Christmas Traditions

Traditions are important to me. They became a little more important when we had our girl. I guess I never thought about our traditions being traditions until I had a family of my own. I didn't realize how important they were to me until they were the memories I had always known.

Advent wreath. Every year, we lit the candles on our Advent wreath. I had to look up what the heck it even meant - sorry Mom - but I knew that it was important. I wracked my brain trying to find a cute advent calendar to use for Maddie, but we're sticking to the basics. Partly, because we started in mid-December. The groove will come eventually.

Cinnabons. Santa brings Cinnabons for breakfast every Christmas morning. This will never change. And nothing further needs to be said. Cinnabons.

Visiting Santa. I loved seeing Santa as a kid! I wanted to make sure that man knew what I wanted for Christmas. Visiting Santa now? Way more fun. My poor girl is terrified & fascinated. Terrified has won out, but fascination will win in the coming years. Plus, these pictures are frickin' hilarious.

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2012. Last year's Santa looked more legit.

New ones started trickling in a couple of years ago. Family baking, Christmas jammies, & singing carols have joined the ranks. And I'll add new ones as the years move on, but some of the new traditions are the best yet.

The Night Before Christmas. Last year, we started our new tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas with our girl. She loves this book this year! She reads it almost everyday. She gets that Santa is coming to bring her presents & that his reindeer fly his sleigh. I'm already nervous about answering the chimney question seeing as how we don't have a fireplace.

The reading of the Christmas story. Great Grandpa reads the story of the birth of Jesus from the King James Bible. We've done this for years, but the best part is the new pop-up book we have for the kids to read along on Papa's lap. They don't know what "lo" and "decree" mean yet, but they know that baby Jesus was born in a barn with the animals surrounding Him. They get it.

And in light of the tragedy on Friday, I'm challenged to start new traditions. We're going caroling to retirement homes next year. We have a family of singers, & it's time for this girl to learn how much we can do by being kind & generous. I want to clean out the toy box at the beginning of December, have her help me pick specific toys to give to children who don't have toys or won't get anything for Christmas. I want her to know that she has more than enough & that she can bless people even as a toddler. I want it to make her appreciate what she has more, cause her to think about how less fortunate others are, & how blessed we are to bless others.

That's what it's all about. It's not about the presents & the millions of calories we will consume in 48 hours. It's about appreciating the people in our lives, the traditions we have, & knowing that all of this is made possible because a tiny, baby boy was born in a barn 2,000 years ago. This year, our new tradition is about loving each other, appreciating each other & helping others. That's the Great Commission - loving people with the love that Jesus loves us with.

Go bless someone less fortunate. It requires so little of us. Think of how much joy could be brought to someone, who has so much less than you, when you step outside of yourself & start a new tradition of loving people.

Merry Christmas to all,


Square One

The blinking cursor is staring at me, taunting me of sorts. I suppose I have things to write, but they aren't what I want to be writing. When I started writing earlier this year, I had this Pollyanna outlook. Things were cheery & bright. They aren't dull & dreary, but they are more serious. There is a ray of sunshine laced through all of it, but still, I want to be writing about different things. I think all of this, but then when I have a dear friend email me, sharing her sad story of her miscarriage & the heartache & trepidation that she is feeling, asking for my! It's worth it. If I have to do this, I want to be someone who helps other people. I want there to be meaning for other people through all of this. That's ok with me. In fact, it's pretty frickin' cool.

Life is moving forward. Christmas is 15 days away, most of the presents are bought & wrapped under the tree, Christmas songs are playing constantly & candles are aglow at all times of the day. I love Christmastime. If I could live in a Thomas Kinkade Christmasy town painting, I'd do it today. We are so looking forward to Maddie's excitement this Christmas. We're learning about baby Jesus & Santa - which should NEVER be combined in a front yard. Pick one.

