And Then There Was Clara (Part 2)

A few days back I started to share with you the story of how our new daughter, Clara, was born. In case you missed it, here is Part 1

I sat in yet another transitional bed and breathed deeply as the contractions amped up at what seemed to be an alarming rate, from every 10 minutes, to every 8, 5, 3. And as they sped up, they got stronger and more painful.

I squeezed Kel’s hand with each one as we waited for the nurses to work through the medical procedures necessary for our daughter to be born.

A steady stream of medical personnel made their way through the room, asking questions, running tests and filling little test tubes with blood for some last minute lab work.

Many of the staff mentioned that there might be a hold up centered around my breakfast. You see, even though I’d been having contractions, I had shared a bowl of oatmeal with our son around 9:00 that morning (3 hours prior) and the verdict was out as to whether or not the anesthesiologist would be okay with doing the surgery within five hours of the oatmeal.

Curses… I seriously knew I shouldn’t have had the oatmeal… 

Finally, gloriously, my OB arrived and took charge. Soon we had the all clear to move into surgery and were meeting with the anesthesiologist who, we were told, was the best one we could possibly get.

We talked about how I’ve handled spinal blocks in the past and I requested that an anti anxiety be “on hand” just in case I started to get panicky.

Minutes later, I left Kel in the room, clad in paper scrubs and was wheeled to the OR to meet our daughter.

I just told myself to keep breathing… in and out… in and out…  and praying, God be here… Healthy… Alive… See us through…and trying not to panic. Continue reading

And Then There Was Clara (Part 1)

Well I am insanely sleep deprived but I really want to take the time to get Clara’s birth story down before it’s lost in to the recesses of my brain forever. And I really, really want to share the story of her surprise arrival with you! 

I’m blessed, or lucky, or genetically gifted. I’ve gotten to carry all three of my pregnancies to term. So I try to keep the complaining to a minimum, because these babies are a blessing and I would never want to invalidate anyone’s struggle by complaining about my own blessings.

However, if I’m being honest with you, this pregnancy was hard and it took everything I have. It truly felt like carrying our daughter and barely sustaining our family was all I was capable of.

For months I operated in a fog at 50% battery life or less and to make matters worse I beat myself up about why I couldn’t carry more joyfully or with greater energy.

So,

As you may know our baby girl was due to arrive on November 13, but she came early on November 10. Here’s how that all happened.

All that weekend I had been having contractions that would come and go, but they were way worse than the Braxton Hicks, tight-belly only contractions that I’d been having through the second and third trimesters.10730843_541514449677_1758459000295678324_n

The evenings and overnights were the worst and I wound up calling my office’s on call doctor at 1:30 Monday morning to get her take. She told me to sleep if I could and call the office in the morning to get my Tuesday appointment moved to Monday.

I have to emphasize here that with our previous two births I’d never had painful contractions, even though I’d been in active Labor. So my trust in my ability to identify what my body is doing when it comes to childbirth is fairly low.

And these contractions hurt, like cramps that started in my back and shot around down my thighs. New territory for me. Continue reading

The Power of a Plan (with meal planning / grocery shopping form freebie)

What is this blog formally about? I don’t know anymore. Today it’s about grocery shopping with a plan. Do you mind? 

I love a plan, I love a planner BUT… I also struggle occasionally to commit to a plan and I currently lack the energy to make one some weeks.

I’m a wishy washy planner, it’s a blessing and a curse.

Yet, I find that when I go into something with a plan it becomes a total game changer.

Take meal planning and grocery shopping. Last week I made a crock pot based meal plan with attached grocery list, all in one document.

I bought the stuff for the decided upon recipes and executed them early in the day when I had the energy.

Our entire week felt pulled together by this one act. It was insane.

I once heard a pastor say that flossing was his game changer or hinge habit. If he was flossing, it led to other healthy habits. When he stopped flossing? Things started to slide.

I think there is truth in this logic. When we feel good about the way we are approaching our week we feel more confident about adding in other good stuff.

Like last week I finished some sorting and got our coat closet and medicine cabinet in order. I give credit to the original meal planning.

I used to work at Franklin Covey, back when they had stores in the mall, and we sold a paper form called the meal planning / shopping list. So I sort of recreated it in google docs a while back.

