Health Food

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Like it or not, McDonald's and motherhood go together.  Sure, this might make you cringe.  There will be the few moms out there who somehow miraculously and courageously avoid the Golden Arches at all costs and no doubt their children had a healthier lunch than mine.

But, for those of us normies who fess up to defaulting to the Happy Meal when our children are throwing fits and the fridge is scarce...welcome.  You are in good company.

We live about a mile away from a McDonald's with the hugest indoor playland I've ever seen for a fast food restaurant.  It's a giant, plastic, climbing fantasy land for my kids, and completely closed off to the rest of the restaurant so I can feel fine about them screaming their heads off without disturbing the entire universe.  They can roam about freely, check in for the occasional sip from a juice box or nibble of a chicken McNugget, and continue on their way without interrupting (too often) my own lunch.

Yes, they are devouring food that's higher in calories and fat.  They are climbing on slides swarming with germs.  They are loud and obnoxious and not sitting still for a single second.  We're not here for our physical health, certainly (though the playland does work up a good sweat for them).

I'm not here for my health, I'm here for my mental health.  And sometimes it is just totally worth it.

No one is proud to go to McDonald's.  I remember the first time I succumbed to the drive-thru when my girls were very little.  I was stressed out and they were screaming, and instead of dropping everying, heading home, and chopping up carrot sticks, I found myself frantically tossing chicken McNuggets at the backseat and drowning my woes in a large Diet Coke.  Whew.

Literally fell asleep holding a chicken McNugget
I'm over the guilt now.  Maybe it's exhaustion, or laziness, or just the fact that I don't have time or mental space to dedicate to feeling badly about my toddler falling asleep holding a chicken McNugget.  But, meeting friends for a play date at McDonald's provides a different outlet for my mental health that I can live with.  Meeting friends, letting my kids be silly, allowing them a little autonomy and freedom and space, while I can actually finish a meal with limited distraction and even engage in conversations with other grown-ups...well, that's worth a LOT in my book.

Obviously, I'm not promoting a new diet for children that's cheeseburger-centric.  If you can always plan ahead and create home-cooked meals for your kids, that's certainly the best option for food.  But, if you're like me, then mealtimes don't always have to center around the nutritional value (albeit, important) but can extend to the relational value found as well.  While nutritional and relational values don't have to be mutually exclusive - sometimes they are.

All this to say, sometimes I think it's more important to take guilt off the menu than sugar or fat.

So, if you find yourself guilt-ridden in a drive-thru or cringing at the thought of what your toddler might be ingesting for the sake of a few minutes peace...join me in a refreshing sigh of relief knowing that you aren't alone.  Your kids will be okay.  Your kids will still eat vegetables.  Your kids can still grow up knowing the value of time together at the family dinner table.  Your kids won't be totally spoiled.  Your kids are NORMAL.  And, if they make some new friends over a french fries and sweat their way to nap-time in a castle of grime, maybe you can even smile about it.

They don't call it a Happy Meal for nothing.

For a fun feature, here's comedian Jim Gaffigan's bit about McDonald's.  There are few crass moments (I wouldn't watch it with the kids) but, it's great for a laugh.  Enjoy, mamas!

Sib Club

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My girls are getting to the age where they have their own world.  They share a room, and being only 20 months apart in age, I've always known they are forced-into-friendship simply by vicinity.  They share clothes, toys, and have been known to strangle one another over which sister gets what accessories when it comes to dress-up time.  Typical sisters, right?

But, it's only been recently, as Daphne's vocabulary swells, that they've begun to share stories, secrets, and fully-acted-out-imaginary worlds.  Their playtime (in the precious moments where they are getting along and somewhat focused) can evolve the simplest idea into a grand invention.  One second they are picking grass for no reason, the next second they are wilderness explorers, huddled up in their clubhouse, on a mission to find a secret worm needed to save the world.

It's their very own "sibling club", and no one else can ever truly break into that relationship.

