19 December 2014

HIS GOSPEL IS PEACE

A couple of weeks ago, Bryan and I were in a car accident. With each other. (Very fun conversation with Geico, as you can imagine). I was driving onto the highway as several cars in front of me stopped suddenly on the ramp. I knew as I tried to stop that Bryan, driving behind me - wouldn't have time to process all of it. Sure enough - he slammed into my bumper, then hit me a second time on the side. I watched from the rearview mirror as he spun off the highway ramp into a street light that fell on his car before rolling into the grass. 

Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I couldn't process what had happened, only get out of the car and run to him and hope that I found him unharmed. But it looked horrible. It looked like I watched my husband meet his demise. He said he could hear me yelling his name hysterically (hysteria, yes!) as he wondered how the airbag came out but never touched him. We were both fine - not even a scratch to report. The enormous street lights are apparently very easy to knock over since they are hollow, and even in photos the car didn't look as bad as the whole thing felt. Elsa was safe and asleep in her bed at home, under the care of my mom. Our car was totaled, but it didn't matter. We were overwhelmingly thankful for how everything transpired and the way God protected us. 



As far as timing goes, it would have been cool to not add expensive car damage to the everlasting list of things to be taken care of around the holidays, but who even cares when you all get to spend the next day together - safe and sound.


Pretty sure we all need to buy all of the Lindsay Letters canvases. Amen.

That story is so paltry in light of everything that has been going on lately, though. Deadly hostage attack in Australia, as patrons enjoyed their coffee in a cafe. Close to two hundred children killed in a school in Pakistan. An ex-marine kills his ex-wife and her family. Horrific and ominous threats to moviegoers. Parents mourning their babies that left us two Decembers ago. 


It's heavy. It's weary. It's stifling. 

It makes the busyness of buying presents feel trite, and I keep finding myself wondering aloud to my friends and family, "WHY DOES EVERYTHING SEEM TO HAPPEN THIS TIME OF YEAR? When it's already such a struggle to focus on what Christmas actually means, why is everything so especially broken and depraved?" (I know why it's broken and depraved, but you know what I mean).

And then I thought of O Holy Night - that one particular lyric. 

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

And then I thought that maybe it's always going to be especially hard this time of year. Because we need to really remember and understand just how much we need hope and need a Savior. Because we have to remember that this isn't it. This isn't our home. This isn't how the story ends.

Two Christmases ago, I wrote that I had to stop trying to make sense of it all, and instead remember the joy and glory of anticipating the day when "He will wipe every tear from our eyes. When there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain."

Our weary world will rejoice again. Even reading that now seems so far from the brokenness of the horror that keeps happening, but it's all the more reason to cling to what is good and true. We need to be reminded of the glorious significance of advent.
 


I so hope you fight for the time to slow down, to savor, and to celebrate the hope and promise and glory of our Savior amidst the squalor and distraction. I pray for joy and peace surpassing all understanding, and thankfulness for each small moment.


All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  - Matthew 1:22-23, esv

And here's a picture of my baby because THAT WAS A HEAVY ONE, FRAN.




Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!

19 November 2014

JOINING THE VILLAGE

It takes a village to raise a child, but what about when it seems like the villagers have formed an angry mob?

I took Elsa to a pediatric chiropractor for adjustment when we ran into some issues with nursing (it really helped!). The chiropractor was kind and accommodating when I made a last minute appointment. They were patient as I changed the diaper of my two month old and got poop everywhere as I felt sweat pouring out of my stressed out body. Our introduction before adjustment from the chiropractor was a kind salutation followed by a firm declaration: "You should know I do not believe in vaccinations." A brief monologue of the dangers and effects of them followed.

Elsa and I looked at each other like, "Um, what..."

I slow blinked at her and said, "Oh okay ME NEITHER" because I panic sometimes and turn into a lemming when strong opinions are thrown at me and I've really got to stop doing that. I made a mental note to better research vaccinations when I got home. She'd already had some shots, and I suddenly felt awful about them. Like I'd done irreversible damage to my baby. Bryan returned from work that night, asking if I'd like to go for a nice evening stroll. I greeted him with:

"WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VACCINATIONS? THEY MIGHT BE BAD. THERE IS NO ANSWER YOU HAVE TO DECIDE OURSELVES BUT GOOGLE IS BIASED ON BOTH SIDES SO THERE IS NO ANSWERS."

"So...you don't want to go for a walk?"

"WHAT ABOUT VACCINATIONS"

This is not a discussion about vaccinations.



It's just an observation of what it means to become a mother in the time of the Internet when everyone has a voice, everyone has a soapbox, and we are all safe behind our screens as people shout passionately and it can sometimes be hurtful. Sometimes it feels loud, and noisy. I definitely wasn't prepared for it. I went into pregnancy and motherhood blissfully unaware of all of the contention within the realm of motherhood. Doctor or midwife. Epidural or natural. Breastfeeding versus formula. To vaccinate or to not vaccinate.

I read Babywise, and then I read The Happpiest Baby on the Block, and they are totally opposite. I got the crazed vaccination look in my eye when I asked Bryan again, "WHAT DO WE DO THESE BOOKS DO NOT AGREE WITH EACH OTHER. WHAT IF SHE NEVER SLEEPS." Bryan stared back at me, with Elsa sleeping on his chest and wondered whether he should respond or let me ride it out. (Though, let's all agree that this is the most accurate depiction of advice on sleep training).

