Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Did Paula Abdul have it right?

Do opposites really attract?

If men are from Mars and women from Venus, then DeNae is from talk and Jim is from quiet. DeNae is from connect and Jim is from to each their own. DeNae is from fly by the seat of your pants and Jim is from slow and steady. We are different in many ways. Neither way is right or wrong. Just different.**
Jim and DeNae, back in the day. 
Case in point:
It was a Thursday morning. I was heading out the door to take the kids to their homeschool co-op and Jim had a few minutes before he had to leave for work. I asked if he would make the marinade for the tandoori chicken so it could marinate throughout the day. He said yes so I gathered the ingredients and opened the cookbook to the recipe, one we'd never tried before. (Well, as a vegetarian, I never will try it, but Jim and the kids like to eat meat now and again.)

He looked at the cookbook and read the entire recipe aloud. I just watched him. My mouth was probably hanging open. That happens? People get a recipe and look at it from start to finish, thinking about the steps that are coming?

That never actually occurred to me. I grab a recipe, do the first step, go to the second step, get to the fourth step and curse the fact that I don't have that ingredient, improvise with varying degrees of success, throw it on the table, and we eat. It usually works out from start to finish, but there are plenty of times it leads to kitchen disasters.

This is why I have made stir fry only to remember that I never made the rice and the only rice we have is the brown rice that takes one hour. Or the time I made tacos and we didn't have tortillas. Or the time I made cheesecake and we didn't have sugar. Do you sense a pattern here?

While watching Jim read through the recipe, I was hit with the realization that the way we cook reflects our take on life.

He reads the recipe from start to finish and plans accordingly, methodically chopping and measuring, staying in the kitchen until he gets it done.

I do the task directly in front of me, turn on some music, do the next task directly in front of me, read a book to the kids, do the next task, measure haphazardly, and eventually get it done.

He is calm and methodical and steady. The Jim you met 20 years ago is the Jim you see today and the Jim you'll see in 20 more years. He is mostly quiet. Communication is not his favorite thing. He can just sit and watch TV and let his mind go blank. I have always said he is my voice of reason. Usually I appreciate that. Sometimes I want him to just let go and have some crazy fun. He doesn't put his foot down often so when he does I know he means it.

I put all of my eggs into one basket and count them before they hatch while laughing in delight or crying in despair. Jim said something to me the other day and I said, "OH!" "What?" "AAAHHHH!" in the span of three seconds as all of the thoughts slammed into my brain and I spewed words as fast as the thoughts hit and he got a glimpse of the turmoil in my brain. I want to Communicate with a capital C, using all the words all of the time, whether I'm talking or writing or just thinking wordy word stuff in my never shutting off brain.

We are so different.

And that is one of the reasons we love each other.

And that is one of the reasons we drive each other nearly certifiably bonkers.

I did not see that coming way back in the day when I was a wee little 20 year old saying I do. I didn't imagine the times we'd live in gut it out mode. But then again I also didn't imagine the times I'd look at him over the head of a new baby, in awe of him and us and all of it. I didn't imagine the eyes spitting stares of venomous daggers across the room. I didn't imagine that sixteen years down the line would hold such laughter and love and good. ##

 Thankfully, as different as we are and as crazy as marriage is and as hard as things feel sometimes and as much room for improvement that we have (lots and lots of room) we have the most important things in common.

We like to laugh. We live our faith differently, but we love the same God. We'd rather take a hike than go to a 5-star restaurant. We'd rather have a newspaper subscription than cable. We are fiercely committed to raising our children together. We love each other.
Sometimes the list of differences feels overwhelming. It feels miles long and impossible.

Maybe opposites attract in the early stages of love and lust and marriage, but that doesn't sustain through the mess, muck, misery of life. The disagreements about how to make and spend and save and share money. The disagreements about how to raise teeny babies to actual grown up humans. The disagreements about aging parents. The disagreements about how to celebrate holidays and how to communicate and how to show love and intimacy and sex and March Madness.