It's mysterious and beautiful to see my girls creating their bond right in front of my eyes.  I recently heard a podcast about the importance of siblings, and it made me so grateful that my girls have each other in this world.   The podcast featured Jeffrey Kluger, who wrote a book called "The Sibling Effect" and he put it so eloquently, I'd like to share an excerpt from his book that really helped me view this relationship in a way I never had before:

The universe of human relationships is an impossibly varied one. Wives have their husbands; children have their parents; lovers have their partners; friends have one another. There are cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents, schoolmates and colleagues and rivals and peers. Every one of those relationships plays out under its own set of rules and rituals, each unique, each elaborate. For all that richness and complexity, however, there may be no relationships that can run quite as deep or survive quite as long as those among siblings. You know it if you grew up with one. You know it if you’re raising some. You know it if you’ve merely watched a group of them interact. 
From the time we’re born, our brothers and sisters are our collaborators and co-conspirators, our role models and our cautionary tales. They are our scolds, protectors, goads, tormentors, playmates, counselors, sources of envy, objects of pride. They help us learn how to resolve conflicts and how not to; how to conduct friendships and when to walk away from them. Sisters teach brothers about the mysteries of girls; brothers teach sisters about the puzzle of boys. Bigger sibs learn to nurture by mentoring little ones; little sibs learn about wisdom by heeding the older ones. Our spouses and children arrive comparatively late in our lives; our parents leave us too early. “Our brothers and sisters,” says family sociologist Katherine Conger of the University of California, Davis, “are with us for the whole journey.”
Even if you don't have a biological sibling, you can probably relate on some level to a deep friendship that carried you through the years.  I love my sister and my brother, and I'm incredibly grateful to have a deep and honest relationship with both of them - people I've loved and fought with, who've seen me achieve more than ever expected, who've seen me grieve at my very worst, who have shared triumphs and tragedies at the moment they've occurred, and who are stuck with me as a comrade for life.

Siblings are special.  They are unique.  And if you have one, you have access to your own club that only you and your siblings know the password to.  I'm anxious to get this book and read more about the effect this relationship has played in my life.  And in the meantime, I'm excited to be on this side of observing siblings as they mold one another through the years to come under my own roof.  (I wonder if they already have a secret handshake?)

Empty Nest

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A couple weeks ago, we discovered a little nest in the crook of our carport roof between the beams.  The girls had pointed it out, and we didn't pay it much mind until we saw a mama robin flying in and out of it.  Sure enough, when we climbed up to look inside, we discovered five beautiful blue eggs just waiting to hatch.

They were so lovely, so fragile, and it was hard to imagine such a tiny thing could hold a living creature inside.  Instantly, we embraced the ritual of checking on these bitty eggs every time we left the house, seeing the mama robin swoop in and out as we annoyed her quiet home.

Last week, the babies hatched!  They were so sweet and ugly and featherless and weird looking, we couldn't help but "oooh" and "awww" as they stretched their tiny necks and poked their yellow beaks up and down in hopes that their mother would feed them.  My girls watched in amazement as the mama dug up worms and gently landed on the crowded nest ready to feed her babies.  They seemed so helpless and fragile, and I was strangely transported to remembering my own children as infants, completely unaware of their own needs.

Yesterday, the babies flew the coop.  But, not before my girls and I got to witness it for ourselves.

I was bringing out the trash, when I nearly stumbled upon a baby bird (now, fully feathered but still quite small) just sitting on the concrete.  He didn't move when I approached, and suddenly when I was only an inch away he took off, completely startled, and flew right into the side of the fence!  I ran inside to retrieve my girls for the drama.

We carefully scared the little bird to safer ground, and after a few more bumps into the fence he had made his way into the side of our front yard where he clearly had more room to practice his wings.  The mama swooped in, chirping and talking loudly overhead, clearly directing her babies to get up and try again.  We saw another baby perched on a fence post, and he too, clumsily floated to the ground in a single, brave move.

We watched for many minutes - the mama screaming, the babies flailing, and then suddenly, they had moved on.  Yesterday evening was quiet.  The nest is empty.  The babies have learned to fly.

Today is my girls first last day of school.  (Did that make sense?)  Today, they finish up their semester of going once-a-week to a Mother's Day Out program at a local church.  And, I'm reminded how (gulp) it will seem like minutes between now and their high school graduation day.  I well up with tears at the thought of how I already can't remember exactly how they were last year, let alone when they were featherless babies needing me 100%.

This time between Spring and Summer is magical moment in time - full of transitions and beauty and growth.  And I'm living in the midst of the long, stretched out season that feels never ending in the moment, but will surely come to pass all too quickly.