Amy Poehler's book had a whole chapter devoted to "Good for you, not for me." She talked about loving her epidural and the hospital, and how her friend Maya Rudolph liked having her babies naturally in her own home. I loved the simplicity of it, and the reminder that it's possible to celebrate another person's decision in what works for their family and know that it's okay if yours is different. It's also really comforting to think that our children will not meet someone in college and introduce themselves as, "I'm Elsa. I was breastfed until I was 14 months. What about you?"



I am thankful for the village, I think I just didn't take into account that it was diverse and there are lots of tribes. Some grow corn and maybe like wearing husks, and some are really into hunting and wearing animal hides. What am I saying? I'm saying that I have to remember to love the village of real mothers that have gone before me and not get lost in the village of Google. I don't want to numb my own maternal instinct by constantly checking the internet instead of trusting in the wisdom God gives me, and His sovereignty. I want to remember to look at all of the women around me that are calm in reminding me that babies are vulnerable, but resilient - and that people have been doing this for a really long time, long before the internet. 

Becoming a mom has only confirmed that I know nothing and that I have no control. I think that is one of my favorite parts of being a mother so far, as weird as that sounds. It's really liberating to just say, "I really don't know anything, and I'm figuring this out as I go. We are all alive and tired and it's good and exhilarating and exhausting and a privilege."

I hope that my place in the village is one that is of sharing hopeful words with other women. That if you want to have your baby naturally - you can, and it will be good. That if you want to get the epidural, you can and it will be good. Feed your baby, and love your baby. Know that you are not alone, and everyone will not agree, but it can be good for you and not for me and it can all still be good. It's possible to be passionate without denigration. I'm cheering for you and your babies, and I hope you can hear it.

Take solace in knowing that we can all agree that letting your baby drink red bull or chew on glass will never be a good idea. Cheers!

17 November 2014

OCTOBER + NOVEMBER

"At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost." - Rainer Maria Rilke

I know, I know. Another quote about the majesty of Fall. Just remember, I could have used the ubiquitous Anne Shirley quote about October, but I refrained.

The past several Autumns have been pretty eventful for me. Two years ago, we got married, and I was still flying when Hurricane Sandy happened. Last year, I was pregnant and barfing violently and having weird dreams. 

Fall for us this year has been full of a rapidly growing baby with dimpled knuckles, rolls of plump flesh for the gobbling, and all sorts of milestones that have happened too fast. It will never be less cliche to say that time moves so quickly with a baby, but it will also never be less true. 
I got all of my hair chopped, and when I came home I could tell Bryan's heart was warmed by the prospect of (hopefully) finding less of my hair on our floor, in his clothes, in the baby's mouth and diaper, and et cetera. I could also hear our shower drain singing praises of "GLORY" at the promise of less Fran mop clogging the bathtub. With that out of the way, I had important things to focus on. Namely, dressing up my baby in an animal costume for her first Halloween.

Thanks to the wonders of Amazon Prime, we got a cheaply made ambiguous-looking lion costume made of highly synthetic fibers. The Honest Company would have been ashamed. She looked like a hybrid of Fozzybear, a lion cub, and a capeless ewok. She lasted all of twenty minutes at the Halloween party before she was covered in sweat and ingesting her mane. It was really perfect for those twenty minutes, though.
 Seeing another person discovering the world for the first time is so exciting. I never knew how conflicting my feelings would be all the time - part of me saying "you are growing too fast" and feeling greedy for how small she is, but also wanting to just exclaim, "keep going, it's amazing." How I want to freeze time completely, but enjoy the movement forward as each little season has its sweet pleasantries.

In the past couple of weeks there has been a lot of waking in the middle of the night, and I go back and forth between "Dear Lord, please let there be teeth soon," and "NonononononopleasekeepsleepingsoIcantoo." I think all of that until I pick her up and she gives a sleepy hug and then the oxytocin brain makes me forget all of my grumblings.


This past weekend, she just decided that she could sit up on her own and I'm mostly convinced now that she has a stronger core than I do. She enjoys screaming like a pterodactyl (earning the nickname YELLSA), grabbing people's faces (preferably with handfuls of flesh, clamped in her fists), and boobmilk. She is SOLID, curious, and playful. She is a baby. 


I don't understand how it comes and goes so quickly each year. Maybe I just think that because it's only the middle of November and there are four inches of snow outside. Maybe it's because by the time the leaves change colors, we notice it for a moment before they all fall and the trees are barren. Maybe it's because Target put up Christmas decorations the second that last Halloween costume was purchased. Whatever it is, I refuse to ignore Thanksgiving. So easily forgotten Thanksgiving, without any songs of its own. There aren't costumes, and there aren't presents - but there's togetherness and gratefulness and tryptophan and that trifecta is worth celebrating. 



Also, gelatinous cranberry sauce from the can with ridges for the slicing. 

30 September 2014

SOME COLLEGE

The year I graduated from high school happened to serendipitously line up as one of the years when the area was INFESTED WITH CICADAS, so our ceremony was held in our un-air-conditioned gymnasium with the doors closed and a giant fan blowing that did nothing but re-circulate everyone's hot breath and expletives. Our parents took photos of us in the front lawn afterward and it took twice as long because we had to pick giant flying cockroaches from each other's gowns. Clearly, it stands out in my mind as a time of great sentiment and value.

I didn't hate high school, but I wasn't sad about the end of it. College seemed like the next great adventure, and for the most part I like change if I know it has the potential to be a good one.

That fall after graduating, I moved an hour away from home into a dirty old dorm on the University of Kentucky's campus with one of my close friends. Our parents helped us move everything in, and once they left I remember us each sitting on our new (to us) beds across from each other and thinking "We are alone now. LET'S GO DO WHATEVER WE WANT." So I think we went and bought batteries and ate gross campus food. Things that just shouted, "INDEPENDENT WOMEN."

