Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Little Coconut

Every day, Caden asks me, which fruit is the baby brother today? He always wants me to pull it up on the app on my phone, so he can see if he really believes me when I tell him "still a bunch of bananas." Admittedly, most of the fruit/vegetable descriptors are fairly vague and unsatisfying. I mean, how many bananas are in a "bunch" and are we talking the small bananas, or the large ones? Regardless, I'm into my third trimester already (whoa), and the app dinged yesterday to inform me that our baby is now the size of a tropical coconut.
I'm happy to report that I'm finally feeling less nauseous. In other words, I'm eating all-the-food. Admittedly, less nauseous is still semi-nauseous and I still throw up a few times a week. But hey, I'll take that over a few times a day. I'm back up to my starting weight, and possibly even a few pounds past it at this point, so over-all things are progressing well. 
I also apparently have extremely low iron (so so tired, always), and have been having pretty consistent braxton-hicks contractions, which I never really had with the other two. The doctor said everything looks fine, and they're nothing to worry about right now - just my body's way of telling me to slow down. Ha, I told her: would you mind informing my three and six-year olds? And also, all the neighborhood children?  
Now that we're in the home stretch of this pregnancy, I've realized we better snap-to-it and get to work on shuffling all-the-rooms. I somehow managed to organize and purge both the kids rooms (so much for "slowing down"), and now Adam just has to finish making those bright-yellow bunk beds, and we can commence with the shuffle. I cant wait to show you all our plans for the shared bedroom and nursery (hint: I dont have an actual plan)
Because of the contractions, I've been having trouble sleeping. Combine that with the low iron and large amount of work, and I'm more than a little exhausted these days. I just wanted you to know how much I appreciate all of your prayers and encouragement. Seriously, yall are the best. In about two weeks, Adam is leaving for KAA with 50 kids from the neighborhood (who envies him THAT 12 hour bus ride?!), and for the first time in seven years, I don't get to go along to camp. I'm actually having a really hard time with the whole thing, feeling strangely like I'm mourning some kind of loss), not to mention feeling overwhelmed about staying home to take care of my own kids (who are currently mired in particularly difficult stages). In other news, we accidentally gave most of our baby stuff away to ours kiddos having babies, neighbors, and friends. Luckily we have a carseat left, so we can at least get home from the hospital.  
All that to say, we appreciate your ongoing prayers for our baby, our family, and our ministry. The ways we are carried by our family and friends (and even strangers) never ceases to amaze me. So thank-you from the bottom of our hearts. Also, I'm working on putting together our latest newsletter for Blueprint58, if you'd like to get all the latest to your inbox and/or mailbox, you can sign up right here or shoot me an email with your address.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Tender Bits

Mothering is my most tender spot.

A few years ago, I went with my friend Courtney to get her tattoo. She had drawn an impressive sketch to ink under her arm, along her side. Her artist informed us that the particular spot she had chosen for her tattoo was one of the most painful places to be inked. When I asked why, he explained how the skin there is delicate. Unused to exposure, close to the surface, with ribs hovering just below skin to protect the most vital inside pieces.

I lift my arm, and imagine my own tender skin exposed and vulnerable.

Motherhood is that place for me. The thing that leaves me feeling naked before crowds, without the relief of waking sweating and twisted in my sheets finding it all just a dream. Motherhood makes me lose myself every single day, in the mundane and profound acts of packing lunches and folding small stained t-shirts. Of scrubbing grubby cheeks before kissing them into bed. I lose myself and find myself again in undulating tides.

It’s the thing I desire most desperately to get right, and fear most deeply I am getting all wrong.

I watch Jayci’s small blond head bob through the door to her big school, fearing the worst for her and hoping the best. She reads under her covers at night, devouring chapter books while she brushes her teeth and sits on the side of the playground. Deja vu strikes and I shudder, wondering how in the world to help her avoid hurt. How to help her make friends when I’m still not quite sure how to accomplish that myself. We butt heads constantly lately, fighting over every-little-thing from cleaning her room to her tone of voice. Most nights, I lay beside Adam exhausted from the battles, what are we supposed to do about her? He shrugs and I shrug and pray and lay uncomfortably on my side, trying to fall asleep before one of the children decides to wake me back up.

