Comfort Food

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I didn't know what to write about tonight. I had a few ideas floating in my brain, but nothing was sticking out like it usually was. I pray every day to the ultimate Creator to grant me one more ounce of creativity to pour some words onto a page/blog for just one more week...every week...and just use me however He sees fit. It might seem fickle to some, overly dramatic to others - but, again - here we all are reading these words, so it must be working somehow, right? :)
I ponder on topics during the brief moments of quiet I get during the, like, maybe right before I drift off to sleep or when I'm brushing my teeth or something. The point being - if I relied on the quiet moments of my day to be productive, nothing would ever get done. Enter: Holy Spirit. If He didn't interrupt my brain when I least expect it, I would never have anything to write about.

So, just mere moments ago, I was nursing my sweet baby Daphne to sleep, while watching Matilda on the video monitor to her room. The Pardy Man had to work late tonight, so I was rocking bedtime duty solo tonight. Since he is usually the hero who puts Matilda to sleep (stories, prayers, songs - the works...I know, I know, he's amazing) she was less than impressed to see the understudy for tonight's routine.

After multiple songs, stories, hugs, kisses, one more song and maybe another peck on the forehead - it was just time to say goodnight. The baby was doing the throw-the-head-back-rub-her-eyes-while-yawning bit, and I knew she couldn't last much longer. So, though I knew it was the last thing Matilda wanted, I kissed her goodnight and walked out. I got about one step before she threw herself down into what can only be described as "nuclear-mayhem" level of tantrum mode. Screaming, crying and gnashing of teeth, followed by the pitiful and drawn out "mom-mommmm" just to add a little spice of guilt on top of it all. Sigh.

I took Daphne to our room and nursed her (her crib is still in our room) and watched the video monitor with a pit in my stomach. Ugh. Even after all these months it still kills me to watch my child throw a fit. I know she is being a little naughty, but she just wants me. She wants to be held and coddled and have her hair stroked until her eyelids are too heavy to hold up any longer. But, you know what, she needs to go to bed. And, knowing her, I knew that after she got tired of hanging from the doorknob (no, I mean, literally this kid had two feet on the door and held her bodyweight up by holding on to the doorknob only) she would succumb to her senses and find her way back to bed.

Sure enough. Minutes later, still in a fit of rage and exhaustion, she pried herself off the door, tip-toed just out of view of the monitor for a moment, and then calmly climbed back into bed...Cinderella in tow. Yes, her latest obsession, reading Cinderella each night before bed. It really is super sweet. In fact, it's my old edition of the book from my childhood, so I am flooded with memories each time I read it to her (well, each time until maybe the twelfth time for the night...whew).
She didn't even try to read it. She just cuddled up with her sweet storybook, hit her glowworm one more time, and settled down as if nothing had ever happened. Comfort. Comfort in Cinderella.

Some people might look at this scenario and think that after having cried out to the one source she truly wanted comfort from (me) she finally settled for something "less"...that since mommy didn't come running, she looked to herself for answers and thought of an idea that would work in a gip. But, that's not the whole story. See, earlier in the day I experienced a similar series of events. You got it: nap time. But, I kept telling Matilda that if she wanted to, she could bring Cinderella to bed with her. She could read it in bed since I had to go put the baby down for her nap as well. I wanted to set her up to be prepared...not abandon her and leave her hanging with no where to turn.

Now, you start to see the analogy...

In that moment when I saw her on the monitor as she snuggled up with her little book and found total hit me: Where do I find comfort? I would like to say that ultimately I do turn to Christ for answers. I pray to a God who can give me the peace that surpasses all understanding. I cry out to my ultimate source.

But, what about when it feels like He's not there? How do I feed myself in times of starvation- when it appears that my cries go unheard? He has not abandoned me. He has not left. (He's not even watching from a video monitor 15 feet away.) And He hasn't left me unprepared with no where to find guidance.

I'll be real honest here. I am not always motivated to read the Bible. I grew up in a Christian home where the Word was read often and unashamedly. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. But, there are still days I hear a passage or read a verse and it might as well be in a foreign language. There are times I will open up to a book and just flat out think "WHY is this in the Bible?" There are a lot of days when I will hear someone quote Oprah or I will see another tidbit on pinterest and think "Now that applies to my life" when I can go months without feeling that sensation after reading the Bible.

But, that's the tricky (and super awesome) thing about God. His Word seeps into you. It nourishes you from the inside. It comforts you in times of trouble. And when you can't remember "how that verse went?" or you are sitting in church feeling bad you have no idea "where Hosea is?" or you start to blush when you quote something in front of your friends and then can't remember "what's the reference?" and you wonder why you ever brought up the fact that you were a Biblical Studies minor in college....welllll, that's where the Holy Spirit comes in...and a whole bunch of grace showers over you and you feel a little healthy thing called conviction and desire to want to know Him more and do better and be better. And you take comfort in the fact that God knows your needs even before you have the struggle.

Where am I finding my comfort? What am I feeding my soul?

We all remember the trend of Chicken Soup for the Soul and how you probably read it in your grandma's bathroom or someone got it for you as a graduation gift at some point. I remember thinking "Chicken Soup? That'll leave me hungry again in twenty minutes!"

Indeed. Nice little tidbits - stories, anecdotes, maybe a little devotional that encouraged you and filled you up with enough joy for the day to treat your neighbor nicely. You can still find Chicken Soup everywhere you look today - you can follow Oprah on twitter, get an app that will give you uplifting quotes, read your friends' status updates (especially that one that constantly posts quotes from what you can only assume is an actual edition of Chicken Soup gathering dust in her grandma's bathroom)...and it's fine, it's all nice and good to get a little injection of joy... But, it's not going to feed you for long.

