Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Baby

I had to take Beatrice to see a specialist at a nationally renowned children's hospital today. There is a lump on her shoulder that her pediatrician wanted to get checked out. Everything turned out fine and the specialist is 99.9% sure the lump is a hemangioma (buildup of blood vessels). We will know for sure on Friday.

I have known about this appointment for weeks now but haven't put much thought into it. I was too afraid to let myself think too much about what it could mean. It hit me as I circled the multi story parking garage and rode the elevator to the 8th floor (a few floors above pediatric oncology). The fear of something being terribly wrong with my baby hit me and I had to fight back tears. I rode that elevator with parents of sick children and I silently begged God to let my baby be healthy. I waited in the exam room while Beatrice shredded the paper sheet on the table. I just stared at my precious girl. She is so tenderhearted and strong willed, my little goob. I couldn't bear the thought of her having health problems.

I have never taken her health for granted. Before she was born, I prayed that God would keep her healthy and whole. We still pray that over her every night when we lay her down to sleep. I guess that is why I never worried much about her appointment; I know that her health is in God's hands. But being in that hospital with sick babies just broke my heart and rocked me to the core. I will now be praying for sick babies and scared parents.

Thank God for healthy babies and good reports at specialists' offices.

Planned Parenthood (Not the Kind You're Thinking Of)

I tend to be one of those people that is pretty black and white. When I imagine a scenario for my life, no matter how big or small, I leave little room for gray. My brothers are like this too. Hey Mom and Dad, what did you do to us? And while sometimes things turn out just like I planned them (like my birth story), most of the scenarios that involve other people (like my marriage and child) do not. This leaves me fumbling and trying to figure out what went wrong. Why didn't my plan work? And more importantly, how to make it work.

The best example of what I'm talking about is everything I have tried with parenting my child. Everything. All of my grande ideas, every perfect plan I think out for each occasion seems to fall apart.
When I am concocting these brilliant plans, I always forget that I am dealing with another person. A very little person with a very big will. And she foils my plan every. single. time. You'd think that I would have multiple plans in place so when one gets foiled, there is another readily available but I'm not that clever. And I never think my plan won't work. After all, these are brilliant plans people.

Before I had Beatrice, my biggest goal was to not raise a spoiled brat. You know the kid I'm talking about, the kid that only eats marshmallows and raisins. The kid that screams and beats their chest when you say it's time to go home. The kid that doesn't mind, the kid that says you're not the boss of me, the kid that gets their way by whining, the kid that takes over your house, marriage, relationships, finances, career all because they are a holy terror and you don't know what the heck to do with them because you are a little scared of them. You know, that kid. Basically, my worst nightmare.

I was raised by parents whose mantra was "spare the rod and spoil the child," Proverbs 13:24. They tolerated very little "misbehavior." Actually, they didn't tolerate ANY misbehavior. We were raised with an iron fist. A very loving iron fist, but iron nonetheless. I am not saying that my parenting style will be as ardent as theirs, but if you asked me 8 months ago before this little one came into my life I would have told you that the only way to parent was with a no-nonsense mentality. If you are lenient with the small stuff (like giving a paci), then your kid will walk all over you with the big stuff (we boiled the pacis on night four home from the hospital....). We were hugely against giving Beatrice a pacifier because we thought it would be a terrible habit to break later on. And I REALLY don't want to have the 5 year kid walking around with a paci. Second worst nightmare.

Now that she is here, everything that I said I would never/always do has been nothing more than a lofty idea. I'm not talking about discipline because she is too little for that, even though she throws a mean temper tantrum if I withhold my car keys and cellphone from her. Right now I'm talking about the way I feed her, the way I sleep trained her, the way I kind of give her anything she wants if it means she doesn't throw a tantrum/smiles. Who am I kidding, I don't possess a speck of iron in me. Mom, teach me your ways. Which leaves me wondering how the heck I am going to parent a toddler. And then a teenager. I only have one plan: the strict, discipline-her-to-the-max plan. I haven't thought out any other way to handle a real, full fledged toddler temper tantrum let alone a teenage crisis. I am not against spanking at all, but does every offense warrant it? And when those big teary eyes look into mine after she disobeys and says, "I didn't do it Mommy," will I have the strength to follow through with correcting her? After all, my heart melts for those eyes. 

Knowing all of this now should convince me to figure out another plan or at least have a backup plan to the original plan. But I haven't. And what I have learned in my 8 months as a parent is there is a lot of gray in parenting. Sure there is plenty of black and white. When she tells a lie, there will be correcting. Black and white. When she hits someone, punishment. Black and white. But when she has a meltdown because she has missed a nap and it's not necessarily bad behavior at play, what then? Where is the line drawn between doing the hard job of discipline and accidentally raising a spoiled brat? What behaviors can be ignored and still not end up with a hooligan?

