Family is Forever

Friday, July 27, 2012

Summertime, summertime, sum sum summertime... We just returned from a whirlwind got it, summer vacation.  As with most vacations we take, this too was built around the objective of first and foremost spending time with family.

But, this was a particularly crazy spectacle, as my entire family (that is, my parents, my brother and his wife and 3 kids, and my sister and her husband and 3 kids) would all be staying together in one giant home in the Rocky Mountain tourist capital of the upper west side...Estes Park, Colorado.

It was a grand occasion for celebration, my parent's 40th wedding anniversary, and we all had been planning this trip for months and months ahead of time.  Finally, the time had come, and one car ride, two shuttles, a plane, a rental car, and a midnight trip to Sonic later...we finally made it there; screaming babies, two car seats, four suitcases, a partridge in a pear tree, and all.

This was not our first time in Estes, but our last trip there was as a family of six, just after my sister-in-law had joined our clan.  Since then, 16 years have passed, 8 grandchildren have been born, and just about everything in our lives has shifted and changed by leaps and bounds.  So, it was shocking and reassuring when we entered into the small town surrounded by the majestic Rockies, to see that, in fact, not much had changed since we had last been there.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure lots of details are different.  But, the things that stuck out to my childhood memories (multiple fudge and T-shirt shops, the old theatre on the corner, the grand Stanley hotel on the hillside, the little trout farms, and the giant slides at Fun City) were all perfectly intact, just as the solid as the mountains that painted the backdrop behind them.

Indeed, we were away from home.  Thank you to my parents generosity and planning, the house they had rented for the week was truly lovely.  To wake up and walk out on the balcony with a yard full of mountain peaks was truly spectacular and nothing short of a daily devotional to my heart.  God was really having a creative moment when He decided to put enormous mounds of rock out there, let me tell you.

The week was full of fun moments:  celebrating my folks' marriage, eating out, trout fishing with Matilda, sampling fudge, playing games, sipping lattes, watching old home videos and of course - constantly making sure my two precious girls didn't flail themselves down one of those spectacular mountain sides (believe me, I had more than a couple heart stopping moments).  Whew.  A whirlwind of memory-making, topped off at the end of the week with a talent show (totally "Dan In Real Life" style) and a night out wearing matching T-shirts as an entire 16-person clan, color coordinated by family.  (Yes, it was awesome/awkward).
Circa 1986 (yep, that's me in the middle)

Family is wonderful.  Family is weird.  Family is family and there is really no other word for it.  And family vacation on this massive scale offered me an extended look into the dynamics that really make up the past, present, and future of what my family is all about.

Every family is unique and imperfect, and mine is no different.  And when you shack up 16 people in close quarters for a week, you are bound to see the good (family prayer time), the bad (stop hitting your sister), and the ugly (nobody go in that bathroom for a while)!  In anticipation of this week-o-family, I gotta say, it all went entirely better than I may have originally thought.  Everyone was on "vacation mode" and feeling pretty chill, so it was wonderful to have pleasant conversations about life and just enjoy the view, and get to see all the little cousins playing together.

We were all happy to be there and congratulatory to my parents on their anniversary (definitely something to be revered and certainly a time to be grateful to God for His sustaining their marriage, especially in a society like we live in).  But, (you felt that "but" coming, didn't you?) as the saying goes,  "with privilege comes responsibility" and so, having had the privilege to grow up in a relatively normal and happy home, and having had the privilege of actually getting to take a vacation, I don't want to take my responsibility for granted.

What kind of responsibility comes with a happy family?  you might be wondering.  Ah, well, let me see how I can air this thought out... (Analogy time.)

When Josh and I were looking for which airline to fly for this family vacation, we weighed many options - all of which circumferenced one tiny fact:  price.  As many of you might be able to relate, we don't necessarily care whether we are in a particular seat or get extra peanuts on the plane - I just want to get there in one piece as cheaply as possible, thank you very much.  Well, even though the ticket price was slightly higher, we ended up choosing Southwest Airlines due to the fact that they don't charge extra for your baggage.  Not only that, but they let you carry on a bag, a personal item, and check car seats and strollers for free!  (Hip hip hooray for them!)

