Sunday, April 19, 2015

Creating Space

I cleaned a room yesterday. I swept up piles of dirt and leaves and washed years of filth off of the floors. I brushed cobwebs out of corners and moved things around. I took an unusable space, a breezeway between our garage and kitchen and I reclaimed it. For YEARS this space has been neglected for a number of reasons, but yesterday I decided to take it back.

I'm sitting at a small bistro table in that formerly unused breezeway while I type away. It is cold, but I have a quilt over my lap, a quilt I made, so I am warm. I can hear the sounds of a worship mix coming from the house and I just caught up on a few extra days in my current devotional.

If I turn, I can glance into the backyard and see our fire ring, dark with the remains of last nights bonfire, and if I look forward I can see neighbors driving by. This breezeway has 4 doors, one on each wall. It doesn't just connect our garage to our house, but it connects our front yard to the back.

There is a big pile of brush in the back, I can see that from my table too. It has been there for years. At some point the age and size of our trees meant that our weekly yard waste pickup couldn't handle what would come down if there was a storm, or a breeze and we would throw branches in a pile in the back corner of the yard. 

The size of that pile was like a weight on my chest. It was overwhelming to look at, and I didn't want anyone in my backyard. I didn't want them to judge my stick pile. After all, what type of person can't even manage getting rid of sticks? (I'll be the first person to tell you that it is pretty messy in my head most of the time.) 

I created space in my breezeway yesterday, and slowly, one fire at a time, we're taking back space from that pile in the yard. 

Most importantly, I unlocked the two breezeway doors that connect the front to the back and we welcomed family and friends to our yard. I told the voices in my head that no one cared about the cobwebs I may have missed, that no one cared that there is one big step down into the yard because the concrete shifted years ago, that no one cared about the size of the stick pile, they just saw more fuel for the fire.

Last night's bonfire was all sorts of holy. Last night's bonfire created space in my heart. 

There is beauty in a friendship that just walks past the laundry baskets on the way to the bathroom. There is beauty in feeling comfortable in someone else's kitchen. There is beauty in picking up the sticks. There is beauty found when we allow people into our mess. Into our imperfect lives, our mismatched furniture and cobwebby breezeways. 

There is an opportunity for Christ to move when the glow on your face is not from your iPhone but from embers glowing, perfect for marshmallows and quiet conversation. There is an opportunity for Christ to move when our faces are shadowed and our guard is down. There is an opportunity for Christ to move when you invite the neighbors over the fence. 

This community, this acceptance, this comfort, this doing life together, this is sacred stuff. Today I'm thankful for a stick pile that means I can look forward to more of it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 Review

As I've mentioned, we're having a baby. A baby boy in fact. If all goes as planned with this whole 40 weeks thing, sometime at the start of 2012 this boy who has yet to be named will be joining our family.

Since this is number three, it is pretty obvious that we've done this before. Twice. But it has been a while. Five years in fact. And five years seems like an eternity. Things change in half a decade. My last baby has gone from sucking down bottles to a kindergarten student in five years.

We've changed as parents since j was born nearly 9 years ago. Things I didn't know about or hadn't considered are things I'm looking forward to doing with this boy who has yet to be named. I'm excited to use wraps and slings that aren't the buckles and snaps bad for baby hips carrier that we got when j was an infant. I'm looking forward to using basic sign language after realizing how it changed our lives with a non-verbal toddler. I will be feeding this child from my plate because I'm not going to have another 3 year old that won't eat anything but macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

Babies and parents aren't the only things that change with time. Their stuff changes too. Our crib has a drop side, but I'm pretty sure someone has decided that drop side cribs are dangerous. We had a baby monitor we didn't use because our house is so tiny, but now you can get monitors that are video streams. Yes, your baby might not be making any noise, but you can still see them sleeping. Our pack and play was destroyed by a puppy and all of our infant car seats are expired. Needless to say, we're in the market for some new "stuff" for this boy who has yet to be named. 

One of the things that can't wait is choosing a car seat. You've got to have one before they'll let you and baby who has yet to be named leave the hospital. (Hopefully by the time we leave he'll be named.) Turns out car seats have changed a lot in the 5 years since we've had an infant, as well as the recommendations for how to transport kids. While I'd read blogs of mothers who chose to leave their children rear facing past the year that we left our boys rear facing, I had no idea that the American Academy of Pediatrics had altered their recommendations to officially say children should rear face until 2 years of age.

Truthfully, I would probably still be in the dark about that little fact if not for Heather, Allison and Graco. Last week Heather and Allison hosted a gathering of bloggers to introduce the newest car seat in the Graco line, the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40. Graco was generous enough to gift our family with our very own for this boy who has yet to be named.

The SnugRide Click Connect 40 is the only car seat on the market designed to grow with and keep your child rear facing all the way up to two years/40 pounds. It is an infant carrier in the early months and like other Graco infant carrier car seats, clicks into a stationary base in your vehicle. Once you are past the in and out carrier stage, you click it in and leave it in. The base adjusts to different positions to give your growing child leg room and it even has a guard to protect your seats from wet and dirty shoes! Not only does the base adjust, but the straps and headrest adjust with a simple, one handed adjustment. No more fighting with hardware and rethreading straps every couple of months as your child outgrows the strap position.

