Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Main Entry: na·tiv·i·ty
Pronunciation: nschwa-primarystresstiv-schwat-emacron, namacr-
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -ties
1 capitalized : the birth of Jesus
2 : the time, place, or manner of being born : BIRTH

I love Nativity sets. Growing up, it was sort of "my thing" to be the one to set up the Nativity. I'll admit as a four or five-year-old that it was most likely the play-house-figurine-factor that lured me into participating. But, as I got older, I grew to enjoy the tradition and appreciate the true meaning of what the Nativity represented.

I started collecting Nativities sometime in high school. My parents bought me the Fontanini set a piece at a time, each Christmas receiving a new figurine to expand the story being told. (If you love Nativities, check out the Italian Fontanini set, it is just lovely.) And since, I have added a variety to the collection from a little puzzle Nativity my Grandpa made, to one carved out of olive wood actually from Bethlehem. I treasure each one and am very specific to love each version of the sculptured scenes for a real reason - that is, I won't be adding any Precious Moments or Peanuts Characters editions to the collections - not that there is anything really wrong about that, but I just want my heart to stay closely tied to my Nativity's true representation and not let them get lost among the silver bells and tinsel and other decor. After all, Nativities are not really decoration in my opinion. As beautiful as they are, they really are precious symbols of a moment captured in time - a time we all are so hyper-aware-of that we are willing to take a day off of work, buy each other gifts, go to church, and bake uncontrollably, all in the name of comfort and joy - and oh yeah, a moment that at one point just a couple thousand years ago welcomed the miracle of all miracles onto our very own planet.

This is my third Christmas as a mother, and each year since having my own bundle of joy, I can't help but think about Mary. Right about now, she would have been great with child. Her ankles swollen, her back aching, and her belly full of a Holy bouncing baby boy, literally. I know what it is like to be ridiculously huge with child - just beyond pregnant to to the point of pure aggravation with counting the minutes until that baby would finally make an appearance. But, I can't even begin to fathom riding a donkey, not knowing where I would deliver, and carrying the Messiah of the Universe in my womb. Umm, whoa. And Mary didn't have the "What To Expect When You're Expecting" app on her iPhone to help pass the time as they made the trek to Bethlehem.

And think of Joseph!? Walking that whole way? Probably worried about when and where they would end up - if they would even get settled in time before the baby arrived. And, honestly, did he wonder what Jesus would come out looking like? I mean, it's not his kid, and having been told it was the Holy Child from an Angel, did he worry this baby would come out glowing in holiness? Would he recognize him as his own child, or as his Savior....or both? again is it that you cut the umbilical cord? Oh yeah, Joseph had to know that too.

You've most likely heard the gospel message of the Nativity time and time again: No room in the inn...only a stable available...Jesus born and laid in a manger...the shepherds...the wise men...etc. But, when is the last time you truly pictured it happening? You probably know somebody who is expecting a baby right now - seeing their status updates of uncomfortability, buying new things for the nursery, reading the parenting books. Maybe you are even pregnant yourself, counting each kick with anticipation of the next, rubbing your belly and praying for no stretchmarks, making your list for the hospital (and checking it twice). But seriously, think about Mary and Joseph NOW. Some of us think having a baby in a hospital is crazy, while others think it is nuts to go to a "birthing center" or just looney to try a "home birth". Well, I don't see anybody lining up for the "stable birth experience" so I'm guessing it wasn't too pleasant...yet, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ himself was born among farm animals, wrapped in scraps, and cried his first cries in a feed trough.

If you can imagine the sensations in that little shelter, it makes me nearly ill to truly think about how overwhelming it all must have been. Joseph, nervous, second-guessing every God-given instinct as he catches the baby's head. Mary, sweaty and frightened, confident with the adrenaline only the relief of birth can offer a woman, taking the baby to her breast for the first time as if it was second-nature. And Christ, the King of Kings, opening His eyes to the world He created for the first time as a human, crying with the voice He designed, anxiously feeding as a helpless newborn in the only way He knew how...perfectly. It must have been dark and damp. It must have been surrounded with low groans and loud breaths from the animals. And, if you've ever smelled the scent of either birth or farm animals...well, let's just say there is a reason Yankee Candle hasn't jumped on the Christmas scent of "Nativity Stable" for the holidays. The most unlikely of settings for the most magnificent of guests.

So, maybe next time when you look at the Nativity figurine-trifecta sitting on a side table, or a retail display, or a church organ, maybe you won't just see pretty little sculptures set up for decoration...but maybe you will see them with your heart, and remember how that ceramic baby Jesus was real and human...even stinky and loud at times...and came to save us all.
O Holy Night.

Guilty [Christmas] Pleasures

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tis the season for many a guilty pleasure...that extra gingerbread cookie, the vente Peppermint Mocha latte, staying up late wrapping (or buying) gifts... But, one guilty pleasure I thoroughly take joy in is that of the Christmas movie. Okay, yes, we all love a good Christmas movie...and I am a huge fan of Elf, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story...the list goes on and on. But, those are legitimate Christmas movies - not worthy of a "guilty", no, the Christmas movies I'm referring to are the ones nobody can even remember the names of. But, you've seen one, you've seen them all.
That's right - I'm talking about those oooey gooey Christmas romance made-for-tv-only movies that are playing non-stop on Lifetime, Oxygen, TBS, or whatever other channels are looking to fill in regularly programmed time with some holiday bliss. Here it is, I totally admit it, I'm a sucker for these flicks. I know, I know, they leave a lot to be desired - but, when you are high on Christmas sugar cookies and have re-wrapped the hexagon shaped present for the zillionth time your toddler discovered it - all you want is a little brainless Christmas cheer...and thank you very much, ABC Family, you can have all the chipper-seasonal-joy-nonsense you like, starring your favorite has-been Actor and his co-star what's-her-name-that-was-in-that-one-show-way-back-when.
But, as I've watched these ridiculous movies from year to year, I started seeing the wonderfully predictive scripts in a whole new way...a formula for thought-free-holiday-happy-endings, if you will. To which I give you:
the TOP 20 moments you need in every made-for-TV-Christmas movie:
20. The Office Christmas Party Scene: somebody, somewhere works in some big city as some big shot or with some big shot who is most likely obsessed with leaving their roots of a small town of some sort and needs a change of heart, somebody drinks too much or someone has a terrible Christmas sweater on while the protagonist is most likely depicted in a nice trench coat and matching hat and gloves.
19. A makeover: Somebody at some point needs to change their look - maybe a friend or the main star, but certainly a makeover or "shopping trip/in-and-out-of-dressing room" scene is showing how the character is at least up for a change of some kind.
18. A set-up: Somebody is set-up on a blind date, or "or you should meet my godson Michael" or "this is my sister Sally, you two both have Christmas Eve birthdays" of some sort. This doesn't always go well - it is either a hysterically rotten match, or an unlikely pair that blossoms into love after the next commercial break.
17. The Christmas Montage: shopping, laughing, egg-nogging, and other merriment of sorts - or maybe "finally home" and rediscovering all the lovely small town Christmas traditions, at some point there is a fabulous saxophone solo or ringing of the bells during a very festive montage before they can resume the "plot" (for lack of a better term).
16. A spousal death: Somebody's wife/mother or husband/father has passed away. It is sad. It affected the character deeply and this is mostly likely their first Christmas without this person by their side. But, hey, perhaps love is in the air and they will find someone new and charming within the next 47 minutes?
15. The cooking/baking scene: What's Christmas without flour-filled-fun in the kitchen? Somebody is burning a turkey or cutting out Christmas cookies or teaching the next generation how to build immaculate gingerbread houses. Just another delicious part of the story. Ahh, togetherness.
14. The gathering at a Family's house scene: Speaking of togetherness...somebody is hosting a party and you must come and meet my entire family even though we've only known each other a couple days! Don't mind my Aunt Margaret in the Christmas sweater with jingle bells sewn on, and just ignore the little children running through the room with hula hoops and ornaments - I don't remember who they are anyway and they are insignificant to the storyline - but don't they make this scene loud and charming?
13. The Snow Scene: Regardless of the location, city, small town, country, Hawaii or Denver...there's bound to be snow. Maybe it's falling (ever so gently as the camera backs away and someone cues the deer running in the distance) or maybe it's a snowball fight/flirtation that uncomfortably ends with making-out snow-angel style. Awkward. Brr.
12. Buying something unreasonable scene: You have to shop for Christmas presents, and at some point, someone who is most likely undeserving will be bought a gift that is way too expensive. Cashmere, a car, a horse, a house...someone is sacrificing either money or a kidney to purchase something entirely unreasonable that will, no doubt, lead to saving the day by the end of the movie.
11. Given a coat to keep warm: "Brr! I can't believe it is snowing in North Dakota and all I have on is this silly ole sequin gown? Oh me and my silly big city ways!" Never fear - bachelor number one is here to save the day with his hearty oversized midwestern parka guaranteed to keep you warm. And if that doesn't work - his burley man chest is most likely open for business.
10. Somebody gets engaged: Perhaps this ring was the unaffordable (aforementioned) superfluous gift, or maybe it is a family heirloom left from the recently passed mother/grandmother/godmother. But, regardless of the shock on her tear-stained face, no one is surprised at the proposal of that one cute couple we are sure to be happy for by now.
9. The Kiss under the Mistletoe scene: Whoops, who put that there? Whether it is their first kiss (aww) or their millionth (still in love after 50 years of marriage, how romantic) that sexy little plant is hung in some doorway on a perfectly magical night just waiting to tempt the fate of one lucky couple.
8. The Christmas Lights revealed scene: Tada!!! WOW! So that's what you were doing with all those lights and generators and why you were gone for three days in the middle of everything - aha! Someone plugs in a theatrical masterpiece of lights to totally blow the socks off (make that, eye sockets off) someone who needed a bit of a Christmas pick-me-up. How jolting...I mean, lovely.
7. The Embarrassed by Parents/Relatives scene: Well, if nothing were truer at Christmas, it's that oh-my-gosh, parents are at their all time worst, right? Like, how could dad invite that cute firefighter over for breakfast when I am still in my robe? Or, how did my mother tell that park ranger I was an avid equestrian when I haven't ridden a horse since I was ten? Or, why did my parents show up unannounced and I forgot to tell them I'm dating someone with a daughter?
6. Opening an awkward gift: If unreasonable parents aren't enough - at some point someone will open a gift (at the office party? at the family gathering?) that will be clearly inappropriate. "Who gives someone with diabetes strawberry jam for Christmas?" "Why did you give me mittens when you know I just lost my thumb in that tractor accident?"
5. The pet in the holiday costume shot: Can you say comic relief? Just when the going gets tough, the tough dress their yorkies up like elves. Need an extra giggle? Let's put Buster in those reindeer antlers as we fade to commercial. Deal.
4. The Caroling scene: Just because this isn't a musical is no excuse not to burst into song! Everyone knows the words to Joy to the World/Hark the Herald/Silent Night...and what's more, it's public domain, so that PA over there doesn't even have to go figure out how to buy the rights to the music - and oh yeah, my crazy Aunt Margaret is a choir director at an orphanage and Uncle Charles is deaf but plays the piano...all of a sudden...let's do this!
3. The Church scene: Never mind that the birth of Christ hasn't been mentioned, somehow we are in a church and someone is lonely/needs forgiveness/seeks redemption...and I have a pretty good feeling they sat in the right pew at the right time to find it...just in time.
2. The "It's a Christmas Miracle" scene: At some point, usually near the end (but, not necessarily) something of inexplicable grandeur occurs that must be a Christmas miracle! Where did all that money come from? Why, it hasn't snowed here in 40 years! He can walk again! They found my dog Lucky 4 states away! This baby was born in an avalanche! Remarkable.
1. Christmas morning: Finally! All is well and the day is finally here. December 25th has arrived, and brought with it bushels of Christmas cheer, happiness, joy, jubilation, and sheer merriment to be had by all! There is cocoa for everyone, presents abounding, snow falling, carolers singing, reindeer prancing, elves dancing, and Tiny Tim is blessing everyone left and right. Pass the roast beast and chug the egg nog! Christmas Day has come! And so has the end.

