Thursday, April 25, 2013

Very few times in one's life do you get to make an epic announcement.  Declare news that is life-altering.  Shout out a game-changer for all to hear.  Some announcements come with amazing joy and cheerfulness.  Others might bring grief or relief.  This one guarantees all of the above.

I'll cut right to the chase.

We are moving to Nashville, Tennessee.  Boom!  There you have it.  I said it.  We are moving...across the country.  Oh, and did I mention we leave in 6 weeks?  Whewwwww.  Whoa, man.  I can almost hear the bubble of reality shattering in my brain, bursting with whole new realms of worry and excitement.

epic news = epic photo
So, okay-okay-okay, I know what you're thinking:  WHYYYYYY????

The truth is, we've been praying about this a long, long time.  No, neither of us are pursuing a career in Country Music, so let's just squash that rumor before you start fitting me for cowboy boots and a fringed skirt.  As some of you may know, I actually lived in Nashville for about six years ago (has it really been that long?  Or hasn't that been a lifetime ago?)  And I have family there and friends from those long-lost days who will be an invaluable support as we get acquainted with our new southern surroundings (especially for my native-Californian husband).

We've visited several times through the years and always felt that eventually it would be a wonderful place to end up, raise our girls, and get "settled down" know, in a land where people actually "own homes" (a crazy concept out here in California) and might recognize neighbors while out shopping downtown.  All that to say, it seemed like that dream was further in our future for a long time...until, all of a sudden it wasn't.

The craziest reason of all that we are moving to Nashville (I'm literally rolling my eyes as I type this because I still can't quite comprehend it as truth yet) is that I'm going back to SCHOOL.  What!?!  Yessirree.  It's true.  I've been accepted to Lipscomb University's Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy program.  Insane!  (Yes, for those of you wondering what exactly that means, it means becoming an actual licensed Therapist.  A for real Marriage/Family Counselor.)

I figure the cheapest long-term way to get free therapy the rest of my life is simply to become a therapist! (This is a joke...mostly.)

Okay, maybe those aren't my exact motivations.  Ha!  But, just like our dream of moving - we always thought this would be something "later" to come into our lives.  Then, after some key conversations with some mentors last Fall, I discovered Lipscomb's program.  It's a 2 year program and the schedule is amazingly conducive for a full-time mom like myself.  It was of UTMOST importance that I could still engage FULL TIME in my daughters' lives and be their primary caretaker.  This program is a perfect fit!  It's also a Christian university, so I'm excited to learn everything through the lens of a Christian worldview - something very rare and beautiful.

I knew I really wanted to get into this program when I found myself studying Geometry at one in the morning as I studied for the GRE (a grueling 4 hour entrance exam).  I studied my buns off for nine weeks and nearly cried when I found out I passed with the necessary scores.  One essay, three references, a Skyped interview and a partridge in a pear tree later...I was officially in.  Whoa.

This was NOT long ago, people!  This news is all still fresh and unnerving!  And it means we're really truly taking a 2,000 mile leap of faith that God is opening doors in a very specific direction for our family.

Confirmation that this decision is best has trickled down day-by-day.  Within two days of looking online, we got the apartment we wanted.  In fact, it was the only one we applied for (just like my school!) and has everything we wanted and needed.  Amazing.  We've booked a moving truck.  We've even scheduled a flight for me to fly me and the girls to my folks right before the move, have them keep them for a few days (sparing them an extra 30 hours of car time) while I fly back to then drive the long trek from California to Kansas and pick them up before heading the rest of the way to Tennessee.

Lots of puzzle pieces are fitting together.  The picture is getting clearer, for sure.  It hasn't been without some serious pitfalls or doubts along the way, but all of a sudden it is taking shape and coming together.

