It’s Totally Different

It’s Totally Different

I recently acquired a second child. I know. I also questioned the wisdom of letting me raise a second child but it’s too late now. Plus she is really cute and smells like strawberries so I want to keep her. And sniff her. All the time.

What were we talking about? Oh, right. Children.

In a true representation of my attitude about parenting, I was not that excited to find out I was having a second child. I wasn’t sad or mad. Mostly surprised. And panicked. So, so panicked. The kind of panic you feel when you realize you have to make a sacrifice to the porcelain throne while you’re in the middle of the check-out lane at the grocery store with a week’s worth of food and a child who is trying to eat the handle of the buggy.

But I had a good reason. Most people who read my posts know that my first child (the afore-mentioned buggy-eater) was born very early at 26 weeks and spent a long time in the hospital fighting for his life. My husband and I had decided to wait for several years to even discuss a second child. Except then God was all “LOL you guys are totes hilarious” and we found out we were going to be parents for the second time in as many years. Cue the panic.

Everyone said the same thing: “It will be totally different.” The odds of the same thing happening with this pregnancy that had happened the first time were probably pretty low. The doctors, friends, family members – they all repeated that to me over and over. It will be totally different. And as things progressed and continued to go well, I believed it. This time would be totally different. None of the fear, no NICU stay, no wondering when my baby would be home, no driving back and forth to the hospital every day. This time, I promised myself, would be great.

And then I realized that I didn’t like that attitude very much. Not that I wanted this baby to stay in the NICU or have any problems, but I was starting to look at my experience with Josh as a bad thing. Slowly but surely I had separated the birth experiences of my children into Things You Never Ever Want To Happen and The Super Best Thing Ever Yay For My Baby. You can guess which one goes in which category. And I really started to hate that distinction.

I get asked all the time if I would change Josh’s circumstances at the time of his birth and during his hospital stay. I always answer no, and that is the honest truth. But over the last few months I began to realize that not only would I not change it; I want to celebrate it. I want to shout from the rooftops that while it didn’t go the way I had planned, I still got to meet my beautiful baby boy and fell in love with him from the get-go. I want to be just as thrilled over his birthday as I am with Jenna’s. When people ask me his age, I want to give his real one, the one that goes with the birthday we will celebrate for years to come as we remember what a blessing he is. I want him to know that even though it was hard, the day he was born was one of the best of my life, right up there with my wedding day and the day Gilmore Girls premiered.

It doesn’t bother me that people remind me how different the experience with each of my children was. It was my own attitude about the situation that bothered me the most. Was it different this time? Yes, so incredibly different. Was it better this time? Not even a little. It was just as exciting, just as amazing, and just as incredible the second time around. Because the thing about having kids is that there are ups and downs and everything in between, and you never really know what lies ahead of you. And at the end of the day none of that matters anyway. All that matters is that on your child’s birthday, whether he celebrates it in the NICU or asleep in your arms, you have something so fantastic that the rest just kind of fades away. That’s is what I want to remember about both of my children. I never want to forget the rest because it’s important, too. But the most important thing I can ever take away from both of my experiences is how amazing it was to see them with my own eyes for the first time and feel a love so deep and immeasurable that I knew I was a goner from the very first seconds of their lives.

So, yes. This time around it has been totally different. I wouldn’t have it any other way…except for how it was the first time.

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On Your First Birthday

On Your First Birthday

Joshua, today is your first birthday. How is that possible? It seems like there is no way a year could have passed since I first laid eyes on you, but I have checked and rechecked and re-rechecked the calendar and apparently it’s true. I still have trouble believing it but I guess the calendar wouldn’t lie… it is from Chick-Fil-A, after all.