Cue the Hallelujah Chorus and change the channel...before I get sucked into the next...what's that? Some girl in the big city is leaving her job to go home to her dying father where her high school sweetheart still runs the family hardware store? Hmm...somebody stop me.


Monday, December 12, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like chaos around the Pardy home. Finally, the tree is trimmed, the wreath is up, and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care/mischief. And each and every day is a bit of a challenge to keep the decorations up and looking lovely...and not yanked down, trampled, or eaten by a toddler...until the blessed 25th day of December arrives.
Once the decor was up, it was all I could do to keep from buying out all of Target and start wrapping presents. However, gift wrapping is such a one-step-forward-six-leaps-backwards feat when you have a very eager 2-year-old who just saw you put that Disney Princess Doll in the trunk about an hour ago. So, yeah, I'm waiting to wrap gifts right up until the last minute. Nevermind the piles of knotted up Target and ToysRUs bags at the foot of my bed, rumpled together with a giant blanket thrown on top to hide them...I realize this top-secret-super-secure hiding method may not last long!
But, this is going to be a crazy fun Christmas year. First of all - we have TWO little ones. All the more holly and jolly! And this year Matilda can say "HoHoHo" AND "Santa!" which is nearly as cute as blowing kisses each time it comes out of her mouth. She is like a little Christmas sponge, absorbing all knowledge of what is happening. I'm hopeful she understands a little bit about what the season is really about, though I'm pretty sure if she could speak more clearly she would give you some version of the Christmas story that involved baby Jesus coming down the chimney and giving her a lot of gifts including 8 reindeer in a manger and a trip to the North Pole on a donkey. So....we might be a little off on specifics...but as long as we keep up that both Jesus and Santa are taking notes on her levels of naughtiness, I think we're doing okay for now. (I kid.)
Nevertheless, Matilda is excited about Christmas. The other day, the plumber had to come over and unclog a drain (this ties in, just hang with me) and lo and behold he actually had to snake the drain from the roof (I know, weird, but you can see where I'm headed here). I didn't actually think Matilda would understand what I was saying so when we heard footsteps above us, I gasp and exclaim "Matilda! Is that Santa on the roof???" In an instant she jumps up, arms raised in the air and bolts for the front door screaming "SAAAANTAAAA!" in total Elf-style-exclamation! Hahaha, whoops. I had to then explain that my calendar was off and we'd have to wait a couple more weeks for Santa. Still, she was excited to see the plumber on top of the roof, so it wasn't a total loss.
Yes, Matilda, you will be told there is a Santa Claus. I grew up with Santa, so did my husband, and neither of us needed therapy because our parents lied to us (we needed therapy for a lot of other reasons, sure, but not because of Santa). Of course, this is a decision that each parent has to make for their kids. Certainly I've been questioned by others about it or had eyes rolled at me when I take Matilda to sit on some stranger's lap at the mall. I get it. It's not the truth and it undermines a greater, more important, focus of the season. Perhaps. But, in our home, Santa is also a kind, generous man who loves Jesus too. Each Christmas he comes, eats the cookies and milk we leave for him, and in return he leaves toys and a sweet letter always including a reminder as to why we really celebrate Christmas - the birth of Jesus. Maybe this seems petty, but it is simple and sweet and fun. And...let's remember I have a 2 year old who is just full of joy and not asking any questions yet...that time will come, and certainly the truth will be revealed soon enough. But, for now, I have a kid who is full of pure wonder and excitement. She gazes at the tree with delight. She holds her palms up to catch fake snowflakes when they fall (this is what Californians have to do, people). She steals ornaments and tries to hang them on her baby sister. It's fun, it's festive, and I love it. I want to keep Christmas merry and bright for her year after year, and part of that fun for us as her parents is to tell her about a jolly man in a sled who comes around once a year to make you believe in a little bit of Christmas magic and motivate you to spread a little holiday cheer. Yes, yes, this is always trumped by the fact that in truth the absolute miracle of the season came in the form of a tiny baby, born the Messiah...not in 8 tiny reindeer, I know. I want to emphasize that there is no comparison when it comes to the magnitude of these stories, one being fantasy and the other, life-altering reality (Praise God!)
[Oh, and a quick side-note that there is a true story behind Santa/St. Nick and all that as well...but, let's just stick to referring to the iconic Man in the Red Hat for this blog's sake, okay? That's really what I'm talking about here.]
Anyway, all this to I have to give up Santa just because I love Jesus? I don't think so and I sure hope not. Instead, let's accept that Santa is incorporated into the holiday season - part of the gift-giving-egg-nogging-carol-singing-stocking-hanging-light-glowing-fruitcake-eating FUN that Christmas is all about. This joyful and generous spirit that surrounds us can, I think, help motivate the cheer we share in the Jesus-worshipping-canned-goods-donating-Salvation-Army-bell-ringing-Nativity-setting-candle-lighting-Bible-reading Christmas that we all genuinely care about...or should. These aren't two different holidays, folks, they are the same one. Embrace it! Or don't. But don't bah-humbug on my Santa-loving, okay? Anything that points us towards kindness and generosity ultimately points us towards Jesus in my book (well, in His book if we're really going there and excuse the idiom).
I'm not looking to include a Santa figurine in my Nativity. I'm just open to utilizing all holiday cheer and steering it in the direction of the Savior. Now, let's go watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and drink another peppermint mocha before the guilt sets in. I've got to address my Christmas cards before they get lost in another pile of Target bags.
Chaos and Cheer. Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum.