But, there is still one tiny (okay, massive) and very scary piece that has yet to be filled.  A JOB.  It's true - at this point we are waiting on a job.  PLEASE, if you have a spare prayer, I invite you to ask God to fill in this last puzzle piece for our family.  In fact, my prayer is now a prayer of gratitude in the expectation that God has already provided it ahead of us.  As Josh applies for multiple positions, I'm confident that God has already hand-selected the perfect fit for him.  Still, the wait is HARD!  This whole thing feels simply insane at times!

It's scary.  It's enticing.  It's romantic.  It's bittersweet.  It's overwhelming.  It's downright sad.

This pretty much reflects the spectrum of emotions I'm feeling...but cuter.

This process is a mess.  I understand the appeal of saying "Wahoo!  We're taking on Music City and starting a whole new life!" and how it might appear enviable.  But, let me assure you that I'm amply prepared with a dose of reality and give-me-heartburn-in-the-night experience to remind me how world-altering this move really is.

This will be my fourth move across the country...and hopefully (please God) my last.  The pain of leaving the ones you love is so incredibly heart-wrenching.  While I talk with my friends and family in Nashville, I'm able to focus on the positive, on the joy, on the future gifts and the gratitude of what will be.  But, right now, I just have a lot of very hard good-byes in front of me.  I cry nearly every day at the thought of so many idiosyncrasies that I will miss, so many little details I'm trying my hardest to shove into a corner of my mind that will be locked away forever and stored as an eternal reminder that this time happened and mattered and forever changed me in the most epic and beautiful ways.  (More on that later...I can't start the memories and good-byes just yet! *tear*)

These next several weeks are going to be, in a word, extreme.  Emotions will be heightened, tasks will be never-ending, and worries will continue to be battled hour-by-hour.  But, God is good.  God is gooood.  And we remain trusting and hopeful and obedient to His calling as He continues to lead.

None of this is easy.  But, it's like I've said before:  If you think life is easy, you're probably doing it wrong.

We're moving to Nashville.  You'd think the more I said it, the more I would believe it, right?  It's going to take a while for this all to sink in.  But, there it is.  WOWZER.  I hope you'll stick around for this journey with me!!!  I'm going to need you now more than ever!

C'mon, y'all, let's do this.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Last week was rough.  If you couldn't tell from my gripe-a-licious post from last week, my girls were really putting me through the wringer.  At one point, when I was at my wit's end and tired and grumpy and far, far, far behind on husband came home and I nearly collapsed at his feet in desperation for a quiet moment.  I said "What are you doing Friday night?" to which he replied, "I don't know, nothing?" and I quickly took a moment to lock down a babysitter for a date night.

We seriously needed a few hours away.  Somewhere between Valentine's day and Easter we had let the days slip by without a scheduled time to get OUT of the house and be alone together as a couple.  That's FAR too long for my preference, and so without further adieu I anchored down a date night with less than 48 hours notice.  Nothing planned.  No agenda.  All I had was a babysitter booked and a handsome husband on my arm.  Sounded good to me!

Friday night came, and I still had no idea what to do with the evening ahead.  Then I noticed that Jurassic Park was being re-released in 3D to celebrate its 20th Anniversary.  (Side note - How can this possibly be true?  TWENTY years?!  Am I the only one who still thinks of this as a film that used "new" technology and am still feeling cool when I quote it at the drop of a hat?  Okay, apparently I am.  Yikes, time flies.)

I LOVE(d) Jurassic Park.  I was 12 when it came out (crazy) and for some reason, my parents allowed me to go with my brother and sister and a good family friend to see it at the theater on opening night.  It is a defining movie-seeing-memory of mine, one filled with awe and wonder that I hold with much nostalgia to this day.  I can still remember sorting through Jelly Bellies (Is this jalepeno or apple?) in the dim light of the theater and feeling the hairs stand up on the back of my neck when I saw the dinosaurs for the first time in that classic, epic reveal.  Amazing!

