Thursday, January 28, 2016

one day at a time

"I just don't want to be gone," he whispered as he squeezed his eyes closed tight in fear.

3:00am is not an unusual time for me to have these conversations at work with men and women who are nearing the end of the ugly battle against the terrible beast of cancer.

This particular conversation was preceded by a life lessons talk about not wasting time, seizing the moment, not living in the past or the future and missing the present. And we hear that so often, don't we?

"Make every moment count."
"Don't wish away today waiting for tomorrow."
"They will only be little once."
"One day you'll miss this.. savor every moment."

We hear it and we read it and we sometimes even give it as advice to others, but what does it mean to actually do it? These are great mantras to live by in theory, but in the mundane of everyday life, what does it look like?

For me, yesterday it looked like getting up early and packing up my baby girl and heading to the church for Wednesday morning Women's Bible Study where I sat around the table with 7 ladies over the age of 50 and dug into the Word of God with no distraction and no agenda except to learn and draw near to the Savior together.

It looked like letting the dishes sit dirty just a few minutes longer while I nursed my sweet babe not because she was still hungry but because she loves to be near me.

It looked like watching the baby fall asleep on the couch while the love of my life lay nose-to-nose with her as she put her hands on his face and I took mental snapshots because I never want to forget those sweet moments.

It looked like a long walk with a real true friend during which we talked all about life, the good the bad and the ugly, and she pushed the baby stroller because she loves my baby girl too and she knows I don't mind a break every now and then.

For me, it looked like patiently turning pages of textbooks and google searching with one hand to complete a mandatory chemo class online for work while rocking a sleepy little girl in my other arm all while standing at my kitchen counter.

It looked like crawling in bed with my husband and talking in the dark about our day, and playing with his hair until I felt his breathing become deep and even, relaxed and asleep.

This is what "not wishing away today" looked like for me, yesterday. What does it look like tomorrow, you ask?

I must say, I do not know.

I have found only one way to do this motherhood-thing, this wife-gig, this christian-woman-life, and that is simply one day at a time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

rainy days in dallas

This past weekend was a rainy one for the Dallas area (thank you, Patricia). It was Quinn's first thunderstorm ever, and the first few days of rain we've had since basically the beginning of time I think (or maybe since the beginning of summer, who really knows). It was pretty nasty out and a bit of trouble to lug a 9 week old around in, but we did it anyway, cause why not, right?

Friday we had a family session of pumpkin painting! Quinn even got to paint her pumpkin with just a little bit of help. I'll let you guess who's is who's.
Because of the continuous rain, our poor pups were stuck inside all weekend. Except that 10 minutes that I let them out to do their business and got distracted by a fussing baby, during which they dug a hole in the mud and came rushing inside to tell us all about it. Praise the Lord for my sweet husband who cleaned the paw prints off the carpet, washed the dogs, and washed the crates... all while I was fuming about my desire to have puppy stew for dinner. Don't worry, I'm over it now and I still love them.
Friday night we dropped Quinn off at the church for "Parent's Night Out" and Sam and I went out in the rain for a much needed date night! We had dinner at Palio's (pizza!) and then spent a little while wandering the isles at Barnes & Noble (the best date place when you want to have fun but not spend any money-- new parent probs). And then we had dessert at Paciugos (gelato). It was so nice to be alone and silly for a while. I thought Quinn may have been a little fussy at the nursery because she had her 2 month shots earlier this week, but when we picked her up the conversation went like this: 
Me: "We are here for Quinn!"
Nursery worker: *looking around the room at the babies trying to decide which one was ours* (their name tags are on their backs and they were all in swings), Me: "She's in the black bow." (It's Halloween week, we don't usually dress our baby in black. But if you do, no judgement.)
Nursery worker: "Oh! The good one!" That makes my heart smile.
And at some point I did a practice run with Quinn's Halloween costumes, which she just couldn't keep her eyes open for. So, she took a nap like this.
And then, just for fun, a few of my other favorite pictures from the last few days...