Let's face it: Oprah is broth. Those little quotes we want to cross-stitch on pillows we see everywhere are nothing but sad little chunks of soggy vegetables that only taste delicious if we haven't eaten in days. And who wants to starve themselves just so you can slurp up salty leftovers when you have the full menu right at your fingertips.

Here I am, Lord, give me meat and potatoes.

I want to turn to God in times of crisis. I want to desire His Word when I think I need it the least. I want to be filled up on the good days so I have plenty in my belly when the hard times hit. I want to find comfort in the only sustenance that will last me this side of heaven. I want to curl up and fall fast asleep with a full belly, yet hungry for more.

I know I can't depend on my feelings of motivation to keep me in His Word. I know that feelings change and I'm a silly human who gets selfish and busy and will totally ignore the pop-up reminders to myself to get in the Word (hey, you do what you need to do). But, I don't want to forget the source. I don't want to get wrapped up in Facebook or Pinterest so long that I don't stop and read THE WORD OF GOD...I mean, right? How silly are we that we can get giddy over finding a new way to braid hair on the internet and yet I roll my eyes that half of the book of Numbers was ever even written (I mean, He wasn't kidding when He named it Numbers).

The time has come to be honest, put down the iPhone, and just start reading. When I was like 12 or 13, I will never ever forget that my dad was trying to get me to read the Bible. I felt lost and discouraged and I think my parents didn't have any words left to give me. I kept giving my dad excuses about where to start or what book didn't make sense, etc. Finally, he turned to me and said "Just read it. Just. Read. It."

It doesn't matter where you start. You are hungry. And if you're not hungry now, you will be soon enough. Maybe Psalms is a nice appetizer. Or Luke, a reasonable entree. Skip straight to Phillipians for dessert for all I care. We all take our greatest comfort from the most unlikely of foods. Just don't skimp on the portions.

Bon appetit.

Playground Goggles

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"Swide, mom-mom? Pwease?"

When your toddler stares at you with those little Bambi eyes and pleads with you to take her to the park to go down the slide, well, it is pretty darn hard to resist. As my husband reminds me - this season of life is short-lived, when the answer to her desire might be so simple and within our grasp (though perhaps just out of range for our energy level at the moment).

Every time we go to the park, I think "We should totally come to the park more often!" and then, every time we leave the park and she throws herself on the ground in a rage of despair thinking she will never return again, I think "We're never coming back to the park!" Whew.

But, the other day, she got me at just the right time. Both girls had taken their naps (you know, the usual 30 minute-er) and were ready to either destroy the living room (again) or take out their aggression on the playground. So, to the park we went!

Just two words: Wanna play?
And the afternoon was turned into an adventure.

We are super blessed to live across the street from a park, but oftentimes we are deterred from going there simply because the kids that play there are too old or rough and might potentially knock over a toddler who's bound and determined to go down the tunnel slide eight thousand times in one afternoon. So, we totally lucked out this particular day when we arrived and only saw two other boys who were completely disinterested in us. Yay!

As Matilda made her rounds (rope ladder, slide, stairs, slide, ladder, slide, stairs, tunnel, slide...) I observed the other two boys on the playground. While my attention was primarily on ensuring Matilda's every-3-minute-rescue-from-certain-death attack of the playground equipment, I couldn't help but catch myself listening to these other two little fellows.

They were as different as different could be. While they were both about the same age (maybe 6) one was rough and rowdy - he had blonde, spiky hair and blue jeans; and, the other was proper and polite - he had squirrelly dark hair and wore a navy prep school uniform, cardigan and all. The rowdy blonde kid was hopping all around the equipment, testing the limitations of every rope or slide, all the while inviting the shy boy to join him. While the quiet fellow would timidly follow along, he awkwardly mimicked the same moves in a much less suave fashion.

I couldn't help but think that each boy fit a very obvious stereotype we see as adults. It was almost as if I was witnessing a flashback sequence from Saved by the Bell where Screech and Zack Morris meet for the first time. I'm telling you, it was so strange. I just kept thinking - "If you two were ten years older, you wouldn't be caught dead hanging out together!"

Now, maybe this all sounds super judgmental and superficial. I know I'm canning these poor kids into a stereotype that they certainly could outgrow or not even be close too becoming - but, it was so striking in the moment that it couldn't be ignored. In a world where bullying is making the evening news, these are the kinds of stereotypes the children of today are experiencing. And here they are, two future oddballs, the jock and the nerd...absolutely having a blast on the playground.

Better yet - these new little buddies had JUST met. I overheard the rowdy boy's dad say that they were just visiting from out of town, that they'd never been to this park before - so, these two had no reason to want to necessarily play together. No reason, except the only reason you need when you are six: to play.

These two opposites possessed all they needed to have a wonderful afternoon: joy! They didn't care what time it was, who was watching, what so-n-so had just posted on Facebook, or even that dinner time was just around the corner. They just wanted to PLAY! And the fact that there was another kid there - any kid at all - was such a triumphant bonus in each of their proverbial books, that it didn't matter if he was different or half-alien or growing a tail - anybody can become a buddy when you just want to play.