I know I look frightened.
The flash was BRIGHT!
I remember that, oh-so-long-ago, my cousin and I got pretty obsessed with that movie.  I spent a week or so in Austin that summer, and it was playing at a dollar-discount theater not far away.  This was heaven to a couple of bored twelve-year-olds, and so we saw it multiple times that week.  Yes, it was just as awesome each and every time.  Good memories.

So, here I was, seeing it in the theater again, this time in 3D and with the love of my life.  I felt those giddy "tween" butterflies of being at the movies.  I reminisced about being young, and it was fun to be thrilled by little things again (Popcorn! A cute date! The big screen! 3D glasses! Epic soundtrack!)  My husband and I were like silly teenagers again, and it was a blast to relive this experience as an adult with him.  And, seeing the film in 3D was giving me a whole new perspective on a lot of things...not just dinosaurs.

Date nights can be a lot like 3D glasses.  I mean, yes, I was literally wearing 3D glasses, okay...but, go with me for a second on this.  Life goes and goes and goes and goes and doesn't stop.  You live and share life with your spouse day in and day out and you both so very often feel like "you have no idea how hard my day was".  Whew.  Truly, both of us really do know how hard the day was, but it is too often difficult in very different ways.  He has the pressure of provision, the traffic, the awkward co-worker or the late meeting.  I have the diaper changes, the incessant whining, the stress of keeping things clean, the constant lack of space or quiet.

Then, evening comes, the kids get put in bed, and it's easy to think for a moment that date nights just aren't worth it.  Often it will even cross my mind "Why waste the money?  We are fine right here.  The girls are asleep, we'll just watch tv and chill and that's basically the same thing as a date."  Right?  Are you with me on this?

And then...I actually just GET OUT and have a for real date and I'm instantly reminded of its importance.  Ahhhhhhhhh...can you hear that?  No?  Nothing?  Exxxxxactly.  Because there is no sound of children, and better yet, no possibility for the sound of children for the next few hours.  And as I look over at my husband, he becomes my DATE for the evening.  He's no longer the guy-who-takes-out-the-trash or the guy-who-forgot-to-buy-milk or the guy-who-helped-do-the-dishes or the guy-who-reads-the-best-bedtime-stories-to-our-girls.  Those are all fine and dandy parts of who he is...but, sometimes it's just good to relieve him of all those duties and become a silly tween with him and go giggle at dinosaur movies and steal a kiss between handfuls of popcorn.  Sometimes I need to just DATE my husband and get out of the rut that life keeps us in.

Don't get me wrong...I love that rut.  I chose it.  I adore it. I wouldn't change it for the life of me.  But, can we all just admit that there are times that we look around and think "Oh man, if I have to fold laundry, wash sippy cups, match up baby socks, relax vicariously through watching one more sitcom and fix chicken one more night I'm going to scream!" Yes.  Indeedy.  Rightio.  The mundane catches up to me and I'm only a hop, skip, and a jump from taking it all for granted.

It's always a wonder to me how a short evening away can set it all straight again.  Dinosaurs in 3D and a plate of hot tacos later, I'm coming home happy and already missing my crazy girls.  I'm feeling understood, more-connected to my husband, and blessed by time that nurtured the thing that started it all:  us.

Josh and I have a lot in common.  We like a lot of the same movies, books, shows, and activities.  We share in many things, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  It's a priority of ours to keep it that way, and it doesn't come without practice.  As our days get busier and our children more demanding (at least, they seem more demanding by the day!) it can be so easy to depart from our togetherness and simply harness what sanity we have left to keep for ourselves out of sheer survival.  But, we are so much stronger as a team.

Looking at my husband through those silly 3D glasses reminded me just how much a little perspective can give me.  It's not enough to just say "this will do" or settle for saving a few bucks or staying in night after night after night because I'm too tired to even pick out clothes to go on a date.  No!  I'm not going to win any medals for having gone the longest without a date night or "surviving" this phase of life.  I will, however, gladly accept the reward of a happy husband, a calm spirit, and a refreshed perspective to want to be with my girls and take on the challenge/joy of raising them (come mountains of laundry or valleys of dishes).