It's complicated. Like I need to tell you.

I agree wholeheartedly with Ann Voskamp when she writes, "Love is more than simply a warm feeling; Love is ultimately a daily forging."

The decision, day in and day out, to make it happen. To stay present in marriage when we struggle. To remember why we fell in love. To show love when we want to ignore. To treat our spouse with respect when sarcasm sits on the tip of our tongue, ready to unleash. To treat others how you want to be treated even when you're not being treated how you want to be treated. To treat the people you love better than you treat strangers you meet on the street or friends who drop by unexpectedly.


Am I the only one struggling with that list?

This is not a sermon. This is not the voice of a woman who has it all figured out and wants to share her wisdom with you. This is part of the story of a broken woman who struggles most days with how to do the very hard thing of being a good wife. Some things come naturally to me. Being a wife does not. Just ask my husband. Or maybe don't.

Maybe opposites attract. But married couples grab hold to each other, hunker down, enjoy the ride, wait out the storms. They don't give up on each other or on the overall good and beauty of sharing life, all of it, with another person.

Help a sister out: What's your best marriage advice, bible verse, or quote? What sustains you through the difficult stretches of marriage?

**I am speaking in generalities here. Of course we are complex people, full of nuances depending on the situation, but this is probably what you'd find at the core of us.

##I am talking about the difficulties of mostly good, loving marriages. I am not talking about abusive situations. There are real reasons to walk away. Just to clarify.

Monday, April 28, 2014

It's going to be okay.

Wouldn't it be grand if the road of life were paved with Golden Arrows pointing you in the direction of your Happy Ending and Most Cherished Dreams? Not a pothole, detour, or dead end to be seen.
Are we all laughing at the absurdity of that? Because as great as it sounds, it just isn't happening. At least it's never happened to me. If it's happening to you, please let me know where to sign up because I want in on that action.

In reality, life is full of curve balls and gut checks and face palms as we try to navigate a path that is often covered in overgrown trees and lined with obnoxious, blinking lights to distract us from the important stuff of life. Those blinking lights might be money or fame or alcohol or keeping up with the joneses or living sports dreams through our kids or bulimia or, or, or, pick your poison, really. The list is endless and is different for all of us.

What I'd really like is to say a prayer on Sunday night and wake up Monday morning with a clear answer straight from God's mouth, written in red lipstick on my bathroom mirror. That is a bit of an exaggeration, but I wouldn't mind a bit more clarity in my life when making big decisions.

We are having big discussions over here about big life things and I felt the very beginning pangs of anxiety rising up in my chest like holding my breath underwater when all I want to do is take a deep, free breath. I wanted Gold Arrows pointing the way. I wanted lipstick on mirrors.
Here's what I got instead.

I was cleaning out our school room to keep our newly crawling Asher Boy from choking on Legos and teeny neon rubber bands. I came across a kids' devotion book that I bought a few years ago, but hadn't used in a while, and I randomly flipped to a page to see if it was something I wanted to read with the kids.

The page I flipped to started with this bible verse:
"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. God delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand." Psalm 37:23-24

It ended with this paragraph:
"In good times, we leap up to the mountaintops. In difficult times, I hold your hand and keep you from falling. But at all times, I am beside you as we go along the path of Life."

You can say it like Bob Marley or like Elsa or like God. "Every little thing gonna be alright." "Let it go." "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you."

They all boil down to the same message.

I'm going to mess us. Sometimes my mess up will be on little decisions and sometimes it'll be on big decisions. But God's got my back. It's going to work out. Life will be full of potholes and detours and dead ends, but I don't have to take it all so seriously and stress about every direction and every choice. In fact I shouldn't stress about every little thing because then the stress overshadows the abundant joy and goodness happening every single dang day.

It wasn't lipstick on the mirror or a loud, clanging drum saying, "follow me to your happy ending." Instead it was a quiet whisper of reassurance.

"It's going to be okay. No matter what happens, it's going to be okay."