Last week Monday I scanned the ads, pinned easy recipes and then acted upon it.

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One Day in the Life (2014 Edition)

For the second year in a row I’ve linked up with Hollywood Housewife to photo-document one day in the life of our family. (Here is last year’s post if you’d like to check it out)

I did most of this on Instagram, you can follow that here if you don’t already. 

You have to understand we are in a weird season, I’m 36 weeks pregnant and Kel is between church assignments so his work load is sort of minimal. Our typical life right now is really odd for us.

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5:30 (ish) The day started out early with Noelle requesting to crawl into bed with us.  I gave in and settled her in to the middle of our bed and snuggled for ten minutes before giving up on sleep myself and heading downstairs.

You may have forgotten but during the last few weeks of pregnancy, sleep is elusive. Comfortable positions no longer exist.

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5:50 Scoot the dishwasher over to the sink to get it started, open up a can of cat food. so Alfie will shut up already.

Yes, my dishwasher is on wheels. We prefer to think of it as “so euro” rather than “so ghetto.” While I AM thankful for this mini-rolly guy, I do miss a “normal” dishwasher… Continue reading

A letter to my Son After a Bad Bedtime

I just need to write, to process life through words and to blog, I miss it and even if it’s imperfect or not tagline worth I’m going for it.

So today I’m sharing this letter I wrote last week after a particularly bad bedtime, I bet you’ve been there too. 

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Dear son,

you fell asleep in the hallway tonight, laid your little body down on the cold and unforgiving wood floor in protest of something that, to you, seemed monumentally unjust.

I tripped on you a bit as I made my way down the hallway, because you’d wrapped yourself from head to toe in your quilt. You scared me, I had no idea you were in there, I was sure you’d given up and crawled into bed.

I have no idea why you chose to fall asleep this way, but I’m sure it has something to do with the protests you were yelling down the stairs to me, the ones I ignored by turning the TV up and repeatedly yelling “goodnight!”

The last thing I heard you were complaining about your sister breathing too loud, so I’m thinking your floor shenanigans had something to do with that. I never have any idea what to do with that request, by the way, people need to breathe, that slow rhythmic in and out is something to be thankful for.

It was a rough bedtime, with Dad gone and you making multiple trips down the stairs requesting a snack, a chance to give the cat a treat, some time to watch TV with me and of course the breathing complaints.

I told you the kitchen was closed, I threatened to take away screen time, but mostly… if I’m honest? I yelled at you. Continue reading

Church Plant Postmortem

Photo courtesy of Flickr, user serzhile

Photo courtesy of Flickr, user serzhile

Last year we made the official announcement that we were planting a church on the NorthEast side of Grand Rapids. This past January they gave us the keys to a beautiful old building, a well loved home for our new church. We soaked in the pictures of the beautiful sanctuary together, and you all offered your most sincere prayers.

We had so many dreams starting out, I was going to write weekly updates and blog about the church plant, both here and on our church website. We were going to be a place of authenticity that made space for brokenness and lament, a community that could weathered life’s seasons and hard questions together.

A community that engaged creativity

That loved our neighborhoods by being a part of them, shouldering burdens, being present.

I committed to bring my true self to this church, not the paper doll pastor’s wife I felt I should be.

We labored over a name and many of you got involved by taking a survey.

We bought a house specifically so we could be nearby the church and engage our neighborhood with Christ-centered hearts, loving honestly and opening our home. We wanted to be authentic members of our community with no agenda other than to show love.

I saw so many dinners and real-true conversations happening in these rooms when we walked through this home for the first time.

Sometime this summer I stopped writing about the church plant, because well, when things aren’t going well you’re generally not the first to bring it up, you deflect or hope no one will ask.

Last week Wednesday Kel and I sat in a meeting where we agreed that it was time to close the book on our little church plant. Continue reading

Superman’s Smile.

Yesterday was a really hard day for our family, I’m not trying to be cryptic, I’ll fill you in when I can. 

There are a lot of things I could be worrying on, freaking out about, angry over. All of them rightly so

But you know where I am fixing my gaze instead? On this picture.

supermanIt seems like I would say “I’m keeping my eyes on God” or “his provision” or “his faithfulness” and I am saying that, but for some reason no verse or quote is saying as much to my weary heart as this picture.