I had no idea what I was going to major in, because I saw possibility in every option and felt overwhelmed by the prospect of picking something that I'd do the rest of my life. My mom encouraged me to go to a community college to take care of my general credits, but I balked at the suggestion because I thought I was too good for it. I was a stupid eighteen-year-old, and very wise in my own eyes. Instead, I skipped classes. I drank mystery liquor at parties (thank you Jesus for protecting me from that stupidity). I met with professors that thought it endearing that I wanted to major in English and be a writer. They were quick to inform me with a firm declaration that I'd likely have no prospects of a job. Confused and defeated, I found myself starting to flounder. Our family was going through a difficult season and my grades just kept getting worse. A couple years in, and thousands of dollars in debt later, I waved my white flag. I was trying to pay for school, rent, and living expenses and the ends were not meeting.

The decision to step back and step out of college was not taken lightly. I was terrified to even suggest it to my parents, but was surprised and relieved to find them supportive. They encouraged me to move home for a while and pay off my debt.

I went to college because that was the trajectory and path I'd been taught was best for me and I never had any reason to question it. It's a really good path, but it took a long time to be okay with the fact that it wasn't mine and that it wasn't the only one. Work hard to get into college, pick a major, take out some student loans, and all of the et cetera before you wake up one day in the middle of the Talking Heads song and you ask yourself, "Well, how did I get here?" 


The decision to leave college was so very humbling. I felt like a failure, and I let myself be identified by it for a really long time. I held tightly to labels of QUITTER! and DOOMED! and WILL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING! even though, no one was saying that to me. It was my own song, and I kept singing it.

I don't regret the two years that I went - it was an experience I wouldn't have traded for anything, and the failure was good for me. It was a season of my life when I came to know Jesus, met my best friends, and realized that once again, my mom was right. Basically, it was a lot like when I begged my mom to let me become a figure skater. I really just wanted to wear the ice skating outfits and look like Nancy Kerrigan - not go to the Olympics one day, unfortunately. I know now that I was a baby and should have waited and figured things out a bit more.

I had to work twice as hard to prove myself because if ever qualifying myself to an employer, and I'm always going to be filed in the "SOME college" category. That's okay. A countless number of times, it has eliminated me from potential jobs that I'd have loved to do. It forced me to have a strong work ethic -  and in many ways my faith has been so encouraged to see the ways God provides. It has humbled me as I've stumbled through seasons of working multiple jobs, lamenting the hardships and monotony of customer service and hoping to one day do something I loved. It has made me so incredibly thankful for the opportunities people give me when they take a chance on me and let me prove that I'm just as capable without it.

For some of us, we figure out what we love by first experiencing the things that we don't and going by process of elimination. That's how it was for me. Everyone doesn't have the financial means to pay for college. Conversely, I know many of my friends struggle with the fact that they do have a college degree, but aren't working in their field of study. We're all just learning to sail our ships, you know?

Recently I went to the dermatologist and in his effort to make small talk it somehow came up that I didn't finish college. He launched into a lengthy Mike Brady-esque monologue about how I needed to finish because I might be very smart, but someone with a degree would always get the job before me. I sat there staring at him thinking, "Who are you and can we please just go back to discussing the mole on my eyebrow that's starting to look like a big nipple."

That was a huge victory for me, though (unfortunately the nipple is still there) - but I let it go. I understood where he was coming from, but I knew it wasn't true and that it wasn't part of my identity. I stopped letting it get to me. I'm not my accomplishments or shortcomings. Obviously I haven't arrived anywhere, but it's a huge victory for me to see where I've been and what God has done. The world told me my prospects would always be bleak, but God always has better plans and I wouldn't do anything differently. I take that back - I would definitely say no to the mystery liquors if I got to do it again.

I'd love to hear about your experience. Did you always know what major you'd choose? Did you skip college? Do you have a dermatologist you'd recommend? Tell me.

In the end, just remember:

YOU IS KIND
YOU IS SMART
YOU IS IMPORTANT

;)

25 September 2014

SPITTING IMAGES

One day I was googling pictures of baby otters (as you do), and I found myself staring at the small face for a while thinking, "This reminds me of someone."

Digging into the recesses of my mind, it came to me. 

THIS OTTER IS JUDI DENCH.

And so it began - honing in on the gift and skill of identifying doppelgangers. 
"EXCUSE ME, IT'S DAME JUDI DENCH" 



ED SQUARED! SMILE, SHEERAN! I NEED YOU DARLIN COME ON LET ME KNOW.


 Once when I was very sick in the throes of pregnancy hormones growing a child, my loving husband said, "Don't move. You look exactly like that rooster from Looney Tunes."

Because nothing says I love you like telling your spouse you are the spitting image of Foghorn Leghorn.



One time in college on a slow Saturday afternoon, my roommate Laurel and I watched Sofia Coppola's confectionary take on Marie Antoinette. Upon finishing the film, we were filled with inspiration and thought it wise to spend what very little money we had on cheap drugstore makeup in an attempt to recreate the looks of the time period.

I'd love to say that it was a great success, but I think you know already that it wouldn't be true. A boatload of baby powder later (all over our bathroom, all over the house, all over everything) and really teased hair, and toilet paper rolls pinned agains our scalps, we re-emerged. Guess who I looked like? NOT MARIE ANTOINETTE. MORE LIKE THE DISTRESSED MAYOR FROM NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS:


The best part about this is that we didn't even think of the mayor until after the fact - and my weird scarf ribbon even looks like his spider bow tie. BRILLIANCE. 



