Thursday, June 21, 2012

The gratitude project

Embarassingly, I started a book over six months ago and I even urged you, dear reader, here, to read the book, too. I even gave the book as a gift to half a dozen people and I subscribe to the blog everyday and read it...occasionally. But here I'm about to admit one of my many short comings to you and hopefully you'll feel just a little better about yourself and maybe give yourself some grace should you have the same little flaw.

I don't finish projects. My husband just reread that sentence as his eyes got bigger and his jaw dropped I am sure. Yes, honey, it's in writing. I am a great initiator and I love to get all the supplies I need for something and then lay them on the dining room table....for months. I even love to make people dinners when they have a baby or are going through a tough time and then they sit in my freezer because they never got delivered. Just like how I buy books off Amazon and I sometimes even expedite the shipping and then after a few chapters I add them to my stack of to-be-completed books and projects.

Well, last fall in my bible study for moms many women I admire spoke about how transformational this book was for them who, like me, can often get stuck in the rut of being a mother. So immediatly I ordered two copies, read several chapters, raved about what I was reading and then sort of forgot about the book and with that, forgot, really, about what the book had even taught me in my few days of digesting every thought I could about this whole "gift" idea. In the book, the author stumbled upon a way to really feel grateful after spending so many of her adult years sort of luke warm or neutral. I've never liked feeling neutral. I think a life lived vibrantly is the best gift we can give others and the best medicine for ourselves. Of course, we all go through those seasons where our day to day life is so black and white and there isn't even a way to imagine a splash of color. I've been there many times and I was there for nearly 18 months before this pregnancy snapped me back to "me."

Just like me, Ann, the writer, began to despise her lack of gratitude for things big and small in her life so she started writing down every single thing that she was grateful for throughout her day. Her book is difficult to read because she has a stream of conscious type of style so I have to read a paragraph multiple times but when I do I find myself smelling the things she smells and seeing the things she sees on her farm property. The heart of this book...the challenge to notice and then take note with a pen (or keyboard) of my blessings - truly has been the biggest gift given to me yet. I mean it. And sometime between changing a diaper, laying awake at night alone during one of my many nights of insomnia and now peacefully nursing a newborn baby it all hit me... the weight and privilege of living gratefully and I am so glad it did....and when it did.

It's all about gratitude. Like, really deep rooted, sincere gratitude felt throughout the day and at specific moments over specific things. What Ann realized is that if she wrote down the things that she appreciates as she appreciates them then she is better able to literally feel and express gratitude. It all sounds so simple and obvious but I think it is the rarest secret that so few people really have unlocked. I am not there but I have a taste of it and I want more.

Thank you to a friend and her recent quest to write down her "gifts" I started leaving myself voice memos on my iphone for things throughout the day that made my heart warm up a little - even on the worst of days. This has opened up a whole new world for me and is sooo sooo addictive. I don't know where my thankful heart had vacationed to these past few years? You would think among 3 births and a new home that my cornucopia would be overflowing but as life often goes - the more blessings equals more responsibility that often feels more like burdens than gifts. Atleast that is what our society would have you feel. So without further adieu....the start to this renewed way of living in a society that I think has forgotten how to be thankful:
1)the realization that my heart was missing the biggest gift yet - gratitude
2)my iphone to record and write my "gifts' no matter where I am....{ahem} the bathroom?
3)the hour in the day when there really are three other sleeping humans in our home. If you'd told me that would ever happened before I had kids I would never have believed you!
4)the weeks post-baby where you just have to give yourself a little grace about everything
5)His mercies that truly are new every single morning
6)the purple flowers on the trees in my back yard
7)the mama bird out my window whose babies hatched the weekend we had our baby
8)watching how patiently and dependently the baby birds wait for their mama to fly back with food
9)the bay window in our living room
11)visitors baring the food for my babies since this mama isn't out cooking up dinner yet!
12)the new energy I feel each day as I get farther and farther away from Bradford's birthday
13)the crazy idea to get out of the house this morning
14)living near the Chattahoochee River
15)public parks and libraries....a mother's love!
16)the double-bob stroller
17)a flat walk by the river

