Supporting a Mother Through Her Miscarriage: A Guide for Friends and Family

Hope-2-570x379 A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Mother’s Day and I was filled with emotion: love, contentment, delight, fulfillment. Being Mom to my two boys is one of my greatest joys in life, and I adore having a whole day each year when this blessing is called to mind.

Mixed in with those beautiful feelings, however, there was a twinge of heartache this year. This sorrow is because, unlike in years past, this year on Mother’s Day I was reminded of a recent loss. Nearly four months ago I had a miscarriage and we lost what would have been our third child. Although time has passed, the wound that experience left on my heart is still very fresh.

Difficult as this whole experience has been, it could have been worse. Thinking back on my own miscarriage, I realize that people around me said and did much to aid in my ability to heal and move forward. The topic of miscarriage is admittedly a very tricky subject to navigate–especially if you’ve never experienced one personally. The sad truth, however, is that most of you reading this right now will experience a miscarriage at some point-whether it is yourself or someone you know. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can help a mother through this difficult time.

Here are some practical tips that I have found particularly useful as I find hope and healing after my own miscarriage:

Let her grieve
I used the word mother in the title of this post, as opposed to woman, because when you have a miscarriage you are losing your real-as-anything child. With my miscarriage, it was not just some cells that gathered in my womb before disappearing, it was my baby. The loss a mother feels from a miscarriage is very real, and it deserves a good amount of mourning. Don’t diminish this. The grieving will be strong at first, then eventually it will subside. At some point you will think that the time of grieving has passed, but then–maybe even months or years down the road–something will remind her of her loss and she will grieve all over again. When this happens, just tell her that it’s alright to be upset, give her a shoulder to cry on, and tell her that you love her.

Share your story
For some reason that I don’t completely understand, the topic of miscarriages is still widely seen as taboo in our culture, and many people are simply unwilling to talk about it. This is much to the detriment of the nearly one million mothers who face a miscarriage each year.

For some mothers, talking about their miscarriage will be the most difficult part of the whole ordeal–but it is necessary. Encourage the mother to talk about her experience and share her story with others. Even if she only confides in her husband and a few close friends, she needs to talk about this. Holding the devastation of a miscarriage inside is like dragging around a thousand pounds of dead weight–it will eventually break you.

On the flip side, if you have already gone through a miscarriage, be bold and share about your experience with another mother who is going through her own miscarriage–this simple act of letting her know that she’s not alone will alleviate so much pain. There is great healing in sharing your story with others, allowing them to help you, and learn from them. When you share your story you will be surprised to learn how many other people have also been through this, and they will help lift you up.

Acknowledge that the baby she lost “counts”
The most heartbreaking thing somebody said to me when I was going through my miscarriage was, “I’m sorry you weren’t pregnant”–as if I’d made up the morning sickness, the surge of maternal joy that came when I saw the positive pregnancy test, and the doctors confirming this joy at my first ultrasound. The reality is that I was pregnant, but I will never get to meet that child.

Through sharing the story of my miscarriage, I met a woman who had experienced a miscarriage over 30 years ago. She told me that after years of struggling to cope with her miscarriage she decided to name her lost baby, and that was what finally allowed her to move on.

We decided to follow suit, and we have named our lost baby Lily. Since the boys were with me at every one of those early ultrasound appointments, I don’t want to diminish the loss of our baby or act like all of this never happened. We will continue to talk about Lily, and the boys know that they have a sister waiting for them up in Heaven. In some small way, by keeping the memory of our baby girl alive we will help our family move forward more completely.

Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault
The first thought I had when my doctor told me that my pregnancy would end in a miscarriage was “What did I do wrong?”. My doctor assured me that I had done nothing to cause the miscarriage, and that there was nothing I could have possibly done differently to have a more favorable outcome. The truth is, 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage, mostly due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo and other non-preventable medical issues. Reassure her that the miscarriage was not her fault, and that she is not to blame.

Do something kind 
Going through a miscarriage can make you feel pretty crummy, so do something that will help lift her up. Go above and beyond, and do something thoughtful for her.  Send her flowers. Get her a gift certificate for a pedicure or a massage. Buy her something pretty to wear. Make sure the house is well-stocked with her favorite chocolates. All of these little acts of kindness will let her know that she matters to you and that you love her.