LASSIE + VIVIAN WARD FOREVER



Our family's bull terrier, Charlie + Anjelica Huston (Anjelica Huston of the Smash-era, not The Addams Family era, OBVIOUSLY).

MY LITTLE SISTER AND BEN STILLER AS TONY PERKIS FROM HEAVY WEIGHTS (I can't take credit for this one - Camille's friend Chelsi identified this, and it's COMPLETELY AMAZING).






Elsa, is that you? NOPE, IT'S TUPAC



Do you look like a cartoon or an animal or a weight loss camp villain? I have to know. 

18 September 2014

FEAR + WORRY


When the doctor handed Elsa to me, I was out of breath from pushing and overwhelmed by how crazy and exciting it was to finally meet her. I also realized as I tried to grip her slippery body that, "I READ SO MANY BOOKS BUT I NEVER READ HOW TO HOLD A NEWBORN SOMEONE HELP ME."

It's trial by fire, and all of the books in the world can kind of help but will not change the fact that your baby is not a book. Your baby is a tiny person, that will have likes and dislikes and hate tight pants just as much as you do. I mean, definitely support the head. Just understand that it will always be in the presence of people you don't know well when you talk about your baby's strong neck that they do the "crazy whiplash flail away from you" thing that makes you look like a novice parent that doesn't know to support her baby's head. I am a novice, and it's okay.

More than wondering what my body would look like after I gave birth or when I would ever sleep again, I worried about postpartum depression. Based on the fact that before ever getting pregnant I used to have to put myself in premenstrual quarantine each month because my hormones seemed to render me emotionally unstable (read: ruinous of all relationships and/or hungry like a wolf) - I was nervous. Most of what I'd read about postpartum depression said it affected a lot of new moms several days after delivery, but most descriptions seemed vague. What would I be sad about? What is the depression like? I'd been depressed before, but it seemed daunting that it would happen when so much was required of you to care for a new human.

Thankfully, I was never overtaken - at least not in the capacity that I was anticipating. I was blissfully happy about my new little family. I was ramped up on adrenaline, and if I'm being totally honest - having this done really seriously helped with hormone balance (don't judge).

I struggled a lot with anxiety, though. I know every mother that has woken up every ten minutes and stared at their baby's chest waiting for it to rise and fall understands that. I felt like I was in a fog of seeing the world in a new way - through the eyes of a mother that had no control of the world around her.

In the first couple weeks, Bryan somehow convinced me to leave the house. We went for ice cream and a walk in a park near our house. Being with my little family was precious and good, and I was thankful. I felt completely overwhelmed by strangers, though. I was acutely aware and burdened by the heaviness and brokenness of the world that our daughter was born into.

I'd get swept up in thinking of all of the perversion, disasters, and horrible things that happen every day - and then sadness that I had no control or power to stop the possibility of any of it happening to her. I was letting my thoughts run rampant in vivid macabre scenarios of all the terrible things that could happen. What if Bryan were in a car accident on the way home from work and died? What if I woke up and Elsa had suffocated? My fears were crippling me. All I wanted was the comfort of having the guarantee of her safety. I wanted to know we could promise her a good life.

Sharing my worries and fears with a good friend, I was immediately relieved to discover I wasn't alone in my struggle (well, duh). She understood, and gently went further into the issue to the struggle that was happening in my heart. Control. Fear. Worry. Anxiety. My feelings were warranted, but I couldn't stop my thoughts there. I had to think about what was true even if it was really hard.

God gives us grace in our time of need - as they happen. The things I was thinking about had not happened, were not guaranteed to not happen, but I was losing precious real time in life that was happening by living in a sad place in my mind that didn't actually exist. I had to start to work really hard to filter my thoughts and feelings through, "Is this thought: true, honorable, just, pure...?" I usually never get past the "is this true" part.

I have to practice every day - and I'm going to go ahead and guess that's oh, you know THE REST OF MY LIFE. I am learning more so than ever that I cannot let my thoughts be passive and expect good to come from it. I have to trust God with Elsa, and with Bryan, and with everyone I love. As easy as it is for me to think of all of the horrible things that could happen - I have to rest in God's sovereignty and trust that He is good, He is in control, and that He loves my baby more than I ever could. I have to find comfort in His promises and know that He will help and love and comfort us in our time of need as they happen, but that I can't entertain my imagination. It's dangerous and debilitating and distracting. It is a battle to fight for joy and to keep choosing it, but it is worth it.

In the short time that we've come to know and love our girl, God is teaching me over and over (so mercifully) that I have no control. I am seeing what an honor it is and what power there is in praying for her, and to thank God for her. For every moment - good, bad, and ugly. I can teach her about the beauty of knowing Jesus, and I can tell her how much peace and comfort there is in trusting that the God who knows the number of her days and the hairs on her head loves her immeasurably more than I am able.

For anyone that is a mother or about to become one, I pray you are surrounded by the God of peace and know that you are not alone, you are loved, your baby is loved. Your anxious thoughts and worries are known by God before you think them. I pray for comfort and hope for the journey in knowing Him. Our hearts really are outside of our bodies now -- but there is so much joy to be had and my prayer is that we continue to fight for that. I hope your sweet moments far outweigh the hard ones. I pray that you know you can be brave, because the victory is already won.

(P.S. This book has been a great blessing to me. I'd recommend it to anyone that struggles with fear, anxiety, or worry...not just mamas).