I don't have it in me to parent the way my parents did. I know they did the best they could but I don't want to mistake my child's curiosity for questioning authority. I want Beatrice to grow up with a healthy fear respect for us but still have the assurance that we love her and want her to be herself. A godly, non-bratty version of herself of course. And if she doesn't turn out to be a sweet, humble, meek, God-fearing person, it will probably be my fault.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Blessed Event

I love weddings. I love the excitement of a life shared. I love the dresses and suits. I love the flowers and the music. All of it makes me cry with joy for the couple. JD too. Our good friends Brandon and Kristen got married this weekend and it was a marvelous event. They dated for something like 10 years so it was a huge celebration that we did not want to miss. As expected, when they exchanged those solemn promises to each other, our eyes filled with tears. JD's were very masculine, manly tears though. I assure you.

I suppose I get so emotional at weddings because of the enormity of the commitment taking place. Two people are vowing to love, honor and respect each other for a lifetime. Not to mention raise babies, help each other through the ups and downs and share a life together. And while you're standing before God, friends and family in that white dress and suit, it is so easy to feel those things you're saying and mean them. It's when you've been married for a minute, the bills need to be paid and the dirty socks lying on the floor (that never seemed to bother you before you got married) make you want to scream is when those vows seem like the dumbest thing you've ever said before.

I guess I cry at weddings because I am so excited for the couple. Excited that they will get to experience the most wonderful relationship on earth. The relationship that teaches us how to forgive, love without condition, become parents, make a home, see the best in others even when we know the worst about them, apologize, and on and on. It is a relationship that should never be stagnant but grows and strengthens with time. Even when the honeymoon phase is over and the realities of life make it seem like a lot of work to love the person you're sharing your life with. 

And that is what I wish for our friends: a life of love and respect, lots of babies filling their home, and an ever growing relationship together. Here are some photos of their wedding. I have a crappy camera and a photographer I am not, so please excuse the poor quality of the photos. 

The wedding was in an old wine cellar, practically underground. The room had stone walls, stone floors and a stone ceiling. It was lit with tons of candles.

The reception was outdoors on the lawn and under a huge tent. It was a morning wedding so they served brunch with mimosas, bloody marys and pink lemonade.

We laid a table cloth in the grass for Beatrice to play so we could eat and celebrate with the other guests.

It was a great wedding and I wish Brandon and Kristen the best! On a side note, Beatrice did great on the 10 hour trip. We decided to leave at night so she could sleep most of the way. She did, however we did not. We were zombies the next day. Not the flesh eating kind, just the really tired kind. But a little exhaustion was worth it for a quiet trip with not even a peep from our little one.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Seen And Heard

Tonight we leave for our friends' wedding in Ohio. We have to travel 10 hours. With a baby. Uggggh, I dread this trip. Last month we drove 7 hours to the beach and Beatrice slept 45 minutes the entire drive. The other 6 hours and 15 minutes she fussed and whined. I sat in the backseat singing and entertaining her and by the time we got home, no one wanted to talk to each other for a couple of days.

I don't mind the entertaining in the backseat for several hours, it's the fussiness and whining that I don't want anyone else to have to deal with. My brother and sister in law are driving with us. They don't have children yet. I'm one of those people that gets uncomfortable for others in uncomfortable situations. I never want to be that parent with the screaming child in the grocery store or have the kid that won't quit talking during church. I feel like a failure as a parent if I can't get my child to be happy or better yet, quiet. And when I can't make her look out the window happily quiet for a 10 hour car ride, I feel like everyone blames me.

I think it's safe to say that when most people hear the kid having a meltdown on aisle 5, they automatically blame the parent. "If that were my child, I would take them to the bathroom and deal with the situation." "Why can't they get a handle on their kid?" "My child has/will never act like that." I've been guilty of the same thoughts when in the presence of a temper tantrum. Now that I'm a parent, I know how much anxiety there is for the parent when the kid is losing it. First of all, sometimes the kid isn't having a temper tantrum (like my baby, she's a perfect angel). Many times Beatrice is overtired and needs a nap but because I wanted to squeeze in one more errand, she just can't handle the extra stimulation. Or she's hungry or wet or whatever, but not every cry means the child is unmanageable. Nonetheless, there is still that pressure on the parent to prevent their child from disrupting everyone else in earshot.

I guess I don't want anyone to think that I can't handle my baby or worse, think that she is hard to handle. And my crazy empathy for others in uncomfortable situations makes it hard for me to relax and accept that no one expects her to do or be anything on this trip other than a baby. A baby who may cry or fuss or be unhappy about being in a car seat for 10 hours.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Baby Proofing

Beatrice can crawl now. She can only go backwards but that still counts, right? We find her under chairs, the ottoman and the cabinet in the foyer.

This means we have to baby proof the house. Currently, we baby proof by watching her really closely and keeping her off of the hardwood. Not sure why the hardwood is so dangerous (and I obviously failed at it this morning as the picture above clearly shows) but JD is adamant that she can crack her skull on it.