It really was a much needed fun family weekend. Don't let all the cute pictures fool you though-- the days were definitely littered with a bit of fussing from the baby here and there and a bit of fussing from me and the hubs here and there.. Nothing a few hugs and cuddles and I'm sorrys and I love yous doesn't fix. Real life people.. It's rainy some days but there's always a reason to smile. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

she is not ours.

"I can't believe you're already out and about so much. And she's such a good baby. You seem like you've done this forever. You're like.. supermom!"

I smiled and said thank you. Lets be real.. there have been a few times during this almost-8-week journey that has been "surviving" mostly where I have felt like SuperMom.

Like the first Sunday we made it to church, both dressed, in time to hear Sam teach, and Quinn slept like an angel the whole time (I know you mamas with 2+ kids are laughing at me, but it felt impossible, seriously).

Or the first time I breast fed in public-- in the bleachers at a high school football game on what was surely was the windiest day in September.

Or at Quinn's 2 week checkup when the doctor expected her to be back to her birth weight and then she had passed it by 8 oz just drinking the milk my body is producing.

It's times like these that I want to go to a bathroom with a big mirror and look myself up and down, put my hands on my hips, flip my perfectly fixed hair, and say to myself, "You freakin rock at this."

And then, there are other times...

Other times like the night I stood over her crib for 15 minutes trying to get her to take a paci and go to sleep, frustrated that she wouldn't until I realized she had a terribly dirty diaper that had exploded all over her clothes.

Or the time I heard her fussing while I was doing laundry and came around the corner to find she had fallen out of the MamaRoo and was face down on the carpet (when she was 2 weeks old).

Or the day she woke up with a huge scratch on her cheek from her tiny hands flailing in her sleep, so I decided to trim her nails during which I clipped her skin and made her bleed (and scream).

It's times like these that I fret over for a few minutes and then I kiss her head and I say "My bad, babe. Probably won't be the last time." And alas, it probably won't.

But the good news is that Sam and I both know this:

Quinn is not ours. 

She is on loan to us. We were chosen and are extremely blessed to be her parents and teach her how to navigate this world, but she does not belong to us. She is God's, and He is her ultimate keeper.

He loves her more than we do.
He knows her better than we ever will.
He has bigger plans for her than we do.
He has her in the palm of His hand, always.

So heres to all the future falls off the bed and bumps on the head and times we yell when we should hug and things we forget that are important, and all the other ways we will let you down, baby girl. Because inevitably, we will. But even when we don't do the best by you, God's got you, cause you're His.

And that brings all the comfort in the world to a mama who won't always get it right.

how we wear our hats

My husband is a hat-wearer. He has at least 15 hats stacked neatly thrown in the top of our closet, 4 of which he actually wears on a regular basis (story of my life). Texas Rangers, OKC, Kansas City Royals.. snap backs, flat bills, on and on. My favorite is when he wears them backwards.. I think he's such a cutie. Anyway, the point is, he wears a lot of hats. 

cute, right? told ya.
And don't we all?


And the list goes on, doesn't it?

Wearing hats isn't all we do, though. We are also professional managers of things.

Rental house.
Hospital floor.
Church office.
Bank accounts.
Small groups.

And this list.. it goes on too, right?

With so many hats and so many things to manage, our marriage and our family are among the first things to get swept up in the chaos and jostled about. Over time (and especially since we added Quinn to the mix), we have begun implementing habits into our days and weeks that we feel help us keep it together and stay on the same page. Most of these ideas were passed to us by people much smarter than us and who are probably doing them much more effectively than us, but nonetheless I thought I'd share today in case any of you feel like you or your marriage or your family are being taken away with the current of a busy life.

1. We have individual daily quiet times.
This is first on the list because it is undoubtedly the most important. We have learned the hard way that when we aren't spending intentional, personal, alone time with Jesus, things just don't go like we intend. Our stress levels are lower and our fuses aren't so short and our words come out much more gently when we start our days off with Christ. And coffee.

