A Week in The Life

Today, I was thinking through how fun this last week was was when it dawned on me: I was pretty sure I had taken a picture EVERY DAY last week.  This never happens, so I thought it would be fun to recap a week in the life of our family through pictures! (If this isn’t your jam, I totally understand.  This is a really self-indulgent post.  Feel free to skip.) 

 

Saturday, May 17

We woke up and David and Zoe made waffles.  Chef Zoe was sporting her new monogrammed apron that mama couldn’t resist ordering for her!

Zoe waffles

My dad was visiting for 48 hours, so after he got back from his 5 mile morning walk (go Dad!) we headed out to the beach.

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Zoe loved running and walking along the beach with her Papa!

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After some beach fun and a post-beach Starbucks trip, we returned to the house where Zoe took a nap.  Our day concluded with a playground visit, a stroll through an outdoor shopping mall, and a nice dinner out (complete with wine flight!) After Zoe went to sleep, David, Dad, and I finished our night with Shark Tank and fro-yo.

 

Sunday, May 18

I took my dad to the airport at 5:30 AM.  David left for work at 7 and Zoe and I went for a beautiful morning walk before getting ready for church.  For whatever reason, Sunday mornings seem to be a hard time for Zoe.  Today, she debuted a new skill: slapping!  And she had plenty of reasons to slap me—I mean, I fed her, changed her diapers, got her dressed for the day, and saved her from heatstroke by not allowing her to wear the long sleeves and jeans she wanted to wear in the 80 degree weather.  THE INHUMANITY!

0518140845David preached and I enjoyed listening to him while Zoe enjoyed the nursery.  After the service, we attended a brunch for our church’s contemporary worship volunteers.

Later in the day, the high school girls’ small group from 2011-2013 had a reunion since everyone is back from college now.  We sat on the Starbucks patio for two hours enjoying coffee, laughter, some tears, and honest conversation. BLISS! While I was there, David and Zoe went grocery shopping for the week.  After coffee, I went to the gym and then reunited with the family just in time for David to leave to prepare for the high school youth group “end of the school year” pool party.  Zoe and I made an appearance at the party about an hour later.  Good times!

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Monday, May 19

Zoe and I started our day with a walk on our neighborhood golf course with our buddies Jaima and Jackson while David hit up the gym and went to work.  After our walk, our friend Keri Rose and her sweet new baby, Levi, came to visit for a few hours.  Zoe was enthralled with Levi and wanted him to do everything she does: play in the sandbox, ride in her Cozy Coupe car, have a tea party, dress up, etc.  She tried to show him how, but he just could not get the hang of it!

Eventually, Zoe adapted to his activity level 🙂

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Later in the day, our friend McKay and I took Zoe to a local splash park.

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We came home and Uncle Kenny visited for a few minutes before a typical evening at our house commenced.

 

Tuesday, May 20

David went to his theology study group at 7 am, leaving me with a psychotically cranky Zoe.0520140831

I understood her crankiness better when we went to our outdoor stroller workout class and I watched her chew the corner off of a board book.  I opened her mouth to find two teeth popping out of the gum line.  Poor baby!

After class, we went to the park with some friends.  It was HOT.  Zoe loved running around the entire park, playing ball with other kids, playing with other kids’ toys, and spinning on the merry-go-round.  She was devastated when we had to leave and melted down at lunch.  By the time I put her down for a nap (after giving her a dose of Tylenol,) I was exhausted and told David that I would not hate him if he bought me a coffee.  He did.  I spent naptime working on a project for one of my two summer clients.  (Did I tell you I’m consulting again? Yup.  Turns out I can’t stop working.  I like it too much.)  I texted David the following photo of my newly energized self along with a gushy thank you for the coffee.

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After naptime, Zoe and I ran to Target for essentials like paper towels and sunscreen.  Later that evening, David assisted with a funeral at church and Zoe and I Facetimed with my sister.  The following adorableness occurred.

Zoe and KelseyKisses for Aunt Kelsey!

 

Wednesday, May 21

I woke up early and went to the gym before David went to work.  After he left, Zoe and I headed to the aquarium, where we enjoyed the outdoor splash park with 7 friends from our playgroup and their mom (thanks to one of those moms for sharing her guest pass with us.)

