Have you discovered the website Young House Love? It’s amazing, really. Think Real Simple with a more personal, D0-It-Yourself slant. The site centers on the life of a young married couple with their first house and new baby. They are incredibly creative, charming, inspirational, and hardcore DIY. I get sucked in to their blog posts, and afterward my life feels very plain and blah and uncreative. So that’s the danger. But it’s definitely worth checking out!
Category Archives: seen and heard
Something about having a second child has made me keenly, painfully aware of how quickly babies grow up. Compared to Lillian, Charlie is so big and grown up and tall. He has zero baby fat left; he can reach up to flick the high-placed light switches off and on; he can explain his hurts and his excitement and his accomplishments.
Knowing how quickly Charlie’s first three years have flown by makes Lillian’s babyhood seem sweeter. Charlie serves as a daily reminder that Lillian will soon be a walking, bouncing, talking toddler. We know from experience that we will someday be well rested again. We know that Lillian won’t always be so clingy with Mommy. We know that this crazy stage of constant teething will not last forever. And while that’s a relief, it is also sort of heartbreaking.
Lately Charlie’s striking big-boyness and Lillian’s fast-approaching graduation from babyhood have been on my mind in that somber way with which we contemplate life and the passage of time. I feel a bit sad that I’m almost thirty; sad that I’ll never experience my first or my second pregnancy again.
Today I took Lillian to the grocery store, and as I pushed the cart through the parking lot back toward the car, I tried to be present in the moment. “Soak it up,” they say. “It goes by so fast,” they say. I looked at Lillian in all her cuteness, sitting up in the cart in her tiny gray-and-pink coat, with her little chubby legs dangling from the seat, and my heart felt ready to burst in that mommy moment. “Don’t grow up!” I wanted to tell her. “I like this age.”
Tonight I have whittled away a few hours doing nothing productive, which is a nice change of pace sometimes. In my lazy browsing of various blogs, I came across this little gem from Rachel Balducci, author of How Do You Tuck In a Superhero? (which, by the way, is a hilarious book I recently proofread for Baker). I’m trying to embrace the optimism of her closing remark:
The beautiful thing, what makes this all slightly less heartbreaking, is the chance we have to watch these changes and help a little along the way. And we get to meet a whole new person in the midst of this, someone who greatly resembles a child we used to know, who in many ways will always be that child.
I recently left the endless square miles of convenience in suburban Chicago for a small Kansas community with a total area of 11.73 square miles. I grew up in an even smaller town, and returning to this pace, this environment, has been good for my soul. It feels like home.
There are a hundred reasons why I love small towns, and at the top of that list are the grocery stores. Let’s first begin with my experience today at Walmart, a very UN-small-town location.
Nothing particularly unpleasant happened, but it was busy, with too many grumpy ladies attempting to push their way through the cereal aisle. And on my way to the cheese section, I was cut off by an associate on his way to the stock room, and immediately after that, an associate pulling a stocking cart walked in front of me, let go of her cart, and continued walking, leaving the big cart of boxes right in my path. Overall, an unfriendly experience.
Now let’s talk about Dillons, our local Kroger grocer. More than once during a trip to Dillons, I have seen both employees and customers go above and beyond, in terms of helpfulness, friendliness, and courteousness. One time, I had finished shopping, paid for the groceries, and was pushing my cart o’ kids, while a lovely employee pushed a second cart, full of my groceries, out to my car. Upon opening my passenger-side door, she noticed a stamped envelope on the seat, ready to be mailed. She asked, “Would you like me to take this inside and mail it for you?” So unnecessary and unexpected. And so very kind. She tucked the envelope neatly into her apron, patting it to demonstrate that she would take extra good care of it, then unloaded all of my groceries into the car while I buckled in the kids. She put our two carts together, then wheeled them back inside with a smile.
Just a few weeks ago, I was shopping at Dillons again with both kids. Charlie was climbing into the car while I wheeled the cart around to the other side and began unloading groceries into the front passenger seat. I had scored the very front parking space, so my only options for returning the cart were to take it all the way back inside the store, or walk a ways down the parking lot to the first cart corral. Even in a small town, where people leave their cars running while they run into the gas station for cigarettes, I don’t like wandering too far from the car when the kids are inside it. I looked up to see a customer headed toward the store, and asked spontaneously, “Excuse me, do you need a cart?” She responded, “No, but I’ll take that in for you.” She could tell I was relieved, and as I hurriedly finished emptying the cart of groceries and lifting Lillian from its seat, she said, “Sure, it’s just one less thing for you to worry about.”
When I grow up, I want to be just like her.
I recently proofread a really fun book for Baker called How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? by Rachel Balducci, the mother of five boys. I now occasionally read the author’s blog, cleverly titled “Testosterhome: On the care & feeding of boys.”
In the middle of a post about her family’s bout with a stomach bug, Balducci wrote this lovely line on motherhood:
“My role as Mother . . . is the main thing I’ve got going right now. There is no other obligation that takes precedence over this job and while most days I can juggle being a mom with a few other roles as well, when push comes to shove, my job as mom comes first.”
SEEN: Lillian’s first official crawl, December 29, 2009
HEARD: Charlie’s songs, 24 hours a day
SEEN & HEARD: These two little goofballs, who enjoy each other more than anyone else
Quickly, here’s a great quote from my father-in-law’s sermon this morning, and before that, from John Ortberg, and from others before him:
Our hope is founded on something deeper than human ability or wishful thinking. Martin Luther King was fond of citing Reinhold Niebuhr’s distinction between hope and optimism. Optimism believes in progress; that circumstances will get better. Hope, however, is built on the conviction that another reality, another Kingdom, already exists. And so hope endures when hype fades. [italics mine]
This quote struck me as particularly relevant as I look back at 2008. While there were many good things in the past 12 months, overall in my memory it was a year of challenges and loneliness and uncertainty. So much confusion and self-doubt in my job; ongoing struggles with finding close friendships and community; and unclear direction for our family’s future.
And as I look back, I wonder if there was hope in my spirit in the midst of the hard stuff. On the days when I felt okay with all the uncertainty, is that because I was clinging to the possibility that our circumstances might eventually change? Or because I was trusting God and choosing to center my life on the eternal hope we have through Jesus? I’m pretty confident that the first possibility is the more likely one.
I love the fresh beginning of a new year. And so as I look forward to 2009, I pray that my hope would be true hope. That whatever the year brings — new and exciting circumstances, or tough or even tragic ones — my days will be hope-filled because of my life in Christ, rather than my optimism that better days will come.