2. We do our chores.
Per the advice of a very smart and practical lady, Sam and I both do chores every morning. I have 4 chores (make the bed, clean the litter box, clear the sink/counter of dishes, and empty the robot vacuum) and Sam has 2 (take out the trash, clear the bathroom counter of clutter). We do them within the first 15 minutes of waking up (or try to) and it has changed the way our house runs. Try it. Seriously.

3. We put the baby to bed.
Literally. This is so important for us. When Quinn was 7 weeks old we moved her to her own room. Soon after that she learned to put herself to sleep and started sleeping 7-8 hrs at a time (thank you Jesus). So at about 7:30 each evening we bathe her, feed her, and put her down. This gives us 1-2 hours of alone time where we can talk about our day or sit in silence or watch a TV show together or make out if we want (yea, I said it). It has been vital to our sanity, honestly.

4. On Sundays, we look at the calendar.
Because my husband is a little bit of a nerd (but still cute, especially in the backwards hat we talked about earlier), we have our iPhone calendars synced. Sunday evenings we do our best to sit down and look at the week together to make sure we both know whats going on. This way we both know which nights we have free (if any), which days we can do lunch together, and which nights would be best for hanging out with our friends.

5. We MAKE time.
Some days are full. Take Wednesdays for example.. Sam leaves the house at 6:45 in order to work out before work, works 9-5, gets ready for and runs Wednesday night programing for Junior High students, waits for parents and cleans up, and then gets home about 9pm, just in time to throw himself on the bed and fall asleep exhausted (I can't blame him... its a busy day!) Or some Thursdays, for example.. He gets breakfast with a student at 7:20, then works 9-5, then we grab a quick dinner and head to a football game which puts us getting home, again, about 9pm. On days like these that we know (because we've looked at the calendar) are going to be crazy, we plan ahead and set aside 15-30 minutes for just us. Like on Wednesdays, I cook dinner and take it to his office about 5:30 so we can close the door and eat together. On other busy days sometimes we both get up 20 minutes early so we can have coffee together in our kitchen before the rest of the world wakes up and the busyness starts. No matter how full the day gets, we find a few minutes where it's just us, and it makes all the difference.

6. When we can't DO something, we SAY something.
Sometimes, even if we plan ahead, date nights and family walks and pillow talk just don't happen. When plans get cancelled and other things come up, it can be very frustrating and discouraging, especially for me. Thankfully, my sweet husband is so intentional in these situations when he can't physically be somewhere to make sure I still know he wishes he could, and sometimes thats all I need. He is the best about sending me a cute text or leaving me a thoughtful note or surprise FaceTime calling me. We all know actions speak louder than words, but for times when action is just not possible, the right words do just fine.

And thats about all I've got for today. The baby's hungry and the dogs are barking at the neighbors and the cat just knocked over some fake flowers that I've disguised as fall decor. So, these are the ways that we not only survive but truly get the most out of this beautiful thing we call life together. Hopefully something in this post will help you do the same!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Quinn's Birth Day

Well folks, the fact that I'm using my forearm to hold a breast pump and my right foot to bounce a bouncy seat while I'm typing this blog can mean only one thing:

Quinn Abigail Smith has arrived. 

the night before
She is now 7 1/2 weeks old (this post is a bit late, as usual), and in my personal opinion, she is every ounce of cute. I figure it's about time to tell you the story of Quinn's birth day. I know many of you are interested, and lets be real, I may not remember it by the time she's 25 and having her own babies if I don't type it out somewhere. So, here goes:

My plan all along had been to have Quinn "as naturally as possible." For me, this meant no induction, no drugs, no snipping... just have her, however and whenever she wanted to come out. My sweet doctor and patient husband were both so supportive of this, and they both let it go on for as long as it could. And then, it could go on no longer. On the morning of August 19, 2015, when I was all of 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant (THATS 292 DAYS OF BEING PREGNANT, PEOPLE), Sam loaded my big humongous tail up in the car and drove me to the hospital to be induced.