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 is available at Babies R Us and is available in 2 patterns, Mena and Moonstruck. The image above is the neutral Moonstruck pattern, which I love. It is going to match my minivan perfectly!

While the boy who has yet to be named doesn't arrive for a few more months, I'm looking forward to bringing him home in a car seat that will keep him safe well into his toddler years and am grateful to Graco for the opportunity to do so. 


The Graco SnugRide® Click Connect™ 40 – the first and only newborn to two-year infant car seat that actually grows with your baby from four pounds all the way up to 40 pounds. The car seat is designed for a parent on the go. The infant car seat can be easily removed from the base and used as a carrier when the infant is small, providing portability and convenience so you can easily move your infant in and out of the car without disturbing them.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently made the recommendation to keep all children in rear-facing car seats until the age of 2. Graco set out to make this product so parents can keep infants rear facing longer while still keeping them comfortable.
This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Graco. The opinions and text are all mine.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sweeter Than Sweet Martha's

That old adage "It takes a village to raise a child"? I believe it.

I grew up in a village. It wasn't a remote village, and it wasn't a commune. It was a suburban village. A village in which the neighborhood moms rotated houses for coffee, and each had their own mug in each other's cupboards. A village in which 5 families had 14 kids in a 10 or so year span. It was a village in which I didn't have to go all the way home when I fell off my bike, the closest mom was going to wipe my tears, clean me up and stick a bandage on. A village where the neighbors could be counted on to lend a hand when it came to the raising of us kids.

This was an especially unique village because collectively, we moved. Over the span of a couple of summers our houses in one neighborhood were sold and houses were built in a new development hardly a mile away from those first 8 years of my life.

My neighborhood bestie went from being my across the street neighbor to my next door neighbor. My bedroom got bigger and she still had a pool. 

These women, these friends, these families were a constant in my life. We were a village and our village had traditions. Block parties in the old neighborhood with gigantic bags of popcorn. Easter candy hunts, Christmas parties complete with a Santa that I never figured out how he knew my name, and the first and last day of school.

Every first and last day of school my neighbor was waiting. Dixie cups, a cold half gallon of milk and a pan and spatula. Warm chocolate chip cookies waiting for the kids to come piling off of the bus. We'd crowd around and take a spot on the curb and talk all over each other to tell her about our day. As we got older and had our own wheels, our schedules changed but I knew, even in high school, when we walked in the door, there would be a plate of cookies waiting on the counter. A smiley face and "Louie" scrawled across the plastic wrap.

With today being the first day of school, my thoughts turned to that tradition and my own feelings about how my life is different from what I knew. I'm a working mom. I didn't see my boys off this morning, the first day, and I will pull into the driveway 5 minutes before their bus each afternoon. I'm 4 years of first days behind for my oldest to have fresh baked cookies waiting. 

But today, the dog and I met the bus, and while I had no cookies, my boys fell over each other to tell me about their day. It was a start and it made me smile. And then 2 hours later, there was a familiar voice at the door, and there is a familiar bag of cookies on my table, with a familiar signature across the bag. 

These bonds of a village started 30 years ago, and I am so grateful for how they have shaped me. I'm also grateful for the cookies. I am pregnant after all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

When No One Reads, It is Just a Diary

When you have a blog you've neglected, and no one reads it, it is almost a diary. Granted, it is still a public blog, and people could eventually read it, but that is a small price to pay for the fact that you don't have a beautiful journal laying around and typing is so much faster than writing. You know, on real paper with a pen.

I've been feeling emotional lately. It might have something to do with the pregnancy hormones (yep non-existent audience, I'm pregnant) or it might have something to do with the fact that I walked 22 miles of what is most likely my last 3-Day for the Cure while pregnant, my team met our goal of raising $100,000 in 5 years, my Mom's been gone for an entire decade, my children start school tomorrow, and my "baby" is starting kindergarten. 

Nah. It's probably the hormones. All of that other stuff is no big deal, right?

Life is full of changes. Things I can control and things I can not, and while I've been emotional about the changes the last few weeks of August and first few weeks of September bring, I am content. Emotions aside, I am ready to embrace the changes this fall brings. 

I'm not going to lie, the last weeks of August are HARD. My parents would have been married 27 years this August, my Mom would have turned 56, and instead we marked 10 years since she died too soon. I carried the "Anniversaries" flag at the Opening Ceremonies for this years 3-Day for the Cure and shed more than my fair share of tears. 

But immediately following August comes September and everything is different. Even the weather knows this and it is like the cool winds of fall sooth my soul. I have two boys incredibly excited to start school. I have new life kicking and somersaulting inside of me, and Friday, provided he or she wants to cooperate, we'll know if it's a he or she. 

To everything there is a season, and I am welcoming this season of change.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trying Again

Way back in 2010 I wrote about wanting to become a runner. I tried the couch to 5K program and failed miserably. I think some combination of the time needed, hard pavement and sidewalks, and summer heat did me in.