As this day has been approaching, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say to you. I thought of telling you the story of everything that happened, but you already know it – you lived it. I thought about imparting some deep wisdom to you, telling you the secrets of life that would help you as you grow. But it turns out I don’t know that many life secrets and some things you just have to find out for yourself. So I thought for a while longer and decided I would tell you some things that I learned over this year, things that only you could have taught me. 
See, I am not what you call a “researcher” or a “planner” or “someone who is ever ready for anything more than five minutes ahead of time.” I leave that to the more sophisticated people around me (who are constantly texting me to ask if I am running late yet again). And I wasn’t worried about being prepared for parenthood. I might be a last-minute person but I do good work in that last minute and I knew everything would work out fine if I stuck to my tried-and-true method. 
Imagine my surprise when I found out that the last minute to plan had arrived much faster than I expected. I think that was the hardest part of finding out you would be early – I was just starting to wrap my mind around the fact that I would be a parent. It still seemed surreal. And then suddenly I was going to be a parent in a matter of hours. I remember from the moment the doctor told me you would be born it was as if I was watching my life unfold on a giant screen, like I was aware of what was happening but so sure it couldn’t be real. I even told your dad that, moments before you were born – “Maybe this is just a dream,” I said. He assured me it wasn’t and offered to pinch me to prove it but I declined. Don’t let him pinch you, either. 
And then you were there. Less than two hours had passed since we had found out how sick you were and how much you were struggling, and there you were. You didn’t cry, because your little lungs didn’t work very well yet. The doctors had told me not to expect you to cry because of how early you were but that was the only thing I knew about babies – they cried when they were born. I was sure you would cry. I kept asking your dad why you weren’t, and finally concluded that the doctors had done something to prevent you from crying so you wouldn’t be upset. What can I say; I was on a lotttt of drugs, man. But I remember every moment after that with vivid detail. Dad got permission to snap a picture of you and show it to me. He watched them work on you and Dr. Manar took a minute to explain what was happening, and then he came over to explain it to me. I heard the words but they still didn’t seem real. Dr. Manar brought you to me and said I could give you a kiss. I did, right on your little nose. And then they took you to the 2nd floor, where we would spend the majority of the next four months. 
So my plan not to plan didn’t exactly work out, but, really, no amount of planning could have prepared me for this. And I think that is the biggest thing I have learned through this last year: Plans fall apart. Nothing is perfect. God’s plan is different from my plan and His plan is the one you want, even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time. For all of my lack of preparation, I still like to be in control. I like to know what’s going to happen and what my role will be. When you arrived, I didn’t have any training. I never took a class. I didn’t know how often to change your diaper. I had to learn on the job. But even if you had been born two weeks late, that would have still been true (although the diapers might have been easier to use – yours were reaaaaally small). That’s what parenting is: swearing your kid will never watch television and then five years down the road having the Disney Channel schedule memorized and sighing in relief when it’s time for Mickey Mouse. 
I discovered that no matter how hectic things got, I could handle it. Some days were a lot harder and some days were pretty easy. But for you I could do anything. I could learn medical terms and ask questions even when I was afraid and accept help from people that I had never met before. You were a pretty solid motivation for putting my own doubts aside and working hard for you, to make sure you had everything. 
I learned just because something isn’t the best, that doesn’t make it the worst, either. There is a whole world of in-between where things can just be okay. I tend to work in areas of black or white, never grey, but you showed me that when it comes to parenting, especially parenting a NICU kid, grey is pretty much your life. 
You taught me that it’s okay to question God. That it doesn’t make me less of a Christian, mother, or person. That God not only understands our pain but feels it right along with us. There were days when I opened my mouth to pray and nothing would come out. I was too mad, sad, plaid, whatever, to form any words. And I wondered if that meant I wasn’t as much of a Christian as I thought it was. But that’s not how it works. God knows my fears and doubts before I do and asking Him questions is okay. 
I found out that there really is a silver lining to every bad situation. You made for a pretty spectacular silver lining. I could (and still can) sit and just watch you for hours, silently cheering every time you moved your little hand or peered up at me with one eye. It was those moments, the tiniest victories, that filled my heart with joy and love for you. You helped me make friends with other parents who had kids just like you, kids who struggled and lived in a world of doctors and specialists and medicine, kids who I now get to see grow and play and who I am so excited for when they accomplish something. The parents became a part of our family as we grew together and rooted for each others’ children, taking genuine delight in every good update. These are the people who are in the “club,” who know the frustration and anxiety of being a NICU parent. 
You showed me that a total stranger can show the biggest kindness. You helped me see that I was surrounded by friends and family who love me and would do anything to help. You revealed the amazing skills of the NICU nurses, whose kindness and patience with both of us made all the difference in the world to me. I learned that no matter how bad things got, I was never alone. Someone was always praying for you, even someone who had never met you and never will. It is the people who prayed on your behalf, who dropped off gift cards and hugs, who sat in the waiting room for hours and hours – these are the ones who I will never forget, because they made it possible for me to find the strength to continue even when things seemed too tough. When I think of how your grandparents drove overnight in a storm to see you, how your other grandparents stopped by nearly every day to check on you, how your aunts stayed up late to talk to me all night and how your uncles volunteered to help us move and prepare for you to come home, I know without a doubt that our little family is loved so, so much. 
Joshua, you made me a mother. You changed me from someone who thought she understood what unconditional love meant to someone who knows exactly what it is. You have filled the last year with love and laughter and joy and smiles. Yes, there were sad moments, but I wouldn’t trade a single one of them. You have taught me so much in only a year and I hope that I can teach you something during your lifetime to repay the favor. Daddy and I love you so much and we are so grateful to know you. Here’s to the next year of life lessons from our favorite micro-preemie. 