They both had their playground goggles on. Totally blind to the future potential that this other person might not like them. Completely unaware of their background or differences or home situation. Having no idea what they believe in or how expensive their shoes may be. Absolutely not an inkling in their head of how the rest of the day might pan out beyond the next couple minutes of focusing this ridiculous task of pretending this slide is a surfboard over an ocean full of zombie sharks. No guard up. No preconceived notions. No caution or judgment. No doubt that a good time won't be had by all. Just two words: Wanna play? And the afternoon was turned into an adventure.

Somewhere around age 10 or 12 I think I lost my playground goggles. Probably on the bus to school one day when I decided to not sit next to the smelly girl with the dirty sneakers. Or I may have left them in the locker room at recess after I got told I couldn't be a pretend cheerleader with two other "prettier" girls. Or maybe I broke them on purpose the day I made a joke in the lunchroom that got everyone laughing, but left one girl crying and alone.

Growing up is hard stuff. Nobody does it "right". And every day we have the choice as adults to make a conscious effort to step in the direction of something that used to come to us totally unconsciously, something that used to be second nature, something that used to be as easy as smiling: making friends.

These boys were so carefree and funny. Their joy was only interrupted by the time constraints their parents reminded them of. And, when they had to depart, and go their separate ways, they each took with them little memories of a happy afternoon.

That day, so did I. And, along with the happiness, a new pair of goggles to remind me how to look at the world. A new perspective to give others the benefit of the doubt. A new lesson in remaining transparent. A new insight on loving through the simplest and smallest of actions.

Thanks, boys. I sure hope you never lose your goggles.

Hunger Games

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baby food. (What, not the "hunger games" you had in mind?) Okay, so maybe we aren't publicly displaying a contest of the wills for survival of the fittest...but, there are definitely times I feel like we are fighting to the death to get a spoonful of the latest pureed delicacy down the gullet of my sweet, ornery baby girl.

Ugh. Baby food. This is the absolute worst stage of eating during the first year. (And you thought breastfeeding was hard?) Maybe there's not an easy stage of eating at all the first 12 months or so...but, I'd argue that at least breastfeeding offers the "supplies" at hand (literally) and can be summoned anytime, anywhere, if need be. Certainly it has its own challenges, but at least for myself, once we got the hang of it, nursing my baby became just another obstacle for my hands to overcome while multitasking thirteen other chores at once. (Or didn't you know you could nurse, text, put on mascara and fix lunch all at the same time prior to having a baby?)

But once they hit 6-ish months, babies exit the "exclusively breastfed" club and journey towards the small bib for babies, one giant headache for parentkind. There are now plenty of books out there about what to first feed your babies, how to make baby food, when and where to introduce them to this or that. So much information, in fact, that is seems overwhelming and somehow - even though this is my second baby - I always seem to find myself staring at her, screaming with hunger, and thinking "What do you need????"

I can get so wrapped up in the "How many ounces?" or the "Is this organic?" or "Has it been 3-5 days since you last tried a new food and did not have an unusual or abnormal reaction to it?" (whew) that I forget to just hug on her and take my time...and maybe even skip a meal to just nurse her again until she is calmed down enough to actually eat from a spoon (and not just sword fight with it, flinging green bean mush all over my newly vacuumed rug).

We started with the rice gruel (er, I mean cereal). After two weeks of using the stupid plastic spoon like a crankshaft prying open her little vice of a mouth, I finally snuck in some applesauce and then bananas. She would purse her lips in such utter disgust, you'd think I needed a three-digit code to bust into that vault! Days went on and still she would leave each feeding more covered in the food than nourished by it.

Finally, finally, by trial and error one day, I stumbled upon the secret that unlocked the vault. The little princess desired her food warmed up. Are ya kidding me? Seriously? I'm afraid it is so. And it's not like I was feeding it to her cold in the first place! But, ridiculous and particular as it may sound - Daphne knew what she wanted and she wanted it HOT.

Ludicrous? Maybe so, but it worked. And now, even halfway through a little bowl of carrots and corn, if it gets too cool for her she will purse those precious little lips tighter and tighter until it is warmed up again. Good. Grief.

Daphne, you win. There are some battles I am willing to...microwave. I know it is so silly. But, after one goes to the trouble of blending and pureeing, of pouring into trays and freezing, of thawing and serving...all the while ensuring the responsibility and care for two little humans...well, by golly if I won't go ahead and nuke your gruel-du-jour and make sure you get your belly full. So there. I surrender.

As my toddler Matilda says, "Whatta messsss".


Daphne, you might get me to bend over backwards to get you to eat; but, remember that I'm still going to snuggle you close when you nurse. I'm still going to kiss your cheeks even when they are stained with purple prunes. I'm still going to remind you that I'm in charge by wiping your chunky little fingers after you've smeared them with sweet potatoes (and then, most likely, rubbed your eyes in weary confusion). And I'm still going to take sweet pictures of you while you are covered in peas to look back on this time fondly whether I'm beyond frustrated at the moment or not.

So...maybe this is a win/win after all.

Instagram Ever After

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

*Thankful Friday is now THANKFUL THURSDAY! A shift in my writing schedule and a bit more alliteration...what more could you ask for?

Having two daughters, one is quickly forced to decide which camp to join: those who embrace princesses; or, those who do not. It's true. You can either look Cinderella, Ariel, Belle, Tiana, Snow White, Aurora, Rapunzel and Tinker Bell (who, really, let's be honest, is an "Honorable Mention" at best) in the eye and turn your back on all that is pink and glittery...or, you can choose to accept them with open arms...doe eyes and all.