It is pretty shocking today how much airlines are charging just to load and unload your suitcase these days.  Some were charging up to $35 per bag per passenger - and, well, traveling with two small children doesn't come cheap when you add up all the necessary gear they require on vacation.  That being calculated, Southwest's price made our selection completely worthwhile in the amount we would be saving in baggage charges.  They understand that if you are going to board a sky craft to another state, it is reasonable to accept you will most likely need a carryall of sort to stash away things like clean underwear or a toothbrush, per say.

Growing up in my "happy family" wasn't always as pleasant as it may have appeared from the outside. That isn't to say there was some deep dark secret, or that my parents didn't do their absolute best at raising us.  But, as a Christian family in a rural community, it was relatively easy to live in the perception that everything was holly jolly all the time.  I knew that I had it pretty easy most of the time and I didn't do anything to dispute the jabs my non-Christian friends/classmates might make toward my breezy home life.  There was no Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to compete with; and still, even I was defensive of living a transparent life.

I say this because, in all the glorious photos we see posted today - the happy families on vacation and smiling for the camera and being tweeted and texted out to the universe - don't be jealous of those photos and those families and those picturesque moments that are illusions of only what we want to remember.  Love what you have.  Love your family.  Get to know them, in all their dysfunction, and embrace the chaos that it entails.

My family is relatively normal and happy.  We had a great time together (fudge helps).  But it doesn't make us any less imperfect than your family.

We're just messed up beings trying to get along and seek approval and not interrupt each other and trying to figure out how we can be friends since we are all adults and having awkward moments and wanting to impress each other and not quite knowing how to ask advice and always wanting to just let each other know we love each other no matter what in an I'm-not-sure-how-to-say-it-so-I-will-side-hug-you sort of way...probably a lot like your family.  (And yes, that was the best/worst run-on sentence you will read this year, yeehaw!)

Family is Southwest Airlines.  No matter what, you get to bring your baggage for free.  Sure, you might be mad cause they didn't serve drinks until 2 hours into the flight.  Certainly, you can be ticked off that some bozo left the lavatory stunk up.  Absolutely, it is frustrating when you are stuck on the tarmac for 20 minutes after you land.

Nobody's perfect.  But...they are always glad to see you.

Family is strange.  Family is different.  Family is sacred.  And, if you weren't born into a clan you can bring your baggage to, I happen to know the perfect travel agent for you.  Trust me, if there were ever someone who could make sure you get to the destination you should be going, it's Jesus.  God cares that you are surrounded by a community who will not only check your bags for free...but your strollers and car seats too.  Not all of my family is flesh and blood.  Not all of my family has the same last name.  Marriages, adoptions, friendships...sometimes you gotta look a ways to get the best deal, but when you find it, it is always worth the trip.

Family takes effort.  And, even in the most ideal of settings, there may be times you feel like a stranger or misunderstood or like you might not fit in.  But, you do.  And don't be afraid to bring all your baggage every time you see them.  Show your family who you are.  Open your heart and listen to the stories of your family history.  Try and see where and why God placed you into this group of people, and what you can take with you into your own family...your own children, traditions, and future.

It can be tricky to transform into an adult among people who have known you your whole life.  It can be tricky to establish yourself as a responsible person when there are people who have seen you faint in a school play or have a potty accident on the playground.  But, family reminds us that there are people and relationships that are meant to be long term - life long, in fact - and that it's worth sticking around through the thick and thin to see the entire story.  My family is a like a lot of other families out there.  I want to continue to get to know them for who they are, I want to show my daughters where they came from, I want to pass on the privilege of being loved no matter what.  And I want my girls to always feel like they can bring their baggage for free, anytime, forever.  I don't know what the future holds for their lives or who they will become or exactly where they will land, I just know that I want to be there for it all.

Family is history.  Family is future.  Family is forever.

pardymama: The Clip Show

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hello world!  And welcome to the new PARDYMAMA!  As you might notice, I've had things spruced up a bit around here.  Hooray - the new design is rocking my face off and I hope you are loving it too.  Redbud Designs is to thank, and I'm so stoked to show off the new pardymama site as it inspires me to keep posting more and more.  So - what do you think?