Offer practical help
One of the hardest things for me while I was going through my miscarriage was taking care of others–some days it was hard enough to just take care of myself. Going through a miscarriage is exhausting and physically painful, and she’ll relish the idea of some help. She may not ask for help, so step out and offer it anyway. Babysit her kids so she can take a bubble bath or a nap in peace. Order takeout or pizza (or better yet, cook her favorite meal for her) so she doesn’t have to worry about dinner. Clean her house or do her laundry. Offer to take her somewhere fun so she can get out of the house for a bit. Anything you can do to help her day go smoothly will be appreciated more than you’ll ever know.

Hold on to hope
Help her to realize that a miscarriage is the end of something, but it is not the end of everything. I have found great comfort during this time by counting my blessings and holding onto the hope of what is yet to come. My faith has been a huge factor in my perspective, as have the encouraging words of others. Just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel makes getting through the dark days so much more bearable.

And, if all else fails, just be there for her. Because, really, with love all things are possible.

XxX

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100 Reasons Why Kid-Free Vacations Suck

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Last week Jon and I embarked on what has been our most daring parenting adventure to date: our first ever kid-free vacation. With great anticipation we boarded our flight to Hawaii and set off for 8 days of egocentric indulgence. We couldn’t wait to discover this mystical world of solitude and lack of responsibility that people who travel without children have told us about (if memory serves me correctly, I think we used to be those people). And here it finally was: the moment of truth. How amazing would this vacation actually be?

The truth is, the reality of our vacation came as quite a surprise to us. Along the way I realized something: kid-free vacations kinda suck. Here’s why:

#1: You sleep too much.
Without our natural alarm clocks (named “David” and “Jacob”, respectfully) we were sleeping 9 or 10 hours a night. That’s like a whole week’s worth of sleep all in one single night. Who can cope with this madness?

#2: You eat too much.
I ate more un-interrupted hot meals in our one week of vacation that I managed to scarf down in my first two years post-partum. Motherhood: Best. Diet. Ever.

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#3: Your inner daredevil will come out in full force.
This could be dangerous.  Ziplining through the trees? We all meet the height and weight requirement, no problem! Bouncy helicopter ride? The kid prone to motion sickness isn’t here, let’s do it! Precarious hike along cliffs? There’s no baby asleep in my backpack and no toddler to drag up the trails, let’s go! Swimming under raging waterfalls? I don’t see anybody with water wings, I’ll meet you there after I cliff dive into the river!

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#4: You will get places way too quickly.
When you don’t need to change diapers, take children to the potty, pack a ginormous bag full of snacks/clothing/entertainment/sunscreen/the kitchen sink, drag children down to the car, fuss over car seats and seat belts, and return to the house 3 times to retrieve forgotten items each time you want to leave home, it frees up a lot of time. We found that when it’s just the two of us, it takes exactly 4 nanoseconds to leave the house (as opposed to our usual 4 hours with the children). We didn’t quite know what to do with all of this extra time.

#5: You will buy way too many “guilt souvenirs”.
About halfway through our vacation I had to force myself to quit going into stores because I was buying way too many guilt souvenirs. Every time I was in a store, I’d see some cute little Hawaiian shirt (“Jacob would look adorable in that!”) or puka shell necklace (“David would have so much fun tearing that to pieces!”) and I’d feel like I had to buy it for the children I’d abandoned on the mainland.

#6: You’ll forget your own rule: Don’t talk to strangers.
You may find yourself sitting in the hotel hot tub after what would normally be your kids’ bedtime and you’ll meet a couple from Alabama. You’ll start talking to them and you’ll realize that you have so much in common with these people that maybe you should just move across the country and move in next door so you can be besties. Stranger danger, pshaw!

#7: You don’t have an outlet for your motherly advice. 
Without your children around, who are you supposed to take care of and worry about and yell at? I had to stop myself from turning around in our rental car and chiding the empty back seat to “Keep your body to yourself”. I did my best not to admonish random sunbathers on the beach for not wearing beach hats or enough sunscreen, to no avail. At restaurants it was difficult not to approach patrons at their tables to make sure they’d eaten all of their vegetables.

#8: You’ll forget how to clean things. It’s amazing how the absence of children also equates to the near-absence of filth. Our laundry pile was minimal, there were almost no dishes to wash, the clutter was mostly contained to our own suitcases, and the rental car was relatively free of pulverized Cheerios. With no need to actually keep up with the cleaning, I went into a sort of cleaning amnesia. Cleaning? Come again? What’s that?

