Your first year is coming to a close

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Song for Baby-O, Unborn
By Diane di Prima

Sweetheart

when you break thru
you’ll find
a poet here
not quite what one would choose.
I won’t promise
you’ll never go hungry
or that you won’t be sad
on this gutted
breaking
globe
but I can show you
baby
enough to love
to break your heart
forever
Little man, you’re almost one! There is so much to love about you. You’re still an easy baby and you learned how to sleep through the night a couple months ago. That has made the rest of life much easier! You and big sis still get me up a few times a week for something or other, but it’s really refreshing to see progress.
You’re such a crawler, so fast and sneaky! You have the cutest way of scurrying away super fast when we catch you getting into something naughty. You freeze, grin, and take off like lightning. It’s adorable. You crawl like you’re going to leap-frog with half your body – you get around on your right foot and your left knee. I don’t know how you do it, cause I’m not that flexible and my legs are too long, but it doesn’t slow you down.
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You’re not much of a talker but you discovered scream-squealing lately. Big sis is good at yelling and you learn so much from her! You say ‘mamama’ and ‘dadada,’ and you wave hello or goodbye, and you raise your hands high in the air when you’re in the highchair. I raise mine too and say, “tall like a tree!” You love that. Those eight little teeth are super cute when you smile. Your face just lights up! You study everything new, looking and looking without making a sound. When we visited the Gardens to see the butterflies this week you spent a lot of time looking up like this. It’s so fun to watch you figuring things out in your little head. And those blue eyes… they’re the real deal. True blue. Just like you.
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Your hair is so blond it’s almost invisible. Everyone says you’re bald. Sorry, kid. You do have hair, it’s just hard to see. So far it’s really straight and not too thin and not too thick. You’ll be wearing lots of hats this summer to keep the sunburn away. Yesterday we went outside to play in the grass with big sis. You crawled around all over the place, pulling yourself up to stand at the split-rail fence, picking up bits of leaves and twigs to chew and spit out, and taking it all in. It’s starting to warm up a little bit and we’re excited for summer! It’s going to be a busy one. You’ll be walking in a couple months and I’m looking forward to that; less mess on your hands and less wear and tear on your pants. But I’m grateful that you’ve stayed a baby for this long. You’re the last one for a while and I love soaking up your bedtime cuddles and the dimples in your hands. You’ve been such a comforting and sweet baby. You lean in for a kiss when big sis hugs you. When I put you down for a nap or bedtime I get your pacifier and your muslin blanket and you get so excited. The blanket goes on my right shoulder, and you lay your head down there, looking up at me while I sing the little lullaby from Bedtime for Tiny Mouse.
Lay down your head, little dreamer
Close sleepy eyes
Time to drift off, little dreamer
Beneath starry skies
Cozy and warm, little dreamer
Arms hold you tight
Sleep safe and sound, little dreamer
All through the night
You are the perfect little person for our family, baby boy. I’m so proud of you and I can’t wait to grow more with you this year.

Good stuff

slowly processing

I’ve had so many ideas coming into my head through podcasts, books, music and Netflix that I needed to put all of them in one place as I’m slowly processing them. (For a great “she’s-channeling-me” description of slowly processing, this one is saved on my phone to re-read when necessary: Simply Tuesday)

Podcasts

Sorta Awesome Show: What we know now that we’re here

I regularly listen to about 25 podcasts and this one is consistently a favorite. Who doesn’t need some Awesome in their day? This particular episode is about what we learn about ourselves and the world as we get older and wiser. It was so refreshing!

The Simple Show: Starting a Book Club

I heard this episode right around the time I heard an episode on the Sorta Awesome Show about book clubs and reading in general, and after mulling it over for a few days I gathered two friends and started a book club! I haven’t even started reading our book yet and we don’t meet until the end of August but just the planning of it has given me a lot of joy. I’m grateful those two friends were up for it; they don’t know each other, so they’re just trusting me to be a good matchmaker. We’ll find out!

Related to this, I’ve been dabbling in Voxer for the book club conversations. It combines the best of walkie-talkies, voicemails, and text messages into one app, and it’s super fun!

What Should I Read Next

This is my second-favorite podcast. Anne Bogel is an awesome host and a brilliant literary matchmaker and it makes my insides so happy to hear people talking about books they way that they do on this show. Definitely scratches my book nerd itch.

Shalom in the City

I’ve been reading Osheta Moore’s blog for a while and now she just started a podcast, yippee! Over the years she’s helped me think through a lot of my questions about racism and how to bring the kingdom of God to our own neighborhoods. I love the way that she’s bringing us together to be Shalom Sistas.