And while life is whizzing past us, faster than I care to admit, we hit a road block. Late last week, I went for a routine exam, only to find out that I was given misinformation about our blood tests that I had done back in August. I, in fact, have a blood clotting disorder. I was both thrilled to hear that there was something wrong & pissed that they had been so careless with my information. I was told that everything came back perfectly fine. It's not true. My body is clotting too much & cutting off supply to the babes. So, in the spirit of moving forward, we are meeting with a new doctor & getting every test known to man to find out what is going on.

That's the short version. We know a few things, but we have a lot of things to uncover in the coming months, but that's ok. We're moving forward. Lots of exciting, FUN things coming up. Christmas, birthday parties, my Papa's coming to visit!

Merry Christmas from Maddie.


The name of the game is simplify. Life is so cluttered & messy right now. Some seasons are just that way, but when it's time to calibrate, you just know it. The schedule is cleared & the month is wide open. And I do not intend to fill it with much.

Simplifying is being applied to every aspect. I cleaned out our utility closet the other day - top to bottom. It's ridiculous how clean it is. I'm selling stuff stored in the basement that is just taking up space in the house & in my brain. It's time to declutter. I have overcommitted in so many areas of my life - some of them have been rewarding & others have not. The have nots have got to go.

In watching multiple people go through life-altering events in their life in the past year including our 3rd miscarriage, I have gained so much perspective on what is important in life & what needs to be dropped. I'm sick of wasting my time & energy on the things that drag me down.

Sometimes in the middle of writing here, I need direction or depth or just something to get my mojo going & that place always ends up being Kelle's blog. Her advice on writer's block is to get to the heart of what you want to say. And what I really want to say is that I'm tapped the hell out. I would call my Papa nearly every Wednesday, either before or after Bible study, & say "I have nothing to give these women. I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. How can I possibly add anything to their lives?" And since he is old, he has good advice. He would say, every single time, that those are the times when God uses you the most - you have nothing to give, so it's Him giving through you.

Over the last 11 weeks, I watched Him change things. I struggled to get through a Bible study that was intensive & exhaustive, & at a time, when I was just scraping by myself. We ended last week, & it was a nice time. Our group has become close & we'll miss our times together, but I was relieved. I had nothing to give them, so I assumed that not much had changed. Maybe they could tell you differently. Maybe they would tell you that it was just what they needed for this season in their lives. Maybe they would tell you that God moved.

Or maybe one of them would tell you that her life was changed. Saturday morning, at our women's Christmas luncheon, I watched as someone so near & dear to me that I consider her my sister, raise her hand, ever so slightly, to receive the Lord. In one instant, she went from uncertainty to a life filled with purpose & direction & hope. She's forever my sister.

Was it worth the weeks of feeling inadequate? Was it worth the frustration of feeling like I had nothing to give? Was it worth it to feel like a fool every week? I'd do it for the rest of my life to be able to say that it was instrumental in getting my girl to change her life.

That's the stuff that matters. That's the stuff that makes this life worth living. That's the stuff that sheds light & perspective on the rest of the crap we put up with, the people who hurt us, the situations that kick our butts.These are the things that give you pause & make you take stock of the people, commitments, & situations in your life, & decide what needs to stay & what needs to go. It's a season of purging in our house - physically, as well as emotionally. Perspectives have changed. It's about time.

Communication 101

A dear friend of mine told me the other day that I have the gift of communication. I was both touched & tickled. Touched because it was a sweet thing to say in a rousing speech about not throwing in the towel on some things & not giving up on a gift that I clear have. Tickled because my hubby always tells me that when I start a story, I start halfway in the middle, wherever my brain happens to pause on that story.

I don't feel like a good communicator. I feel like I'm inadequate & not cutting it most of the time. You have your days where you are super mom or super wife or super family member, but most days, it's just bobbing from one thing to the next that make up your days. Part of my dilemma is that I feel like I'm trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Things aren't measuring up. Things are discombobulated.