#9: You’ll have some awkward moments before you recollect what “privacy” is.
For the first few days of vacation, you’ll probably forget to close the door to the bathroom because you’re so used to having other (small) people barge in on you. You also may feel guilty for taking a shower all by yourself in the middle of the day. And then you’ll remember what this phenomenon actually is: privacy. Now that you know what it is, you may not want to relinquish it upon arrival back to reality after your vacation. This could be dangerous.

#10: You’ll way  under-exert yourself.
There is no limit to how much time you can waste when there is nobody vying for your attention. Maybe you want to do nothing but sleep in a hammock all day. Maybe you want to review all of your friends’ status updates from the last 6 months. Maybe you want to read a whole book (the kind without cartoonish pictures in it) from cover to cover.  Or maybe your poison is more along the lines of binge watching TLC and Food Network. Guess what? You don’t have any interruptions, so you can DO IT ALL (or do none of it or do nothing at all…that’s kind of the beauty of this kid-free thing). The possibilities are endless.

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#11: You’ll miss your spouse like crazy…
…after you get back from your vacation! Jon and I hadn’t spent a solid week together since our child-free days nearly 5 years ago, and our vacation really reminded us how much we like each other. Without the interruptions of work and kids and life, we had a lot of time to just focus on Us–and what we found is that we really like Us (which shouldn’t be surprising since we actually chose each other out of all potential partners in the world, but it’s always nice to have your selection reaffirmed).

We spent our whole vacation feeling like two young lovebirds–it must have shown, because we had several strangers approach us to ask if we were enjoying our honeymoon. When our “honeymoon” week ended and real life resumed, however, we started missing each other with a new eagerness during the hours we are forced to spend apart.

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#12…to 100: You’ll miss your kids like crazy.
Of course I knew that I’d miss my kids while we were away, but I was naive enough to think that we’d be having so much fun on vacation that I’d hardly even notice. Well, folks, that’s just not how it works. Just like when you’re at home with your children, you will think of your kids every moment of every day. Their crazy antics and annoying habits will somehow appear endearing in your memory, and you will miss their absence. You’ll FaceTime and call them obsessively.

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You’ll talk non-stop about those little rascals when you should be discussing more engaging topics. You’ll see other kids playing with their parents and you’ll think “Gee, our kids would sure have fun here…”. You’ll wake up at some early hour (because your kids have programmed you to do that) and you’ll think to yourself “I wish Jacob was here to snuggle”. There is no escaping it: you will miss your kids dearly.

With that said, I wouldn’t trade our kid-free vacation for anything. It was a time of relaxation and excitement and selfishness that simply could not, would not have happened if we’d had our kids with us. And sometimes, even parents need to relax and have excitement, and do things for themselves.

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So, parents of the world rejoice! A kid-free vacation is actually possible–even if it does suck a bit. XxX

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How I Met Your Father

Our Wedding 0425In a few days Jon and I will be embarking on a monumental parenting adventure: our first vacation without our children. That’s right, folks. No. Kids. For 8 days. Pinch me now, because I still don’t believe it’s actually happening.

This is no small feat, and we wouldn’t even consider making this happen unless there was a darn good reason–and a good reason we have. In fact, we have 10 phenomenal reasons. You see, in a few short weeks Jon and I will be celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. Ten YEARS. Holy moly, how did that happen?! That means that I’ve spent nearly a third of my life as Mrs. Peterson. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that there ever was a time before when I was known as someone else.

And yet there was a time before Mommy knew Daddy–and the story of how we met is actually kind of amazing in its own little way (at least, it is to me–and that’s the only person who really matters in this story). I don’t know if my boys will ever really care, but I’m going to tell you the story anyway. This is the story of…

How I Met Your Father

Dear boys,

You may not realize this, but there once was a time before Mommy and Daddy were “Mommy and Daddy”.  Not so long ago there was, in fact, a time when Mommy and Daddy didn’t even know each other. Before we ever met–from the beginning of time, in fact–God had a great plan for our family. A story of Us. He created Mommy and Daddy for each other, and He knew that some day we would meet and fall in love and start our family and live out the story He’d already planned. Here is the first chapter in that story.

The first time I met your daddy, I didn’t actually meet your daddy. Long before we officially knew each other, our paths had crossed.

When we were about 10 years old, both of our families went on a winter vacation to the same hotel in the small central Washington town of Leavenworth. My family went to Leavenworth every year with a group of friends during the same week of February. We would go to a festival in town, and while we were there we would stay at the hotel that our friends owned.

