Vows.

Weddings are magical. And not just in a fairytale, Cinderella way. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you forget the time and stress and money that goes into planning what is arguably the most important event of your life (no pressure) and the tensions that surround the union of two different, albeit wonderful, families once the beginning notes of Canon in D Major echo through the centuries old church. Can’t we bottle that magic?

We watched Josh’s younger brother and his bride wed this past weekend. I’m not an overly emotional person but weddings turn me into a ball of weepy mush. While most turn and watch the bride as she makes her way down the aisle, I watch the groom. It’s an honor to be privilege to witness such a private moment – the groom seeing and receiving his bride for the first time. It’s a face that beams with love, pride, honor and excitement. An intimate moment for everyone to see – if only they are looking.

Josh had the honor of serving as best man and we spent the long drive to Baltimore discussing the speech he was to deliver at the reception. You see, Josh doesn’t take responsibilities like this lightly. So this conversation was lengthy. He quickly decided he didn’t want to take this as an opportunity to roast his little brother but instead to impart some useful knowledge from the trenches. How do you begin to condense eight years of hard lessons into two minutes or less?

“…For better or for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health…”

We’ve had our betters and worses but much more of the life that is made up in the middle. Not much of the richer but our share of poorer courtesy of those student loans from that small, private liberal arts college degree that I’m clearly putting to good use. And the sickness and health.

I don’t remember many specific emotions from our wedding except utter embarrassment after I nearly passed out. But I distinctly remember exchanging the “in sickness and in health” in our vows. I looked at my new husband, baby-faced and tuxedoed and had the distinct realization that someday we were going to face sickness. Heartbreaking, devastating sickness – cancer, heart attacks, accidents.

I never considered that sickness would sometimes be a quiet force that hung around the corners of marriage. At times it would encompass much more and would become the theme to our marriage, swallowing up any ‘betters’ and any ‘richers’ that may have been. We honored those vows while sitting together on the closet floor of our first apartment while I sobbed through a year’s worth of panic attacks, most certain my world was ending. I remembered those words while laying side by side and watching the sunbeams journey across the bedspread while I waited to miscarry our third child. And in the the mid-night half-smiles as we tag team to clean up after a child vomits yet again – I clean the child, he cleans the bed.

And there is the health. It’s easy to spot the sickness but sometimes the health needs to be sought. Diagnosis and feelings don’t determine health. It’s quality of life. And boy, we have a life of quality and some good substance. Health is in our two amazingly stubborn ninja princesses who will undoubtedly change the world. Health in the answers and healing. Health in the laughter that bubbles uncontrollably at the most inopportune times.

I wish we could get married again with a new appreciation for our vows, for everything they say and everything left unsaid between the words. image-2

Becoming a mother.

Four years ago, I sat in a rocking chair in my unborn daughter’s nursery and cried. Hysterically. Josh stood in the doorway and stared at his very pregnant wife, unsure of exactly what to say or do and uncertain if perhaps something he had already said or done was what had spurred such an incredible display of emotions from his typically poker-faced wife.

Although the pregnancy was planned, it wasn’t very well thought out.

“Maybe we should have a baby.”

“Okay.”

I’m certain we’ve had lengthier and more serious discussions about shower curtains and tire tread.

Four weeks and four pregnancy tests later, we were pregnant. Pregnant.

I was just 24 when Emery was born. I had been playing grown up longer than most other women my age and after 3 years of marriage, it felt like Josh and I had been married for ages. Now, after 7 years of marriage, I can’t believe we were so naive to think we had this marriage thing mastered so quickly.

Cooking for two, clean laundry and balancing a budget. Check! Next up – Babies!

By the time that June evening rolled around, it all seemed like a very, very bad idea.

About 18 hours after my rocking chair meltdown, Emery was born on a rainy June afternoon to two utterly clueless parents. I had no idea of what was ahead. Honestly, I didn’t think much past wee babes wrapped snuggly around my chest and tiny bits of lace on bloomers.

Was I going to co-sleep? Maybe? Breastfeed? I think so…? Did I research car seats? Pediatricians? Vaccinations? Bottles? Daycare? Diapers?

Most people misunderstood my approach to parenting as laid-back or flexible. In reality, I just had no freaking clue parenting involved so many decisions. I didn’t realize there were choices on how to discipline, educate, interact. And even if I made a decision, I failed to recognize that there would be this other little person with a mind and personality of her own who didn’t care I rushed my hugely pregnant booty to Target and spent an hour choosing the best BPA-free, latex-free, orthodontist approved pacifier. She hated those $12 pacifiers and insisted on the latex, tooth-snaggling variety. Pick your battles.

Throughout the past four years, this girl has changed me. Her fiery spirit is rivaled only by the size of her heart and learning how to raise her has forced me to study the deepest parts of myself to find and understand those things that I buried years ago. Doing this breaks me down to the humblest and most vulnerable of positions because the only way I can attempt to understand her is if I understand myself. This child is more like me than I care to admit. It’s the most awesome and terrifying responsibility to nurture such an amazing little being who carries such incredible talents and traits. Because I am most certain that this child will move mountains and defeat giants once she sets her mind to it.

The flip-side of such a strong personality is taming such an innate defiance toward authority and those silly things called rules (again, like me. Sorry, Josh). Some days, all I can do is throw my hands in the air and pray with every fiber of my being that above all else, I don’t screw this up.

First Birthday.

First Birthday.

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Third Birthday.

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Fourth Birthday.

Apparently Em’s second birthday was as rough as I remember because we have zero pictures together and only a few blurred snapshots of her running laps around our backyard in a tutu. Followed by many, many tears when she blew out her candles.  I’m so glad those days are behind us.