Our place is basically a death trap in its present state. According to websites and other parents who are smarter more experienced than us, we need outlet covers, gates, door locks, cabinet traps and other precautionary items. I guess we thought we'd have more time. Or maybe we think we are really good "watchers." But every time I check my email and take my eye off of her for a moment, she is eating my computer power cord with her feet the only visible body part peaking out from under the ottoman. Don't worry, the cord is unplugged from the wall.

JD and I promised each other we'd never have that house that looked like Babies R Us exploded in it. We wanted the living room to house furniture only, no toy piles allowed. Oh how naive we were. Baby proofing just seemed like a good way to mess up our house. Until now. We are in desperate need of a major safety overhaul. But in typical JD-Aly fashion, instead of doing the normal things like getting those outlet covers and baby gates, we are discussing getting rid of furniture. Because she could bump her head or worse, try to climb a bookshelf. So now, instead of those pesky toy piles that we forbade to exist in our living room, we push the ottoman out of the way so she has the entire area rug to play on. The ottoman serves as a great baby gate. This works for now but it is a royal pain in the rear to rearrange furniture a couple times a day.

This week we will probably break down and get the necessary baby proofing items. It's not that we don't want her to be safe, I think this whole mobile phase just snuck up on us and as first timers we are learning our way. But I wouldn't be surprised if our house ends up looking like one of those jump bounce houses that are all the rage at children's birthday parties. We wouldn't want her to bump her head.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Weekend of Favorite Things

I always said I would never write a post that detailed every little thing that I did because let's be honest, those posts aren't interesting to anyone but relatives. But I had a really great weekend packed full of my favorite things and I wanted to share a few of them here. I hope no one is bored to tears....

The great weekend started on Friday when I perused the produce department of my third favorite place on earth, Whole Foods. We were there looking for ingredients for my newest venture: bread baking. I ended up eating a salad that weighed a whopping pound and a half. Seriously. There is a massive salad bar wing at Whole Foods that offers every imaginable salad ingredient and containers full of not so common ingredients. I had spinach with fired roasted tomatoes, citrus garlic beets, roasted free-range chicken, bleu cheese mountains, grilled asparagus and zucchini, quinoa, and cranberries with Greek vinaigrette. Once you make your salad to perfection, you take it to the register where the cashier weighs it. Mine came in at a pound and a half (bowl not included) and I woofed down every bit of it. I could go to Whole Foods every day and just browse the handmade delicacies and sample the organic produce. Beatrice got to try some organic peaches and raspberry puree and baby rice cakes. She was a big fan. My little crunchy baby, I'm so proud.

Next, we went to my second favorite place, Anthropologie. My first favorite place is NYC, oh what a wonderful place. I once saw a documentary about a man whose life goal was to visit every McDonald's in the world. I'm like that with Anthropologie. Each store is so unique and spectacularly girlie, I could spend hours in there. And did on Friday. I was shopping for a dress to wear to my sweet friend Kristen's wedding this weekend. I am reading a passage at the wedding so I need a new dress for the occasion. I rarely buy new clothes. As a stay at home mom, my wardrobe consists of tanks and shorts and the casual cotton dress on Sunday for church. When I do shop, I am always mindful of quick access for nursing Beatrice. It isn't practical to wear something that involves disrobing six times a days to feed the baby. So I bought this dress:

It is neither practical nor does it provide easy access for nursing. But it is beautiful and girlie and I feel really pretty in it. I don't really know what I'll do about nursing at the wedding, I suppose JD will have to help me in the bathroom or something. It doesn't really matter. The dress is awesome and I can't wait to wear it. I'm starting to get that barfy feeling thinking about speaking at the wedding though.......

The weekend of my favorite things kept getting better. On Saturday we hit up the local farmer's market. As soon as we got there, the sky opened up and there was a torrential downpour. It's times like these that I'm really glad I decided to bring the baby. We huddled up under a tent with one of the merchants. They were more than willing to let us pile in since the poor, little baby was getting wet.....and her mama really didn't want to wash her hair again. We tasted some great local fare and got some ideas for a booth of our own.......maybe. I got word that the library was having a book sale so after the market, we went to check it out. They were selling as many books as you could stuff into a paper grocery bag for $5. We got some great books for Beatrice. I was tickled.

Then we came home and I baked bread from scratch. No starter, no pre-measured mix, no bread machine. Just my two bare hands, a few natural ingredients and lots of patience (because there are like a 101 steps to baking bread). I made whole wheat honey bread and it turned out perfectly!!

Every thing I read and everyone I talked to said not to expect much from my first loaf. Bread is finicky and a lot of the success comes from experience and "feeling" your dough. Y'all, I felt the heck outta that dough and made some PERFECT bread!! We ate it warm from the oven with butter, we had toast with strawberry jelly, we had ham sandwiches, all made with my bread. I'm psyched. We no longer have to buy bread. Even though a good loaf only cost about $3, but that's not the point. The point is that I can make bread!!!! Beatrice even got to try some teeny pieces.....but we discovered that giving a baby bread that is not toasted is not a great idea. The teeny pieces turned into a large dough ball in the back of her throat and after a pretty good scare, JD and I decided that she is not ready for bread. That is known as a parenting fail in our house....