Fight or Flight

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So we just arrived home from Kansas (well, "just" two days ago - but at like 1:30am, so yesterday didn't really account for anything more than "waking up") and I've concluded that traveling via plane with children is as close as I'm going to get to actually running a marathon. I mean, I've never ran a marathon (and don't ever, ever plan to), but trust me - traveling with a toddler and a baby is just as exerting as running a marathon...underwater...while carrying two children...and luggage.
Why is this so difficult?
Is it the grossly underestimated expectation I have about my children? or the actual task of traveling? or the insanity of TSA? Where have I gone wrong in my thinking that this should be something that normal, average, capable and educated human beings should be able to take on????
Not that the airlines help at all. (AT. ALL.)
I guess I always figured that if a normal person saw another person in need and was able to easily do something about it, they would most likely go out of their way to help. HAHAhahaha.....ahem. Ah, naivety. No. Not if they work, board, or are in any way associated with United Airlines, apparently.

We had a stop in Denver both ways on our way to Kansas over the Thanksgiving (count em) that's 4 actual flights in total...with two babies, three carry-ons, a backpack, and a partridge in a pear tree somewhere in there, I'm sure. I won't get into the toddler-melt-down-ness that was Matilda...there's been plenty said about her wonderful love of flying on previous posts . No, this time I (let's be honest here) want to complain about the airline. Sigh....
One of the flights we boarded, both girls had just fallen asleep prior to boarding. I reach the doorway of the plane where two flight attendants are standing as we board.
"Both our babies just fell asleep," I say as I motion back to Josh holding the weary Matilda (granted we are lugging all our luggage as carry ons aboard), "could you please help us put our luggage up so we don't have to wake them?"
The flight attendant looks us up and down and says "No. We don't do that anymore. We don't lift luggage for you."
Um. What? I honestly thought he was pulling my leg. They don't do that anymore? Seriously? I basically told him then that they were going to have to choose between helping us find a place to put the luggage or have a screaming child (and potentially frantic mother) on their hands. They found a place in a closet up front for our stuff pretty quickly after that.
Then, twice on two different flights, we got to experience the fine character (sense the facetious tone) that airline passengers bring aboard with them. We weren't going to be able to sit in the same row together - we were going to be split up across the aisle - so, naturally, I ask the person in the window seat if they would possibly be willing to switch. I get it - the window seat is nice and all - so I said it like this: " you like, really love the window seat? Or, see, I have these two babies - would it be possible if we swapped with you so we could sit together as a family and our kid wouldn't have to bug you the whole flight?"
The first guy actually said "Um no. I'm a comedian, so your kid won't bug me. She'll just give me more material for my act." (My first thought was - oh, I'm so blogging about you and your stupid window seat.)
The second person was a smug, emo girl in her early twenties who just glared at me and shook her head no. "Okaaaay," I warned her. And, as harsh as it may sound, I didn't feel too sorry for her when Matilda screamed for the first half hour of the flight.
Do these people seriously think I just want to snag their position on the plane so my comfort is heightened or something? Do they not realize that it is to benefit the stress (and hearing) levels of everyone aboard so I can attend to the needs of the screaming banshee (I mean child) I brought with us? HELP ME HELP YOU, people!
That being said. If a family boards a plane and looks at you with hopeful pity in their eyes and asks if you would ever be so kind as to sit somewhere else to accommodate them.....Do it. Please. For heaven sakes. Just give them your precious window seat (it was nighttime, by the way, what exactly is there to look at?) and be done with it.
Anyway. We made it. I hope we don't have to fly again any time soon. Even without children, the whole "hop on a plane and travel" thing has truly gone down hill through the years. When I was a kid, flying on a plane wasn't "new" by any means- but there was still a fun thrill about it. Free peanuts! Soda in a little cup on a little tray! Tiny bathrooms! And voila - we're there in a flash - hooray!
No more. Now, they should just rename all brands of airlines to "Hell or High Water Airlines" at least there is a reasonable expectation of what is in store when you tell your relatives "Yes, I will be coming to the family reunion, come Hell or High Water! You can pick me up at Terminal 666."
For as much as the cost of flights is going up, up and away, you'd think they would try harder to make the journey merely tolerable for the passengers. Instead, they pack the passengers in like sardines, tell them to fit all their belongings in a fanny pack, and charge you $9 for a snack you will regret the rest of the day. Everyone is on edge when they travel today - not just us insane parents trying to keep our toddlers out of the "is-your-carry-on-the-right-size" display bin. Everyone is antsy all the time. People are either eager to check in, in a rush to board, or in a hurry to deplane. How can this many people be late for everything? Where are we all headed here?
In a way, I felt like Matilda was the only reasonable person on the flights. At least she was expressing all the distress we were all feeling! Looking around at scary strangers, funky smells and eerie sounds, being totally confined and asked to sit and be still when every instinct is telling you to run far far away from this scene and never return. This is your inner voice telling you to seek haven. And instead, you're forced to buckle up and enjoy the ride? Something's gotta give. Either the cost or the experience needs to change here, folks. What's to be done?
Perhaps a road trip is in our future. Not that the idea of strapping down a toddler in a car for hours on end is appealing in the least. Certainly the ends justify the means when it comes to traveling with kids. I mean, we had an awesome time seeing family and friends while we were in Kansas, don't get me wrong...I'm glad we went...but, man, the whole airplane thing is just ridiculous.
Who wants to start an airline with me? You're only allowed if you're willing to give up your window seat. And help me with my luggage.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksiversary! Well, Happy Thanksgiving to most of you...but, for me, it is also my five year wedding anniversary to my, Happy Thanksiversary, babe!

FIVE years. Awesome. Five years ago, I traded in my 9-letter Dutch name for a name that would forever make me smile (not only for it's homonym but also for its ease of spelling).

Five years ago, the sun was shining on the crisp morning after Thanksgiving Day and I woke up, jumping up and down on my bed that I was getting married that day!

Five years ago, I walked into Starbucks, ordered drinks for all my bridesmaids, and when the Barista said "Have a good day" I loudly proclaimed "I will! I'm getting MARRIED today!" and (I kid you not) the entire Starbucks burst out into applause...just like in the movies.

Five years ago, I stepped into the doorway of a chapel, minutes after my niece turned and threw her flowers at me just before she walked down the aisle in front of me.

Five years ago, I exchanged rings with my favorite person in the world, a symbol of our devotion and love, and surprised him with the inscription PUT IT BACK ON engraved on the inside (true story).

Five years ago, I said "I do" to not just that day to that person...but to every day, forever, to the man that he was, is, and will be. And you know what? I DO!
And thank heaven I did. It's no coincidence that we got hitched the day after Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday (what with all the eating and shopping and gratitude, what's not to love?) and it is the one day a year that everyone is somewhat forced, no matter what their belief system may be, to stop and count their blessings. I knew that, regardless of what life may bring us, I always wanted our anniversary to be a time that we would stop and reflect on how God has shaped us individually and truly blessed us with the mere presence of each other in our lives.

How, I simply would not be the person I am today without my husband...and, shucks, I'm the better for it!

Society continues to shove images of husbands at us that make us think husbands are either too dumb to understand us or too controlling to care. Heck, I even saw a commercial for yogurt the other day that could have been an ad for "Idiot Husbands R Us". Media tells us that we should just roll our eyes and put up with them for killing spiders and opening pickle jars while we gab with our girlfriends over "why my husband is more despicable than yours"? least they gave us cute kids and use a coaster on the coffee table most of the time.


Are these things you would have married? Are these qualities you would have listed in your vows on the day of your covenant? "I take thee, in sickness and in health, in stupidity and frustration, as long as we both can tolerate it"? It makes me want to gag, people.

I married a stud. My best friend who also happened to be super smokin hot. And, chances are (in your eyes, granted) you did too! Give thanks for that amazing man! Certainly, I don't know your situation. But, as most weddings kick off with a foundation of love, surrounded by the support of family and friends, I'm thinking the majority of people get hitched with sincere intentions.

Find that. Seek that. It's still there, trust me. Five years, fifty years...the vows are meant to run deeper with time. I'll fully admit that we have no secret to our marriage and happiness besides that of fully, individually submitting ourselves to a relationship with Jesus. Absolutely, He directed our paths (far and wide) until Josh and I were face to face with one another (and the next minute, head over heels!)

Five years ago, I was so incredibly thankful to be surrounded by my family and friends as Josh and I celebrated our union. I was weepy with gratitude for the man God had given to me, to lead and protect me, to the father the children that were yet a twinkle in our eyes.