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SONY DSCI can say with great sincerity that I cannot wait to see what this year brings. I have high hopes that “four” is our year. She’s coming into her own and watching her grow and blossom is a pleasure and honestly, rather hilarious. Happy Fourth Birthday, sweet girl.

 

Resolution.

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I didn’t have anything particular against them; I just never felt the need to make a definitive statement of my intentions.

I feel differently this year.

Being that it’s January 4 and a lot of people have already fallen off the resolution bandwagon, I’m incredibly late to this New Year party.

But I didn’t want to make my resolutions lightly. I tend to jump into big, major, life-altering things quickly and with both feet without always thinking things through. I act emotionally and impulsively and whilst that’s dandy most of the time (thank God I married a more rational man), I wanted to think through my goals for 2013 with more than just an eager heart.

This HuffPo article says that the key to keeping resolutions isn’t wishing, but instead trying. That makes sense. I can’t keep hope, hope, hoping things will change without making notable steps.

When I was younger and envisioned who I would be at my present age, I saw a woman with more self-awareness and a better grasp on all these things that everyone else seems to know how to handle. I somehow missed Well-Adjusted Grownup 101 my freshman year of college.

I spent quite a bit of time reflecting and pondering who I want to be when I ring in 2014. All of the attributes on my list fell easily into categories with specific goals:

1. I will have better willpower.

2. I will be a stellar wife and mother.

3. I will grow new friendships.

Number 1 sounds easy enough but this category will be the hardest for me as it encompasses the most. It isn’t just about saying no to nutella rice crispy treats (which, admittedly, does take a lot of discipline) but saying yes to myself when I’m inwardly saying no, I don’t want to. I can rationalize anything and give myself far too many free passes.

It’s raining, I don’t want to load the kids in the car and go to the gym. B didn’t sleep well last night and she’ll probably be a wreck for the ladies in child watch. I’ll run later. <– i’m a wimp. girls are fine. i probably won’t run later.

It’s okay my house is a disaster area. I have two little kids and, you know what they say, “there is no point in shoveling in the middle of a snowstorm!” <– actually, there is a point. it’s so much easier to handle a bit at a time rather than a crap load at once. truth.

I should get up early to read my devotions and have some quiet time. But I could really use that extra time to fold the mountain of laundry that is eating my sofa. Or sleeping in this warm bed because God knows I’m completely physically and mentally exhausted by these two children who will surely wake the moment I sit down with my coffee.  <– stupid. everyone (God included) knows that laundry won’t get folded regardless of what time I wake. everyone is tired. shut up and read the bible, you whiner.

Ways to correct this bad behavior are numerous. For the sake of brevity (and your interest level, I’m sure), here are a few.

  • Suck it up, buttercup. When I make the decision to run/crosstrain/practice yoga, I will keep myself accountable. Yes, there are times that will require flexibility and forgiveness. But planned workouts that are skipped will have to be made up just like high school PE.  And no one really liked high school PE.
  • Keep on the housekeeping beyond the never-ending dishes and laundry. Motivated Moms has been a great way to start and there is an App that provides a customizable checklist of daily tasks.
  • Wake up early enough to get myself prepared both physically and mentally for the day before the girls wake at 7 a.m. On gym mornings, this means preparing breakfast for that morning with leftovers for the following. The mornings that I need to shower will go smoother with breakfast prepared and I can focus on getting the girls out the door once they wake. This time also includes devotions and personal writing.

Number 2 is a bit more vague but revolves around my needing to be more selfless and more invested in my family.

  • I will listen when my children speak. They are hilarious and brilliant little humans and I want them to know that when they talk to me, I will hear them and value what they are saying. Now and forever.
  • I will say “yes” more often. The bulk of the verbiage coming from E’s lips are requests ranging from the bizarre to the downright annoying. I typically say “no” for the sake of time and simplicity but the joy these quirks bring to that sweet child is immeasurable. An added bonus is that I will no longer be fighting my daughter on things that really don’t matter. As a strong-willed child, she needs to feel like she has control and if that means she gets to dip her apple slices in ketchup, well, so be it. The more I say yes, the more willing she will be to cooperate when I say no. Her little mind is fascinating.
  • I will cut my husband some slack. J has a seriously stressful job with long hours and often travels on short notice – all of which, in turn, is seriously stressful on the rest of us. He is an awesome employee and takes providing for his family seriously. He knows how I feel. He doesn’t need a tongue lashing every time he’s late coming home or leaves me shouldering additional responsibility. He knows. So I will be quiet and supportive.
  • I will trust my husband to lead our family.

Number 3 will be interesting. I’m the person that smiles and makes small talk with the grocery store cashier. But I’ve gotten in the habit of closing myself off from new friendships. When we moved to Savannah, I made a great network of friends through children E’s age.  Some have moved away and others I don’t see as often as I’d like but I’ve been in the mindset of “I have friends – I don’t have time/energy/room for any one else.” I know what it’s like to be lonely, especially as a stay-at-home-mom. When I meet someone new, I always assume everyone has someone to love or if they extend an invitation, it’s a matter of manners rather than genuine interest. Instead, I’m going to extend myself. I will go beyond the polite chitchat.

As a subset to number 3, B needs more friends her age. E has grown up with no fewer than 10 close-aged buddies with whom to share a morning play date. B hasn’t had that. Paired with her disdain for children not yet able to string two words together (she’s a bit of an ageist), it will otherwise be a lonely childhood for her.

 

I’m excited. I’m looking forward to 2013 and finding comfort in 2012 and all the years prior. Because of this, there is a number 4.

#4. Accept myself for who I am and who I am meant to be.

 

Did you make resolutions? Care to share? How are you doing?