For Joshua

For Joshua

This week has been a sad one. I know a lot of people who are hurting.

Ever since I found out I was going to be a mom, I’ve looked at things with a new perspective. I know that perspective will change even more when I get to meet my little guy. I’m looking forward to that because I think this new perspective is for the better. I think it’s good to remember what’s really important in life. And I think it’s good to teach our children what’s important in life. So I decided to write a letter to Joshua, the littlest Eleveld-to-be. I will read it to him and print it out and put it in his room. He will get sick of looking at it but it’s important and I want him to remember it.

Dear Joshua:

As you grow up and go out into this big world, I want you to remember some things. These things won’t guarantee you a perfect life or keep you from feeling sad or angry. I wish that they could but that isn’t how it works. Sorry, kid. But these things will – hopefully – help you keep the right perspective, focus, and priorities as you grow up and become your own person.

1) Remember that your dad and I love you. A lot. We might get mad at you and we might ground you and we might not buy you every single thing you want. But we love you. We will love you forever. Grammy and Grandpa and Papa and Nana love you, too. Your aunts and uncles and cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles and great-grandparents and your great-GREAT-grandmother love you with all of their hearts.

2) More importantly, remember that God loves you. He created you for a specific purpose. You may feel like you don’t have any talents or gifts when you grow up. But that isn’t true. Grammy used to tell me that I could be ANYTHING – and she believed it. I believe you, Joshua, can be ANYTHING. I really do. Just keep Christ as the center of your life and He will lead you to great and wonderful things.

3) Nothing is as bad as it seems. I know it’s hard when you’re sad or confused. I know people will betray you and I already want to beat those people up (and you’re not even born yet… oh, dear). I know no one’s life is perfect all the time. But listen to me when I tell you this: I have been there. I get it. I know it’s hard. But, as the saying goes, this, too, shall pass. It might take an hour or a day or a month or a year or a decade. But everything will work out.

4) Don’t start fights for yourself. It isn’t worth it. It won’t solve anything. But if you’re fighting for someone else, stand up and be brave. Defend the little guy and the boy who seems weird and the girl who gets teased for her looks. Speak the truth and don’t be afraid to do the right thing. If you’re anything like your dad, I know you will learn this and take it to heart very quickly :) It’s scary to stand alone. But I believe that if you stand up for what’s right, you won’t be standing alone for long.

5) Love with your whole heart. Trust the people who love you. Make fewer friends if it means they are that much closer to you. Sometimes that can open you up to heartbreak. But it also opens you up to love and friendship and joy.

6) Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes. What’s done is done. But don’t forget them – learn from them. Use them to shape the person you want to be.

7) Be respectful. Offer to help a busy mom who has three kids and seven bags of groceries. If someone tells you a story that you think is boring, listen anyway. And really listen – don’t just pretend. If you’re over 18 and visiting someone’s house, their rules still apply. And thank the soldiers you see in the airport. They are fighting especially for you.

8) When you say you’ll do something, do it. When you say you’ll be somewhere, be there. I guarantee that as soon as you agree to seeing a movie with a friend over the weekend, a party will come up for the same time and you’ll really want to go to that instead. You’re better than that. Go to the movie. And if you offer to pray for someone, pray for them. Don’t forget. It’s important.

