Winner, Winner, Turkey Dinner

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thank you to everyone who participated in PARDYMAMA'S Thanks & Giving Give Away!  We have a winner!

Jeff's name was drawn at random (by my 4-year-old) from the jar of names early this morning!  As a Thank You for his support of the blog, Jeff won a $5 Starbucks Card!  And, to inspire him in Giving to others this holiday season, he also won a $20 gift card to JUSTGIVE.ORG!

Check it out, at Just Give you can give a gift card that let's the recipient choose a charity of their choice!  There are nearly limitless options and causes to pick from, so the person can give wherever they feel led.  Just Give is PERFECT for gift giving to "the person who has everything" or for that tricky individual that you just aren't sure what to get.

As Thanksgiving draws near (are you thawing that turkey yet?) let's do our best to encourage one another to look outside ourselves, to give just a little bit more than usual, to step beyond our comfort zone and ask God for the opportunity to bless another.

Thanks again to ALL my readers - I am so incredibly humbled and grateful whenever I hear that something God used my fingers to write has touched you in some way.  As I have told many, "I just pray and type, and God does the rest..." and that is the honest-to-goodness truth.  This little blog has grown to more than I ever could imagine, and God isn't through with it yet!  I am so glad to share time with you and "visit" across this webpage.  Thank you so much for the time you spend here - you inspire me to keep writing and seeking Jesus for the wisdom in the words that pop up on this site.

Here's to Thanks AND Giving...let's keep it going!

Polar Express

Friday, November 22, 2013

Toddlers are extraordinary beings.  They are the only humans who can appropriately lose control of their emotions without shocking those around them.  I mean, we expect two-year-olds to throw tantrums and be a little crazy (okay, a lot crazy).

Toddlers are going through so much change in their little lives/bodies/worlds, that it's within their natural development to experience polarizing emotions within a single moment.  There's nothing rational, balance, comfortable, or reasonable about it.  And, as a parent, it can be a roller coaster to go from this... this...

...all within a very short time frame.

You can see why God made them cute, right?  You can understand how maddening it is to be the one who helps contain the emotions that so rapidly cycle up and down throughout the day!?

Today, I'm so grateful God made kids unreasonably adorable to match their irrational development.  I'm so glad that there are the "He's got the whole world in His Hands" moments of the day to help us moms get through the "WHY did daddy have to go to work?!" tantrums.  I'm so glad that I am here to witness the good and the bad, to help channel the emotions into a healthy place of understanding, and to get to be the one that hugs through the unknowns when I've no other impulse or notion as to what to do.

I'm so glad toddlers are ridiculously out of their minds.  Their polarizing expressway to crazyville helps keep me on track to remembering how out of control we are as humans without a solid God to look to for guidance and direction.

Thank you, God, for one more day of survival with toddlers.  Moms - take a deep breath - hug your babes and know you are not alone.  The crazy train has many, many passengers, but the trip is short.  Let's do our best to savor the view along the way.

What are you thankful for?? LAST CHANCE to COMMENT and enter the GIVE AWAY!!!!

TBT: Contagious

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I wrote this post about a year ago, and I can't believe how LITTLE my baby Daphne was!?  I sure needed this reminder today, to pause and appreciate this season of life that is going to pass by in a flash.  I hope it provides you some focus and encouragement as well.  

Tis the season...for germs.  Time to stuff the stockings with Purrell and trim the tree with Kleenex, right?  Oh man, it seems like just about everywhere I turn someone is coughing or sniffling.  I'm feeling MUCH better (thank you, Lord!) than a few days ago, but awoke Wednesday morning to a sick husband and a sick baby!  (Somehow my three-year-old, Matilda, is so far getting through this week unscathed.  My best guess is that her super-human energy allows her to dodge most germs simply out of sheer speed!)

If anything trumps not feeling's watching those you love not feel well.  Luckily, a couple long naps, vitamins, and decongestants seemed to ward off any real health villains for my husband; but, unfortunately the baby has not been so triumphant.  Is there anything worse than a sick baby?

What's worse (in my book, anyway) is that she didn't catch a cold...she caught a tummy flu bug.  UGH!  Wah-waaaah.  The poor sweetie bear.  Again, the only thing worse than cleaning up disgusting germs is having to watch your pitiful little 16-month-old stare at you blurry-eyed with her sad gaze of "Why mommy?" going unanswered.  Gosh, it just breaks my heart!

Having two kids and one of them be sick is a whole other ball game.  Instead of the usual Get off your sister, you're killing her! you have to referee them with a new initiative:  Don't touch your sister, you'll get sick!  You have to quarantine them both the best you can and about halfway through the day - by the time the sick one has sneezed on the other one, they've accidentally swapped sippy cups, and you catch them cuddling and just can't bear to break up the love-fest...well, you just cross your fingers and pray the plague doesn't go any further.  What's a mom to do?

Taking care of a sick baby is such a weird, odd, terrible little gift that I think God gives us moms.  I mean, it's awful, for sure.  If I could bubble-wrap my kids and shampoo them in Purrell, I'm sure I would, don't get me wrong.  It only takes one heinous Yankee-candle-of-all-diapers to convince you that baby-flu-bug is certainly the doing of the Devil himself.  Ugh.

But, since we do live in a fallen world where illness exists, why not take this moment to try and recognize God among the yuckiness?  Anything's possible here.  So, honestly, I feel the presence of Jesus when I am stopped COLD in my footsteps to throw everything else out the window in that moment and care for my baby.  Dishes stink.  Clothes rumple.  Floors crumb-up.  Whatever.

