Thursday, October 31, 2013

Saying "no" to the right things...

Last night I did something I almost never do:  I canceled on a commitment I'd made.  It kind of made me a little sick to my stomach, but it was seriously the best decision I could have made.

It's been a crazy few weeks around our house (apartment).  JP has been super swamped with school, meaning late LATE nights both weeks.  He also does a men's group on Mondays at church, and I help with Awana Wednesday.  Then we have small group on Thursday (last week, after which, he went BACK into school until some AM hour that comes after 12 and before 6).  Anyhow, it's just been crazy all around:  he's been busy and wanting family time, I've been doing it all on the home front, and Eli's been greatly missing his daddy.  (On Tuesday he asked for Dada and when I told him he wasn't here he said "Dada his house.  See dada two weeks" - which is what we've been telling him about his Nana and Pa, who, in fact, are at their house and are coming in (now less than) two weeks.  It broke my heart.)

So, last night, JP was able to take a break from 5-9pm before going BACK to school to finish up his project.  He said that he could really do with some family time.  And I was torn.  I felt EXACTLY the same way, but had my Awana commitment.  I hemmed and hawed (cause that's what we do in the south) and debated over and over in my mind whether or not to cancel.  And finally, I did (with that sick stomach feeling).  I messaged my partner and the lady who is head over all the Sparks and I didn't make any excuses (if I ever, EVER had canceled a commitment in the past I would have felt the need for some amazing excuse - you know, the kind where you take the truth and make it sound a whole lot worse than it is).  This time though, I told the exact truth - that our family was running on empty, we had the chance for a little time together before more busy-ness, and I wouldn't be able to make it.

They were super understanding and we had a great few hours together.  We went to Cow-o-ween at Chic Fil A with our cute little zebra, and just enjoyed being together.  It recharged my hubby to go back and get work done, and it refreshed my soul to get out and just talk to my best friend.  Eli was also so happy to have Daddy home, he didn't even cry when JP put him to bed (I always get a few tears, sadly).

Anyhow, it wasn't anything huge that I did - just a small decision.  And yet, it felt big.  It was a matter of putting into action a truth that I feel like I have been slowly learning over the past year.  I HAVE to prioritize time with and for my family.  There are SO many GOOD things to do (like Awana) and I'm not advocating for not doing any of them, or for regularly skipping out on commitments.  BUT, I also know that, when necessary, someone else can step in and temporarily take my spot at church, or in the other outside things I do.  But no one can enter in and meet my families needs in the same way.  No one can take on my role as Eli's mom and JP's wife (at least, no one better!) and I need to make sure their needs are met before trying to meet everyone else's.

I'm not sure why that little word, with only two letters is so hard to say.  Probably because I seek people's approval so much and never want to let anyone down.  I still don't want to, and will be back at Awana next week.  But in the meantime I learned if something does HAVE to be put on hold, it needs to be the right things…

It was hard to cancel last night, but it was worth it.  SO worth it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The craziest thing I've ever done.... and why Chic Fil A is awesome.

My name is Mary.  And I'm officially a crazy pregnant person.

This pregnancy has been different from my first in every way possible (or so it seems).  My first pregnancy was a complete and total surprise; this one was planned and prayed for.  With Eli I was carefree and naive to all the things that could possibly go wrong; this time I'm reading a book related to being anxious because I can. not. stop. worrying.  The nausea has been worse, I've gagged and puked and gagged some more, I've struggled to cook anything (and eating what I cook is a whole other feat).  It's been hard.  But mostly I've kept my sanity.  Until tonight.

This week and last, I've finally been able to cook and eat what I cook!  SCORE!  I was so proud of myself yesterday when I made dinner, sat at the table and ate everything I had made.  Then, 3.5 hours later I sent the hubs out to get me a salad because we have hardly any food in the house that doesn't require cooking and I was STARVING.  Tonight was a rinse and repeat.

I made chili and corn bread and it was delicious.  Approx 3 hours later, intense hunger struck.  I still haven't made it to the grocery store yet this week, so again, I needed food brought in.  The hubs graciously offered to get whatever I wanted (it's either a blessing or a curse that we live so close to everything).  I decided a kids meal from Chic Fil A would hit the spot.