 We headed up to Labor & Delivery, checked in, and got comfortable. Our doctor had mentioned that she would "induce gently" since I was still going to attempt this thing with no meds. Of course, the doctor isn't there at 5 am and things get lost in translation (I'm a nurse.. I wasn't surprised), and so the sweet nurse came in and declared, "Good morning! Lets get your IV going so we can get that pitocin going so we can have a baby!" I calmly and gently explained that that wasn't the plan, we would wait for the doctor to come and give new orders. She seemed a bit miffed, but hey sister, this my baby and my lady parts we're talking about, so get off it.

Doc came in around 7:30, I was already having very mild contractions about 5 minutes apart. She decided to do Cytotec (a vaginal suppository--my fav! said no one, ever) to try to induce labor. We waited 3 hours, no result. The nurse gave me another dose at about 11am and said we would wait 4 hours and then if nothing happened move on to plan B (although she never said exactly what plan B was, I don't think). From 11 to 2:30ish, Sam and I just hung out in the room playing cards, watching Netflix, walking the halls, and sweet talking Quinn from outside the womb. And Sam took some sneaky and ridiculous pictures of me. At this point, I was dilated to a 5.

At 2:30, the doctor came in to check me. I was still at a 5 and the baby had not dropped into my pelvis. Her initial plan was to let me eat (I was literally starving) and chill the rest of the evening, and then start more extreme induction measures in the morning. Sam was anxious to meet the baby, and I was really tired of being in the hospital room already, so we had concocted a plan to inform her we would rather go ahead and get this show on the road. When she came back in after talking with the nurse, she explained that Quinn wasn't tolerating the slow labor very well and her heart rate was dropping with contractions. Therefore, she insisted we break my water and go ahead and start the process of true labor. The actual breaking of my bag of waters wasn't painful at all. It was the contractions that started 30 minutes later that almost put me over the edge.

Within 30 minutes, I couldn't stay in the bed or be still any more. I was up walking around the room, leaning on Sam, leaning on the bed, sitting on a birthing ball, anything and everything except lying down. My contractions became more and more intense over the next few hours. I was exhausted and was struggling to register what was happening. I remember Sam sitting on the bed and me leaning on his shoulders, my hands on his thighs, during contractions, him telling me stories and talking about the baby to distract me (we practiced this before) and me breathing in and out because that was all I could do. I was falling asleep standing up between contractions but I literally could not sit down. Anyway, this went on for 4 hours. It was easily the worst pain I've ever felt in my life.

At around 6:30pm, Doc came back to check on me. She wanted me to lie down so she could check and see how far I had progressed-- this seemed like the most impossible request at this point. I did my best, and I can remember the nurse encouraging me from the other side of the room, "From watching you labor, I bet you're almost there. Your contractions have been great and consistent, I really think you're almost there." And thats when the doctor said, "Hmm. You're about a 6." I don't remember what I said, if anything. I don't think at that point I could make real words anymore. But I remember thinking "A 6?!?!?! HOW CAN I JUST BE AT A 6?!?!?" She also broke the news that Quinn wasn't dropping down like she needed to. This is when she suggested an epidural to relax my pelvis and make room for the baby.

I didn't want to do that. It wasn't my plan. However, she was convincing and the contractions were relentless and obviously not effective, and Sam was there and supporting whatever decision I made.. so I went with it. Within 30 minutes the anesthesiologist was there (right in the middle of shift change, sorry guys) and putting the needle in my back and it was THE WORST thing anyone has asked me to do when she told me to sit Indian style and be perfectly still for 3 minutes. And then, it was gone. I could breathe and I could think and I could breathe some more. I was shaking and shivering, but I could breathe. And think.