Daphne has not been able to nap in her crib the last two days.  Not a wink.  I'll rock or nurse her completely to sleep, multiple times, but as soon as I lay her down she springs up screaming and won't stop.  The only way she has been able to sleep during the day has been cuddled up ON me.  The first time was heartwrenchingly wonderful.  Endearing.  The kinds of moments you dream about as a mother.

The next few times...well, it progressively got awkward and a bit burdensome.  With an energetic 3-year old vying for attention, it just wasn't exactly the ideal situation.  Not only that, but when you have a 22 lb. anchor on your chest you can't exactly get anything done during the day.  This is when it occurred to me:  Shut up, Emily.  Sit still.  Look at your baby.  

Whoa, okay.  Right.  Put the iPhone down and focus on the present.  WHY is this so hard to do?  (Granted, I was glad I had the phone there just to capture the moment!)  I want to remember that feeling.  I wish I was the kind of person who never needed to be forced to STOP and smell the roses (or the baby), but I am.  I'm just so grateful that I could soak that up, as best I could (even if there was a dancing Matilda in the background at times) and allow that baby to smother her germy self into my body for that moment.

How many times does this happen in our lives?  How much longer will she turn to me for that amount of comfort?

It's such a challenge to hold still these days.  It's increasingly difficult to be thankful for tiny things like fragile babies with vomit-covered jammies and greasy hair and diaper rash.  It's frustrating to have our daily schedules overturned and interrupted and entirely disregarded.'s so insanely worth it.

We always talk about how this baby/toddler stage of life goes by in a blink.  But, you know, if we can just slow down once in a while (even if that's only when the germs of life slow them down) then we get to capture a silent, beautiful moment where nothing else in the world matters but this sacred, sweet gift of our very own baby needing us for who we are - mom.  It may go by in a blink...but, we're in the midst of it right now...the part where your eyes are closed and you can still hear your heart beating outside your body.  Inhale, exhale.  Everything can wait.

I hope I remember this moment.  Maybe it's even contagious.

These are a Few of my Favorite Things...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

All parents have much to be thankful for.  As a mother, I thank God each and every day for my sweet girls who I survived another day with.  I'm grateful for their health, their feisty nature, their imaginative spirits, and their enthusiasm for all things sugarcoated.  I love them more than anything, and more often than not I stare at their beautiful faces in awe that I get to be their mother.

But, many days (many, many, many) I am thankful for other things.  Maybe you can relate...

The Top 20 Things All Parents are Truly Thankful For:

1.  Baby Wipes (the good kind, thick and the size of beach towels)  
2.  Remote controls on anything 
3.  Volume adjustment on electronic toys (why don't kids come with this, God?) 
4.  Juice boxes (one less sippy cup I have to wash) 
5.  Slippers (as I crunch across the Cheerio-laden floor) 
6.  Cheerios (acceptable at any temperature and in replacement of any "real meal") 
7.  Vacuums (sanitizer and sanity saver) 
8.  Netflix (without whom I could not parent my children) 
9.  Disposable diapers (more power to those of whom choose otherwise) 
10. Car seats (not only do they protect children, they render them immobile!) 
11.  Pixar (Thank you for respecting my brain while keeping my kid entertained) 
12.  Velcro (buttons, snaps, and zippers are just time wasters) 
13.  Target (They've turned the chore of shopping into feeling like an actual escape) 
14.  Coffee 
15.  iPhones (should come out with a kid version called the iPacifier) 
16.  Storybooks with BIG FONT (because bedtime is hard enough) 
17.  Benadryl (cause zombies) 
18.  The "Silent Game"  
19.  BABYSITTERS!  (keep'em alive and we'll pay you in Dino-chicken nuggets) 
20.  Other honest moms and dads who don't act like they live according to Pinterest!

Now...what are you thankful for???  Remember - leave a COMMENT saying what you are grateful for on any blog post here all this week and you could win the THANKS & GIVING GIVE AWAY!

Please Pass the Peace

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

As a freelance writer beyond my own blog, I submit about ten times more content than ever gets seen by an audience.  Material gets used, recycled, or rejected on a regular basis, and that's all part of the joy and creative frustration I have as a writer.   Here is a piece I wrote for a magazine that didn't fit their need (that's nice-talk for "rejected") but I'm sharing with you here! 

How can we handle stressful relationships with family around the holidays?  What can we teach our children about it?
I hope you enjoy my article below - no subscription necessary.  ;)

Thanksgiving is a time to count your blessings, be with your family, and perfect your carving skills on a giant bird straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  But, let’s face it, not every holiday get-together is quite as picturesque as we may dream it to be.  Often, as we set the table and sit next to those “near and dear” to us, we fill ourselves with more anxiety and stress than stuffing and gravy.  No family is perfect, and that can be magnified this time of year, especially when there are certain individuals in your family that you’d rather not be so hospitable to.

Each family is unique.  Some family members struggle with past grievances, some hold grudges or resentment, and others are in the middle of seeking second chances that are harder to come by than a second helping of mashed potatoes (those are always the first to go at our home!) 

While tensions might rise high among adults, this stress doesn’t have to trickle down onto your children.  In fact, it’s a great opportunity to be an example to them and even teach a lesson or two.  Offering your home as a haven during the holidays is a huge way to indicate to your children that anyone is welcome (barring safety concerns).

The best lesson a child can witness in extending grace and second chances to another family member is this:  Compassion is always the right response.  When you try to understand another person, you start with compassion.  It’s the only response you will never regret, and its power can be contagious.

So, what is compassion?  What does it look like?  

