A Very Merry Porky Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


noun \trə-ˈdi-shən\

Definition of TRADITION

: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
I'm big on tradition. You don't grow up on a farm that's been in your family for over 100 years and not learn a little something about heritage. But my appreciation for tradition is greatly attributed to my mother. She did not grow up on the farm, so I suppose her East Coast, Bostonian heritage is what helped shape her view of valuing the intangibles in life.
We had lots of traditions growing up, many of which I hope to carry on into the Pardy family. And some traditions morph with the times and convenience of our culture today. For instance, I believe it would be greatly frowned upon today if Josh and I just went out hunting for the perfect Christmas tree and then just chopped it down wherever we found it - like my dad and I used to do in the middle of Kansas!

I remember trudging through the ditches of snow, inevitably choosing the one tree that would most certainly not fit into our living room. Nevertheless, my daddy would chop that tree down and we would end up chopping and chopping until it was at least able to fit through the doorway. One year in particular I remember having to put the tree in our foyer, as it was simply too tall for anywhere else in the house (a-la-"Christmas Vacation"-Chevy-Chase-style). Grand.
And other traditions have been customized to fit my liking. For example, my family always made "Porkies" on special occasions. That's right, Porkies. The recipe is top secret, so don't bother asking, but I can tell you that they are a sweet meat mixture molded into giant meat balls and then baked. (Or, as my brother so politely would refer to them growing up "They look like a tray of broiled gophers, belly up".)

Anyhow, they are delicious, and we always looked forward to going to my Grammy's to partake of the Porkies. Now, in the Pardy home, we have adopted the Porky as the official Christmas meat. So, we will once again be having a very Merry Porky Christmas.
And yet, some traditions are just perfect they way they are. Watching the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol" together as a family. Opening Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve. Listening to the Nativity Story and saying what we are thankful for. Baking, baking, and more baking followed by eating, eating, and more eating! The list goes on.
I love tradition because it helps give me a sense of belonging. "I know what this family is about"..."this is what we do"..."you are part of something special", year after year after year. It isn't about having a "right way" of doing things, not at all. It's about appreciating the people and places and the times that have helped established you exactly where you are today. When I hang an ornament on the Christmas tree that was Matilda's great-grandmother's, it amazes me to think about the journey that little ornament has taken - how my Grandmother celebrated Christmas when she was a little girl, and how that history still trickles down and shapes me even today.
It's easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle, the commercialism and Santa Clausism of Christmas. But, when I unwrap the pieces of the Nativity Scene and remember back how that was my very favorite tradition as a little girl, setting up the Nativity in our living room, I instantly am taken back to a nostalgic time where Christmas was filled with awe.
I hope that I can instill in Matilda an appreciation for the little things that our family does year after year, just as my mother did for me. I hope she will take pride in taking them on and making them her own. Until then, I'm so privileged to get to be the mommy that can hand down little pieces of our family history...one porky at a time. :)
Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Welp, I've set a new personal best. At only 9 weeks pregnant a stranger has asked me when I am due! I was totally taken off guard, honestly. I thought I was just slightly easing into the "Has she eaten too many Doritos today?" phase, and apparently I have skipped straight ahead to the fully "There goes another pregnant lady" status. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars. Hello elastic waistband.
Still, I've been wearing my regular clothes fine (albeit, the clock is ticking) and I wasn't even having a "fat day" as we all do now and again. In fact, I was even wearing a scarf that hung down in front, so it wasn't even like my tummy was just sticking out there for the world to question. Anyway - it was strange.
We were in the American Girl store at the Grove in LA and I was carrying Matilda around. This nice lady and her teenage daughter noticed Matilda and mentioned how cute she was. Naturally, I turned toward them and smiled and said thank you. Then, the mother goes "How OLD is she?" in a very serious tone. And I was like "Thirteen months," expecting her to say something like "aw, how sweet" or some sort. Instead, she glares at me with huge eyes and says "And HOW far along are YOU?"
Obviously she was more interested in doing the math (of how far apart the kids would be) than actually wondering how I was.
I stammered out a "9 weeks" after I got over the initial shock of someone asking. Don't get me wrong - I wasn't offended - I mean, thank goodness I actually AM pregnant! (Cause I have totally been there, not pregnant, and been asked before as well - obviously that is...well...worse.) But, I thought I had at least a few more weeks in me before the questions from strangers started pouring in.
With Matilda I was only about 12 weeks when the first person asked. It was a boy behind the concessions counter at the movie theater. He just stared at my waist and abruptly asked, "Are you pregnant?" and I very firmly answered "Yes - and you are lucky I am! Never ever ask a woman that!" I hope he learned his lesson - one he would be wise to learn while still in his youth.
So - the doors have been opened. My apparent belly is now up for public speculation.
I embrace the awkwardness. Bring it on, strangers. Let the games begin.

Tis the Season

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's that time of year again...Christmas shopping. It is such a love/hate relationship when it comes to Christmas shopping, isn't it? On one hand I totally embrace the idea of finding the perfect treasure for someone I love, buying them the exact-right gift that I know perfectly balances the need/want of their desires and, if I'm lucky, will also be on sale and in their size or color. The idealism of it all is enthralling - every year I have these grand notions that I will be sauntering around the mall with a peppermint mocha latte in one hand and a fat wallet in the other - just waiting for the perfect item to catch my eye so I can scratch another name off my list.
This never happens. Christmas movies have ruined me. Still, each year I'm still bound to the unspoken agreement with which to exchange said gifts with multiple individuals, nearly forcing me to compromise one of my ideals when it comes to either selection, price, or even recipient.
After all, December is sort of a nightmare month when it comes to gift-giving in my family. Not only is it Christmas for everyone - it is also my dad's, mom's, brother's, niece's, and nephew's birthdays! Whew. Now, that is just unfair. Are you people trying to force me into poverty?
Nevertheless, each year I waver between the emotions of looking forward to Christmas shopping, and cringing when I glance at the bottom of each receipt. I mean, I love them - how can I put a price on showing my appreciation of them? But, of course, I must.
We've tried to control the chaos. We began to "draw names" in our family a few years back, and now that we have our own child she, too, can now participate in the exchange which makes it a bit easier than having to buy for 6 other nieces and nephews, but still. Granted - this is just MY side of the family! Of course we are on the hunt for gifting the in-laws as well, and then there are all the "fringe people" with whom we are entitled.
You know, you have them - "fringe people"... The neighbor, the pastor, the landlord, the co-worker, the boss, that one lady who always seems to get you something and you're not sure why but you still feel like you should have something for her as well.... It all adds up. Usually I bake something for most of those people - it tends to be cheaper in the long run and yet still shows I care enough to put the time into stirring batter and hopefully not burning down my apartment. "Here, Merry Christmas - I hope this doesn't kill you!" (Just kidding, I'm actually fairly skilled in this area, so it is one part of it all I can not stress over - oh, except for the part of actually taking the time to do it!)
And then there are the Christmas cards. I love Christmas cards - I love to make them, get them, give them...but, again, work! And every year I'm like "Do I write a letter to go with it? Do I just include one picture or more? Does anyone even read these anymore?" and the list of addresses gets longer every year.
Oh Christmas, you are certainly power-packed with reasons to stress, but I refuse!
It will all get done.
Each person on my list will have SOMETHING to open (or read or eat, etc) on Christmas, and the day will come and go with full hearts of gratitude, no doubt. There are plenty of things to get done between now and the 25th of December, but there are also too many things to miss if I don't stop and breath and take the time to enjoy them: Trimming the tree! Pictures with Santa! Looking at the Christmas lights! Peppermint Frozen Yogurt! Singing Christmas Carols!
Now...that's a list I love to check off!