Sunday rounded out my weekend of favorites. JD's family joined us at church for Father's Day and we had a fun afternoon with my family. A little cuddling with my honey and then we crashed around 9pm. Weekends of favorite things equals two exhausted parents.

Today I did many non-favorite things (changed the sheets, got an oil change, cleaned the litter box, got my brakes worked on, cleaned) but that is usually the way it goes after a weekend of lovely things. It's back to the ol' grind. I am totally inspired by my awesome weekend and inspired to have many more like it this summer. If anyone made it to the bottom of this post, I applaud you. I hope instead of boring you I encouraged you to eat a giant salad or buy something beautifully impractical or stand in the rain with a baby. Actually, don't do that. It is overrated. Whatever you do, enjoy your families and hug your honeys and make the most out of every weekend. We sure did.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Father's Day was one of the best holidays as a kid. We looked forward to a day of fishing and feeding ducks, or doing whatever "dad stuff" we knew my dad loved. We always made him cookies or a cake and gave him handmade cards with a can of cashews. He loved it. He acted like those cashews were just what he wanted and the most thoughtful gift ever. As we got older, the gifts got a little better but we never stopped giving him the nuts. Looking back, I know that the handmade gifts were his favorite because our little hands took the time to make him something we thought he needed or wanted.

See that little cozie up there? I made that for JD for his first father's day. He has a lifetime of gifts like that to look forward to, lucky man. He loves it. Oh, and his handmade card that Beatrice helped make, his fave. He got his real gift a few weeks ago but I wanted to start his father's day celebration off in the traditional Aly-fashion by giving him something my little hands made.

I got a little weepy making JD's cozie. My dad died in a plane crash 10 years ago and if he were here, he would go bananas over that cozie. I would make him one that said Gramps or something. He would think it was the best gift ever. Of course I would pair it with some cashews. But even with loss, today is still one of the best holidays because we celebrate our sweet daddy who also loves handmade gifts from the heart. And nuts, but he is more of a honey roasted peanut guy.

So happy father's day Dada. We love you!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lamp Unto My Feet

Recently I participated in the New Thru 30 Bible reading plan. It was awesome. Basically, you read the New Testament in 30 days. I kind of slacked on it after the first week, but finished nonetheless. It was more like New Thru 60 for me. I loved it. I have read through the New Testament several times before, but submerging myself in it daily really made for an awesome, life-changing experience. Now more than ever, I want to live a life that honors God. And I really, really want to go to Heaven.

I love how the Bible is ever-ministering. For one season of your life a passage can mean one thing but if you read it again during another season, it can minister to you in a new way. Not that the message changes, but it really is the LIVING Word of God. I also love how the Bible is our handbook to living. You want to know how to please God? Read His Word. Want to raise kids according to His master plan? Read His Word. Want a happy, loving marriage? Read His Word. For every part of  life, He has given us a manual on how to do it not only in a way that honors Him, but in a way that brings us blessings too.

I want to go to heaven and God makes it clear that "neither the sexually immoral, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God," I Corinthians 6:9-10. That pretty much sums up all of us, doesn't it? I want to avoid these activities so I can see heaven. God makes it clear what behaviors should be abstained from in order to live obediently. And the things that I struggle with, well I'm going to repent and align my thinking with His Word. Isn't that what we are supposed to do as Christians: follow His Word?

So with this renewed sense of living a God-pleasing life I've got going on here, I wonder how to go about doing it. I struggle the most with balance. I want to dedicate my whole life, every minute of the day, to living for Him in praise, prayer and ministering to others. The problem? My family. Let me rephrase: the responsibilities I have to my family. I have to take care of a little one almost nonstop for a good 12 hours every day. Then there's JD. He requires food and clean sheets and some attention pretty regularly. How am I supposed to devote my life to God while these two take up so much of my time?

I know that God has a purpose for us at every place in our lives and as a wife/mother, I can still honor Him. But learning how to balance that is my great dilemma. I always imagined my purpose in life would be grander than Wife and Mother. Not that those roles aren't amazing, I just always saw myself as more of a missionary or something. I find myself wondering how I can be of any use in His Kingdom by changing diapers all day. I'm not really serving anyone but my family. Is that enough for God? And if it's not, how do I squeeze more time out of each day? I just don't want to be standing there before Him on the day of judgment with Him saying "you could have done more."

I'm just so glad God doesn't intend for us to walk alone. He gave His Word as a "lamp unto our feet and light unto our path," Psalm 119:105. I want to walk a lit path, knowing where I'm headed with Him by my side. Have you spent time with Him today?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Big Girl Baby

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a big girl baby on our hands. Beatrice can clap on demand, feed herself bananas and organic puffs, and is on the verge of crawling any day now. Where did my baby go? Just a month ago, she barely scooted on her play mat, now she is sitting up and reaching for everything. It is so cute, she uses her index finger to trace faces and shapes on books and toys. Smart girl.