I startle from sleep, rushing to Caden’s room as the clock blinks 2:13am. He screams and I find him sitting up, staring at the wall. He cries for mommy and daddy, oblivious to our nearness despite whispered prayers and pleas. His pupils dilate wide, betraying eyes that don’t see. I feel helpless against his kicking and flailing, reminded of his days in the hospital as his heart beats its wild rhythm against my chest. Adam, usually the patient one, snaps at Caden; and I growl fierce as a momma bear. I am reminded that inching past 3am might not be the best time for parenting discussions. I listen to Caden cry alligator tears into his pillow as both our eyes grow heavy through my mumbled prayers and whispered lullaby.

I remember when we brought Jayci home from the hospital (how was that almost seven years ago?!). I climbed gingerly and slowly into the back seat next to my impossibly tiny daughter, and mostly wondered how they just let us take her home. Weren’t they forgetting to vet us more carefully? Or at least send us with a comprehensive manual? The feeling only swelled larger when we brought Caden home, with his feeding tube and medication list and strict schedule/calorie amounts required. We clutched him close in gratitude and fear, feeling woefully unprepared for the task ahead of us. Some variation of that emotion clings to motherhood for me most of the time: huh, I wonder what I’m supposed to do when they do that?

And I suppose that’s exactly what makes mothering so vulnerable and tender. Swelling my heart alternately with love and fear, joy and uncertainty. Because I can’t rely on myself, depending solely on my own abilities to “figure it out.” Trust me, every time I try that it doesn’t end well. Left to my own devices, I mostly just want them to leave me alone and stop needing things from me. At least long enough to use the bathroom in peace without little fingers reaching under the door. Side note: it’s beyond me how Adam manages to spend upwards of 30 minutes in the bathroom without disturbance while my children seem to have some sort of immediate need radar for when mommy needs to tinkle. But when I remember and depend on the Holy Spirit, the helper Jesus promised, I realize that motherhood is still hard and vulnerable, but at least I’m not doing it alone.

I think of all the kids I’ve had the joy of mothering in some capacity over the years. The girls in my small group, who terrified me with their questions and the fact they were looking to me for answers. The babies I nannied, the kids in our Sunday School class. I remember walking hand-in-hand with little ones through Herndon Homes, and now watching them birth their own babies, or visiting them behind bars. The kids I’ve watched walk away, heart shattered and aching. And I think of all those who have mothered me, who have made me grilled cheese and prayed over me. Who led my own high school small group, or sent me care packages, or offered Adam and I advice over coffee.

And I wonder and pray for the ones who will stand in the gap for us. The people who will mother my children through rough patches, or mentor them and tutor them and watch them play soccer. I hope they will have their own small group leaders, their own wiser friends, people they can talk to when mommy and daddy just don’t quite have the answers they seek. Because what I’m learning most clearly, perhaps, is that I cannot do this motherhood stuff alone. I need friends, and family, and neighbors, and church, and a whole lot of community. Because if raising a new baby really does take a village, I can only imagine the entire city we need to take care of a three-nager, or a six year old who suddenly decides she doesn't want to listen, or the angsty teenager making impossibly bad choices.

So even when I’m certain I’m getting it all wrong (most days), and when creeping fears flutter in my chest that I am not up for the task, even then I will rest in Jesus. I will rest in his provision, in His design for me and of me. I will rest in the fact that we are in this together, us mommas. And that together we are far stronger than apart, that we can mother each other and stand in the gap both in prayer and in actual practical ways, for the moms who need carrying for a little bit. And truthfully, I'm far more comfortable as the one doing the carrying, but sometimes I suppose I need to be carried too.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Baby Names, Book Stacks, and BFFs

We have been to see our lovely pediatric cardiologist twice in the last four days. I really do mean it when I say lovely, he's seriously just the best. Caden's six-month check-up went just about as well as we could hope for, and he was cleared for another six months until his next appointment. Then today, we had another appointment to take a peek at the heart of the littlest Stanley. And the verdict was that his heart looks magnificent, which was more than a relief. I'm not sure I realized how deeply I was holding my breath.