Yes, I'm afraid the Pardy home has slowly but surely come to be taken over by all that is frilly and fair. Sure, it started off innocently enough...Matilda got sick at the same time that Beauty and the Beast came on the Disney Channel that night. Tangled just happened to be on sale around her birthday. But, now, well...tutus have started to outnumber crayons in our house. Tiaras are starting to look "normal" with pajamas. And I'll admit I was a little excited myself when our neighbors let us borrow their copy of Cinderella. (She really is lovely).

Ah, fairytales. That's right, I'm thankful for fairytales!

When I was growing up, I was all about it. I loved everything girly, princessy, showy, romantic, pink, glittery - you name it. I loved it. I could not get enough. I had the Barbie dreamhouse and car and everything. I watched The Little Mermaid until I knew it by heart. I dreamt of my Prince Charming and planned my wedding and named our babies and absolutely, completely, never worried about wrinkles or mortgages or being disappointed. I was pretty sure I would grow up to look just like Malibu Barbie, knew I would marry a Prince Eric, and certain that I would have children more adorable than any animation could attempt (hey, two outta three ain't bad?).

We young and crazy Instagramming parents want
to filter our reality through our nostalgia.
Then, of course, I grew up and got a dose of "reality". I was told somewhere along the way that I should lower my expectations and gauge my optimism. I was reminded that marriage was "work" and life was full of tough choices (and it wasn't choosing between my voice or my legs, a la Ariel style). That if I didn't hunker down and put my nose to the grindstone, that if I didn't stick with something I didn't like, that if I didn't feel the friction against the life that I really wanted then I was expecting too much and setting myself up for heartache. I could have it all, just not all at once. I could achieve great things, just not yet maybe. "See the forest for the trees," they might say, while handing me another self-help book on how to deal with depression. Yikes.

Women in my peer group have been greatly forewarned about exposing their daughters to fairytales. We've been told how Barbie is a horrible example of self-image and that Prince Charming is unattainable. We've been plagued with the idea that filling our child's head with images and dreams of the perfect life will only set her up for constant disappointment and heartache... So, why do I still get giddy at the thought of seeing Cinderella again? Why do I giggle at Matilda in a tutu and tiara? And why does she innately just love love love it so much?

We love fairytales. Just admit it. And if you can't, then I'm about to burst your hipster-bubble. Instagram is the new Cinderella. And we L-O-V-E it.

For those few out there (Hi, Mom!) who might not be familiar with Instagram or apps like it, here ya go: it's an app that let's us smartphone-savvy-young-hipster-type-kids take our little phone pics and then filter them to look slick and cool. Usually with an "oh, that looks just like when your father took that picture of you and our now-dead-dog Coco in the backyard with the old Polaroid" effect on it. Something old is new again. It also makes non-photographer-types, like myself, feel like we can post a photo on Facebook that is worthy of acknowledgement. Also- pretty much any pic you see on this blog has been Instagrammed. So there, now you know.


Instagram is a total illusion. It can turn a simple trip to Starbucks with a screaming toddler look like the coolest, most chill, sweetest little afternoon outing known to man. It can make someone's weekend away with kids that never slept appear to be the brochure-like escapade you've been wishing for. We're all just a couple Instagrammed photos away from wanting someone else's life. Someone else's fairytale.

We browse through Facebook or Twitter, letting our eye catch on the latest Nashville'd or Earlybird'd or (my personal favorite) Hefe'd photo and want to see what that person has been up to - and how can we be more like them? It stirs in us a motivation, a creative knack, perhaps, at times, the occasional longing for more. But, not unreasonably. No, no. Before you start getting the notion that I'm down on Instagram - remember...I'm all for princesses!

Embrace the illusion, people. The world is bad enough.

We young and crazy Instagramming parents want to filter our reality through our nostalgia. I want my daughter to keep her expectations high! I want her to wait for her Prince Charming!

In a world full of Lindsay Lohans, Kim Kardashians, and an actual human being who goes by the singular name "Snookie"...I think we could use a bit of raising the bar around here. In a world where genocide, nuclear war, and who is winning The Voice are all on the same news broadcast (seriously?) I think we can let down our guard when it comes to allowing our little girls to be (I'll say it!) little girls! Yay!

Sure, there will come a time (hopefully gradually) when the truth of the world around us will be exposed and my perpetually cheerful child will start to see the cracks in her once-ideal view of the world. I'm sure somewhere along the way she will begin to realize that a tutu does, in fact, not go with every outfit. I'm certain that one day she will not be swayed into using the potty based on the character printed on her underwear. And I'm unfortunately confident that she will figure out the difference between cartoon-perfect endings and the fact that most likely several of her future friends will come from broken homes.

But, I'm in no rush to get to "reality". I'm just hoping to help her change it a little bit before she gets there.

Non-Parents Just Don't Understand

Monday, March 12, 2012

I love my kid-free friends, I really do. In fact, now that I'm a parent, maybe I sometimes like them even more than my friends who have kids. Okay, easy now, maybe not "more"...but, you have to admit that there are some days when the last thing you want to hear about is how someone else's kid threw up on them or how nap time was a total train wreck again, etc.

I mean, it is only natural to seek out friendship with fellow parents (fellow caffeine addicts) and partner together in sharing the ups and downs of this new job that epically transformed both your lives - to commiserate together and compare notes on which vegetable your kid isn't eating, pat each other on the back for making it through another sleepless night, and even (dare I say) ask advice when you are surely at the end of your rope and none of the ten books on your nightstand seem to hold the answer of how to get your toddler potty trained. We need each other, no doubt.

