mad! It’s crazy! You’re really making me think hard about the best way to thrive together; you need to learn how to direct all that passion and independence into good things, and I need to learn how to help you do that without losing my head. It’s easy to get discouraged when I picture the two of us being so frustrated with each other forever. But now that you’re into your second year, I’ve learned about your seasons and how you never stay the same for more than a few weeks. I have a hunch that we’ll be getting along a lot better when you’ve got these teeth in and you’re back to yourself.

When you’re having a good moment you can be 100% charming. Now that you can walk, you like to pick out the book that you want to read together and you bring it over to me. Yesterday you put the book down in my lap and I swear you said “read the book!” I was so surprised! So we read the book. Sometimes you sit on my lap for a whole book, but usually you climb out and crawl all over the couch after a few pages. I know you’re still listening because sometimes you come over to turn the page back to the one you really like. You definitely have favorite pages in every book. It’s cute to see you flipping through the book to find it. When you get there you stop and study it, or sometimes you make the noise that goes along with it.

You also come over to give hugs from behind when Daddy or I are on the floor with you. You spread your arms wide, sing a little crescendo “ahhhhhh”, and wobble-crash into our back, laying your head on our shoulders. Just for a split second though. You’re not much of a snuggle bug now except in the middle of the night when your teeth wake you up. We love those backward hugs! It’s so nice that you can initiate affection now that you’re older. You’ll even give an open-mouthed kiss if we catch you at the right moment and you’re in the mood for it. Those are super cute.

Dirt and wood chips always make you happy. Wherever we go outside you try to find something you can sift through your fingers. You love little stones, sand, bark and black dirt. It’s nice that you don’t try to eat them very often now, and you’re happy to just pick up a handful and let it slip out again, over and over. We love the way you enjoy the outdoors. If you could spend hours and hours of your playtime outside when you’re older, the way we did, we would be so happy.

In a few days you’ll be 15 months already. Since you started walking it feels like you’re not much of a baby anymore. Everyone said, “Don’t wish for her to walk, it just makes life harder!” But I love it that you can walk. I just miss the babyness of you. Your legs are getting stronger and slimmer, your tummy is losing some roundness, and your face is shifting more every day from chubby cheeks to girlish cheekbones. You’re so tall, it’s easy to mistake you for a much older toddler. I try to keep you in babyish clothes as often as I can, but it’s hard to fool you. You seem to have such grown up ideas about life; you’re like a preschooler minus the talking. Slow down and enjoy this moment, baby girl! It’s okay to be little.

Next month we take our first huge adventure as a family. You’re going to Europe, Bluebird! I still can’t believe that we get to visit my old home all together. You’re going to fly on a plane for a very long time and I’m trying not to worry too much about that. You don’t sit still for more than three minutes. Actually, a minute is probably pushing it. You don’t cuddle, you don’t like being quiet, and you love to wander. Traveling on planes is going to be interesting. But I’m so excited to be over there with you and Daddy! There are so many beautiful places to visit, so much delicious food to eat, so many wonderful people to know. I think you’ll have a good time with us. I just hope that you don’t have too much jet lag and that we can learn how to sleep well together in the same room. It hasn’t gone well on other vacations, but there’s always a first time for everything!

I love you through and through, Anastasia. I say the words from that book to you every time I put you to bed, for nap or for night. It’s true that I love everything about you even when I’m frustrated. I love making memories with you and watching you grow up. You’re our girl, Daddy’s honey-stasia, my little love. Thanks for taking a long nap this morning so I could write. And thanks for still being a two-nap girl. You can do that for a while if you want to. The quiet is good for both of us.

Summer nights

Overall it’s been such a fun summer – so different than last year when I was trying to figure out the newborn Bluebird and how to merge the old life and new life. This year she’s so funny, passionate and smart. She loves being outside and doing things with us. I love being her mom and the having all of these new experiences with her. I’m still trying to figure out how to merge the old life and the new life and mostly it feels like I’m not very successful. Weeks like this make it really apparent that things are so different now. I’m so different now.

One of my best friends lost her son on Monday afternoon. I saw the news headline about a horrible car accident that evening but didn’t know that it was our friends. I went to bed that night and then about 20 minutes later Good Cop came into the room with his phone, pointing to the screen. The names had been released and it was our friends’ kids, their daughter driving and their son in the back, and a terrible multi-car crash caused by a distracted driver. And their son was gone. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. It couldn’t be true – we had just seen all of them in the park, alive and smiling. I still can’t wrap my head around it today. I’m thinking in circles all day and night, round and round to go over the same things and hoping for a new result. There is just no making sense of it.