Does the Body Good

Friday, December 3, 2010

Let this post go down in history as "the one where she rambled on about breastfeeding". Correct. So if you aren't up for it, you can stop reading now, no offense taken.
Last week, on Thanksgiving day, I finally came to terms with ending nursing Matilda. This might actually surprise some of you, thinking that a pregnant lady is crazy to continue to nurse at all. Actually, though it may be against popular belief, it is often totally and perfectly healthy to continue breastfeeding even if one becomes pregnant. I knew however, that since Matilda turned one and then finding out I was expecting, the clock was ticking on our nursing days. I didn't want to tandem nurse (this is when very courageous, albeit a bit crazy, women nurse their toddler along with their newborn - whew). This is a valid choice, but I just felt like nursing was such an incredibly intimate bonding experience with the newborn that I didn't want to "split the time" with my toddler as well. And, let's be honest, I didn't want to just sit around and be milked non-stop all day. Nor did I want Matilda to feel jealous of the newborn because of nursing (I'm sure we'll have our challenges in this department as it is - so why push it.)
Anyhow...I had been trying to switch Matilda to regular milk, without success. It was making her very sick and she didn't like the taste of it. So, I continued to nurse her only in the mornings and at night before bed. Within a couple weeks of finding out I was expecting again, I noticed behavioral changes in my girl. The happy natured girl who was once so chipper suddenly seemed...well, emotional. It wasn't just a clingy day now and then. It was like I was watching a teenage girl with raging hormones with no outlet for communication except screaming and crying. It was like watching a Lifetime Original Toddler Movie of the week every time the littlest thing happened. It was weird. Something was wrong. Something was making her...well, hormonal.
I tried to look up information about nursing while pregnant, but everything I found was about the health of the mother and the unborn child - nothing was saying "your toddler might be freaking out because you are pumping her full of your pregnancy hormones" or anything...still, my motherly intuition knew something was up. However, I knew my theory could only be truly tested if we stopped nursing for good.
So, Thanksgiving morning I nursed her and then, as I saw my little girl ride the emotional roller-coaster throughout the day, I knew that was it. We were done.
I had been dreading it for weeks. There are several mothers who you will hear say "Oh, I was so glad it was over. I could finally have freedom, I could finally get a break." and I'm sure as most of you are thinking "Isn't she going to be nursing again in like...7 months?" Yes, but I will never nurse my sweet Matilda again. I was sad. Each little chapter in our lives is marked by change. Each little milestone that Matilda hits is a new part of her life that won't exist anymore. Though we rejoice in the progress - "She rolled over! She's walking! She's eating Cheerios by herself!" a little piece of my heart grieves the action that will now only be in memories "Remember when she used to crawl everywhere? Remember when she used to make that silly squeaky sound like a pony? Remember when I used to get up every two hours to feed her?" and time marches on.
Nursing is a sacred time. I never knew it would be such a powerful time in my life. In fact, I had NO idea what to expect before I started doing it! Breastfeeding can be a scary and wondrous experience for a mother. I'll admit I was anxious and hesitant before Matilda arrived. I had no idea if she would "latch on" or "get the hang of it". It is a frightening experience to fully give a part of your own body over to something that you barely have control over.
You've all heard the jokes (or experienced them!) of the newly breastfeeding mother having leaked onto her shirt, or having her milk let-down at an inopportune time. (A wonderful feeling when you are among primarily male co-workers, let me tell you.) And I absolutely had no idea how I was going to manage the pumping and bottling in between work and home, etc. It all seemed so daunting! But, I was determined, and as we persevered, we found total success!
To nurse for over a year while maintaining a nearly full-time job, well, to say I am proud seems silly - but I am so thankful to have reaped the reward of the experience. It was so worth the effort and time. If I dare to stand on a soapbox (ahem, step step step...) I will happily say that while all medical and health communities clearly state that breastfeeding is by far the healthiest way to feed your baby, it is also the most rewarding. I will go as far as to say that if you are considering not breastfeeding your baby that you should take a minute and truly think about your intentions. Are you doing what is best for your baby or for your situation? Because those are very different things. This is not a time to be (dare I say) selfish - this is a time to be thankful and take the extra steps and learn to enjoy them. Honestly, you will end up saving time and money in the end once you get the hang of it! (Obviously some women have medical reasons they can not breastfeed - and therefore, you are already doing what is best for your baby, so bravo to you, I'm speaking to other moms here). The practical advantages (cost, time, nutrition) are blatant, but the emotional and intimate investment that you make with your baby are lifelong when you decide to breastfeed. I would just highly encourage any new mother to truly do all they can to pursue breastfeeding. I'm speaking from experience, and I was fortunate to have a wonderful experience, so I hope you will too (it's like when you find the perfect pair of jeans - you want that for everybody! Even if you aren't my size - try them out! They might look great! You might love it!....okay, weak analogy, but I hope you get the message)
As I approached the end of nursing, as I suspected, the anticipation of the end of nursing was far more emotional than actually following through with it. With times like these, I fully allow myself one night to just be sad about it - to mourn the loss of that chapter - and then to wake up the next day fully embracing what lies ahead "I can wear normal bras for a while! I can have more time to get ready in the morning!" What have you.
So, we now have an official "sippy-cup drinker" at our house now. She has taken to milk fairly well (though we are having to keep her on lactose free milk for now) and has not had any trouble waking up or going to bed without nursing. Not only that - but my theory was correct! Within a couple days, Matilda has fully become "herself" again! My happy and easy-going gal is back!
Hooray for maternal instinct! She no longer has "highs and lows" like she did in the weeks prior, and while my nausea has increased due to my hormones, I am so grateful that she isn't suffering the effects of them anymore. (By the way, I'm not saying this happens to every pregnant nursing mother - many can successfully continue with no adverse effects...but this was my experience, and it seems my theory paid off.)
So, for the next seven months or so, this cow is out of business. Gone to pasture...and all those other silly "milk'em" jokes. I'm looking forward to nursing our next baby as well, but I will always cherish the time I had spent feeding Matilda. God sure does make those babies so you are willing to give them everything you've got - inside and out. What a privilege.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Who came up with the term "morning sickness" anyway? My guess is some male doctor whose wife was only allowed to complain when he saw her first thing in the morning. Because anyone who has experienced it knows - it does not limit itself to the a.m.
I am actually one of the luckier ones - I have yet to actually lose my lunch (or breakfast, or dinner) with pregnancy - but instead I am haunted by the gnawing cloud of nausea that just hangs over me nearly all day long. It isn't brutal - but it is an ebb and flow of "yick-ness" and without relief.
This nausea is such a catch-22 for pregnant women. It is a wonderful sign that everything is going well. Feeling the nagging clench in your throat is a beautiful reminder that you are no longer in control, and that a baby no bigger than a raspberry now dictates how you function. This little babe is growing at unbelievable rates and needing every enormous dose of nutrients and hormones that your body has to offer. This rush of hormones, however, is exactly what causes my fair face to flush at the smell of coffee or my throat to close up at the thought of poultry. Nevertheless, I'm thankful for the nausea!
On the other hand, when I have the rare wave of relief from the nausea - when I get to suddenly take a deep breath and not feel like I might be swooning...I'm worried. Where is the nausea? Where did it go? Why do I feel okay? Is everything alright in there??
I wish my baby could have a little tin-can-telephone tied to the teeny umbilical cord just to shout-out a little "Yep, I'm alright! Just giving you a break, mom! Relax!"
But, then, as soon as I start to put my anxiety to the side and enjoy the moment of relief...it's back. So, those are the two choices a first-trimester mama has: Nausea or Worry. Well, there is plenty to worry about anyway - so I suppose I'll choose the nausea for now.
Thanks for the reminder, little bean! I'm glad you are growing! I'm glad your heart the size of a poppyseed is thump-thumping away and you are taking all you need to keep developing!
In the meantime...pass me the ginger ale.

Baby Pardy Part Deux

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Well, by now most of you have probably heard the news - we are expecting! Baby Pardy #2 is on the way, due mid-July. Hooray!We found out on November 3rd, exactly 1 year from the day we brought Matilda home from the hospital! The kiddos will be 20 months apart, so they will be close and I'm sure our lives will be crazy, yes - but the most wonderful crazy I can imagine. What a blessing! I love the idea that Matilda will never even remember life without her sibling - it will be a little buddy for her right from the start!
We've already been getting the awkward glances and question: "Was this on purpose?" Let me just clear this up for everyone...Yes. It did happen a little sooner than we predicted (again, that illusion that we have any control over this kind of thing is ridiculous) - it took nearly a year to conceive Matilda, so we had no idea that this one would happen so quickly - but we are delighted beyond words that the time is now! (I'm sure there will be more posts on this in the future.)
And so the pregnancy begins...I'm feeling pretty good. Queasy and achey, all good signs that this little baby, no bigger than a blueberry, is growing every second! Pregnancy is wondrous in many ways, but I am so thankful for it's constant reminder of how God is in control - weaving together this tiny babe, conducting every beat of the new little heart, forming the intricacies that are too small for me to even fathom. God is so good!
Indeed, this Thanksgiving there is so much to be thankful for! It is no wonder that Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday! November is a great month for the Pardys: our Anniversary is November 24th, Matilda was born on November 1st, and now we find out another blessing is on the way in November as well. Thank you, Lord! Not to mention, this holiday is surrounding by wonderful food and the anticipation of Christmas coming. I love it!
Thank you, everyone, for all your prayers for our family! I pray each of you take time to be grateful for God's blessings in your own life, and that you get to enjoy that turkey feast with people who love you!
Happy Thanksgiving!