They started pitocin and Sam collapsed on to the couch next to me and we slept. At midnight, I was at an 8 but Quinn was too high. They changed my position a few times to make it easier for her to come on down (I couldn't even scoot my leg over an inch now). At 2am my pain got really intense again and they had to up my dose of medication in my epidural. Thats when they decided she was making the move.

At about 3am, I was finally dilated to a 10 and the nurse said I could start pushing. The medication was enough that I wasn't hurting but I could still feel the contractions coming. Sam had been unsure the whole time whether or not he wanted to watch the delivery, but next thing I knew he was holding one of my legs during pushes. I could see a blurry version of what was going on down there in the blank TV screen across from my bed and when I mentioned this, the nurses wheeled in a mirror so I could actually watch what was happening. I always thought this was weird, but it was actually awesome.

Because Quinn was overbaked, they were afraid she may have swallowed some of her poop (we'll tease her about that when she's older, don't worry) and so a team of NICU nurses and doctors were at the bedside during the delivery just in case they needed to intervene. They called my doctor (who had just gotten home, sorry doc) and she showed back up at 3:30, just in time to join the party of about 15 strangers crowded around my not-so-private-anymore parts and catch Quinn as she made her grand entrance at 3:40am on August 20, 2015.

She weighed 8 lb 15 oz and was 20 inches long. She latched on and ate immediately, was sucking her thumb, and looked with bright eyes from me to Sam to me to Sam, taking in the faces that matched the voices she had been hearing for so long. We had our family time until 6am when they moved us onto the postpartum unit which is where our extended family and friends visited us. The next morning those crazy medical professionals decided we were competent enough to take this itty bitty 1-day-young human home by ourselves and we were discharged. Every day since has been an adventure and a learning experience and sometimes hard and mostly fun but ALWAYS worth it. Take a look at this baby, ya'll... we fully believe she's gonna change the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

she will watch me

Two years ago for Memorial Day Weekend I spent some time with my family on the lake of Joe Wheeler State Park. We spent hours and hours out on the water in the boat, tubing, on jet skis, lying on the docks, and fishing. The weather was beautiful and breezy and the company couldn't have been any better. It was a glorious few days.

I remember one evening after a full day of being out in the sun my sisters and I all gathered in the bathroom getting ready for the evening. We were headed to the cabin next door where our extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents were staying to celebrate my aunt's birthday. Of course being that we had all been kissed by the sun for hours and had used soaking in the river as an alternative to washing our hair, we all had our share of "river rat" look. Still, we put on real clothes and tamed our manes in front of the mirror.

As we stood all 4 of us side by side fighting for elbow room in the tiny bathroom, I noticed my youngest sister who was then 17 years old looking at herself next to me. I studied her suntanned face and curly hair (taking note of how much she resembled me.) "I think we shouldn't wear makeup tonight. Our faces look pretty enough cause they're tan and it'll mostly be just family anyway," I stated. She agreed and we both made our way back to the living room to the couch.
We waited around for the boys to come in off the water and helped Mama in the kitchen for a while, getting things ready for supper. There was a small mirror in the living room and each time I passed it I took the usual and habitual survey of myself, as all women do. After about the fourth time of seeing myself in the mirror I decided the spaces below my eyes that don't tan were a bit too white for the rest of my rose-colored face. So I proceeded back to the bathroom to add a little foundation here and there.

I dabbed away at the pale places and added some blush here and there, just for good measure. My youngest sister appeared in the doorway. "Uh! You said we weren't wearing makeup. Why are you putting on foundation?" I responded that I was simply "evening things out." She looked at me and then at herself in the mirror... again I recognized how similar we looked. She studied her own face intentionally and then pondered, "Well," she said, "Do I need to even things out too?"

I assured her repeatedly "Of course not. You look fine! Your face looks good with the amount of sun it got today." She looked at me and looked back at her reflection, clearly unconvinced. She finally decided her skin tone was too uneven as well and began dabbing away at the white spaces under her big blue eyes.