The hubs ran out and came back, bag of fast food goodness in hand.  I opened the bag and was dismayed to find GRILLED nuggets inside.  I told JP they had messed up the order.  He assured me they had not - that I had told him I wanted grilled nuggets.  Um, no.  How many pregnant ladies do you know that want GRILLED anything?  We went back and forth for a few minutes about what I had ordered, until I told him I couldn't eat those nuggets, and could he please get regular ones.  (Note:  he said that during this time a "hissy fit" was thrown.  I don't remember a hissy fit.  I remember tears.  Please recall, the word "dismayed" was used to describe my feelings upon opening said nuggets.  It seriously didn't feel like a messed up order, it felt like the world was ending).  After he said he'd get the nuggets I did feel a bit of remorse and told him it was ok, I'd be alright.  He must have seen right through that...

So my husband did what any loving husband would do.  He called Chic Fil A.  They were CLOSED (it was 10pm at this point).  He explained the situation and that he'd gotten the wrong thing for his pregnant wife.  They checked to see if they had regular nuggets, they did.  He drove back to the restaurant, they UNLOCKED the doors, and the manager met him with nuggets in hand.  She didn't charge him and told him she'd been pregnant in the past year, and she understood.

JP came home, tossed the nuggets to me and didn't say anything for a few minutes.  I asked him a question and he didn't answer.  He was (understandably) a little perturbed about this whole chicken fiasco.  I decided to eat my nuggets without pushing, and let him come around.  A few minutes ago, he got up, came over, kissed me and told me he loved me and forgave me for being crazy.  (I've got a good husband y'all).

He also told me that this might be the most ridiculous thing I've ever done, and that I should write a blog post about it.  So there you go.  The craziest thing I've ever done, AND reason number 345 of why Chic Fil A is the most amazing place ever.  In the history of the world.

Oh, and I decided to dig through the blog and see if I had record of any hormone induced episodes from when I was pregnant with Eli.  Turns out I did.  Back then I was even hormonal in my sleep.  Good to know it isn't just this baby :)

Edit/full disclosure:  JP read this and said it didn't quite capture my level of craziness.  So apparently, however nuts this makes me seem - I was worse.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


This afternoon during Eli's nap, I sat down to get a few things done.  On the list of things to do was to write a thank you note.  A sweet friend has recently given Eli a pair of Stride Rite sandals and a pair of Crocs that were new or hardly worn that her son couldn't wear.  This has been a blessing to our family (um, kids shoes are EXPENSIVE) and I wanted to express my gratitude for these nice items.

As I wrote this particular note, I thought about the others I have written in the past week.  One to a friend who sent Eli some cute summer clothes.  Another to a friend who was reading a book, thought of me, and bought/sent me a copy.  I also thought of Eli's sweet grandparents and great grandparents (my Mom & Dad, awesome in-laws, and my grandparents) who brought lots of clothes, healthy treats, summer gear, etc a few weeks ago.  If I sent them thank-yous for every kind thing they do for us and Eli, I'd have to buy stock in Hallmark to support my stationery purchases.

The fact of the matter is - I am blessed and so is my little family.  We have some dear, sweet people in our lives - both friends and family - who love us tremendously and who make their love known to us by such kind and generous actions.  Although I wish it weren't the case, I can sometimes be a "negative Nancy" and find plenty a reason to be down in the dumps.  But somehow, writing the thank you note this afternoon really lifted my spirit.

My mom always told me that writing thank you notes was just something you do - that it is important to express gratitude when others do something kind for you, that it lets them know you appreciate them.  But I think it does more than that.  I think writing thank you notes (and simply reflecting on the things you are thankful for) does as much for the writer as it does for the receiver.  It allows you to tangibly recognize your blessings.

I am so grateful for mine.  And I am challenged, whenever possible, to try to extend and offer blessings to others.  There is so much joy in both receiving AND in giving.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Confession... I'm deciding Eli's favorite sport for him.

I always said that I wouldn't pressure Eli to do things just because I want him to.  You know, like play a particular instrument or participate in a certain sport.  I felt very strongly that those choices should be his.  I still feel that way.  I won't force my desires on him, or any other future children, but will leave him (them) to make their own decisions.