Mostly I just feel scared. I’m scared for my friends and the pain they’ll have for the rest of their lives. They will always walk with a limp no matter how much time passes. I don’t know how parents survive after losing their child. I know that they do, but I don’t know how, except for the grace of God. But I’m also scared of God. Every time I experience suffering firsthand or in the lives of people I love, I reconsider my theology. Eventually I always come to a place of trust that God is loving and he is near to the broken-hearted, but beyond that I don’t have a tight grip on anything. I have a very hard time believing that things like this are part of his perfect plan. I hear that often from people that are close to him, but it’s hard to agree. For sure, he knew that it would happen, and for sure he is capable of preventing it. And I can agree that he allows it. But to say that it was part of his plan implies that he intended it to happen, and I don’t think I can go there. He can use it and he’ll incorporate it into the plan of redemption and wholeness, but how can he initiate something like this? I feel like a weak Christian for not believing that he plans it all, good and bad. I have a hard enough time getting my heart to trust a God that allows suffering; I don’t think I have the stomach to trust one that causes horrible things like losing a child. For me there’s a big difference between causing it and allowing it. I guess in the long run it doesn’t matter because I trust him either way, whether he only allows it or actually causes it.

I don’t know. I’m not a theologian and I can hardly gather enough brain cells to pray coherently right now.

May God, who puts all things together,
    makes all things whole,
Who made a lasting mark through the sacrifice of Jesus,
    the sacrifice of blood that sealed the eternal covenant,
Who led Jesus, our Great Shepherd,
    up and alive from the dead,
Now put you together, provide you
    with everything you need to please him,
Make us into what gives him most pleasure,
    by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah.
All glory to Jesus forever and always!
    Oh, yes, yes, yes.

The other thing that makes me scared (aside from the pain of my friends and my trust in God) is knowing that we can lose our child just as easily. Or our spouse, or our parent or sibling or friend. Weeks like this make me want to stay home and do nothing except the basics. Limit the risks of accidents or sickness and protect ourselves as much as we can. I want to make a bargain with God that if I do such-and-such, he’ll keep all my people safe. But that’s not how it works, and it’s no way to live. That’s just fear. Fear is such a strong motivator! It gives you a feeling of control but it takes away your freedom to love. So I’m trying not to let my fear make the decisions this month.

And then there’s the biggest thing that makes me scared: not being able to be the friend that she’ll need. It’s selfish to think that way because it’s not about me right now. But I so want to be the right kind of friend. I want to be the first call, the one with the stuff to help her survive, the safe place to vent. I feel really guilty for getting hung up on that and I’m surprised by how much I’m thinking about it. I didn’t want to write about it. It is what it is, I guess – maybe this is how I’m trying to fix everything and get some control over these things that won’t be controlled. This week really highlighted how different life is now since the Bluebird got here. So much of what makes a deep friendship (spontaneity, time, long conversations, shared memories) is out of reach right now. No matter how I try to work around the potholes of my schedule, my baby, my emotional capacity, and my physical distance, the road is still awfully rough. I feel so tentative in my friendships. Not sure if I’m still welcomed if I can’t invest a lot right now – and it’s so apparent that I don’t have much to invest. Before, I was always intentional about being a good friend. I initiated a lot. Now I feel like the needy one, the one that needs special treatment, the outsider. That’s not the kind of friend you need when your world has changed. I’ll be the best friend that I can be in this new season, because it’s not about me. I really wish I could do more, be more.


Dear Anastasia baby,
Today has been a fun day to remember. The title of this post used to be something different until you crawled so fast over here and pulled yourself up to see the computer, fingers grabbing at the keys before your body was even steady on your feet. So I’m leaving it as a reminder of this amazing day and how you’re so curious about everything that I do.

This morning you woke up and played with Bunny in bed for twenty minutes, happily singing and talking to yourself or Bunny. It was really nice that I could wake up slowly since you weren’t immediately ready to get out of bed. I’m really not an early morning person, so your 6:00 a.m. rise-and-shine every day is pretty tough. Days like this are so nice.

It was a pretty normal morning – milk, your breakfast, my coffee, my breakfast. Play time and then nap time. While you slept I got dressed and cleaned up. You didn’t sleep very long but it was long enough for me to decide that we were going to spend the morning in town. It was a gorgeous cool summer morning with green shaggy grass, a rabbit hopping through the garden, and a hint of almost-warm air when I let the dogs outside.

I had a coupon for Panera that was expiring soon so we picked up half of a sandwich, a sprouted grain roll, and a coffee to go. You hated getting back in the car! Lately you’ve decided that sometimes you don’t want to be in the car seat and you use your considerable strength and acrobatics to keep yourself out of there. It’s pretty impressive and so annoying. Eventually I won and we drove down to the channel. There was a huge boat leaving the power plant after making a delivery and you watched it for a long time, waving as it slowly floated by. One of the guys on a top deck saw you, even from so far away, and he waved back. It was pretty cute. Mostly you were excited about all the dogs that walked by! Every time you would squeal “dahk, dahk!” You’re still working on the hard ‘g’ sound. Some of the people walking the dogs would smile and wave at you. A few of them tried to get you to say hi, but you’re not into saying hi yet. You just watch them with your big eyes and study them, not smiling or frowning, just looking. I think that you have a pretty good game face while you work everything out in your head.