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Being a mom who "works outside the home" has its ups and downs. There is nothing that can prepare you to go back to work after spending a joyous 3 months on maternity leave in the gaze of your precious newborn. That time is sacred and to be cherished. I cried for weeks leading up to my return to work, and as I suspected, the anticipation of it was worse than the actual action itself. But, boy, I hated leaving that baby at home. Even knowing that she was in the best of care (an ideal situation with my sister-in-law and niece coming over to our place to keep her) it was still not ME, and so I felt the maternal pangs of abandonment every time I left.
Soon we got into a rhythm, and that helped tremendously. It quickly became normal to juggle getting ready and making sure her food was prepared before I left. No longer was it daunting to wonder how I would manage pumping milk at work and holding back tears when I saw her photo on my cell phone. We got set in a routine and she adjusted beautifully, looking forward to her "playtime" with her 2 year-old cousin, Sofie on those three days I had to go to the office.
But, it still wasn't easy. It still ISN'T easy. I reminded myself that I was providing wonderful things for my daughter because of the income I could provide. I could give her health insurance and splurge on the occasional treat because of the money. Not to mention, I simply didn't have a choice. We wouldn't be able to make rent without the money I was making, and so we were forced to come to terms with our compromised life of three-quarter-time work for me. Still, a day hasn't gone by that I haven't prayed for God to provide a way for me to stay home with my baby. So that continues. But, it felt like it was harder on me than anyone else...until now.
Recently, Matilda has begun the clingy "gotsta-have-my-mommy" kind of routine. She loves other people - she plays great with others and loves to ham it up for attention wherever she goes (she IS a Pardy!) but now in the mornings when I leave for work she does not want me to go. She is sad. Which makes me sad. It is just sad. SAD!
There is nothing like the clutch of your child. She is like a little koala bear, who, I think if I let go of completely, would still maintain her balance affixed to my side because of her crazy grip onto me. It is so sweet, and desperately pitiful.
So, now I have to do the "quick-switch-bag-of-sand-trick" every morning. You know - that classic Indiana Jones scene where he takes the golden idol and replaces it ever so swiftly with a bag of sand in hopes that no one notices it ever went missing??? The greatest switcharoo ever, in my opinion (though it does fail and he is nearly crushed by a giant boulder...) Now, I have to give Matilda her cup of Cheerios, smooch her on the head, turn on a Curious George show and then slip out before the theme song ends so that she is just distracted enough by George's curious wiles that she forgets all about her mommy for a second. AH! Heartbreaker!
I hate pulling the ole switcharoo on her, but I know God is teaching both her and me lessons through this. I know I don't want us totally co-dependent on each other. But still, the mother in me is shouting to protect her from all sadness, be there and stay with her and give her what she wants - and to feel completely and utterly NEEDED is at the heart of all mother's desires.
So, the prayers for future provision continue. And in the meantime, I should probably by stock in Cheerios and send a thank you card to the Man in the Yellow Hat.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Matilda had her one year check-up yesterday. Praise be that she is healthy as a horse. (Or maybe a pony, in her case? But "healthy as a pony" doesn't quite roll off the tongue.) Anyhow, she has been deemed "petite" by our pediatrician, as she is now in the 27th percentile in height and weight, but perfectly on par for herself and totally healthy. Though hearing "petite" from the man who just a year ago called her "enormous" at her very first doctor's visit was a bit surprising. Born at 8 lbs 8.5 oz and 22 inches long...one year later she is now 19 lbs 12 oz and 28.5 inches long. Atta girl! :)
Unfortunately, she also had to get shots yesterday. Boo!! She got five shots total - 2 in one leg and 1 in the other leg and each arm. Sad face!
And on top of it all - as we were waiting for said shots, her stupid mother accidentally injured her! Good grief.
I had decided to get out her pacifier in anticipation of extra-calming being needed, and when I went to clip her paci-holder to her shirt...I pinched her skin! OUCH! Bad mommy. I felt so terrible as my baby screamed and cried...only to then hold her down and have her get 5 more pangs of torture when she got her shots.
Thank you Lord for Tylenol. And hugs. And Dora the Explorer band-aids.
Poor baby.
But, I am thankful to live in a time of modern medicine and vaccines and flu shots. Another lesson learned of doing what is best for your child even if it means having them endure temporary pain to achieve the greater good. (And also a lesson on not trying to clip the pacifier to your baby using only one hand...not good.)

30 Jobs in 30 Years

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

As of last month, I have officially been with my current employer for three years. This may surprise you (since I'm now old, being 30 and all...) but this is the absolute longest I have ever held any job ever. In fact, I haven't even held the same position since being there...but it is still the longest I've been with any employer. And that is saying something considering I have pretty much been working since I was like 14.
I know what you're thinking, "Really? That is surprising since you seem so reasonable. How do you keep getting jobs if your resume is so ridden with spontaneity?"
Thanks for asking. But, in fact, because of my well-rounded experience (see how I spun that?) I am pretty much qualified for just about any entry-level position that doesn't require licensing or education beyond a Bachelor's degree.
In fact, over the last many years, I've obtained work experience in the following areas:

Truck Driving
Video Production
Food Service

...to name a few.

"How can that be?" you might ask, perhaps quietly thinking to yourself "I don't consider her to be an expert at any of those things". Correct you are! I am no expert at any of the above tasks. In fact, if I am an expert at anything, it is probably resume writing and job hunting. Haha.

All in all, if you count internships and volunteer positions, along with all hired-for employment opportunities...I have had a grand total of 30 jobs in 30 years. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

The fact is, as I look back on my vast array of employment adventures, apparently people were willing to take chances on me, risk trusting me to be able to learn something I don't yet have any idea how to do...and, along the way, I remain honest and forthcoming and work hard to step up to the plate.
I might not have all the answers or have a stellar resume that helps me climb the ladder to the top...but, I'll fully embrace the experience that is offered me and give you my attention and loyalty as long as the situation continues to be fun, challenging, or simply putting food on my table.
A job has always been a job to me. I leave it at the office and when I am home, I am home. Work will never come before family or love or important celebrations. Jobs will come and go (and come again). There have been some I have loved and some I have absolutely hated. I have never been fired, but I have been known to quit on the spot if there was ever serious, questionable reason. To these many employers of the past (regardless of how we may have parted in the end) I am grateful.
Thinking of all the jobs I've had, it is now easy to recognize that each job was setting me up for the next, without an inkling in my own mind of what that next step might be at the time. Every job has left me with something that has helped shape me in some way that has brought me to who I am today. And when I look at the areas of experience I have gained up to this point...it is like reading the list of pre-requisites for the ultimate job, of which I am now undertaking: Motherhood.
I think it will be quite a while before I am considered an expert at this job as well (okay, never)...but don't worry, there's no chance I'm quitting either.

Happy Birthday, Matilda!

Monday, November 1, 2010

My sweet baby girl, miss Matilda Hazel Darling Pardy turns one year old today! I know I've said it a bazillion times, but I just can't believe it. I've even been preparing myself for months now ("She's six months old...halfway there...She's nine months...She'll be walking soon...") counting down each and every day. I remind myself daily to absorb her - literally, I tell myself "soak this in, this moment right here, eat it up! She will never be this little again! Be here, be thankful, be patient."
I've always had major issues with time. I know that many people feel the "temporal" nature that is required of us in this life - its pressures and its fleeting moments that barely let you escape each day without thinking "where did it go?" And I am to the extreme.
I would say that time, in fact, haunts me. I have always felt it. I remember being seven years old and nearly having a panic attack that I practically wasted my sixth year and would never get to be five years old ever again. (Yes, I know I'm strange.) I remember the night before I turned thirteen thinking "This is it - you are going to be a teenager. You've waited your whole life for this and now it is here - are you ready? Have you done everything you hoped you would do up until now?" (Yes, I know I had some emotional issues.) And if you read any of my previous blogs about turning thirty this year, then you get that I am still plagued with those same kind of questions even years later.
I realize that this must sound emotionally exhausting to some of you, downright kooky to others. Perhaps. But, it also has its benefits.
I remember a LOT. Just ask my family. If anything ever comes up or there is a dispute in recalling something - they all look at each other and say "I bet Emily remembers" and...usually I do! There is some kind of "stop and smell the roses" mechanism in my brain that I believe was put there for a reason - so I try to use my superpowers for good and not for evil.
I also believe that having lived through some hardships in my life, that this "fight for time" has also allowed me to be able to genuinely be intentional about how I spend my time and truly do my best to not take things for granted. I am very firm with my values, and I guard their boundaries with my life: God first, Family a very close second. And I am very deliberate about enjoying the moments with my family - because they are all passing so quickly.
There is such freedom in this! When you are able to gain perspective - and I strive as hard as I can to maintain it - then you will realize that you hardly have anything to complain about. Truly, I used to be the world's best (worst?) complainer. And it is a struggle for me in various areas of my life, for sure (we can all ALWAYS find SOMETHING to complain about - and when you need a buddy for that, I'm your gal - and I'll bring the brownies to serve on the side of that giant plate of whining). But, when it comes to my family, my husband and my baby girl, I really am just so grateful for them it doesn't leave much room for selfishness or impatience. And, let me tell you, (coming from a bona fide Debbie Downer at one point in my life...) that when you suddenly become aware of each moment as a fleeting spark of time, you just do all you can to hang on to it. Therefore, the littlest things become blessings. And the things you THOUGHT were important ("Oh, why didn't he take out the trash!" "Why won't she go to sleep!") become the endearing parts of life that are left as minor frustrations and characteristics of...well....life! And I remind myself constantly "Enjoy this! Soon you will look back and be thinking 'Oh, remember when Matilda would throw tantrums when you took away the remotes from her! Oh that seems so long ago!' but it's now - right now - soon to be gone!" and so I can sit back and watch her little tantrum with joy (trying to hold back the smile all the while) and regain the patience that I otherwise might have lost. After all, how can I NOT stop myself and make myself enjoy each moment? I am constantly feeling my temporal heart beating to the rhythm of an eternal meter. I am not meant for this world. It is fleeting.
All this to say, last night was an emotional night for me. Even with the entire year of mental preparation, I knew that the first year with my daughter would come to a close (with cause for much celebration!) and so I rocked her extra long last night at bedtime. I always sing "Jesus Loves Me" when I rock her to sleep, but last night I also added in a verse of "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder - which Josh and I named as "her song" and we even sang it to her in the womb, and also in the hospital room after she was born. Made from love, indeed, our girl is so lovely.
As I was praying over her, rocking her, I became overwhelmed with gratitude. My heart swelled so big it felt like my throat was closed off, and the tears were soon to follow.
God is so good.
MY GOODNESS, God is so good.
We have been living in a season of such blessing, sometimes it is easy for me to stress out "waiting for the other shoe to drop" - it all just seems too good to be true. But it is true, and it is good - and so, I soak it up. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for each moment. Thank you for our baby girl. Thank you for Matilda.
And so we celebrate her...and the many moments yet to come.

