happy birthday, eloise!

19 Aug

Well, sweet Eloise, as I type this, it’s midnight on the dot and officially your birthday. I’m taking a step back to let this sink in a bit, and I probably will all day tomorrow, too. Watching you grow is a miracle in itself–no less than the miracle of your beautiful birth one year ago. I can’t imagine ever forgetting that day or how I felt when your daddy announced it was you. You are everything I sensed deeply that you’d be, and far more.

heaven

 

For so much of this past year, you felt like this tiny little baby–strong and able, certainly, but still so vulnerable and attached in a way that took me a little by surprise. Perhaps I hurried Henry along too much the first time, or maybe it was just all of those nights snuggled close together, you and I, until we figured out how to get you comfortable and settled into your own skin. No matter, you were just little little in my head until not more than two months ago, when suddenly you became this person with thoughts and opinions and an ability to express them. I have marveled at this change in you as you’ve asserted yourself into a very distinct place in our family. The dinner table is often where this is most notable–you contribute to the conversation in your own way, making us laugh and engaging each of us around you on a remarkable level for someone so small.

You are petite, your features, strikingly delicate. You are all girl, and while so young and tiny, you tease glimpses of your future self with regularity now. I envision conversations with you in your adolescent years and wonder how our equally strong and resilient wills will blend or clash for a time. I pray to the end that we will love deeply enough not to be separated by this. Holding you close for this past year has bonded my heart to you in a way I didn’t know to expect with a second child–not because a mother can really love any of her children more than the next, but because I’ve loved your brother so intently that I once worried I might not be able to love you with the same kind of intensity. Indeed my worries were for naught. I love you both, equally and differently, together and individually. I treasure you just as I treasure Henry. The joy of loving you both so deeply is often hard to express.

We celebrated your birthday this past weekend with family and dear friends we consider family, and every bit of the celebration was in honor of incredible little you! I got wrapped up in the details of things as I so often do, but only because I wanted it to be both perfectly Eloise and and perfectly welcoming in every way. I can’t speak to the latter, but everywhere I looked on Saturday, there were traces of you. Indications of your sweetness and joy and the way you radiate light in all of our lives. I could burst just thinking about it, really. The sun shone brightly all day, a warm breeze blew fabric buntings and vintage table cloths, flower petals and paper napkins in our backyard. All of your friends laughed and played and gathered together on the big patchwork blanket for a picnic lunch, and all the while I just couldn’t stop thinking about how stinking amazingly blessed we were to park on such a beautiful scene. You are the why for every little detail. Every. Single. One. And the reason nearly forty of us would gather to sing and eat and pray on a bright, sunny Saturday in the summertime.

birthday baby

Now, as we turn the page on your first year and head enthusiastically into your second, I am trailing traces of the tiny babe I’ve had by my side for all but hours at a time since one year ago. You’ll have to forgive me as I bring them along for a time, but as much as I can embrace how you’ve grown and changed, baby Eloise is going to linger a bit longer in my heart. I know it’s not long before I’m called to turn towards toddlerhood and a walking, talking, articulating version of you–I’m just going to take it slow while I’m able.

In the morning, you will push your little red baby buggy around the house, filled with your baby dolls and treasured things, and you’ll look up to check in with me every few steps as if to say, “I’m doing fine, right mama? Do you see me?” And I will see you and reassure you of both things, and you will go on–you gaining a little more independence with each step and me trying hard not to tear up a little at the new you. In just over nine hours we’ll toast to your birth, then later, we’ll all devour leftover birthday cake and button cupcakes from the weekend’s festivities in your honor. All day long I’ll look at you and praise God for you with such deep thankfulness, just as I seek to do everyday. And all day long we’ll sing to you and teach you how to raise your finger to declare your “ONEness,” and we’ll look for ways to celebrate just how marvelously marvelous your are.

You are Eloise. You are ONE. And while you do not live at the Plaza Hotel, you are certainly as precious and precocious and delightful as another little Eloise I know and love…

may you move mountains in this lifetime, my dear. and may God protect you and provide for you all that you need for your whole life long! happy first birthday, my eloise josephine!!

xoxo,

your mama

eloiseandmama

 

mountains, high and low.

21 Jul

So here’s the deal. I know it’s not much, but as I ease back in, I’ve committed to blogging once a week. More if the spirit moves. I’m telling you so I’m accountable to someone–you, out in the world, whoever and wherever you are. Will you track with me? I’ll do my best to make the content worthwhile, and to begin creating a better community for dialogue and supportive chatter. That’s always what I’ve wanted this space to be, and I’m eager to make it more of a living room than a two-dimensional screen. Care to join?

A lot happens in seven days, and since I last wrote, the sky continues to open up over this new space where I find myself. I can’t share all of the details yet, but there’s so much good on the horizon! I know that this season will take shape in an unfolding kind of way–I can only see individual layers of it at a time myself. I am re-learning what it means to make room in every day. Not just physical room, but more significantly, emotional and spiritual and mental room that I’ve really, really needed. How is it that we are often our own biggest stumbling blocks? I’ve been in my own way a lot in the past year (and honestly, for probably a lot longer than that). I’ll credit my stubbornness and my oh-so-human desire to control things for the delay in clarity. But no matter. When clarity arrives, it seems to push through all of the yuck to something beautiful, and now in the mess, I’m staring at it.