Something is different this time.

5:15 a.m. on  a treadmill isn't taking any time away from my family.

Pain and discomfort (to be expected as my body adjusts to activity) is way easier to work through on a treadmill. It is a hugely different mental battle when I don't start to experience pain with a mile left to get home. I can simply adjust what I am doing in my workout.

Walking out of my house to walk/run on my city sidewalks with a free playlist from the internet meant I had nothing at stake besides my health, which seems like it should be motivation enough. It wasn't. Knowing that I am wasting money if I don't get to the gym often enough to earn our health insurance discount is huge.

I'm not alone. Now granted, I don't actually know or talk to the people around me, but they are there. They are fighting the same battle I am, and it is nice to know that they understand. As I walk to my treadmill I pass the same woman who is already 2 miles into her run when I get there. She's still running when I leave 45 minutes later. There is the guy working on weight machines, everyday in the same white hat. Obviously, people do this successfully.

If they can do it, I can too.

And I am. 

The first day I stepped on to the treadmill before Christmas I couldn't run for two minutes without stopping.

Now I walk for a song, run for a song, walk for a song, run for a song.

I ran a half mile without stopping last week, and now I run over a mile of my two and a half mile workout.

My first goal major fitness goal is to run a mile without stopping. It will be only the second time in my 30 years of life that I'll have done so.

I say, bring it on.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend Word

It seems so often on a Friday night I can look ahead to the weekend and find a word or twelve to describe the coming days.




This weekend the only word I see is CONNECTION.

I took a few minutes after work today and used a Christmas gift card on a decaf, skim Campfire Mocha with Milk Chocolate and sat in silence savoring each sip, using those moments to reconnect with myself after what had been a really long week at work.

I'm looking forward to dinner tonight and some family time. Dance party? Wii games? Whatever it is, it will be a time of connection that has been missing in the last few weeks.

I sent an e-mail a few minutes ago that hopefully means I'll have a coffee date tomorrow with two women I adore and haven't seen since August while our children get a chance to run and play together.

J has a fellowship breakfast in the morning, giving him more of a chance to connect with the men of our congregation.

Tomorrow afternoon I get to have lunch with some of my favorite and very first internet/blogging friends. Anyone who tells me that you can't find real connection on the world wide web has never met these women.

We've got a doggy visitor tomorrow night, in taking care of my sister's dog so she and her husband can have one last night out during what could prove to be their last weekend without a child. Surely they will appreciate the time together, and so will the dogs!

Sunday morning I'm looking forward to listening to sermon number 2 in a series about families. My husband is preaching, so I am sure I will connect with what I am hearing in a meaningful way.

Sunday afternoon finds my boys connecting with their great aunt and uncle at a water park in Wisconsin. They are so blessed to have people who work to maintain the connection in their life.

I'm hoping that I can have just a few minutes this Saturday to reconnect with my sewing machine and get a quilt bound, crossing a goal for January off of my list.

Sunday evening a member of our congregation who happens to be a chef is cooking dinner for all of our Pastor's and their wives. I'm excited (and a little terrified) to sit down and connect more fully with J's partners in ministry.

And finally, I am so looking forward to Sunday evening after dinner, alone with my husband. No kids to put to bed. No kids to put in bed again after they need a hug. No kids to put to bed again after they need a glass of water. No kids to put to bed again after they can't remember if they said "I love you and goodnight!" A chance to have real conversation and connect with my husband.

Connection. What a great word. Infinitely better than laundry.

What word describes your weekend?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lists and Sub-Lists

When I wrote about my goals for 2012, my friend the Mrs. commented on my post and asked if I had made more lists about how to accomplish the goals on my original list. I chuckled when I read it because it is so spot on.

I love lists, so of course I made lists for things on my list.

There is a quilt list. It looks something like this:

January: Finish the quilt I'm making myself, because there is only one step left to be done.
February: Make a quilt appropriate for whatever gender child my sister pops out in January.
March: Finish the commissioned quilt a blogging acquaintance asked me about somewhere near the beginning of 2011.
April: Make the thank you quilt I designed for j's first grade teacher.
May: Make a thank you quilt for j's second grade teacher. (Don't finish it at 1 a.m. on the last day of school like his kindergarten teacher's quilt. Also, see previous line and don't wait until he is in third grade to start it.)

That is where the quilt list stops. For now.

There is also a closet transformation list. It goes something like this:

  1. Take photos of closet before project starts
  2. Empty closet
  3. Take Photo
  4. Wash closet walls and shelves
  5. Paint closet walls and shelves
  6. Take Photo
  7. Add hooks to closet walls
  8. Install LED push lights on closet walls
  9. Measure shelves and shop for baskets to fit
  10. Take photo
  11. Sort through hats, scarves, mittens etc, and fill basket for j and e
  12. Hang snow pants and jackets on j and e's respective walls
  13. Close door and admire lack of winter clutter by the front door
  14. Open door and take photos of the finished project
  15. Blog the transformation
Pretty thorough, don't you think? 

Do you make lists? Do you make them like me? With a million tiny tasks so you can feel a sense of accomplishment over and over again?