Scary Tale

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I mean, anything that involves make up and candy has got to be a winner in my book! I've had some rather memorable Halloweens over the years, but none quite as exciting as LAST year as we anticipated the arrival of our own little goblin.
In the spirit of the holiday, I'm going to tell you one of the scariest tales [with a happy ending] you will hear this Halloween (while moms might appreciate it the most, don't worry, it has been edited to be rated-G for everyone)...here is Matilda's birth story, as recorded just a couple weeks after her birth:

It was Halloween night (cue eerie music now) and we had just been over at a friend's house. They have a little girl, so we all took her trick-or-treating, hoping that the walk would do me some good (and hopefully spur on labor). Many people had questioned whether I was hiding a giant pumpkin under my shirt or not - many jokes were made about the "great pumpkin Charlie Brown" and with good reason - I was downright enormous. I had walked miles that week, trying to induce contractions, but to no avail.
We went home, having eaten spicy chili and way too much Halloween candy. We started to watch "Dracula" on tv, and I mentioned to Josh that I was determined "Scare this baby out of me!"
I was technically due November 3rd, but people had been commenting for weeks that I looked overdue - even my own doctors. I still believe I was a couple of weeks past due, though I was truly thankful for every minute of pregnancy. I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy and enjoyed every little movement, little kick, little amazing hiccup that Matilda made in the womb. In fact (and this is not romanticized - you can ask my husband) I worried that I would just miss her once she was delivered. I am one of those crazy ladies that most other pregnant women hate - the one wearing the smile right up until the end. But, in God's perfect timing, I did finally feel ready to actually meet her that week. I had recently had extra swelling and itchiness all over my body that was signaling to me that this time was needing to come to a close and it wouldn't be long before she would be out.
So, we were watching "Dracula" at home (thankfully) and at 10pm exactly I was laying on the couch watching the movie when I hear a POP and felt like a kick in the pelvic bone from the inside. I was like "Whoa" and ran to the bathroom cause I knew it was unlike anything I ever felt before. It was seriously just like out of the movies (even though they warn you "it will be nothing like it is in the movies", haha). I yelled from the bathroom "I think my water broke!!" I was so shocked and instantly felt giddy and excited and nervous all at once. Holy cow, holy cow, holy cow. 
Luckily I had just showered before we hung out with our friends, so I was feeling good and we were already all packed. We got out our Bradley book (the birthing method we chose and had taken a 12 week course in preparation) to review what was ahead of us. We knew we'd be having a baby within 24 hours!! I called my parents and started to get my first contraction, just 10 min after my water broke. Josh hopped in the shower, and the contractions started to pick up.
 By the time Josh was dressed, we started timing the contractions and they were 5 min apart. It was so weird. They definitely hurt and were already lasting 50 seconds each.
 We knew since my water broke if we called L&D they would want us to come in immediately, and since we were planning on a natural birth we wanted to wait and labor at home as long as we felt it was safe. I sat on the birthing ball and bounced and rotated my hips to try and stay relaxed and get her down. By midnight the contractions were easily 4 min apart or less and about 1 min long. So, we went ahead and called L&D and they told us to come in. We packed up and headed out! I couldn't believe we'd be returning with our baby girl!
 We arrived at L&D at about 1am.
The contractions did not slow down as I anticipated they might when you check in and get settled. They allowed me to be intermittently monitored, 20 min on, 20 off. We walked around when I was off monitor, roaming the halls and the contractions were very intense! They were about 2-4 minutes apart and 60-90 sec long. Josh was an amazing coach and we truly got to use our relaxation techniques and breathing we learned in our Bradley classes. He would talk me through each contraction and I was mentally able to completely go "somewhere else" (I was either on the Laguna beach or at the top of the Eiffel Tower!) and of course I was praying a lot as well. Funny enough, I kept having the song "Confidence" from the Sound of Music pop in my head so I kept thinking "I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain…" haha. Also, we brought the birthing ball with us, so when we weren't walking I was at least on the ball. It was very helpful because it allowed me to move but I knew I had to conserve some energy so I didn't want to walk every time. Being monitored and staying in bed was horrible. I would have to lay on my side (laying on my back was even worse) and every time I contracted it seriously felt like my abdomen and hips and thighs were paralyzed. The only good thing was that I could see the contractions on the monitor, so it helped me to see when one was ending and I would know I could make it through.
 At 4:30am they checked me for the first time. They don't want to check you very often when your water has already broken, so not to introduce the risk of infection. I was at 5cm and 90%! I thought we were well on our way to babyland.
I continued to labor and it was very intense as the contractions built up and remained consistent. I knew if we could keep them coming that I should be nearing transition by the time they check me next time. They returned about 9am to check me...and I was still at 5cm. WHAT? Ugh...I couldn't believe it. They seemed surprised also since my contractions were happening so consistently and VERY intense...but not progressing me. This started the talk of Pitocin. I knew that it would be extremely difficult to remain unmedicated if they intended on using Pitocin. I asked that we be given at least an extra hour to walk around and keep the contractions up and see if it didn't make a difference. They "didn't recommend" this, but we were going to do all we could to have a natural birth and didn't want to wimp out without even trying to continue this way. So, we went ahead and started walking (our nurse just found us when it was time to get monitored). Wow - what a PAINFUL hour! As I walked the halls with Josh this time, I literally had to stop every few steps. The contractions were less than a minute apart and lasting almost 2 minutes long and extremely intense by the time we got back to our room. They wanted to check me again and I just KNEW we had made progress. Contractions were nearly on top of each other and I asked to use the bathroom before getting checked. As I was in there the contractions would just not stop. I broke out in a cold sweat and then threw up (nightmare!) I was confused and shivering and I knew these were all the tell-tale signs as Josh said to me "I think you're in transition". I HAD to be...it was so horrible. In the moment this was great news to me because if I was in transition I knew we would have progressed and would be able to continue naturally. I got to the bed and they checked me again....STILL AT 5cm. 
No way. We couldn't believe it. We felt somewhat defeated, but at the same time we had told ourselves "Let's try the walking and if there's no change we'll know action needs to be taken". So, after there was no progress again, we made the decision to get the Epidural and have Pitocin started. I considered only getting the Pit, but I knew that if I wanted the energy to be able to push her out, I had no choice but to get the epi so I would be able to rest and regain some strength. I knew I wouldn't be able to endure it all without rest - not after having been up for over 24 hours and in so much pain already. 
I had endured 15 hours of completely natural labor, and I felt I had quite earned my gold medal for the day.
Getting the epidural was terrible in and of itself...they had to stick me 3 times because he said "I'm sorry, your joints are so close together I just keep hitting bone". (Which is just what you want to hear as they are putting a needle in your spine) UGH - as if I even wanted it in the first place. It was painful, but tolerable until a contraction would come. And, Josh had been so supportive of me the whole time, he hadn't eaten or taken care of himself - so he nearly fainted when they gave me the epi! One minute he's there holding my hand, the next thing I know he is on the floor with his shirt off and they are giving him oxygen! Poor guy, he was white as a ghost! Finally they got the epi and after it took effect and they start the pit, I felt much better. Josh was able to sleep and I was able to rest for at least a while. They kept saying they just needed to "kick start" me and make sure my contractions were intense enough to keep me progressing - that after that I would have a baby by that afternoon.
But the pit was not progressing me. They decided to insert an intrauterine line that would measure the intensity of the pit needed. The contractions were perfect, very often and very intense...but not progressing me.
Thank goodness, the entire time this was happening, Matilda's heartrate remained strong and steady. By 4pm I was only at barely 6cm. The clock was ticking because it had been 18 hrs since my water broke and they were concerned about infection. They were also concerned about the baby's position and size. We had known she would be big and they were guessing about 8 lbs (which ended up being right!). Her head was transverse and I had been rotating sides to get her lined up correctly. Also, she was only just now at -1 station. She didn't seem to be getting any lower, and possibly unable to at the angle she was at. 
This is when the talk of c-section became serious...and I knew it was truly inevitable. We always knew it could come to this. I had always prayed that God would make it very very obvious that we wouldn't be left with any other choice if that was what was supposed to happen. I had to just surrender it to God and believe that He was ultimately saving us from a dangerous route by backing us into a corner where c-section would be best. So, I was very grateful to have gotten to experience true labor! The water-breaking- going-into-spontaneous-labor experience was a true blessing I believe God let us experience since we had asked Him for letting us have a natural birth experience. At this point I felt like I was going into labor number 3 (natural, medicated, and now surgical). It had been SUCH a long day, we were emotionally exhausted and ready to just get this baby out.
 Within 20 min, we were in the Operating Room. It was very surreal and I was feeling kind of woozy and trying to remain calm and keep my eyes open. I just wanted Josh by my side and so I was very glad to see him, in his white zip-up suit and hat. (He looked like a haz-mat worker!) Lots of pressure and tugging and pushing on my belly and just minutes after that, she was out!!! Josh said later that she was so wedged in there that the doctor had to move from one side of the table to the other just to maneuver her head out. Matilda cried and we just burst into tears! She's here! She's ours!! It was so magical and spiritual and a rush of peace came over us. 
And, in the end, it turned out to be a huge blessing to have gone with the c-section. Afterward in recovery with Matilda and Josh, I ran a 103+ fever. Turns out I was fighting off infection from having lost my water so long ago. My blood pressure and heart rate were up and they started me and Matilda on antibiotics right away. They kept me on antibiotics the next 48 hrs and a day later my temp was finally normal. 
It all worked out! I feel so blessed and truly not disappointed. I feel really REALLY proud that I labored naturally for so long! Even though we had hoped for a natural birth, I stuck to my motto that "as long as you leave with a healthy baby (that's yours) that birth was a success!" and that is truly how I feel! Josh and I both cried when we made the c-sec decision (also both wrought with emotion and tiredness!) but we knew as soon as we saw her it just wouldn't matter HOW she arrived. And it doesn't - we just LOVE HER!!!!