I love this reality.

In the midst of this breaking through, there’s so much else that feels fulfilling and good right now–what a refreshing and necessary change of pace! I am looking forward to a trip with our littlest to visit my sister and her family later this week. I can’t wait to spend five days in the beauty of Colorado with some of my favorite favorites in the world. It’s been almost seven months since I last squeezed my niece goodbye…a very, very long time when the kiddos are little. Eloise was four months old the time, so this visit is sure to look different than the last :) What’s more, my sister is preparing to welcome a second little love into the world soon, and I am over the moon to become an aunt again before long. Beyond that, Miss E turns ONE in four weeks, which feels perfect and wonderful and good. I so love celebrating our babies at this milestone. A year feels like the greatest gift–babies are becoming sweet little (walking and talking) people, parents do a tiny victory lap for making it through some of the trenches, and then there’s cake. Cake! And party planning(!!), which you know I love. I’m having so much fun with the details for Eloise’s 1st birthday party. Gathering friends and family to celebrate life is always a joy!

There’s so much more, but I can’t go on for sake of time and a pre-travel to-do list as I head into this glorious week. Before I go, I just have to share a moment from this morning, which is crazy-dear to me and such a picture of how God works in the small things…

At breakfast, Henry reminded me that we needed to read our daily excerpt from Jesus Calling for Kids, a book gifted to us by a dear friend when Henry was first born. We’ve been reading it together at breakfast and talking about how God wants to be involved in our lives. Sometimes H seems like he’s really tracking with me, and other times, I think I’m just meant to read it that day for the reminder to myself! Today, we talked a bit about how God is always with us and desires time with us. After I put the book down, Henry asked me, “What if we hided in a pile of dirt under a mountain? Then he wouldn’t know where we were.” What a beautiful, processing thought for a three year old! I was overjoyed at the opportunity to explain to Henry how God sees us wherever and whenever, and that He always knows where we are and what we need. How glorious is it, to be able to share the good and powerful news that God is always with us? With our children, no less?! I can’t help but think about the way we’ve prayed for so long that Christ would make His way into the hearts of our children. God hears our requests, every time. I hope this is an encouragement to someone today. When you think He doesn’t hear your prayers, He does. He hears you. And He sees you in that pile of dirt. Under that mountain.

grace to you for today, my friends. you are so loved.

mm

 

mid-summer share.

14 Jul

It feels strange and a little sad to put on paper that we’re already almost to that halfway point in my favorite season…I long for summer when it’s not here, and love to savor every bit of life in its midst. Time goes by much too quickly these days–a warning I have tried to heed from my elders as the years go on, and one that I am still working hard to navigate. How can time possibly go any faster than it did before, when the length of minutes, days and years never really changes? The answer, I’m discovering, is that in my busyness and “intentionality” and haste, I have lost some of my ability to truly make the most of the hours entrusted to me…I’m sure others can relate!

So here I am, mid-summer, and desiring so much to do a better job of managing my days. Henry is three and rounding the corner on preschool, and his baby sister is somehow turning ONE a month from this weekend, acting much more like a little girl these days than a baby. In a way I don’t know how this happened–you know, in that cliché way…because babies turn into little people so quickly and their growth and change happens exponentially faster when they’re small than later on in life. But then in a way, I do know. And it’s my own doing, whether or not I was aware of it all as it happened. The truth is, I lived with complete tunnel vision for five months when Eloise was born, while we worked through a dairy issue and cracked the code on what was making her (and subsequently our) days so challenging. I held her for hours at night, or we passed her back and forth, trying to push through the crying and wriggling and pain and pacing and bouncing and can’t. see. straight. kind of struggle that so often comes with babies.

Don’t get me wrong. It was worth every minute. But there’s no denying it was hard. Some days, it was harder than I thought I could handle. And in the midst of that hard place, things fell away from my otherwise usual existence, and I forgot a bit of who I am. Or who I was. I’m sure I’m not exactly the same person now, six months later.

Thank goodness.

Maybe if I hadn’t been in that place six months ago, I wouldn’t have begun the process of digging myself out. It sure would have been easier in that space to feel like I had everything under control, but it was good to get a serious lesson in humility and brokenness as a person–and especially as a mom. Those first five months of holding Eloise without end have since taught me a few things. While I felt cornered into a space of loss and chaos for a while, I also got desperate. And my desperation has changed shape over these subsequent months, but in every case, it has caused me to turn to what I really know (and it’s pretty simple).

I know that God never left me in the tunnel. I know that He sees me and knows my heart and my needs. I know that He has sustained me through this particular bit of the mess. I know that He has pursued me patiently, and also that He was ready and waiting for me to decide I was due to snap out of it and take notice again. He has my attention. I’m super grateful for this. I can’t say I have a crazy number of answers, or that I could dole out advice any better today than I did a year ago. Maybe. But it would be cautious advice, that I’d hope to share with as much grace and consideration as I could muster.