You sat in one spot on our blanket for quite a while, chewing on that roll and making a bit of a mess with your slimy crumbs. By the time I finished my sandwich you had started crawling around with the roll in your hand, thump-smoosh-thump-smoosh over my legs back and forth, just climbing for the fun of it. You’re a pretty active girly. We sat there for a long time until you finally finished that bread. I watched all the moms pushing little kids in strollers and thought how strange it was that I was one of them. It’s the most natural thing to be your mom but it still catches me by surprise. I don’t know how to explain it.

After a while we packed everything up because you started to get antsy and loud. You screamed and screamed at the top of your lungs when I had to spend a few seconds untying your hat. You made it sound like I was doing something awful, and I felt bad for laughing at you but it was just ridiculous. You were tired and ready for a change in scenery. I decided to walk down to the library instead of drive and give you a chance to fall asleep in the stroller. You didn’t, but we had a nice walk. Once we got the library you perked right up and started yelling at the books. We had a great time picking out some new ones and you tried to play with the kids who were there already. They were a bit older and not very interested in a baby like you. You had fun exploring all around, playing hide and seek with me in the aisles and crawling into the librarians’ desk space.

Pretty soon you had another meltdown when I told you not to do something (I can’t remember what it was now) and you made a big scene, arching your back, hitting your head on the ground, and yelling like I was chopping off your arm. The little girl who was reading books with her grandma was scared. So we went to the self checkout and got out of there. I thought maybe this time you’d fall asleep in the stroller but no, you just couldn’t stop paying attention to everything. As soon as we started driving you were out like a light.

When you woke up from your nap we were home. You smiled a really big sleepy grin when you saw me and I love it when you do that. You had some lunch (avocado, hard-boiled egg and some cheese crackers) and some water. Then Daddy woke up and played with you. Lately you’re practicing your standing a lot. You love the feeling of not hanging on to anything and you look up at us so proud of yourself. Standing on the couch is your favorite cause it’s wobbly and gives you a workout.

After you played for a bit you were cranky again so I tried to give you a nap, but you just talked and fussed for half an hour. Daddy got you back up and you had some dinner with us while we watched tv together. Then he went to work and you waved goodbye with me like always.

But our night wasn’t over! It was time to put the dogs in their beds and go back downtown to see our friends on their boat! It was your first time on a boat and you wore your new Nautica birthday shirt and the pink sparkle Sperrys from our boat friend. I just love your little baby gut and you have the cutest dimples on your legs and arms. You’re perfectly squishable and super adorable. I often leave the house thinking I wished I looked half as put-together and cute as you do!
On our way back to the car we saw Daddy in his cruiser! He stopped to say hi for just a minute. When you realized it was him you were beaming, squirming and bouncing in the stroller to see him. You really love your dad and he’s crazy about you. I love watching you together.

You fell asleep as soon as we were driving home since it was past your bedtime already. I felt really lucky as I could hear you sleeping and felt the sunshine tingling on my face. Today is one of those days that I’ll remember even though you won’t. It was amazing. Welcome to summertime, my bluebird!

The day after I posted that blog about loneliness and depression I came across these two images. Within about an hour of each other. The word “satisfy” seemed like a sign, especially since I had used it the day before without really knowing why (“gravitating toward exhausted rather than satisfied”).


Verse of the Day 2015-04-07

Since then I’ve felt more and more like myself, less and less depressed and lonely. I’m so grateful. Life is so much more fun when your body and mind play nicely together!

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of our blind date and I found a great deal on a local bed and breakfast. Bluebird’s aunt and uncle came over to watch her and we got away for 24 hours! It’s been so great! I’m chilling out on a huge bed right now listening to traffic on the cobblestone street, the windows open to let in the cool spring morning. Good Cop is reading a book. We had a slow breakfast with amazing coffee and a nice chat with one of the innkeepers. Later we’ll go to the new farmer’s/specialty market and check out a saltwater aquarium we heard about. Then it’ll be time to get home to our little miss, and I really do miss her more now that she’s older and has a big personality. Can’t wait to see her. This midweek getaway will be another great memory to add to our big stash of good times together.

A drive by our current dream house
Lunch at the make-your-own-stirfry place
Wandering the mall, especially Pottery Barn
Krispy Kreme donuts
Browsing the saltwater aquarium store
Checking into our B&B and finding that they’d upgraded us to the best room
A picnic supper in our room with all the good snacks
Walking around a pretty lake and seeing some amazing, huge, lovely lake houses
Getting a late-night hotdog
Coming back to our room and designing a basement layout with the new HGTV software
Waking up to sunshine and a very quiet house (it’s a little sad that I woke up naturally at 6:30 and felt like it was sleeping in)
Taking a shower and a bubble bath in the morning just because I could

This is a very good life. It’s been fun to look back on everything we’ve done in just four years; I’m still easily surprised by how good life is. So good.