In short, it looks like Jesus!  Sympathizing with others through their suffering, offering to help when and where you can, considering their feelings before speaking or taking action, and extending mercy and kindness beyond expectation.  Sometimes this is as simple as serving a slice of pie and asking how someone is.  Other times it involves awkward hugs and tear-filled piles of Kleenexes.  That’s okay.  There’s no wrong way to offer genuine compassion.  Seek the Holy Spirit in prayer to help show you simple ways to do this in your own family situation.

There is, however, a big difference between compassion and compromise, and that can be hard to remember in the middle of an emotional gathering.  By showing compassion towards someone who has hurt you in the past, it’s valuable to know that it doesn’t mean you are compromising your beliefs or agreeing with their actions.  It’s important to clarify this to your children as well, making sure they understand the difference. 

Just as Jesus grieves our sinful behavior, His pain doesn’t diminish His willingness to forgive us.  He paid the price on the cross, and He’s already rejoicing in our redemption. In the same way, by allowing family members into your home, and by offering them love, forgiveness, and even delicious food, you are showing your children through your actions that you are making an effort to build bridges and restore peace.  Not only will this inspire them to do the same, but it also assures them that you are willing to extend them the same redeeming grace no matter the path their future may take. 

When we show our children the power of forgiveness and the unconditional strength that compassion restores in relationships, it encourages them to love as Jesus loves us.  With that kind of reinforcement of faith in action, I can’t imagine anything better to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. 

What are you thankful for???  Be sure and COMMENT below for your chance to win in this year's Thanks & Giving GIVE AWAY!

Thanks & Giving GIVE AWAY

Monday, November 18, 2013

With Thanksgiving next week (how is that possible?) I wanted to come up with a fun way to say THANKS to my readers!  So, all this week you have a chance to enter PARDYMAMA'S Thanks & Giving Give Away!

It's easy-peasy - all you have to do is leave a COMMENT saying something you are thankful for!  That's it!  We want to show people everywhere that everyone has a reason to be grateful on Thanksgiving Day, and I hope the comments that are left inspire you to keep a heart full of gratitude as the busy week ahead might get a little hectic.

Leave a comment saying what you are grateful for, and I'll enter you in the drawing to win:

 A $5 Starbucks Card & a $20 gift card to Just Give 

Just Give is an organization that allows YOU to pick a charity of your choice and make a donation!

I want to say THANKS by letting you enjoy a peppermint mocha latte on me, and give you the gift of GIVING to others, however you choose!

Spread the word!  Share the love!  And know that I am so grateful for your stopping by PARDYMAMA week after week to keep the inspiration flowing.

Now...What are you thankful for???  Let's hear it!

Kids for Sale

Friday, November 15, 2013

It's been a trying week.  Work, school, and life in general are swirling about me in non-stop motion.  I told my husband late one night that I felt like I was sucking water from a fire hose underneath an avalanche.  My girls have also been annoyingly "sort of sick" throughout the week.  You know the kind - just sick enough to keep them out of play dates and church nursery, to keep them whining throughout the day and night, to keep them crabby and demanding...but not sick enough to get snuggles or have them slow down at all.  How is it that kids can run a slight fever and run around the house like maniacs all at the same time?

classic hug-turned-strangle situation
Don't get me wrong, of course I don't want my kids to be so sick that they can't play.  I'm glad that their sniffles don't slow them down and that they are generally healthy as caged zoo monkeys.  But, it is exhausting to be with them and trapped in the house day after day trying to not let "The Little Mermaid" songs drive you batty.

As I was folding a volcanic mountain of laundry last night, I realized that God probably infiltrated stay-at-home-motherhood with mundane tasks like that (or doing dishes, or picking up toys, or wiping noses) so that we could feel again and again I'm so good at this to make up for the rest of the day filled with the frustrating doubts and infuriating challenges of thinking I can't handle these kids! What am I doing?!

I might not enjoy folding laundry or doing dishes or generally cleaning up after my little tornadoes, but it does fill me with a sense of pride that I can actually accomplish something ridiculously well in the midst of such loud, incessant, irrational pandemonium.  When I can stack a pile of clothes perfectly straight (which, inevitably get knocked over within seconds of completion), I can take one second of pride in the fact that I'm overqualified for the chores that this job requires.

Then, in the midst of a knock-down-drag-out battle over who gets to buckle Minnie Mouse in the toy stroller, it helps me take a deep breath and remember that I really have NO idea what I'm doing, but I'm still going to be okay.  This is normal.  This is motherhood.  And as quickly as the brawling began, it will all be over and we will probably all be crying into bowls of ice cream at 9 in the morning.

grumpy is as grumpy does
Early in the week, when I could have sworn it was almost bedtime and then realized we hadn't even had lunch yet (tick, tock) I had to just pray pray pray for the fruit of the Spirit to get me through.  I love these little beings more than my own life, and yet there are times I'm ready to post them in the FREE section of craigslist.  As I was literally knocked over the head with a lego block, I clenched my fists and bit my tongue.  And, in that split second all I could think was HOW in the world does God not just smite us all off the face of the planet each and every day?!?

If blatant disobedience, irrational fighting, and incessant demands are all it takes for me to lose my cool (and that's putting it lightly) then I have no capacity for understanding the grace of God and how the heck He compassionately forgives my stupidity day after day, hour by hour.  I need to tap into that mercy.  I need to channel that kind of only-through-Jesus compassion.  I need the patience that surpasses all rationale to be able to be the parent my girls need.