But, "five years ago" isn't a dreamy, idealized memory for me that I wish I could go back and relive. "Five years ago" was wonderful...but, it was just the beginning. Good grief! If I thought I had any inkling of what to be thankful for then, it would take me the rest of my life to count the blessings that I have just up to this point!

Our life isn't perfect (ha!) Our marriage isn't perfect (haha!) But, our God is perfect (hooray!) and gives us focus to the bounty among us. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for my husband.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

So, as some of you may know from my twitter feed...this morning, on the way home from Bible Study, I witnessed a horrible car accident that I will not soon forget.

I was traveling down the 57 South and out of the corner of my eye, only about 100 feet ahead of me and two lanes to my left, I see an explosion of glass and metal spray into the air. In an instant I realize it's not two, but three cars that have collided, still spinning and struggling to come to a halt. I hit my brakes and catch my breath just in time to glance at the debris. One car is hit, but I see the driver moving. The second car is facing 180 degrees backwards on the freeway and the entire side of the small vehicle is caved in. But, the third car (Christ have mercy) was upside down on top of the median. This is when my heart sank. I honestly don't know how someone could have survived in that car.

I pulled over, quickly realizing traffic was coming to a stop behind me, but knowing that such a severe accident had to be reported immediately. I was about to exit anyway, so I was able to safely pull to the shoulder and dig for my cell. I have never had to call 911 before. The call got dropped at first (are you kidding me?) and to be honest, as stupid as it sounds, I was so flustered with shock that I was thinking "Do I just dial 911? Does it work that way with a cell phone?" When finally they answered. "911 Emergency, what are you reporting?"
Fortunately, they told me that the police and firetrucks were already on their way. They took my name and hung up. So, that's it? I probably just saw someone's life end and now I have to go home and heat up leftovers and give my toddler a nap? Those people just experienced possibly the worst thing of their lives, and I get to go home and complain about sorting the laundry?

Yes. This is life, people. Every day horrific, unimaginable things happen (accidents, murders, abuse, starvation). Every day amazing, miraculous, lovely things happen (weddings, births, proposals, baptisms). And every day, super normal, mundane, ridiculously boring things happen to the rest of us. Laundry. Leftovers.

But, that's not the whole story...

Of course, after witnessing something like that, I couldn't help but think of the mere moments leading up to such a crash. I don't know what those people in those cars were doing. I don't know and I will never know. But, here's what happened to me...and I'm totally serious.
As I was leaving the parking lot of the church, I happened to look down at my mileage and see the signal that there was a door ajar. I stopped, taking the extra 15 seconds or so, to get out, and re-shut Matilda's and my doors knowing it was one of them. Sure enough - and we are back on our way. I approach the freeway and Daphne has lost her pacifier and starts screaming. I, just this morning, realized if I bent my arm a certain way that I could reach through the top of her car seat and get the paci back into her mouth. It's a little tricky, though, and I didn't really want to do it on the freeway, but I didn't want a screaming baby either. She got the paci, and that was that.

Then, I got this overwhelming sense to pay attention to the road. I thought to myself, Okay, if she loses the darn paci again, I'm not getting it. I'm going to let her cry. But it was more than that. I felt this entire sensation of fear pour down over me. I literally thought Am I going to die today? Is Josh going to die today? Something feels terribly wrong. I actually got these visions of us being in an accident, of being in the emergency room, of Josh getting horrible news and having to raise our daughters alone. It all flashed through my head in a couple seconds before I started to block it all out with prayer.

God, protect us. God, be with Josh if he is on the road. Send your angels to surround our vehicle. Keep us safe, Lord.

I will be completely honest in saying that, even as I was praying it I was realizing how dramatic it all sounded. How I must be crazy to jump to such insane conclusions that are certainly unreasonable.

Then, about 15 seconds later, I decide to take the Imperial Exit. It was a totally flippant decision. Last week I took the Chapman Exit - and I would have been in the left lane if I decided that this week. But, I wasn't. I was in the right lane. In more ways than one. And when those cars hit each other, it literally looked like an explosion. It was loud, and terrifying, and I can not be more thankful that I didn't experience it myself.

When I got off the phone with 911, I burst into tears. My prayers were not silent anymore. THANK YOU, JESUS. THANK YOU FOR KEEPING US SAFE! It seems a little funny to me now, but I instantly had that Amy Grant song from my childhood echoing in my ears "Angels watching over me, every move I make..." Such a chipper song for such a serious truth!

But, yes, absolutely Amy Grant, my angels were watching over my every move today, and thank you Jesus for them!

Today, if nothing else, was yet another reminder of how precious and fragile our lives are. How thankful I am for the moments filled with laughter and love...and laundry...and leftovers.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Believe it or not, this is my 100th blog post! (I knew that girl talked a lot.) And, to be honest, it is often your encouraging comments and honest feedback that keeps me coming back to this computer, this blog, still having something left to say. So, thanks for reading and I hope you stick around for hundreds more! :)

Having reached this little milestone, it occurred to me that apparently I do have a lot to say about parenthood, babies, survival, and how I am at least getting by with a chuckle or two. In fact, I've come to a, I've had an epiphany...yes, that is even more fitting, an epiphany: God created humor so parents don't kill their children. I'm sure of it.

I think it was around "nap attempt number seven" today that I swayed, holding my screaming toddler who had yet again thrown herself on the floor in a bit of rage, only to hit her head and cause the drama to quickly turn to actual pain, demanding that I not only focus my attention on her alone, but comfort her with the single remaining nerve I had left...that I caught myself laughing out loud (barely audible above her cries) in utter, weary, survival.

It wasn't that I was laughing at her pain. No, I think I was laughing at mine! The parents' nerves are ever-so-finely frayed into what can only be left as...laughter! Humorous synapses, triggering uncontrollably as we pull our hairs out, wipe our brows, and giggle in sweet relief that, well, we are still alive and kicking. (Turns out, there can be a fine line between bursting out in laughter and throwing your toddler out the window.)

Certainly, it must have started with Adam and Eve? I can only imagine Eve, in total horror, asking God to repeat Himself:
I'm sorry, God, you want the baby to grow where? And come out how? And feed it what? Could we review this one more time?

Can you imagine being the first person to experience that? Um, no thanks. It's not like Eve could run down to her local Barnes & Noble and pick up a copy of "What to Expect When You're Expecting" or even gab with her girlfriends...she hadn't birthed any yet!? Yes, it is all a bit mind-numbing to comprehend. Then again, at least she had Adam - the naming expert - there to "help" her. Hmm.

"Hey Adam, what do you think about the name Parakeet?"
"Oh, um, no honey, I already called those little birds parakeets, so that's taken."
"Oh. Okay. How about Tiger?"
"Yeah, no. That giant striped cat gnawing on that gazelle over there - yeah, I named that tiger, so that's a no-go."
"Adam! If you don't help me out here, I'm going to beat you over the head with this..."
"It's a cane, honey."

I can't imagine being the first parents. Granted, their first two kids didn't grow up so, they had a long way to go on the whole "don't kill each other" rule in parenting. Ahem. But, somewhere in there I'm pretty sure God had to give Adam and Eve the gift of laughter to be able to make it through. Needless to say, I'm sure thankful the trait has made its way down through the generations, reaching me and my screaming, napless, blurry-eyed child - giving me an avenue to choose other than giving up.

Just think how we would cope if we couldn't laugh about our children? My husband would probably come home, wade through piles of laundry, find the babies screaming and strapped to their high chairs, sippy cups full of pinot grigio, as I'm locked in the bedroom, plowing through an entire cheesecake, crying and watching Nate Berkus give someone's dining room a makeover. Okay - maybe there are some days we would like to do this (I mean the whole cheesecake part is appealing at least)...but, it has to be only by the pure grace of God and His gift of humor that instead we can choose to step back, see the big picture, and laugh hysterically (emphasis on hysterical) at ourselves, wipe the poop off our hands and keep going.

It's a funny job we have, us moms. No one else has to get up every morning and wonder if their co-worker is going to spit-up on them today so "should I wear the black shirt or not?" No one else gets the privilege of searching for the ever-elusive baby sock under the dusty couch only to find bits of the last 82 snacks you fed your child hidden under there. And nobody (I hope) asks "Do you have poop?" more seriously than we do - with total straight face - about a million times each and every day.

And I can only imagine that it was God Himself, after explaining over and over again to Eve the ins and outs of her duties as a mother, who coined the saying: It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.