I'll keep the nest warm as long as I can.  I'll land gently next to you, make you a home from my heart.  And I'll feed you as best I can, to help you be strong.  Don't fly too far.  Don't fly too high.  But fly, little birds, fly.  Your nest will always be warm.

Empty nest.  Full heart.

(okay, someone hand me the kleenex!)

Before Motherhood

Friday, May 9, 2014

This weekend, I will celebrate Mother's Day like many of you out there.  I'm so grateful for my two girls who make the day a blessing to me. wasn't always this way.  I can remember the days of longing for a baby and cringing at those who were celebrated around me, feeling the sting of not being yet-initiated into the mommy club.

This post is for you.  This post is for those yet-to-be-celebrated, those still longing for a child of their own, those who will cringe this weekend and wear fake smiles while aching with envy and grief inside.

Here is an excerpt from a another project I wrote where I relive those moments of jealousy, rage, and confusion.  It's okay to feel those things.  It's normal.  And I'm praying that God's timing will bring you the greatest source of comfort and joy you've ever known...

It’s a cruel joke and no exaggeration to say that when you finally decide wholeheartedly to pursue something, you start to see it everywhere.  The entire world seemed pregnant except for me.  Anywhere I turned I ran into strollers, bumped into babies, and knocked into protruding pregnant bellies.  It was like, in all my effort to conceive, I had somehow developed a special radar system to be able to spot a baby bump from a mile away.  Strangers, neighbors and close friends were all popping up pregnant, month after month.  Some were surprises, some had been a long time coming, but all were announced with explosive enthusiasm in a grand spectacle just short of a small-town parade.  At least, that is exactly how it felt to me.

With each new pregnancy that was announced, I felt like one more of my own eggs just dried up inside me.  She won this month and I lost again.  She gets a baby, I don’t.  She has new life in her, and I’m harboring nothing but envy.

I distinctly recall one day that I was walking to my car to go home after work.  It had been a particularly exhausting day and all I wanted was to curl up on my couch with a jar of peanut butter, a spoon, and a rerun of Frasier (my “go to” tv-therapy) when I spotted her: a beautifully pregnant stranger, belly in full blossom, waddling to her car in all her knocked-up glory.  I had never met her and didn’t recognize her at all.  Poor soul was probably some lovely wife of a faculty member who most likely taught a Bible class of sorts, I’m sure.  Nevertheless, lovely as she was, I couldn’t take it anymore.  Salt water started to well up in my eyes, rage clenched the air from my throat, bitterness crippled my hands into useless claws, and in one purely horrific moment of self, I silently spewed the only words that felt familiar to me in that moment:  I hate you.

I felt like my entire insides had rotted out and failed me to the core.  All my joy and hope in conceiving the next great miracle from God had been replaced by ugly, controlling selfishness, anger and jealousy.  Of course, I didn’t really hate her.  I didn’t even know the sweet gal, bless her heart, who was surely gestating what I can only imagine to be the next Billy Graham in her bulging belly.  I’m so sorry, dear woman, for pegging you as my target for hatred that day.  But, you should know, it was not in vain.

That moment of disgusting self-loathing opened my eyes to a vital understanding:  I had no control. This sounds simple.  This sounds like something as obvious as gravity.  But, like gravity, sometimes it takes an apple (or in my case, a pregnant-lady-encounter) hitting you in the head to accept it as reality and see how it really applies to your life.

I had been living in the illusion of control.  Counting days, charting numbers, calculating possibilities and conjuring up multiple justifications for each and every potential scenario that could present itself.  I couldn’t help but feel like if I could just figure out what I had done or not done in the month prior, then I could fix it and find myself pregnant in the next round.  My head new that it was by God’s hand alone that a baby would be created, but my heart’s habits died hard.  My heart knew what it longed for, what was at stake, and what was being risked each month:  The possibility that I might not get what I wanted most.
It wasn’t necessarily that my actions had to change, but my perception of what I was pursuing and how it so deeply affected me on a daily basis needed a major adjustment.  I had delicately fallen into a trap of thinking that if I did A + B, then naturally, C will occur.  Because that’s how it “should” go.  Because that’s “normal”.  Because that’s what I “deserve”.