The reality is, I'm going to lose my mind in front of my girls sometimes.  I lose my temper so often I'm thinking of getting a GPS tracker for it.  Praise be, that I live in a place and time where I don't have to parent these hooligans all alone, and I have the greatest resource available as a mother - a Holy Spirit who puts up with my nonsense and extends me ridiculous amounts of undeserved mercy to help me get through the day, and reminds me how priceless this season truly is.

TBT: 50 Shades of Marriage

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Now that the movie for "Fifty Shades of Grey" is all abuzz, I'm re-posting this blog for ThrowBack Thursday.  I'll admit I was rather hot-headed about the issue when I originally wrote this post about 18 months ago - but, I stand by my every word below.  I don't really care whether you read the book or see the movie - I care about your thought-life, your marriage, and your focus on what nurtures your life and your marriage.  We have far better things to focus on within our REALITY than anything fantasy could ever offer.  

Original post:

Chances are good that by now you have heard about the book "50 Shades of Grey" - either on a talk show or on Facebook or even from a friend or neighbor.  I heard about it on the Today Show, and was pretty appalled to hear that this new, sleazy series has swept the globe with such popularity.  They are calling it "mommy porn"...erotica that women evidently don't have to be ashamed to keep on their nightstand for the world to see.

Well, here at pardymama, I try to walk the line of airing my opinion whilst remaining compassionate in judgment.  I'm not here to say "don't do this or that" - I'm far from being your Holy Spirit.  But, it is my blog and frankly, I get to write what I want about whatever I want, so here we go...  Personally, I will not be reading "50 Shades of Grey".  Not only does it kinda gross me out at the thought of putting descriptive words about S&M in my head, but I have no desire to seek out sexual escape that reaches beyond my marriage.  That being said, feel free to judge me about making a judgment about something I haven't and won't take part in.  Fair enough.

So, why am I even writing this post?  

Because, I'm seeing crap about this stupid book everywhere.  And, what I find most troubling is the sense I get that so many women are desperate for an outlet beyond the boundaries of their bedroom, their marriage, and their every day life.  We're not talking about your usual mental escape either...this is not to say that every form of entertainment is worthless or without merit.  I enjoy a good story, a great movie, an uplifting read just like the rest of us.  But, certainly you can see the difference between watching Dumb and Dumber on a Saturday afternoon with your husband (albeit, no merit for the intellect) and losing yourself in some pornographic trilogy about a sadist millionaire.

This is what I'm saying:  as Christians, as wives, as flags should be popping up on our radar when so many women are seeking fantasy.  This is dangerous stuff, wildfire even.  It's not that "50 Shades of Grey" is the's what it represents.  The popularity of such material just showcases the fact that "maybe something better exists out there" - a tease at our fantasy world, an escape from our life of burp rags and dish gloves, an outlet away from our husband who forgot to pick up the gallon of milk.

Fantasy for women is very emotional, and leaves us heartsick at the notion that either we aren't good enough to be worthy of a better life, or resentful at the fact that we deserve more.

Entertaining thoughts of a better life than the one God has given us stirs in our souls a belief that is nothing more than a downright lie:  "I'm missing out".  If you don't believe me, just ask can start at Genesis 1:1 and go from there and give me a call when you get to the good part.

So, I'm here to say, guard your heart.  This isn't about sex.  This isn't about a pop-culture-phenomenon-book they are talking about on Entertainment Tonight.  This isn't about "but, Emily, you don't husband is so blah blah blah".  I understand there are hurting marriages out there, and there is actual, tangible help available for you to heal and find God's BEST for you.  But, to the majority of us - be wise and aware to the warning and quick to question whatever "fantasy" that you might partake and what it may actually be rustling up in you.

Maybe, it's not so much that you need a new partner as it is you need a new perspective.  

Remember when you first started dating your husband and you just felt like he was your entire world?  As your marriage grows and your love deepens and your kids start eating into your time together, it is amazing how roles in relationships change.  Sure, there is the mundane - the fact that my spouse is the handyman and the trash man and the tech geek and even the kitty litter changer.  But, he is so much more than that.

The next time you are tempted to wish for a new life or a different spouse, I want you to remember that God has given you a man who is a perfect fit to fulfill all the roles you need him for in your life together as a married couple.  In other words, it's what I like to call:

50 Shades of Marriage

1. Helper
2. Partner
3. Teammate
4. Lover
5. Comrade
6. Companion
7. Sweetheart
8. Co-conspirator
9. Accessory
10. Collaborator
11. Paramour
12. Flame
13. Darling
14. Dear
15. Beloved
16. Admirer
17. Treasure
18. Heartthrob
19. [the] One
20. Biggest Fan
21. Encourager
22. Defender
23. Follower
24. Champion
25. Cheerleader
26. Ally
27. Spouse
28. Compadre
29. Kin
30. Associate
31. Counselor
32. Better Half
33. Ball and/or Chain
34. Helpmate
35. Peer
36. Friend
37. Playmate
38. Bedmate
39. Sidekick
40. Accomplice
41. Complement
42. Date
43. Crony
44. Chum
45. Buddy
46. Rib
47. Steady
48. Aide
49. Supporter
50. Soulmate

What more could you possibly want?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Well, enough of you kind folks have inquired as to how my class went on last Friday, I've decided to indulge you.  ;)

As part of my grad school curriculum, I was given the opportunity to teach an undergrad Marriage & Family Therapy class for one day.  My topic was "Ethical Dilemmas" and to be honest, only a few weeks ago I probably knew as much about the topic as any of you (or possibly, much, much less).  So, I did what any good American would do, and began with googling "what is ethics" and went from there!

Certainly, I was able to read ahead in my studies (since, ironically, we have yet to cover this subject in my own grad classes - yikes!) and track down some literature that helped me learn more about the subject and led me to do what every good teacher ends up doing when preparing for a class:  scavenging YouTube clips of relevant material.