So where does that leave things? Well, I’m claiming the hours back. I’m not naive in thinking that I could just store them up again and make up for lost time, necessarily, but I’m discovering anew how to be intentional with my days and all that God has entrusted to me in them. I know this sounds idealistic. It could be. But what I mean is fairly simple. I’m working each day at making my “yes” be my “yes,” and my “no” be my “no.” I’m working on deleting the in between. When Henry asks me to play, the answer is yes. When Eloise needs her mama, the answer is yes. And if I can’t, I’m trying to make sure it’s for a very good reason. I’m re-prioritizing what I’m called to. Can I tell you just how good it feels?! It’s kind of amazing…like a weight lifting off of me and life clearing a path in the direction I should go. God clearing a path, really. And me paying attention.

I’m back here on the blog for this reason. For the same reason I’m drawn back to it every time. Because words on paper are lifeblood to me. Built into my soul. And when I’m not mothering or writing or celebrating life with my dearests, I’m not living. Not fully. Like breathing without taking full breaths and always craving more air. And I’m going to breathe this time. Because life keeps going by no matter what, and I can’t stand the thought of participating in it half way.

can’t wait to share again soon. you know, before summer is waning and i’m wondering again where the time has gone.

xo,

mm

father’s day gifts from years past.

8 Jun

Last week, I was invited by Dollar Shave Club to join a blogging campaign that celebrates Father’s Day gifts from years past. In case you’re unfamiliar, Dollar Shave Club is a fun new subscription razor service that ships top quality razors and grooming supplies to their members for a few bucks a month. You should check them out :) I had no idea one could really personalize their shave, did you? I’m also loving this option for post-shave goodness for your face. Who knew shaving could be so refined and classy? Clearly, I have a lot to learn!

I’m always up for a fun challenge, so I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to consider all of the fabulously amazing gifts I’ve given my dear ‘ol dad (you’re not really that old, Dad, but it sounded right, ya know?) for Father’s Day. For the past few years, I’ve been the creative genius behind Henry’s gifts for his daddy, too, and this year, I’ve got Hank and Eloise covered again. I consider it my right–OK, my privilege, to celebrate the awesome men in my life with phenomenal and overly generous gifts. Things made out of paper and glue and markers and such. I’ve been gifting for Father’s Day for at least the past twenty eight years (but probably longer, I’ll have to ask my mom), so I figure I’m basically a Father’s Day gift giving guru. I’m sure if you asked the dads in my life, they’d agree.

Alright. Maybe not. I might be halfway decent at picking out cards, though, and I think I can recall and handful that I created in moments of sheer brilliance. Here’s one thought for you…the perfect card to the dad of your children (in my case, my husband, Jason) when they’re wee and small and can’t really make cards yet themselves. This beauty was Henry’s gift to his daddy when he was just over a year old, waaaaay back in 2012:

ten things father's day card

I used a brown stamping ink pad for H’s little handprints (it might take a few tries to get a really good set, but the times I’ve inked the kids’ hands or feet, the first, pre-melt down try is almost always the best). Then I carefully tore them out for that rough-edged look and glued them to a homemade, folded card (card stock and scrapbook paper). Last, I added the little “10 Reasons why I love my Dad…(I counted)…” bit to the front for bonus cuteness.

I opted to finish the inside on a separate piece of card stock that I could glue in last, just in case I made any printing mistakes as I wrote it all out. If I had just gone for it, I would’ve undoubtedly misspelled something or goofed up the lettering on the final product. Then I tried to channel my inner one year old and wrote out the following list:

photo 3

To wrap it up, I glued the blue piece in, and we presented the card, sans envelope, to Daddy at his place at the table on Father’s Day. I think simple goes a long way, especially when the kiddos are small. We always make sure to treat dad to a great meal (whether cooked or grilled at home or out on the town), and we give him the five star treatment all day. Now that Henry is getting bigger, he likes to create things for Daddy all of the time. I have no doubt that this year’s Father’s Day installment will be his best yet.

So…what kinds of gifts do I remember giving my amazing dad as I was growing up? My sister and racked our brains on this one, and our favorites include tickets to a Cub’s game (for the three of us, plus our spouses as the family has grown) and these incredible, homemade coupon books that included things like hugs, back scratches, help in the yard, walking the dog, no whining for the day, etc. They were always top notch–replete with stickers and hearts and stars and things, and dad always accepted them quite graciously but never held us to honoring them all. Had he done so, we would have…I promise!

Celebrating our dads doesn’t have to be a break the bank kind of thing. I’m not sure most dads would even want that. It’s fun to bless dad with a grill or a fishing pole or a boat when life permits, but most years, making the day count with a great family outing (hiking, a beach day, a ball game, camping), plus some homemade cards and delicious eats, has been a pretty popular route to take in our little fam. I always make sure to get a few stellar photos to remember the day, and I prompt the kiddos to shower their daddy in love all day long. Here’s to the dads in our lives who make Father’s Day something to celebrate! And here’s to celebrating them well, too :)

scheming for next week,

mm

 

*This post was not written in exchange for any compensation or product, and the ideas expressed above are solely mine. Cheers!

eloise josephine–a birth story, part 3.