And then it hit me.  I wasn’t just questioning my emotions here…I was questioning God.  The illusion of control had led me along a path where I was left staring down an unknown road with a pretend map I had drawn with a broken compass.  What if I’m never pregnant?  What if I don’t get the future I want?  Which, if we are really being honest here, is essentially asking the real question:  Do I believe God is truly good?
That might be hard to admit.  Questioning God’s goodness sounds like a huge leap from asking Him when I can start registering for bottles and bassinets.  But, if the goodness of my future hinged on the notion that I bore a child or not, and I believed that God only wanted what was good and best for my future, then I couldn’t have it both ways.  Was I really choosing between having a baby or believing God?  Certainly not.  I had spent too many hours praying about my desire for a family for God to ignore the request.  God knew me.  God loved me.  God understood that this longing in my being also encompassed a pursuit of His will for my life.  So, then, if God was good and it was good for me to want to become a mother…Where’s my baby?

It was time to relinquish control.  This is kind of an oxymoron, really.  The control was never really in my grasp to begin with.  My future is mine, and it is affected by the decisions and consequences of my actions, but there comes a time when you have to face your relationship with your Creator and allow Him to function through you instead of just around you.  God doesn’t “need” us, after all.  He is perfect and complete and entirely capable (this would be the “omni” part of Him) without our hot-mess-of-a-human-existence meddling about in this crazy world He built.  But He is a gracious God that engages with us, works through us, and allows us the incredible opportunity to lay down ourselves and pursue a plan worthy of His glory.

And so, as the saying goes, “I let go and let God” take over.

Maybe not much changed on the outside.  But, on the inside, I was transformed.  My prayers stopped being about ovulation and started being about peace.  I stopped obsessing about my basal body temperature and started dreaming about the hopeful future of how God would shape us into parents, even if it wasn’t exactly how we thought it might go.  My heart had gone from eager to rigid to numb, and was now thawing to the idea that “God’s best” was worth waiting for and my timeline was just that:  mine.  And I felt the raw and honest reality that truly, I wanted nothing to do with me.  
If was prepping to be a parent, to take on the task of somehow raising a child of God as my very own, then certainly I was in need of much more Jesus and much less Emily with every minute He made me “wait”.  This period of waiting didn’t seem unbearable like it had in the past.  Sitting still in acceptance and peace, suddenly felt the most active of all the months of trying so far.  It wasn’t easy.  It wasn’t even fun (as terrible as it is, the futile actions I had become accustomed to while living in the illusion of control had brought me frantic joy, allowing me to think that I was actively participating in the creation of something that was beyond my efforts in reality).  But, living in the moment of relinquished control brought me unfathomable relief that I hadn’t felt since before we ever had uttered the word “baby”. 

I still didn’t have an answer as to why God was “making me wait”…but, I rested wholly in the security of knowing that God knew, and God’s goodness justified His reasons, and Him being God and all pretty much summed up any other questions I had for Him and His lack of sharing his Google calendar with me (assuming God uses Google).  I wasn’t avoiding the stress of trying to conceive a baby…I was just giving it to God instead.  


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

I'm looking for someone to REDESIGN PARDYMAMA!  

As you may have noticed, there are some items on my blog that are LONG overdue for a revamp.  For one, I obviously no longer live in Southern California!  And I've kept this task on the back burner long enough.

Here's the catch (and I realize it's sorta/kinda a biggie):  I can't pay you in actual, American, green-dollar-monies.  I'm very sorry I can't hand you a blank check and say "Go to town!  Have fun!  Spare no expense!"

But, as a floundering wife/mother/writer/student, my resources are quite limited.  (Though, if you are local, I can add baked goods to the list of compensations offered!)

THE DEAL:  Hone your designing skillz on PARDYMAMA, and in return you can earn:

1. A permanent logo on the PARDYMAMA homepage that YOU DESIGN!
2. An entire BLOG devoted to your skillz/business/service
3. A huge social media SHOUT OUT via @pardymama
4. A letter of recommendation from Yours Truly
5. My total loyalty in exclusively and personally recommending you to my many other creative friends/family/neighbors/acquaintances that may be needing your expertise in the future!
If YOU are interested, PLEASE email me at so we can get crackin'!
If you know SOMEONE who might be interested, PLEASE let them know about this opportunity!

I don't care if you've been designing for years or if you are a high schooler who is ready to start a portfolio of your own...ALL emails will be read and considered!

C'mon!  This is gonna be a BLAST!  :)

Thank You, Teachers!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Today is National Teacher Appreciation Day!