Friday, April 25, 2014

salve for the tender, wounded soul


It's been a week. Yes, it has been. One of those weeks where I am simply treading water. There are so many things I want to get done, but I can't make any forward progress. I'm not exactly drowning, but I'm certainly not swimming. Floundering a bit. Treading water.

We got back late on Sunday from our week-long road trip. For the record, I will never call a week-long road trip with four children a vacation. It just isn't. It is fun and memory making and definitely worth it, but it is not a vacation. Case in point: I didn't even get one book read. And another thing, as we were on our last 10-hour-day of driving, Elliot, perfecting his mental math, said, "If you add it all together, we've been driving for over one day. 10 + 10 + 5 + 2 + 3 + 1=31." To which I replied, "Then let's not do that, ok?" 

So, we're home. Jim's been working some wacky hours. Moms on the Run started, hoooorrraaaaayyyyy!, and I had a baby on my hip or in a stroller through the entire class. (he was a rockstar, thankfully!) We must accomplish our school tasks, but the sun is shining and the bikes really want to be used. We've picked up lunch meat, sandwich veggies, fruit, and a few other necessities, but we still haven't actually grocery shopped since returning. Is scurvy still a thing? I fear I'll be able to tell you in a few days.

So it's nothing major. No catastrophe. Just the stuff of life that feels heavier some days than others. My heart feels heavy. Burdened by the hurt of others and the pain that seems to make the earth groan in despair. It's just a bunch of blah. 

But I read this today and it felt like sunshine to my sorrowful soul. So I'm sharing it here in case you need some sunshine on your soul, too. Because it's National Infertility Awareness Week and there are a whole lot of women walking around with strength and courage and heartache. Because parents die too young and their grandkids only know them through stories. Because life hurts sometimes, but we are in it together.



Have a big, beautiful, lovely weekend.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

it's not fair!

It starts when we're young.

"It's not FAIR!!!"

"Her sandwich is bigger than mine." "He got more presents than I did."

It continues as we get older.

"He got the part I wanted in the play." " I wanted that bike for MY birthday." "I did my very best at the try-out, but I still got cut."
At the time, these slights feel like major injustices and maybe even the end of the world. As we get older and add some life experience to our repertoire, we realize these moments offer us lots of practice on handling life's many, many, MANY hard knocks. As a parent, I understand that my kids need to experience life's little, soft knocks as they're growing up. As much as I want to shield them from any little bit of pain, much like I swooped in to pick Isaac up as a bee buzzed near him while he played on his blanket as a baby, I know there are lessons in the heartache. I hope they learn to handle getting cut from a team or having a friend hurt their feelings, normal kid stuff, before they get to the big stuff. A terminal diagnosis. The death of a close friend. A job loss that changes everything.

Because soon enough it will happen. The big, gut-wrenching unfairness of life will stab all of us right in the back. A marriage will end. A friend will be diagnosed with cancer. A parent will become ill. A terrible accident. Mental illness. Addictions. Poverty.

Life will change in ways that make it impossible to go back to how it was just minutes before. They will have a before and after moment. Life before the crash and life after the crash. A fault line in their lives.

Last summer, the kids and I ran a race to support my friend, Jenna, and her fight against stage 4 pancreatic cancer. They had a much larger turnout than expected so they weren't able to give medals to all of the participants. Isaac ran ahead of us while I walked my big pregnant belly around the trails while pushing Elliot and his bike up hills and trying to keep up with Audrey. Not pretty. Needless to say, the  medals were gone by the time the three of us got to the finish line. Audrey was mad. "It's not fair." I tried to talk to her about the big turnout and how that means they raised even more money for Jenna and blah, blah, blah. She wasn't listening. She just kept repeating, "It's not fair." And finally I'd had it. I bent down to her level and I said, "I'm sorry you didn't get a medal, but  life isn't always fair. You know what really isn't fair?," I asked with tears streaming down my face. "Jenna has cancer. She's really sick. That isn't fair. You will get another medal another day. They are out today." And she got really quiet and nodded her head and we got in the car and we left. She got a glimpse of big unfairness as compared to little unfairness. She saw it again when my friend died, having to say goodbye to her husband and 21-year-old son and 5-year-old son. Life isn't fair.