20 May

I hope the anticipation has been worth it, Eloise, because what I’m about to tell you is the story of one of the very best moments of my life. And you made it so…

(For the full story, see my previous posts here and here ;)

I had prayed and prayed about the circumstances of your birth, and one of my consistent prayers had been for a malleable nursing staff on the day of your delivery. We have a friend who works in the birth center, and if the stars didn’t align for her to be there, I really, really hoped that whoever God ordained would be flexible and open-minded. I hadn’t meant to test our nurse with my insistence on staying put that morning, but when she went with the flow and obliged, another guard of mine fell. I settled even more into the mental and emotional space I needed to usher you into the world in a peaceful way.

Both you and my body continued to dictate my movements and positions, working together so beautifully it felt like a choreographed dance. The more and more I learn about, experience and witness birth, the more I am convinced this is true. Our God is the ultimate Creator, and He has designed our bodies so incredibly to be able to grow and birth babies into this world. At no point in the process of delivering you was this lost on me. In that space, no matter the intensity, I just marvel at every single thing that transpires. It is the most powerful combination of experiences I could imagine.

Within minutes, I was instinctively making my way from a standing position to where I would eventually give birth to you–on the hospital floor. At some point in this window of time, our photographer arrived and began to capture each moment leading up to your arrival. I will forever be grateful to her for the indelible images she grasped with her lens. This series below so perfectly articulates the range of emotion and physical change I experienced over such a short period of time:

 

When my doctor entered the room, I was on all fours and committed to staying there. He was exactly the combination of laid back and take charge that I needed–he casually joined us on the floor to measure my progress and to begin guiding my second stage of labor (or pushing), at the same time leading the nursing staff to prepare the room for your delivery and to help make me as comfortable as possible. Not once did he question my positioning or suggest we relocate to the bed, but rather he encouraged me to continue listening to my body and allowed you and me to guide the process of your birth. Truly, I could not have been more grateful (or felt more safe) than I was with your dad, Karlye, and our doctor as my support team. Everyone in the room played so perfectly into the scene. I had visualized these moments so many times in my mind, and now in real life, they were materializing even more beautifully than I could have imagined!

Now, all of labor and delivery isn’t a fairy tale, and it is extremely challenging physical and mental work. Some of the words I’d use to describe my state of mind as we rounded the corner on your delivery include intense, focused, determined, primal, maternal, powerful, exhausted, exhilarated and anticipatory. Perhaps that’s an interesting mix, but in that state, everything was so heightened and clear to me, and every one of those words is accurate and true. I remember locking eyes with our photographer in moments, feeling like I was absolutely pleading for relief, and then in other moments, just maintaining a supernatural level of resolve (that is probably reserved for childbirth and little else). My doctor told us that you would likely arrive in a timeframe of ten to thirty minutes, which felt both hopeful and long. I wanted so badly to meet you, I wanted the deeply intense pain to cease, and I wanted to know that there was an end in sight. This loose window helped me to set my expectations, and really gave me the last few bursts of energy I needed to see the process through and finish well.

I pushed for roughly twenty-five minutes, and in the end, you weren’t entirely easy on your mama. At that point, it didn’t matter in the least. Our doctor was attuned to what we both needed, and in the last minute he had me turn onto my left side for your birth. When your daddy announced that you were a girl, it was a though something inside of me burst. I couldn’t hold back my joyful tears a second longer! I had been so sure that you were a girl, sensing it very early in my pregnancy. As soon as I knew it was true, so much about the past nine months was confirmed for me…my intuition, your brother’s insistence, and most particularly, what I had clung to as a promise from God that you would indeed be born a healthy baby girl.

The delight of setting eyes on you for the first time was even greater than I had imagined. You were simply marvelous as we watched you pink up from head to toe in the doctor’s hands. It looked as though you’d been twirling with your umbilical cord as you entered the world, and our doctor unwound you from the cord while you silently opened and closed your eyes. You were perfectly alright, but you didn’t make a sound. We waited for your cord to stop pulsing, and then your daddy clamped and cut it as I brought you close. Nothing could have been better than that warm feeling of you snuggled up in my arms. Karlye asked if you had a name. “This is Eloise Josephine,” your daddy and I announced at the same time. We lay there on the hospital floor just soaking each other in. Enveloped. Exhausted. Peaceful. You had come in just a matter of hours…from the time I woke up with a start until the minute you were born was just over three hours and twenty minutes. So much transpired in that short period of time, and you were without a doubt quite ready to be in the world. I was quite ready to have you.

heaven

Eventually, we moved to the bed under warm blankets. The hospital staff was very respectful of my desire to keep you close. We waited to take your measurements and check off boxes, and you kangaroo crawled your way to me and began nursing almost immediately. When we finally did put you on the scale, I guessed your birthweight to the ounce! You weighed in at nine pounds, two ounces, and measured 21 inches long. Afterwards your daddy cuddled you while I got cleaned up and ready for your first visitor…your big brother, Henry! Nothing could have made me happier than to see him fall in love with you for the first time. Not only did you steal our hearts at first glance, but you grasped your brother in a single moment. He had known it was you all along. We settled in as a family of four, piled closely together on the bed for pictures and snuggles and plenty of time for me to hold BOTH of my precious kiddos in one grasp. I couldn’t be more thankful that you made me a mama all over again that day.