0521141048I had a lunch meeting, so David took care of Zoe for me (thanks!!) Later that afternoon, we went to our next door neighbors’ house where the kids played and painted. Zoe thought that painting her face and mommy’s body was the most fun part!

Photo on 5-21-14 at 5.07 PM #2They had so much fun that Zoe fell asleep in her high chair at 5:25.  (In her defense, a visit from the exterminator woke her up about halfway through her usual nap time, so she really didn’t get a lot of sleep!)

0521141714aDavid worked later than usual to make up for his longer lunch break while I did theatrics trying to keep Zoe up as long as possible so she could see David and hopefully not wake up at 4 am the next day.   She ended up going to bed at 6:30 pm, which meant David and I got a LONG evening to ourselves.  He watched the Survivor finale and I did nerdy things like write emails and buy my own domain name (you can now visit this blog at www.journeyingwithhim.com.  Gettin’ fancy.)

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Thursday, May 22

David played Frisbee at 5:45 am.  The rest of us woke closer to 6 am.  Thursday and Friday were special this week because Zoe and I got to babysit our friend Reese! Her preschool closed for two days but her mom and dad’s work didn’t, so we had a buddy from 8-4 both days!  We LOVED it.  The girls enjoyed coloring together, story time, Playdoh, a walk in the double stroller, baking, playing in the sandbox, and visits from a few friends (toddler and adult) over the course of the day!

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photo 1I spent naptime studying up on the Holy Spirit and doing some consulting work.  After Reese was picked up at 4, a former youth group student (now in college) came over with her boyfriend who was visiting from South Carolina so I could meet him, and then Zoe and I wandered through our church grounds (she LOVES to explore there.)  Later that night, my high school girls’ small group came over for the aforementioned Holy Spirit study.

 

Friday, May 23 

Reese showed up at 8 am.  David and I immediately took the girls to the park before it got too hot  (Fridays and Saturdays are his day off, so he was mine for the day! MWAHAHAHA.)

photo 1I had a meeting to talk about a potential subcontracting relationship doing some grant writing.  David watched both girls for an hour before calling Uncle Kenny for some reinforcement.  The four of them had a blast building tall towers and knocking them down.

photo 2After the girls went down for their naps, David and Kenny went to grab a beer as Kenny had just finished his last final for the spring semester of grad school and David had just received a gift card for a neighborhood gastropub.  I did some consulting work until Zoe woke up.  She was sad that Reese was not up yet, as she wanted Reese to sit in the double stroller with her.  I filled the void in the meantime.

photo 2Zoe was not impressed.

Once Reese woke up, we played outside until she was picked up.  Then our family went to a new-to-us beachfront bar and restaurant with a group of friends.  Things got a little crazy and before you knew it, Zoe was topless and drinking.

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(I hadn’t realized that I should bring a swimsuit for Zoe.  Luckily, I had a swim diaper in my diaper bag and redneck style was totally welcome at this establishment.  Also, she is drinking water in this picture. Mommy also had a margarita and Daddy had a beer.  Totally fun night.)

 

Saturday,  May 24

In the morning, we visited our local children’s museum (in a total coup, I was able to buy an annual pass for $35 on Living Social last summer.  Best deal ever.)  Zoe reveled in her chance to do exactly the same thing she did last night, only inside and with air conditioning.

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After lunch, I wrote for a bit, David worked on his sermon for about an hour, and Zoe napped.  Then I hit up the gym, the family took a grocery store trip, I jumped in the shower, and David and I went off for a date night while Zoe stayed with Uncle Kenny and McKay.  We went to the mall to return two dresses I had ordered online in an effort to make shopping easier (clearly, it didn’t work) and used a Groupon-esque coupon for a neighborhood wine bar.

We have such a fun life and I am grateful for every single moment of it.

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Zoe’s Fancy Dress Party

Alternate post title: “I am DEFINITELY a stay at home mom now, in case that time I made applesauce in the crock pot didn’t tip you off.” 

Last Thursday, I hosted a little themed party for Zoe and her friends.  I was inspired to throw the party when I looked in Zoe’s closet asking myself, “when will she ever wear all these fancy dresses that other people have given us? We don’t have enough fancy occasions to attend!”