And now we are excited to celebrate her VERY FIRST HALLOWEEN!
Happy Halloween to our lil Stinker! Matilda is a Skunk for Halloween! :)

Marmalade (The Short Story!)

Friday, October 29, 2010

As promised, I have completed the short story!
Here was the contributed criteria for the story:
A girl named Marmalade
A tree
The name Buzby
A magical, albino turtle
A mysterious box that hadn't been opened in over 100 years
A Thunderstorm

Without more than a few minutes forethought, I read the criteria and plunged right into writing the story. A couple hours later, here's what we have! Thanks for the challenge and the creative journey - if you like it, we'll do it again soon! Enjoy...


It hadn't rained in nearly eight months. The grand oak tree in the front yard had all but died when the clouds started to form overhead. The pillows of clouds soon turned into dark, shadowy blankets, and the first drop of rain hit the window of the old farmhouse like a fat mosquito slapped on a hot summer day. Splat!
The lightning crept across the plain, first silently, and then followed by echoes of thunder in the distance.
Granny lit the old kerosene lamp just a few seconds before the power went out. This wasn't her first thunderstorm, after all. She always knew when a bad one was on its way, if not for the telling clouds in the sky, then for the achey creak in her left heel when she climbed the steps up to her bedroom. That sore heel was more of a soothsayer to her than any weather man on the transistor radio.
Can only trust em as far as I can throw em - and that ain't far at my age. They're all in the business of selling umbrellas if you ask me.
Granny was nearing her eighties, though she couldn't be sure of her exact age. She had lost track somewhere around seventy-two, and no one who knew her well enough was around to debate her if the subject came up. She really wasn't a true "granny", in fact. She had grown up in the same house her entire life, never married. The years had passed her by as she quietly tended to her gardens and her chickens, while the nearby town had grown from rural community into bustling metropolis. She didn't even know her own mailman's name anymore. The world had seemed to speed up while she only grew more tired with each passing day.
There was a knock at the door. Or was it just thunder? She paused at the top of the steps and squinted down into the foyer. Was that a shadow outside? Was someone there? Lightning pierced the sky and lit up the windows as if God himself had turned the lights back on outside her home.
Her heel ached and she took a deep sigh. Better safe than sorry, she thought.
As she creeped down the stairs, there was a sudden cry outside. A shriek that shook the screen door as it rattled in the wind and rain. A cat perhaps? That's just what she needed - some old wet cat scratching up her recently repaired screen door.
She wrapped both her hands around the doorknob as she yanked it open.
Thunder bellowed as she looked down into the basket in the middle of the doorway.
The baby had the face of an angel and the cry of a demon. A baby!
Granny caught her breath as the wind howled and rang the chimes hanging above her porch. In an instant (though it felt to her like time had altogether stopped) she scooped the child out of the basket and brought her inside.
"Why darling, what are you doing out there?" Granny spoke as if an old friend had stopped by for a piece of blueberry cobbler.
The baby stopped crying as soon as she was in Granny's arms. She looked up at the old woman, studying each groove in her aged face, blinking as if she had finally found the answer to a riddle.
"Now, let's have a look at you."
Granny unwrapped the baby just enough to get the chill off of her and take a peek at her face. She snuggled into the dusty sofa in the parlor room that went untouched day after day, and grabbed an afghan off the quilt rack by the fireplace. The light from the kerosene lamp cast long shadows against the walls of the parlor. The wall paper was curling at every seam and the ceiling was weathered from years of various leaks and makeshift repairs.
The baby curled her fingers around the edge of the warm afghan as Granny craned her neck back, giving way to the light of the lamp beside her. The baby blinked and slowly smiled. She was pink now, retaining the color she had screamed out of herself earlier. Her eyes were vibrant blue, even in the dim light Granny could see that they were like wild blueberries floating in fresh cream. Then there was that hair! Just a tuft. A soft sweeping of it straight from the crown of her head and curled up in front. It was citrusy orange, so bright and beautiful that Granny could nearly smell the scent of freshly squeezed oranges straight from her brow.
"Why, your hair is the color of marmalade!" The baby let out a soft squeal of delight.


Marmalade ran around the giant oak in the front yard. The tree had been there since before the civil war and it's branches extended over the lawn like a giant green umbrella. Marmalade pulled up her knee socks and bent down to tie her shoe - a skill she was quite proud of mastering just last week, still ahead of the curve for a five-year-old.
She licked her thumb and rubbed a ruddy scab on her knee, no doubt from the tree-climbing feat she had attempted last week. If Granny had allowed her to wear shorts instead of this silly dress, that never would have happened. Still, Granny took such pride in every stitch of the dresses she sewed for Marmalade. They were simple and plain, really. A yellow calico, a green seersucker, a lavender rosebud print. But Granny had thought her days of sewing dresses had been long past, so she savored every strand of thread, even if the needle did prick her finger now and then. Her hands weren't what they used to be.
Marmalade ran into the house, bounding the stairs on the porch two at a time. She was overdue for school, Granny knew, but she couldn't bear the thought of her darling taking that abominable deathtrap of a school bus all the way into town each day and Granny's eyesight was even more of a risk than the bus when she got behind the wheel. What was the harm in waiting at least one more year?
She knew if she asked the neighboring farm family to pick up Marmalade that they would be happy to do it. The Buzby family was kind and generous, with two ornery boys just a little older than Marmalade. Mrs. Buzby often brought by surplus from her garden, which Granny was very pleased with and in return would create magnificent stews and cobblers from them, offering them back to the Buzby clan which would immediately get turned down to ensure Granny and Marmalade had sufficient food for their own table. It was a sort of tug-of-war of the most delicious kind. Sometimes the Buzby boys would watch the back and forth of the food with their tongues hanging right out of their faces, sweating with appetite at the scent of the scrumptious duel. But Mrs. Buzby would always win, and Marmalade would smirk with concealed delight at the defeat of their having to devour garden stew for the next several nights.
Most days Marmalade stayed home, reading aloud to Granny as she sat in the rocking chair and sewed new dresses for Marmalade, or repaired the ones she had recently snared on her adventures the day before. Marmalade was a fairly advanced reader for her age. Granny had taught her many words before her eyesight had declined, and Marmalade would slowly sound out even the most difficult words while she spelled the ones she could not decipher so Granny could interpret and teach her the difference between "in-sur-moun-ta-ble" and "in-spir-a-tion-al".
In fact, when Marmalade wasn't out chasing foxes in the meadow or gathering dandelions for Granny, she was reading. Book after book, they would sit and sip fresh cider on the porch and slowly, word by word, devour towers of books. Marmalade would walk into the old library, clear at the back of the farmhouse where Granny's great-grandfather had started collecting books, filling shelf after shelf with pride. They were dusty and worn and smelled of mildew, but their print was intact, as were the stories they wove.
"The End." Marmalade shut another book with a giant "clop!" and smiled up at Granny who raised her eyebrows as if to say Congratulations, what now? Granny swayed in the rocking chair as a cool breeze swept across the porch. The air was warm, but the breeze had a crisp chill to it, reminding her that autumn was just a thunderstorm away. She was mending the hem of Marmalade's latest victim, her red dress with the eyelet trim had lost a battle with the thorns on the rosebush by the ditch creek. Granny jerked her hand as she pricked herself, giving her fingertip a nibble to stop the pain before it gave way to a drop of blood.
Marmalade stood up and positioned the book on top of her head as she started to walk into the house, failing to balance it beyond two steps at a time. She made her way to the library and managed to bend over, tipping the book into place on the shelf by only using her head to lower it and scoot it into its rightful slot.
What to read next... she thought as she hung her head low, bending to see the books on the lowest shelf. The shelves were thick mahogany, built in against the wall with a little more than two inches gap underneath. Marmalade often wondered what could be lost under that gap in between the floor and the lowest shelf. No doubt there was years of dust and most likely a crowded cockroach cemetery.
She gazed into the crack. She lowered herself onto her belly to have a proper look. As her body mopped the floor, she gained the courage to stick her hand into the unknown and see what treasures (or terrors) she might find.
Reaching, reaching...she held her breath. It was dry and dirty, but there wasn't....wait...that was something. There was something there. Long, maybe a corner to it? Two corners? And hard? She waved her hand and heard something scoot across the floor. She pulled it forward and out came a small box, about the size of a jewelry box, but not full size, maybe it was for a doll.
Marmalade sat up. She held the box in her palm, as it wasn't much bigger than the surface of her whole hand. It was covered in a thick layer of dust, so naturally she used the edge of her dress to wipe it off.
The box was wooden, intricately hand carved, and had a design on its top. She spat on it and wiped it off some more, now thoroughly preparing her dress for next day's laundry. The lid had an inlay of mother of pearl. There were diamond shapes in the four corners and a row of triangles across the bottom. In the middle, there was a cluster of triangles and diamonds, positioned to look like the silhouette of a sea turtle. She traced the outline of the little white turtle with her muddy fingers. It was smooth and lovely. There was only one problem. It wouldn't open. There didn't seem to be any latch or any lock, but the lid would not move.
Granny was smoothing out the new hem of Marmalade's dress when she came back out to the porch and plopped the box onto Granny's lap.
"My goodness. What did you find?"
"What is it?" Marmalade inquired.
"What do you think it is?" Granny held up the box, examining it in her hand.
"I think it's a riddle."
Granny raised her eyebrows.
"It won't open," Marmalade explained.
"I see."
They paused and looked at each other. They examined each other's expressions as much as they examined the box, just to see if there was a hint of knowledge the other hadn't given way to yet. Both suspected the other knew something she wasn't saying.
"This box is more than one hundred years old, Marmalade."
Her eyes filled with wonder. She had never known anything to be that old, except for maybe that giant oak in the front yard.
"It belonged to my grandmother many years ago. It used to sit on the shelf of her vanity, next to a jar of pennies that me and my grandfather would collect from the train tracks on our long walks. I haven't seen it in a very long time. She used to tell me that the box had a secret in it. That the turtle on top...you see the turtle?" Marmalade nodded as Granny continued. "...the turtle was a sign of good fortune, and that if you believed in that magic turtle, he would protect you with whatever was in the box."
"So what's in the box?"
"I don't know. I never got it open. I suppose I was never quite brave enough to really believe a white little turtle could be that lucky."
Granny stood up. She laid the little box in Marmalade's open hands and turned to walk inside.
Marmalade studied the box. She traced the outline again and again, making the little turtle shiny with the oil from her fingers.
She shut her eyes as she held the box close, and a distant roll of thunder hummed across the field in front of the house.