The Liturgists: Black and White: Racism in America

I just listened to this episode after hearing it recommended on a Sorta Awesome Show episode a while ago. It took me two days, which is unusual because I usually power through podcasts like M&Ms. I needed to stop and take a break a few times because this stuff is deep and complicated and makes me wince. I’ve done a lot of reading and listening over the last four years about how black people experience life in the US, and this is one of the clearest, most in-depth conversations I’ve heard. I’ll be processing and sifting through it for a long time.

Movies

Chef’s Table

I love a good cooking show. I love a good travel documentary. I love stories about chefs. I love beautiful movies. I love food. I love art and creativity. I love cookbooks. This series on Netflix is like all of those things combined in the best way. When the second season came out I saved the new episodes for times when the house was relatively quiet so that I could soak them up. I don’t multitask (except maybe nursing baby Vinny) while I watch these, which should tell you how much I’m into them.

Books

Jesus Feminist and Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

My goodness, Sarah Bessey is my girl crush right now. Her two books are speaking my soul language. I could read them every month if I had the time.

Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

Recently Sarah Bessey recommended this series so I ordered Still Life from the library immediately, as any fangirl would. So much fun! Book four is waiting for me on the Holds shelf right now and I’m impatient to get over there. The only problem is that I devour them within a couple of days and I let the housework go so I have to space them out a bit for the sake of being a slightly responsible adult.

Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement

In the last four years I’ve also been doing a lot of reading and listening (and experiencing first-hand) about the law enforcement experience in the US. It is one of the things that brings me the most pride and the most frustration in my daily life. Pride because I get to see what kind of an amazing person my husband is, and frustrating because the rest of the world doesn’t usually agree. This job has never been easy but it seems that it’s gotten a lot more dangerous in the past few years. I’ve done pretty well accepting the risks and working it into my life in healthy ways like enjoying the time we spend together and not sweating the small stuff, but since the night in Dallas that cops were killed as they protected protesters it’s been easier to give in to fear. This book is a fantastic resource and I wish it was required reading for everyone.

Music

Spotify playlist

With all of the big thoughts and fears going on, I needed a playlist. Music has been a staple in my Processing Toolbox for every big life event and this summer definitely requires a playlist. It brings me back to the basics about who God is, what he wants for me, what he wants for the people I love, and what he wants for the world.

 

For posterity

This is not a thinly veiled cry for help. It’s not a pity party. It’s simply a recording of my past few days for the sake of looking back when these kids are older, because heaven knows my memories of these months will be hazy and missing many details.

Friday:

Good Cop and I finished installing a new storm door on the front entrance. It took us two or three days, I can’t even remember exactly how long now. We worked together, me looking at the almost-incomprehensible instructions and illustrations and him doing the actual constructing. It took three times as long as it should have because we were constantly chasing the toddler, soothing the newborn, or keeping them alive with more food and clean diapers. Thankfully the door looks amazing and works perfectly.

I took my girl out for our first bike ride of the season and she loved it. It was short and sweet and it made me wistful for our freedom last year to take off whenever we had time. This year we’ll be limited to times that her baby brother has someone else to watch him.

At night, after the toddler was in bed at 7:00 we probably watched Jeopardy and took care of the baby. He’s been in a needy stage from 7-10:30pm lately. I went to bed as early as I could after the baby was asleep, probably around 11.

Good Cop left when I went to bed to take care of his second job and he got back sometime in the middle of the night. He may have also stopped for groceries on the way home but that might have been another night this week. Or he may have come home and watched Father of the Bride II with the baby and kept him asleep as long as he could so I could rest more than two or three hours. As I mentioned, it’s all hazy. I know I got up at least once to feed him for an hour, because I always do.

Saturday:

I had plans to meet some friends for breakfast at 9:00. From the time I woke up, probably around 6:30, I was busy getting the two kids and myself ready to go. It literally takes two hours to get us out of the house in the morning. And that includes about 15 minutes for me to get dressed in clothes that don’t quite fit, brush my teeth and wash my face. It does not include make-up or a shower or doing my hair.

At the restaurant the baby slept soundly in the middle of the busy aisle where I was constantly watching servers and patrons to make sure they didn’t trip, and to be ready to catch a hot plate or a spilled coffee. The toddler sat next to me in a booster, and all six of us friends were smushed in a booth that was so narrow we hardly had room to take a deep breath. Over the next hour my sweet daughter climbed in and out of the booster, turned backwards to greet our neighbors, and blessed them with a wet sneeze and greasy pats on the back. I tried to listen to my friends and add something meaningful to the conversations with the 5% of my sleep-deprived brain that wasn’t involved in watching my kids. I’m glad we went but it was more of an eat-your-veggies kind of investment in our friendships than a dessert-buffet fun memory.

The toddler was actually really sweet most of the day after that. I had high hopes for doing stuff together or being productive but I was worn out from the morning. I just tried to keep the kids quiet so Good Cop could sleep, which is kind of a joke. He left for work and I think I gave the toddler a bath.

