Friday, July 25, 2014

Just because



...even when she's serious she is so stinking cute!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Brighton's "Win"


My daughter has a special relationship with my dad, who she affectionally calls "Win". (His middle name is Winfield). She greets him with a wide hug and a sloppy kiss, will run to him when he calls for her in the house and likes it best when she can sit in his lap and have a snack. When we talk about him she calls him, "My Win". 

There is something so sweet about watching my own father, who did such a great job raising me, love on my girl. He thinks she is the best thing ever. 


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On My Heart: The Unexamined Life


There was a season of my life where I felt a constant and burning emotional and mental exhaustion. I was in my early twenties, in graduate school and writing all the time to keep up with my thesis, in a long distance relationship, living in an apartment that frightened me (roach problem, creepy neighbors, weird sounds at night) and going to work at job that I couldn't stand. I was also tied at the hip to a group of other young, single women in the same scenario as me - busy, trying to find a career, or at the very least a job that paid the rent, wanting to do it all and trying to figure out who we were.

I had a weekly bible study with these young women and each week someone was going through a quarter life crisis - we all needed better jobs, different boyfriends, more positive attitudes, a deeper well of faith that it would all work out. We were always analyzing the root of the issue at hand - was it us? Was it God telling us to wait? And if it was us, what was wrong that we needed to fix.

Between the constant push of my religion to become less of myself and more like Christ, this bible study cum self-help group, and the own people pleasing critic in my head, I felt like I was over-analyzing myself constantly. My mind was a constant ticker tape of questions and what if's: What in me needed to change? What was I doing to offend people, or making them feel less than they should? Was I a good friend? A good child? A good employee? Should I do (insert goal) and if I do, what will happen? What if nothing happens? Would people stop loving me? Would I lose? Am I marriage material? Am I a good writer? Does God want me to do all of this or something different? What in me was keeping me from my definition of success? How was my heart?

Obviously I was trying to figure out too much at once. I would map out all the scenarios in my head then worry about the outcomes. I would struggle with the time it would take to get from point A to B emotionally or spiritually or whatever it was in me that was "wrong" and needed to be fixed or changed.

It was tiring and self absorbed season of life. Thankfully, all seasons end. I finished my thesis, broke it off with the long-distance boyfriend, found another job, another apartment, another boyfriend (who eventually became my husband) and slowly started to shed that constant stream of questions and anxiety that plagued me. I stopped analyzing every little decision and thing and situation that happened to me and just started living more. Part of it was the exhaustion of that season (because who can keep that up for long?) but most of it was that I felt happier than I had in a long, long time. I stopped thinking and writing about my life and just started living it.

Fast forward to now and I find myself feeling, well numb and out of touch. I cannot remember the last time I took stock of my heart and my spirit (outside of our struggle with infertility and our adoption journey, which is just one small facet of who I am).  What was going on in the emotional, mental and spiritual parts of me and what did I need to focus on to become a better version of myself?

I could blame social media for taking away my ability to focus. I could blame the job I had over the last year which gave me little room for imagination and dreaming and instead forced a sort of repetitious style into my every day. I could blame all the years of our infertility struggle which redirected all my energy towards one single dream. I could blame my child who brought me into the world of baby gear, sleep patterns and the incessant talk of labor, nursing, the color of my child's poo and the like.

I could blame a thousand things that had led me to a life of distraction and emotional apathy towards my own heart, but I know I am to blame. I had chosen the easier route for the last few years - go through the motions, pay the mortgage, go on the annual vacation, buy the holiday gifts, pick paint colors, choose the movie for Friday's night date, have the same conversations about celebrities and hair color and the weather over and over. It is my fault I am so detached from that part of me that wants to be something more.

I used to have this green notebook that I journaled in. I used it for a year, while I was a junior in college. I was a 21 year old Christian who was trying to figure out her own version of what faith looked like and a girl who didn't know who she wanted to be just yet. I wrote in that journal almost daily, pasted photos and letters in it, carried it with me to and from classes. Reading back over it now makes me cringe, but not for the reasons you'd suspect. I am not embarrassed of what I wrote then, or who I was, I am embarrassed at how this adult version of myself, 15 years distanced from that bright, hopeful young woman, is so out of touch. That journal contains the kind of emotional and spiritual analyzation of a psychologist. It was self-absorbed writing of course, almost a map of "finding myself" in a year, but it was also innocent, searching and open to finding the truth. I wanted to know the world and my place in it. I wanted to find love, but not lose myself in it. I wanted to thrive and change things for the better. I was fully committed to finding the meaning in everything, the small moments and the drama and the tedious everyday tasks of literature essays and listening to my roommates fight and folding clothes in the local coin laundromat.

I still wish I was that young woman sometimes. She was not afraid to ask hard, thoughtful, soul stirring questions of herself. She was not afraid to admit where she was good and where she lacked. She knew she was loved and felt a freedom in that love to have a teachable and humble spirit - to say, "I want more of myself and I'm willing to work hard to figure out how to get there."

I am trying to become something like that again - not the self-absorbed, worrisome version - but the one who is wiling to ask hard questions about her heart, her dreams and her decisions. There is a balance somewhere in-between the constant self-psychology and living an unexamined life. I'm just trying to find it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Recipe: hazelnut & sea salt chocolate pie

This is so decadent and a crowd pleaser but most importantly SO easy!



Ingredients:
10 oz bittersweet chocolate (I recommend the chips - easier to work with)
8 oz heavy cream
2 oz half and half (I used a sweetened version)
1/4 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons hazelnut liquor 
1 graham cracker pie crust
Coarse sea salt to taste

Instructions:
In a medium sauce pan, heat the cream and half and half to medium and slowly wisk in the chocolate until melted. Add in the hazelnut liquor and pour into the pie crust.

Cool in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours. Right before serving, sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt (I did about a teaspoon) and the hazelnuts. 

Enjoy! Serves 8. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rock a bye baby


I have a parenting confession to make: I still rock my daughter to sleep.

Matt does it as well. We can't help ourselves. We alternate who puts her to bed each night and both of us take the time to hold her in the dark and quiet of her room, her blankies or a stuffed animal tucked under her arm, and rock, rock, rock her into a peaceful sleep. Sometimes it takes only a few minutes, sometimes it's an hour, but when I can, I hold her until she is heavy in my arms.

She likes to sit on my lap, facing me, and lay her little head on my chest, the crook of my arm holding her just so. She lets me pray over her, sing a soft song into her ear, and then I rock and kiss her forehead and rub her back and stroke her hair. She settles in and her body relaxes and her breathing slows. This is the time of day when I feel the most at ease - my daughter in my arms, her sweet breath on my face, the smell of her hair so close. There is something magical about a sleeping child.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot break this habit. Laying her down awake brings racking sobs and standing in her crib, her arms outstretched to the door, calling for us over and over. Time goes by too fast and before I know it she will be asking for me to give her space, to not kiss her goodbye in front of her friends, to wait in the car. She needs and wants us now and I will gladly give her my time and my arms every night until she tells me otherwise.

I don't know if this will create some sort of habit I will have to work hard to break. I don't know if this will mean she'll be 8 and fighting to find space in my lap for me to hold her. Frankly I don't care. She might be the only child we have the privilege of ever raising and these moments where she needs us, and wants us, and finds comfort in our arms is probably one of the most precious and special times of my life.

I will rock her to sleep until she goes off to college if she'll let me. I just love her that much.