Tuesday, September 30, 2008

powerful stuff

45 minutes ago, I was actually in physical pain from listening to Hazel cry. Poor gal was just so tired and just so stubbornly refusing to sleep... bad combo. It felt like it would never end, the wailing.

Three-quarters of an hour, a warm mug of decaf-coffee-plus-hot-cocoa, some good time with my Beth Moore devotional study book, and a little pilates/yoga and a few push-ups later... and I feel like new.

It doesn't hurt that Haze isn't crying anymore either.

I'm just saying... our most basic needs, combined with a few of the most simple pleasures... what else could a gal really ask for?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

around the world in 80 days

I would say that I feel like I've been living in a Jules Verne novel lately. But that would be phony and fake, as I went to Illinois (not around the world) in a Nissan Versa (not by railroad or steamer) for 3 days (not 80)... and I have not even actually read Around the World in Eighty Days. So I will simply use it as a clever and exaggerative title (to a blog post in which I make up new words like exaggerative).

At any rate - I'm back. Hazel and I went to Nana & Papa's house (my parents) for the weekend since Daddy has been out of town since last Sunday and Mama was wanting a little bit of caretaking for herself. Oh - and because of her 10-year-high-school reunion. Gulp.

It was a lovely weekend - I'm always so well taken care of at my parents' house - they cook great food, run to Panera for delicious blueberry muffins in the morning, snuggle my baby daughter and fight over who gets to dress her and change her diapers and feed her dinner... it's a little vacation from my everyday life. We shopped, watched some TV, took walks, and played with the baby. Excellent.

And this visit, I got to reconnect with friends from high school. There was no real formal "party" - it was Homecoming weekend at BHS and there were mini-events all weekend, the only one of which I attended was my friend Sara's informal open-house. There were some people I've seen relatively recently (in the past year), some where it's been 2 or 3 or 5 years... and some I literally have not seen since the summer after we graduated. Here's what I noticed:

- We all pretty much look the same. Some people so much the same it's almost creepy.

- Lots of us have changed names... not just because we're married, but because we now answer to "Mom/Mommy/Mama/Mommommommommom"

- When talking to some of the people with whom I was not super-close or even necessarily "friends" (as opposed to more "friendly acquaintances") and you remove all the high school social trickiness and add 10 years - you think to yourself "if we still lived in the same town, I bet we would be good friends, because these are just nice people." It makes you feel kinda good, but also really sad that high school is so fraught with drama and social strata that prevents you from realizing those things as a teenager.

- It's strange to stand in your old friend's same old house with the same old people (plus their wives/husbands/children), snacking on slightly more refined food... and feel as though nothing and everything has changed.

- I much prefer smaller group get-together/catch-up sessions. It was a blast to see people, but I'm just not a big-group-type person. I like a cup of coffee (okay, okay - a doctored up frou-frou latte drink) and 1 or 2 other people and good conversation. I'd really love to catch up with these people in a more personal setting - but that's not exactly the easiest thing to do.

Anyway - we're home now, 10-year-reunion is under my belt, and Mark comes home (LATE) tomorrow night. Haze and I are looking forward to having our guy around again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

i am not universal

I've never been one of those people who "everyone just likes." And honestly (said with a slightly ashamed face)... I've never really been one of those people who naturally just "likes everyone."

I'm not going to sit and rant about how people do this or people do that or I hate it when people always... because I am well aware that I own the vast majority of responsibility when it comes to both sides of this issue. The way we treat and respond to the people around us has a great deal to do with whether we are liked or whether we like others. (I know that I can't control how they treat and respond to me, which is why I'll never hold out for universal appeal).

I've had a few relationships in my life that started out fairly rocky. People with whom I thought I had nothing in common and would not get along well with - or others that I knew (or thought I knew) and with whom I did not even want to be friends... and I have often been proved wrong. Very wrong. And honestly - I love it when that happens. And it's always the result of someone reaching out and taking a risk.

Sometimes the risk is minimal - just a friendly gesture to a person with whom you're not sure you'd get along... and you find that you can talk easily and find a great deal of support and encouragement in a new friend.

Sometimes the risk is terrifying - putting yourself out there and having a tough conversation that shines a big, bright spotlight on the elephant in the corner... and you find that the elephant is just as scared of you as you are of it, and that it just really would love to be your friend.

The thing is - it's always hard to work up to having that tough conversation... and (again, said with a slightly ashamed face) tough to figure out if the risk is worth the potential benefit. Because even though it could turn out beautifully and result in a rewarding new friendship... it could make a just slightly rocky relationship completely crumble into tiny little gravelly bits.