Or, the thing I've been thinking of since reading Aubrey's story yesterday. A couple will try with all of their might and all of their money and all of their prayers and hopes and dreams to have a baby. And in spite of all of that, it still might not happen. And infertility won't be their whole life, but it might cast a shadow over many parts of it. The family celebrations and friends announcing pregnancies and empty room that's supposed to be a nursery. Life isn't fair.

IT JUST ISN'T FAIR!

I am a Christian and I believe the bible when, in Jeremiah 29:11, it says, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Goodness, some days I cling to those words like a person stranded in a hurricane clings to a tree. And I've heard the platitudes, too. "There is a reason for this." "God never gives us more than we can handle."

But some days that's just a load of crap. God's best-laid plans feel light years away while I wallow here on earth, stuck in the unfairness of life. What are God's plans for children dying of hunger while I throw out leftovers? What are God's plans for couples aching for a baby who don't have the means to pursue fertility treatments or adoption? What are God's plans for the children left behind when their mama dies?

I get stuck there. Stuck in the hard, rotten, heartbreaking unfairness of so many facets of life.

But there's something I always come back to.

We are God's plan.

I am not a theologian. That's obvious, isn't it? I just really love this guy named Jesus and try to be more and more like him every day. Mostly I fail. Always I try. Because we are God's plan.

And armed with his love and mercy and justice, we are here to offer love and mercy and justice to others. While they battle life's unfairness. To lift them up. To listen. To wipe tears. To hug. To hold hands during chemo. To pray over the phone. To bring them to a movie when they need a laugh. To bring them a meal. To send them a card. To notice when they're down. To show up.

To enter into the lives, in real and meaningful ways, of people who are just absolutely stuck.

It's not fair. It really isn't. I wish it were. DeNae, armed with her magic wand and cape and wrist cuffs that deflect bullets, ridding the world of hate and abuse and disease and the moments that create fault lines in our lives.

Sorry. I'm no good with superheroes so I'm sure I got that all mixed up.

But I hope to improve at just being here. One person in God's big, beautiful, terrible world, standing in solidarity with people who are stuck.

It's not glamorous. It comes with no cool costume.

But it matters. In fact, it might make all the difference in the world to one person.

It matters.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Meet Aubrey

Today I am doing a blog swap in support of the 25 years of National Infertility Awareness Week. Meet Aubrey.

I am so happy to be writing about my story here on DeNae’s blog.  You see, I’m one of the lucky ones… one of the women who have escaped the too long journey of infertility, the heartache, the sorrow, the pain, the misery, the depression and the anger.  For some reason, I’ve been freed from all of that, but many, many, of my friends have not.

Rather than fill you in on the specifics of my particular story (I’ll send you over to my blog for that: Two Hearts and One Dream), I want this guest post to be more about infertility in general and specifically, what (actually, who!) got me through.  I will say this though: I struggled with infertility for three years.  I endured three IUI’s (intra-uterine insemination), four IVF’s (in-vitro fertilization) and one FET (frozen embryo transfer) in a matter of sixteen months (I was one of the “lucky” infertility women whose health insurance covered the majority of my procedures).  With no luck from any of those cycles locally, my husband and I decided to go to the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM, which many people associate with Giuliana and Bill Rancic, as that is where they went, too).  We went from health insurance essentially covering our infertility treatments in full (we are beyond lucky for that), to paying for everything out of pocket, including travel, lodging, food, etc.  We are in the hole, but it’s the best hole to be in because we are expecting our first TWO babies in July… TWIN BOYS!   

