"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

30 October 2011

Crafting Bug

Our church is nearing the end of this year's all-church devotional study. One of the aspects of this year's study that I like very much is the practical application of each week's lesson. This past week focused on helping our "neighbors," and the practical application was aptly entitled, "Neighbor to Neighbor." There was a variety of service projects we could be involved in, and I signed up to help sew crib sheets for a local pregnancy center (the same one I used to volunteer with as a peer counselor when I was newly married and not allowed to work in this country - boy, THAT seems like a lifetime ago!).

I have to admit, signing up for this project wasn't entirely out of my altruistic heart (ha!). Firstly, the woman who was heading up the project, Jill, is one of my favorite people at our church. She and her husband, Pete, are truly wonderful, godly, funny, wise people. They have a beautiful daughter, Sam, who is currently adventuring in Spain with her brother, who is stationed there with the Navy (doing much of the same type of work that Nich did when he served in the military). Their oldest daughter lives out in California with her husband (who happen to share our wedding day) and adorable cherub who is just five weeks older than our little guy.

Pretty much, we like any excuse to hang out with these people.

Secondly, I've been wanting to learn how to sew crib sheets for Brennan for a long time for several reasons:

1. Last winter (Brennan was born in February), the regular cotton sheets would get so cold that Brennan would startle awake when we put him down in the crib.
2. Flannel sheets are so cozy. We love ours.
3. Stores do not sell cute flannel sheets for babies. In fact, they're boring and ugly.
4. I love to create things.

Which brings me to my current dilemma. I have too many projects going. This happens frequently to me. I won't have a crafting project for a long time, and then I catch the crafting bug. A million ideas of things to create fly through my head, and all of a sudden, I have a long list of projects. I can't talk about them here, because a few of them are gifts, but it's so exciting! I'll try to remember to post pictures of the projects as I finish them (or after I gift them, since I have little idea who among my friends pokes around my blog).

Now, if only an elf would build me a crafting corner table in my dream woman-cave where I could sew, scrapbook, make cards, and store my crocheting supplies, I could really get some good crafting done! A girl can dream...

29 October 2011

A Spontaneous Purchase

If you know us, you know this RARELY happens.

We got to the farmers' market this morning in downtown Saratoga and realized that we had left Brennan's hat on top of the shoe rack at home (and then felt like terrible parents). It was incredibly cold this morning, and we were already out of the car, with a bundled up Brennan strapped into his stroller by the time we realized we were sans hat. We hemmed and hawed over our options: go home to retrieve the hat and then come back out, one of us go home while the other stayed downtown, buy a hat from the lady at the farmers' market who sells the (ugly) dishtowel-style bibs ... Finally, we remembered that we were within walking distance of a children's store going out of business. It was the most expensive item of clothing we have ever bought for Brennan (even at a 30% discount), but it was so cold today that the purchase was definitely worth it.

Plus, he looks so cute in it!

25 October 2011

Pumpkin Carving is Serious Business

"Pumpkin Brennan" is what Nich titled it. Can you see why? :~)

23 October 2011

First Pumpkin Patch!

I'll post more pictures once Chris sends us the rest of Brennan in the pumpkin patch (our camera ran out of batteries in the middle of our outing), but here are a few for now. I'll write more about the day in the next post when I have more time!

As a side note, I was telling Nich how we have far better pictures of him and Brennan than of me and Brennan, mostly because Brennan thinks I'm funnier-looking (or something) behind the camera. He took this to mean that I think I'm a better photographer. I'll take that, too. ;~)

21 October 2011

Belly Laughter

Brennan has learned to play "I'm gonna get you!" and it's a blast. He starts crawling away really fast, and once I'm upon him, he just crumples into a giggling heap.

Tonight, he happily ate apple slices and raisins while we ate dinner -- we had BLTs for the sake of convenience, which is a first in our household -- and then had a grand old time painting his high chair tray with his sweet potatoes and zucchini puree. Once Nich cleaned him up and we got him into his pjs, he entertained us by frantically crawling around everywhere in his room for a good half hour, pulling himself up to stand, letting go, falling down, trying again.

He must have tuckered himself out, because he conked right out after nursing and his bedtime story and prayers.

It is so fun -- and nervewracking -- to watch him in this stage of life.

I sort of wish he wasn't growing up quite so fast, though.

Once I figure out a good video-sharing website that allows for privacy, I'll post videos, but for now, here are some pictures of his latest adventures.