Monday, November 7, 2011

It's been said a million times before - being a mother is a full-time job. Not only full-time...but constant. That is, it's an all-time job, really. No matter what, at any moment, those small little humans might call on you to fulfill a need that only you can answer. Sure, "it takes a village" and all that. Certainly, mothers are not alone in their parenting contributions. But, for most families, the mother is the one who pioneers the leadership in childrearing (lest we forget the most common of sidekicks - the handsome, handy, emotional-stronghold of courageous hunk of steel known as daddy - who can change a poopy diaper with the best of them - of which, in my household, I am most grateful). The the child "expert" if you will.I was pondering this thought the other day. I'm the mama. I'm supposed to know my child best. How does someone so small and cute bewilder me so much? Aren't I supposed to know what I'm doing with you?
In fact, it's often acknowledged that to become an expert at something, one has to have achieved at least 10,000 hours of experience. In a typical full-time job, this breaks down to around 5 years of working somewhere. BUT, in motherhood, the all-time would reach expert status in just over a year! Master. Conquerer. Super-hero-domestic-extraordinaire.
So, why, then, if I am such a "Matilda expert" do I constantly feel like a captain who is navigating a ship (a big ship) in a fog (a thick fog) with a broken compass (and no iPhone or GPS or treasure map or anything!)???

Oh wait. I get it. By the time I've reached 10,000 hours, I've become an expert at Matilda age 1. Now, with Matilda age 2, I'm practically starting over. The thing is, just when I think I have her figured out - she is no longer who she was! And what worked on "Matilda 2 years and 3 days" doesn't necessarily work on "Matilda 2 years and 8 days".
Okay, okay. So, there's no keeping up with the first kid. But, I do have a second daughter! (Hope!) Surely, having done this whole baby thing before I can cut some corners, gain some sleep, and tip-toe peacefully through teething and such. Right?

Oh wait. Daphne is not Matilda. "Daphne 3 months" doesn't match up to "Matilda 3 months". Though, my comfort level of caring for a baby may have grown, my expertise has not.
And yet - the scariest part of realizing that I don't necessarily know what I'm doing in this whole parenting thing - is that, evidently, no one does.

Don't get me wrong. I don't feel like a failure in the least (hey, I'm only 2 years in, let a girl enjoy the ride). I may not know why my daughter just tried to feed dirt to your son, and I may not have a clue why she smacks her head into the wall to get attention, and I certainly can't explain why she isn't scared of giant dogs that most likely see a cartoon toddler-pork-chop when they glare at her....sigh...but, I'm pretty confident that we're doing okay here. Again - evidently my parents (or yours or yours or even yours for that matter) didn't really know what they were doing with us either...and look at us! We're upstanding, law-abiding, bargain-hunting, blog-reading, teeth-brushing citizens, now aren't we?

But, it is scary to me sometimes to think that I am the one God has entrusted this little soul to. Privilege, yes. Terrifying, oh yes. She did not come with a handbook. She did not come with a set of rules. She didn't even come with a tag to tell me whether or not she can be dry cleaned. But, here I am - the Matilda expert. There is no one else on the planet that knows her better than I do right now. Wild. And the same goes for Daphne! Even in her littlest ways, I'm the one who knows how to tell if she is crying because she's wet, or hungry, or has another burp that would make any truck driver blush. And, if I don't know why she's crying - I guess! And when I'm wrong, I try again! And, evidently, I'm still the mother that is the best mother for her to have. Otherwise, I would've had your kid - (no, maybe not yours - I mean hers - the one that sleeps through the night. Yeah, I would've had her kid.) But, I didn't! (And thank heaven, really. Because I would've had to just keep calling you since you are the expert on your kid, after all.) Funny how that works.

So, there you have it. We're all experts on our own kids - and none of us know what we are doing.

But least the pay is good. ;)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Today is my eldest's second birthday. Matilda Hazel Darling turns two! I can't believe it. No need to relive the anxiety her birth brought me (though, I don't think 10pm on Halloween night will ever pass by again without me thinking "that's when my water broke!" Ah, memories.) No, this year I had an entirely new year to think about - her first year - and ponder, and be grateful for. A whole other year has passed by in her life - I just can't believe it.
I wasn't sad today though. I got a little sad last night, thinking how she would be 2 today - total toddler status and absolutely not a baby anymore. It is strange. You have a baby and everyone starts asking you "how old is she?" everywhere you go. How old is she? How old is she? You answer in days, then weeks, then months...and the months thing really goes on for a while. Especially depending on if you are answering a fellow parent or not. Thirteen months is entirely different than "just over a year" to a fellow parent. Seventeen months doesn't require any math. And twenty-three months is not "2". No.
But, two is 2. And now my darling is 2! She won't ever be "25 months" or more - nobody does that, right? Just 2. Then 3. Then (for heaven sake, someone stop this time machine!) 4? Goodness me.
(Wouldn't it be funny, by the way, if people just always kept asking how old someone was? Like, just whoever you were with. It doesn't matter. Imagine being in Target and someone overhears you talking with your mom and then stops and says "Aw, how old is she?" and you're like "Um, she's 59 - almost 60." and they nod sympathetically at you and maybe wink with a "Hang in there, it gets easier" as they stroll off to look at the dollar aisle. Yeah. It's probably good we stop they whole "How old is s/he" bit before cognitive reasoning really sets in.)
Since Matilda's first birthday, she's grown more hair, surpassed at least a few sizes in Target clearance wear, mastered the fork and spoon (with her left hand, no less), learned nearly every animal sound (including, my favorite, "Haha" for Hippo) and many other words (whether indiscernible or perfectly clear, said with the same amount of sincere gusto) and most of all, built layer after layer of personality, shaping her into the kid she is today.
It struck me today, as I was getting all nostalgic watching her play, that I'm not really sad to watch her grow. When she was just a baby it would bring tears to my eyes to even think about her someday not fitting into that snap-up-onesie I just bought that says "I love mommy" or "Daddy's girl". (Don't get me wrong, I can still conjure up a hefty tear at the drop of a hat). But, watching her personality grow, take shape, expand in directions I've never known her before - I get to see this little person literally become. Who would want to rewind that? As much as I loved having her as a baby, I am almost entirely equally torn into wanting to see her continue her personality-growing-saga!
This is the ache of a mother's heart. I want her to stay small. I want her to become amazing. I want her to snuggle forever. I want her take flight and soar. I want her to be safe in my arms. I want her to slay dragons and conquer darkness. I want it all for her. I want her to want it all.
I love you, Matilda. Happy Birthday, Darling.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just taking a moment here to reflect on some Halloween memories. Nice ones. Ones that don't involve freaky corduroy jumpsuits with rickrack frosting: Yikes. If you read the comments from that blog, you may have seen what my friend Matthew John had to say - mentioning me in some of his favorite Halloween memories. Well, he stole the words right out of my mouth (computer?)

Growing up in a rural community, you'd think it was difficult to trick or treat - not having a neighborhood and all. And you would be right. A gang of us (usually including Jessica John [Matthew's sis and my best friend growing up] would pile into a car (driven by, I'm sure, whichever parent drew the short straw for the night) and make the slow-but-sure trek around not one, not two, but the three towns (the tiny trifecta that it was) that made up our community. That's what happens when towns consist of less than 500 people - they band together to support the neighboring kid's sugar high as well.

Rain, sleet, heat, or snow (well, there was that one year that
Halloween was actually postponed until the snow melted) we would make our way house to house, knowing nearly every person who answered the door. There was no X-raying our candy when we got home that night. There was no questioning who made that homemade ball of carmel corn. Candy was scavenged, devoured, and sometimes secretly stashed away before other siblings could begin bargaining and trading.

At some point during the night, we would need to take a break (okay, let's face it - our parents would force us to stop for one freaking second so they could catch their breath) and so we would go to the John's house for delicious chili - thaw out for a bit - and then hit the road running, hunting down that full-size Snickers that we just knew was out there somewhere.
The high school always ran a fundraiser on Halloween in which they overtook the local fire station and turned it into a haunted house. It. Was. Awesome.

You'd never seen so much black plastic in your whole life. I'm sure my memories are far more grand than reality, but I remember it being rather impressive (and downright frightening) at the time. Thinking about it now, I just have visions of bad wigs, fake blood, and the sound of a chainsaw (shop class anyone?) followed by the screams of little kids far too young to sneak in only to get the snot scared out of them. Good times.
I love those memories. Halloween is like a fall crisp day - covered in chocolate and waxy makeup. How can you top that?

I know. Have your own kids. Create these memories for them. Keep them safe, give them candy, have fun. This is Halloween today. Let's keep it that way.
I just loved dressing my girls up this year. A bunny and a carrot - how does it get any cuter than that? I pray they always keep October 31st as something fun and silly. Something they use their imagination for (and their sixth sense of candy scavenging radar, of course) and not something used to convey darkness or for that matter (being honest here, folks) utter sluttiness.

Apparently, these days, if you hack the legs off of any ole pair of jeans - that's a Halloween costume! If you just wear your underwear in public - that's a costume! Dear me. All that to say, there are a lot of girls out their who need help...and pants.