At the time, I thought nothing of this encounter. But as I count down the days to finally meeting my baby girl and beginning the adventure of raising a daughter, this memory keeps circulating in my mind. I truly believed my baby sister looked beautiful the way she was, but I didn't believe it about myself. Just saying it wasn't enough.. she was watching my actions. When they didn't match, the actions won.

How will I teach my baby girl that she is beautiful because she was made by the King of the Universe and not because she is a size 2 and wears tight jeans? How will I teach her that the most beautiful part of her is a heart that loves her God and loves others and not her legs or hips or chest? How will I teach my little girl that she doesn't need expensive clothes or jewelry or makeup to be the prettiest version of herself she can be?

She will not learn these things just from me telling her or writing them down for her or posting them on her bathroom mirror. She will watch me and see what I do, how I value myself, where I find my worth. She will take note of how much time and energy I spend on my outward appearance and how much time and energy I spend on making my heart more beautiful and more likened to serving others.

She may not listen to me, especially as she grows. But Lord, help me, for she will watch me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

no thing more beautiful.

A few days ago, my husband and I celebrated 6 months of being married. By celebrated I mean we have both had a respiratory infection and cough so we went to church and then Sam ate leftover pizza, I ate a tuna sandwich, we watched TV on the couch while eating BlueBell ice-cream and went to bed at 9:15.

We've had quite a ride so far.. it's been an eventful half a year. We adopted two puppies, we survived high school football season, I dropped my hours at work to be home more, we found out on our 3 month anniversary we are pregnant! We celebrated our first Christmas without our families,  I went back to work full time on day shift, we survived Freedom Weekend (our biggest student event of the year), we spent a few days in the third world visiting my family in Haiti swimming in the ocean in 90 degree weather and then endured a few snow days at home together back in Texas.

We have learned each other well.. Sam has learned how to sleep with my snoring (mostly), I've learned what Sam likes on his salads. We have learned how to hurt each other's feelings and how to apologize when we aren't our best. We've also learned how to encourage each other better and how to be each other's biggest fan. We have learned compromise and how to pick the important battles. We have laughed so much, and both cried some too.

On our six month anniversary, we laid in bed with the lights out, dogs asleep in crates in the floor, the humidifier buzzing so I can breathe while my stomach grows it seems every night. My husband snuggled in to my neck and I could feel his breath on my skin, like he does every night. After a few seconds of silence, I whispered, "Are you sleepy?" (I ask this every other night at least). He whispered back a quiet "no."

I thought for a few minutes, and then posed the question, "Tell me something you've learned since we got married. About life or about yourself or about me, anything. Just something you learned."

He was quiet in thought and then he said, "You tell me yours first." He knows me well.

I decided on the thing that I feel I have learned most recently and explained it to him like this:

I have always heard people say that when you get married, you don't start over with a new life but instead everything in your past comes with you. I never knew until we got married how true this was. I had no idea the choices (both good and bad) that Sam and I made long before we ever knew we would one day be husband and wife could so dramatically effect the way we function as a married couple. It's fascinating, and terrifying at the same time. My husband agrees.

Sam thought for a minute longer and then he told me that he has learned this:
"I never knew until I married you that there were so many parts of myself that I couldn't see. I feel like I was not capable of seeing the best parts of myself or the worst parts of myself until there was someone else looking at them with me. Then I had no choice but to face them."

I smiled in the dark. I know him also.

I have found no thing more beautiful than the way being joined as husband and wife allows us to know each other, and the way that God allows us to love each other deeper with every detail we learn about ourselves and our spouse.

My husband and I agree and state it aloud often that marriage is hard. We also agree that it is the ultimate refining process and we know that God uses us and our own sin to make the other look more like Jesus every day. Every single day we learn grace better, and mercy better, and how to love better.

Like I said, I have found no thing more beautiful.