I figured if there were ever a time to re-introduce myself - maybe this is it.  In other words, this is the clip show of blog posts.  So, some of you who are closest to me might find yourselves bored to death reading this post (yes, yes, two girls, a husband, needs coffee, yadda yadda yadda) but I hope that it can help others who stumble upon the site (or who have had my favorite friends [hug] pass it on to them) to sit a spell and look forward to checking in again and again.  Who knows.  All I know is that God is keeping me writing.  God is keeping the content coming and the coffee flowing, and so, I will continue to pour out whatever content that is supposed to be out here in the world instead of just stewing and rotting in my brain (there's always plenty left for that anyway).  So - what's pardymama all about?  Here we go...

I sort of initially started to blog in 2010, not long after the birth of my first daughter, Matilda.  If you're as bad at math as I am (it's okay, I think there should be a support group out there for those of us who still use our fingers to count for everything from dollars to calories to how many children we have on a daily basis) that makes her just over 2 and a half (this "half" is very important in the toddler world).

I didn't think anyone would actually ever read what I wrote.  I don't mean that in a pathetic, self-pity sort of way.  I mean it in a "I am not going to be one of those mom bloggers who puts everything out there and writes stuff like her baby's birth story and breastfeeding at the office" sort of way.  Ha.  But then when I became pregnant with our second daughter, the inspiration was too fascinating to ignore.  I had real, life-altering events happening to me on a nearly daily basis, and I needed an outlet to survive.  So, I just sort of kept writing about them.

And, turns out, there are other moms in the universe besides me (really?) who aren't sleeping (huh?) and don't have much more than a cup of coffee and a prayer to keep them going through the day (who knew?) and sort of actually like to hear about how my girls are driving me so insanely crazy that I constantly walk the boundary line between frantic frustration and utter in-love-ness with them each and every day (you too?) and how motherhood is teaching me more about life and love and God than I ever thought possible even though there are times when I want to just huddle in a corner, plug my ears, and sing the Friends theme-song so loud that it drowns out the noise of any needs I might not be able to meet.  And I wake up the next day.  And I do it all again.  And so do you...and we are all crazy together.  

I love being married.  A lot of people might say "I love my husband" and I do, but I also just love the idea/entity/purpose of marriage itself.  To choose every day to put another person before yourself, to stick with them, to stand beside them and hold them through the most beautiful and horrendous moments in your life and to share them as one united perspective...well, it blows my mind.  God's design of marriage is nothing short of a miracle, and the fact that we choose to be around each other after seeing each other puke or having two crazy babies or not sleeping for weeks on end or asking him a million times to take out the trash or forgetting over and over to pack him a lunch (well, you can see that we have plenty of practice left before we conquer the art of marriage) it's pretty much just amazing.  But, it's not a flourishing garden if left unattended.

Having lived through a wicked divorce in my early twenties, I've learned the depth of God's grace and redemption and exactly what it means to lay down yourself and take on the humility and love that Christ offers for us all.  I know what loneliness feels like.  I've tasted bitterness and hate.  I've felt the lies of insecurity and shame.  I know how slowly time passes when your soul is healing and everyone identifies "who you are" with "what you've been through".   And I've lived to tell about it.  And I've survived to rejoice in the new day.  And I'm here to celebrate marriage and be honest about what it can take to make it good and lasting (Jesus Jesus Jesus).

And my husband and I are silly and intentional and have ridiculous rules of fun that I want to share with the universe out there - you know, the universe with that ugly statistic half of us are now part of.  That universe that keeps us unsatisfied and looking for more.  And, instead, I'm determined to create and live in a place that God intended for environment that can nurture selflessness and togetherness and keep our love humming and drumming for years and years and many date nights to come...through thick and thin, puke and craziness, kids and pets and all of it.

If there is one thing the Pardys are known for, it's going to be this:  mayhem.  Just walk by our apartment and you will most likely hear someone screaming, be it out of elation, naughtiness, genius, joy, anger, or hunger...we are a spirited bunch.  I am adamant about desiring to live a transparent life.  I think Satan motivates pride and discontent under the guise of shame and insecurity...and so, I highly value the art of spewing my guts out for all to see.  Pretty, right?  Maybe not.