But, sometimes, once in a while, it is nice to sit across from someone completely outside of my new peer group and stare into their lives. Work. Dating. Drama. Freedom. Talking with a non-parent friend can be as good as a rerun of Felicity and a bowl of popcorn. It helps me vicariously get a taste of those long lost chapters of my life that I now view with such optimism.

Of course, at the time, drama with a boyfriend or a new conflict on the job with a co-worker was ten times more miserable than the worst day I can imagine with my babies at home (well, maybe not ten times). But, when I was able to be more central to the focus of my own attention, everything around me seemed to hold so much weight. And now - well, if it doesn't effect my kids, then it probably doesn't bother me. Honestly, give me a secure and protected nap time for my toddler, get my baby to eat her rice cereal gruel, and I'm a happy camper for the most part (sleep-deprived, but happy). This is all to say - I love my non-parent friends. They bring me joy and cheerfulness (and sometimes dinner!) and an appreciation of the memories I hold for that time in my life.

Before I had kids, I would have considered myself one of those women who was pretty accurate on my expectations of parenthood. I suppose this makes up about 99% of pregnant women out there. But, oh how there is a vast canyon (a gorge) between what you think you expect...and reality.

I truly had everything going for me - I had 7 nephews and nieces, I had been a nanny throughout the years in my twenties. I had even been the caretaker of premie newborn twins overnight. Yes, there were some things that I totally understood and could anticipate. Other gaps in my knowledge I attempted to fill with books, doctor's visits, even a twelve-week birthing class with my husband. That is to say, if there was a way to get my hands on a piece of knowledge in preparation for parenthood, I found it, swallowed it, and digested it until I was sick (or was that just morning sickness?)

Still, it wasn't until we brought that bundle of joy home with us that we began to fully be able to answer the question that was truly on our minds for the full nine-month journey leading up to it: What the heck do you do all day with a baby?

Oh, sweet, naive, free-as-a-little-bird non-parents. Nothing can prepare you for this answer. The unpredictability of every day since bringing home that baby has only grown - much like the baby herself! I won't drone on and on about how we fill each and every hour (otherwise, what would I have to write about next week?) But, rather, I'd like to submit the following letter...a letter to the parent-friends I knew, back when I was that same non-parent friend coming by to gab about my latest drama...

Dear Parent-Friends of my past,
I had no idea what hard workers you are! Oh my. I have greatly underestimated your day, your endurance, your sheer fortitude in perseverance. I'm sorry that I would get frustrated when you would interrupt our conversations on the phone to tend to your kids. I'm sorry it was super annoying to me that you would alter between baby-talking to your child and then turn to me with a half-listening ear as if there wasn't a kid screaming at you. 
I'm sorry I didn't help you fold laundry or do dishes when I came over for dinner. I'm sorry that I would sit and watch TV while you put your kids to bed and I wouldn't even pause the show for you until you came back into the room - and little did I know you were trying to do the speedy-to-bed version of their favorite storybook just so you could spend a few more minutes with me. I'm sorry that I would talk on and on about myself and my life drama and expect you to give me a complete analysis full of sound advice, while I wouldn't even bother to ask you how your day was...or, if I did, I would roll my eyes as if your story about your child losing a library book or not getting their nap was of lesser importance than my "real" issues. 
I'm sorry that I didn't offer to babysit more often and for free and without expectation. Did I tell you that I value looking at your life and your marriage as a wonderful example? I'm sorry I didn't support you more tangibly, especially in exchange for all the words of wisdom you freely offered me. I'm sorry I didn't appreciate what you did all day. I'm sorry that I actually thought you had one of the easiest jobs simply because you didn't leave the house all that often. I'm sorry I didn't realize you didn't leave the house all that often because it would take half an army to get you out the door on time - and I'm sorry I would get annoyed when you did arrive late if we met at my place instead. 
I'm sorry I didn't bring the outside world to you more often. I'm sorry I didn't ask you more intelligent questions...that simply because I saw you sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" 8,000 times to your child at bath time I figured you wouldn't be the person to ask about the latest crisis in Africa or what a certain Scripture meant. I'm sorry I didn't think of you as an equal breadwinner in your home simply because your husband has an "employer". 
I'm sorry I didn't play more fervently with your children when I came over so that they would sleep better for you that night - because, there I was thinking I knew what exhaustion was since I had stayed up talking with my friends all night. I'm sorry I feared for your style when you would meet me at the door in pajama bottoms. I totally judged you and thought you were being lazy. I'm sorry if I made you feel worse just by showing you how cute my new manicure was. I'm sorry I didn't send you out for a manicure, right there in your pajama bottoms. 
I'm sorry I didn't realize what a triumph you were doing with your kids - really, truly, stellar work. They are kind and funny kids and I actually like them a lot, and their clothes almost always matched alright. That was all you - making sure they were polite and in order - and there I was thinking the whole time it might be sort of nice to have a kid someday if they came out like that - easy, polite, and matching and all. 
I'm sorry I waited until now to tell you that you are a huge reason I decided to have children at all - and I think of you every time, every day, when I question whether or not I'm actually fit to be the person in charge of these little humans who teeter on the brink of outsmarting me by the hour. 
Thanks for humoring me and encouraging me and inspiring me. Thanks for feeding me and making time for me and offering me a glimpse into a future that I can now be confident in living out. I hope I can extend the same amount of grace and wisdom (even an ounce?) to the non-parent friends I now have (Lord Bless 'em).

In all sincerity,

Body of Evidence: Part TWO

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catch up and read yesterday's post for part one!