18)talking to the boys about what they see outside
19)forgetting my iphone at home
20)positive words from strangers
21)a sense of pride from just getting out the door
22)getting to stay home with the boys everyday
23)watching ducks bob for fish
24)having two little boys to ask me questions while we stroll the path
25)running into friends who help out when your hands are tied with three little people needing something at the same time
26)picking up lunch
27)my husbands ring on my phone that is unique to him
28)my husbands ring on my phone mid-morning when he is calling just to check on us
29)half sweetened ice tea
30)with a lemon
31)lactic acid in my legs
32)1:45pm everyday
33)and getting the mail
34)Pierre, the mail man, and sometimes the only adult conversation until B gets home
35)sleeping babies
36)newborn noises
37)newborn smells
38)newborn feet
39)the crazy thought while holding a newborn that maybe one day I'll want another newborn
41)the feeling of actually finishing something I started (my walk today)
42)racing the boys to the top of the stairs
43)watching the lil man copy the big boy as he points to the ducks and the squirrels
45)how far God has brought me/us with my insomnia
46)getting enough sleep to feel pretty good throughout the day
47)medicine that actually works (when there was a time that nothing helped me sleep)
48)dancing a few steps while cleaning the kitchen
49)a clean kitchen
50)the fresh smell of lemon and pinesol in the clean kitchen
51)noticing the height of the shasta daisies in the front yard

52)watermelon drool
53)catching the sparkle from the diamond in my ring and remembering the day I said yes
54)rocking the 22 month old as we sing Jesus loves me before a nap
55)Jesus loving me
56)feeling loved
57)really feeling grateful

To be continued. . . . . {Try it for yourself. It may not change you but I promise it won't hurt.}

Monday, June 18, 2012

So much joy all at once

Big boys, please stop growing bigger, stop learning more than me, stop busting through your shoe sizes every two months, stop mocking me throughout our day together, stop saying something out of the blue that I said days before, stop using multiple word sentences. I just can't take it. No more climbing onto the barstools by yourself or running to the toilet without me knowing in the middle of a day. And certainly no more dressing yourself (however creative the outcome may be), and saying phrases like "I'm sorry, William, I was mean to you" and "I love you all the way to the moon and back" unsolicited as you go up the stairs with daddy for bed. I don't know if I can handle another play date at the park where you master the really tall slide that even petrifies me. Oh, and then you go and make something up on your own that had nothing to do with my teaching or prompting! Like, your "funny" walk that you boys do back and forth to each other in the basement. (A video must follow) Whatever happened to you needing me not only for your daily needs but for entertainment every minute of the day? Singing? Who knew you could pick up on my country songs so quickly in the car? Then, sometimes in the morning I will actually eat some breakfast or even watch a little of the Today show because you two edible little monsters are playing....for a solid long long time in my book - and you aren't even needing me to pretend with you.

So, seriously, please STOP! I can't take all this in all at once. The minutes are moving too fast. Your clothes are all too small (and too dirty to go through a 3rd wear with your new brother.) Your curious minds they will not slow down and in the mean time the months are flying by just as everyone before me said they would do. I have even vowed to put any cleaning and real cooking to the side while I get to witness these little-precious years but I still find myself wanting to squeeze each moment into a jar, seal the lid, and just hold on and never let it go.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A year ago today

A long yet fast year ago today one of my most favorite women in the world made a quick and surprising flee to heaven and the void in my heart and so many others can never be filled. I remember that afternoon like it just happened yesterday as well as the events that would follow. As anyone who has lost someone close to them can attest the first weeks and months to follow are quite a blur and the loss doesn't really set in right away. It's when her birthday comes around that flashes of her many birthday's spent among her loves, her daughters, pop into my head. Or that first Sunday a few weeks later where I would have literally done anything to sit around her dinner table and enjoy her company and her pound cake. She would cook all Saturday night and all day Sunday and then often quietly serve anyone that chose to show up. Now I get it - she knew she was blessed and she was taking it all in. She understood the true gems in this life - family and relationships. Then, of course, her favorite holiday came around this past Christmas and the lack of her presence was felt deeply by everyone. Yes, she was always known for her radical gift giving to her huge family (and any boyfriend or girlfriend that was brought around more than once) but it was really just her that we missed. She was one of those women that may not have made a fuss when she walked in a room but you always knew she was there and she made the atmosphere better - more welcoming, vibrant, and peaceful.