Where would we be without teachers?  I don't even want to think about it!  We have each been touched by various educators in our lives, both good and maybe not-so-good, but every one of them has contributed to shaping our minds and hearts.

My favorite teacher of all time was my Kindergarten teacher.  Mrs. B was joyful, patient, kind, and incredibly gracious.  I can still remember staring wide-eyed as she played the piano, taught us the alphabet, and positioned our desks in groups of four so that we were constantly challenged to either "not talk" or "get along".

This was my first experience of having to be friendly even if I didn't want to befriend.  When you sit next to someone who isn't your BFF at the age of 6, this is a HUGE deal! (Besides, the boy who sat next to me, Alan, was known for his unnerving ability to inhumanly eat massive quantities of glue...and this horrendously grossed me out.)

Mrs. B welcomed me into my introduction to public education, and was the very first person to encourage me to be excellent simply at learning.  This understanding has taken me far in life.  This initial push to accelerate and achieve has become a foundation to my determination as a student.  The ability to stay focused on learning for the sake of knowledge instead of drudging through the burdensome endeavor with a intangible goal kept almost entirely out-of-sight continues to keep me hungry for more.

I want to be a learner my whole life.  I hope I am still seeking out truths, facts, and theories about all kinds of things when I'm old and gray and needing all my books in large print.  Thank you, Mrs. B, for initiating my brain into the realm of formal education.

As a graduate student, there are still times I rely on those core fundamentals from Kindergarten:  share with others, take time to rest, read the instructions, ask for help if you don't know something, listen well, and be kind.

Take time today to reflect on someone in your educational life that made a difference.  Why did it matter?  Why did it stick? And, what can you do today that pays that lesson forward to someone else?

Thank you, TEACHERS, for the incredible, daily impact you are having on the lives of others.  You get to witness something that no one else sees, in a setting where there are as many challenges as there are opportunities.  We gloss over your influence as if you are obligated to do well by our children, but the truth is, so many of you selflessly give out of your hearts and passion rather than sheer duty.  Thank you for taking the time to make a difference.  Thank you for taking the effort to listen to your class.  Thank for taking on the challenge that too many of us are unable or unwilling to.  You never know, maybe someone will write a blog of appreciation about you someday and it will help encourage another person to take a step towards education.

Thanks, teachers!  A+


Monday, May 5, 2014

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  The day of the year we can all guiltlessly stuff ourselves with chips, salsa, tacos, and more while happily blaming it on a holiday we don't know much about.  Hey - any reason to eat more Mexican food sounds great to me!

This year, we stepped up our fiesta planning skills and took on Cinco de Mayo Pardy style!  Well, truly it was Tres de Mayo...but, we ran with the theme and turned it into a housewarming celebration to open our new home up to our family and friends.

Beautiful banner made by my sis-in-law!
Pardy Casa Es Su Casa!
This was an incredible blessing for us, and a real dream come true for me and Josh.  Sure, it was a blast to be able to show off our new digs (we painted this, replaced this, yadda yadda yadda).  But, it blessed us the most to be able to have the space to welcome in multiple people who have brought joy, support, prayers, and new friendships into our lives.

Piñata Time!

Just a year ago, I was starting to pack up boxes in our California apartment and beginning to get the word out that our little family was making the cross-country move to Music City.  Now, here we are, planting roots in our new city and building relationships that will shape our family in our new time and place.  To be able to extend hospitality in a setting that nurtures togetherness, laughter, fun, and community was beyond our wildest imaginations at this point in our journey, and we are so, so grateful!

I'm thrilled to share some fun snapshots from the first Pardy Party in our new home!  I hope it's a start to many more.

I pray our home is a place where everyone feels they can drop by and always count on enjoying good conversation (and most likely good coffee/food/dessert).  I pray when people enter our home they notice the presence of the love of Jesus, that there is something oddly welcoming beyond our own hospitality, and that they can sense a loveliness in the difference that is marked by this divine interference.

I hope you all have a fantastic Cinco de Mayo - gathering with friends around a giant chip bowl and setting new records of hot sauce consumption!  Our fiesta was a big hit, but I ended up making so much food that I think we'll be celebrating taco night until Memorial Day.  Hey, I'm not complaining!


By the way, want a quick review of what this holiday is actually celebrating?  I found this fun video on that sums it up:

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