The class I taught was about 20 students, mostly upperclassman, and the majority were female.  The professor met me at the beginning of class and was incredibly encouraging as I set up my prezi ("prezi" is the new hipster method of PowerPoint as I've recently come to find out) and looked out upon my, I mean students.

I figured I probably looked a million years old to them and while I may have smiled back with a trying-to-hard-to-get-them-to-like-me smile, I knew they expected me to know what I was talking about when I opened my mouth, and that was an exhilarating and daunting feeling.  Lucky for me, I was armed with a bag of KitKats and fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence that none of them seemed the wiser to.

I introduced them to ethics, what it was, what makes up an ethical dilemma, and we began watching a variety of clips I pulled to demonstrate the breadth of how and where and why ethical dilemmas present themselves among the most mundane to the most dramatic of circumstances.  Hunger Games, Breaking Bad, Grey's Anatomy, and an old smoking ad that showed a medical doctor endorsing Camel Lights helped spur our conversation about recognizing the ethics in a variety of situations.

Finally, I showed them the "ethical dilemma of all ethical dilemmas" and played the clip of Sophie's Choice that I'm sure left them all scarred for life.  To my surprise, one student actually knew the name of the film and the cinephile in me was proud that apparently someone is still teaching these kids pop culture influences within cinematic history.

After this, I broke them into groups where they came up with their own ethical dilemmas and had to distinguish the two sides (at least) to the situation and give pros and cons (or, cons and cons) for each side.  This played out well (the KitKats didn't hurt) and they seemed genuinely engaged as they shared their dramatic scenarios which ranged from heart transplant narratives to euthanizing a family pet.

With each story, I then (here's where my extemporaneous speech background comes in handy!) "upped the ante" on the spot and made the choices even harder.  For example, one group suggested the ethical dilemma of choosing between giving a heart transplant to a mother or a doctor...and after we discussed that, I said "what if it was an elderly nobel prize winner and a twenty-year-old criminal?"  It was nice to see the wheels turning in their heads.

I wrapped up the class with some talk about the Code of Ethics that therapists abide by, what that means and how we use it and/or struggle with it.  And, I gave them the basic outlines for assessing situations within therapy that might present ethical dilemmas and how those are approached in professional practice.

Overall, it was awesome.  It was refreshing to be in front of a group of students who were respectful and engaged.  I don't think I'll be applying for any teaching positions any time soon, but I'm grateful for the experience and humbled that my colleagues entrusted me with the responsibility of it.  It also makes me really, truly grateful for my college professors (past and present) and the unseen amounts of time and energy that they surely pour into their work day in and day out.  Wow.

Professor Pardy, signing off.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Today, the first flurries of winter entered our sky.  They were barely visible and didn't stick, but the bitter chill in the air was enough to convince us all that autumn is coming to a close.  While I dread the onset of gray skies and coooooold, I'm sincerely looking forward to a bit of snow (white Christmas, please!)

Nashville isn't known for it's abundance of snow, but usually there will be a day or two where the town turns wintry white and looks like a frosty wonderland.  I'm looking forward to bundling up my girls and letting them experience "real winter" for the first time in their lives.

On that note, a bit of beauty fell from the sky today, and led me to this poem by Longfellow that seemed fitting to share.

Yes, you might stick your tongue out at me for being a total word nerd, but that's okay.  Today, a little snowflake might just land on that tongue.  :)


By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
      Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
      Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
            Silent, and soft, and slow
            Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
      Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
      In the white countenance confession,
            The troubled sky reveals
            The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
      Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
      Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
            Now whispered and revealed
            To wood and field.

Thank You: A Veteran's Day Post

Monday, November 11, 2013

Today is Veteran's Day, and I just got off the phone with my dad who served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot in the Army.  He helped to change the world before I was ever a twinkle in his eye, and I'm forever grateful to him for his patriotism and sacrifices he made as an American willing to do the unthinkable for the next generation.

But, my dad is only one amazing example of the selfless acts that happen every day among military families around the world, fighting for our freedom and paving the way for liberties that we take for granted on a daily basis.

Veteran's Day is our chance as "regular folk" to not just stop and recognize how blessed we are to live in a free country, but for us to stop and recognize the individuals that make that possible.  In a way, it's just as vital as the Fourth of July:  it's not only acknowledging the history of what our country's been through, but the very present of how we are affected by it.

Thank you to all service men and women past and present and future...we are indebted to you, and may God be with you.

Yesterday, I got to witness an incredible act of kindness in the most unlikely of circumstances.  I've recently taken on a seasonal position at Pottery Barn Kids at a local mall.  If you've never been to PBK, it's a jolly shop full of overpriced, exquisite children's merchandise.  It's lovely, and while it attracts the most pretentious of clientele, it makes for a spectactularly-Christmassy place to work.  Merry and bright, indeed.

I had just started my shift, when a pregnant, well-to-do woman approached me and my co-worker at the cash register.  She had been shopping for a few minutes with her young child and husband, and she had a peculiar look on her face as she walked up to us.

"Do you see that family over there?" she quietly spoke and glanced behind her as my co-worker and I leaned in to hear what she was saying.  We both nodded, curious what she was about to say.  The family she pointed to was a young family as well: a very pregnant woman, her husband, their little boy, and grandmother.

The woman turned her back to the family and continued to speak quietly.  "Well," she said, "I overheard them speaking, and they are a military family.  I have a strange request, but I'd like to do a sort of random act of kindness.  Could I buy them a gift card and have you give it to them for me?  I don't know them at all and I'd like it to be anonymous.  But, hurry if you can, because I think it might change what they decide to purchase today."