Seeing Jurassic Park in 3D was just a silly example that maybe I hadn't truly seen the whole picture the first time around.  It may have been scarier than I remember (seriously, God, were Raptors that frightening?!) but, it was all the more satisfying to see in all it's "digitally-remastered" glory.

Coming home after a night out with the hubs gave my life a little bit more clarity as well.  I needed a new lens to see my husband through.  I needed to actually leave the premises with him and stare him in the face and reconnect away from the chaos.  I'm not saying you'll necessarily magically wake up loving to wipe toddler noses or vacuum Cheerios for the third time that day (that might require a month away to Maui or something!)  But, I certainly took on the next day with more enthusiasm and gratitude.

Who knew 3D glasses would help bring all that into focus?  Get out there.  Date your man.

Readers:  What's your favorite date night?  How do you stay connected outside of the chaos of your home?

Spring Break

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

With the Easter bunnies back in hibernation until next year, and the allergy season in full bloom, it seems that people are rolling up their cuffs and trading in their sweaters for sunglasses in eager pursuit of one thing:  SPRING BREAK!  This week (or last, or next) it feels like everyone is traveling somewhere exciting, taking time off, or hunkering down for a cozy stay-cation of some sort.  Even the high school where my husband works has spring break this week, and while he doesn't get any extra time off (boo) the breezier ambiance does allow for him to enjoy a cup of coffee before hitting the traffic-filled freeway in the mornings - and hey, we'll take what we can get!

So, I decided to take my own initiative on the matter, and make use of my free morning and turn it into an indulgent outing for myself and my two young girls.  I made a list, and decided to turn my weekly shopping trip into as much of a "spring break" for myself as I could muster.  This might not seem like a big deal to many of you, but to those who feel the anchor of having very little "extra" money and have seen one-too-many toddler shows over the long weekend - you can attest to the importance one productive and happy outing can make to a mother's sanity.  And, as someone who gave up Target for an entire year in 2012, it still comes as a treat to me to load up my girlies into the giant red caboose-cart and take our time shopping the bullseye bargains.

It started out fine.  My goal was to hit up Target for a few necessities and then swing by Trader Joe's for some healthy-but-easily-prepared meals to accommodate my de-stressing week.  I had fed the girls a little breakfast, but only enough so that they would still be delightfully distracted by the treat of getting a little something at the Starbuck's inside Target.  I thought this plan was brilliant, topped off by the fact that I had been looking forward to a grande soy latte with sugar-free hazelnut since going to bed last night (it really is the little things, folks).

But, the girls were not exactly up for a calm little stroll around Target.  Daphne (who had woken up at 2:30am with a bad dream and finally just snuggled in bed all night next-to/on-top-of me) was already off her proverbial rocker.  She was cranky and absolutely determined to NOT be constrained by the harness in the red caboose-cart.  She did not want to be held.  She DID want to climb the shelves and re-stack the toys in the middle of the aisle.  She DID want to throw her Starbucks cookie at her sister.  And she DID want to let everyone within earshot know that her mother was torturing her by making sure she didn't wander off or ruin a display.

Has someone been feeding this girl steroid-covered-espresso-beans for breakfast?

I managed to (three times) wrestle her into the shopping cart so I could contain her long enough to keep her sister from pulling an entire 20-lb jug of cat litter on top of herself.  I felt like I was trying to keep hold of two wild and angry boars who were squealing and kicking their way through the store and someone had just blindfolded me and buttered my hands when I wasn't looking.  What!?!  What is going ON here!?  And WHERE did I put my latte down????

I bought a pair of ill-fitting neon yellow capris on impulse (already tied up with receipt-in-bag to return later after I tried them on at home, siiiigh) and convinced myself that going to Trader Joe's would surely redeem this trip.  I know, I know, I know...rookie mistake.  What was I thinking???