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To rectify this total first world problem, I decided to create my own occasion.  I invited a few of Zoe’s girlfriends to wear their fanciest dresses to “Zoe’s Fancy Dress Party,” which I said would feature “fancy snacks and casual playtime.”

I may have gone a bit overboard.

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I made these napkin and utensil holders.  WHO AM I?!!

IMG_2547Although it may have made me slightly question my grip on my sanity, as well as my internalization of our culture’s gender stereotypes, I had a BLAST planning and throwing this party for Zoe and her friends  (<–maybe this should be in quotations…I clearly threw this party for myself as much as for Zoe!!)  

It seemed like they had fun too!

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IMG_2573The best part of this party was that David was SO supportive of this idea.  He looked at my “fancy dress party” Pinterest board, patiently listened to my menu and decor ideas, helped me clean the house, woke up early to help me prepare on the day of the party, and even planned his work week so that he could stop by for the last 20 minutes of the party! Did I mention that I threw this party for a completely made up reason and had no justification whatsoever for the money and time invested beyond “it sounds like a fun idea?” He is the best husband ever! 

Any ideas for our next themed bash? 🙂

The Sweetest Sound

“Hep, pees.”

This is my new favorite sound.  For months, I’ve been working with Zoe on communication. First, she just cried indiscriminately while I scrambled to figure out what she wanted.  Then she learned how to point to things that she wanted.  Then, she learned to say some of the names of things she wants (“ball!” “cheese!”) with some sign language sprinkled in.

Despite all of these exciting developments, one skill eluded her: how to clearly and calmly communicate that she needs help.

I can figure out most of her needs, but sometimes, she wants to do something that isn’t obvious to me.  Sometimes, she has dropped something that I can’t see, is having a problem I don’t understand, or has an idea that she wants to try out.

In those situations, she winds up going from “calm and collected” to “OVERCOME WITH RAGE AND FRUSTRATION” in seconds.  As she screeches and throws things and flails, trying to communicate, I find myself frantically going through a list:

Is your appendix bursting?
Is your finger slammed into a door?
Are you about to go into cardiac arrest?
Oh, you just dropped your water. Cool.  I’ll pick that up right away.  

So, for the last two months, I’ve been working with her on “help please,” hoping it might empower her to ask for help without the rage and give me a few seconds to assess the situation and understand what she needs before the hysterics begin.

And this week…it clicked!

For the rest of the week, I’ve heard a lot of “hep pees,” along with approximately 50% less screaming than in any recent week.

The few times that she has reverted to screaming, I have reminded her to take a deep breath and say “help please.”  She immediately does so with a big smile, knowing that I will come immediately to help her, happy to have a more productive way to deal with her problems.

Watching this all reminded me of my own journey into learning how to ask for help.  And I’m about to get awkwardly personal, but I just feel like someone out there needs to hear this.

I’ve alluded to it here before, and will maybe spell it all out in detail at some point, but the first 19 years of my life were all about striving—striving to be good enough that I would deserve love, trying to deal with my problems myself so that I didn’t turn God off or bother Him (what?!! I know it’s crazy,) trying to cover up my problems and stuff them inside of myself, hoping they wouldn’t come out.  They ate me up inside, leaked out anyway, and wow, it is so exhausting to even remember what this life felt like.

My world changed in a weekend.

One Friday in early 2006, my body shut down.  I lay in bed for the next few days, barely able to eat or drink.  I was exhausted and sick and just couldn’t do it anymore—the endless striving, the hiding of the problems, the trying to be everything to everyone.  This was where it had landed me—in bed, sick on multiple levels, worn out at 19.  And I said…help, please.

That weekend changed everything for me.  In asking for help, I finally admitted: I can’t do life alone.  I need God, and I need others.  

“Help please” was the phrase that changed my life.

Anne Lamott says, “[help] is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”

And YES, it is freaking hard to have the humility to say I made a mess of things, I make a mess of things, I can’t save myself, and I need You.  

But once you ask for help, you won’t go back to trying things alone ever again.

Because when you ask for help—when you utter a phrase as simple as “help please”—all of Heaven rejoices as He lifts the heavy burden of striving and and self-reliance and failure and isolation and pride and whatever else you carry off of you.