Three months ago, I had a plan. I knew what life was going to be for the next year. I was going to find out what I was having in October, I was going to be pregnant for the holidays, I was due in March. The rest of 2013 would be full of baby smells, sounds, & snuggles.

Here I sit. It's November. I should have a swollen belly. And I don't. Some cool things have happened because I wasn't pregnant. I lost 69 pounds & hit my goal weight. I met some incredible family members that I might not have gone to see if I'd been pregnant. But mostly, I sit here, when the house is quiet & I feel off. There's no plan. Plans make me feel secure. My plan got tossed out the window.

I foolishly told someone the other day that I was better after the first 2. I bounced back quickly. The same person reminded me that I started seeing a counselor shortly after my 2nd loss. Oh yeah. I forgot. So, I sit here, sad, & in total judgment & condemnation of myself, believing that you people are sitting at home judging me for not being over this. For not pulling myself up by my boot straps. For having the audacity to tear up when my girlfriend walks into a room, with her perfectly rounded baby belly & feel like I got sucker punched. That's what I feel. Everyday.

So, when my girlfriend tells me, in the midst of all this junk, that I am a great communicator, especially in women's ministry...I want to laugh. I sit in my in-law's house on Wednesday nights, ready to talk Bible study with women & I feel like I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel. I call a friend to shoot the breeze, & I'm in tears by the end of the conversation.

It's better. I wasn't where I was 3 months ago. I'm not a hysterical mess, but I'm a mess. And that's ok. I guess. I'd rather be honest. I want my plan back. My new plan is nice - trips & weddings & pools are on the agenda for 2013. But I liked the old plan.

Life is good. It really is. It just throws you a curve ball every once in a while that legitimately smacks you in the face. So, I'll take the black eye & move on to my new plan.



How do you place into words a feeling? I suppose we do it all the time, but when that feeling runs so deep, when it hits a nerve in your soul, when you feel as if you've come home to a place you've never been, but you feel as though you've been there your whole do words do it justice? I suppose they can't ever. I  suppose the intimate moments, the hugs, the I-love-yous, the laughter, the tears, the inside jokes are feelings that only the people who shared them can ever fully comprehend. They are the ones who can feel that intimacy deep within their soul. They are the ones who can pull up a memory, & feel the love & the connection deep down because they felt it, lived it.

When I met this branch of my family, I knew I'd like them - I didn't know I'd fall in love with them. They are funny, normal (relatively speaking) & fun to be around. When you walk into their home, you feel like you've been there before. You're treated as if you're a family member - they razz you like they do each other, as well as embrace you & love you without thinking about it.

The week was a whirlwind, but at the same time, we enjoyed every minute of it. We spent a good portion of our time cuddled up on couches, swapping family stories, drinking Diet Coke with marshmallow creme syrup (which just so happens to be the nectar of the gods), eating home-cooked meals, laughing until we peed, & falling in love with each other. We kept busy, cooking for hundreds of people, decorating the church just so, & making sure details were just right for Paul & Mary's 50 years of ministry celebration. That may not sound like a vacation, or even like it was that much fun, but it was a blast. Spending time with people you love, getting punchy because Hobby Lobby is sold out of the one last tablecloth we need to complete the's some of the most fun you can have, if you let yourself.

The memories we made may not mean anything to anyone else in the world, but they mean the world to us. That Facebook status about shuckin' corn, sittin' on the back of a pickup truck? One of the most fun, hilarious, goofy times I've had. Piling into a van, listening to an 8 year old tell us about the guy who slipped off the moon & fell into her principal's backyard? We laughed until we couldn't breathe! There was nothing fancy or flashy about these moments - it was solely about the people. The love for each other. The sadness behind every hug, knowing that the week was going to end. The happiness in knowing that we had secured these lasting memories. That's what it came down to. Loving each other.