My co-worker and I were stunned. Yes, of course we were happy to help.

"Great," she smiled and got out her wallet.  "Go ahead and make the gift card for five hundred dollars."

Five hundred dollars?!?!

My co-worker and I both audibly gasped.  I told her outright how inspiring I found her act, and she kind of shrugged and smiled.  She bought the card and left immediately.

I watched as my co-worker walked it over to the family and changed the course of their day (not to mention, their nursery) in a single moment.  They were shocked.  We were all shocked.  Never before had I seen such a spontaneous act of generosity in that magnitude.  I thought about the woman who bought the gift card and thought to myself, Wow, those are the kind of people you want to be wealthy! And I was instantly convicted of my tendency to judge the rich.

Maybe we don't all have $500 to gift to a veteran today...but, chances are good that we all know someone who has sacrificed for our country, and we can take time out to thank them in our own way.  It's no coincidence that I was there to witness that yesterday.  I instantly thought I've got to blog about this! and I couldn't wait to tell you all such a wonderful story.  We can all pay it forward in some way, and not just today.  Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places, and you never know when the opportunity might fall in your lap for you to thank a stranger.

Thank you, Veterans. Your lives are filled with random acts of kindness that inspire generations of spontaneous generosity.  I pray we can all be humbled by your courage and have a chance to pay it forward.  Happy Veteran's Day.

Smarty Pants

Friday, November 8, 2013

So, today I am stepping way out of my element.  I'm teaching an undergrad Psychology class about Ethical Dilemmas this afternoon.  Whhhaaaa?!

Yeah, I wouldn't have put this on my bucket list, but now that I'm doing it (even if it is just a one-time thing) I feel like I should place "Teach a college class" on the list just so I can cross it off!

I have never taught a class.  I think the closest I've come is helping out in a youth group or speaking to college girls as an RA (back in the day!)  But, today, I'm walking into a classroom full of students who will look at me with apathy in their eyes and think "I hope this old lady shows some YouTube clips and talks fast."

Well, hope-of-our-future, you are in luck - I will be showing many YouTube clips and I do speak rather quickly.  I'm not going to change any lives today (I mean, that's not in my powerpoint anyway) but, today's experience will change my life.

These students have no idea that this is a big moment for me, that it is adding a new feat to my resume, stepping out of my comfort zone to talk about a topic I really have barely scratched the surface on myself, and putting on my smarty pants to act like I'm the most knowledgeable person in the room.  (Ha!)

Being back in school has catapulted my desire for learning.  Turns out, I'm a major geek when it comes to topics I really enjoy learning about.  WHO KNEW!?  And, I have a new motivation for making sure I present intelligence as a foremost strength for my daughters to witness and want to imitate.

Why is it so hard for women to own their intelligence?  It can feel so daunting and uncomfortable to say things like "Mommy loves to learn! Mommy is smart!"

Like, am I setting the bar too high for them?  What if I'm really not that smart?  What if they have a hard time learning?

Worries are normal, especially when it comes to raising kids!  But, when I really start to think through those doubts, I quickly realize how insecure I can sound.  Maybe all those things have a grain of truth to them, the expectations and hopes that I have might be very ideal.  But, the alternative is not an option.

Not only do I want my girls to see me being a strong, confident, smart woman...but I want them to see that I'm challenging myself, overcoming doubts and taking risks.  I want them to see that it's a struggle, that I have worries, that I pray through so so so many of my weaknesses and therefore become stronger because of them.

Maybe this is the only class I'll ever teach.  Maybe I'll totally blow it and lecture the entire time with food in my teeth.  Maybe I'll be amazing and inspire another girl to become a therapist (hey, I can dream big!)  But, it's true what they say about the "teacher learning the most in the room"; and, today, I've learned what it means to make sure my girls know they have a smart mother.  

Smart women encourage others to be smart.  Own it!  Live it!  And, let's raise daughters who grow up to teach their daughters that learning never ends.

TBT: iParenting

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Throwback Thursday, a post from Fall, 2012...

I am mighty proud to have my Pardy Man guest blog this week!  Josh Pardy is more than just a handsome hubby and devoted daddy...he's also a pretty kick-butt writer.  Check out his last guest-blog here, and enjoy this week's latest lesson in his life...

Sometimes a guy just needs a reminder. And though it may sound and look trite, I can’t tell you how many times that simple alert has saved me…and more importantly, my wife and kids.  Owning a GPS-ed, WiFi-ed, podcasting, text-receiving smart phone is just the best thing ever.  Sure I had to learn to limit myself when I discovered the likes of Angry Birds and Grantland, but the technology that is forevermore in my pocket functions as not just a great time-waster (though it certainly is that), but a powerful tool to help remind me of what’s truly important.

 It all started when I upgraded my phone and discovered a little thing called “proximity reminders”.  It’s actually pretty simple, you add a reminder to your phone, and rather than have it alert you at a certain time, you set the alert for when you get close to a pre-determined place.  As long as you don’t ever check the box next to the reminder, it will alert you (ad infinitum) as you approach your destination, day in, day out.  Ok, so maybe not so simple. 