15 September 2014

THIS JUST IN, THISTLE HAS THORNS

I put on my wellies and prayed against poison ivy and went to pick all of the flowers in the back yard. I have zero experience in thistle picking, and quickly realized that my hand was full of thorns and that's why there is only one purple flower in the midst of my haphazard backyard bouquet. I didn't get poison ivy, though...so, THORN PRICKS FOR THE WIN.

We busted out the down comforter this weekend - because Elsa puked all over our other blankets, and because the first order of business when the temperature drops below seventy is to open the windows and bundle up at night. No one told me that it's virtually impossible to enjoy the bundling up part when your spouse's body temperature reaches over eight thousand degrees in the night time. I've already started to pray for my future entrance in the menopause phase of life - when both Bryan and I are so hot we begin to emit volcanic ash between REM cycles.

The trees in the back are starting to whisper a change of colors, and on Saturday the whole house clamored for chili and a bonfire. We didn't get to do the bonfire yet, but we had blackberry cobbler instead and all took turns trying to figure out who could write their name the best with their feet. We are special.

Summer has left us as everyone has settled back into the comfort of routine. The ubiquitous peony is being replaced by chai and pumpkins and scarves. All I want to do is drink coffee (that's every season), and PIN ALL THE AUTUMN THINGS. I also remember that Fall REQUIRES A SOUNDTRACK.

My go-to albums for fall change every few years - as I'm sure they do for everyone. When I was little, I picture my mom wearing heavy knit sweaters as we listened to The Cranberries and this Harry Connick, Jr. album. In college, I listened to a lot of Damien Rice, Rufus Wainwright and Ryan Adams. I also remember one fall listening to The Last Kiss Soundtrack over and over.

Here's what I have so far. Some old, some new - all perfect for brisk temperatures and the eager anticipation of October - the best month ever.



 

 What do you love listening to in the fall? Give it to me!

05 September 2014

A Change Would Do You Good

I can only describe the past fews weeks as that if Bryan and I were characters in The Sims, we'd both be standing there flailing our arms with word bubbles above us filled with exclamation and question marks. If we were on the Oregon Trail, Bryan would likely have died from exhaustion, and I'd have drowned us all in the river because I tried to ford it and I didn't know what I was doing and I loaded the wagon with too much buffalo. I

We left our first home. In our last weekend there, I woke up before my husband and baby and decided to not only stay awake, but go out for a drive. "Who is this woman of mystery and adventure?" I said to myself as I drove to get donuts. Driving home with all of the sugar and caffeine, I felt myself getting a little weepy.

We won't be able to go and get Saturday morning donuts and coffee anymore.

Then I realized I was doing that thing where I get overly sentimental about scenarios that don't really exist. That was actually the first and only morning I'd ever decided to not sleep in and go get donuts and coffee.

Teaching Walter how to play Candy Crush
It was such a significant place, though. It was where Bryan said, "I will never get an iPhone, and I will never get a cat."

It was where we got our first Christmas tree - from a man in a parking lot. He told us (loudly) that our marriage would flourish IF AND ONLY IF we made a point to have sex under it once we took it home. Strangers were looking at us and we were really uncomfortable and I'm pretty sure Bryan said, "We'll think about it, but we have hard floors, so...that might hurt our backs."

It was where where I came home after leaving my job in the big bird, where we found out I was pregnant, where I dreamt my heart was a chicken tender, and when I became certifiably insane by going eleven days past my due date.

We had to make a decision quickly. We found out the night before we came home from the hospital with our newborn that our landlord was selling the house we lived in. My parents graciously offered for us to live with them for a while to save money and figure out our next step. (I should do a blog series on "HOW TO BE A BOOMERANG KID"). We scooped up our baby and our stuff and sometimes I cussed from the stress of it and now we live in the basement. It's funny, because when I was pregnant we were panicking about living in a one bedroom apartment with a baby and figuring out if we should go to a bigger apartment or buy a house. Now the three of us are living in an even smaller space, but it's sweet and good and it feels like we are catching our breath after a lot of big life changes happening in rapid succession.

Bryan's job is hard and leaves him so tired - but we are trying our hand at new things seeing how much he loves it is refreshing for both of us. We raised a whole bunch of chickens and then processed them ourselves and it was messy and disgusting and I'm now left wondering how Laura Ingalls Wilder made it all seem so dreamy. YOU SHOULD HAVE TALKED MORE ABOUT ALL THE BLOOD, LAURA.

I love being a mom, but the life change seems to have rendered me speechless whenever I sit down to try and write about it. I made a dark bargain with a sea witch and consequently, I've lost my voice. Oh wait, that was actually The Little Mermaid. Nevermind.

But really - I'm just in a season where I am trying to be still and quiet and figure out how to articulate the significance of becoming a mother without sounding like the most sentimental and redundant woman on the face of the earth.

I find the days are long but fleeting, and my time with my girl is so precious. We sit on the couch as I feed her and I marvel at the wonder of breastfeeding and oxytocin. I silently pray a mix of praise and supplication, saying things like "this is hard," and "thank you," and, "if it's possible for me to make it through breastfeeding all of our children without my boobs looking like tube socks with oranges at the bottom, that would be awesome."

Every time I look at her I think of that Walt Whitman quote, "You are so much sunshine to the square inch." I wish it was because I am well-versed in the likes of Whitman, but it's because I saw it on a greeting card and have never forgotten it.

I'm pretty sure I say it every time I blog once every five months, but thank you for reading my words.

And also, Hi Nan. I love you and miss you :)

08 August 2014

CURATE, VOL.1


We've spent the past two weekends moving - it's just as exciting as it sounds. Throw an infant into that mix and I have every intention of not doing anything this weekend besides not moving.