So yes, my journey (so far) has a happy ending.  I am elated.  My depression has disappeared and rather than crying myself to sleep at night over such painful sadness, I now cry myself to sleep over sheer happiness and thankfulness for the two hearts that are beating inside of my womb.  But, as I’ve begun to embrace the whole new wave of emotions that this pregnancy has brought about (I honestly think I had forgotten what it was like to feel true happiness), I’ve also felt very lost.  You see, for so long I had been in the trenches of infertility with so many amazing women that I had “met” along the way.  These women became my friends and I felt closer to them than I did to my real-life friends.  They understood.  They knew what to say.  They knew how to console me after every bump in the road, every failed cycle and every day that I just felt alone, scared, confused and angry.  So, now that I’ve crossed over to the “other side” – I don’t really know how to move forward.  It’s very odd for me to be blogging about my pregnancy, but I want to savor these nine months, for I don’t know that I’ll ever get to experience them again.  I want to read and research and network with other moms, but I’m finding that to be difficult as well.  How can I be someone who is lucky enough to be able to do all of that?!  On the other hand, it’s also hard to fit in anymore with my infertility friends who are still struggling in trying to conceive.  I want so badly to be there for them, except I can’t help but to feel that my advice, comments and encouragement just don’t really mean anything anymore.  I mean, I know if I were still struggling and someone told me to hang in there, that it can happen and that they’re proof of it, I’d respond with a big old eye roll!  But I guess, even though I’m feeling a little out of place right now, that’s one of the wonderful things about infertility… the sisterhood that it develops… if you let it. 

My story would not be the same if it weren’t for the women who truly came to my rescue.  Initially, I was hesitant to share my struggles to conceive with anyone.  But, then as I read others’ blogs about infertility, I felt less alone.  I started to share my story with my family and a few very close friends.  And I started to write about my personal journey as well.  My blog was private for a little while and then I made it public.  It felt therapeutic to write and release my true (mostly deepest and darkest) feelings.  And it connected me to the women who, even though I hadn’t ever met most of them, became a big piece of my heart.  I treasured every comment I received on my blog posts.  I could not have made it through a total of six IVF cycles without my infertility friends.  Their support will be forever cherished.  Their random acts of kindness: e-mails of support, surprise deliveries of chocolates, books, cards, flowers, jewelry, fun socks for surgery days, and so, so much more – they knew how to put a smile on my face during a time when I honestly think I had forgotten what muscles to use to even turn my frown upside down.  The sense of togetherness that infertility has created is now what I want to focus on.  I will not forget the support that I received and I will forever pay it forward. 

As the week progresses and you hear or see something about Infertility Awareness, here’s what I want you to know: these women are sad, but they are STRONG.  These women are delicate and fragile, but they are STRONG.  These women are heartbroken and angry, but they are STRONG.  These women are faithful, they are hopeful and they are truly some of my best friends in the world.  Struggling with infertility is something that no one should have to endure.  It’s something that brings upon stress and depression similar to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer or PTSD.  Infertility is real.  It is painful and it is unfair.


My heart will always be with those who are still fighting their way through their journey to mommy-hood.  Please open your hearts to these women as well and if you could, say an extra prayer for them tonight as you tuck your little one(s) into bed.  


Monday, April 21, 2014

Celebrate the Little Things

Today I'm taking a minute to celebrate the little things in life that make it grand. The moments I would most certainly forget if I didn't mark them in this little corner of the internet. The moments that make me smile even when I'm feeling ridiculously, annoyingly grouchy.

Swimsuits and water gun fights in April.

Silly siblings.

Baby cankles.

Family basketball games.

Floppy hats.

Sunshine warming our pale, dry, winter skin.
 

Toes in grass.

Yogurt-sicles, shorts, and winter boots.

Baby plank.

Driveway obstacle courses drawn in sidewalk chalk.

Sumo wrestling with babies.

Easter.

Cousins.

Gap-toothed smiles as bright as the sun.

These people I love so very much.

What little, beautiful moments are you celebrating today?