I'm not the easiest person to get to know, initially. I've been told I can be fairly guarded and stand-offish (probably doesn't seem that way on my blog, but this is a weirdly safe place for me to be myself) - and that's usually the case when I don't feel as though I can trust someone with myself. I've been burned by friends before, after over-zealous dive-right-into-being-friends personal sharing... and I'm fairly hesitant to do it again. Especially with people I know relatively well who have never truly put me at ease.

The thing is - I don't think this habit (or whatever you want to call it) is particularly God-pleasing... and I'd like to work on it. I just don't know how to start.

Can anyone out there relate?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

filling the time

The days slide by... and if I'm not paying attention, I have No Idea what I've done with them. Partly, that's a curse of Mamahood, and partly, it's about me not being a very good steward of my time.

I have a budget for our money... and I usually think of myself as a pretty good time-manager. Except that I haven't really sat down and thought about how I want to be spending my time. I'm not sure that I view it as the incredibly rare and valuable resource that it is...

Lots of people have lots of opinions on how you should spend your time. Full-time work, stay-at-home-mama, housekeeping, exercise, girls-night-out, date-night with the hubby, playing with your kid, taking a nap, reading a book...

The thing with opinions is that they really usually work best for the person who is giving it. Not to say that sharing opinions is a bad thing, or that I don't OFTEN find value when someone shares theirs with me... it's just that at the end of the day, no one is responsible for me but me. And I don't want to look back and wish I'd spent my time differently.

Mark is out of town this week - and I'm trying to keep our schedule relaxed but productive - full of things that I might normally push aside for less meaningful, more mundane tasks. Because really - I'd rather eat dinner at a friends house and enjoy wonderful, supportive, loving company for a few hours than fold clothes. And I'd rather spend a few extra bucks on lunch to have some 1:1 time with a friend than stick like glue to my budget for the month and eat alone at home. Mark's only been gone since Sunday - and we miss Daddy A LOT, don't get me wrong - but I'm glad that I seem to be doing a better job of spending my days this time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

my moments

Sometimes it comes out as a good thing... you've just had a great idea, or the project you were working on turns out So. Much. Better. than you could have imagined or hoped. Someone compliments you, and you respond with a small smile and "I have my moments."

Other times, it's not such a good thing... someone (usually someone who doesn't know you all that well) says, "I have a hard time imagining that you would ever fill-in-the-blank." Then you respond with a small smile and "Oh, I have my moments."

The words are the same. The meaning... so different.

Last night - I had a moment. One of my moments. And unfortunately (for me and for Hazel) it was not the good kind. I'll spare you the drawn-out, sleep-deprived details... but suffice it to say that this Mama lost her cool a wee bit and responded in kind to her screaming, crying baby. Before anyone gets nervous about what actually happened - I did not yell at her... but I did let out a big ole holler of pure frustration while I was in the same room as her... and that, generally, does not calm babies down. Just a note for my own future reference.

Here's the thing. In the aftermath of my moment, with tears pouring down my cheeks as I tried to comfort the baby who has been entrusted to my care and was now crying harder than ever because of my uncontrolled emotional outburst... as I sat in the rocker and asked her and God to forgive me and felt like the biggest wreck and failure of a mama I could imagine...
I realized something.

His grace is sufficient for me.

I could be as down on myself as I liked, feel like a chump and a fraud and wonder why in the world I was so bad at the only thing I've ever really wanted to do with my life... OR... I could realize that God called me to be her mama. Me. He didn't pick me because I'd be perfect at it, or because I would do everything right. I might not actually ever know why He picked me. And it doesn't really matter. His grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Last night, my weakness was so very weak, so very pronounced... I had a hard time not focusing on my role in the situation. But that completely ignores His role... and I'd much rather turn my eyes toward Him than be so self-centered that all I can do is feel bad about myself.

Today... well, today is a new day, and His mercies are new every morning. It's not easy, but I don't think it's supposed to be. One day at a time... that's not so hard, with this little one in my life:

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Today is blurry.
Lack of sleep makes things blurry.
I know this is what babies do.
But my-oh-my... this mama needs her sleep between midnight and 3am. At least some sleep between midnight and 3am.
Blurry is the best I got today, folks.
Hopefully beautifully concise and clear and focused will pour forth tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

return to sender

Dear Rain,

You have been visiting us for approximately 76,391 hours.

The cute little “natural area” (aka mini-swamp) behind our home was officially named as the sixth Great Lake this afternoon. Thank you for lifting us out of obscurity.

I now no longer feel the need to visit Venice, Italy because I can walk out my own front door and sail away down the street in a gondola. If I had a gondola.

And while we missed you for pretty much the ENTIRE MONTH OF AUGUST and it’s uber-generous of you to make up for that now, I feel as though it’s time for us to take a break from all the visitation.