My new body was here, like it or not. I had 2 (TWO!) babies to prove it, in case the stretch marks on my belly weren't evidence enough. And as the days of post-partum crept onward, my body mimicked the roller coaster of an adolescent. Healing this, sagging that, tightening muscles, loosening aches, it seemed like every aspect of my being was in a tug-of-war with something. Granted, both my babies were born via c-section after two very long, perhaps in your own experience this process of healing was not as drawn out or dramatic. Still, every new mother observes unexpected changes they couldn't possibly predict. The books might help tell me when my milk will come in or when my c-section scar will heal...but, it never told me that my buns would flatten down to a short-stack of pancakes and my belly would take on a new "spongy" quality that I still haven't quite found the right adjective to describe. Hmm. Yes, this would take some getting used to.

Let me tell you, I'm only about seven months post-partum, and I still take great comfort in my undereye concealer and my full-body Spanx. My new appreciation for my body is greatly "in progress" indeed. We all have our beauty secrets (well, maybe not a secret anymore!) and those things that help boost our confidence. Let me be clear, this blog post in body-thankfulness is not to say Adios! to those items and get all "you-go-girl" on you in saying that we don't ever need anything else to help us get through the day without feeling like a hot mess. No. Instead - by all means - embrace those things that help you feel confident and beautiful. Just don't be fooled by them.

That is to say - I know that my Spanx and concealer are fooling you into thinking I actually fit into my jeans without a wrinkle in my belly. Good. They should. That's why I bought them. And I hope my undereye concealer is telling you that my baby slept peacefully through the night and I didn't actually wake up every hour and have to remind myself that I love her (I really do) despite her wailing in my ear and clawing at my chest. Whew. But - I know the truth - the dark circles and muffin top that exists! - and am thankful for it. (goshdarnit)

Here is the truth: Pregnancy was what it took for me to gain a whole new appreciation for my body. For me to, probably for the first time, genuinely be thankful for it. It's funny that while my belly became the largest it EVER would, I suddenly felt a sense of gratitude for it - and not just for the baby it held, but for the actual skin and tissue that made up me and allowed me to experience this magnificent moment in time (twice!). After all my belly and I have been through together - after holding these amazing babies and keeping them safe and growing them so well - to then look in the mirror and see anything but an amazing creation would just seem - well, ungrateful. To insult my body now would be a total betrayal to everything I had just given thanks for.

There is a difference between being thankful for your body, loving it well...and exploiting your flaws. I'm not here to say "yay for sagging boobs after breastfeeding - therefore who cares about wearing a bra!" You see? (Please, wear the bra.) I'm not going to say it is realistic to think that cellulite will be trending anytime soon or that society will all of a sudden embrace bedhead as a new hairstyle (though some hipsters might). Instead, I'm here to say - STOP focusing on the flaws and take SIGHT of all your body offers...all God created you to be.

It is widely accepted and known that when a man looks in the mirror he sees his best characteristic - while women look in the mirror the first thing they notice is their flaws (many of which are totally unrealized by those around them, I might add!) How frustrating is this? And, what would life be like if we changed it?

So - let's change it. Look at yourself in the mirror. Go ahead - look - I'll wait here for you.

It felt a little silly, didn't it? Sure. But, try it again and this time be purposeful - be thankful. Don't look at yourself and be judgmental in any way. Don't even pick out something you like. Pick out something you are THANKFUL for. Don't say "I guess I like my eyes" or "My lips are a good feature", that is fleeting and will only last as long as your lipstick. (You know I'm right).

Instead - look at yourself and find a new amazing function you never noticed before. "Hey good lookin, way to have a nose that smells how good fresh basil is!" That a girl. "Thank you, God, for making my teeth a little crooked so I can chew my food just so AND have a memorable smile at the same time." Now you're getting the hang of it.

This is the start of change. Don't try to go from dislike to like...try to go from dislike to thankfulness. It's a much easier step, and it will be necessary to get you where you want to, love, and then LETTING GO of the obsession all together. That's right. The ultimate goal here isn't to love myself and keep up the self-talk. The main idea isn't to have a positive "tape player" running in my head for all eternity. The finish line (which, honestly, may not even be totally attainable this side of heaven) is to find contentment in letting go of viewing ourselves at all. To turn the tape player off for good. (Did I just blow your mind a little bit?)

Stop the obsession. Replace it with gratitude. Find freedom. Think of others instead.

I'm a big believer that the road to love is paved with appreciation, that thankfulness is the first step towards respect, and that gratitude is the ultimate compass for compassion. This may sound very "Oprah-esque", but gratefulness simply diffuses negative thoughts, toxic memories, and lies the enemy may tempt you with.

In almost any hurtful situation or conflict, if I approach it with prayer to change my hardened heart to be thankful, that is where true change starts for me. This is the difference between praying "God, help me like my chubby waist" and "God, thank you for making my body, for creating it just as you designed". This prayer might not take inches off your belt - but, I will tell you that once you begin to appreciate what you see, you will inevitably want to take good care of it as well. For me, this applies to not only my body, but just about anything in my life! If I'm grateful for it, I'm going to take better care of it.

Soon your thankfulness will turn into full-blown LIKE for your body. And that like will blossom into love, one futile flaw at a time. And before you know it, you'll look yourself in the mirror, gushing over how gorgeous you look in those new jeans (Spanx or NOT) and your husband will walk by and wonder what that new quality is that is making you so sexy. And no, it's not the shape of your's called confidence.