Marmalade shut her suitcase. That was the last of it. Her entire life fit into one small bag. She would have to come back for the books from the library, but she had no where to store them for now. The Buzby house wasn't nearly the size of her farmhouse, and there were twice as many people living there. It didn't matter too much though, she decided. After all, she would only live there a few years before leaving for college anyway. And then she could get her hands on all the books she wanted.
Granny's funeral had been short and plain. The Reverend had quoted her favorite Psalms and some of the local farmers had even put on their best overalls to come by and offer their condolences. Not that any of them had known Granny very well. Marmalade knew that they were more interested in scoping out the plot of land south of the house than truly sympathizing for her loss. Still, the ones that brought hot apple muffins or fresh pumpkin pies were at least going out of their way a little bit, and the company helped distract her from her loss, even if it was fleeting.
She took a look around her room. There were blank ovals left on the wall from where pictures had hung over her bed. She thought she would take them with her, at least a little something to make the room at the Buzby's feel like home. They were crosstitched portraits that Granny had made when her eyesight was still good and when Marmalade was just a baby. "Right after the angels dropped you off," Granny used to say. One picture was a little deer with a blue bow around it's neck. It was a cheerful fawn, speckled with white spots on its rear and it was sniffing a little yellow daisy. The other was a tree, not unlike the giant oak that stood in front of the house, and Marmalade knew it would always remind her of those summer days she would run around barefoot for hours, leaping under the great shade of the oak. That tree would be there forever, even if she never saw it again.
The rest of the room was bare for the most part. She would leave the furniture for now. She had no need (or room) for it at the Buzby's and it was sure to get a good price in the estate sale. College money, she reminded herself. She suspected that was Granny's intent all along when she had suggested the selling of the farm to Marmalade in her will.
Marmalade lifted her suitcase in one great heave, and started to turn toward the door when she heard something clammer and break. She looked at the floor and saw the small wooden box.
"Now, how did that..." as she knelt down she realized the box had broken.
The box was open.
She picked up the pieces and discovered that the lid had cracked right down the middle of the turtle. That little white turtle! She ran her thumb over the top of it, remembering how she had traced it again and again as a small child, making wishes and hoping they would come true. She had never found the turtle to bring her much luck, but still it had comforted her and distracted her through many stormy nights when she needed to believe in something.
Now, the lid was cracked and the box was destroyed. For a moment, she was glad Granny wasn't there, thinking how heartbroken she may have been to see the little treasure in pieces.
And then Marmalade looked closer. Something was inside. Stuck. What was that?
She shook the box, and out tumbled a little object, dropping like a marble onto the hem of her dress. She ruffled her skirt and there, tucked along the edge, was a little pewter thimble.
She held it up. The little thimble held protection, indeed, just like Granny had said.
Marmalade left the farmhouse that day, thimble in her pocket, and Granny in her heart. She passed by the great oak one last time, and never looked back.

The End.

Walker, Baby Ranger

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My baby girl is walking! She's a walker, she walks, she's walking. I can't get over it. She's been walking a little over a month now - though the first several attempts were more like her best imitation of a Buster Keaton comedy short. It was "early" for her to walk by 10.5 months, but it was actually a long time coming for her.
Weeks before her first steps she would stand up all by herself, let go....lean.....and then, plop! Again and again we would get out the camera, get all amped up and then giggle and groan with every failed attempt.
Everyone told us not to encourage it..."You won't want her to walk as soon as she gets going! She will be into everything!" But we couldn't help ourselves! Her little face would light up with pride as she would shift her weight to her tippy toes and reach out her arms, as if dancing with an imaginary partner.
Now, within just a few weeks, she can already get to a standing/walking position on her own without holding onto anything. (She's brilliant, I tell you!) This whole watching-live-development-as-it-happens thing about parenthood continues to blow my mind. It is like having my own personal National Geographic network in my own home.
In my best Aussie accent:
"Watch the baybee gurl...baybee gurls are indigenous to these parts. If you take a closah look into the wild habitat that suhrounds hur, you will see hur nahtural capabilities shoining through. Here she comes...up on hur tippies, ready to take a steppy and ohright ohright here we go...yessss! She is up! This baybee is walking! Isn't nature grannnnd!"
I would write more, but my baybee gurl has now discovered her opposable thumbs and is fixin to figure out how to unplug the outlet covers....uhoh....another success.
(We're doomed.)

Long Story Short...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The other night I netflixed the movie "Me and Orson Welles". It was fine, nothing too sub- or above-par about it really. However, there was this sweet supporting character at the beginning and the end that I particularly was fond of (and personally wished had shown up in the film more often than she did). Her name was Greta and she happens to meet the main character and informs him that she is a writer. She has this whimsy and eagerness about her as she tells him that she has written a short story she is going to submit to the New Yorker. She says she just wrote it for fun, it doesn't have any deep or hidden meanings, she just wrote it to write it and that it was a swell story she thought up and that was that.
That is..."Swell!" I thought. :)
It reminded me of when I was in elementary school (or, grade school, as we called it in Kansas). I would have an idea...write it...and that was that. Just for fun. Not to get noticed or to "force myself to practice the skill of writing" but for the sheer enjoyment of creating a funny character and seeing where in the world these words could take him or her. The possibilities were endless! I could write about ANYTHING!
It didn't matter if I didn't know enough about a certain era or industry. I had no qualms about researching the intricacies of a character's psychology. I felt no need to study motive or consequences. I just wrote! I just took an idea and let it flow, be it silly or obscure or downright terrible.

To make a long story short - I want to do that again. I want to write a little short story just for the heck of it. I have no idea what it will be about or if there will be any "moral to the story" at the end of it all. I just want to see if I can tap into that childish exploration of words and create a little novelty (pun intended) by simply sitting down and hammering out the first words that come to me.

But I want your help:

Friends, Romans, Countrymen...Facebookers....lend me your...ideas.
Give me a topic, a character, a name, a setting - ANYTHING. Give me as many helpful and/or challenging objects and objectives as you wish. Let me see if I can take the random and weave them into something sensical...or at least entertaining. I will try to include as many suggestions as my creative allows.