I really hated the newborn stage. I couldn't see past the constant nursing, sleep deprivation and not having a clue what to do. The first 3 months all I did was wish them away. I operated in survival mode. I can remember nursing her in the middle of the night thinking, "in x more months, she should be sleeping through the night so I won't have to get up anymore." I couldn't wait for her to be able to sit contentedly in her bouncer without me having to hold her all day. I anxiously awaited happy independent playtime so I could have longer than 5 minutes to prepare dinner. All of the sweet newborn things that everyone told me to enjoy while they lasted, well, didn't last. And now I have this big girl baby who only wants to nurse when she's hungry. But very, very quickly because she has big girl baby things to do. She can't be bothered with babyish things like cuddling. I miss my little baby.

Honestly, this age is my favorite so far (almost 8 months). Beatrice mimics every silly face or sound we make. She displays her dissatisfaction, erm, how do I say.......theatrically. She has her own personality  and can interact with us. She is so much easier to take care of now and I think I know what I'm doing. At least I know more than I did 7 months ago. 

I told her all day today to stop growing up so fast. She was like "whatever mom, I'm big now." I'm stuck in the middle of wishing she could stay my baby for just a little while longer and cheering her on with each new milestone. They're coming 2 and 3 at a time now, it's so cool to watch a little person bloom. I bet she'll be crawling by Saturday, then it's a whole new ball game. She really will be my big girl baby.

Slow down sweet girl, mommy wants to enjoy you for a little bit longer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Character Flaw

Motherhood has changed many things for me. One of the most significant changes has been my relationships with others. I am much closer to my mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunts and grandmother now. I can easily form a bond with a new friend who is a mother. And sadly, my relationships with my non-mommy friends have struggled. 

Before Beatrice, my life's focus was to honor God in my marriage, workplace, and friendships. Then I had a baby. Everything changes when you have a baby. My focus became honoring God in my marriage and not screwing up the biggest responsibility He has ever bestowed upon me. I lost my focus on maintaining good friendships along the way. Most of my friends have accepted my new focus and waited patiently for the busyness and exhaustion of parenting to subside. It does, right? But for my non-mommy friendships, a major wound has been left open and unattended to. Basically, my friendships have gangrene.

What caused this friend-rot? Me. Well, not entirely me. Beatrice is to blame too. Sorry Beatrice, mommy can't take all the heat on this one. I was by myself raising a baby and instead of reaching out and meeting my friends in their world, I expected them to come to me. And while a newborn baby is a miraculous and joyous thing, they are only interesting to single twenty-something career women for so long. 

My single friends all reached out to me when JD was gone but I was too freaked out to take the baby in public for fear of germs/meltdowns/nursing in view of strangers. The more I declined, the less invitations I received. This never bothered me. My skinny clothes didn't fit for the longest time, I was sleep deprived, and staying in was easier than going out. What made things worse was that I didn't even care if anyone came to visit me. Visitors meant I had to clean my house and make sure that Beatrice and I were presentable. A phone call every now and then was enough contact with the outside world for me to feel connected. So my friends called. Sometimes I couldn't answer because I was elbow deep in a poopie diaper/nursing/showering/sleeping so I would call back when it was convenient for me. Convenient times became less and less available. So I quit calling back (unless I was having a crisis and needed to talk). The ball kept rolling until months of unreturned phone calls and declined lunch invites landed me with hurt friends who have inevitably moved on. 

Part of me wants to play the victim and say "just you wait and see how hard it is to maintain anything when you have a new baby." While this is true, it's also true that it takes both parties to contribute and cultivate a relationship. The truth of the matter is, I have been a terrible friend. I have been uninterested in new boyfriends and new jobs. I haven't been supportive of accomplishments and breakthroughs. And while I haven't been self-absorbed (having a little one to care for takes care of that), I have expected everyone to be concerned with me and my situation. Ugh, I disgust myself. 

Thankfully, my friends are awesome and still love me. But I am finally starting to realize the hurt I have caused by not making more of an effort to be apart of their lives. Plus, I have missed out on a lot. There have been engagements and weddings to celebrate, new jobs and new babies to look forward to. I want to be apart of those things again. 

I haven't figured out the logistics of how I am going to balance motherhood and friendships with my non-mommy friends. I know that it can be done though and I am excited to try. If my friends can love me through this, they are worth the effort.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If At First You Don't Succeed....

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5

Last night while JD and I were lying in bed talking, I asked him if Beatrice thinks I'm a good mom. I started to explain all of the things that I do that I am not sure are right. Sometimes the thing I choose to do turns out not to be the best choice and I feel bad that Beatrice has to be the guinea pig for my parenting failures. Then I started crying. I don't want to mess up, you know? She doesn't deserve that. She deserves a mom who knows how to approach sleep issues and boo boos like a seasoned professional, not a fumbling novice.