But, I don't pull any punches when it comes to how God is working in my life or how honest it may get around here.  I'll tell you one thing, I'm not into shock value.  I'm into honesty.  Certainly I will tell grand tales that are exaggerated in the storytelling of them...but, the emotions and lessons behind them all will be sincere and genuine, I promise.

I want non-parents to know what this life of parenthood is like before they might enter into it.  I want other husbands and wives to feel validated and encouraged when they are questioning how to keep loving their spouse.  I want moms to feel hugged on with every word of mischief I write about my girls.  I want the world to be so full of these stories of hope and honesty and conversations (i.e. this is where you come in) about how marriages and parenthood keeps getting better and better that we drown out the complaining and lies and reality shows and billboards that are frighteningly threatening what our hearts truly desire.  But, it's not a journey we take alone, or silently, or without a few messes along the way.

Looks like this blog is here to stay and I hope you are too!  I'm excited to see where pardymama is headed, what stories are to come, how the tales will roll out, and what God may or may not show us all through this weird world of internet that connects us together in a little hub of chaos.

I love questions, I love comments, I love hearing from each and every one of you who stumble upon this little blog.  I love your stories, I love your honesty, I love it when you share how God is working in your own little world.  I love being a mother, being married, and the mayhem that each new day brings my way.  I also love those little toothpicks with the tiny cellophane frills on top.  (See, I'm random like that.)

I hope that this little ole blog can be a giant hug for you every time you visit (Pardys are huggers, not hand shakers, btw) and that you keep checking in for a good dose of reality on a regular basis.  Cause, Lord only knows, there plenty more crazy left to be written.

Buck It List

Thursday, July 12, 2012

It's late.  Starbucks is closing in about half an hour, and I'm leaving tomorrow for a week of "vacation" and have yet to even launder the clothes I'm supposed to have packed by now.  (I say vacation in quotes because I am still not entirely convinced that a week away at a cabin where all 16 of your nearest and dearest family members are all going to reside at the same time is going to be all that relaxing - fun, hopefully, but let's not get carried away thinking any napping in the sun or sipping coffee in silence will be happening...we'll see.)

And here I am, being totally defiant of time or reason and writing a blog.  Yup.  Because I'm determined to make time for things that are important to me, things that hold value, and things that help continue to shape the person I want to be.  So here I am, counting words instead of sheep and pounding a cafe Americano.

Why?  Because I've had an epiphany.  A realization about myself that I've been trying to get comfortable concluding for a while now.  Here it is: I have a Buck It List.  No no, not a Bucket List.  Sure, we've all gathered a long list of dreamy to-do's that we would love to check check check the boxes off as we live our wanton lives.  Nope, I'm talking about things that I'm determined to leave behind in this life.  Notions that I want to BUCK entirely from my brain that society is telling me I should believe.  Things I am resisting, taking a stand on, and willing to fight for.  Things I am determined to believe as fiercely as a bronco in a rodeo so I can live the real life I'm striving to live, the life God wants for me...the life I know is bigger than any trip or language or eXtreme sport I'll cross off the list of future dream agendas.

1.  Stop living in other people's value systems.
We each have one.  Whether you like it or not, you assign value to very specific things each and every day.  We all make choices and then worry about what repercussions they have (good or bad) and wonder what others will think about them.  Will my neighbor think I spent too much on my car?  Do I let my child watch too much tv?  Did I eat enough vegetables today? Should I give this money to the church or take that second honeymoon with my husband?  Our lives are made up of yes's and no's, like a brutal binary language defining how we identify ourselves.  But what do I find important?  What do I truly value and want to invest my time, money, love, effort, emotions, and passion in?  What do I care about...and, if I really do care about it, then why am I hung up on what others think?  And, if I'm pursuing what God wants for my life and still calling something into question, am I willing to give that up so that He remains at the top of my value system?  These are the real questions I should be asking.