By far, one of the coolest things we did as a family was after all the friends & loved ones had gone home after the celebration. We all went to our respective homes, after an exhausting day, put on our jammies, & wound up back in Papa's house an hour later. We piled onto the couches, spread out on the floor, careful of whose butt you may be too close to, & listened as Papa read 50 years of memories from people whose lives had been touched by his ministry. The intimacy in those hours, the knitting together of this family was palpable. We cried together, held each other, & then just when we couldn't handle it anymore, comic relief broke the tension in the form of a hilarious middle name given to a family member. Hysterical crying turned instantly to hysterical laughter, tears pouring down our faces from sheer hilarity.

 A week wasn't enough time to make up for time lost or to pack in all the lovin' that we needed to. But oh, was it ever healing. Sharing stories - funny & heartbreaking - was good for the soul. Weeping over missed memories, laughing over new memories made - this was the theme of our trip. We had missed so much, but we were making up for lost time. We wept as we said our goodbyes, careful to say everything we needed to say before we left, with promises of future trips & more memory-making.

I gained a huge, crazy, whacked-out, hilarious, tender-hearted family this month. I didn't even know I had them, but I have them now. That's all that matters.


Once in a Lifetime

A few times in life, we are given days that are wrapped up like a Christmas present. Days that you dreamed of, days that will forever hold a piece of your heart, days that you will never forget. I got a couple of those days this month. One such day was with family. An intimate time, sharing intimate memories, crying, sniffling, scarfing down pizza, laughing at inside jokes, & laughing 'til, inevitably, someone farted. Sorry, Bubby.

My first once-in-a-lifetime day was just a few days before that. I met my friend. It sounds weird to say that I have a friend I have never met, but it's true. We've spent 2 years talking & texting, crying & laughing, & learning to be a mom together. Soon after Maddie was born, I met someone a lot like me through a mommy forum. We had both suffered miscarriages in the same month, only to wind up having our babies just three weeks apart. We shared joys of being a new mama, worst-mom-of-the-year moments, & everything in between. We began our journey into photography within a month of each other.

In planning for this trip, we decided that we would meet. She would make the 4-hour drive from Ohio to come meet me & the family. Ironically, we were both nervous. Her husband...made her bring a pocket knife. I threatened that my Papa would beat her up if she turned out to be a psychopath.

Needless to say, no one was beaten to a pulp or stabbed. The moment she threw her car into park in that driveway, she was hurling herself at me, both of us with tears streaming down our faces. We then let go of each other, & made a beeline for each other's toddler. We pulled ourselves together, went inside & sat & stared at each other. The voice I'd heard a million times over the phone wasn't matching up. It was weird hearing her voice come out of her mouth. Good weird. Our kiddos played together for a few hours, we chatted & Origami'd. Yes, Origami'd. That's what you do with friends - you Origami.

She settled right into this crazy, loud family. It was as if she'd been a part of it for years; the same feeling I was having being with them. We went out to dinner with all the girls, laughed some more, cried some more, & had a sleepover. We even had a midnight run to Wal-Mart for jammies & boogie wipes - the mark of true friends. 

When it was time for her to pack up the next morning, we were sad. Lots of tears & hugs, but we were joyful. We got our once in a lifetime moment together. We got to meet each other, & hug, & cry, & laugh hysterically, & love on each other's baby. And now, we have the promise of more times together, more trips to see each other, & a new love for each other that we can be thankful for.


Lindsey, I'm so glad I got to see you & love on you. You settled right in, & I wanted nothing more. Thanks for making the trek to my favorite Fly Over State. Love you.


Kokomo Love

A ray of sunshine

I know this little girl who has changed my life. She's a red, curly-haired little doll with a lot of spunk & sass, & a direct connection to God. When I dreamed about the baby that I was growing, I hoped for a little girl. A little blonde-haired, blue/green-eyed beauty like the one I already had. She would have giant, chipmunk cheeks & chubby legs. I didn't know that as I was wishing & hoping for that little girl, that a different little girl would give me everything I'd been hoping for. Her sweet, soft, open heart would hear the voice of God, & touch a mama's heart so deeply. She had no idea that her picture & words would give a mama the hope & peace she needed when her entire world was collapsing in. Again. 