August 19th 2013 changed our lives. You were a force in my belly, a force upon entry, and now, you are a powerful little force in this world. Each day, as you grow and learn and become more of who God has created you to be, I consider just how blessed we are that you’ve been entrusted to our care. Our family is more complete because of you in it, Eloise Josephine. You are right where you belong.

deeply in love with you sweet baby girl, and so honored to be the vessel God ordained to bring you here.

xo,

your mama

eloise josephine–a birth story, part 2.

19 May

So where were we, little one?…

Someday you might not remember the upstairs of the little blue house, but there we were: daddy with Henry in his bedroom, trying to keep things as normal as possible, me in the bathroom, gearing up physically and emotionally for what was happening, and Karlye rounding the banister to the second floor, just in time to gather me up as I realized how quickly things were starting to move. I wanted so much for Henry to have a calm morning, and I wasn’t sure of how he’d feel about watching mom in pain, so (barely) between contractions, Karlye helped me travel from upstairs to down while daddy occupied your brother. Someday we’ll talk more about this, but one of the best things about having a doula around is that they just get what’s happening, and often without words. Karlye knew you were really coming along…everything I was doing could show it. I didn’t feel panicky, but my sense of urgency about things was heightening quickly.

I wanted cereal, then I didn’t. I wanted to move from one place to another, then…NO. WAIT. I just wanted to stay in one place. I’m sure it was kind of entertaining, but I suppose you could ask Karlye about that. I camped out in a standing position at the end of our bed, grabbing onto the foot board rail for support. Karlye applied counter pressure whenever a contraction came. I remember the feeling bringing me up to my toes, everything in me curling, even as I tried to relax. Time was moving fast. Daddy was in and out of the room, having gotten Henry to the breakfast table and distracted with food. He’d called your grammy to come over, and was juggling contact with her and the photographer and the doctor’s office as our timeline kept changing. Wait. No, don’t wait. Maybe call in a little bit…No, better call right now. I’d wanted so badly to have time with your brother that morning before we became four instead of three. The best I could manage was to time a super-quick hug and goodbye with him at the bedroom doorway, just as one contraction ended and right before another one began. I won’t soon forget daddy carrying Henry in and then ducking back out again. It was crazy-bittersweet for me. I was so beyond excited to meet you, but processing the end of a different chapter at the same time. And baby, you were leaving me little room for over-thinking. ;)

I can still see the light in our room, the pale colors, the texture of the morning and the heat and the intensity all blended into one space. In a very short time (no more than half an hour from when she’d first arrived), Karlye and I both decided it was definitely time to get to the hospital. No such thing as a “low key morning at home” for you, my dear. You were ready to be here. Your grammy arrived as I came down the hall. I took one last look in the hallway mirror and thought a thousand things. Your daddy was re-routing the photographer to the hospital and juggling bags and checking in with me and settling Henry…a dozen tasks in a matter of two minutes. We thought we’d never rush to the hospital again, living so close, and here we were, practically running (ok, shuffle-waddling) out the door!

I stopped at the back gate and took as deep a breath as I could manage. The summer air was perfect, the sun, shining. I trailed one of those “life will never be the same again” thoughts in my mind. It wouldn’t be. In a good way. Your daddy had turned the car around for me and helped me up. Between contractions, I asked him (or probably told him with some intensity) to take me to the front door of the hospital. “Don’t go to emergency. I am NOT sitting in a wheelchair,” I tried to explain. Karlye drove separately and met us there not minutes later. I couldn’t believe how fast your dad was moving! He helped me out at the front door, parked, and had all of our things back to meet me in the lobby in probably 60 seconds flat. I think maybe the part where I said I felt like I was holding you in sort of hustled everyone along…

From the hospital doors, down the looooong hallway, into the elevator and up to the birth center, I had eight contractions. Eight. They were exactly as on top of each other as they could have possibly been. I stopped with almost every one, except for maybe two–I was pretty convinced that I might have you right there in the hallway, and I just. needed. to get. to. a room. Probably no less than six people asked if we needed a wheelchair. I know I made the morning at least a bit more interesting for one little boy and his dad as they walked out of the hospital. Ha.

As the elevator doors opened on the birthing center, a woman walking by asked if we were leaving. Nope. Just standing on the floor of a birthing center in an elevator, carrying around a huge belly and having a contraction, I thought to myself. Nothing could have seemed more ridiculous to me in the moment. “Oh, good,” she’d said as Karlye answered her, “because it doesn’t look good.” “It doesn’t NOT look good,” I remember saying to her. “I’m having a baby.” Oh, mama. I suppose being in labor makes us all say things we wouldn’t otherwise. I waddled down the hallway toward the nurses’ station, where my doctor stood waiting. Just as when our nurse came around the desk before I delivered your brother, this moment was one of great relief for me. We’d made it. Or as our Dr. announced, “Here she is. And under her own power!” Yes. Everything was feeling fairly victorious in that moment. There’s something about labor that does this to a woman. You feel like you could do just about anything. Because you can. It’s the greatest rush I’ve ever experienced.