First ADK Balloon Festival!
He did SO great on our very long road trip down to Virginia.
We had a good visit with Ben and Annabel.
His wiggle-worm tendencies are making diaper changes a bit more difficult now.
Curiouser and curiouser
Walks with Mama on beautiful Indian summer days
Matching outfits with Daddy
Admiring his new kicks
Wearing his Bevo outfit from Uncle Chris and Aunt Keri
Trying to climb the door to the deck
Eating apples and raisins - see his shiner from his Superman stunt last week?

20 October 2011

On a "late" night drive to the grocery store...

I had to go back to the grocery store tonight after Brennan went to bed so that I could pick up Nich's meds and some cold medicine for both of us. I was a bit grumbly about this, as I'm still not feeling that great. Although, to be honest, since Brennan was born, I haven't liked leaving home at night. After dinner, I just want to clean up, veg, and go to bed.

But Nich has writing assignments due, and I knew the right thing would be to offer to go get the medicine so he could have longer to work.

We don't normally get Nich's meds at the grocery store pharmacy (because we have a CVS right down the street from our apartment), and we were a bit nervous that it was going to cost an exorbitant amount tonight. Thankfully, it ended up being the usual $4 co-pay, which was the first bit of good news.

Then, as I was wandering in the cold & flu aisle, looking for DayQuil (or the store's offbrand version of DayQuil) for Nich and Ricola drops, I noticed that our grocery store carries Tom's of Maine products! This is very good news, as I've been wanting to try their products. I haven't gone all crunchy with my lifestyle, but since pregnancy, I've become increasingly educated about the daily lifestyle choices I make and how they affect my family.

When I went to check out, my total for my entire purchase was 99 cents with a coupon! Woohoo!

I headed out of the store, a little giddy about only spending 99 cents for multiple items (this doesn't even happen at a yard sale for me!), a couple walked by me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the woman stop short. The man asked, "What's wrong?" and at first, I thought she responded, "My water just broke." I looked back, concerned, and waited to see if they needed any help. But as she just calmly fiddled with her hands, I realized she had said, "My wallet just broke." Phew!

Then, on my rainy drive home, I was speeding along at 45 mph by a horse pasture when the driver of an approaching car in the opposite lane flashed their lights at me. First, I wondered if I'd accidentally left my brights on, but then I slowed down, just in case it was a warning. Sure enough, a couple miles down the road, a cop was sitting under a tree on the side of the dark road.

I left the house a bit cranky, but I returned with good stories to share with my husband. It reminded me of when we were dating and how I would write down fun things that happened throughout the day on little Post-It notes and in the margins of my planner so I would remember to share with him during out nightly phone calls. I'm so thankful that instead of saying goodbye on the phone every night, I get to fall asleep right next to my best friend.

Off-topic, but just as good: Brennan slept nine hours straight last night, woke up for an early morning feeding (which coincided with when I had to get up to pump), and then slept an additional three hours. This is the best he's done yet, and I was incredibly thankful for the good rest for all of us.

19 October 2011

The Face of Christ

Sometimes, after writing a blog post about the trials of life, I end up feeling guilty. I find myself looking for something good worth writing about, as though I need to maintain some sort of balance between the good and the challenging.

So a list of "goods":
- I've been sick again with another blasted cold, but thankfully, neither Nich nor Brennan have caught it yet.
- Fingerprinting at the USCIS office went smoothly this morning. Everyone with whom we interacted was very cordial and friendly, they took my fingerprints and photograph efficiently, and we were out of there within fifteen minutes.
- Brennan's fall from his crib has resulted in a black eye, but he's fine otherwise. I shudder every time I think of him falling, and I am so grateful that he wasn't hurt worse.
- My ladies' Bible study discussion group leader called to see how I was doing this morning, because I had missed the study yesterday (I was subbing). This is the first time this has happened in the five years we have been part of our church. I can't tell you how much that meant to me, that she made a little bit of time to call and check up on me.
- Two "far away" friends have blessed my heart tremendously since my last blog post.

Lastly, I just finished reading Heaven is for Real two days ago, and since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Jesus. I'm not normally into these feel-good type stories about supernatural experiences, but there was something about this story that really touched my heart. For the past two nights, as I sit in the rocking chair in Brennan's room, nursing him in the semi-dark, I think about how Colton told his parents how Jesus had the prettiest eyes and how he recognized Jesus in Akiane's "Prince of Peace" painting.

And as I lay my drowsy baby in his crib, I pray for Jesus of the beautiful, kind eyes and the incredibly huge heart for children, to watch over him in his sleep.

15 October 2011

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

It has been one of those days.