I received a text after I wrote the post from my dear friend, Lexi. This is how the conversation went:

Lexi: Can I bring u a meal on Thursday night? I won't take no for an answer unless someone else is bringing you one...So, in other words, what time works?
Me: Lol! That would be lovely. 

Lexi came over that Thursday, loaded down with bags, smiling, her darling daughter, Adley, in tow. Maddie came toddling out of the back room, having dumped an entire Coke down the front of her clothes, but so excited to have a friend. Like any good mama, I shoved everything that had been in the living room or hallway on our bed, with no intention of anyone opening our bedroom door. Maddie promptly led Adley into the bomb room. Thank you, child. We'll work on how to hide our messes later on. 

Lexi & I went to the kitchen, & she began pulling out amazing burritos & fixin's. She pulled out a card that Adley had made, & told me there was a story behind. We stood in my kitchen, tears rolling down our cheeks, as she relayed the story of how Adley came to make my card. This is her story:

"I asked Adley to ask God what He would want her to draw for you after I told her that you lost your baby in your tummy. Her response when I asked if we should ask Jesus was, "I already did mom (none of this probed by me). God told me to draw her a picture of a baby because He is going to give her hope & a new baby. He said it's going to be a girl with yellow hair. He said that her baby (the one you lost) is very special. God said he loves Andrea."

I cannot tell you how this sweet card has given me peace. I want another baby, but now is not the time. And, in all honesty, I believe whole-heartedly that no matter when we decide the right time is, God is going to give us that little girl that we want. And a 5 year old girl, hearing the voice of God, is the reason I feel such hope. 

Lexi, thank you for your friendship, & for your care & concern for me. Your kindness means the world, & I won't forget that evening standing in my kitchen with you. Thank you for raising your daughter to hear the voice of God. I can only hope that Maddie (and my next yellow-haired girl) hears God's voice, & blesses someone the way your daughter has blessed me. I love you, girl.


Enjoying the fall things

Oh blog, how I've missed you. And yet, I have been so terribly uninspired to write. I've started & saved drafts, & have never come back to them. I wanted to write, but the incessant cursor blinking at me was a road block, taunting me to write, yet my fingers would not move.

As fall creeps its way in, we have slowly began settling back into our routines. Busyness has slowly replaced what last month left in its wake. The sadness has dissipated, & although there are moments that knock the wind out of me, each day wakes up with a new freshness & lightness.

We have been hit by the rogue waves of having a toddler. My cute, bubbly, giggly, blonde-haired, doll baby has learned she has a will & wants independence. The girl who asks desperately every night for a kiss (said with the most darling lisp), still needs bedtime 'nuggles, & likes to "rocky" her babies to sleep, has a flair for the dramatic. And I have no idea where she got it from. Our most recent grocery trip involved a scream that pierced anyone's eardrums in that store, followed by her yanking my hair. And all the while, an elderly lady observed how I handled the situation. I took away the kitty jammies she was holding & told her to calm down. The lady applauded applauded me. I felt a slight victory...having defeated a toddler's antics.

The fall has brought with it the anticipation of really fun things. A new women's Bible study in a cozy basement, surrounded by a group of women, who have touched me & surprised me beyond what I had ever hoped. Each week we gather around the refreshments to see which Pinterest recipe is on the table for us. We leave soon for a girls' trip to celebrate a milestone with very dear family. The most important part of that being that we look cute, obviously. This 80-degree weather has really put a damper on my need to dress me & the kid in boots. This trip will help me get that out in full swing.

Quite possibly the cutest baby boots I've ever seen.

What I'm really trying to say is that Stella's got her groove back. I had a choice a couple of weeks ago to give into the hormones & the sadness, & let it inhabit me for a while longer. No thanks. It's fall. I have too much to do. And I am going to enjoy this time. We're pulling out the pumpkin puree & gettin' sticky & messy. We're visiting multiple pumpkin patches, & we are going to find an apple orchard. We're doing fall right. And the woes of last month can shove it. We're movin' on.