Don't waste Easter

Everyone was decked out in their Easter finery. Brightly colored skirts with light sweaters, floral print everywhere, bright, neon polo shirts and fancy little ties pulled out just for this special day. Easter. The church was packed, standing room only, chairs in the back hallway as people sang and prayed and the hallelujah chorus brought people to tears and we strained to hear the words read from the bible and spoken by the pastor.
Single Lily Blossom on Black Background
It is a powerful day for the church and its believers. The day we celebrate love winning over hate and light over darkness, the death of hatred and anger and brutality and the resurrection of forgiveness and love and beauty. It is a day that means so much more than bunnies and Cadbury eggs. It defines what we believe and who we believe in and hopefully guides who we are.

Yesterday we went to church in Michigan after spending a wonderful week road tripping, which culminated in three days with Jim's sister and her family. The pastor challenged us with three questions. I know I don't have them exactly right, but I hope I at least got the essence of them as I sat in the hallway with a squirmy, squawking, exhausted baby and tried my darndest to listen to the message.

1-Who is this man, Jesus?
2-What has he done for us?
3-What are we going to do about it?

He said we must examine the first two questions before answering the third question, but that the third question was the most important. I agree with him.

A church packed to the gills with people asking what they're going to do about this amazing man and this amazing God and more love than the world can fathom. Multiply that times all of the churches in Michigan and the upper Midwest and the country and the world.

If all of us, you and me and every last one of us, decide to get up out of our pews or folding chairs or living room recliners or dining room chairs and take what we learned about God or feel in our hearts or read in the bible or saw reflected in a loving friend, can you imagine what that would look like?

Can you even imagine?

At a minimum, Love would overwhelm. The least and the lost would be cared for. Our lives would have new, beautiful purposes. Our lives would inspire and the ripples would overwhelm the pond and the circles of love would reach beyond our wildest dreams.
Don't waste Easter. Don't waste hope, love, forgiveness, beauty, life.

Don't hold it too tightly.

Share it. Light the world on fire with it.

Happy Monday. I hope you had a beautiful and fun Easter. What's one thing you can do this week to share the love, miracle, and beauty of Easter with someone? 


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter.

It is Friday. Darkness closes in. He says, "It is finished." We believe him. Not remembering the promises he gave us. Unable to comprehend the joy awaiting us.

It is Saturday. We see a closed tomb. Death and silence. Grief takes hold. The darkness stays. Settles into our souls. We think it will last forever, not knowing how close we are to joy and love and bliss.

It is Sunday. The stone is rolled away. We celebrate. We rejoice. Life and love and forgiveness and a fresh start and a clean slate. 
We are the easter people
It is Easter. It is life, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Cleaning. Green Cleaning. Giveaway.

First, a story to set the spring cleaning stage.

When Jim and I met way back when I was 19 and he was 21, his childhood friend who was my new college friend told me that I'd marry Jim. So what that he was in the Air Force in Texas while I was a sophomore in Michigan? And that I was never getting married? And that he has just broken up with his long, long time girlfriend? And that I was casually dating someone else who happened to be gone for the weekend? Details, details. Jim  drove up to visit her and the night I met him I told him that since we were going to get married he should know that I don't cook, clean, or do laundry.
The night we met. 
Two days later I called him on the phone as he drove back to Texas and proposed to the man even though I didn't know his last name. He said yes. Eleven months later we were married. Young and clueless and in love and married. Wahoooooo!

All that to say that I did not bait and switch the man. I very honestly told him some of my downfalls and he married me anyway. Thank goodness! Cleaning and laundry remain two of my serious downfalls and, while I make loads of mistakes in the kitchen, I take my job as family cook pretty seriously. One out of three ain't bad, right? Right?

I keep trying to do better, but it is a constant challenge for me since I'd much rather play with the kids or read or write or run or almost anything that doesn't involve cleaning or laundry. So when a new blogger friend, Krysta, told me about a Shaklee giveaway involving environmentally friendly all-purpose and window cleaner, I jumped at the chance. Less stress on the earth. Less grime on my counters and windows. Sign me up.

One little teeny pouch of Basic H split between two spray bottles, add water, and voila, time to clean. Well, of course, there were loads of interruptions, but the kitchen got sparkly, beautiful clean and the stove didn't even have streaks on it. Score one for Shaklee.