I know this sounds ideal. I know this sounds as outlandish as that new diet where that infomercial promises you'll lose all your baby weight in two weeks by eating donuts. I know it might seem silly to practice "self talk" when I already think this world is too hung up on "self" all together. And that's exactly right.

As I said earlier, the ultimate goal is to eventually not need any "self talk"! And when we start to see ourselves as we truly are: beautiful, broken and covered in grace, forgiven and fully restored, useful and loved... Then the need to remind ourselves of the truth diminishes. Soon, we just live in the truth...confident of our Creator...and seeing our best feature, our new found freedom, when we look at ourselves in the mirror.

I'm not saying it's easy. But it is somewhere to start. By eliminating the angst for myself, my body, my outside...guess what? I'm finding all kinds of freedom I never expected. Freedom to look at others' needs. Freedom to show my daughters a mother who is confident. Freedom to not need approval from others. Freedom to not fill myself up with things I don't need. Freedom to seek the unselfish life.

Who knew that my own body could be used as a tool to look beyond myself?

Thanks, God.

Body of Evidence: PART ONE

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Last fall, I wrote a post that touched on a topic that is out of the comfort zone for many: weight. I had reached my pre-pregnancy weight and I wasn't about to apologize for it. Way back then, I promised to someday approach this subject again, ready to put out there an honest look at how pregnancy effects our bodies - inside and out - and the way we look and feel about them pre/post-baby. Well, welcome to someday. Here we go.

I've decided to divide this up into 2 posts, in fact, with no coincidence that the second part will fall on a Thankful Friday.

Pre-baby body issues: Well, to put it lightly, I wasn't always a fan of my body.
I know, shocker, right? I mean, I am a girl! I certainly had my issues with this angle or that, with jeans I couldn't squeeze into or obsessing that my tummy would never be bikini ready. I, like many, would compare myself to supermodels, friends, that sexy waitress at my favorite restaurant, that lady in front of me in line at the grocery store...yep, just about everyone. I could tell you without fail exactly what I had eaten that day, that week, and probably what everyone else around me had consumed as well. I would go through periods of thinking I was cute (did that guy at Chipotle wink at me and give me extra salsa, or was it just me?) only to be followed up by self-loathing post-burrito-consumption. I would cycle in and out of wanting to work-out, wanting to perfect myself, and then plummet miserably into self-destruction that was sugar-coated, peanut-butter-dipped, and drenched in a hot chocolate sauce of self-deprecation.

When I met my husband, I thought I had surely pulled one of the grandest schemes ever known to humankind. I had fooled the best of them and this gorgeous, tall, dark and handsome fellow was head over heels for me...surely his vision was off? But, as I got to know him, I fell deeply in love with his most charming characteristic: his sincerity. So, when he would look into my eyes and tell me how beautiful I was, I had a choice to make: either I was falling in love with a psychopathic liar...or, he was telling the truth. I distinctly remember choosing to believe him. Making a conscious choice that I wasn't going to marry and idiot or someone with terrible taste. I was going to marry someone who was in love with a beautiful

It didn't stop there. I didn't make that choice and magically like my thighs. I didn't click my heels three times and somehow see a supermodel in the mirror staring back at me. I would still fish for compliments, put myself down, and cringe at the thought of my husband's rose-colored glasses coming off when he looked at me. It was probably sometime shortly after we were married when, on a day when I was particularly down on myself, Josh had finally had enough. Not enough of me (which is what I had set myself up to anticipate) but enough of my insulting myself. Enough. Done. NO LONGER ALLOWED.

What? That's right. I was no longer allowed to put myself down. Ever. He hated it, it made me feel bad, it wasn't true...the list of reasons to stop was much lengthier than any argument I could conjure up. So, that was that. And right then and there I, for the truly first time ever, began to change how I thought about my body. He loved it. I loved him. Therefore, I really need to get over myself.

I had allowed these negative self-image thoughts to consume a whole part of my brain that could be used for so much more. It was clearly futile to spend one more second coming up with reasons to make myself feel bad. It wasted energy and time and was stealing more than my attention: it was stealing my dignity. And Josh wasn't implying that I should even believe him or that I should start to see myself through his eyes. (Though, the honest compliments of an encouraging mate are like salve to a mangled self-image.) No, it was only the grace of God that would be able to heal my wounds, my self-inflicted scars left from years of insults to myself.

By the time we were ready to start a family, I had come a long, long way from where I began. The "tape player" in my head had nearly done a one-eighty and I was excited to see myself
pregnant soon. But, "soon" didn't happen as soon as I wanted. Month after month would go by with a negative pregnancy test. My body seemed to be failing me and I was left again with a hatred in my heart for a body that wouldn't be what I wanted it to be. It is easy to sit back and tell a wanting-to-get-pregnant woman that it isn't her "fault", that there is nothing she can really "do" but relax. But, when you are desperate to feel a baby growing inside of you and everyone else around you seems to be popping out bumps by merely winking at their husbands....well, there is just no talking down that woman from the ledge. I once told Josh that not becoming pregnant month after month was like going to a job interview every two weeks that I knew I was overly-qualified for, only to find out two weeks later that someone else had gotten the job without even applying. It was discouraging to say the least.

Finally, somewhere between a miracle and month 11, we were pregnant. Not without fear, either. The same day we got the positive test, I also had severe and unexplained bleeding and we also wound up in the ER. It was a few scary weeks later that I finally was able to take some deep breaths and, despite the nausea, relax in the confirmed joy that we were, indeed, going to have a baby.