2.  Prioritizing yourself is not selfish. 
In a world that pressures us to constantly feel bad about our bodies, homes, jobs and spouses, it's no doubt that we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves.  Then, we go to church on Sunday or listen to a friend ask for prayer or are confronted with the grimacing realities and third world needs of others and we feel guilty for spending our last five bucks on a giant latte so we could stay awake to care for our children that we plop in front of Sesame Street far too often. So there you have it - many of us are stuck between a rock of insecurity and a hard place of guilt.  Fun.  Hear me out - it is easy to be selfish.  It can even feel fun to be selfish (as sin often does).  But, making yourself a priority in your own life is not being selfish.  I need to make time for my mental capacity to be filled with wonderful things (like truth, love, hope and encouraging words, for instance).  I need to make time for my body to rest so that I am motivated and excited about moving again.  I need to make time for my spirit to be moved and spoken to and utterly vulnerable for others to help me and be amazed at how God puts the pieces of me back together again (and again and again).

3.  Insecurity is a lie. 
Satan loves him some insecurity, let me tell you.  He will wedge it in wherever he can...between you and your kids, between you and your mom, between you and your spouse, between you and your church, between you and your job, between you and your passions, between you and yourself.  Lies. God did not make any humans greater or lesser than.  This is exactly why He sent become the muck that is us.  And to show us just how ridiculously impossible it is to be us and live perfectly.  The only person I should be insecure around is Jesus - and guess what, I can't live life without Him!  I'm insecure without Jesus because I am completed only and entirely with Christ alone...and He happens to be the exact perfect fit to shield any wedgies that come my way.  Take that, Satan.

4.  Compassion is underrated.
If there is a characteristic that I can't get enough of's compassion.  I simply can't harness enough of it inside myself.  I wish it was a quality that came more naturally to me.  I wish I could reach inside my heart and just set the compassion switch to "default" mode so that I reacted first and foremost to all situations with pure, sheer, genuine compassion.  I have never looked back on a situation and ever ever thought "I handled that with a little too much compassion."  Never.  What other quality can you say that about?

5.  Purpose is empirical. 
We all have purpose.  We all matter.  That gross slut on tv shaking her bonbons and making me change the channel quicker than lightning:  she matters.  That ugly homeless man who smelled really badly as I passed right by him without making eye contact walking into Starbucks:  he has purpose. That kid at the playground who called my sweet daughter a nasty name:  she means something to Jesus.  We were created, therefore we made a difference to God whether we existed or not.  When did it become so easy to disregard purpose and disrespect others?  When did it become easier to judge someone than pray for them?

This is just the beginning.  This is just the tip of the ice berg.  I have no idea why God put this on my brain, on my heart, on my fingertips to type this all out tonight.  But, I'll tell you one thing:  I believe it through and through.  I believe in the transparent life.  I believe in the vulnerable heart.  I believe that truth encourages others and pride/shame/insincerity only tear down our souls.  And I'm simply not going to just sit here and let life pass by unevalutated.  And, evidently I'm not going to sit here any longer anyway...that Starbucks guy just informed me they are now closed.

Good night!

Freedom, Interrupted

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!  July!?! Crazy.  (I warned you way back, I would never get used to how fast time flies.)  Time to fire up the barbecue, slip into that tummy-control swimsuit you spent too much money on, and pray for extra patience as you keep your kids up way past their bedtime so they can scream under the showering lightning bolts of fireworks we are forcing them to enjoy.  Ah, such a magical time!  Definitely don't forget to take a moment and thank a veteran, say a prayer for our troops overseas, and shed a tear to one more round of Lee Greenwood's God Bless the USA (I swear, I still can't make it through without getting a bit misty)...this day is still all about being the greatest nation in the world (sort of) or at least being super grateful to God that we have the freedoms we have (seriously taken for granted by us all daily, no doubt).

Parenthood teaches you a lot (understatement of the century) but, one of the more surprising things it has taught me has been all about freedom.  Sure, I'm not talking about the "same kind" of freedoms we celebrate on July 4th.  Maybe birthing a child isn't a reason to make public speeches or bare arms or pray to God whenever you like (scratch that last one - birthing a child is definitely a reason to pray!  Ha!) But, becoming a parent absolutely forces you to take a deeper examination of your own personal freedoms.