Now, I couldn't take my girls back in time OR to a small rural community for Halloween. But, we did manage to find some lovely houses in our neighborhood with razor-free candy, and we went to an amazing carnival at a nearby church (I mean unreal, amazing - multiple full scale carnival rides and food trucks kind of amazing). So a grand time was had by all. Afterall, isn't the measure of a good Halloween in the angst and regret of the tummy ache you get by morning? Sure enough - we hit "Berenstain-Bears-Too-Much-Junk-Food" status by late that night.

Totally worth it.

Trick or Treat

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!
The Pardys are all over their colds from last week - back from the dead and ready to eat candy! It's Halloween!

Like most Americans, we will be celebrating in full-fledged pumpkin fashion, dressing up our children (so we have something to blackmail them with later in life) and parading them around, freely exploiting them so as to obtain obscene amounts of candy! Hooray! Yes, parents MUST have invented Halloween...well, scheming children who then grew up to become parents who still maintained their childhood passion for all things sugar, at least!

And, speaking of embarrassing...let me just cut to the chase and let you know now that this is going to be a blog (though, short as it may be) that will most likely go down in blog history. The kind of blog you pass onto your friends. The sort of post you might dog-ear/bookmark on your browser so that you can click on it when you need a good laugh in the middle of a hum-drum day. If you think I'm joking, then you haven't scrolled far enough down to see what I'm talking about.

I grew up in a very creative family. My mom is not only an excellent seamstress, she is also a bargain hunter. I'm gonna guess that, oh, back in say 1984 or so there was some brown corduroy on sale...probably right next to a rick-rack 2 for 1 deal...and an idea was born.
Now, still, to this day, I don't know if this was a trick or a treat for her. Did she actually think this was cute - or did she know that someday she could use this photo to make sure neither of us would ever be allowed to run for office or be famous (or make normal friends)??? Certainly, I was too young to take any blame. My sister (bless her) was most likely bribed into yet another "matching her sister" scenario with promises of candy or toys, or who knows what (a new Atari game? a new Easy Bake oven recipe?)

Nevertheless, that Halloween, we became: THE GINGERBREAD SISTERS
Be afraid, be very afraid! We will come and steal your children at night! Ok- maybe not - but can you stop cringing long enough to laugh, or can you stop laughing long enough to cringe? (I know - it's okay - it still creeps me out quite a bit too.)

Either way, it is a humdinger of a Halloween memory, and I'd say I have the photo to prove it.
I'd like to take a chance later in the week to reflect more on Halloween growing up (clearly, this photo leaves much to be discussed) and include some photos of tonight - when I get to embarrassingly dress up my own girls and then steal their candy (did I say steal? I meant share).
Until then, I hope this memory has been a treat for you. Now, what are you waiting for??? That candy is not going to eat itself!

Home Work

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Today, my baby girl, Daphne, turns 3 months old. Today, would have been the day that I would have had to return to work if I hadn't quit to become a stay at home mom (SAHM). I could not be more grateful - to God, to my husband, and everyone else for their prayers and support - to be home today. I know exactly what it is like to leave home and go back to work, and I am relishing the fact that I get to be here at home today...and the next day, and the day after that... Truly, a blessing.

When Matilda was born, I took the whole 13 weeks off of work. I cherish those moments to this day - going on walks with her, nursing and rocking her, staring at her and snapping photos nearly every five minutes. Being a new mother was lovely and joyous - even amidst the spit up, the diapers, and the 3am wake up cries - I took pride in the luxury of giving Matilda my full, undivided attention.

But, as soon as she was born, I also felt something else that I didn't anticipate. A clock was ticking. As I had counted down the days to her arrival, I thought that the "ticking" would stop when she was born...but, instead, the clock continued...week by counting down to the day I would have to leave her to return to work. The day I would have to adjust to a "new kind of normal" all over again.

I started crying about it nearly 3 weeks before the day came. I felt guilty, I felt sad, I weak. I felt nervous about things I'd never done before (how does one excuse oneself from a meeting at work to go pump breastmilk before her boobs might explode?) I felt self-conscious (can you see my Spanx under this top? what about my nursing pads?) I felt excited to catch up with everyone - to show off pictures of my new baby, of course! But, most of all, I just felt burdened. How can I do this? How do I juggle it all? How do I not cry at my desk all day? How will she make it through the day without me? How do I FIX this so I can stay home???

Don't get me wrong - work wasn't a horrible place or anything. Everyone at the office was very encouraging, empathetic, totally accommodating and sensitive...but, well, they weren't my baby! I kept reminding myself why I was doing this. First of all, we simply had no choice. We couldn't make enough "cut backs" in our life to afford to have me home. It wasn't a matter of adjusting our value system. And, since I was returning to work, I could provide wonderful things for my child in the meantime: health insurance (that's a biggie) and also social interaction with others for her sake - this would be good for her, right?

And, as ideal a situation as it was (my amazing sister-in-law and her sweet daughter were going to watch Matilda at our home the 3 days a week I was at the office) it was simply hanging over my head. It was daunting and sad - and I just knew that the anticipation of it all had to be worse than the actual day-of. Indeed, it was. That first day was a hum-dinger...full of holding back tears and taking big gulps as people would greet me and ask how it was to be back.

I know this is all quite dramatic...I mean, I was going to return to her each evening, and she was going to be absolutely fine. But, let's face it, there's no "reasoning" with a mother who is separated from her child, no matter the time or distance. Bottomline: it sucked.

So, finally, finally when everything came together this last spring and my husband was offered a job that could actually support our family - we made the plunge into being a single-income home. Yikes! and Yippee! And here I am. Home. Babies napping, sipping on some coffee, writing because I want to be writing...dream come true. Sure, we worked hard to get here, we put in many prayers and hours towards this goal, but it is honestly only because of God's grace in opening doors that we are able to view this time for the blessing that it is!

What's awesome (well, not awesome, but you'll know what I mean) is that Matilda is actually sick today...and I didn't have to leave her or Daphne at all. Instead, I'm exactly where I should be. Staring at their little faces, not missing a moment...and wiping that sweet snotty nose for the umpteenth time today. Yup. This is where I belong.

Nap Time

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's nap time. That magical hour when the house falls silent and I can actually blink long enough to regain focus of my ever-elusive goals for the day and, oh yeah, finally get a second to wipe that spit-up off my shoulder that's been there since this morning when I was trying to balance baby on one side and a now-cold cup of coffee on the other while turning up the volume on the Today Show so I can at least act like I know what the heck is going on in the rest of the world...right.

But, this nap time is not so easy to come by at the Pardy home. Oh, no. I know there are many kids out there who have snooze-buttons built whose parents wind them up in the morning only to perfectly settle down at an appropriate time, sleep for a few hours, and get beautifully recharged, awakening at another appropriate hour as pleasant, well-rested children who are neither manic nor depressive and who, regardless of their lengthy siesta, still go down for bedtime at (you guessed it) another appropriate time of day. Yeah, this is not us. And maybe it's not you either (don't make me hate you)...but chances are good at some point you've heard "Oh really? She doesn't like to nap? Little Johnny gets in a good 2pm-5pm nap like clockwork!" Well, good for little Johnny. [Names have been changed to protect the innocent.]

Nope, not my eager-to-go-get-em (and by "em" I mean all things in the universe within her sight) miss Matilda. I'd say on average it takes about an hour and a half or longer to put this child down for a nap. We are in that ridiculous phase of giving up two naps and switching to one...only to find that this doesn't necessarily mean the child will understand the idea of "consolidating time" instead of two short naps, we get maybe one short nap!? This does not add up.

So, what does she do when she is supposed to be napping but not napping? Um, ANYTHING. The stinker has the stalling game down to a freaking science.
Up out of bed.
Reading books.
Playing with stuffed animals.
Dancing with said animals.
Diapering said animals.
Throwing said animals.
Undressing herself.
Climbing the bed.
Climbing the glider.
Removing the cushions from the glider.
Removing the sheets and pillow from her bed.
Building a nest in the middle of the floor with said sheets and pillows.
Yelling and making airplane noises ("neeeeeer").
Yelling "I have poo!" only to fake us out once we go in there.
Yelling "I have poo!" and actually having poo which may or may not have made it onto the floor depending on how clothed she may be at the moment.
Knocking on the door, leading to throwing her body against the door, followed by hitting her head against the door.
And the list continues...

All of which begs the eternal question I ask myself daily as I sit and watch her in the video monitor "Do I go in there?" (Sigh of frustration). Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't, sometimes we start the nap time routine over from the beginning (new diaper, storybooks, sing "Jesus Loves Me", put her down, hit the glow worm and walk out) and sometimes I just return her to bed like a silent nap-time-nazi-robot-mother. The point is, regardless of routine, regardless of the amount of activity beforehand, regardless of eating beforehand, regardless of the time of day or the amount of yawning involved...there is just absolutely no way to predict if this child will go to sleep or not.