Fifteen minutes in, Daphne had already thrown my phone into the freezer bin and I found Matilda stacking bananas into her very own cart (they have child-size carts there - which is super cute, but makes for a rather traffic-jammed trip when you are steering one and keeping track of the other!)  I managed to escape with both children still alive, my pocket book weary from spontaneous purchases to appease their greedy whines.  I took a deep breath and found myself praying for extra grace on the way home as I literally threw handfuls of white cheddar popcorn at my children in the backseat as if I were feeding ducks that I visited on a regular basis.  Here!  Take it!  Be QUIET! And once again I walked the line of proud-to-have-survived and ashamed-of-my-behavior.

At this very moment, my babies are asleep.  They have finally crashed (in the same room, at the same time, no less!) and are napping, which is how I can complete a whole sentence without typing "get off of that" or "be careful" or "stop hitting her" mysteriously plopped in the middle of a thought.  It's quiet, and calm, and I'm finally taking whole sips of coffee that is still hot and hashing out the tremendously impossible and taxing morning that just happened.  (Can you hear that?  It's the sound of me, catching my breath.)

There is no spring break for mothers.  Maybe it was a fool's errand to think I could relax and turn a weekday chore into a pleasant escape.  Or maybe I still like the part of me that is determined to hold on to some ideals that reality continues to sever.  Nonetheless, I'm too tired to worry about it all that much. I spend too much energy on wavering between guilt and empowering myself and praying about it and then worrying some more about how it will all pan out.  I let my kids watch tv and I worry they'll be idiots because of my lack of teaching-them-something-new-non-stop.  I let my kids eat cookies for breakfast and I worry I've surely ruined their appeal for healthy options forever.  I let my girls pick out their own outfits and I worry someone else will say something to make them feel bad about themselves (let alone assume I've lost all capacity for matching patterns).

And then, you know what, I sigh and pray and let it all go.

Therein lies my true spring break.  I'm giving myself a freaking BREAK.  Yup, my 3 year old leaves out 5, 6, 7 when she counts to ten.  It's cool - she'll get it.  My 20-month-old is becoming more and more attached to her pacifier.  It's gonna be okay - I won't let her leave for college with it.  My kids threw FITS in the middle of a public shopping trip and a neighbor of mine caught me yelling at my naughty child in a moment of utter frustration.  Yup!  It's gonna happen, people!

My spring break isn't going to include ski resorts or flip flops or even relaxing with a magazine on a sunny day.  It's going to be about this moment right here - where I thank Jesus for reminding me that the best things in life are not free - they are just paid for by someone else.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving ridiculous, imperfect, yells-at-her-defiant-children, drinks-Diet-Coke-before-noon, has-three-day-old-clean-basket-of-laundry-yet-to-be-folded, should-be-doing-the-dishes-right-now, looking-at-popcorn-and-cereal-on-my-carpet-waiting-to-be-vacuumed, probably-needs-to-reapply-deodorant ME.  The great big, hot mess that I am, trying to survive and make proper civilians out of these silly little spunky monkey girls that I've brought into this world.  Lord, have mercy and sanity on us!  Give us the grace and space that we need to keep some gratitude in our day.

Mother's don't get spring breaks.  So, give yourself one.  Jesus has already won the battle for the stupid things we will do.  He's already forgiven me for how I will next frustratingly-snap at my daughter or my lack of focus when I choose my iPhone over engaging with whatever new dance move my daughter is trying to show me.  I'm going to fail, again and again.  And, it's all going to be okay.  It doesn't mean I give up, or let down my guard, or even let go of those ideals.  Far from it!  Instead, I'm breaking away from the cycle of failure leading to discouragement leading to further disappointment and instead, prayerfully embracing the option of total forgiveness (constant and never ceasing) and forging ahead.

Spring break takes on a whole new meaning as a full-time mom.  I wonder what spring cleaning will have in store?

How about YOU?  What "BREAK" are you going to give yourself this week?  How is God showing you balance in the chaos of your day?

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