A baby! Wow. As the saying goes, everything changes when you have a baby. Certainly not the least of these changes go on right inside your own body! While we have shelves FULL of books today telling us what to "expect" throughout pregnancy, I don't think there is really anything you can do to prepare yourself for the actual changes you are going to see your body go through.

It's called a miracle for a reason, I suppose. Because, how my belly didn't actually explode is seriously beyond me. And, with my first pregnancy, though my waistline grew a good 17+ inches, I didn't get one stretch mark (keep reading! I promise you won't hate me by the end!) I had maintained a reasonable weight gain and had a healthy baby, and with the help of breastfeeding and quality Spanx, I was on my way to a "normal" body again. In fact, it wasn't until my 38th WEEK with my second daughter this last summer that my belly had finally taken all it could...and I woke up with stretch marks. Literally, I went to sleep with a seamless belly and woke up looking like I had been attacked by a werewolf. At 38 weeks!? Are you kidding me? And this is when it truly, honest-to-goodness hit me: my body would never be the same.
Obviously, I had known this for a while "in my head".

Every mother says it - how they now have that muffin-top or those sagging breasts, or how their children "stole their beauty" from them, etc. I knew that pregnancy and childbirth would bring change - but, I had just recently come to terms with my pre-pregnancy was I supposed to know how to love this new skin I found myself in?

Weeks after Daphne's arrival, I found myself studying my new skin. (That's right - I saw myself naked - you should try it once in a while!) Instead of cringing or shying away from what I saw, I decided to just observe, just look as if I was a doctor or a good friend to that soul in the mirror - taking in the temple that had just been used as a vessel for one of God's new creations. This being - this flesh - it housed a human.

And in closer examination of these ripples in my skin...
I began to see these stretch marks in a whole new light:

I wanted to remember this moment. I wanted to lock it into my memory that I am standing here, naked and unashamed of myself - proud in fact, that God chose me to undergo such an ordeal. How can I carry this feeling with me? How can I remember that God took what I had once called "gross", "fat", "ugly" and blessed it with such perfect function?

And in closer examination of these ripples in my skin, the "blemish" of them faded away and I began to see these stretch marks in a whole new light. These were not scars...they were symbols. They were memories of what I could endure, what I would sacrifice freely, what I would do all over again at any moment for the babies God had given me. I had a new perspective. A new body, stricken with the evidence of God's goodness.

My brain's "tape player" was about to change once more...

(come back for part TWO tomorrow!)


Friday, March 2, 2012

I’ll have to make this post short and sweet – much like the amount of sleep I’ve gotten this week. But, I just couldn’t let another day pass without blogging something. Besides, it’s Thankful Friday! And I am so grateful for sleep…even if it is only in sporadic and brief amounts at this chapter in my life.

Last night I went to bed at 9 o’clock. Well, 9:08 to be exact. And I’m happy to say that is the last thing I remember before having absolutely no trouble drifting off to sleep. Whew. I know what you’re thinking: Wow, those Pardys lead wild and crazy lives! Yes, indeed.

But, the night before last was nothing short of a sleep-lover’s nightmare. We had put the girls down around 7 and Matilda was up at 9. I could tell she was scared, having had a bad dream, so I went in to comfort her and put her back down. I took my time, I was patient, we read a story, got some water and a hug from Daddy, and I tucked her back in bed with a prayer and a kiss. You’d think that would do it. But, as the wailing and screaming began, I knew immediately it was going to be one of those nights. The kind where you better just get the redbull out now and resign yourself to the fact that your head and your pillow may not meet for quite some time.

Sure enough, as Matilda hammered on her door like a rhinoceros in a cage, Daphne awoke from our bedroom (her crib is still next to our bed) and the crying and gnashing of teeth (or, gums in Daphne’s case) escalated to decibels I’m guessing only our neighborhood dogs could decipher. Josh and I looked at each other back and forth, sharing expressions of disbelief, anger, frustration, laughter, and sheer exhaustion. This went on for the next 3 hours.

Finally, Josh got out the aerobed and set it up in the living room. He and Matilda hunkered down for the night out there, as she ever-so-slowly sipped on her now-laced-with-Benadryl milk (judge me if you will, but the kid needed to sleep and this has been recommended by our pediatrician…so, while I don’t take it lightly, you gotta do what you gotta do!) and Daphne and I settled into bed. This went on for about 2 hours.

Matilda was up again at 2am and I took her back to bed with the baby and me. Yup, girl slumber party! Well, it wasn’t much of a party, unless you count rounds and rounds of me singing “Jesus Loves Me” and then scolding Matilda, and then comforting the crying baby who was awoken again by Matilda, and then trying to sing to both of them, and then scolding and on and on. Finally, nothing short of a miracle, we all fell asleep in bed. Two hours later I was up nursing the baby. Two hours after that we were all up for the day.

Good. Grief. So, yesterday was spent in an utter daze of diaper changes and coffee refills. Somehow we made it to bedtime, and by 9:08pm I was unashamedly crashing into bed like I had just finished the Boston Marathon.

Thank you, God, for sleep. For restorative respite that somehow recharges our brains and our bodies to be able to function again. Obviously I am no stranger to walking through the day as a mama-zombie. You’ve heard tale after tale of how Matilda magically requires little rest to function at cheetah-pace speed. But, when I got up this morning and realized that going to bed early was as wise a decision I’ve made (right up there with marrying Josh, finishing my degree, and getting a Costco membership…) I was so thankful that God made our bodies require rest. Non-optional, absolutely required, totally mandatory REST.


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