Leavenworth, Washington during the annual Leavenworth's Town and Tree Lighting

Leavenworth, Washington–the setting for many parts of Our Story

Naturally, us kids took this to mean that we owned the hotel for that one week every winter. We would take over the hot tub (the correct way to hot tub in the snow, by the way, is to lay in the snow then jump into the hot tub and immerse your body in sharp tingles. Once your body thaws, repeat.). We would set up movies in the hotel conference rooms. We would help ourselves to endless cups of hot cocoa in the hotel lobby. We would play hide-and-go-seek in the halls of the hotel. We would do all of this while squealing at the tops of our lungs (so our parents would always know where to find us, of course).

Unfortunately some of the hotel guests did not find our incessant noise to be such a pleasant sound, and occasionally a call would come through to the front desk asking us to please quiet down and go back to our rooms. I remember very clearly one night when this happened at the hotel in Leavenworth, because shortly after we were sent back to our rooms to quiet down for the night a fire alarm went off. Everyone had to evacuate the building–we were in our pajamas and it was dark and cold and snowy outside. A night like that stays with you.

About 10 years later, your daddy and I would return to that same hotel. This time we were meeting in the hotel restaurant for dinner with both sets of our parents (It was actually Grammy and Grandpa Pete, and Nana and Papa–but we just called them “Mom and Dad” then)–it was the first time we were introducing each other to the families that we hoped to join together some day.

While we were sitting together in that hotel restaurant, the story of the fire alarm came up and we all realized the same thing: we had all been together that night. The phone call to the front desk that had sent me and my friends back to our rooms had come from Daddy’s mom (Grammy)–Daddy had heard us playing in the hallways and asked if he could join in, but instead Grammy decided to call us in and report our naughty behavior (some things never change) :)  And then when the fire alarm went off in the middle of that cold winter night, we had all huddled together outside in the snow. I didn’t know it then, but that was the first time I met your father.

I wouldn’t meet your father again until I was finishing up my second year of college.  In college I had gotten involved with a university ministry group called The INN. I was in a girls’ Bible study with The INN, and in the spring of my sophomore year my leader asked if I’d consider leading a group of my own. They were looking for students to lead a co-ed group called a CASA, so I’d be paired with a guy co-leader. I was working, busy with school, and in the process of getting ready to leave for a summer study abroad in Costa Rica and I didn’t know if leading was something I could add to my already-full plate. So, I did the only thing you can do in that situation: I prayed. The answer came back that I was supposed to lead the group, so I told them to sign me up!

During one of the last INN meetings of the year, one of our leaders came up to me and told me that they’d set up the CASA groups for the Fall. He told me who my co-leader would be, but I didn’t recognize the name.

“Oh, Jon Peterson? He’s the loud guy who’s always in the front.”
And right away, I knew exactly who my co-leader was.

After the meeting I went up to the front of the room and introduced myself to The Loud Guy. This will sound strange, but I knew at that moment that I was going to marry your father. I didn’t even know him yet, but something in me just knew that he was going to be important. It wasn’t a lovey-dovey feeling–again, I didn’t even know him–but more of a realization that something significant was about to happen.

A week or two after we met after the INN, Jon and I met up at a nearby park to discuss our plans for the upcoming year. While we were sitting there at Boulevard Park talking, the sun began to set over Bellingham Bay and we paused to take a photo together. I’m not sure why we did this–again, we didn’t even know each other!–but I’m so glad we did. To this day, your daddy still carries in his wallet the photo we took that day (If you ask him really nice, I’m sure he’ll show you. You have to be careful if you touch it, though–that photo is OLD):

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The first photo of Mommy and Daddy together. Boulevard Park, circa 2002

Shortly after the spring term ended, I left for Costa Rica. I added your daddy to my email update list so he’d know what I’d been up to all summer and we’d have something to talk about when we saw each other again in the fall–it didn’t really matter, though, because he had another friend doing a similar trip that summer, and he got us confused with each other the whole time :)

When we did finally meet up again in the fall, it was time to get to work. We started meeting several times every week to plan for our group, to pray together, and to have our CASA meetings at daddy’s apartment. It didn’t take very long, though, before I was wishing we had more meetings–I couldn’t get enough of him! It was about this time that I realized I might want him to be more than just a friend–he, however, was still completely clueless about my feelings.

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Fun times with our CASA (Mommy’s sitting on the left wearing a green shirt and Daddy is sitting…well…on top of everyone else).

A few months into the year I got up the nerve to tell your daddy how I felt about him. We’d spent some extra time together at a CASA retreat that winter–in Leavenworth, again–and I couldn’t hold back the floodgates any more. He admitted that he felt the same way about me. Ironically, we had signed a contract with the INN that we wouldn’t date anyone in our group (because, you know, it was a Bible study not a dating show) so now we didn’t even know what to do with all of these Big Feelings.