Except..... I really REALLY want him to play baseball.  

I didn't even realize this was a hope and dream of mine until a Facebook friend (and former student's parent) posted pictures of Cove Creek.  I love Love LOVE me some spring baseball at Cove Creek y'all.  I'm not sure what it is, but there's something about spending a spring day in the bleachers, overlooking the baseball field, listening to those silly songs kids sing in the dugouts.  There, the nachos and hamburgers taste better, and eating them doesn't induce the same amount of guilt as having the same foods somewhere else.  And let's not even get started on how stinkin cute a little boy looks in a baseball uniform.  

I've always hoped that our kiddos would play a sport (if they want to), as one of my biggest regrets is NOT.  I decided in 9th grade that I wanted to play volleyball, but at that point, the people going out for the team had been playing together for years, and I was just a girl who enjoyed the unit in P.E.  I was a chicken and never even tried out.  I always wished I'd played some sport, and I like to think Eli will.

But, let's be honest - despite my love for NFL (and even more so for college football) the sport kind of scares me.  It's not exactly the safest, and the thought of Eli getting tackled sends chills up my mama spine.  It'd be pretty exciting if he were good and actually got to play some college ball one day, but I feel like those chances aren't as good as the chance of him getting seriously hurt.  So, I'd kind of like to cross that one off of the list (and pray that Eli never asks to put it back on).  Then there's soccer, which, unfortunately I find terribly, terribly boring to watch.  I suppose if Eli asks to play I'll rejoice that he didn't request football, but it's still not my top choice.

I could settle for basketball.  Maybe Eli will continue to stay above the curve height wise and be tall like his Daddy.  I can get into a basketball game a heck of a lot easier than a soccer one, and there are still bleachers (albeit not outside in the warm spring sun).  So that could be a compromise.

But really, I've kind of got my heart set on baseball.  (To the extent that when looking for a little "basket" for Eli's first Easter egg hunt this weekend, I almost got the plush baseball one, you know, to steer things in my direction.  However, the hubs convinced me that this wasn't my call to make and that was a little ridiculous.  Le sigh).  

We've got a while before he figures this out, so we'll see what happens.  It'll be my luck that he'll want football in the fall and soccer in the spring.  Which, I suppose means we'll have to keep having babies.  Eventually one of them will want to play baseball (or softball).  Right?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Eli's first fall.... another life lesson.

Well, it happened:  Eli had his first (of what I am sure will be many, but pray will be few) busted lip.  He's fallen or bumped a body part numerous times, but this was the very first incident that resulted in blood.

We were outside, about to get in the car, and he was toddling around the blacktop, having a blast.  He's been walking for a little over a month, and absolutely loves being down, out of our arms, exploring.  He's recently gotten really good at walking outside - even on uneven ground.  Well, this time he was holding a cup in his hands, and his mouth, instead of hands, broke his fall.  He started crying and I rushed over, deeply saddened to find blood on my sweet boy's mouth.  As he reached his hands up, I scooped him up and hugged him tightly in my arms.  I told him "Momma's here.  It's all right"

Now, let me be clear - this was not a traumatic fall.  Eli probably cried for less than 60 seconds.  A little cuddle and wipe of the mouth later, he was fine - a scrape on his lip, but otherwise, no worse for the wear.

It was I, not Eli, who was most bothered by the fall.  My first reaction (which now seems so silly) was "JP, he's bleeding, what do we do?".  Haha.  I'm not a rocket scientist, but I have worked with children for the past 9 years, and I've dealt with plenty a scrape and cut (and much worse - both a broken arm and broken leg).  As a teacher and childcare program supervisor, I've been the one "in charge" and handled many situation with ease and grace.  However, something about seeing my child hurt and bleeding struck a different chord in my mama heart.  Then, once it was dealt with, I just wanted to hold him.  I felt so badly that he had experienced pain and wanted to wipe it all away.

Of course, I can't.  I can't (and won't) coddle him, and prevent him from running around and experiencing life and the world around him.  I can't shield him from every single thing that could possibly cause pain (whether physical or emotional).  He will get hurt at times.