As a new mom, I have read my share of parenting guides. Every one is different and even if I find something that resonates within me as "my style" or something that I believe in, Beatrice quickly reminds me that every baby is different and there is no constant in parenting. When she was a newborn, my confidence quickly disintegrated into questioning and confusion. I sought God's Word for answers but when it comes down to the basics of parenting like whether or not to sleep train or how to introduce solids, the Good Book isn't clear on such topics. So I stumble through each new phase and milestone holding my breath and hoping that I don't damage her along the way.

Solids for example, have me wondering if I'm doing the right thing. I prepare her food and offer it to her on a spoon. She usually does not like anything new at first so I only make enough for a taste and a few follow up bites. The next day I offer it again. If she still doesn't like it or even if she loves it but doesn't eat more than a few bites, I find myself convincing her to taste it after she locks her jaw shut. I don't shove the spoon in her mouth meanly, just kind of forcefully. I got to thinking about it and I realized, I wouldn't like it if someone were shoving food in my mouth. I stopped forcing the bites and now just go at her pace. If she doesn't want anymore after a few tries, I stop feeding her. Times like these, I forget that she is a little person. She has her own preferences and pace and why can't I remember that? Ugh, why do these things not come naturally to me?

I grew up with a mother that often said "because I'm the mother, that's why." I hated this phrase. We all knew she was the mother, she didn't need to remind us. But I think I know what she meant now. I find myself thinking it too now that I have a child. Let's use naps to illustrate: if Beatrice refuses to go down for a nap, I start questioning myself and what I should do. She's been up for 3 hours and is rubbing her eyes. I know she is tired but is fighting the nap and crying. Maybe I should just give up and let her stay up. ::Aly snaps out of it:: No, I'm the mother and KNOW that she needs the sleep. She will have to give in and take a nap because if not, she will be miserable until bedtime. I have to go through this dialogue in my head for many situations and remind myself that God gave me the ability to make sound decisions for her. Even if it is hard or hurts me a little. Because c'mon, who wants to make their baby cry?

I think my mom knew that she had the wisdom and the kids did not. She knew what we needed even if we made it hard for her/us to accomplish it. But I don't want to make my baby cry or be uncomfortable or do anything she doesn't want to do. I just wish that I knew what I was doing wasn't damaging her, even if there is a little crying involved. Not that I make her cry all day. She rarely cries actually. 

JD doesn't think I have ruined or damaged her with my failures. Every first time parent makes interesting decisions and later wonders, "what was I thinking?" Right? I still feel bad for my little goob though. She didn't ask to be first and I hate the thought of baby #2 turning out better because then we will know what we're doing. Baby #2 is hypothetical at this time. In the meantime, all I can do is my best and approach every new stage asking God for wisdom.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Like the new background? I'm still searching for "the look" of the blog. It's a little girly, a little dramatic and hopefully easy on the eyes. Just like me. Hehe. I've watched a bazillion tutorials on how to customize blog stuff but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to center the header. Anyone know?

The blog has been a work in progress for a while. For at least a year, I have felt like I should write. I have a degree in English Literature and spent many years writing. Writing papers, writing fiction, writing reviews, writing letters, writing ads. I had an opportunity to write for a monthly publication a few years back but didn't feel qualified and passed it up. Dumb, dumb move. This blog has become a way for me to polish my rusty writing skills.

I have always enjoyed writing. When I was a kid, I wrote and illustrated stories all of the time. I even bound 1 of my books by sewing up the cardboard back with yarn and covered it with floral fabric and ribbon. Most of my stories were about Native Americans living on the shore who ate abalone. I think I just liked the word abalone. Still do actually. I knew I loved literature but never knew I could devote my college years studying it. A great advisor suggested that I invest my time in college studying what I loved instead of learning a trade.....actually, this advice seems kind of stupid now that I think of it. I studied, I learned, and I wrote.

Then I graduated and had nothing left to read or write about. Let me rephrase: I had nothing left required to read or write about. I felt empty and useless. I had a great job and was pretty fulfilled at it but I didn't have the excitement and the pressure of having 3 huge papers to complete over a weekend. You know you're a nerd when research papers tickle your fancy. I tried to make every job assignment that required writing like a homework project and write my heart out over notices to vacate or internet advertisements. It wasn't quite the same.

Somewhere along the way, I gave up a dream of writing anything. I stopped thinking up witty emails and I quit editing my Facebook bio to sound just like me. The most creative writing I was doing was on greeting cards. My mom gets the best notes from me in cards. I'm her creative child. And then I started the blog. I love having a project and an outlet for the words arranging and rearranging themselves in my head. And I love getting new followers/readers. It keeps the pressure on high for me to know that people other than my friends are reading. Sometimes knowing that my husband is reading makes me completely self-conscious. I just want him to think I'm smart. What if he thinks the blog is dumb? Oh I couldn't deal with that. 