This is the beauty of the gospel: that we are invited to Him not in our independence, not in our competence, not in our self-reliance, not in our abilities, not as those who have figured it all out, but as those who desperately need a Savior.  

We gasp out help please and find that our old efforts—the ones that never quite worked right, the ones that never really solved our problems—are no longer needed.

He is here, and we are no longer alone.

Loving Our Children Where They’re At

This is one of those posts that pretty much wrote itself.

The scene: Mother’s Day.  I have already admitted how much I love coordinating my outfits with Zoe’s.  Naturally, we needed to do this for Mother’s Day and then have a mother-daughter photo shoot! FABULOUS! With visions of perfect lighting and charming expressions, I convinced David to be our photographer and headed to a nice photo spot.

“Zoe, smile!” we said.

This was our response.

IMG_2522“Come on, smile!”

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“Please? Smile?”

IMG_2527“What do you want to do, babe?” David asked.

I knew what SHE wanted to do.  And I decided to let her do it.

“Let’s let her run.”

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IMG_2535My daughter isn’t a “stand still and pose for a photo shoot” kind of girl right now—she’s an “explore and run around” kind of girl.  And it turns out that letting her be herself is way more beautiful than anything that I could create with the right camera angles.

IMG_2542Oh, and I got the mother-daughter shot I wanted.

It’s not the most flattering angle, we’re not looking at the camera, and we’re sitting on the dirty street in dresses.  But it shows what I’m learning: to love my child where she’s at.  

IMG_2544In toddlerhood, Zoe is the most unencumbered and free version of herself that she will ever be. I want to love this person, this gift, as she is.  I want her to emerge from toddlerhood knowing confidently, I am smart.  I am beautiful.  I am worthy.  I am understood.  I am loved for who I am and where I’m at.  

It’s a tall order to teach all this.  But this photo shoot gives me hope that maybe I’m getting somewhere.

(A special thanks to my husband for fearlessly throwing himself into the street to get these shots!)

For The Mothers Less Acknowledged

About a year ago, I wrote about something no one told me about being an adoptive mom: namely, that I carry my daughter’s birth mom in my heart every day.

When I rock Zoe in the afternoon light, I see a hint of blue and green in her eyes and think of the eyes they came from.  When I saw Zoe take her first steps, I half-wished her birth mother could be sitting next to me seeing the baby who came out of her body taking these final steps out of infancy.  When I watched cool winds blow through Zoe’s hair on a mountain vista this summer, I thought of her birth mother, who has never left Florida, and wondered if she could imagine the things her nine month old had experienced.

I don’t think about her a pathological amount or anything.  But I do think about her, and especially on the weekend of Mother’s Day.

Because she is a mother.

I’ve never written about this, but for the first year of Zoe’s life, I felt a lot of guilt.  I felt like I had taken something precious from someone else, like I had gotten a blessing while her birth mom had only lost and suffered.

When I opened up to others about this, they always said something like “oh, but you helped that birth mom!” To me, this was never sufficient as an answer.  I know the deep love that I feel for Zoe and the joy and purpose that I get from being her mother.  I cannot fathom living without that or willingly giving that up.  I cannot imagine the loss as your milk comes in and there is no child there to feed because you’ve evaluated your life situation and decided that your child is better off with someone else.  How can you go on after that?

So for a year, I felt guilty for “taking” a baby from someone else.  I felt guilty for having a better start to my life than Zoe’s birth mom did, for having more resources than she did, for having the ability and background to make different choices than she did.  I LOVE adoption, but I almost felt presumptuous to have participated in it, like who am I to say that I could be a better parent than someone else?    

Throughout our (ultimately failed) second adoption process, I got more information about Zoe’s birth mom’s situation than I got the first time, and it’s alarming.  I am so proud of her for placing Zoe for adoption, for having the courage to say I want better for my girl.  

I’ve finally accepted what David, our social worker, and basically everyone involved has said from day one: we helped this birth mother find a situation she felt was best for her child and we provided resources that she needed.  We helped solve a problem—we did not create one.  We didn’t say “we’re good and you aren’t.”  We said “our world is broken and it affects all of us.  We want to do something to help.”  

And yet I understand why she couldn’t do it again.