We decided to talk to our leader at the INN about our little predicament and see if he had any wisdom for us. He told us that he understood these things could happen (I can count at least a dozen weddings that came out of the INN the year we graduated), but could we maybe wait until the school year was over before making anything official? So, we resolved to carry on leading our group…and dating in secret (OK, that part wasn’t supposed to happen yet, but we were young and reckless and honestly just couldn’t help ourselves).

When the end of the school year came in June, your daddy and I made it official. We gathered together our CASA group and told them that we were dating. To which they all replied, “We already know. It’s about time you told us.”

That summer we spent a lot of time together–we both stayed up in Bellingham working and completing summer classes to prepare ourselves for our upcoming senior year. A few weeks before school was due to resume in September I went to Anacortes for a two-week Marine Biology course at the beach. While I was there, I talked to your daddy every day on the phone. I missed him a lot. Unfortunately, your daddy was going over to Leavenworth for the next few weeks to help his dad build a new house there, and he’d still be gone when I got back to Bellingham. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder–and I knew it would be an even happier reunion when I finally got to see him again.

When I got back to Bellingham I was greeted by my roommates, Kate and Diana.  It had been a few weeks since we’d all been together and they suggested that we go for a walk at Boulevard Park so we could all catch up. It was a drizzly day but, as hardened Northwesterners, we hardly even noticed.

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Boulevard Park the day we got engaged, September 15, 2004

As we were walking along the waterfront path we came to a bench. There was a canopy over the bench and some roses on the seat. Kate and Diana indicated that we should go sit on the bench. I refused. Someone had obviously gone to a lot of effort to cover this bench with a canopy and put flowers at it–I wasn’t about to go sit in there. Thankfully my friends are quick on their feet, and Kate noticed a remembrance plaque on the back of the bench. She said that maybe we should go sit on the bench and pray for the person that the bench was dedicated to. Since she was so adamant about sitting on the dang bench, I finally obliged.

We hadn’t been sitting down for a minute when we heard the gentle strums of a guitar approaching. “Oh no!” I thought, “They’re coming for us! The people who put up this canopy and laid out the roses are coming to sit on their bench AND WE’RE HERE SITTING ON IT.”

I looked up in a panic, but what I saw surprised me. There were familiar faces: our friend Brian was the one playing the guitar, and right in front of him, your daddy was walking toward us holding a single rose up to his mouth like a microphone. Your daddy started singing Grow Old With You from The Wedding Singer, and it hit me: This bench had been set up for me. And something significant was about to happen.

After your daddy finished singing the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard, he got down on one knee and proposed:

“Allison Marie Schroeder, Will you marry me?”

And that was the day our story really began. That was the day that I knew we would become a family and we would grow old together.

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Just engaged! Check out the BLING on that finger!

That, my boys, is how I met your father.

Love,

Mommy

P.S. If you are old enough to have a Facebook account, and you are Facebook friends with Daddy, you can watch a video of our proposal here. That dang video still makes me cry every time…

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Parenting Advice I Wish People Had Actually Given Me

Birth and Coming Home 532Here’s the thing: everyone knows more about parenting than I do. Actually, I think everyone knows more about parenting than anyone else knows about parenting. Which is why there’s so much parenting advice available on the market. It runs the gamut from old wives tales to bogus “facts” (mostly gleaned from internet mommy forums) that will go out the window with the rest of them when the next parenting fad comes into vogue.

The truth is, though, there’s not a lot of advice out there that can hold it’s ground in the real world. I mean, the nitty-gritty tantrum-throwing mess-making real world that includes life with actual children. There were lots of parenting truths that I wish someone would have told me when I started this whole mommy thing a few years ago. Truths like:

1. If you have to do something real quick, like fix your hair or make a phone call, and you think to yourself, “Ah, I’ll just leave the kids out here while I take care of that. I’ll only be 5 minutes. How much trouble could they get into in 5 minutes?”…well, just banish those thoughts from your sweet little head. Because the answer to “How much trouble could they get into…” is FAR MORE TROUBLE THAN YOUR 5 MINUTES OF PEACE ARE WORTH. For instance, they may take an entire tube of blue toothpaste and smear it all over your new couch. Or they may empty all of the drawers out of your kitchen cabinet, stack them in front of the snack closet, and climb up to your candy stash. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

2. You can use a whiteboard marker to remove permanent marker from a whiteboard, and you can use rubbing alcohol to remove whiteboard marker from your walls without removing the paint. Just tuck this one away for the time when your little Picasso goes a bit overboard–it’s already saved my buns on more than one occasion.