So I have the blog now. I don't really know what my focus is or where it is going. I hope to inspire and encourage, but mostly I just write. Some of the topics are not interesting. Some of the formatting is wonky and drives me CRAZY. But I love having the readers and comments and opportunity to hone my skill. And until I find the perfect background and figure out how to center the darn header, my writing will have to be enough to represent the "feel" of the blog.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lost In Translation

When we were engaged and preparing for our marriage, the pastor that married us asked us to read His Needs, Her Needs by Harley and The 5 Love Languages by Chapman. They were AWESOME. The gist of both books is that each person has specific needs for love, intimacy and security and your job as spouse is to learn to speak their language to meet their needs. If your spouse is focused on your needs and you on his, then everyone's needs get met and life is grande. Wins for everyone. We both figured out our love languages and felt ready to forever speak them fluently to each other.

We got married, had a rough go of learning to live together, accidentally got pregnant, JD embarked on a new career, I ended mine, had a baby and JD left for 5.5 months for work training. Somewhere in there, we forgot how to speak each other's language. I don't think it was a defining moment that it happened or a single incident that caused it, but a slow progression of not cultivating the soft fuzzies of romantic love.

I am guilty of sizing us up to every couple we know. So and so eats dinner every night in the dining room staring into each others eyes. So and so has date night every weekend. So and so holds hands at church. And on and on. I don't mean to, but I am always comparing other marriages to my own. If I learn that my brother and sister in law cuddle a different way than we do, I automatically start wondering if we are as affectionate as we should be. It's stupid, I'll admit it. But once I start comparing, I start to get unhappy. When I see things that I wish were in our marriage in someone else's, I try to force it into ours. This causes a bit of friction.

While JD was gone, I was nothing but a mommy. No one held me. No one made me feel pretty. No one waited for me to come to bed. I was alone and I hated it. I needed my man. During that time I thought a lot about what I needed in my marriage to feel loved. Nothing too high maintenance, mostly the things listed above. I couldn't wait for JD to return so I could feel like a wife again and not just a mommy.

He returned and things fell into place as if he were never gone. We were the same. Not my new and improved dreamed-up version of us. Just regular old us and I didn't like it. I wanted the romance and newness of when we first fell in love to return. I wanted him to want to talk for hours about nothing. I wanted butterflies. I prayed that God would change him into a man that showed me love in a way that I needed it.

After some hurt feelings and pouting on my part, we finally talked and realized that we don't speak each other's love language anymore. And instead of learning, we had been screaming our own at the other person at the tops of our lungs in hopes that if we just said/did it loud enough, the other person would pick up on our signals and love us in the way that we needed to feel loved. Holy long sentence, Batman. Obviously it didn't work because I wasn't feeling the love.

So last week we talked. We rediscovered each other's love language. I'm physical touch and words of affirmation. I need to hear the I love yous with a little cuddling thrown in on the side. And we are actually incorporating it into our relationship. It's kind of awesome. I have butterflies again.

I don't think we ever lost any love for the other person, we just stopped speaking our love languages. Do we love each other? Gosh yes. Is marriage hard? Absolutely. Is it the most incredible relationship in life? Aside from the one I have with Jesus, yes it is. I love this man and I want to work everyday at showing him in a way that he feels it. I have learned that marriage needs constant maintenance to keep it strong and fulfilling for both parties. My prayer has now changed. I now pray that God shows me when JD is loving me in ways that don't automatically translate into love behavior. I think it's working.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day (A Little Late)

Check out my belated Mother's Day gift I ordered myself JD bought me.

Click for detail

It's hand-stamped gold disc pendant with a B and pink tourmaline danglies. It's from Artwark and I love it. It's belated because we were on vacation for Mother's Day and my dear husband was unclear of the proper 1st Mother's Day protocol. I educated him that jewelry is the only way to go. He was gracious to oblige. Smart man.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shaker Aly

JD and I watched a documentary on Shakers not long ago. I loved it. They live simple lives devoted to loving others, working hard with their hands and are in complete servitude to God. And they make awesome furniture. At the end of it, JD looked at me and said, "you could totally be a Shaker, couldn't you?" He knows me so well. These people are awesome and their way of life is right up my alley. Except for the whole celibacy thing. I could not do that. I love how even with all of the modern conveniences available, they still make almost everything by hand and choose not to cut corners because they believe in hard work.

Like the Shakers, I really try to get to the basics of things. Don't laugh but I often ask myself "if I lived in Bible times, how would I _____?" Except for dental hygiene. I really don't want to know how folks took care of their teeth back then. Can you imagine their breath? Don't get me wrong, I am grateful for modern technology and indoor plumbing, but I remain skeptical of artificial flavoring and labels with 28 unpronounceable ingredients listed. I try to think of ways to do things that are A) healthy, B) affordable and C) the most natural way possible. I try to adopt this philosophy in most areas of my life.