I swear, absence will make my heart grow fonder.



At least now I do know why God chose to break His sump pump this week, flooding His basement and causing us to spend His money on drying and cleaning His brand new carpeting… it’s so that He would have a shiny new UltraDuperFantabulousSumpPump in place for the torrential rains that came this weekend. We are very blessed to not have any real damage or dangerous flooding threatening our home.

A few memorable quotes from this weekend as we observed the rain:

“Remember when it wasn’t raining?”

“It’s pretty much like Noah.”

“I think I saw a shark in your backyard. Or a porpoise.”

All sogginess aside – we had a lovely weekend with my mom, dad and sister (sadly, water issues kept my big brother from being able to make the trip to Michigan) who came into town.

A game of Settlers/Seafarers was played (which, if you don’t know, is quite possibly one of the most fun games EVER), The Princess Bride was watched, delicious food was eaten… and we all came together as a family for Hazel’s dedication at church this morning (Mark’s mom, stepdad and sister were here for that too, which was awesome).

It’s been quite a week – awash with surprises and sprinkled with God-moments that keep the floodgates from bursting open.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

my basement is humming. loudly.

It's humming because there are six or so industrial, full-strength fans and one dehumidifier (big enough for me to sit inside of it, I'd think) running nonstop.
They're running nonstop because after our lovely few days of heavy, late-summer rain this week, our sump pump decided to stop working. Which promptly soaked our newly finished basement.
(hang head and sigh a little bit)
Thankully - nothing was ruined, and it was noticed early on. The carpet is mostly pulled up and is being dried out and will hopefully be laid back down in a day or two. It's just awfully sad to stand in your basement and see water squish up through the (brand-new and not inexpensive) carpet and between your toes.
Oh - and did I mention that the basement is where the Meredith's bedroom is? Welcome to our home, friend - you can move into our lovely finished basement and commence your year of student teaching - but you'd better put on your waders!!
So Meredith spent the night in the bunkbeds in our spare room upstairs, and probably will until the carpet is dry (please by Friday, please by Friday) because oh yeah - my mom, dad, sister and brother are coming into town for the weekend for Hazel's dedication at church on Sunday.
The funny thing... this house is really God's house, our money is His money, and the weather is at His command. I'm just not sure why God chose to flood His brand new beautiful basement!! :)
This week is turning out a little differently than I thought it would - but it will all sort out in the end.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

an insider's guide

(Thanks for all the comments on the previous 2 posts - and keep them coming if you have any other ideas! I'm stewing over tactics right now, and will let you all know how things go.)

Today, I'd like to introduce you to the place we call home - a small town that claims just over 7000 residents. There's a lovely little downtown area comprised of four "city" blocks that surround the county courthouse (pictured). We were first settled in the 1840s and incorporated as a city in 1865 (using the term "we" rather loosely here).
Without this insider's guide, I'm sure you'd be pretty much at a loss as to how to spend your time taking in the sights... fear not. I'm here to lend a hand.

Favorite places to eat:
Breakfast: The Depot - a fabulous little diner in what used to be the train depot. The pancakes are the size of your head, so only order one. (I'm partial to peach & blueberry, my hubby likes him a good peanut-butter-banana pancake). He's also had his favorite omelette combination listed on the marker board as a "Special."

Lunch/Dinner: Baja Grille - located right downtown. Yummy food in a family-owned diner with just a touch of edge... at least for a small town. I'm partial to the sandwich wraps and the nachos, personally.

Treats: Turtle Tom's Ice Cream is right downtown (can you tell now why Mark and I often enjoy walking downtown for entertainment - even if it is a 2-mile round trip?). Great hand-dipped ice cream (I love Muddy Sneakers!) and other treats (we're partial to chocolate malts and red raspberry slushes).

Favorite Places to Hang Out:
Bestseller's: A little coffeeshop/bookstore located downtown. The hours are a little restrictive (I think they might close by about 7:00 or 8:00pm, and only recently opened at all on Sundays) - but it's a great place to sit.

Biggby Coffee: Just this spring, we went big-time with a coffee chain! (Not a big chain, and many of you probably won't recognize the name...) The building used to be a bank, so there's still a vault door and the drivethrough has been put to good use. Another nice place to escape for a bit with a book.

Rayner Park: A little local park with a fabulous castle-like playground (can't wait until Hazel is big enough to enjoy it!), lots of picnic tables and open fields, sand volleyball court, softball diamond... and a great view of the 4th of July fireworks.

Kean's Store: Just celebrated its 80th anniversary - this store has almost everything: toys, baby clothes, cards, kitchen stuff, fabric/patterns/yarn, knick-knacks and other kitschy items, and an old-fashioned candy counter. It's best for me to leave my wallet in the car, though.