Back in "our single days" (ah, that's how we refer to our married life before kids) we would try to imagine how different our lives might look once a baby became part of it.  After we became pregnant, we were even deliberate about how we thought of our lives, our plans, our "comings and goings" if you will.  I remember packing a picnic for the beach or taking walks around the neighborhood or meeting up with friends for dinner and thinking "Oh yeah, this is totally doable with a baby!"
Having had 7 nieces and nephews born prior to my own children, and a rather lengthy resume on the babysitting front, I really thought as a non-parent I had a handle on what life might entail once our baby was born.  (Is that maniacal laughter I hear in the distance?)  I mean,  I knew that the baby would have needs and definitely alter our routine and certainly dictate things like eating and sleeping that might be at unusual hours.  I knew she came with a lot of gear that I would have to lug around in order to ensure her safety and that our friends might look at us funny when we freak out at the realization we forgot her paci or binky or blanky or whatever at home.  But, nothing (not even all the baby books, condescending looks or unsolicited advice in the universe) could have prepared me for what reality held in store for us.

Sometimes I joke, "I can't decide which I miss more since having sleep or my freedom?" It might be funny or sound super cynical, but believe you me, it's true.  If you thought that a new job or a new spouse or a new house might bring changes to your freedom, all those things combined have nothin' on a new baby's arrival.  It's a shock to the system/home/marriage indeed.  And, even after a couple years of it, I still find myself surprised by the fact that something so cute and small and loud can determine the entire course of my hour/day/week just by simply missing a nap or having a runny nose or vomiting on my shirt.  You can feel like you are about to enjoy a nice, calm evening with your family.  You can feel like you have everything in order...the laundry might be done, dinner is on the stove, all the bills are paid...and you have the entire week planned as you think it will roll out.  And then your kid shouts "Oh no!" from the living room, covers the rug in throw up, and you discover she is burning up with fever as your insides are telling you to "fight AND flight" all at the same time.  (There is nothing like that moment when you are instantly thrown into feeling resentment and sympathy for your child all at the same time.  Both leave you with a giant pit in your stomach.)

This might sound depressing.  Perhaps you are cringing at the thought of all this or nodding your head in validation.  And you know what, that's okay...parenthood is messy and even ugly sometimes.  It sends us to emotional and psychological places that we never want to admit (Did I really just throw that tube of Desitin at the TV in frustration?  Who am I?)  And it is completely normal (can I get an AMEN here?) to have times when YOU WANT YOUR FREEDOM BACK (goshdarnit) and you feel stupid and angry that this little onesie-wearing-nazi is keeping you from seeing that new chick flick all your friends are at the midnight showing of.

(Deep breaths, count to ten, deep breaths.)

You are in good company.  You are a parent.  You are a freaking rock star with a striped belly of stretchmarks to prove just how dang tough you really are! You endure long days with difficult individuals that make boring-mind-numbing office jobs look appealing.  You bathe, clothe, and feed human beings so that they are presentable enough for others not to take them away from you (some of you even do this with grace, cuteness, and health in mind - incredible!)  You brought life into the world, you sustain that life, and you rarely get saluted for it, let alone fireworks.
So...tonight...while you are staring into the sky, thanking Lee Greenwood and your lucky stars for all those amazing men and women who help us maintain our country's freedom...let one of those blazing balls of fire (ooooh, make it the sparkly kind that make crinkly noises - I love those) be JUST FOR YOU.  Hurrah for parents!  Kapow!

You, parents, are fighting each and every day on the battlefront of an entirely unseen war.  You are raising the next generation of amazing men and women who will shape this culture and country with a new perspective.  Maybe you are even raising the next President, the next General in the Army, the next leader in defining peace talks, or the next Mayor of a small town...who knows.  But, each of us are raising someone that we hope makes a difference in this land of ours - and that starts right now.

Sure, some seriously major changes came to our life when our baby "interrupted" our schedule (and she was wholeheartedly planned and extraordinarily wanted!) but, she brought with her a new perspective on what freedom might mean.  Now, when I look into the eyes of my precious (probably screaming) daughters, I live in the freedom of knowing what it feels like to be willing to give everything for another human.  I understand the freedom of unconditional love when they hug me so hard it hurts (no, really, sometimes it is hard to breathe).  And I get a tiny glimpse into the freedom that God extends to us as our "parent"...hopeful, trusting, proud, honored, and so so excited at the potential that awaits them.

Rock Stars and Belly Stripes Forever...
Happy Fourth, Parents!
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