But then there was that other side of her that I miss more than anything. I can laugh about this now but often after a large family event we would talk about who got to "meet" Mawmaw. Though she may have seemed quiet she knew how to tell a story and she loved sharing her life with even the newest stranger. What a rare quality these days when so often it takes years and years to really know someone. I love that many of my friends at my wedding surely complimented me about the perfect October farm setting but there was more talk over the breakfast conversations had with my Mawmaw the morning after the wedding. You couldn't have met Mawmaw, learned her name, and not heard about her family - namely her 7 daughters. It's funny - I remember every second of her at events like those - a wedding, following the birth of one of my babies, or one of her daughter's 50th birthday parties. She knew how to celebrate life and like I said before - she really knew what mattered most and I see that now. I knew it when she was alive but I didn't appreciate it the way I do now - and it didn't change me until this past year when I would think back about this special Mawmaw-like-presence that I so craved.

Unfortunately, isn't that how it often goes...we think we know how much we value a person but it's not really until their chair is empty that we recognize the richness of their presence? This year I have taken in so many treasures that I wouldn't have had I not this unique space left open in my heart. She really was just an easy person but I would never call her simple. There was alot to her but her character really came through her actions - not just some empty words. She loved others exceptionally and without obligation. She didn't require much. And as you would assume with 7 daughters, 16 grandkids, and a bunch more great grandkids she was quite a mother to many. 3 weeks ago as were quietly enjoying our stay at Northside hospital after the birth of our 3rd son I had one of those moments where I literally craved my Mawmaw's presence. If there was anyone who would champion a woman having a whole lot of kids and even having them back to back to back it was her! Even though she had experienced many births of her own and of her own grandchildren she always made me feel like I was let in on her secret through the birth of my own children. I loved getting to share that secret with her. So it was such an honor for us to get to use her middle name in naming our newest little boy. I love getting to call our little boy by my sweet grandmother's middle name as many knew her as Mary John. It makes me smile every time I talk to him knowing the life and legacy behind his name.

And then there are the things this year that just made me laugh as if she was sitting in the kitchen with me over a cup of coffee. I can't hear Randy Travis and not picture my 70+ year old grandma in her cowboy hat and dancing boots. That woman was never shy of a dance floor and really there isn't a country song that doesnt make me think of her. Then a few months ago I decided to try to make one of her cakes with some of the very utensils that stocked her tiny but inviting kitchen. I literally laughed myself to tears at what would have embarrassed her to say was a mock up of her cake. She could make the most perfect cake at 2am with her eyes closed. What I would have done this year to really know what she meant by half of her loose directions in her recipes that were compiled into a family cook book several years ago. I now know that her "2 cups" is really about 3 cups of flour if you use her measuring standards!

I do not believe that the years will get any easier especially as we continue to encounter many of her most favorite things- Christmas, birthdays, Memorial day cookouts and new births. But I do believe we'll continue to get to know Mawmaw even more as the marks she left on so many begin to shine through even the things we do and the way we treat other people and the way we learn to treasure the most important things like she did - relationships and family.

Thank you, Mawmaw, for continuing to teach me so much and mold me into the selfless servant and mother that I hope to be.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

John "Bradford"

After making us wait several long days and nights past our due date our not-so-little 3rd son joined our family last Friday morning at 2:12am. To say the wait was torture is an understatement. We were all okay with the whole 40-week thing but once we realized that our 3rd (and so far laziest) of children didn't want to join us even after the 40 week mark - things started to get a little hectic around here. Or maybe I was just the frantic one thinking every twist in my belly or hiccup would result in a birth story.