At this point, I remember standing (or probably bending) there awkwardly for a moment, and finally saying, “So, where am I going?” in the general direction of the nurses’ station. I’m all for visiting and such, but I was ready to be in one place and to stay there. “Room 106,” the nurse pointed. Just barely down the hall from where we’d done this before. I made my way into the room, and grabbed onto the *rolling* bedside table just in time for another serious surge. Not my best move in all of this, but your dad was quick on his feet and secured that thing while supporting me in a flash. Karlye was at my other side, and I stood there, working through each contraction with some intensity, until the nurse came in. Maybe minutes had passed…maybe…but this whole story is still such a drawn out movie in my mind. I’m so grateful. When the nurse asked me to get on the bed, I think I must have looked at her as though she had four eyes. I told her no. As much as I do try to be gracious, transition in labor is no time to say more than what’s practical or necessary. She wanted to measure my progress, and I agreed, but on my own terms. Her next words were confirming and relieving and encouraging all at once. “You’re complete. I’ll let your doctor know.” And suddenly, we were in business.

 

I wasn’t going to do this, Miss Eloise, but the very best part of the story comes next, and it deserves an entry all to its own. One more day to wait…I promise it’s worth it! Your big debut…tomorrow, my love.

happy nine months to the sweetest, spunkiest nine month old i know!

mm

eloise josephine–a birth story.

18 May

Well, little lady, the time has flown. I promised you a birth narrative, and now here we are: nine months to the day since I went into labor with you, and not any less in love with the sacred day that you came into the world. Snuggle up, and let me tell you a story…

At almost exactly this time (it’s 10:35pm now) on a very hot and sticky, perfect summer Sunday evening, I was sitting on the couch working on a playlist for your upcoming delivery, and feeling a little disheartened. I had been convinced for some time that this very day, August 18th, 2013, was the day I would go into labor with you. We’d been to church that morning and I’d sung my heart out, just as I did with your brother the day he started making his way into the world. I’d shed a few tears in service as I considered your beautiful presence, so round in my belly–the gift of you and the fulfillment of God’s promise to me in the fact that you would so soon be here. And I’d sat in the pew at the end of church that morning when your brother came straight up to my belly and got down close to say to you, “Hi baby! I’m going to see you soon! And I’ll meet you tomorrow!!” with such anticipation and assurance in his voice that I couldn’t help but wonder if he was right.

That afternoon, we’d taken our time as a family…gone to the pool to cool off in the August heat, then come home to get ready for outdoor baptism and a picnic on the church grounds. As we listened to names being called that evening by the side of the pond, I just kept thinking and wondering about sweet little you. I had been so certain and yet, the day was almost through and I was still very pregnant. No baby yet, and no labor. There were only five or so hours left in the day, and my confidence in my mother’s intuition was waning. I insisted we take a walk, just to urge things along a little more. We wound down the day walking to the park and climbing and goofing around. I was tired. Full. Happy. And so curious about your arrival.

After getting your brother to bed, I couldn’t wind down. There were things on my mind–and my pre-baby to do list–that just wouldn’t let me rest. I curled up on the couch and hand-picked song after song…worship music I wanted playing as we ushered you into the world some time soon to come. Your daddy sat across the room, and occasionally, I pointed out to him the strange way that you had started moving in my belly. Every few minutes I’d look down and my stomach would be completely misshapen, like something I’ve never seen before. It kept happening periodically, and I kept right on creating that stream of music all the while. I remember telling your daddy that it hurt when you moved that way. I’d had contractions on and off for the better part of three weeks, so this didn’t phase me much. Your mama, the doula, didn’t realize that I was already in labor with you!

I stayed up much too late that night, talking with your dad and taking care of other things. When I finally went to bed, I couldn’t get terribly comfortable. I was so tired though…I kind of remember just curling up on my side and eventually drifting to sleep. At some early stage of the morning (maybe 3:30 or so?), I woke up with a contraction here and a contraction there. They weren’t yet intense, and I would doze between them, so I didn’t even wake your daddy. I vaguely remember hearing him get out of bed that morning to get ready for work. What I do very clearly remember next is the sudden jolt I had waking up, knowing I needed to get up from the bed and into the bathroom. At first, I thought my water had broken, and I could discern quite quickly that things were getting moving. Your dad came downstairs from his shower and I called out to him, “Hey J?…I don’t think you should go in this morning…We’re going to have a baby today.”  At that point, my contractions were six to seven minutes apart. It was Monday, August 19th at 6:45am.