I forgot about taking pictures of my cleaning, which is a bummer for blogging sake and for proof that I do actually clean my house sometimes sake, too. Here are a few before and afters that Krysta has shared.







I obviously liked the level of cleaning, but I also like that my house didn't smell like a big chemical reaction. I like knowing I'm cleaning without hurting the environment. I like the minimal packaging that reduces waste. I like feeling confident that my kids can dust and clean the counters without wondering what kind of chemicals they would have all over their hands.

Now you know why I like it so much. Here's your chance to win your own sample of Basic H that will make a bottle of All-Purpose cleaner and a bottle of Window cleaner. It's so simple and so perfect for Earth Day as we all consider how we can be a little easier on this beautiful home we call Earth.

Three lucky winners will be chosen. Share with a friend. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

story you'll tell

When Asher boy was an itty bitty baby, you know, way back almost eight big months ago, he cried. Screamed. Almost constantly. It took all of my very best effort to keep him from crying and sometimes that didn't help either. It was exhausting and consuming and made me question everything I thought I knew about being a mama.
itty bitty sleepy cuatro baby

Sweet baby
We took him in for his first pediatrician appointment and our doctor, who we love so very much and who has watched us grow from a really excited, freaked out family of three to this family of six that we are now and has honored our wishes and shared her expertise, said, "Just remember that he's portable. You can take him places." Jim and I nodded politely and got in the car and told each other that we believe that he would one day be portable, but that he wasn't at that point. Then we drove home and I summer hibernated with the boy for a few more weeks because it was all I could think to do.

I know that we still have one five hour drive and one ten hour drive ahead of us on this road trip so there is still room for a huge letdown, but so far we have either been in the car or at a museum for three entire days and the Asher boy is a dream. He smiles all day long and he is irresistible to the point that a waitress and a random woman in the elevator tried to grab him out of my arms and grown men tickle his back and strangers make faces at him in hopes of a smile. They just can't get over him. Then we lay the stroller flat and cover it with a blanket, bird style, and he takes a nap that lasts 30 minutes long or one and a half hours long or somewhere in between and he wakes up ready to rock.


He is officially portable.

For a small blip of time, but a time that felt it would go on forever, I kind of thought I would lose my mind. I cried. A lot. I felt like I'd never be able to do anything well again. I wondered how I could ever be enough for all four of these kids I love so much and take a shower. How I could make dinner and teach spelling. How I could wash the laundry and braid Audrey's hair. It was a time full of love for my family and my new baby, but questions about me as a mama, wife friend, functioning human.

Then we took him to the chiropractor and found the reason for his pain and discomfort. That, combined with the fact that he grew and matured and changed so quickly like little babies are known to do and my hormones evened out and I stopped feeling like the biggest failure known to humankind and we are here where we are today. And it is so delightfully swell.

Don't get me wrong. He still thinks sleep is for the weak, but we're working with it. And someday he could be a two-year-old that's full of sass or a four-year-old that's full of whys or a seven-year-old who is such an artist he is compelled to draw on walls or a ten-year-old who runs away to the neighbor's house or a 12-year-old who, who. . . I don't know.

Isn't that the fun of it? The wonder of it? The beauty of it?

That we are all in the middle of our story and we could never even begin to guess the ending of it.

That there are times it will be so much worse than we thought possible we'll think we've cried all the tears we can cry. The Epic Fail portion of life. But there will be other times so sweet, so tender, so full of surprise and love, that the hard times are forgotten and hope is restored and we breathe a deep cleansing, "Thank you, God" breath and forge ahead another day. The Big Love of life.

The best advice I've received came from my sister-in-law. I was in the throes of parenting frustration times infinity and she said, "Someday this will be a story you'll tell."

And she is so right.

And I've got a portable baby to prove it.
What's the best advice, parenting or otherwise, that you've received? What stage of your life felt like it would go on forever, but is now just a story you tell?