I have some firsthand experience now of just how difficult it is to lay down your desire to be a child’s mother.  I know the months of tears you can cry for a child you barely knew.  I know the unfulfilled yearnings to hold a baby against your chest, to learn her cues, to see her happy milk-drunk smile, to brush your hand against her cheek, to see her hold her head up for the first time.  I know the curiosity of what she is doing right now, the hopes that she is safe, the wondering of what she will grow into when you can’t see her every day.

I don’t feel guilty anymore.  But I still feel for Zoe’s birth mom, and for myself, and for every mother who knows the pain of love and loss.

Motherhood isn’t just about the babies you can see in front of you.  It’s about the babies that you never met, the ones you met briefly, the children taken too soon, and the ones you’ve lost to this broken world with its failed relationships, difficulties, and hardships.

Every child counts.  And every mother counts.

Whether your child walks this earth or walks with Jesus, whether your child holds your hand or someone else’s, whether your child acknowledges you today or not—you are a mother.

And although you may not be celebrated or remembered by the world today—though no one may know the feelings you experience today—the Lord is with you.  He knows you intimately, He loves you deeply, and He will not forget you.

He says: “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” -Isaiah 49:16a

6 BWYou know something about that kind of love.

Let Him embrace you today with it.

Coffee Date

Here are a few things I’d share with you lately if we were having coffee.

-This last month has been so fun, but busy.  I’m tired and probably need to put the brakes on and try to protect our time a bit more.  Highlights have included our family beach trip, Holy Week, Easter, three Easter egg hunts, Youth Sunday at our church, a date night, graduation open houses, a trip to Orlando for David, a few parties, youth groups, Bible studies, two moms’ nights out for me, many play dates…

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Zoe egg hunt

…here I would probably trail off as I realize that talking about busyness is not that exciting.  But before moving on, I’d reaffirm my commitment to making sure we’re not overly busy in May and that we have a few nights home per week to just be together staring at each other’s faces.

-David and I got to go to a ball last weekend.  The person who traditionally gives the invocation got sick, and although anyone can pray, they felt the need to bring in a professional (which totally cracks me up.)  Enter David, and our free admission to one of the biggest social events of the year in our area.

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Just FYI, general public and fancy event planners, HE IS AVAILABLE FOR MORE OF THESE EVENTS.  Anytime.  Feel free.  You won’t be bothering us with an invitation 🙂

-I finally met my next door neighbor, who is a stay at home mom and has a 2 year old.  I’ve been trying to hunt her down for the last few months to introduce myself because I would hear a child playing in the yard while I was out with my child and I’d think “why are we playing outside in separate yards when we could be hanging out and letting our kids play together?!! I’m supposed to love my neighbor and I don’t even know my neighbor!”

It took a few tries, but we have had a few play dates now and I finally have someone to commiserate with about the music that blasts on a daily basis from the high school across the street.  She texted me last week “are you hearing this music?!! What is with this playlist?!” As we compared the various music we’ve been subject to recently (football team, what’s with the opera music?!! lacrosse team, great dub step) I thought we’re going to get along just fine.  

Plus, she gave Zoe her new favorite possession: an Elmo that snores…and is apparently very thirsty.

IMG_2358A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.  (Proverbs 14:1)

This is not exactly the kind of verse you would want to embroider on a pillow and present to someone at their wedding shower, but it’s always struck me as the kind of thing you SHOULD say to someone as they’re preparing for marriage.

It’s a reminder that the little things I do every day build or tear down my home and my family.  Do I appreciate my husband as a unique person, different from myself and possessing many good qualities, or do I get mad that he doesn’t do things my way? Do I thank my husband for the tasks he completed to help out our family, or complain about the ones he didn’t do? Do I show my daughter that she is interesting and worthy of full attention, or do I give her half my attention as I clean or check things off my to-do list? Do I call my parents and siblings to hear about their lives, or do I call them to talk about mine? Do I pursue my own selfish ambitions, or do what my family needs? Do I use my time wisely or squander it?

I want to build my home.  No question about it.

-On a similar note…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “speaking life.”  I feel like there are so many opportunities every day to speak life, encouragement, and inspiration into others’ lives.  I pray that I see and use them instead of just wasting or overlooking them.

Then I’d ask a lot of questions about you, because I hate talking about myself for an entire coffee date.  THE HORROR!

What have YOU been thinking about lately?