embracing stillness.

This month Case turned 6 months old, which is purely impossible seeing as how I just gave birth to him yesterday. But alas, his first half birthday has come and gone, and we have now entered into the wonderful phase of baby parenting that includes the joys of first solids and the sorrows of navigating sleep routines.

Until recently (like, as recently as this week) Case wouldn’t really sleep unless he was in my arms. He would nurse until he was content, and then slacken and unlatch in a quiet contented slumber. But if I tried to put him down, or even scoot him to be next to me, he would pop wide awake.

That’s how I rang in my 30th birthday, actually — lying on my couch nursing a sleeping Case — which I suppose is pretty appropriate.

It was precious. And lovely. But exhausting for me, because I have never been one to sit still for long periods of time, let alone lie down for long periods of time or nap. (I’ve always been too afraid to miss out on anything, you know? Extroversion be damned!) And sleeping while holding another person isn’t exactly comfortable or easy.

Because of my buzzing disposition coupled with the actual physical pain associated with lying still while holding a tiny person, Case’s little routine was hard to navigate. While my sweet baby snoozed into my ear, my twisted back would ache and I would get antsy and frustrated at these wasted moments that should have been spent organizing piles of laundry or cleaning dishes or writing blog posts but were instead spent in bed.

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Things didn’t seem to be changing any time soon, so I eventually embraced it; when Case would get tired, I would line up a few of my favorite NPR podcasts on my phone, put in my earbuds, and snuggle in with him for the long haul.

After a while of doing this, I found that even I would doze off for a bit (any length of time between 20 minutes and a whole hour!) presumably because I’d finally let my expectations of anything else go.

It’s amazing how much can change in a week, though. In desperate exhaustion, I finally broke the news to Case that he’d have to learn to sleep on his own. Not only was I tired, but he was overtired as well, only getting in a catnap here or there throughout the day (usually snuggled up against me in my ring sling) and we both needed a change.

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He responded pretty well to sleep training (better than I did, to be honest!) probably because he needed it so badly (even though he didn’t know he needed it) and now he sleeps relatively well by himself in his crib (teething and a gnarly sinus infection notwithstanding).

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Only when I embraced the first frustrating stillness was I able to fall asleep. Only when Case embraced his crib was he truly able to rest. When our expectations changed, we witnessed the stuff of miracles.

Life is funny that way. We can want so badly for it to go one way but it doesn’t, and our expectations leave us downtrodden. But I’m finding that in this messy life, miracles happen more often than not. We just need to embrace them AS they come rather than HOW they come.

the case against the cry room.

I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about this or not, but Dax had a pretty gnarly case of colic when he was born and so for the first several months of his life, if he was awake, he was screaming. Not crying, screaming. And as a relatively young first time mom, this was not only exhausting and frustrating, but also embarrassing and demoralizing.

One time while I was still on maternity leave and absolutely dying from cabin fever, I remember I mustered up the courage to take Sir ScreamyPants out into the open. For once. We went to a local park to take a walk and get some fresh air.

About halfway into it, as I knew would happen, Dax woke up in the stroller and started to scream. I did my best to get him over to a bench as quickly as possible, put on my nursing cover, and wrestle this wriggling, screaming, angry little human into submission for nursing. A lady came up to me while all of this was happening and, instead of offering to help me, just spat out, “GOD are you going to DO something about that baby or WHAT?”

My cheeks burned.

For the majority of the first year of Dax’s life I didn’t think I could leave my house and go anywhere without feeling like my baby and I were just one big inconvenience.

Including church.

During my motherhood hazing period, I didn’t sit through a single sermon, despite being married to a youth pastor and, therefore, going to church (dare I say it) religiously. I spent the time I should have been in worship huddled in the church coffee shop, rocking and shushing my baby, trying so desperately to be seen and not heard. My loneliness was palpable, only exacerbated by the fact that my husband and I were one of the first couples of our friend group to have babies. I obviously didn’t know what I was doing, and it seemed my baby was shouting that fact out to the world, and I felt like he and I were broken, alone, and a nuisance to everyone around us.

When we moved to Naples two and a half years ago for my husband’s (and, at the time, my) ministry career, we discovered that our new church has a room attached to the sanctuary dubbed the “Mommy and Me” room, where moms can take their fussy babies during church services so as not to disturb the other worshippers. It houses a changing table, rocking chairs, and lots of toys, and is pretty sound proof. The audio from inside the sanctuary broadcasts in that room, and upon discovering it I thought, “Oh man, if I would have had this when Dax was born, I would have actually been able to enjoy church!”