Then I will see what comes of it and post the story on here for all to see/critique/enjoy.
Sound like fun?
Let's do it.

Monkey Love

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My daughter is in love with Curious George.
It started out innocently enough. We were flipping channels, looking for Sesame Street, and there he was - his little brown body, his charming little grin, his cheerful demeanor and irresistible lust for the inquisitive....and she was hooked. It was love at first sight.
I'll admit, the critter is pretty cute. I have always been determined to not allow my kid to not watch shows I can utterly not tolerate (I know this is something that you hear idealistic non-parents mutter in response to things like the "barney song"...*cringe*) and genuinely, I enjoy Curious George. He is cute and too clever for his own good, and, above all else, Matilda simply adores him.
It doesn't matter what she is doing, whether she is happy or sad or throwing a fit...when those bongo drums start pounding as the intro music starts...Fwhip! That girl swerves her head around and glues her eyeballs to the screen as a giant grin starts to seep its way across her lit-up face! True love.
And really, who can blame her?
George is quite the catch.

1. He is the only monkey in the city.
This is amazing if you think about it. The man in the yellow hat is able to not only keep him as a pet - but really adopt him as a child. I mean, it is socially acceptable for George to go into restaurants, museums, galleries, science fairs, and even ride the subway! These are privileges that some humans can't even experience.
2. He's got a sugar daddy.
For real. The man in the yellow hat has got it made. I rarely see him work. Yet, I know he has a home in the country as well as the city. I never see him opening any mail or signing any checks, so I'm guessing he has a financial advisor that handles it all for the "yellow hat estate".
3. He's innovative.
Being a monkey is only always to the advantage of George. No one ever says "you can't" because he is a monkey. You never hear anyone referring to his monkeyhood as a disability or handicap. In fact, many times George haphazardly gets humans out of pickles (albeit pickles often made by George) because he is a monkey in the first place and ends up using his monkey skills to invent new ways of handling situations. Plus, humans are easily impressed and continually offering him new challenges and opportunities because they feel that he, as a monkey, is better fit for them than a human alternative.
4. He's a leader
George is often the first monkey to ever attempt any of the feats that he takes on. It is sort of insane (ok, not sort of, completely) what humans expect of him. Many of the responsibilities that humans ask George to take on (managing a candy store, babysitting a chameleon, driving a subway train) are chores that most people I know (myself included) wouldn't be able to handle. Yet, George is always up for the task and often rises to the occasion and doing a par, if not satisfactory, job on his accomplishments.

All that to say, even though we are reluctant to allow Matilda to be infatuated with someone so unattainable (we do realize he is a cartoon afterall...oh yeah...and a monkey) we are pleased with her standard of prospect and I am proud that she is setting the bar high. Of course, her father is determined to love her so well that no man will ever be able to be good enough for her...but, if George showed up on our doorstep in a tuxedo with roses for Matilda (I'm sure he would if he could) then I think Josh would put away the shotgun....er...monkey tranquilizer gun... to meet him.

Why Not

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My writing and efforts keeping this blog afloat has become...er, haphazard at best. Still, I persevere. It's not that I don't have content to write about. I'll admit I often second-guess whether my life or writing is of interest to anyone, but then I am quick to dismiss that thought with the confidence of my true motive...here it is...are you ready?
Why not?
That's it - why not write? I read many websites, articles, even facebook status updates that remind me that we are all in this together. This thing. This "life". Whew.
I get myself weighed down by the potential criticisms or the lack of interest or the downright haters of mom-bloggers that seem to be infecting the internet every minute. I think to myself how there must be a statistic out there somewhere like "Every minute, another mother creates a blog somewhere on the planet, hoping to shed light on a new topic that has actually been experienced by millions of women for thousands of years, when all she really truly wants is someone to fix her a cup of tea and genuinely acknowledge that they understand how she feels." And here I am...contributing to said statistic one lonesome post at a time.
Well, why not. I might as well throw my hat in the ring. I might not have anything new to shed light on. I might not even being saying it in a new way. Don't get me wrong - I don't feel bad or invalidated at all. Quite the contrary! I think it is because there are so many moms, so many blogs, so many topics out there that is exactly why we have got to keep the conversation going!
I will say...I think I will be posting more often, yet having shorter contributions to my blog. Maybe this is the new "style" I'm starting now. Maybe it won't work and you won't hear from me for another month.
Oh well. So, go start your own blog! :)

Ok, so that's my rant for the day.
1. I am going to continue the blog.
2. I am going to write about pretty much anything I want to and not worry about consistency of content.
3. I am going to write more often but not worry about the length of the blog.
4. I am giving myself an A+ for effort.

Bravo for mom blogs everywhere!
Now I'm going to go fix myself a cup of tea. :)

Motherhood [dedicated to Kirsten]