9) Volunteer a lot. It’s good to remember that there are people around you suffering. It’s even better to do something about it. Donate your clothes, toys, time and prayers to those less fortunate. Serve lunch at a homeless shelter. Help build a house for a family in need. You can make a huge difference in someone’s life in just a few hours.

10) Forgive completely. It’s hard to forgive; I know that. But it’s harder not to. We forgive because God forgave us, and if your dad and I have done our jobs, you’ll know where to find that verse in the Bible :) People will mess up. Dad, me, your friends, your teachers – all of us. Forgive them, even if they don’t say they’re sorry. And ask for forgiveness, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not your fault. We all need to be forgiven, and thanks to Jesus, we can be forgiven forever. Remember that when you’re angry with someone.

11) Remember that you never know what someone else going through. Grammy and Grandpa used to tell me that all the time, and it drove. me. insane. But now that I’m older, I’m starting to get it. Sometimes people are mean. But sometimes they’re mean because they’re hurting. The bully on the playground might be bullied at home. Stand your ground, but always do so in love. It may be you one day who is hurting and who needs a friend like you to help.

12) Above everything else, love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. I put this last not because it’s the least important, but because if you remember nothing else, I want you to remember this. Love God. Serve God. Read your Bible and pray every day. I know that getting up early to do your quiet time is hard. I know that the Bible can be confusing, especially when you’re young. You’re lucky because your dad is a walking Bible encyclopedia, thanks to Papa and Nana. So ask him questions. Ask your pastor questions. Ask your friends questions. Make it your goal to walk with God as closely as you can.

That’s all the wisdom I have for now. I love you a million times over. I can’t wait to see your little face.

Love,

Mom

The 3 Greatest Tips for Wedding Planning.

The 3 Greatest Tips for Wedding Planning.

A lot of people I know are really passionate or excited about a particular subject. Sports, for instance, is a big one. Crafts is another. These are both totally foreign to me but I say more power to you if you dig it.

For a long time, I didn’t feel that anything was particularly my passion. Sure, I love to write, but that’s just fun. And, sure, I am the Mario Kart champion, but trophies are much harder to cling to when you can only see them if the Wii is turned on.

Then my sister got married. And I discovered something:

I love weddings.

Since my sister’s wedding, I have been in a lot of weddings. A lot. Like, 10. You wish I were exaggerating. And for every single one, I loved to hear about the colors and the cake and the ideas and the hugs and the candy and I love candy and do you have any candy?

All of these things have combined to make me an expert on the ways of the wedding. I cover many specialties, from Wettinquette to… well, this is only my second post on the subject. But for my THIRD one I’ll have two links to share with you. Can you stand the anticipation?

This particular compendium of knowledge will bring to you The 3 Greatest Tips For Wedding Planning.  Are you ready for this? I SAID, ARE YOU READY FOR THIS. Good.

1) Understand that while your wedding is perfect in your head, no one else is in there. Hopefully.

This is a tough one for a lot of bridal homies. In your mind you can just see it all: The lime green and neon yellow polka-dot bridesmaid dresses, flowers the color of the sun and a matching squeaky toy for your dog, who will be serving as ring-bearer. And that is all fine and dandy. But you need to bring those around you into your head. Help them BE the vision. BE the vision. BE… the… vision…

Basically what that means is help people out. When they ask you if you meant marigold yellow, say NO (politely) if that isn’t your vision. And then maybe take it a step further and google some examples or give another crayon shade that more closely matches the colors you need. In short, don’t expect people to be mind readers. The whole process will be a lot faster if you can be clear from the beginning.

2) Know that if you ask for opinions, you will get them. 

In college, a friend of mine I’d known for a while was getting married. I asked how things were going and she said that her bridesmaids hated the color of their dresses. I asked her how she knew and she said she asked them in an email and they told her. She went on to reveal that no one had actually purchased these dresses, but she had sent out a picture and asked what they thought.

Now. I’ve said before that I think if the bride walks up to you and says, “Guess WHAT?! I found purple miniskirts on sale and in EVERYONE’S SIZE YAYYYYYY!” it is not your place to then say “Ughhhhhhhhh, puuuuuuuuuuuurple is uuuuuuuuugggggggllllllyyyyy.” But if she emailed you a picture asking for your opinion? I think you have the right to give it to her. Nicely. Do not send back a picture of dog doo to convey your thoughts.