3. No matter how kid-friendly your cooking is, no matter how cleverly you work at disguising vegetables, no matter how much love and care you put into the food you prepare–90% of it will end up on the walls or the dog. Even if it’s organic.

4. After you bear children, you will leak out of seemingly every orifice in your body. And, no, it won’t stop after your initial 6-week “postpartum period” expires. Plan accordingly

5. Kids get sick. All the dang time, kids get sick. No matter how often you wash their grimy little hands, whether you are pro-vaccines or anti-vax, if you see a pediatrician or a shaman–it doesn’t matter: your kid will get sick. Just save yourself some grief: stock up on Emergen-C and perfect your recipe for chicken soup. Also, buy one of those disgusting-yet-gratifying baby nasal aspirators.

6. The stage you are in now IS the easy stage. Things don’t magically become simpler when your child gets older and moves on to the next stage. When they can feed themselves, it gets harder (and messier). When they transition out of diapers, it gets harder (and messier). When they LEAVE YOU and spend half a day at preschool, it gets harder (and your mascara gets messier). I can’t even think about what comes next, because I know how much harder and messier it will be. The takeaway: enjoy this moment while you have it.

7. If your child has a lovey (you know, that blanket or stuffed animal or pacifier that they CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT) run out to the store (seriously: RUN. Do not wait too long or your loveys may be out of stock or, worse yet, DISCONTINUED) and buy duplicate loveys. Like, 10 or 20 duplicates might be enough. Stash them in your car, the grandparents’ houses, under your bed, in your earthquake emergency kit, your underwear drawer–whatever. Just get a ton of those things and make sure you never ever EVER lose the only lovey your child has. Just don’t.

8. Forget saving up for your kids’ college funds. Start saving up for preschool as soon as you feel your biological clock start ticking. I mean, seriously, $$fj$$kl;ajdks$$…

9. At some point, you WILL touch poop with your bare hand. When the inevitable happens: be brave, finish what has to be finished, then disinfect All The Stuff like it’s going out of business.

10. Don’t listen to other people. Listen up, now, this is important: You know your child better than anyone else in the whole world. You know them better than that doctor, better than the other moms at playgroup, better than the well-meaning granny at the grocery store, better than the mommy bloggers (but do keep reading, I’m almost done here). You are THE expert in your child. So if something feels right to you, or doesn’t feel right for you– or if something works for you, or doesn’t work for you–then do what your gut and intuition and keen knowledge tell you to do. YOU know your child better than anyone else, and that counts for a lot.

Power on, parents, power on.

XxX Allison

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Carol

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I almost skipped out on writing a post this week because I’ve been a bit too busy lately. Busy with important stuff and “important” stuff. You see, I recently discovered that our library carries every season of Downton Abbey–you can see wherein lies my time management issue. Now that I am nearly caught up to speed with the most recent Crawley drama, I thought I’d come up for air and share a quick story with you. Because you all need to know about Carol.

A couple of months ago I met Carol, and she is now one of my dearest friends in our neighborhood. Carol lives kitty-corner from us in the cul-de-sac that’s out our back door. We would often see Carol out in her yard tending to her garden while we were out riding bikes or collecting “seashells” (vacated snail shells). Carol has the kindest eyes and a warm smile. When she greets you, her whole face lights up–you can’t help but be drawn to her.

Carol brings us flowers. She shares marvelous stories with us. She even invites my wild-banshee-boys into her house to visit her tiny dog (appropriately named T-Rex) and to play Legos with her on the floor of her living room.

Carol is 90 years old.

Carol and I are friends now, but we probably would never have even spoken if it weren’t for garbage day. Every Monday afternoon we bring our garbage bins out to the street for collection on Tuesday morning at the crack-o-dawn (I only know the ungodly hour they arrive because my children only ever seem to sleep in on Tuesday mornings–garbage day– only to be abruptly awoken by the crushing sounds of the ever-operational garbage trucks outside their bedroom window).

One Monday afternoon I was dragging our bins out to the curb and across the street I noticed this old woman struggling to move her bins. David (who actually adores tedious chores like moving garbage bins) and I decided to cross the street and see if we might help in some way. She smiled at us with those twinkling eyes of hers as we rolled the bins from her garage down to the curb and I knew that we’d made her day. We offered to return the next day after the collection so we could move the bins back up to her house. Then the next week we returned again, and the next, and the next…and now we just move Carol’s bins every week. It’s a simple gesture, but it has led to so many benefits.