For those of you who have asked, no we dont have a name for our newest little bundle yet. So far, our naming has consisted of Adam throwing out names and me rejecting them. Dont worry, eventually he'll stumble upon one I actually like.

We are already two games into our 2015 Five8Football season (our community-based football league). I already told you about how, for us, football is about far more than just football. I continue to be thankful for the people who help make Tuesday night games a possibility. From all the boys, to the coaches, to the cute little cheerleaders (Blueprint 58 mentees), and all the churches and neighborhoods who are playing a part. If you're in Atlanta and want to join us for a Tuesday night game, we would love to have you!
I am currently breezing through All 3 books by Atlanta author Tayari Jones, which fascinate me because they are all based right around where we live here in Southwest Atlanta. Leaving Atlanta was my favorite of the three, because somehow I had never even heard of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979.

Other books I finished reading lately (starred ones = I loved them).
-The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
*Freeman by Leonard Pitts
-The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
-Before I Forget by Leonard Pitts
*A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Normally, while I read through my fiction quickly, I am also reading some non-fiction books more slowly. Typically, these are the kind of things I feel like need time to sink into my heart. Currently, that book is Brene Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me. When I'm finished with that one, I'm excited to start Where the Cross Meets the Street by Noel Castellanos.

And I haven't had much time for reading online lately, but here's a few articles that caught my eye this week.
1.5 Million Missing Black Men - The NY Times
Gentrification Stories - You are Here

Gentleness: the Surprise Peacemaker - Sally Clarkson
Tools for the Highly Sensitive Mother - the Runamuck

These two posts, from two of my favorite folks are the kind of "me too" pieces that make me feel not alone.
When Jesus Asks You to Bite off More than You Can Chew - Lori Harris
Grow, Baby - Flowerpatch Farmgirl

That's all for now. I'm hoping I might have a minute to write a little bit this week, but I wouldn't hold my breath because you know, life be crazy around here. I'll leave you with the cutest little best friends in all the land. Seriously.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Snapshots and Misteaks

If we're totally honest, the last few (ok five+) months have been rough-going around here. Between pregnancy/nausea/headaches, work stuff, Caden's night terrors, ministry discouragement, and just general sad-stuff-everywhere-around-us kind of discouragement, I just feel done

I have been scarce around here because I don't want to be the person who complains all the time. No one likes that person: you avoid their phone calls, and you certainly don't want to read their whiny-blog posts. 
I literally just spend the last hour scrolling through every single instagram picture I have ever taken. Don't ask me why, because I had a million and twelve other things I needed to be doing, but I couldn't stop once I saw Jayci's tiny face and side-swept bangs staring into Zack's early-teenager eyes. I was done in, and it simply couldn't be helped. An hour later I am left slightly melancholy and more than a little nostalgic. I cannot grasp the number of days and years that have slipped by as toddlers tumble into childhood and awkward middle schoolers leap into late teenage angst. And my heart grapples somewhere between gratitude we are still here, still practicing the ministry of presence, and disappointment in where so many things have ended up so quickly. I watch my own children grow, and they are sand slipping through my fingers. 
Trust more, worry less. I know the remedy, know I desperately need space if I have any hope at patience and gentleness with my children. Time alone, and even more than that: time with Jesus. But the problem is that the daily grind keeps grinding and life swells full and I'm not sure how to do it all while I bend low over the toilet and beg the doctor for something to help with the gripping headaches which are apparently this pregnancy's newest side-effect.
I can write about it all abstractly, and concretely even, with stories and metaphors that spin circles around the heart. But I am weary and discouraged, and when we lose supporters or people tell us no, Adam and I both have a tendency to beat ourselves up and doubt everything we are doing. In fact, when we went to counseling a while ago, our counselor told us we fought so strangely because both of us turn against ourselves instead of each other. This practice remains our habit, beating ourselves up, turning inward and holding our breath taut until things get too dark and heavy to bear alone.