So, all you brides or brides-to-be out there, understand something now: If you build it, they will come. No, that wasn’t it. Maybe it was Shake and shake the ketchup bottle; none will come, and then a lot’ll. Still doesn’t sound right. I know! It was If you ask for someone’s opinion be prepared to hear their opinion. Like, for real. 

3) Abuse your friends and their wedding knowledge. 

They say it’s all about who you know. For weddings, this is really, really, really true. Really. If you are anywhere from 20 to 30 years old, a friend of yours is getting married somewhere. Trust me. Sorry if you weren’t invited. But they are getting married and this is your chance to make them work for you: Get recommendations of vendors, ideas, and everything. 

For rizzle. This might be the single most important step of wedding planning. The woman who made the cake for my wedding was recommended by a friend and then my sister. She had a ton of references, pictures and delicious slices for you to taste. And she turned out to be awesome. 

Or the guy who took our pictures, Allen. That guy knows how to take a picture. He was recommended to me by The Carl House, where we got married. (Daniel and me, not Allen and me).  And he was faaaabaulous. He also recommended our amazing videographer. Our florist was recommended by friends and my sister (do you see that I kind of stalked my sister’s wedding when I planned my own? LEARN FROM ME.). As a result, we got a ton of top-notch people who knew what they were doing and made it fun to boot. That’s a funny phrase, “to boot.” Anyway, do this. Seriously. Your wedding will be awesome.

Or just go to Vegas.

The Awkward Bathroom Encounter

The Awkward Bathroom Encounter

Yesterday, I was at church for a meeting. I was participating and laughing – oh, the laughing – when suddenly I realized I had to… you know. 

I had no choice. It was time for The Awkward Bathroom Encounter.

Women, you have all endured this. You find the bathroom and realize with some horror that it is for one person at a time only. And the door is shut. And as hard as you try to see if the light is on under the door or listen for any sounds while also keeping an eye on the hallway because if your pastor sees you crouching by a bathroom door he will report you and then you won’t be able to go back to your meeting, you just can’t tell for sure. So what can you do but knock?

But this isn’t just any knock. This is the most stressful knock in the history of time. What if someone is already in there?

For me, that’s the worst feeling. I don’t want anyone to think I am rushing them, like WHY HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE BATHROOM FOR THREE MINUTES DO YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR WHAT. I am merely gathering information – if someone is in this bathroom, I will move on to the next one. All women learn this around the same time they master the art of the ninja kick in order to flush the toilet. And yet I think all women also fear hearing a voice from the other side of the door, saying the dreaded words we hate: “Someone’s in here right now.

ABORT, ABORT. MISSION FAILURE.

It’s not easy being a girl. All men have to do is walk into the restroom and give a manly nod because no man’s bathroom is for only one person at a time, and if it is it will be available in .23 seconds since that is all the time they need. Men. 

In case you are not as familiar with this process, I have broken it down for you, step by step, in the list below. Enjoy:

The Plucky Procrastinator’s Guide to The Awkward Bathroom Encounter:

1) Realize you have to make a sacrifice to the porcelain throne soon. Ignore it because you don’t have to go that bad and you can wait.

2) 30 seconds later, realize you cannot wait one more millisecond or this will be first grade in Mrs. Bishop’s class all over again.

3) Locate nearest bathroom. If in school, you’re in luck! Most of those are multiple stalls. If you’re at church or K-Mart, prepare yourself. 

4) Investigate thoroughly. Is the door shut because someone is on the other side or because the door is heavy and always swings shut?

5) It’s because someone is on the other side. Duh. 

6) Stand straight, take a deep breath, and knock a solid three times. No more, no less. 

7) If no one answers, hooray! Open the door slowly, like you might if you were diffusing a door bomb while on roller skates. 

8) If “someone’s in here,” proceed to verbally vomit all over them with your apologies and explanations. 

9) Run away to the next bathroom, praying the first person didn’t recognize your voice, doesn’t have a child in your class, and is not leaving the bathroom any time soon.

10) Blog about it. 

Awkward Encounter-ers, form a line to the left.