Even though there is a sign on the door that clearly reads, “Mommy and Me Room”, I’ve never heard it referred to as such by anyone at our church. Anyone I’ve heard talk about this room refers to it as “The Cry Room”, which has always bothered me for (until recently) an unknown reason.

Why did this room’s nickname tick me off? Was it because I have always been a staunch rule follower, and people are clearly not following the rules by referring to this room by a name it was not originally given? That seems a bit unreasonable, even for me.

It wasn’t until I had my second son that I figured out why I hated “The Cry Room”; this room, as its name suggests, is not just a place where babies go to cry. It is designed to be the place babies go to cry.

After having two of them, I now know one true thing about babies: they cry. A lot. Sometimes, if they have colic like my oldest son did, they cry almost incessantly. Sometimes they only cry if something is obviously wrong, like my second son does. But regardless, they cry. It’s how they communicate. And it’s not wrong or bad or inconvenient.

It just is.

By encouraging moms to separate their babies (and in tandem, themselves) from the rest of the body of Christ — to send them from the living room to the garage of God’s house, essentially — simply because they are crying, we are cultivating a culture in which we can only approach the foot of the cross if we

are silent

are compliant

are orderly

aren’t annoying anyone

are clean

are perfect.

If we only allow babies (and children, for that matter) among the Body when they’re in good spirits, we’re telling them that God only wants part of their whole selves. We’re communicating that since we can’t be bothered with their noise or their innate baby-ness, God can’t be, either.

And that’s extremely frustrating to me as a mother.

After having Dax, I hated feeling like I was an outsider even in my own church just because my baby acted like a baby.

So when Case was first born, I unapologetically brought him everywhere with me, even into the pews with me on Sunday morning. A lot of the time he’d sleep right through the entire service, but if he woke up and started to fuss because he was hungry, I wouldn’t gather him up into a heap and hurry off to “The Cry Room”, frantically shushing him along the way, before annoying anyone in the Sanctuary. Instead, I just snuggled him and nursed him right in the pews.

Sometimes he’d quiet down after he ate. Other times he would start loudly squawking, adding his own baby-commentary to the sermon. Other times he’d continue to wimper and I’d jiggle him and attempt to make him a bit happier.

But unless he needed a diaper change, I didn’t want to take him to “The Cry Room.”

The thing is, Jesus died for that little squirmy, hungry, squawky baby, in all his glorious baby-ness. Just like he died for my colicky first born (who has grown into a way-smarter-than-average three-year-old). I never want either of them to feel like they can’t bring their whole selves to the altar.

Because if my children can’t be welcomed to cry in the House of God, then none of us should be.

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light in august.

A lot has happened since my last real blog post.

Well, really, ONE thing has changed, but the change is so huge that it has been the catalyst to several other changes.

Just over two months ago, at 4:12pm on June 6th, Case Daniel came into my arms for the first time after a swift and smooth six-hour labor two weeks before his due date. (Considering he was 8 lbs 1 oz and 20 inches, I’m so glad he didn’t stay in there growing for another two weeks.) And so, we’ve been adjusting to life as a family of four.

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Apart from physically (he is almost a carbon-copy of his brother) Case is such a different baby than Dax was. Poor Dax was plagued by colic, reflux, and a severe dairy intolerance, so I distinctly remember that he spent the first three-ish months of his life screaming bloody murder which, for a first-time mother, was something I never thought I would live through. Case, on the other hand, is quite the easy going little one. He fusses when he’s hungry or tired or gassy, but otherwise he is absolutely peaceful. And he was born knowing exactly how to nurse and sleep at night. He’s one of those dangerous babies who make you think you could have a hundred of them.

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He was born right after the school year ended, so I’ve been trying my best to figure out how to work from home with a newborn and toddler in tow all day everyday. It means pulling a lot of weird hours, enlisting help from whomever can offer it, and stopping mid-project to nurse or accompany Dax to the potty, but all the hardest things about my current situation pale in comparison to the hardships I faced when working outside the home. It is a challenge to hit all my hours each week (and, you know, get a decent amount of sleep) but I am so grateful to have the job I do that not only fulfills me vocationally but also affords me this precious time with my babies. They are only this small once and, as someone who is getting ready to send her eldest to Pre-K 3, I know firsthand how quickly these years fly by.