Had I even tried to put together this childs birth story I would not have come close to the amount of excitement he wanted to stir up on his actual birthday. The not-too-gory details include a 12am phnoecall to a sweet grandma who had just taken some benadryl to fight a cold and her middle of the night drive from South Georgia, a high-five with the other sweet grandma in the middle of our neighborhood as we fled for the hospital, one wrong turn despite living 1 mile from the country's largest birthing hospital, a whole hour and a half of labor, and then what I call as the moment I saw Jesus when the 9lb baby finally made his way into the world at lightning speed. I am just happy 10 days later that he is here and that he came with a story to tell.

We knew his name right away though we hadn't confirmed it before we got to the hospital. Believe it or not there were about 10 seconds when I thought he was a girl because no one would tell me what just happened or what actually came out. I had thought this whole pregnancy that this baby was a boy and I had already started to dream of the adventures our boys could take us on and the royal treatment I might receive being the only girl of the house so I was quite happy to learn that Bradford was actually the boy I had planned on and more so, that despite all of the many risks that we had learned of throughout this pregnancy - he was a healthy, whopping 9lb1oz boy. John is the middle name of both my "mawmaw" who passed away last year and my dads' dad who passed away in 2008 so there was no question that John would be a part of this baby's name. I love that we get to honor so many dear people in our lives through this childs life. Bradford is Brad's full name and I have loved it since day 1. Brad wasn't sure about using his name on a 3rd child, rather than the 1st, but I think it couldn't be more fitting. This baby's personality reminds me of Brad's already....laid back, easy-going, slow and controlled with bursts of energy that seem to come from nowhere!

The big boys have loved their new baby brother and done everything in the power to "help" him. Last Friday was my first day without help. It went like this...pajamas until 1030...I finally got everyone dressed and then sweet Bradford projectile vomitted all over me, the dog, and William. So, we changed clothes, and headed out the door for a laundry/sanity trip. We came home to a dining room full of torn apart newborn dirty diapers that Amos, the unloved dog for the moment had eaten. Sweet. While I was cleaning the diapers up the baby was ready to eat and I guess William was too as I came into the den to find William sucking down the 4 ounces of milk (not formula) that I had made for the baby. Ummm...I guess there are health benefits to that considering all of the hooplah in the media now about breastfeeding?? So, the baby was short changed a little bit and stayed fussy for the rest of the afternoon. I think I opened my first beer of 10 months at 1:30pm that day and had a good laugh to myself while (thankfully) everyone napped. That is the bonus of having your kids within three years - they are all still in the nap stage!

Luckily, grandma came to the rescue and offered to send the big boys to "camp grandma" as I call it in South Georgia for a few days. I was very hesitant to take her up on this and not because "Camp grandma" wouldnt be the most fun thing these boys had ever done but I was afraid (seriously) that I would be bored this week with just a newborn at home. Oh friends, I am not bored! And neither are the kiddies. They have picked peaches, played in the pool, had ice cream, rode on trucks in the "muuud" as Brooks says, cooked on "their" grill, and basically taken over their town for the week.

On the other hand Bradford and I have slept in, snuggled, cleaned every dirty/crumby corner in our house, taken umpteen showers in case they are the last ones I experience when reality sets in next week, eaten lunch out, roamed in and out of stores with no cares, enjoyed dates with my main man, sat around in our pajamas snuggling and listening to the rain and basically - done the best form of recovery that I have ever known. I mean, I have not had this kind of freedom in 3 years and while I know maybe tomorrow I will really miss William's goofy laugh and Brooks' amazing explanations about everything - today I am just fine. Really, I am just fine and the quiet is the best medicine for a post partum mother. This will be a time I won't forget ever as the baby and I have really been able to get to know each other and truly rest. Thank you, grandma and big daddy! What a perfect gift to us!

My heart is so full as I think back about this pregnancy and the last 10 days. This baby was literally a miracle baby from the start. Somehow he got past what we thought was the most assured form of birth control, he helped snap me back into some better sleep, he grew and grew rather well (or big and strong like Brooks prayed every night) despite having half of the normal size of umbilical chord and other early-pregnancy complications, and then he did just as we asked and missed his big brother's birthday by a whole 26 hours. For this child we did pray and we are so grateful to be given this great responsibility to raise another son, another father and husband one day, another brother, and another genuine man of God. Welcome to our family of 5 baby boy!