My baby grows more scrumptious by the day (as evidenced below by her obvious love for Margaret Wise Brown, increasingly plump flesh rolls, and general miniature nature).


It's Friday, and I'm trying something new. It's called, "Write on the blog even if it is not profound or particularly good or about your wedding!"

I really love when people share the good parts of the internet. My favorite wide web curators are Joanna, Kate, and Grace.

Humbly, I share my own contributions of internet treasures - and hope you enjoy them.

+ In an effort to stop eating only donuts and diet coke, I started a "reset" over on The Eighty Twenty. There are meal plans, recipes, and shopping lists to make it easy to follow.

+ I LOVE BIRTH STORIES. (And Emily)

+ I just finished this book and have since decided that Emily Giffin is basically the Nancy Meyers of all chick lit. I feel like I should be ashamed but I am not. At all. Speaking of books, are you on Goodreads? It's my favorite.

+ My talented friend is now a Huffington Post contributor. Amazing.

+ INTO THE WOODS INTO THE WOODS INTO THE WOODS. MERYL STREEP MERYL STREEP MERYL STREEP.

MUSICAL THEATER NERDS AND SONDHEIM FANS UNITE!




+ I'm totally late to the party, but this is one of my new favorite blogs. Her photography is beautiful, and I especially liked this post.

+ If you need clothes for your little man, consider supporting Wildly Co's kickstarter. I think it's so exciting to see families stepping out in faith and creating something great. If they raise enough money for their fall capsule - they'll likely be adding a collection of little lady clothes. Also, each of the items are impossible to mismatch. Everything goes together. WIN.

+ I cannot run in running shorts (so much wedgie, so much thigh rubbing). My motto on that front is "make it tight, make it stay." Second of all, WHY are exercise tank tops so short? Everyone does not need to see my Wolverine-slashed stretch marks on my belly. RUDE. And third, I cannot pay $80+ on one article of clothing that I will sweat all over (side eye, Lululemon). What does this mean? Am I destined to only wear big baggy t-shirts that are covered in paint or hair dye and make me look like Rosie O'Donnell taking her dogs for a walk? NO. I REFUSE. All of that to say, I found what my sometimes-exercising body desired. MY NEW FAVORITE WORKOUT CLOTHES. First of all, it's co-founded by Kate Hudson and I am obsessed with her. When you sign up, you get an entire outfit for under $30. I got this outfit and I am am in love with it. The shirt is long enough! The capris do not budge, and they are cute! The quality is supremely good!  It is a membership - they send you new outfits you can buy at the beginning of each month, but if you're not interested you just skip that month. Really easy, and Fran-proof. More than anything, I want to support the company because I LOVE KATE HUDSON AND I WANT HER TO KNOW HOW SERIOUS I AM ABOUT BEING HER BEST FRIEND. Anyway. Try it and tell me if you believe me. (Hello, welcome to my blog - this was not sponsored, I am just a spaz about things that I like).

+ A FITBIT FOR BABIES? I think I'm going to pass and stick with the good ole fashioned baby monitor. But HOW FUN, it kind of makes it look like your baby is on parole!

+ If you're on Facebook, SO AM I!


What did you love about the internet this week? Share it in the comments, because I don't understand link ups and they give me hives!

20 June 2014

The First Week

I kept my expectations low for life postpartum. I do a variation of prepare for the worst, hope for the best with a dash of "if you brace yourself for something to suck, think of how pleasantly surprised and happy you'll be when good comes from it." I expected to not sleep, and to cry a lot, and to be frightened by how much I didn't know. I braced myself for the hormonal mood swings, the night sweats, the leaking boobs, the hair loss. I relished every long afternoon nap and spontaneous trip to the store that took all of five minutes to get out the door.

In the time it takes to grow a human, there's a lot to think and to feel and anticipate. There are so many moments. Joy at the thought of what will be. Excitement to meet this new little person, knitted together so carefully and thoughtfully for close to a year. Nervousness at the thought of no longer being able to safely shield and carry her and protect her from everything out here. Selfishness in my moments of realizing that I really enjoy the life of just Bryan and me -- but trusting that it's because we just don't know how amazing it would be to have her join us.

But no one could have prepared me for this.

No one could have told me just how much I would love her. It's so bizarre, too - because how amazing to be so loved by everyone for just merely existing?

Melissa came over a few days after we finally got home from the hospital and took photos of our family of three. When we woke up that morning I told Bryan that I just wanted to be able to capture what our life looked like in that precious and tired first week. Baby accoutrements strewn about the apartment, tired eyes and messy hair - I wanted to remember all of it (...even my fluid retention).  Bryan said, "So, should I put pants on?" and we decided that yes, Bryan. We'll make an exception for pants.




Bryan and I leaned in to smooch Elsa and knocked heads instead. Elsa was not amused ;)















We're four weeks in and thankfully (and unsurprisingly), I was really wrong in my expectations (except for the leaking boobs - that's REAL). I think partly because I could only imagine the bitter without the sweet, and I didn't account for the grace God would give us in savoring each moment with her because I understand now just how fleeting it is.

"You will never have this day with your children again. Tomorrow, they'll be a little older than they were today. This day is a gift. Breathe and notice. Smell and touch them; study their faces and little feet and pay attention. Relish the charms of the present. Enjoy today. It will be over before you know it." 
                                          - Jen Hatmaker 

30 May 2014

The Birth Story of Elsa Bennett Dorsey


The final uniform
Save for the three grainy iPhone captures at the beginning, the photos of our dear Elsa's debut were taken by my talented friend Melissa. We go to church together. You know how you can just tell you'll be friends with a person? It was like that. We'd made mention of grabbing coffee several times before - but never got around to it. I'd asked her to take newborn photos for us once the time came, and she agreed and offered to take photos of the labor & delivery as well, if we were interested.