A month after Case was born the Cases (the family after whom he is named) drove six hours to come visit us and meet him. And I have to tell you, that was one of the best (and heaviest) things I’ve ever gotten to experience. Dan was in the shower and so I was holding Case when they arrived, so when we heard them knocking Dax ran to answer the door and let them in. My heart was racing and my palms were sweaty while I tried to keep my composure. But in that moment, while I held this precious little gift in my arms and then laid eyes on four people that have bestowed countless gifts upon my husband and me, I was incredulous. Here I was, surrounded by the deepest love I could comprehend, and why?

How did I deserve all of it? Two precious babies, and a group of people who love us enough to drive basically to the end of the earth to come see us? It just felt too good to be true.

So we took a picture with a selfie stick to make sure we had proof that it really happened.

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(If you use your imagination, it’s like a human Venn Diagram!)

July brought with it stifling heat that, thankfully, I rarely encountered since I work from home, and Dax’s third birthday. And just a few days before that joyous day, my father, whom I haven’t seen in 20 years, died suddenly. I might blog more about that later but, for purposes of this post, know that the death of my father has stirred up some darkness within me that I wasn’t really aware of until now.

Granted, I did just have a baby. And the newborn fade makes life in general a lot harder to cope with, even without a sudden passing. But in conversations with my husband and spiritual mentor during this time, I’ve discovered some pretty disturbing things about my spirit and the way I view the world that, now that I’m aware of them, I hope I can now begin to grow and change.

And so, here we are. August. Heavy with heat but with it, light.

The house does not stay clean. The laundry does not end. My patience wears thin and I fail to meet my self-made standards on the daily. At this very moment I am blinking sleepiness away, feeling always-tired and yet at peace, because while I am certainly drowning in diapers and dishes, I am also held afloat by a bewildering grace.

open letter to my firstborn son on his third birthday.

Dear Dax,

Few things can drag a group of people outside in South Florida in mid-July, but a year ago, friends and family gathered under the weight of the bullying heat and humidity to celebrate your birthday.

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We swam in the pool (though you kind of hated it), ate Chick-fil-A and cupcakes, and showered you with presents (mostly Spider-Man themed).

And just like that, you were two.

We finished out the summer by doing what you do; staying up way too late to catch the sunset on the gulf and splashing in the waves.

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And as summer made a way for the fall, we started a year that was going to be full of crazy changes. And you took them all in stride.

First, a month after your birthday, we took you to Open House at your new school, The Village School. You were starting Pre-K 2 in the fall for two days a week and so we took you to meet your teacher, Ms. Amy.

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I felt like my heart was in a vise the entire time, but you had a blast. You loved Ms. Amy and her puzzles that day and you loved them every day afterward.

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You and I were both a bit nervous at first. As a matter of fact, the first few months, you cried whenever I would drop you off. But before long, you couldn’t wait to get to school to play with your friends Annabelle, Drake, and Zion.

You got your first big boy haircut a few weeks later in preparation for your school pictures. I was a bit worried you would squirm too much, but you did so well! Everyone in the hair salon said you were such a good two-year-old.

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I think it turned out pretty good, don’t you?

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A month after you started school, you and I went to Target by ourselves to get a pregnancy test while Dada was napping. After I put you down for a nap, I took the test, and we found out that you were going to be a big brother! You were so excited, and so were we!

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You loved going to the doctor to hear the heartbeat (or “heartbeep” as you called it) of the “baby in Mama’s belly” and whenever we would visit my OB, you would crack up the entire office because you loved to talk to everyone. You also insisted that you be weighed every visit just like Mama. You loved to see the numbers on the scale pop up whenever you would step on, and we loved watching you grow right alongside me.

With pregnancy, my milk supply began to finally diminish so my body could put forth all of its energy into carrying your younger sibling. So it came time to wean you. On my birthday (because I’m a masochist, I guess) we snuggled right before bedtime and you asked to nurse. And I told you that Mama’s milk was all gone, and you said okay, and then you lay your head on my chest. I put my arms around you and heaved silent sobs into your blonde hair, mourning the last real component of your baby phase. But after it’s all said and done, I’m so proud that I nursed you until you were well over two. I wanted to make sure you got as much of that liquid gold as possible.