For starters, there’s the friendship. David and Jacob adore Miss Carol as much as I do and she’s become a sort of surrogate grandma who dotes on the boys and worries about whether or not they’re wearing weather-appropriate clothing when they’re playing outside.

I also love that the boys are right alongside me helping Miss Carol each week. They are learning that when you see a problem, you can be the answer–and it feels good. Not because they’re getting anything tangible in return for their “work”, but simply because there is joy in helping others.

Surprisingly, there is another benefit I have gleaned from helping Carol–she helps me. You don’t live 90 years on this earth and not accumulate a vault of wisdom–and Carol’s vault is bursting. Every time I talk to her, she asks how I’m doing and what is happening in my life. Then she listens. I mean, really listens, to what I have to say. After, she’ll tell me about an experience she’s had (or that her kids or grandkids or great-grandkids have had) that relates to my situation, and we talk about what worked and, more importantly, what didn’t work. She prays for me (I pray for her). She says lovely things–like the time we were picking roses in her garden and she noted, “I’m glad for thorns because they bear roses.” I’m sure Carol wouldn’t see it this way, but she helps me in more ways than I’ve ever helped her.

And, so, that is Carol. I hope that each of you can have a “Carol” in your life–someone who you set out to help and, in return, have found great help from. Someone who is genuine and kind. Someone who will bring you flowers on a Tuesday. And even if you don’t have a Carol of your own, maybe you can be a “Carol” for someone else.

Go forth and pay it forward, friend–you never know what small gesture might blossom into something beautiful!

XxX Allison

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The Important Thing About My Son

There is this boy.
He’s loud and silly.
He has an incredible memory.
He is a ball of infectious energy.
He’s usually vaguely sticky and covered in dirt.
He dreams about attacking gummy bears that he fends off with nun-chucks.
He’s feisty and passionate.
He’s strong and fearless.
His name is David. He is my boy, my baby, my son.

When I look at David, this is what I see. I am his mama, and I love him deeply. He is truly unique and wonderfully made. He doesn’t fit a mold, and I kind of like that. And it kind of makes me crazy.

This year has been–how shall I put this–challenging.  Throughout the course of this year it has become apparent that David learns differently from many of his peers. A lot of what we’d always done just wasn’t working any more, and it’s been frustrating. Preschool has been difficult. Our little Bible study group has been difficult. Discipline has been difficult. Even so-much-fun T-Ball has been difficult. We have shared our concerns with his teachers and specialists. And it’s all got me doubting. Doubting every decision I’ve made in the past that has led us to this place, and questioning every decision I’ve already made for our future.

The fact is, David has been weighing heavy on my heart lately. Sometimes (most of the time) I just don’t know what to do. So I pray, and cry, and pray, and laugh, and try something new, and pray again. And you know what? Something miraculous is happening.

God is changing our hearts.

He is changing my heart to be more compassionate about the struggles David is facing. He is changing my heart to embrace the person who David is, not who I want or expect him to be. He is changing my heart to accept that I may need to give up some of my own comfort to help David succeed. He is changing my heart to be more like His.

He is changing David’s heart to be more attentive to Him. To listen. To ask questions. To pray to Him. To tell others about Him. To love Him. He is changing David’s heart to be more like His.

A couple of weeks ago we were doing a family Bible study leading up to Easter. We were talking about the significance of the cross, and David was really excited about the story. He was attentive and asking heartfelt questions, and we could tell that things were starting to click for him. At the end of our time together, Jon asked David if he would like to pray and ask Jesus to come into his heart. David said yes–and in his sweet 4-year old boy voice, he asked Jesus to be his forever friend.

In that moment, I knew that the only specialist who actually matters is the One who created him. The One who intimately knows his heart and mind and soul. The One who knows David’s past, his current struggles, and the man he will some day become. The One who knit him together in my womb, who loves him deepest, and whose beautiful thoughts about David outnumber all the grains of sand in all the earth (Psalm 139). And suddenly all of the doubts and fears and confusion I’d had melted away and were replaced by joy. 

There will be challenging days, and challenging phases and challenging seasons in this adventure called parenting. But in the scheme of things, none of the challenges really matter. No matter how difficult things might get, no matter how tightly I’m grasping the end of my rope, only one thing really has lasting significance: Who is my son in Christ? Who am I in Christ? The answers to those questions change everything. We–my son, myself, and the collective whole of humanity–have been saved by grace, and the assurance of that truth never fades.