This picture says “everything’s going to be fine” and “God is watching out for us” to me in a way that nothing else can.

It’s not a high quality photo, it won’t look impressive to you in a frame on our wall. It was taken in the dressing room of a Halloween Store under dingy florescent lights.

We stopped in because I knew we needed to. I’d spent the morning paying bills, reducing this line and that on the spreadsheet until it all worked out…. ish.

Writing checks, calling doctors to pay uncollected co-pays with one ear as the other one was filled with the voice of a little boy.

“Mom, instead of numbers, let’s look at superman costumes on your computer! Mom! CAN WE LOOK AT SUPERMAN?!”

No, No, No buddy, please wait, not now… 

And then, you know what? Yes. Before we can’t anymore, let’s go get a superman costume. Continue reading

Thoughts and Feels on Being Judged About My CSection

Tomorrow will find me 32 weeks pregnant. Can you believe it? I can’t, but then I get up to pee for the 173rd time each day and and yup, I can believe it. I’m so ready to be done peeing.

This pregnancy has flown by and dragged on simultaneously. One the one hand I feel as though I’ve been expecting this little girl forever, then on the other hand I am completely unprepared to bring her home.

No, my bag is not packed. I actually don’t even have the things I need to pack, my nursing camis from the last two babies disintegrated and the yoga pants I brought to the hospital became rags after being bleach-stained beyond repair.

No, the nursery is NOT ready and it might not be before she arrives. Kel is working two jobs and we don’t see a lot of each other these days. When we do finally have a chance to be in the same room, painting is the last thing on our minds. Usually it’s more like, “hey come sit on the same couch as me, bring the remote. Let’s pass out.”

So I’m not ready, but I know our sweet new daughter will be here soon, just the same.

And if I need to have a friend or family member run to target to buy nursing camis and yoga pants and she sleeps in a pack and play in our room for the first months, so be it.

It’s not even a third baby thing, it’s a life-right-now thing. I’d rather have a sane family, a (sorta) rested husband and space to take it all in than kill ourselves putting together a pinterest-worthy nursery.

The state of our hearts over the look of her room.

However, there is one thing I am extremely ready for.

I’m ready for people to stop judging me about my C-section. Continue reading

Giving Up on Why

Today I am guest posting for my dear friend across the pond, Tanya Marlow to kick off her fall series on God and Suffering. Hope you’ll start here and click over and as always thank you for your presence and readership.

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This past spring, my husband graduated from Seminary after a seven-year, marathon journey of taking classes when we could afford it, both time-wise and financially. He started on campus, and finished up with intensive courses and online.

To celebrate, we made the seven-hour trip down to Kentucky for the commencement ceremonies. As I took my seat after checking our two children into child-care a single, paralyzing thought occurred to me.

I am here alone.

I was surrounded by a gymnasium of people, clustered together to celebrate their graduates. Some had signs and balloons, most chatted happily as they waited for the ceremony to begin and there I was, literally alone in a crowd.

I started to cry, and masked it by flipping through the program, hoping no one would notice the lonely woman bawling.

Let me fill you in on a little of the backstory as to why I found myself alone that afternoon.

Shortly before I met him, my husband’s father died from two, rare types of brain cancer. The beginning of our relationship was steeped in his grief. His birth mother died a week earlier and, although he hadn’t had contact with her for fifteen years, her death was a hard blow as, with it, all hopes of reconciliation were shattered.

A year and a half later, I received a phone call from my Mother: my father had passed away overnight in his office chair after a sudden heart attack at the age of 49.

 

Five years after that, another phone call: my mother had taken her own life on the train tracks of our hometown.

So that afternoon I sat at seminary graduation alone, feeling the weight of our collective losses. It wasn’t the first time I felt the holes left behind by our parents, but this time it was particularly sharp.

So many people who should have been there beside me…

As the graduates received their diplomas the people who had gathered to honor them stood to cheer. A few names in, a paralyzing thought occurred to me: “I will be the only one who stands and cheers for him; he deserves so much more than just my lonely voice.”

God why did you have to take them all?

Click here to head on over to Tanya’s blog to finish up. 

The day I realized I had Kindergarten all wrong

“Her mom probably cried when she left for Kindergarten and I celebrated with my friends by going out to brunch.”