In my case, I have the reminder “Be A Good Dad/Husband” set to alert me when I arrive at destination: Home.  Unless my phone is dead, it literally never fails.  As I come driving up to our apartment, the GPS senses that I am close to “Home,” and sends me a quick little ping: “Be A Good Dad/Husband.” 
“Be A Good Dad/Husband.”  Gee, certainly easier iReminded than done.  As a man, I take the responsibility of providing for my family very seriously.  I work hard, I get exhausted and elated, I can feel frustrated and sometimes just straight down-in-the-dumps.  And though I would love to say that simply seeing my girls causes all of that tension to just melt away, the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t.  

waiting for daddy
This Dad/Husband needs himself a reminder because he can carry around all of those raw emotions and totally miss the sweet simple joy that seeing his family can bring him after a long day at the office.   
And let me tell you, if I am willing to pay attention to it, this little reminder works!  Even after my most intense or draining days, somehow (God’s grace, most likely) seeing that little ping helps me reframe my mind, marshals energy from an unknown source, and readies me for whatever I may find when I open that door to the house.  

Probably the best part about it is, I set the reminder because I know it’s important.  Therefore, I am communicating my own desires to my own self in a way that won’t drive myself totally crazy.  I have only myself and my silly iPhone 4 to blame if I begin to feel nagged.

In the beginning, it was actually sort of embarrassing.  What kind of freako needs a proximity-based reminder to alert him of the fact that his kids need a hug, his wife needs a kiss, and everyone will need a healthy amount of attention before the night is over?  Well, truly, this freako needs it!  So I would make sure to dismiss the alert from my phones notification screen prior to walking in the door.  The alert would serve its purpose, and I would walk in ready to be the best Dad/Husband ever and no one would be the wiser to my little iParenting life-hack.  

But, one day I forgot to clear the screen.  I came in, threw my iPhone on the coffee table, plopped down and began to hear about my girls’ respective days when wouldn’t you know it, Emily went to hand me my phone and discovered the secret of my success. “Be A Good Dad/Husband” right there on the screen.  I mean really, how do you explain that?

“What’s this?” She asked.  “Oh, uh.  It’s just, like… a little something that I do…”  I stammered back. Then I copped to it and told the whole story.

Thankfully Emily thought it was sweet and not at all freakish.  But, I won’t lie, it was embarrassing! It was then that she affirmed to me that with or without the alert, I was doing a great job as a Dad and Husband.  We had a good laugh about it, but even still, most days I still need that reminder.    

Now I consider my proximity alert something of a merit badge that I will forevermore be pursuing.  It pings, I unashamedly take in its simple, yet profound message, I walk in the door and try to be a good a Dad/Husband.  That is one reminder box that I have never checked, and never will, because the work of a good Dad/Husband is never done. 

Hump Day

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday!  Welcome to half-way through the week!

My 2-year-old woke me up around 5am this morning, an all-too-common-occurrence in our home.  As we were watching "Monsters University" before the TODAY Show even came on the air, I was trying to remember what day it was.  Honestly, things get busy so quickly, it was kind of nice to just sit and snuggle and not think at all.  The sweet hugs from my girl and the silliness of Mike Wazowski were a pretty good combo as far as waking up goes.  (I mean, if you have to be up at 5am, that's not a terrible way to spend it, I suppose!)

By 8am, I was low on coffee, energy, and inspiration.  So, I cracked open my copy of Jesus Calling and read a few pages from this daily devotional that I love so much.  Even though it is a day-by-day read, there are always plenty of days that slip through the cracks of life's craziness, so I like to flip around and find inspiration.

Here's something that resonated with me and I hope encourages you today:

From the book Jesus Calling, January 16: 

Come to Me, and rest in My Loving Presence.  You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through those trials.  As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you - now and always.  Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur.  Do not multiply your suffering in this way!  Instead, come to Me, and relax in My Peace.  I will strengthen you and prepare you for this day, transforming your fear into confident trust.

Have a beautiful day, my friends!

Mall Rat

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy Holidays!  Wait - already????

Yes, apparently so.  The mall is already decked out from top to bottom in tinsel and garlands.  The Christmas tree is up and there are creepy reindeer and little elves on every corner staring down at the shoppers as they pass from store to store.  And...I would know this because the mall is my new home away from my home away from home.  Yep, I've added yet another obligation to my already cringe-worthy schedule:  seasonal help at the mall!

I've accepted a part-time position at Pottery Barn Kids at a nearby mall.  It's a beautiful setting chock full of ridiculously expensive items that I'm sure I'll be tempted to splurge on (but, alas, cannot afford) in every nook and cranny.

Am I a glutton for punishment?  Am I trying to be the first overachiever at overachieving?  These are excellent questions, and ones I've considered myself!

As a wife, a mother of two, a freelance writer, and a full-time grad student, I often feel like I already have about a dozen jobs to juggle.  The simple truth, however, is that I'm spending a WHOLE bunch of time to a whole lot of work that doesn't really pay anything.

And, well, if you've ever been a kid on Christmas morning you realize how disappointing it would be if you opened your stocking to discover a note that says "Your mom wrote you a blog for Christmas!  Love, Santa"  Hmmm, yeah, that doesn't fly with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old.  Haha!  So...mommy's picked up a little seasonal job to help Santa's Christmas budget along.  :)

I'm excited about it, actually!  As much as the reality is that I'm working for the money, I'm excited to embrace a new opportunity to meet people, be around lovely holiday decor, and somehow let my gifts be used in a new setting.  I'm able to work evenings and weekends, so I'm thankful to have a willing husband who is getting some quality time with our girls when I'm away.  This is a TEAM Pardy effort, no doubt - just like parenting and school and work are.

Certainly, I'm convinced more caffeine than actual blood is running through my veins these days.  Don't get me wrong - I've pretty much abandoned the idea that "balance" exists, and I'm fully depending on the grace of God to get me through the days ahead.  But, as I bring you in on this new chaotic step in my life, I hope that it will encourage you to just love what you are doing wherever you are, and to look for the ways in which God can use you no matter what.