Her Instagram always makes me swoon - she captures the simple moments of life every day so beautifully and though I hadn't thought of having someone there to photograph everything, I can't imagine her not being there now. Plus, nothing says "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you" like inviting someone to document the baby explosion of your lady parts! (Don't worry, I've spared you all of those gems). 

I won't apologize for how long this is. I just won't. 

-------------------------------------------------------------

About ten days past my due date,  my body was still not giving the slightest indication that my baby had any intention of coming out. The employees at Target were probably feeling really sorry for me when they saw the super pregnant girl in the striped dress with swollen feet wandering aimlessly through the aisles once more to pass the time.

My pregnancy app actually gave up on me. A notification popped up on my phone that basically said, "You're in your 42nd week. If your baby isn't out by now, it has to come out soon. Good luck and be sure to rate this app in the App Store!"

To which I replied, "It's just you and me now, kid."

My OB appointments were weekly at that point. We had to do a non-stress test each time and had a couple growth scans to see how we were both doing. I LOVE the practice we chose. I would have babies every nine months if it meant getting to visit them. They were so patient, respectful of what kind of birth experience we wanted, and really laid back. As long as all was well - I did not want to be induced.

SAUSAGES WHERE MY DAINTY ANKLES ONCE WERE
When I first got pregnant, my only birth plan was to get the baby out. Which, is basically the only birth plan necessary, right? Like many before me, the more I read and learned - I was really fascinated by the way God made a woman's body to give birth. I wanted to give birth naturally - but what was most important to me was figuring out a way to mentally commit to going natural, but also holding it all loosely enough so as not to be devastated if it didn't go the way I pictured it. It's a tremendous blessing to carry a healthy baby to term and I kept that at the forefront of my mind as what was most important instead of being fixated on whether or not I could push the baby out on all fours or moan like a cow in a hot bath.


Sitting on a bean bag chair in Target and praying
my water breaks all over it

Every book I read - regardless of method - explained that fear is a woman's greatest enemy during birth. So, more than learning techniques of breathing or visualizing (as helpful as that is), I focused on a lot of Scripture about fear and tried to learn as much as possible and focus on how it was not scary, but beautiful aaand super common. Isn't it weird to think that every human on the earth right now came from a woman's body? ANYWAY.

In my last futile attempt to induce labor myself, I got a prenatal massage in the morning before my doctor's appointment. My mom came with me that day, and one of the nurse practitioners finally broke the news that I was still a mere 2 centimeters, and my blood pressure kept getting higher (no bueno), and that my body was worn out and it was time to induce. Did I mention that I reeeaally didn't want to be induced? I kept hoping and thinking that things would start on their own, but - no dice. I figured they'd set a date to induce in a day or so, but instead she said, "Tonight." I waited for her to leave the room to make arrangements with the hospital before I cried. Big rolling tears that my mom has seen since I was very small and always knows how to ease. My mom kissed me on the forehead and we were both quiet as I tried to process everything. Of all the things I tried to prepare myself for mentally, pitocin wasn't really one of them.

"You're going to meet your baby girl tomorrow!" She finally said, and the nature of my tears changed to joy and tired relief that I didn't have to wait for things to start happening anymore.

I called Bryan at work and told him the news. When he got home from work, we finished packing our hospital bags and decided to go out to eat for a nice dinner. I painted my nails (PRIORITIES) and watched some of Dancing with the Stars (because I am actually an old woman at heart), and we headed to the hospital.




We got the last room in the Labor & Delivery wing. I met my nurse for the night - her name was Stephanie. I liked her immediately. My induction started with cervadil - which is basically like a tampon that has medicine to thin your cervix and you have to lay there like a hot dog for a few hours for it to activate and you have to wear it for twelve hours. No one informed me that when they'd take it out later it would feel like a GIANT INTERNAL PAPERCUT, but I digress. I still kept hoping that cervadil would do the trick and I wouldn't have to join the pitocin party later. Bryan tried (laughably) to fall asleep on a recliner next to my bed, and we tried to sleep for the long road ahead. Instead, the cervadil started contractions and I was awake all night.


Morning finally came and I had progressed to 3 centimeters overnight. JUST THREE. I ate some breakfast and had some coffee, and my mom and mother-in-law showed up. Around noon, they started the pitocin. I was still focused and mobile and did not anticipate them increasing the pitocin every half hour, so the contractions came on strong and fast. I tried sitting in a rocking chair. I held on to Bryan and we pretended to slow dance, I listened to music on my headphones, and I just tried to distract myself. It all felt manageable until I sat on the birthing ball and what felt like a rubber band in my uterus snapped any my water broke all over me. Then THE PARTY STARTED.

The combination of my water breaking and the nonstop pitocin flow started to send me over the edge. The contractions at that point were just barely a minute apart, and I had a hard time catching up between them. I was up and moving around but felt like I might fall down when they would peak. Bryan was amazing, and helped me to remember how to breathe. They told me that as much as I wanted to be up and moving, my blood pressure was elevated every time and the best route at that point was to lay down in my bed. My sweet nurse Kim checked me and I was 5 centimeters. At that point, I'd have considered persevering if I still had the choice to be mobile, but I was not trying to be a hero and I asked for the epidural.