Favorite Events:
Pretty much any parade - and we do it up right for 4th of July, Memorial Day, the day after Thanksgiving (Santa makes an appearance)... it's good stuff. Lots of tractors and fire trucks and school busses - and you're guaranteed to run into just about everyone you know.

The Mason 5K - run every year on the first Friday of May - LOTS of people turn up for this event. Serious runners right down through the stroller-pushing crowd (that's me!). Proceeds go to the schools.

Bulldog football games - once again, you're pretty much guaranteed to see almost the whole town turn out in their Bulldog gear (and yes, we do have a little t-shirt for Hazel). Junk food, lots of friends - oh, and a little football too. What's not to love?

Really - it's just a good place to live. Walking around downtown is always fun (except in the dead of winter), I can't go to the grocery store without running into someone I know, and we feel safe leaving our doors unlocked when we walk around the neighborhood.

If you're ever in mid-Michigan, give me a call!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

update to previous post

Here's the bedtime/naptime specifics (since a couple of people have asked):

Hazel does not like (and has never liked) being rocked to sleep. I think it may have worked twice in the history of her life - and only once she was totally exhausted and her parents were completely worn out. Almost any bedtime "trick" sets her off - it's as if she knows what you're plotting and pulls out everything in her baby arsenal to thwart you.

She will doze off in her carseat or a stroller occasionally, but she will not stay asleep, and any attempt to transfer her to bed results in her waking up (and generally not happy about it). Same thing goes for when she falls asleep while nursing. So although she cries when she sees her bed - the crib is really the only place she does sleep well. The trick is getting her to sleep.

She will eventually cry herself out. But it's been about 3 or 4 weeks of us trying to let her gradually cry longer and put herself to sleep, and the period of time it takes her to settle down has not really diminished, nor has the intensity of her tears.

We've tried waiting for her to be really tired (lots of yawns, eye rubbing, etc.) before putting her down. We've tried putting her down at the very first sign of sleepiness. We've tried variations in between.

Here is our normal routine (for bed):
Nurse - bathtime - play quietly until some signal/trigger of sleepiness (this doesn't take long usually) - go to bedroom where it's dark and quiet - nurse again - turn on white noise - sing a song or two - say prayers - lay baby down.
Naptime works pretty much the same way, but without the bathtime and the second nursing.

She sleeps fairly well once she falls asleep... right now, I'd just love love *love* a break from the tears.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

wit's end / at a loss / brick wall

I'm stuck. Out of ideas.

However you want to say it.

If you've been reading for more than a few months, you probably remember that my lovely little daughter Hazel has a track record for not exactly being what people would dub "a good sleeper."

In the first weeks of her life, she would only sleep while people were holding her. Setting her down in anything - crib, pack & play, bouncy seat, carseat, boppy pillow - was pretty much a guarantee that she would either (1) wake up immediately or (2) sleep a grand total of up to, but not exceeding, 25 minutes.

As we transitioned to the crib, I tried all kinds of swaddling, wedges, and other props to get her to sleep on her back. No dice. I caved in and we had a happy tummy sleeper for about 6-8 weeks.

Today - my biggest problem - the one that makes me want to pull out my hair just a leetle bit - is that she will not - WILL NOT - go to bed in any fashion without tears (exception = some (not all) middle-of-the-night feedings will result in me laying down a quiet, sleepy baby). And most of the time - it's not little whimpery tears. It's big, crocodile sized tears accompanied by wailing of the intensity that can be heard outside the walls of our home when the windows & doors are closed. There is no escaping these tears. They subside eventually, and she does fall asleep. But oh my, this poor mama is growing so weary of listening to the gut-wrenching sobbing.

I've looked through countless websites. I've read books: The Baby Whisperer, The No-Cry Sleep Solution, Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, Sleeping through the Night, The Happiest Baby on the Block, and more. Nothing I've tried from any of those books has worked to solve this particular problem (lots of good tips/tricks I've pocketed away for other situations though). We have a bedtime routine, a naptime routine - there is singing of quiet songs, there are prayers, there's soft music, dim lights, a white noise machine (not all at once, obviously, but in some combination at varying times). Still - she cries every. single. time. She's crying before she hits the mattress. I've tried letting her cry, I've gone in at intervals to soothe and rub her back. I've picked her up and tried again. And again.

I know there is nothing new under the sun, and I know this will pass. My only fear is that it might not pass before it kills me.

Does anyone out there have any fabulous secret trick that I may not have tried and that is not easily found in the vast research I've already done? Because I'm ready to listen to almost anything that isn't crying.