And, as much as I can, I will do what I did on Saturday.  I will pick him back up, try as best I can to make the pain go away, and let him know how much I love him.

And (because I'm a thinker), I contemplated how similar it is with God.  How it must hurt him deeply to see us go running off, take a fall and get hurt.  How He must hate to see us cry and bleed from a cut or scrape we face in life.  And how, like a loving parent, He comes to us in our time of need, longing to see us reach our hands to him so that He can take us in his arms and let us know that it's going to be alright.  That He's there.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Good days and bad days...

Most days, I LOVE being at home with Eli.  I've written numerous posts about how I think I have the most wonderful "job" in the whole world and I don't hesitate to share the all the sweet stuff he does on here, or Facebook (or, let's be honest, both).  I also try not to post too much of the bad.  I *try* not to mention the sleepless nights, or nasty diapers, or clingy/fussy times too much, because I really don't want to complain.  I feel genuinely blessed by my son, and I love him dearly.  I also think being negative about the challenges tends to shift the attitude of my heart, and I don't want to do that.  I want to choose joy, even on difficult days.  However, I sometimes feel the need to be real.  I have friends who tell me how much they'd love to be home, and how wonderful it would be.  (I think my youngest sister is living in a fantasy where I eat bonbons and shop all the time and have a glorious social life.  I'll let you know when she wakes up.  I sometimes think people hold up staying home as a situation where "the grass is always beautifully green and perfectly cut".  I think they do this because that is precisely what I did.

The truth is, staying home (while a blessing, and something I wouldn't trade for the world), is work.  It is hard work, and there are difficult days.  And today, my friends, is one of them.

Last night, Eli woke up at 2:30am.  This was a bit out of character for him, but I was gone at bedtime, so I nursed him about an hour and a half before he went down, which, JP said, wasn't super smooth.  I thought maybe that was throwing him off, so I nursed him.  Then, he was up again at 4, this time screaming unconsolably until approximately 5:30.  JP and I took turns tending to him, let him cry a bit, and tried all we could do to calm him down.  Finally, by 6:00, we were all back to sleep.

Then, Eli slept until 10:15.  That might sound glorious, except that today was one of just two days we had plans during the day, and I was oh so looking forward to get out of the house.  Unfortunately, BSF started at 9:30 - so we missed it.  I was grumpy about my lack of sleep and my plans falling through before my feet even hit the floor.  And it only got worse.

Eli has been especially difficult about food again lately.  I feel like I have been in the kitchen as much as a chef trying to make healthy options for him to eat, but he's been exceptionally picky.  This morning I made oatmeal.  He wouldn't touch it (just as he wouldn't touch the broccoli or chili I made Monday, or even the yogurt he had yesterday).  He spit it out and tried to throw the spoon.  All he'd eat was a banana and then he fussed all. morning. long for a snack.  Even after he'd been given snacks.

He has a terrible, terrible diaper rash, so changes have been pretty miserable too.  (Yep, that's right, so far sleep issues, eating issues, and diaper issues).  As I was changing the second poop of the day, he squirmed and wrangled like a worm, causing me to get poop all over my hand.  Lovely.

When I thought of my husband, who was able to ride in his car to school, with either the radio on or blissful peace and quiet, I was jealous.  When I thought about the fact that he'd showered today, and hadn't spent his time cooking and cleaning, I was envious.  When I scarfed down food in between picking up carrots off the floor, and wiping up ejected oatmeal, I struggled.

Being at home with Eli is a blessing.  It is one I am incredibly thankful for.  There are days where we have so much fun together and with friends I can't believe that I get to do this all the time.  And then, there are days like today.  I know this seems like a bit of a whining/complaining post, and I suppose, it is.  But I don't write it to whine or complain.  I write it to be real, and honest, and so that people know I'm not little miss perfect mom (in case anyone was actually under that illusion in the first place).  I write it because I sometimes struggle when I think about moms who seem to have it all together, who appear to have perfect, peaceful families - like something out of a book or movie.  I write this because, even though I wish no ill-will on anyone, there is something comforting in knowing that we all have days like this - and that's ok.