So, yes.
My son is loud and silly.
My son has an incredible memory.
My son is a ball of infectious energy.
My son is usually vaguely sticky and covered in dirt.
My son dreams about attacking gummy bears that he fends off with nun-chucks.
My son is feisty and passionate.
My son is strong and fearless.
My son has challenges.
But the important thing about my son is that he loves Jesus.

He is my son and I am his imperfect mother, but we are both secure in our Father’s hands.

And nothing will ever change that.

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Happy Birthday, Husband (33 Reasons Why I Love You)

This a monumental, magnificent, marvelous, metamorphic day. Thirty-three years ago on this day, my life changed. I hadn’t even been born yet, but the course of my life was already being set by one simple event. You see, thirty-three years ago on this day my husband was born. It would still be another 20 years until we met, and yet it was a day that would (some day) forever change my life.

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Jon, you have changed my life in every way that is good, and I truly can not imagine what this world would be like without you. I love you more today than the day that I met you, more than the day that we said “I do”. I love you infinity ways, but since this is your 33rd birthday, I’ll start with 33 reasons why I love you:

1. You love me well–even when I’m being unlovable. Which is practically never.

2. You never give up–even if that dang rocket set that we bought off the internet is a dud, and even if the second rocket set that we bought off the internet is still a dud, and even if the third rocket set that we bought off the internet still won’t work, you never give up. Amazon thanks you.

3. You have convinced our children that you are actually a cartoon superhero with an alternate life. Seriously, major props.

4. You let me win at Scattergories. Every time.

5. You feed our dog ice cream cones…while she’s sitting in your passenger seat at the drive-thru.

6. You work at one of the most prestigious companies in the world, and yet you still sneaked in wearing a fake mustache and a monocle in your I.D. card photos. How very Colonel Mustard of you…

7. You respect the proper way to drink whiskey: Jameson in a Jameson glass.

8. You put up with my annoying-to-some-people habits (like chewing with my mouth open).

9. You snap flies out of the air like you’re some sort of kung-fu ninja or something.

10. You can carry our whole family on your back. At the same time.

11. You lay on the couch at night and whine with me about how our feet hurt and our backs hurt and how old we’re getting now that we’re in our 30’s.

12. You make me chai tea in the morning. Not in the microwave like I make it for myself, but with steamed milk and perfectly frothy foam on top.

13. You read our boys bedtime stories, and you do all the voices.

14. You eat every morsel of food I ever set before you. Unlike some other members of our family (who shall remain nameless), never once have you thrown it on the floor or spit on it or smeared it in your hair.

15. You always put the toilet seat down and you refill the toilet paper roll facing the correct way.

16. You drove for 18 straight hours in a car with me, a preschooler, a toddler, and a dog. Enough said.

17. You have fixed Buzz Lightyear literally 1,000 times.

18. You give melt-in-your-arms hugs.

19. You stopped me from wearing gauchos. The fashion police applaud you.

20. You let me cry when I see the Johson & Johnson baby ads on TV.

21. You sneak-attack me with marshmallow fights.

22. You know all of your baristas by name and even get invited to their parties. How much do you tip them, anyway?

23. You can cook just about anything en papillote.

24. You laugh at my corny jokes, even when I forget the punchline.

25. You know the power of texting back with a good emoji sequence.

26. You have an impeccable memory. Not that I ever forget things or get information incorrect. Almost never. Ever.

27. No matter how tired you are after a long day, you always come home and wrestle our boys. Even though they punch you in the face.

28. You always do your very best, even when nobody’s watching, and even when some people might find it unnecessary. For instance, when measuring a child’s height on a growth chart, some people might free-hand it or trace the straight edge of a ruler. But not you, because you know there’s a better way. You are the only person I know who has a custom-made, scientifically exact tool for precisely measuring a child’s height to the nearest nano-millimeter.

29. You never criticize me when the only thing I notice about a car is its color.

30. You derive great enjoyment from watching YouTube videos about the Shapeoko 3. Heck, I love that you even know what a Shapeoko 3 IS.

31. You can rock Vibram 5-fingers like it’s nobody’s business.

32. You invented “Zurg Spears”, the single-most effective way to get our boys to eat their dinner.

33. You love me wholly, truly, unconditionally.  And, really, what else do we need?

Happy birthday, Sweetie! To 33 years, and many more!

XxX Wifey

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