The baby cluster fed from the time the toddler went to bed at 6:40 until about 8:30. I took a shower, the first in almost a week, and went to sleep. Got up to feed the baby around 1:00 for an hour, then slept again for about 90 minutes. During that time I had a long, intense nightmare about Good Cop being killed by a cop hater, in our own driveway, and I woke up from crying. It took a while to calm down and I cried myself back to sleep. After an hour or two the baby was up again, and then Good Cop got home from work and the toddler woke up, and it was a new day all over again.

Sunday:

Church is a highlight of my week but I just wasn’t gonna make it this morning, especially by myself with the two kids. I watched online on my phone because the toddler was watching a video on tv. I hate how much screen time she gets right now. She was watching tv because she doesn’t like to read with me while he’s on my lap, and I need her to stay occupied for an hour so I can feed him without her making too many messes or running into our bedroom to jump on her sleeping dad too many times.

High hopes for doing something fun or being productive again, but I didn’t get to change out of pajamas until 2:00 and the two kids never synced their “happy and manageable” or “both asleep” times for more than 15 or 20 minutes. After Good Cop left for work I put them in the car (a 40-minute process, which boggles my mind) and got myself an ice cream at the drive-thru. I drove by the water on the way home. When we arrived I put the toddler to bed while the infant screamed to be fed the entire 15 minutes of the shortened bedtime routine. He cluster fed from 7:00-9:30, I gave him a bottle around 10:00, and put him to bed. Just before I fell asleep he worked himself up again and I went out to calm him down. As I stood by his bed swaying and patting I had to catch myself a few times from falling asleep and tumbling over.

We were up during the night once for about an hour, and then again at 5:30.

Monday:

Good Cop came home and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher, took out the kitchen trash, got the toddler up and took her and her iPhone Netflix to bed with him so I could get a cat nap after the baby was done eating. But although the baby slept, he fussed every two or three minutes with gas and a poop, and I never fell asleep. I gathered the toddler, kissed my amazing husband, and started breakfast and strong coffee.

The baby was fully awake and hungry again now, which made the toddler jealous and hyper. By the time the baby was fed and sleepy, the toddler was not in any mood to play with me. We did get a few minutes of cuddling while she watched more videos – yes, more videos after my attempts at reading books or playing with her toys just made her jump and scream as close as possible to the sleeping baby. Eventually she went off to do her own thing again, which was inevitably loud and mildly destructive, and I tried to finish my breakfast and coffee. Her nap time was quickly approaching and her mood was deteriorating. As I got her ready for bed she kicked and clawed everything, screamed and cried, and threw herself at the window to get attention from the neighbor. Meanwhile her screams had finished the work of waking up her brother, who was still tired and needed more sleep. I left her room quietly while she thrashed about and wailed in bed. In her defense I felt like doing the same thing and it was only my desire for Good Cop to eventually get some kind of sleep that kept me from throwing myself on my pillow and screaming too.

Instead, I brushed my teeth and washed my face and thought about how crazy this season of life is. I thought about how quickly it will go by in the big scheme of things, and how fun it will be again when we have just a little more sleep around here. It’s a short time, I know, and we’ll survive. I won’t tell myself to “enjoy every minute” because that’s just stupid and adds more guilt, but I’ll remind myself that it won’t be like this for long.

this is the life

 

a prayer for my boy

Little man I love you so. I love the way that you stretch and spin methodically and thoughtfully, quietly testing your strength and your boundaries as you grow into your shrinking space. I love your hours of silent sleeping and your moments of slowly coming awake. I love the thought of getting to know your boyish newborn face in just a few weeks. I love the thinking and planning for your first year – all those amazing changes and milestones waiting for us just around the corner.

Your daddy and I pray that you’ll be strong and healthy, not necessarily in the physical things (although that’s always a bonus) but primarily in your spirit and soul. Content with what you have but always hard working. Kind towards your family (which is always the hardest), and a defender of the weak and vulnerable. We pray that you’ll be strong and gentle. Honest and gracious. A peacemaker and a fighter. Wholesome and spirited.

Lucky you, you have a million uncles and you can learn something from each of them. You have two grandpas who will go fishing, show you how to cut and stack firewood, travel down the street or around the country, and answer all your questions. If you watch them all you’ll learn how to take care of your things, your people, your self, your work and your faith..

Lucky you, you have a few aunts who will cuddle and kiss you until you’re much too old to be cuddled and kissed. They’ll show you what a strong and tender woman looks like. And you have two grandmas who will bake all day for you, show you how to tie your shoe and read a book, make your bed, and answer all your questions. If you watch them all you’ll learn how to use your mind, your heart, your hands, your words and your soul.