I called our doula, Karlye, and text our photographer, just to let them both know that things were in motion. I was feeling fairly breezy and laid back at this point. “I just wanted to let you know,” I explained to both, “To give you a head’s up. I’ll keep you posted as things progress. We’re just going to take it easy here at home this morning.” I thought it best to fit in a shower and to take care of a few more last-minute items before Henry woke up. I got upstairs just after 7am. I remember the clock in the bathroom saying 7:10a.m. Then 7:13am. I know it did, because I checked at that moment as another contraction came on. A long shower seemed like a good idea, so I tried to refocus. I checked the clock again at my next contraction, feeling like they were kind of close. 7:16am. A fluke, I figured, really trying to stay centered under the hot water. Another contraction. 7:19am. I canned the idea of more time in the water and got out to check in with Karlye again. “Do you think maybe you could just come in an hour or so?” I asked her. “I think I’d just feel better if you were here, so you could help me to make the call on when to go to the hospital. Things are feeling a little more intense,” I remember saying. I pulled out the hair dryer and poured my focus into drying my hair. Brushing my teeth. Putting on a little makeup (your mom is silly like that). With each task, the surges were coming faster and stronger. I settled for good enough and headed to my closet to put odds and ends into my hospital bag. Your dad ran around the house getting other things ready, making calls, checking in on me. Around 8:20, we decided it was time to wake up your brother. I walked into his room to say good morning, and in the same moment, my water broke. It took me by surprise, but I didn’t want Henry to be afraid, so I left the room as quickly as I could. I recall telling daddy that things were “about to get really real,” in the same moment as Karlye (in all of her infinite wisdom and intuition) arrived and came up the stairs early–and not a moment too soon.

More to come tomorrow, my love. Nine months exactly since your precious birthday. I’m sorry I’m only getting to this now, sweet Eloise. But I’m thrilled at how clear and tangible it all still feels in my head and heart.

i love you, baby girl,

mama

 

a crazy ton.

25 Apr

Last night, I was thinking back three years to that sacred afternoon when our whole world began to change in the very best way. We knew you were coming, Henry, and the excitement and joy and celebration of it all was far more significant than the pain of the process. At 3 am on the dot that next, early morning–when we laid eyes on you for the very first time, my heart stretched and stretched until I didn’t think it could stretch anymore. Clearly, I hadn’t gotten to know you yet.

There are things I’ve already forgotten about the time between then and now, but largely, I remember so much of you in every stage. You are forever imprinted in my mind. All of your firsts have been ours as well–all of your joys and hurts and triumphs and struggles ours, too. The thing with you Henry is that you claimed the very first piece of my mama heart. You did that day, and you still do now. I am blessed to know now that God gives us mamas hearts for each of our children, and yours, Henry, is bursting on a day like today.

Celebrating your birthday is much like dedicating a day (or a week, in this house ;) to the marvelous miracle God has created you to be, and then thanking Him for you over and over until my joy is so abundantly full I could actually burst with gratitude. I don’t take it lightly that you are ours for a time. No. I think being your mom has taught me to savor, but not take for granted. To be reflective in a new way regarding my calling and my responsibilities to The Lord. Thank you for that.

As you unwrapped new cars and trucks today, and as you rode through the store on your very first big boy bicycle, you seemed to possess a new little confidence–one that enhances everything about you that you already are. There must be something to saying, “I’m three!” or to considering that fact as you go about things all day long. You are growing into a remarkable person, Henry! I almost cringe to admit that you feel so grown up, because it have loved every part of Baby Henry, and every aspect of toddler Henry, too. Now suddenly, you will be riding down the street on your bicycle and going to school in the fall, and I still want to think of you as so small when really, you’re coming into your own.

My favorite parts of today were all moments when you and I spent concentrated time together–a bagel date with you at JP’s, watching a movie snuggled up on the couch as Eloise napped, reading with you in my lap this afternoon and at bedtime. I adore our conversations and teaching you about things like pay phones and Jesus and how to pedal a bike. There are few–if any, things I would rather have done today than celebrate the marvelous boy you continue to become. In fact, I can’t really come up with even one!

Thank you for blessing our lives with yours, Henry David! Your unmatched energy, contagious curiosity, and innate ability to light up a room (and your sister’s face) at any moment just continue to bring pure joy! You are articulate and smart. Funny and creative. Imaginative, thoughtful, conscientious, and kind. I couldn’t ask for a better match for our family, or for a better son than God has given us in you!

I pray that this coming year will be filled with all kinds of adventures–big and small, that God will protect and keep you, and that you will know our love for you in deep and simple ways, every single day. You are a gift, sweet three year old!

i love you a crazy ton!
mama

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worth remembering.

24 Mar

My dearest kiddos,

This weekend served as another reminder of so many reasons why I love being your mom. I cherish you both to a degree I can’t explain–the sweetness and joy you infuse into the daily are among God’s greatest gifts to me. I wish I could more tangibly tell you, and I pray that one day you’ll know this kind of love in your own hearts. To pour yourself out for your own children might be the only way, and so, if God wills it, I pray for your families and the love that God will lavish on you through them.

Henry, you bless your mama with your gentle attentiveness, your sensitive spirit, and a level of awareness and intellect that both frighten me and leave me awestruck on a daily basis. Yesterday morning, as you cuddled into my lap for the butterfly ballet, my heart expanded even more for you (if that’s possible), my dear. These days you are a whirlwind of energy–full of vigor and vibrance and a zest for exploration that is both catching and hard to match. But in that sacred hour, where we sat whispering together over frogs and skunks and fish and butterflies all dancing, you were so still and small and dependent on me…and every last bit was a memory I will keep close for ages. You were captivated, love. And captivated looks marvelous on you! I felt like I was able to let everything else fall away in that space. You and your delight were my only focus. Just Mama and Henry time, although we hadn’t planned it that way. It was perfect timing for my spirit, in a season where I so often feel distracted and divided in too many directions. Tonight, I am thanking God for your inquisitive mind, for your attention to detail and emotion, for your delight in simple beauty. And I’m thanking God for that slice of time with you…so dear to me as we turn the corner on your third birthday and the reminder that you are only moving forward, never back. I love you, HD.