Life continues, and seasons shift. Spring showers fall unabated, day after day of rain and gray mist only adds to it all. My feet sink deep into the mud, and I wonder if the ground will ever dry up. Life mostly just feels relentless. Everything and everybody need so many things from me. Jayci and Caden are constantly needing to be fed, refereed in their fighting, paid attention, disciplined. It turns out small children are quite needy. The laundry needs folding, the dishwasher needs emptying, the dog needs to go outside, the knock on the door needs answering. Work needs to be done and pictures need to be edited. The boys need rides to football, and Jayci needs to be dragged out of bed for school. The neighbor needs a few dollars, and the kid down the street needs a place to stay.

For just a few days, I would like to not be needed. To sleep the entire time through, perhaps. Or read a good book without absently responding to demands and requests and tucking children back into bed. To pray without falling immediately asleep.
Again with all the whining. Please feel free to click away today, find somewhere more sun-shiny. Like outside, finally, but only for a single day before the forecasters again call for rain. The grass grows knee-high and we cross our fingers that the park will get mowed in time for tonight's football game. I try to remind myself again that it's ok to make mistakes. Try to find peace and rest even in the midst of chaos. Try to figure out a way to wrap this all up in a bow with a neat little lesson and perhaps even a tweetable saying to go along with it. But the truth is I'm tired, and I am still stuck in the mud. My only hope is that the sun is shining, and God promises new mercies every morning.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Wedding Weekend

We spent the weekend in Athens, home of the University of Georgia, for Adam's little sister's wedding. It was a fun, busy weekend, complete with 11pm bedtimes for the kids two nights in a row. We are still dealing with the repercussions of that, even today with grouchy kids (and arguably grouchy momma too). I didn't take too many pictures, since there was an actual photographer and I had to wrangle the kids and also enjoy seeing my sister get married. But for now, here's a few from the rehearsal dinner, pre-wedding festivities/prep, and the big day! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Tidings and My New Favorite Pictures

Easter falls behind us, the left-over ham and macaroni and cheese disappearing quickly from our fridge. We go to spring fling and both children collect easter eggs until I tell them we cannot possibly carry anymore. The boys help DJ, and we stop for Easter-dinner-groceries on the way home. 
Easter Sunday the sun shines bright and the cool shade breaks up when it pale spring light falls on our shoulders. The kids get seeds and gardening tools in their Easter buckets, and they dig in their Easter finery to plant cilantro and spinach under the dirt. We walk across the street where wisteria drips so I can take their "Easter pictures," which they only consent to under bribery involving candy. 
Here's the truth about these pictures: to our left, a pitbull sits patiently growling behind his chain-link fence, while two more bark at us from their pen a short distance past the purple blooms. Behind us, the boys laugh while another pitbull pulls at his chain. But if we dont know all that, this certainly looks like a lovely field somewhere in the country. Proof, again, that beauty finds a way in all the most unexpected places. 

As a side note, all hair skills pictured here can only be attributed to my friend Danielle. I feel certain I need a third hand if I am to be expected to braid hair. 

Now it's spring break, and we find ourselves without big plans, no matter how desperately I want to slip away to the beach with just our little family for a few days. Adam normally leads a small discipleship group early Monday morning before school for a few boys we've known for years. They are on spring break too; I assume that means sleeping past noon, but they insist on 6:45am, and who are we to argue? Their departure wakes both my own children, despite my grand visions of them sleeping in until at least 7:30.  
Also, my kids are the cutest in all-the-land, let's just not argue about that ok?


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