No matter what our profession, paid or unpaid, we all have good and bad days.  Today has been a bad one so far.  At least it's in the minority :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How being sick has helped me feel more "at home"

Before JP and I moved to Charlotte, a friend from home gave me a stained-glass hanging that says "The Lord is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9".  It hangs in our kitchen as a constant reminder that even though we're in a new place, God is as much here as He was back home.

It's no big secret that this move hasn't been an easy one for us.  JP and I loved Charlottesville.  We loved the area - the beauty of the mountains, the culture of the town, and familiarity of our surroundings.  Even more though, we loved the people - family and college friends, co-workers and our close community at Charlottesville Community Church.  It was scary to think of starting over.  Five months later, I still don't quite think of this as "home" - but we're getting closer.  And after this weekend, I KNOW that God truly is with us wherever we go.  He has shown us His presence through some amazing people, who truly were His hands and feet for us this weekend.

This weekend is perhaps the absolute worst I can remember.  JP and I both got sick - sicker than either of us has been in the entirety of our marriage (6 years this June) - at the exact. same. time.  We're not talking a debilitating cold, or a bit of an upset stomach.  We are talking all out, full blown, crazy serious sickness.  I'll spare you the grimy details, but know NOTHING stayed in my system for over 48 hrs.  Know that I was on the bathroom floor by the space heater asleep because I had a terrible case of the chills, only to wake up with a vicious case of the sweats.  Know that I yelled for water, but my husband couldn't make it to the bathroom to bring me anything because standing up made him get sick.  Know that bowls were toted around because making it to the bathroom often didn't happen.  Know that eventually, we did end up in the hospital because I was dehydrated (and that I looked in the mirror at the hospital, for the first time in hours, and asked JP "You let me come out of the house looking like that??")  Yep, it was that kind of a weekend.

Had I been at home, the solution would have been simple.  One phone call and a 35 minute drive, and my momma would have been at my house with everything I needed.  She would have taken care of us, and Eli, and my apartment wouldn't be the train wreck it is right now because she'd have kept things in tip-top shape.  And, to be fair, had it not been snowing when she found out about things Saturday, she would have been in the car and on her way (though the time would have been 4 hrs, instead of 35 min).  Without family here, and in complete desperation (read, bathroom floor), I did the only thing I could think - I posted on Facebook a plea for Gatorade.

And it was answered.  An amazing woman from my MOPS group responded, left her home and family, went to the store and bought us Gatorade and brought it to our place.  At 11pm at night.  In the snow.  I consumed 32oz like it was my job, and my husband did likewise.  We caught a bit of relief and went to sleep before waking up with more sickness.

The next morning, another lovely MOPS lady brought Tylenol, soup, crackers, and more Gatorade.  She had texted an offer the night before, and though I only asked for Tylenol, she made sure we were set on all sorts of sickness staples.

Then, I received yet ANOTHER text from a 3rd sweet friend, offering to bring anything we needed, or to watch Eli for the afternoon.  This friend has not one, or two, but THREE children of her own, and she was watching two MORE for another friend who was in the hospital having a baby.  Yet she was willing to take on another (ie. #6) in order to serve my family.  (Thankfully, by Sunday afternoon JP was better and could tend to taking care of me).

Still, I was really sick, and by the evening, the hospital trip was a necessity.  However, someone needed to stay with Eli.  We called our dear friends, and immediately, they agreed to come stay with Eli, so JP could be with me at the hospital.

Other friends messaged me, letting me know their willingness to bring things, watch Eli, or help in any way needed.  Some of these offers came from people I've had the chance to get together with a few times, people that I'm growing friendships with.  Other offers came from people that, quite honestly, I barely know - from people at my MOPS group that I may have had a conversation or two with.  But they are drawn to show compassion and love to me, not because of our close relationship, but because they have a relationship with the One who is the source of all love and compassion.  Despite feeling so terrible, it has been a long, long time since my heart has been so full.  I was so deeply touched and moved by these gestures of kindness toward my family, that it has changed my outlook on being in this new place.

We may not feel completely settled and relationships might not be as deep as we'd like, but we do have community here.  We may not be around family and old friends, or have a church home, but we are surrounded by the body of Christ.

We're going to be just fine here in Charlotte.  "The Lord is with you (and us) wherever you (we) go".  Joshua 1:9.