When I was in elementary school, we made butter. We had little glass baby food jars, cream and salt. We shook those jars until we made rich, creamy butter. I want to churn my family's butter. I want to raise chickens and collect fresh eggs for homemade sourdough french toast. I want to harvest a small crop of summer vegetables and work a loom. I want to farm goats and make the most delectable cheeses. The fainting kind, just for kicks and giggles.

I like how the Shakers focused on serving others and working hard to cultivate the skills they possessed. There is so much value in knowing how to use your hands and serve others by cooking a meal or building something. I am totally inspired to learn new ways to serve my family and community. I want to instill that in Beatrice.

I like how the Shakers were not afraid of a little extra work. I'm not afraid of extra work. You know that feeling after you've been going nonstop for 12 hours and the laundry is folded and everyone has clean sheets and the pantry is stocked and the coffee pot is set for the next day and you crawl into bed thinking "man, I worked my butt off today?" That's a great feeling. It's great because you know that you did something for your family today. You served them. Even after everyone goes to bed (as it often is in my house), you're still up meal-planning and crocheting the cat a blanket because you are sick of vacuuming the fur off of the couch EVERY SINGLE DAY, you are still working. That is a great feeling.

I think we can all learn a little something from the Shakers about hard work. They love God, they love their community and they hold their craftsmanship to the highest standards. Heck yeah I could be a Shaker, honey. In fact, I think I may already be one.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wait....Today Isn't Saturday?

I forget what day of the week it is all the time. I guess it's because I'm home all day and they all seem to run together. JD is off on Fridays so we usually stay in our pajamas until noon (2 today, a new record) and catch up on our Netflix movies. Halfway through the day, I'm stuck counting backwards from last week trying to figure out what day it is. Sunday is a good starting point because we go to church, Monday and Tuesday are kind of a blur, then Wednesday was Beatrice's xray, or was that Tuesday, definitely Tuesday because I went to my mom's on Wednesday, last night was Real Housewives of NY so today must be Friday. There, that wasn't so hard. 

I do this every week. I never look at the calendar because my phone prompts me of all upcoming events/appointments. When I worked, I was forced to look at the calendar every day and my days stayed tightly scheduled. These days, there really is no reason to look. You should see the checkbook. There are several entries with "" under June 3rd because I can't figure out what day I spent what. If I can't count back from Sunday, I give up.

It's a strange feeling not knowing what day of the week it is. It feels like I live under a rock or in another, very slow-paced world where there really isn't much required of me outside of the house. Beatrice needs the same things from me whether it's Wednesday or Saturday. I still have to cook dinner for JD. Date nights don't exist at the moment. Each day is pretty much the same. I don't mind doing the same thing every day, but I don't look forward to the approaching weekends or casual Fridays like I used to. Days go by that turn into weeks and before you know it, time flies and your little newborn is 7 months old. Where was I when that happened?

Time has never moved like this before. Days have never seemed so endless and months so brief in all my life. I definitely have learned to enjoy each moment and look forward to more of the special days like today spent lovin my honey, even if I have no idea what day of the week it is.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Somebody Tell Him Already

When I was a little girl, I thought my dad had my brothers and my mom had me. It made perfect sense to me that girls came from girls and boys came from boys. Everyone got here via belly button. No one corrected me. I'm not sure when or how I learned how babies get here, but I'm proud to say that now I know :)

I am watching my 9 year old brother 2 days a week this summer. He doesn't know how I feed Beatrice. When I nurse her, he wants to know where the bottle is. I always nurse under a cover and rarely in front of anyone but JD. I have begged my mom to just tell him how I feed her. Chances are, he will just laugh and think it is hilarious. But at least he would know. 

Today I had to nurse her in the exam room at the doctor's office. Cole was in the room playing games on my phone. When he realized that I was feeding her, he asked once again where the bottle was and why I had to feed her covered up. I don't lie so this always puts me in an awkward position. I told him that she can feed herself (answer to where the bottle was) and she gets distracted (answer to why she was under the cover). Both truthful answers, but not quite the full story.

I am all for preserving the innocence of children, but my 3 year old niece knows how I feed the baby. My sister in law nursed my nephew. I'm not saying tell him about the birds and the bees yet, but the poor guy can't figure out where the bottle is and we are running out of truthful explanations. Somebody needs to tell him already.

I asked JD if he wondered where babies came from or about breast feeding when he was a kid and he said no. "Boys don't think about stuff like that, Aly." Oh. Was I the only little girl trying to figure this stuff out? Maybe Cole is better off not knowing all of the details. Maybe he doesn't really care where the bottle is and maybe I'm the only one feeling weird about it. I do know one thing for sure: I will not be telling him anything more than I already have. I'll leave the details for my mom. And if I know her like I do, Cole will never find that bottle.

Vintage Aly for your viewing pleasure