Brennan woke up at 4:30 to nurse, which is relatively normal. I couldn't get to sleep right away after I had put him back in his crib, though, so it was about 6:00 before I finally drifted back into slumber. I woke up at 6:40 again with the alarm Nich had set, because we wanted to get to the semi-annual kids' consignment sale early this year (last year, we got there early-ish, and waited in this LONG line in the cold parking lot for half an hour).

While Nich showered, I went into the kitchen to pack Brennan's breakfast and lunch for our morning out. I heard Brennan stir and then a huge THUMP! I think my heart literally skipped a beat. I raced to the nursery as Brennan started screaming. I scooped him up from where he was lying face down on the carpet in front of his crib, quickly turning on all the lights so I could keep an eye on his pupil dilation and look him over. He seemed okay (other than the crying from the shock and the growing bump on his forehead), but he didn't even want to nurse, so we just cuddled for a while (after letting Nich know what had happened).

We got the sale in plenty of time, with me feeding Brennan in the back of the car and then playing with him so he wouldn't fall asleep (we didn't want him falling asleep until an hour had passed from the time of his fall). Needless to say, he conked out in the Snugli when we got to the sale.

We found most of the items we wanted in good time, despite the crowds, but then discovered that one of the items we most wanted didn't have a sales tag. After scouring the table where we had found it for fifteen minutes, we resigned ourselves to not being able to purchase it. Thankfully, a friend was working the sale and got one of the coordinators to just write up a tag for us.

I was signed up to lead a few tours through an experiential "museum" on poverty that our church had set up for the weekend to go along with our annual all-church study. I think I talked about the Project Experience that we went on last summer at the nation-wide youth conference Nich and I chaperoned. Well, there was no one there for my first tour, so I took Nich and one other person through it. We drove home, and since I had been up since 4:30 this morning, I was exhausted. But we had to get Brennan's crib lowered before his nap. By the time Brennan was in bed, I was hungry, so we had lunch. Nich helped me wash the dishes and diapers so I could pump some milk for Brennan to have while I was gone, and by the time all that was done, it was time for me to head back to church for the afternoon tours.

To which nobody showed up.

When I got home, we started going through our purchases from the sale. One of the things we had bought was a box "set" of Baby Einstein DVDs. It had been taped up with packing tape, so we had naturally assumed that all was in order. Well, when we opened it up, not only was one of the DVDs the wrong one (from the four that were listed on the outside of the box), but one of the DVDs was actually missing. I called the coordinator of the sale, and she asked if I knew who the consignor was (what kind of ridiculous question is that?!). I told her that I obviously didn't, since they take all the tags when we check out at the sale. She responded, "Well, most of the time, people have a general idea of who the consignor is." I wanted to tell her she was full of BS, but obviously, I didn't. I just told her that this was unacceptable and that as the coordinator of the sale, she was still receiving part of the money that we had used to pay for the item, and that we wanted a refund. She just told me to write them an email and if anyone happened to come across the consignment tag that had been on the DVD set, they would issue us a refund. Fat chance of that happening, right?

I know that this is a small thing in the scope of life, and that I'm over-tired and emotional right now ... from thinking about things like poverty, still thinking about Kerry, struggling with feeling judged for being on WIC, worrying about how Brennan will do when I sub (which I don't want to do), thinking about my visa, being overwhelmed with life and money (or the lack thereof). It seems like every time I check the bank account, there's less in there ... even as we keep cutting things out and scrimping and saving. We had set aside money so that we could purchase Brennan's Christmas gifts at this consignment sale. Part of me feels horrible that we can't buy him brand new things. The practical part of me knows that he doesn't know the difference anyway, and the realistic part of me knows that there are many children out there who don't even get Christmas gifts.

But because money is so hard to come by lately (and because we strive so hard to live simply and be frugal so that we can still give to things that are important to us, like Compassion and to Operation Christmas Child), when things like this happen, it just feels like we're being robbed of Nich's hard-earned money. He goes every day to a job he doesn't love so that he can provide for our family. Days like today feel like a senseless waste of that money.

To make it worse, as we were standing in line at the sale today, waiting to pay, a friend looked at the stuff we were buying and said, "Oh, you're a nice mommy. You buy toys. I never buy toys." Nich responded, "We said we weren't going to either, but we figured a few are okay." She said, "That's what grandma and grandpa are for." So I said, "Well, Brennan doesn't have any grandparents around who buy him those things." And she came back with, "Well, grandma and grandpa and uncles and aunts and everyone else."

I felt awful. It's already a sensitive issue for Nich and me that Brennan has no grandparents nearby. He doesn't have any relatives who buy him things "just because." He doesn't have anyone to spoil him or love on him that way. And we try not to let it bother us, but it does hurt sometimes. My neighbor just commented that there are family members and "friends" on her Facebook who haven't even acknowledged her two-month old baby's existence. I wanted to tell her that Brennan has a grandmother who has never even sent him a gift in his nearly eight months of life. It really sucks.