This year was the first year you really understood holidays. First was Halloween, and when you figured out that all you had to do was dress like Spider-Man and people would give you candy, you were hooked. We took you to a Trunk-Or-Treat at your school and saw so many other superheroes, but none of them owned it like you did.

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You kept the entire costume — including the mask — on until we had to peel it off of you at bedtime. You were COMMITTED. Other kids were tearing their costumes off in the parking lot, but not you.

Thanksgiving was impressive because, despite being an extremely picky toddler, you actually ate pretty much everything on your plate. And then came Christmas…

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Christmas this year was nothing short of magical. You had sparked an interest in Thomas the Train, asking to watch him everyday, so your dada and I got you some train tracks and some Thomas toys to open on Christmas morning and You. Were. OBSESSED.

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For a week and a half, you wouldn’t eat or sleep. You just wanted to play with your trains and nothing could take you away from them. It resulted in some pretty epic meltdowns, but we eventually settled into a rhythm with Thomas.

To this day, you will play with your trains all day. Everyday. And your collection has expanded, thanks to your father’s inability to restrain himself whenever he stops by Walmart, Target, or Toys-R-Us. Just a few weeks ago, he moved all your toys into your room because our living room had all but turned into the Isle of Sodor.

It is so fun to watch you experience the world for the first time. We took you to the zoo this year, and to this day, you still remember watching kids feed the giraffe lettuce. You always remark about how you ALSO eat lettuce, but when you do, you eat it with ranch. (Maybe the giraffe could take a few pointers from you.)

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You also love the Children’s Museum and if I had more money I’d take you there more often.

Soon, we found out who was growing my belly. It was a baby brother for you! And we named him Case!

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We let you be the one to tell everyone on social media all about your baby brother because you were just so excited. I wasn’t sure how you would be once the baby was actually born, but while I was pregnant, it was so fun to see you fawn over the baby in my belly.

As the year progressed, so did your independence. You wanted to do everything yourself. And as I got rounder and rounder with your baby brother in my belly, I wanted to pull you even closer. You were my first, and the old adage is true that there is just something different about your first. So I would take you out on dates, just the two of us, so you would know how much I loved you and how that wouldn’t change, even with the introduction of another baby. A typical two-year-old, you were no stranger to time outs and reprimands, but on our special dates when it was just the two of us, you were polite. You obeyed. You stayed close. You listened. I think you appreciated the time as much as I did.

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Your last day of Pre-K Two was an eventful day. Not only did you get to celebrate Water Day, and not only did we find that you grew what seems like a whole foot, but I also went to the hospital with contractions as I was in early labor with your brother.

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A few days later, on June 6th, your brother Case Daniel came into this world and, let me tell you, I was so nervous. I felt so guilty making you share me and your father with a sibling. I had prepared myself for you to act out, be jealous, and to turn into a terror. But none of that happened. Dax, you were made to be a big brother. Watching you love on Case has been one of the biggest blessings I’ve received as a mother.

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Your dad was feeling a bit ambitious when we brought Case home from the hospital because he decided that was when he was going to potty train you. I think you loved the extra attention it got you, especially since I was basically out of commission with a new baby, but man. Talk about stress.

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Oh and potty training killed your naps. And it makes me so sad. As cute as you look in big boy undies, I’m not sure they’re worth this casualty.

Yesterday, a day before your actual birthday, all of us took you to the Naples Train Museum to celebrate. GG even came down for the occasion! We also met up with your best friend Evelyn and her family and had a blast watching you play and ride a real train! The museum even had a Thomas train which, of course, is what you loved most.

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After the train museum, we took you to Chick-fil-A so you and Evelyn could play. When it got too overcrowded with kids, we took you home where you opened up all your presents (all Thomas-related, except the super sweet BIKE you got from JJ, Uncle Marc, Aunt Katie, and Uncle Brian) and then played with them until dinner time. We had your favorite (Mac and Cheese) and then capped off the night with (of course) a Thomas birthday cake.

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When I took social psychology in college, I learned that humans’ personalities are pretty much solidified once they turn three. If that is the case, I’m so happy with the person you’ve become. You’re sweet, compassionate, and empathetic, but also strong-willed, stubborn, and independent. A beautiful combination of your father and I.

Dax, every year with you gets better. It is such a joy to watch you come into your own. I can’t wait to see what this fourth year has in store for you.

I love you so much! Happy birthday!

Love,

Mama.