Even luckier you, you have your daddy. Out of all of them, he’s the best one to watch. He’ll be your first friend and your biggest fan. He’ll show you what it means to do good work. You’ll learn how to do little things that matter, like brushing your sister’s hair or getting flowers for your mom. You’ll find out what it means to use your strengths and talents in your job. He’ll teach you how to play basketball, soccer and chess. He’ll show you how to be curious and adventurous about everything but to pick a few favorite things to be especially good at.

Your sister, too. Oh, little brother, you’ve got a fierce and sweet girl in your life from the very beginning. She will love you with tender kisses and a firm grasp on your unsteady shoulders. She may knock you down a few times. She may be jealous and confused about her feelings. She might even say strong words that make you cry when you’re older. But I’m almost certain that she will be your best gift in life. She is passionate, determined, strong, lovely, playful, smart and thoughtful. She gives the best hugs and the biggest smiles. She is sunshine on cloudy days, a chocolate chip when you expected a raisin, and bare feet on warm grass after a long winter. You will love her. I’m so excited to watch you together.

And then there’s me, your momma. I don’t know what will actually make it from me to you but I have a few things I hope to pass on. A love of libraries and learning. Inner hope that doesn’t depend on circumstances, but on God’s character. An appreciation of small graces like a good donut, a view of the lake, or a poem. Construction of all kinds of forts, indoors and outdoors. The ability to enjoy quietness and being alone. Perseverance and perspective. Enough confidence to be an encourager and not a comparer. Creativity and discipline. Just kidding – you won’t be learning discipline from me, unfortunately. Hopefully you can learn that from someone though. It’s super helpful when you’re an adult.

I’ve been thinking of these verses when I think about you lately:

Psalm 19:14: “May the words from my mouth and the thoughts from my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my defender.”

Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak out for the one who cannot speak,
    for the rights of those who are doomed.
Speak out,
    judge fairly,
        and defend the rights of oppressed and needy people.

That’s the kind of man I’m praying you’ll be. May we be the kind of family that gives you a safe place to be angry, a nurturing place to try to new things, and a loving place to learn how to be generous.

Boy

Our fourth Valentine’s Day

love

At our wedding reception we had a large dictionary and some sticky notes with a sign that asked our guests to mark the word that described marriage to them. I found the sticky notes again the other day. Here’s what our friends and family thought of marriage:

  • Honesty
  • Forgive
  • Marriage – what gets you through all of the quap (French pronunciation of crap) that life throws at you!!
  • Marriage – 2 awesome people joining together to walk hand in hand serving God
  • Forever
  • Best Friends!
  • Fun!
  • Rewarding
  • Rewarding [it was marked by two different people – and it’s true!]
  • Partnership
  • Sanctifying – a big word to say that marriage can be a tool to make you holy, individually and together
  • Balance
  • Putting aside one’s self
  • BFF!
  • One of God’s greatest tools he can use to refine us & teach us to serve as Christ came to do
  • Unity

Today is our fourth Valentine’s Day together and we celebrated four years of marriage last month. They’ve been, without question, the best four years of my life! I know that today isn’t an easy day for a lot of people and I’m super grateful to be in this season of life right now. It’s so much better than I ever imagined!

Marriage with Good Cop is defined by all of those sticky note words, but this winter I’m especially noticing the partnership we have. I recently read Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey and loved it. I think overall the book got reviewed as groundbreaking, forward-thinking and progressive – the front cover even calls it “radical.” But there wasn’t anything new for me in her thoughts about marriage and how it can be a partnership of two equally submissive and loving leaders. It was immensely encouraging to realize that I wouldn’t change anything about our relationship. We both follow Jesus and that means that we both give ourselves for whatever need we can fill. Sometimes it’s him doing the dishes and laundry because I’ve been working online during nap times. Sometimes it’s me making our meals and packing his lunch because he needs sleep. Sometimes it’s him watching Ana so I can be on the worship team, and me taking her to church alone when he’s working. Sometimes it’s him being in charge of paying bills and sometimes it’s me. I remember our premarital counseling session that covered household duties and how we planned to distribute the work. He said then that he expected each of us to pitch in with whatever was needed, and that he didn’t think there were certain roles we had to fall into. I didn’t really believe him but it turns out that he did feel that way. And it’s not just with chores around the house; he’s a partner like that in every part of our life. We live by the saying that marriage isn’t 50-50, it’s 100-100. It creates a really safe place to love and be loved.

Sometimes I try to figure out why we work together so well. Is it our age and how long we waited for the right person? Was it our similar childhood experiences? Is it the high rates of divorce, suicide and early death for his career – the daily reminders that life is precious and love is sacrificial? Or maybe we just have personalities that blend without much conflict? Whatever it is, it’s a gift. I see glimpses of God’s faithfulness, trust, forgiveness and extravagant love through our relationship. Love you always and forever, Good Cop. I’m so proud to be your wife.

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!

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.