I know our friend didn't mean to be insensitive, but it really just felt like salt on a gaping wound.

I just want to crawl into a hole right now. But I have a wonderful husband who is cooking dinner so that I can have the luxury of sitting here to reflect and blog and a baby who needs me, so I'll press on. At least until after Brennan's bedtime. Then I might just crawl under the covers and not come out until tomorrow.

12 October 2011

Not that there was ever any doubt...

But he's definitely our child. Brennan LOVES broccoli. He preferred it over the strawberries I gave him initially, and he made hilarious "nyum nyum" noises throughout dinner. Consequently, we need no other forms of entertainment during mealtimes these days.

Look how happy he is about his broccoli!

*Disclaimer: We are not celebrating Christmas already (although I did listen to some Christmas music on YouTube a couple weeks ago). These "over the head" bibs were handed down to us, and they work MUCH better than the standard, too-small bibs, particularly when there's juicy fruit involved.

06 October 2011

Mommy Guilt

Ever since Brennan got sick a couple weeks ago, he has been more clingy with me. I know that this is also a developmental stage that begins around seven months, so I'm trying to be patient and remember what it must be like from his perspective.

But my personality rears its ugly head and rebels all too frequently.

It was hard to be gracious and patient with my little one who wanted to be held all the time (by me, not Daddy) when my neck pain wouldn't go away for three days. It was a new kind of challenge to put aside my emotions about Kerry (and concern for Ben) in order to take care of Brennan's daily needs. And now that he's on the move - and quickly gaining speed every day - I'm finding that I get less and less done around the house during the day, much less get to the grocery store!

This morning, Brennan inchwormed from the living room to his nursery, after pulling out DVDs from the entertainment center. He tried to pull himself onto the bottom shelf of his changing table. He pulls out the books on our nightstands. He can reach up to pull things down (like Nich's pants that I had hung to dry). He grabs at the spoon as I'm feeding him.

I caught myself rolling my eyes in impatience during breakfast this morning.

I felt like a terrible mother.

Oh, for increased grace! 

04 October 2011

God gives, God takes. God's name be ever blessed.*

Note: This was a really difficult post to write, and I almost scrapped it. But I didn't want to not write about it, because it's very much on my mind often these days. So please read with grace.

On Sunday, September 25, 2011, my friend Kerry was called home to Jesus. I know His first words to her were, without a doubt, "Well done, my good and faithful servant," because without question, Kerry lived her life to glorify Him.

We made the trip down to Virginia to attend the memorial service. The entire service was absolutely beautiful and poignant. Friends and family shared about Kerry's steadfast faith, prayers for comfort were offered up to the Lord, songs were sung about His goodness, faithfulness, and gift of redemption.

The pastor shared that at his last visit with Kerry, she had asked two main questions:

1. Was God answering prayers that He be glorified?
2. Is it okay to quit?

This blew my mind away.

I feel like I got to know Kerry a little bit better that day as I listened to the stories being shared. I still wish that Brennan could have met "Aunt Kerry," even if he wouldn't ever remember her. I wish I had been able to say goodbye-for-now. But most of all, I am so thankful that she isn't struggling anymore. I have never before in my life fully comprehended the meaning of celebrating someone's life well-lived, but Saturday was just that, a glorious testimony to a life lived in honor of our sovereign Lord. There's the accompanying sorrow and grief, as there is with any significant loss, but I am seeing the other side of death more clearly for the first time.

As we spoke with her parents and Ben, their God-given peace just overflowed. I know that the struggle to learn to live this life without Kerry will be the hardest for them, and we noted that the grace with which they were presenting themselves was part of the testimony of who Kerry was. She had an incredible family support system.

Nich mentioned to me on the ride down that each time we leave Virginia, he wonders if anything will take us back there again. He also said that Kerry has been the reason we have visited the last three times: I was in her wedding in the winter of 2008, we attempted to visit her at Duke in 2010, and most recently, for her memorial service.

I don't know what would take us back to Virginia ever again, but despite the circumstances, this trip blessed us. Both Nich and I felt compelled to re-examine our lives, to strive to better hear the Lord's voice in our daily decisions, to hone our focus, to simplify. If it is our last visit there, it will definitely have been a worthwhile and memorable one.

We pray for Ben as a family every night now, right after reading Brennan's bedtime Bible story. I know that there are many people doing the same. I hope he feels those prayers in his heart.

*Job 1:21, The Message