I'd initially not wanted the epidural because all I'd heard were horror stories of how they slowed things down, how they'd increase pitocin and then cause the baby to be in distress and then have to do a c-section. I'd heard of the epidural not working for some people - of it working on one side and not the other. I'd heard of it making breastfeeding more difficult once the little babe came out because they were so sleepy from the drugs. I was just praying the whole time I'd made the right decision. 

Bryan could not even bear to watch when they put the IV in my arm, so imagine my surprise when the anesthesiologist rolled in and Bryan decided to stay in the room. He sat at the other end of the room behind a cart so he couldn't see anything. I was trying not to die when they told me to try and sit my 8,000 pound pregnant body indian style on the hospital bed as the blood pressure cuff intermittently cut off my circulation and they told me to be very still through contractions. It was SUPER fun when the anesthesiologist walked around the bed with blood all over his gloves and stood beside me asking the nurse, "Could you go get Trish to come help me out? I just keep hitting bone." I tried not to cry and immediately assume I was now paralyzed for the rest of my life.


Another anesthesiologist came in and informed me that I had a slight curvature to my spine. She slipped in the goods and within about ten or so minutes it felt like my legs were warm and fuzzy. I could still feel the pressure of contractions without pain, and I could still move my legs without any issue - they just felt a little heavier. I was covered in blankets and moved into a position to help me dilate, and I was ready to party. Seriously - I was happy as a clam and cracking jokes and relaxed enough to nap or just chat with everyone. 

I didn't regret my decision, I felt maybe for a split second that I was disappointed but quickly got over it because the thought of making it through transition just laying on my back attached to the IV was not worth it. Also - I really felt like by the end I wanted to be full of joy and excited to meet her and not just exhausted and relieved to be emptied.



The ONLY negative I had about the epidural was that I was so full of fluid that I look at these photos and think, "Is that the mom from What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" and Bryan and I laugh because my face looked enormous slash unrecognizable. My best friends showed up later and politely told me the next day "...Yeah, you didn't really look like yourself."












For the next few hours, we had a steady stream of loved ones in and out of the room. My progress slowed a bit from 5-7 centimeters, but once I was about 7-8, things were progressing and my epidural began to wear off. I started ralphing pretty violently for a minute (you know how brave I feel when I do that) It was bearable, until I was about 9cm and it felt like everything inside my body was about to fall out my butt. My nurse said, "Whatever you do, you CANNOT PUSH," and she offered to have the epidural re-dosed. At that point I didn't want to slow anything down or not be able to feel the contractions to know when to push - but I also didn't really feel like rupturing my cervix would have been very fun either. So, MORE EPIDURAL! I fell asleep for another half hour and she woke me up and told me I was complete. 10 CENTIMETERS, PRAISE THE LORD. She propped my bed up into an upright position and I was the spitting image of Jabba the Hutt. Everyone in the room was so excited and said, "You get to push soon!"


My nurse told me to not get too excited because sometimes it can take up to three hours to push - in which I replied in my mind with an "Oh, hell no."


I was sleepy and my mouth tasted like metal and they would only let me have ice chips, so I felt a little sassy in that moment and just said, "IF I PUSH HER OUT, WILL YOU GUYS AT LEAST LET ME DRINK SOME WATER?" and everyone promised me all the beverages my heart desired.

My OB got there a little after midnight. The room was dim and he didn't make me put my legs in stirrups. They explained to me how to push and I tried it twice and it felt like I didn't do ANYTHING, so I informed everyone that I didn't feel like doing it and I quit. Apparently they don't let you quit, though, and once I finally got the hang of it and felt the pressure of her crowning, I was determined.





The moms peeking at the baby head. Ask me how much I cared at that point ;) 





I didn't want a mirror, but having Bryan next to me and hearing how excited everyone was and seeing my mom start to cry when her head was out was everything I needed to keep going.

My nurse and doctor cheered me on as I pushed her body out and he handed me my baby girl. Everyone was crying - no one harder than I was. I grabbed her slippery body to my chest and her eyes were wide open when we made eye contact for the first time. All of the air escaped me - I couldn't control my tears and I couldn't believe it was her the whole time. I couldn't believe I was holding her and that she was ours and that she felt so familiar to me and at the same time like I'd been waiting to meet her my whole life. She was breathtaking.



At 1:04am, Elsa Bennett Dorsey made us a family of three at eight pounds and ten ounces. She came out with long legs that brought her height to twenty-two inches. We're pretty sure she stayed in the womb an extra eleven days to grow her beautiful long eyelashes. She looks just like her daddy - and I pray she has the same tender heart that he does (maybe that's why I had the dream about the chicken tender heart?)

Though we didn't know it when we chose her names, Elsa means "joyful," and Bennett means "little blessed one." She is our joyful little blessed one, and we are so thankful God would trust us with her precious life.







My family has joked that Bryan has been a dad all his life. When we were dating I think falling in love with him was accelerated by how evident it was that he was going to be an amazing father. Seeing his eyes fill with tears when he met our girl just sent me over the edge with gratitude and awe. It was such a holy moment I will always cherish.

















Whenever my mom told me about when I was born, she told me she was nineteen years old and in a bad place in her life. But she said when she held me for the first time she it was a moment when she knew without a doubt that God was real because she'd never experienced something so magnificent. I get that now. It's why Victor Hugo said that to love another person is to see the face of God. 

The birth of my daughter wasn't what I expected - in all ways, it was better. I wrote an amazing birth plan that I didn't follow, I read a lot of birth stories, I hoped and prayed for things to go a certain way - but our sweet girl just had her own story instead. I'm glad, because God is a much better storyteller than I ever could aspire to be.

Welcome to the world, Elsa Bennett - you were worth every second of the waiting.