So - be kind to those crazy checker-outers at the mall as you shop this holiday season!  It's gonna be nuts out there, with shoppers and sales seeming more intense than ever before.  Keep your cool and smile as you shop - you never know when you might be smiling at an insane, wife/mother/writer/student who is doing her best to keep it all together.

God is good.  And the season for smiles is just getting started...

Lady Bug

Monday, November 4, 2013

As my eldest daughter turned four on Friday, we went to the park to celebrate her love of nature, her rambunctious spirit, and the beauty of the post-Halloween-storm sunny and clear day!  It really was a perfect Fall day - crisp breeze in the air, leaves crunching under your sneakers, and the sound of children's laughter resonating in the wind.

Matilda loves the outdoors.  I think she would spend eternity out there if I let her, just exploring nature's jungle gym of trees and the unknown world of horticulture that awaits her every step.  But, even more than the outdoors...she loves to PLAY.  And, so, you can see why the playground is her absolute favorite thing in her limited four-year-old universe.

As she bounced from step to step, to slide, to ladder, to swing, to step, to ladder, to (okay, you get the picture, I'm raising a monkey)...whew!  She managed to make her way to the edge of the playground where there is a short, brick wall that you can climb up on.  As she climbed up, she spotted a few lady bugs dotting the top of the wall, taking in the afternoon sun.

"Ohhh, my LADIES!" she burst.  And suddenly she was down on their level, eager to see if one of them would climb upon her tiny hand.  A couple of them would get close, and she would squeal with delight at their touch.  I watched as she was fully engaged with them.  Nothing else existed in that moment for her.  These were her lady bugs and she was totally enraptured by them.

When's the last time I felt that way by accident? I thought to myself.  And, I didn't really have an answer.  Sure, there are times I purposefully throw myself into something to focus on how passionate I am...but, to just stumble upon that kind of passion by accident is very rare.

So many times I'm too distracted to truly absorb the beauty of the present.  I do my best to not miss a moment that involves my kids or some special moment.  But, when I'm in the midst of my everyday, mundane routine, I can easily gloss over the details.  Sometimes I even think this is necessary for my survival, so that I can just get things done!  But, I had to wonder - what am I missing out on when I do that?

Sure enough, the lady bug moment was over in a few short minutes.  She was up in a leap and quick to find the next wholeheartedly wondrous item to cast her devotion upon.  (I think it was a slug.)  But, it was so beautiful to watch my child just BE there, and commit herself to the present.

This is exactly why it's such a privilege to be a parent, to witness these haphazard blessings that sprout up in the middle of nowhere.  Maybe I'll notice a lady bug next time it lands on my shoulder...or, maybe I'll smile at that grumpy lady in the grocery store as she passes by because I took the extra second to notice her...or, maybe I'll take a deep breath the next time I feel like spitting words of fire that I can't take many maybes are up for grabs.  

But each "maybe" starts with that extra moment; that second to think, to engage, to be present in what's happening in the here and now.

And each maybe can be turned into a miracle that can change so many moments to come.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Four years ago today, I was getting stuck with an epidural.  Three attempts later, I looked up to see my husband passed out on the floor, shirt stripped off his back, getting oxygen from one of the nurses.  Really?!  Really.

Nine hours later, I met my daughter for the first time.  There's nothing like welcoming your first born into the world.  Nothing like nursing her for the first time.  Nothing like looking into the eyes of a baby you've dreamt about your entire life.  Nothing like becoming a mother overnight.

Before my husband and I even conceived Matilda, we imagined the children we would bring into the world.  It took us nearly a year to get pregnant, and in the ups and downs of the months that went by, we grew more hopeful and more frustrated.

I remember at one point telling him, "It's strange.  On one hand I feel like we're not even ready for a baby, and on the other it feels like we should have a four-year-old and a couple more by now."  I guess it seemed to me that there was such an eternal perspective about our journey together that I couldn't piece together the here-now and the yet-to-come.

And she is...our four-year-old.

Becoming a parent is a limitless experience.  Every day has its aggravations and its deep joys.  I'm sending a child to the corner in one minute, and the next I'm being tackled with snuggles so fierce I can't imagine my life without it.  It's been said that having a baby is like watching your heart walk around outside your own body, and that's just about the best metaphor I can imagine.

My heart's been walking in the world for a full four years today.  She is the most gifted, loud, charming, assertive, creative, frustrating, imaginative, unpredictable, thoughtful person I know.  I like her very, very much, and I'm incredibly blessed to get to love her as well.

The thing about becoming a parent is that you don't get to choose who your kid will be.  They are the only people that you will forever be obligated to that you have no choice as to who they are.  You get to grow up and leave home,  you can distance yourself from other relatives if need be, you get to choose your friends and your spouse...but kids...well, they are a prayer and roll of the dice.

I don't know who Matilda will grow up to be exactly, but I'm four years in and absolutely mesmerized by who she is.  Children have a way of enjoying the world around them that we tend to lose as we grow up.  She challenges me, humbles me, and brings me to my knees in prayer more than anyone ever has, and I'm so grateful for that.  Each birthday is not only a celebration of her life, but a chance to thank God for the opportunity to have become a mother through this little being.

Someday she won't need me in the same way she needs me now.  The days of her youth are fleeting, and I know in a flash I'll be transported to a new role as our relationship develops in the years to come.  I pray each day that I can share in her life, deepen my liking and love for her, and always remember that on November 1, 2009, my life was changed for the better forever.

Happy Birthday my darling, and thank you.  xoxo.
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