Suggestions? (This is the part where you give me your anecdote and free advice on how to all-but-give-Nyquil to my toddler).

The crazy thing? She goes down for bed (almost nearly) every night with no problem! Matilda the enigma. Granted, her throughout-the-night sleeping habits have been hit or miss. Some nights are perfect. Some nights she is up out of bed determined to start the day at 3am (the other night she even fell back asleep in her glider after getting up to read books to her the pitch black of her room).
And the majority of nights she just has very restless sleep, but manages to stay in bed. (We see her over the video monitor kicking and yelling, tossing and turning, rotating and completely sleeping with her head in every possible spot of the bed throughout the night.)

Apart from having this child tested to see just how much monkey DNA is in her's all I can do to keep up with her!

So, when there are moments like now - when she is down for a nap and (prepare for a standing ovation) Daphne fell asleep at the same time (thank you, thank you, no really - okay, thank you) I count my blessings, my lucky stars, and the chores on my never-ending to-do list. It's quiet enough to even hear the voice in my head - shouting out all the things I could do to fill this precious moment: shower? fold clothes? dishes? blog? eat? tv? nap? floss?

Well...I guess we all know now what I chose. You'll have to give me grace (and a breath mint) foregoing all the other options.

What's that noise? Crying? (Uh oh). Matilda is awake? Hello afternoon! Here we go...

Wipe Out

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The other day, I was in Target (shocker!) and I overheard a mom talking to her youngster in the cart just a few feet behind me: "Uh oh, are your hands sticky?" the little girl was starting to throw a fit, smacking her fruit-snacked-hands together in dismay..."I'm sorry, honey," the mom anxiously continued, "mommy doesn't have any wipies, you will just have to wait. I'm sorry, I don't have any wipes!"
No more did the sentence leave her lips when I stopped in my tracks, jammed my only free hand into my purse, and whipped out a single wet wipe as I spun around in her direction: "I have a wipe!" (I'll admit I kind of felt like some sort of superhero coming to the rescue - albeit a single moist towelette being my secret weapon leaves much to be desired among powers...still...)
The woman paused for a second, glanced at my child-be-cumbered cart and smiled in relief. "Thanks!" she said as we exchanged short introductions followed by friendly "I've totally been there" anecdotes and typical mom "yay for Target" farewell quips. A single wipie saves the day again.

These wet wipes, I tell ya, they have got us moms hooked for life. They are the single deadliest weapon in a mother's baby bag arsenal. They have gotten me out of so many jams, I'm pretty much planning on keeping them in my purse from now on, long after my kids' behinds might need them. I don't know about you, but for me (in a pinch) baby wipes have been stain lifters, furniture polishers, underarm savers, booger pickers, feet cleansers, wall scrubbers, toddler bathers, cart disinfecters, ear swabbers, lense swipers, table dusters, paci sterilizers, and of course...bottom wipers. To name a few. (You can't tell me you've never given your kid a "hobo bath" to stretch their bath time onnnne more night???)
But, until that day in Target, I never thought a lone little wipe could be a conversation starter. Okay, it wasn't that big of a deal, really.
But, you know that moment when you are in a store and your kid hasn't napped yet, and all it takes is one tiny thing to set off the emotional bomb that your child is containing, but for some reason you still think "this will be a short trip, I only have to get such-n-such and we're outta here, surely we will make it before the bomb goes off" and you nearly would - you truly almost do - except that the dollar aisle caught your eye and you just had to stop and see if those $1 kitty halloween socks come in her size...and turns out those kitty halloween socks were the one tiny thing to trigger the end-all-be-all tantrum bomb of all time and...boom!
Toddler emotional explosion. Total wipe out.
Yes, well, I have been there. (See picture [please don't think less of me for snapping a photo of my crying child was the exact moment her father texted to see how our day was going - and that was my text-photo reply, no caption, enough said.]) And, that day in Target I could tell that not having that single wipie to rescue her daughter's sticky hands was her child's "tiny little trigger"...and, well, I'm glad to say the bomb was diffused quickly and safely that day and no Target customers were harmed in the explosion of that toddler's tantrum that day.
So, stash your arsenal, mommies.
Wipes, dipes, and a good helping of encouragement
(emphasis on courage).
Maybe your kids won't need them on that outing, but you never know who will. Next time you see a mom in need, or a kid on the verge of total breakdown, resist the urge to think she doesn't have it all together (who does?) and offer her a smile (or a wipe if need be!) and pass on a little reminder that sweet moments are just around the corner. Sometimes it just takes a while (a deep breath, a good nap, and a hearty diet coke) to get there. (See picture). Ahhhh.

Friday Night Lights

Monday, October 10, 2011

This last weekend we went to Crean Lutheran High School's Homecoming football game. My husband works there as the Director of Admissions and Marketing, and so it was awesome to bring the girls and rep the Pardy fam (nice to meet you, Mrs. Pardy...very weird stuff this being-all-grown-up business). It was also awesome to once again be at a high school football game - something I haven't experienced in (ahem) years.
I grew up on a farm in the middle of Kansas, as most of you know. And when I say "small town football" I don't think a lot of you quite understand what I mean. Not really, anyway. Let's just say that when I was taking my husband home for my 10 year high school reunion I had him watch the entire first three seasons of Friday Night Lights to get amply prepared. And then I told him "scale down the school and exaggerate the pride..." believe it or not, that is how it really was. (Did I mention my graduating class was 16 students?)
To make matters worse/better, I was a cheerleader. True story. And I'm not gonna lie - I totally loved it, and was pretty darn good at it (hey, I conquered the toe-touch back then, so that has to count for something). We had a little squad of 6 super-perky girls, ready to sis-boom-bah you into a win every Friday night. I was the tiny freshman "flyer" they would prop up in the air, pom-pons a fluttering, and cheering the audience into a Thunderbird spirit frenzy! After all, we were the T-Birds (the mighty, mighty T-Birds).
I remember loving pep rallies - getting the school all fired up for the big game, a nice chill in the air (they actually have seasons in Kansas) and helping paint posters that our boys would soon destroy as they ran onto the field. I totally remember feeling important - feeling noticed - and the drama of high school would fade into the background for those four quarters that our columbia blue and white padded soldiers took battle on the fifty yard line...or was that the twenty yard line?...or...was that the first down? didn't matter. My hair was cute, my skirt was ironed, my shoes were shiny...I was a cheerleader.
Watching the high schoolers on Friday night brought it all back for me - all those memories of school spirit and go-big-blue pride. The CLHS cheerleaders were far better than I ever was - it almost made me nervous for them thinking how much more pressure there must be these days to be a cheerleader in high schools today. But, well, they seemed thrilled to be out there, so hey, I'll smile and clap and accept the fact that when you look at me, miss cheerleader, you don't see a girl who is sorta dying to jump out there and try to do a "herkie" see a mom. You see me, with my baby bjorn on, rocking my Saints sweatshirt, holding a half-eaten hot dog. That's right. And you bet I will clap with you and for you and help you cheer on those Saints! And you're welcome.
Yup. I'm old. And I can no longer do those high kicks or jumps, and frankly, no one wants to see me in that short of a skirt, thank you very much. But kid, I got something that makes me more cheerful than any bubble-letter-poster ever could: perspective.
On our way home from the game, Josh and I were sort of high from all the school spirit, reminiscing about our own high school days. I said, "wouldn't it have been great to just go back for a day, but with this brain - this amount of wisdom and perspective that we've gained so far?"
Sort of the quintessential "what would you tell your high school self" kinda question. Man, to relive that time (which honestly, I wouldn't ever want to do - my glory days of popularity were extremely short lived) knowing how little it all mattered. No worries about who is dating who (Is she wearing his letterman jacket?) or having a cow over the tiniest things (I can not believe my mom didn't wash my Jordache jeans, she doesn't understand anything obviously) or caring so so so so so incredibly much about ourselves constantly (think how many times you must have used the phrase "Oh, I know" when you were a teenager...and how you really, actually, truly did not, in fact, know). Well, it might be fun to go back for a day with that perspective and appreciation (totally having a Zac-Efron-in-Seventeen-Again moment here) and just have fun.
Until time travel is a viable option, however, we'll just have to be grateful to be all grown up, having this Friday-night-lightbulb-moment for the time being. It's nice to be here - with my baby bjorn, my comfortable sneakers and sense of security...thankful for the high school memories I have, good and bad, and mostly glad that I don't have to go through it ever again.
Now, hold my hot dog for me so I can go grab my toddler before she runs onto the field and gets tackled...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If I was a celebrity, the news of the week would be that I finally hit my pre-pregnancy weight this week, two and a half months after Daphne's birth. But, since I'm not a celebrity (whew!) I can shout from the rooftops that it is a freaking miracle for me to already say I hit that beautiful number on the scale so soon. Honestly, it took me by surprise, and I can only credit my giant daughter who breastfeeds non-stop for the accomplishment. And don't think I don't thank the Lord for Spanx every day also. (I'm not even joking).