Eloise, you are blossoming and sweet, and fiercely independent for seven months old. Despite your independent spirit, you and I have an unshakable connectedness between us from every angle. Your life and personality and perfect needs have held us closely together, save for a few hours here and there, since the day you were born. I will dare to say that the challenges we’ve faced together have made me love you even more. There’s a sacred element to the sacrifices I’ve been called to as your mama, and in part, I am reminded daily that God has ordained me for this life because of them–not in spite of them at all. Together with your brother, you are challenging me to live a life worthy of my calling, and I am beyond grateful for this.

Today, you learned what a bunny says. Now you scrunch up your tiny nose and sniff in the cutest little way and I melt. I am smitten with you. And tonight, as I rocked you and nursed you to sleep, you sang a little hum while drifting off–this beautiful little song all your own and your beautiful little face falling peacefully away from the contents of the day as we sat there in the dark. Me, admiring you. You are a light in this world, sweet girl. You and your brother, both. As I pray over you, I can’t help but consider the weight of this life and what you may face in it, and I want to shelter you from it even now…especially now. So instead, I commit to praying harder for you both. The Lord our God will hear me, and He will answer in His way. This brings me great comfort. I still can hardly believe sometimes that He has entrusted you both to me.

There are many days that feel hard for one reason or another, but in them and around them and between them lies this truth, that we are blessed in abundance. And you are both loved beyond description. No matter what the days bring, or how hard or tired or jaded we become in moments. No matter how much or how little I blog to remind you. Your mama loves you a crazy ton. An amazingly glorious, crazy ton. I pray that I will do what it takes to make sure you always know that deep in your hearts.

Thank you for a treasured weekend, my loves. You are more than my highest hopes.

to the moon and back,

your mama

reporting for duty ;)

9 Feb

It’s mid-February, and it’s been snowing. A lot. Like 115″ a lot. Every hint of green or formerly green or will-be-green-again-someday is buried. Shoveling and snow blowing are kind of like Olympic events around here, and most of us have forgotten what our yards look like. That being said, I do not want to write about snow. Quite frankly, I think it’s gotten enough attention already. So there’s my obligatory update on the weather–which should come as no surprise to most, being that it is mid-winter and we live in the Midwest.

Now, all winter banter aside, February is full of eventful things and we’re not even halfway thru the month. We’re just getting back from a lovely overnight in Chicago where we paid our annual visit to the Chicago Auto Show. Until last year, I’d never attended, but I’ll admit I’ve grown to like it quite easily. The boys (big and small) look forward to it so much. I couldn’t really resist going to watch them enjoy the fun! I picked my favorites again this year, but I’m not yet ready to admit what they are (although I did hint at an Airstream in my Instagram feed yesterday…).

This year, we wised up a bit and checked into the hotel adjacent to the show–perfect for this nursing mama and our two kiddos when we all needed to rest, plus, it afforded us the sense of a mini-getaway with some pool time and fun meals out in the city. It was refreshing to find a plethora of dairy-free options at the ready for dinner last night and lunch today. I didn’t have to try very hard to accommodate this new-for-me diet shift away from home. (More on my transition to a DF menu in a later post.) This particular trip to Chicago marked a few firsts for our little fam–our first hotel stay with Eloise in tow, her first dip in the pool (it was even warm and sunny where we lounged ;), and her first successful attempt at sitting up this morning. Of course, the car show with two kids in tow was a first, too. I’m so thankful for my Solly Baby Wrap, which kept E snug as a bug and close to mama while we wandered and she napped.

I feel like I’m missing a lot of documentation these days as I spend my time really focused on the kiddos and home life, with little margin for a whole lot else. Not a bad swap, certainly, but I do hope I’ll be able to look back on this season and remember some of the milestones I’ve not written down. In that vein, Henry is officially signed up for preschool as of Thursday (!), Eloise is suddenly rolling over (both directions) like a champ in the past week or so, we’re teething for sure, and H got his 9th (crazy!) haircut the other day. He is looking dapper and so old, with a third birthday right around the corner. Eloise will be six months old next week and starting table food, which will (hopefully) give this ’round-the-clock nursing woman a smallish break in the action. I know a daddy and big brother who are eager to help in this way, and I’m excited to employ willing hands :)

We’re all beyond anxious to get outside and enjoy walks and hikes and parks and such…cannot wait to take the kiddos out for morning coffee with just a stroller and spring jackets, or to push Eloise on the swings for the very first time. Still, there’s no shortage of activity to be had in the little blue house or in these days as we pass time thru the winter months. We wake up with plans and aspirations of things to do and explore every morning, falling short of our lists all of the time and better for learning daily how to go with the flow.

I do love that love is in the air as Valentine’s Day rounds the corner, and as I look forward to celebrating my three loves this week. The weekend together was a very good start, indeed.

rested in spirit, which may be a first in a while. grateful of all of this Grace,

mm

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