I picked up this (mis)quote somewhere along the road (I think it’s from Jen Hatmaker and I think it’s from her blog, or her book Seven. Forgive me for my terrible sourcing here.)

I’ve repeated it with friends during friendly banter about how ready I was for my children to go off to school.

I’m one of THOSE moms, I said, the ones who will drop them off at school and head for the coffee shop with a grin on my face.

And then came the night before Kindergarten. As I emerged from the bathroom after brushing my teeth Kel signaled for me to follow him into the kid’s bedroom.

“This is the last night we have two preschoolers, she starts Kindergarten tomorrow… We have a school kid!”

We squinted at each other in the dim light and exchanged some sort of “holy crap” type look complete with raised eyebrows.

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She was going to school, for real school, not preschool but like big, huge, out in the world school.

And then I started to cry, and panic, and wish that we had some paper bags in the house so I could hyperventilate properly. (Kel offered to get me a plastic bag to which I responded “are you trying to kill me?!?”)

We headed to bed to chat about it all more and I started sobbing to him.

“I get it! I get why Moms cry when they send their kids to school! It’s not because they can’t stand to be without them for a while, it’s because this world is so damn scary and mean and we won’t be there! I need five more years to talk to her about All. The. Things!”

“Like how to be resilient when people are mean to her! And how to show love to a kid who everyone else is being mean to! And how she needs to believe what we teach her about who she is and who God says she is so if someone teases her for being too busy or picking her nose she will know that what they say doesn’t matter because people suck Kel! And OH MY GOD someone is going to offer her drugs like tomorrow, I just know it, we haven’t talked about drugs. I need five more years, I won’t be there! She is NOT READY for the big world.”

I am not ready to let the world have a crack at her. Not yet.

Because guys? The world can be so mean, so so mean and she is sweet, she is all kitties and big brown eyes and almost too many hugs and kisses every single day.

I don’t want careless people to break that.

Do you remember how scary school can be? And how mean kids are? I may as well toss her to the wolves as send her to Kindergarten!

I know she will come home crying and I know that we will have 17,842 more talks about life as it’s happening, complete with names, faces and context.

But Kindergarten day was dawning and I felt suddenly obscenely unprepared.

Still, the sun rose and we pulled on her skort and her polo. I did her hair in pigtails WITH little braids in them, completely exhausting my updo skills.

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We walked down to the fantastic Montessori school and I kept breathing as we stood amongst a crowd of other excited buzzing parents and children.

When her teacher walked out I eyeballed her and thought something along the lines of: you better cherish her little heart and see how wonderful she is or I will break you in half…(just kidding Ms Jennifer… if you’re reading this I’m sorry and I swear I will rock snack duty next week.)

It’s like this:

“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” ~Elizabeth Stone

This quote nails it.

Suddenly you wake up and you send your unprepared heart to Kindergarten, and it’s all exposed and out there. You can’t swoop in to protect it and past experience tells you that there’s a 1000% chance it will be broken time and time again.

You think of every mean thing that happened to you and try frantically to protect your child from enduring the same. You know broken is beautiful and that she has to learn to endure heartache, to believe in who she is because she’s had to defend it, to see the world through other people’s eyes because she has access to them…

And you want to believe that God has her, but your life tells you that his “in control” and your “in control” are worlds apart. He will allow hard things to happen to her, the bitter and the sweet are coming, neither of which call to question his power or love… somehow.

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So you send your heart to Kindergarten and you make peace with the lump in your throat and the look of terror on your face. You remind yourself that you are new at being a school-kid mom and that you have much to learn as well.

And you will learn, both of you, and it will be some sort of okay even though it will constantly take you by surprise.

And you realize the morning of Kindergarten that not only do you have no idea how to spell the world, that you grossly misjudged how it would feel to send her through those doors to face the big world, to let it have access to her.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don't get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

See how I spelled it wrong? I clearly don’t get Kindergarten. Stupid german words.

Oh world, be gentle
Oh God shape her, May I always be her safe place second only to you as you are the only one who has staying power on this earth.
Oh Noelle, be brave, be unapologetically yourself, be a good friend, a passionate learner.
Oh God… be with her in that classroom, preserve that heart so she can show the world how much beauty you jam packed in there… 

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