Go enjoy this fall day. It's incredible out today.

Rainy Day

This week is hectic. Today is the worst. A million things to do in preparation for a new Bible study. Errands to be ran, copies to be made, coffee cakes to bake. I'm exhausted typing this now, but, to be honest, the rain has made this day harder. I want nothing more than to sit on the couch, listen to the rain, & watch Elf with Maddie on repeat for the rest of the day. I already crocheted this morning, so at least I did some rainy weather activity today. We've had to redo some funky hair dyeing, TWO bath tub poops (both Maddie), & the doctor called. No news. Everything's fine. I should probably be jumping up & down for joy, but I'm so not. I wanted something to be wrong so we could fix it. I'm just broken & we can't fix it. That's what you want to hear.

In a few minutes, I'll be heading out & getting back to my crazy day, running more errands & finally settling in to get ready for the group of girls I am anxiously awaiting for our study. I've been running like crazy, flustered at this monster of a day, but I couldn't resist. My mom bought my girl an amazing rain slicker with matching boots. The puddles called out to us, so we bundled up & went out back. My curious little kitten was timid for all of 5 seconds before she was splashing & squealing. Oh, I needed this reprieve.

She thought she heard an owl hooting.

Get yourself a slicker like this. I need one. I think it would make rainy days so happy. Off to spend a great night with some great girls. Put some boots on & go play in the rain. It's wonderful.


Happy Friday

Fall makes me giddy. The smell of pumpkin spice burning in my house must have some kind of pheromone in it that perks me up & makes me tingly all over. So, yes, the pumpkins are out, the fall wreaths are hung, & pumpkin spice is wafting through the house. This year, it's getting me moving. It's encouraging me to get back into our routine. I've gotten out of the habit of asking Maddie what she wants to do every morning. I've gotten out of the habit of making our days about her. I've gotten out of the habit of thinking about someone other than myself. It's taking a while to get my groove back, but the seasons changing seem to be helping. I'm tired of feeling selfish. I'm tired of feeling floopy & off my game. The promise of trips to see family, of pumpkin patches, of making my girl a Halloween costume? Oh man, the girl I used to be is coming back.

Yesterday, we got out to have fun on purpose. The fun started when I walked into Maddie's room. Nothing inspires me to get out of the house like a hot mess like this.

Girlfriend decided she was going to pick out her outfit, & her little toddler mind delivered one of the best creations I could have hoped for. I secretly wanted this for a long time. Having a little girl has so many whimsical, dreamy aspects that I have hoped for since I found out I was having a girl. I have dreamed of ballet classes, tutus, saddle shoes, and yes, a little girl who picked out her own clothes that makes her look homeless. I love this homeless kid. She makes me smile.

One thing I want my girl to learn is to love people. Loving people pulls you out of your poor-pitiful-woe-is-me sass, & makes you a better person. There is always a place to wallow, but those days should be few & far between. How amazing does it feel to make someone feel special & important? Doesn't it have such an amazing effect on your outlook? Doesn't it give you a pep in your step to tell someone that they look nice or that you just appreciate the crap out of them? So, we're starting small. Getting back to making my girl feel that way. If she feels that way, she's going to want other people to feel that way. She'll want to do nice things for people because it's good to do that. We're doing that. From now on. Once a week. It's a challenge to myself. My selfishness gets to take a back seat. Maybe we'll make cookies for someone, or maybe we'll write a little love note to someone we love. Nothing cures a funk like making someone you love happy.

It's time to decide to pick out all the happy in the day. Happiness is contagious. The time for funks is gone, & we're going to spend our fall days being happy. And what is happier than red jeans & mint shoes?

Get out of your funk & go make someone smile. Buy them a coffee & write a love note on it. I dare ya.

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