But, don't hate me so fast. And stop rolling your eyes.

The truth of the matter is that I gained some weight RIGHT before getting pregnant - so it is a bit easier for me to exclaim this truth sooner (sneaky, I know!) So, I'm not at my "goal" weight - just my pre-pregnancy weight. And let's face it - usually we all have a "goal" weight that is somewhere between unrealistic and a hot fudge brownie...and that brownie almost always wins (darnit).

I know what you're thinking..."Emily, who cares?" I get it. If you are female, if you have kids or not, chances are good that you are either trying to maintain your weight or trying to lose weight, or at the very least praying that the pumpkin spice latte you had this morning won't stick to your thighs the way it stuck to your blouse when you spilled it on your way into work this morning. Am I at least a little bit right? We all think about our weight. And it totally sucks.

Let me see if I can peg you down even further. (We are in this together now, so hang on.)

Weight is a very personal and touchy subject. (duh) It has most likely fluctuated over the years for most of you, and we all commiserate in the fact that it will continue to ebb and flow as we get older. (Sigh).

We all have a couple friends in our lives who absolutely can eat anything they want (is she scarfing down another bag of Cheetos? and is that regular Coke?) and never gain an ounce, and we pride ourselves in the fact that we don't claw their eyes out every time we see them cause we are just so gosh darn jealous of their stupid metabolism.

We cringe at the sight of those ridiculous skinny jeans - the ones that are obviously meant for toddlers and not grown women - and wonder what the statute of limitations is on that belly band still at the top of our underwear drawer just in case we're having a "bloatish" day.

We are almost always in the mood to shop for shoes or jewelry, because, frankly, they won't make us want to strangle the retail associate in the store after we try them on.

And, we love to watch makeover shows because we never ever look nearly as bad as the "before" and we truly believe somewhere deep inside that we could absolutely pull off the "after" if someone would just watch my kid for a good three hours so I could dig out that curling iron from underneath the bathroom sink somewhere among the 8 bottles of firming lotion that promised me a new rear end (and lied).

So yeah - it gets touchy when some chick who just reached her pre-pregnancy weight has the gall to blog about it and open up a cavern of insecurity among those who may or may not be turning her picture into a dartboard right now. (What is she trying to say? Get to the freaking point, blog girl.)

Ah yes, my point. This could be a post all about how kindness comes in all sizes and so do we - so let's all get along and if you can't say anything nice...then shop online, I guess. But, it's not. Honestly. Because like it or not, in reality, we aren't at all concerned about whether so-n-so fits into her jeans from high school or not. We couldn't care less what who's-her-face ate for lunch. And we don't have the time to listen to what's-her-butt go on and on about how she is giving up sugar for the zillionth time. We are all far to concerned about our own selves! It's nice to get compliments from others, sure, but it's worth so much more to actually believe them...and (dare I say it?) compliment ourselves.

Pat yourself on the back. Go ahead. (Really, no one's looking, do it.) You are average - and awesome. Tada! But, don't take my word for it, take your own. Chances are, you are smaller than some people you know, and larger than others. Some people consider you skinny, others might think that skirt you're wearing is doing you no favors (heyyyy! sorry.) And truth be told, almost no one who looks at you can tell the difference between your "good looking" days and your "shlumpy" days...but you. See - nice and average! Hooray!

I may be delightfully surprised to have reached this pre-pregnancy weight before I thought I would - who knows, maybe I kept low expectations so I could celebrate more easily. (I'll be writing more in the future about body image and how our views shift through pregnancy and childbirth, by the way.) And as much as I strive to stay realistic, balanced, and happy - I'm not immune to the lies that if I don't look a certain way I won't be "good enough". So - I have to vaccinate myself against those lies. Counteract them with truth, relating to others, and simply believe that my worth is not found in an unattainable stack of size 6 jeans at the GAP.

We got flu shots this weekend. (Warning: obvious analogy ahead.) And just like I don't want to get the flu, so I get the vaccine - I don't want to slip into the all-consuming thought process of watching numbers on a scale go up and down and up and up and down (and so on) each week, quietly judging myself between meals and outfits. UGH. What a waste of mental energy. That is so "1997" for me - and I'm in my thirties now (thank you very much) and I'm just not into the whole self-loathing bit anymore. But you can't just take a shot of truth and suddenly feel great about yourself all the time. Maybe not. I'll admit it is a life-long process for myself and for most of us gals out there.

So, in the meantime - of us all learning how to love ourselves and our imperfect bodies - let's take the time to believe one compliment someone tells us this week. C'mon - someone is going to compliment you on something this week. Believe them. And here's one for, you read that blog so well and didn't throw one thing at the screen when she talked about her weight - good for you! :)

Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

Rx: Parenthood

Monday, October 3, 2011

Well, I'm just getting over a brutal cold. I've successfully made it through the "throat-on-fire" stage, coasted past the "did-I-just-sneeze-out-my-brain?" phase, and am nearing final departure of the "just-stop-coughing-just-make-yourself-stop-coughing-enough-already" grand finale. Aren't colds just the loveliest? Ahem.

I hate being sick. I mean, it is silly to even mention because frankly, I don't know anyone who enjoys being sick...but, seriously, isn't it just the worst?

Actually, I do sort of remember liking sick days. Remember when you would wake up a bit feverish and your mom would come in your room to check in on why you haven't come down for breakfast only to find you still in your pajamas...and you were cringing and rejoicing on the inside all at the same time because you knew no matter how awful you felt that it still meant you could skip school so you didn't have to endure Mrs. Alber's PE class of "Sweatin it to the Oldies with Richard Simmons" for the fourth time that week???? (C'mon, don't you remember that? No? Just me? Hmm. Okay then.)

But, you know the feeling. Sometimes there are things worse than being sick. Sometimes we'll take a raw sore throat over that book report we've been dreading, or that big meeting at work, or that lunch date with what's-her-face who only calls you when she needs a favor... And when I was growing up, sick days were a respite from the daily chores of life - of homework - of school time drama. Days when I could just curl up on my couch, kleenex in hand, and watch 4 hours of Anne of Green Gables followed by a long nap and a cup of tea. Ah, those were the days.

And those days are long, long over.

This time last week I was just thanking God that I only had a cold! That I could drink coffee with my sudafed (which I'm still not sure is the best thing, but it didn't kill me, so it can't be that bad, right?) and still care for my kids under the haze of congestion weighing on my head.

Now, instead of resting, drinking fluids, and blowing my nose - I'm constantly sanitizing everything I touch, nursing my daughter between vitamin C boosting juice breaks, and am suddenly fine with Matilda climbing up that chair if it means she is quiet for one minute longer...what...wait a minute...maybe you should get down from there. I'm losing focus again.
Did I mention my 2 month old still wakes up a good three or four times a night? Whew.

There are no decongestants strong enough to un-congest the chaos of your life while you are sick.

All of this, to me, falls in that category of life that is: the things they don't tell you to expect when you are going to have kids, and even if they did tell you, you can't really imagine it until you are there. Bottomline: it is a challenge to be a parent when you are sick.

And yet, you just keep going. Sick or not. That is one of the many things about motherhood that astounds me the most. There are mothers everywhere - we all know mothers, or ARE mothers - and these women, whether they look like they have it all together or not - are still functioning. Daily. They are keeping young persons alive, living and breathing, and consistently losing sleep, time, sanity, even hair over doing so...some of them are even working, volunteering, not to mention keeping up with dishes, laundry, cooking and other mundane necessities...and they just keep going. Mothers are like some powerful machine/zombie combo that just won't stop. Oh yeah - and I'm one of them?!? That hasn't quite hit me yet.

Women - how are we doing this on, like, three hours of sleep? How?

The only theory that makes sense is that these little beings we care for - these children - must have some kind of healing, restorative power in them that somehow rejuvenates our constant desire to maintain and care for them. (After all, they are lucky they are cute, right? Maybe their secret is in their smiles.)

As much as I love sleep (and boy, do I) my need for it is instantly diminished in the tiniest of yelps from my sweet baby. As much as I love to eat (and boy, do I) my hunger pangs dissipate the moment my child cries out. And as much as I love myself (you fill in the blank) I'm transformed into an uncharacteristically selfless creature who will fight tigers with my bare hands any time my babies are in need.


Maybe motherhood is the best medicine after all. Now, go take two children and call me in the morning. Wait...that didn't come out right.
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