Friday, September 24, 2010

I know it's been a little while since I've written. I have officially turned thirty (thank you, thank you) and I'm still waiting for that epiphany of wisdom that I was really counting on when the clock struck midnight on my birthday. Oh well, I'll have to settle for regular old will-to-get-up-in-the-morning-ness as usual. Luckily, I have a zillion things to be thankful for - so even if my baby starts screaming at 6am, I'm up and at 'em, counting my blessings and trying not to stumble into the overflowing hamper on my way out of the bedroom.
I think that motherhood will dominate my thirties, dare I say "define" them. People often use this term negatively. Many people refer to definition as the ultimate derogatory comment. "I'm a woman, but that doesn't define me"..."I'm an Office Coordinator, but that doesn't define me"..."I'm a blogger, but that doesn't define me"... Okay, maybe you don't hear that one as often, but you all have definitely heard "I'm a mother, but it doesn't define me". I mean, heaven forbid.
I get it - this is something that stay at home moms made up in order to retain their sanity. This is something that Oprah has allowed women to express so that a new mom feels liberated enough to put down the laundry for one second and pick up her book club pick of the month instead. This is something that working moms tell themselves to justify putting in the long hours so their children have health insurance. It's a woman's scapegoat phrase to comfort her amidst the reality that she can no longer hold adult conversations without mathematically configuring in the back of her head when the last time she breastfed was and therefore how long does she have until her nursing pads explode like the Hoover dam giving way...
But maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't with how you define yourself. Maybe the problem lies in how you define motherhood.
Last night, a sweet friend of mine endured the most heinous of nights. She's only been a mother for 6 days, and she is already teaching me new meanings of motherhood in limitless ways. Following a very unexpectedly early delivery, her baby boy entered the world with his share of challenges, and last night he took another unexpected turn in life - needing emergency bypass surgery. Please read his story and pray with us for baby Ewan...I know you will find his mother's account of it excruciating and inspiring: http://www.team-ewan.com
I can not even possibly begin to relate to the unimaginable things that my friend has endured and will face in the future. She has looked death in the face and chosen to see the grace of God instead. She has laid her son (her only begotten) at the feet of Jesus, knowing that only He alone could heal. And He did! But, what's more...even if He didn't, this mother continues to know that God is good. No matter what. Truly, that is the power of a mother's love. She has chosen to hand the illusion of control over to God, and to be firmly planted in the palm of His hand, and His plan.
God have mercy, Christ have mercy.
Motherhood isn't about task-management. Being a mother doesn't mean you start every day with a checklist and balance your self-esteem on the grim potential of completing that list before daddy gets home and still finds you in your jammies. It isn't about folding clothes or cooking dinner or making sure there's toilet paper in the house. It isn't about making sure your kids are polite or clean or even safe... These are all wonderful aspirations, don't get me wrong - there is a reason that women are equipped to multi-task and still remember who's birthday it is that month. These are lovely things. But they are not motherhood.
What my friend reminded me last night, was that motherhood is ultimately the privilege of sacrifice. I don't mean the kind of self-help-Dr-Phil kind of "give your kids the last of the ice cream even though you want to devour it yourself" kind of sacrifice. No. I mean, "cry your eyes out realizing you are not and never were in control of this child kind of sacrifice that starts with the most unbelievable act of selflessness that ever existed" and giving your child to God to allow His will to surpass your own desires. Whoa. That is some serious love. A love that I can only hope to attain someday. A love that I strive to catch a glimpse of as I hold my baby tight and pray over her with tearful gratefulness.
I am humbled. I am in awe.
We are all working towards becoming more Christ-like, trying to allow the Father to mold us a little each day, fearful that pain may come with each new touch of His hand, but grateful for His guidance and protection. It is an agonizing privilege to watch Kirsten be molded so painfully by the Father right now. Her little babe is a miracle-machine, and we await anxiously alongside her to know the plans God has for him. None of us know what to say. I know she would be the first to admit it is only by God's grace and the prayers of many that she lives through each minute. Still, she reminds me daily what it is to be a mother.
Thank you! If that is what motherhood is...please, God...let it define me.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Remember that old show, Thirtysomething? That ABC super-drama about young families and couples just trying to stay sane in the late 80s? I was in grade school when that show aired, so I'm having the privilege of watching it now on Netflix. I have the luxury of mocking their hairstyles and their baggy clothes - remembering "way back when" at the time I thought "those people are OLD". Now, I sit and stare at the screen thinking - do I look like that? (No, not the silly hair and clothes, well, at least I hope not). But, every time I walk by a student on campus, now I am face to face with the reality that I can no longer ever be mistaken to be one of them again...I'm old. Tonight marks the beginning of the end. It's my last week to be in my twenties. One week from today, I will...gulp...turn 30.
Now, many of you (probably still in your twenties) are thinking "Big deal [old lady] so it's another birthday!" and many of you (already in your thirties or beyond) are thinking "It's wonderful, you'll love it!" Indeed, I waver myself. I mean, it's not like I haven't known this was coming! Some days I think "THIRTY! That's exciting! People might start taking me more seriously or asking my advice! People will look at me and think - 'Hey, she's got a good man, a good job, and a cute kid - what a life!' so I MUST have it all! I am living the dream!" and some days I think "Is it just me, or is that Oil of Olay ad STARING at me and shouting obscenities like 'Retinol!' and 'Age Defying!'?" (It's true, with each new decade the cosmetic aisle makes you take one big awkward step to the right, literally shoving you towards youthful pursuits down your very own crows-feet timeline.)
So here I am, right at the cusp. I'm about to embark in a whole new chapter of my life. But, until I do (let's remember I have one precious week left, and I thoroughly intend on flaunting it) allow me to take a glance back. Welcome to the twilight zone.
Welcome to Twentysomething.
One thing I will not miss in my thirties (and I'm counting on this, Lord, are you listening?) is drama. D-R-A-M-A, drama. Somehow it has found me wherever I turned in my twenties (heck, sometimes I chased it down myself, punched it in the face, and bought it a drink afterwards) and that's exactly why my twenties reads something like the caption in the tv guide under the Lifetime network. See for yourself:
When I turned twenty, I had just gotten married. I was a newlywed living outside of Nashville, TN. He was in a band and I was in major need of a therapist. I had just moved across the country, abandoning all friends and career goals for - you guessed it - love. It was a highly dramatic time in my life, filled with passion and jealousy and every other emotion that a boy might write a song about for you. The depression was inevitable, yet shocking. We clung to Jesus and each other, but there were many nights that I stayed awake wondering what was wrong with me...and I made a shining effort to bring each option on my list of woes to the surface. A few years of prayer, counsel, some medication, and slowly-developed-friendships, and I was on the road to being healthy. I had done it! I had fought with the devil and won! I had pulled myself up by my bootstraps and changed for the better. My marriage was worse for wear, but our sights were set on healing and housing...signs of commitment! We bought a house, he got a dream job, and I was thumbing through paint swatches to distract myself from picking out baby names instead. I was ready to live life, having new perspective, feeling older and wiser. He was ready to live life too...but not alongside me. That was it for him. He was out. We never spent one night together in that big beautiful house.
The pain was excruciating. I immediately needed to sink my teeth into something productive, something just for me, something positive and persevering - so I enrolled at a local university to finish my degree. I also sought therapy from anywhere I could get it - professional, church, friends, family, my credit card at the nearby mall... I was in survival mode. My heart made it, but my marriage didn't. After months of living a nightmare, of crying myself to sleep every night, after being forced to sign papers I swore I would never even consider...it was over. I was 24, a Christian, and divorced.
I graduated late the next fall, and I needed change. Not just change...a fresh start. I got back in touch with some of my friends from my teenage years -my California college years - afterall, my ole roommate had just gotten married and she had that cute brother who grew up to be quite a looker. I always loved my time in California, it felt like home. I needed home...comfort...peace. I decided to move back to California and everyone around me was thoroughly supportive - confirming my belief in my plan and myself. Maybe this life could turn out to have some hope afterall - maybe even some fun? That ole brother of my college roommate was more than willing to show me around California if I'd like a personal tour...and the more we talked, the more I wanted that tour. By the time I flew out to see California, I'd found an apartment and a few weeks later I was moving. I packed my car with all my belongings (what little I had managed to keep through the devastation) and headed west. Forty long hours later, I was sitting in the middle of a barren apartment in California, waiting on my new boyfriend to meet me so he could assemble my tv and blow-up bed. This is when true signs of hope began to spring up, and the healing I had been working so hard to achieve finally started to show up. A therapist is wonderful - they can listen to you all day, they can show you a caring face and help you sort through all kinds of emotion...but there ain't nothin like a handsome boy kissin you on the lips to sweep you off your feet and spin your head around to make you realize to your core that THIS PERSON LOVES YOU. And Josh did love me. And I him.
We were married later that year, purposefully the day after Thanksgiving (what a glorious day! an entire day devoted to gratefulness!) and we pursued a healthy marriage as fervently as we had pursued each other - with purpose and Christ at the center.
It's true what they say, "a healthy marriage takes work" - its just that they don't always apply another famous saying "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life". Totally true. I love that Josh Pardy, let me tell you. And as if my telling you wasn't evidence enough (forgive me), but as the story continues...a few happy years later we welcomed another Pardy into the family. Matilda Hazel Darling Pardy was born last November, and has only increased the joy of our home exponentially each day since.
And that pretty much sums it up.
That's my twenties. Ups and downs, indeed. There were times I'm pretty sure that I could've personally been sponsored by Kleenex, and I could've used the endorsement.
I know that there will be pain in my thirties. I know that there will be trials and unforeseen worries that await. But, I'm so thankful to be entering this next decade in a season of blissful hope and utter happiness. God has been so good to me and my family.

So long, twenties...it's been a ride.

In Process

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's that time of year again, folks...the summer is coming to a close. I know I say this every season (every holiday, every birthday, every Friday...) but I can not believe how fast the year is going! If someone told me it was April today, I would totally believe them - that seems like a much more realistic pace to life. But, nope! Here we are - the middle of AUGUST and I have a 9 month old who is reminding me every day that time is fleeting...quickly!
All summer has felt like catch-up from spring. I had all these goals for the summer, from the simple to the complex: Take more walks, Expand my recipe horizons for dinner, Learn to take more-pro-like photographs, Raise money for Josh to go to Haiti and pray pray pray about how God will use that experience in our lives!

Some goals got met (You can read about some of Josh's Haiti tales HERE in his recent article for Relevant's site called Reject Apathy), some were missed (I never did implement kale or bok choy into any new recipes) and some are still in progress (though I suppose you can never pray too much about how God will use experiences like Haiti to shape your life! Also, I'm hoping to take a local community photography class later this fall - so that's exciting!)
If I had to label this summer in one word, I'd say it was a summer of PROCESS.
The first half of the summer was a process (as a noun) of helping to prepare Josh to go to Haiti.

Main Entry: pro·cess
Pronunciation: \ˈprä-ˌses, ˈprō-, -səs\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English proces, from Anglo-French procés, from Latin processus, from procedere
Date: 14th century

1 a : progress, advance b : something going on : proceeding
2 a (1) : a natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result

We raised money, we got a new lense for the camera, we bought his tickets (separate from the group since he was traveling from LA and meeting up with them in Atlanta), and we also made arrangements for myself - as Matilda and I had our own adventure to Kansas. Apart from the practical, we also set forth in a spiritual process - praying for the money, the resources, praying for the orphanage to make the proper preparations, praying for the team to come together and be the right people, etc...it was all a process. Even when it seemed haphazard at times, God was in the process...in fact, God was the processor... We would just come up with the questions - and hand them right on over to Him.
Where's the money gonna come from? Here ya go, God!
Who's gonna go? Here ya go, God!
I'm worrying about the orphans, the safety of Josh, the conditions of Haiti, the possible diseases, the flights.... Oh, right...Here God, here's a bundle! Thanks!

Then, once the crux of our summer had passed and Josh returned from Haiti...we started to process (as a verb) everything Josh saw, heard, felt, etc.

Main Entry: process
Function: transitive verb
Date: 1532

2 a : (2) : to integrate sensory information received so that an action or response is generated es visual images relayed from the retina> (3) : to subject to examination or analysis

It is crazy - because I know I wasn't even there! I didn't even get a firsthand account of those people...yet I feel like I was/am part of the team who went. Hearing the stories, seeing the amazing photos that Josh took while he was there (see his facebook album HERE) I emotionally and physically sympathize with the experience, though I feel that my heart is truly empathizing with the team. I can't actually know what it was like to bathe with a water bucket and not taste cold water for a week (though I can imagine it!) and I don't know what it is like to see the miles and miles of devastation that those people live IN each and every hour...but my heart aches for them. Every time I run a faucet, I thank Jesus... and how many more super-conveniences do I still take for granted each day? Millions, I'm sure. All that to say - even though I didn't even GO to Haiti - I feel like I am still processing everything right along with Josh! And I'm so thankful that God is opening doors for him to share his experience and promote ways to help this incredibly in-need country (see Josh's Return from Haiti video HERE from Fullerton Stories).
So, as we soak up these last several days of summer...(though the sun will continue to shine in Southern California day after day after day!) we enter the Fall semester with open hearts and minds...actively processing all that God has shown us in these last few months. I feel like we are hitting the ground running (mentally at least) as we pursue opportunities and pray about doors opening and closing...just asking God to use us how He sees fit.

What will the Fall hold?...Here ya go, God.
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