2011 is drawing to a close as quickly as it was upon us just 12 short months ago. Looking back, there was so much that happened. Grant and Maria celebrated their first birthday, took their first steps, and said their first words. They had their first round of swim lessons and music classes, took their first trip to the ER, and welcomed a new cousin. Jeremy and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary and I received a nice promotion at work. While much of the year now seems like a blur, I’ve learned so much and cherish the time I get to share with Grant, Maria and Jeremy.
For me, I’ve learned some lessons, as well.
• With courage and a lot of prayer, broken relationships can be mended. As mentioned in my last post, after a 27 year estrangement, my dad’s sister is back in our lives. I give my mom lots of credit for taking that leap of faith in reaching out and Anne credit for responding in kind.
• There will be things in life that happen that are far out of your control and you cannot apply rational thought to an irrational act. I lost two co-workers in a workplace tragedy in July and will be honest that I’m still working through the emotions that resulted.
• Counseling is a wonderful thing. As a result of the workplace tragedy, I sought help through a Christian counselor. She has helped me unpack all that was associated with it and we tapped into some other things I needed to sort through, including our journey through infertility and embryo adoption. It’s a work in progress.
• It’s okay to keep certain people at a distance. As a Christian, I struggled with this because I thought it meant I didn’t love as I should, but through my counseling, came to peace with this … Jesus loved Judas, but he didn’t take him to the garden to pray with him.
• I’ve changed a lot. Being a parent opens you up to a depth of emotion that was not possible before. I have much less patience for people who whine over trivial things, but much more empathy for those with real struggles.
• You can’t do it all. Give yourself grace. As a mom, it’s hard to do all that I need and want to do. When I’m not at work, I want and need to spend my time with Grant, Maria and Jeremy, which means other things that I want to do fall to the side. I’ve recognized that this is a season of life and one day, I will have time for those other things I used to do, like go to the gym every day and participate in a women’s Bible study.
I’m sure 2012 will be a lightning fast year as well. Undoubtedly there will tears and struggles, but I hope it brings more laughter, joy and lessons. From our family to yours, we wish you a bright and blessed 2012.
Well, Grant and Maria’s 2nd Christmas is in the books and I will declare it a great one. They behaved very well with no meltdowns and, for the most part, all the adults were well behaved too.
A few observations about Christmas this year:
• It’s okay to be late if it means the kids get their nap. Against the notion that nap schedules get thrown out the window during the holidays, we ensured that Grant and Maria got their normal naps. I think they appreciated it. I think those around us did, too.
• Simple is better. Grant and Maria don’t have a lot of toys. In fact, I think they got more toys in two days than in their entire toy collection. They savored each new toy making gift opening take a long time…but it was worth it! To keep things simple, some toys in their previous collection that are still in good shape (and maybe a new one or two) will be donated to a local family emergency shelter.
• They each got three packages from Santa. It seemed like a lot. We might do less next year.
• Santa traditions seem to vary widely. Our Santa wraps the gifts.
• After a 27-year estrangement, my Dad’s sister joined my family on Christmas Eve. It went remarkably well.
• The diaper bag becomes a black hole for gift cards and cash. I will be sure to empty the entire thing in the future before my dad digs through all their trash.
• My brother and I surprised my mom and dad with family Christmas pictures. We actually got one of all eight of us that is great. Mom and Dad’s reaction was priceless.
• There is something special about Christmas through a child’s eyes. By the grace of God we’ll get to experience it even more so next year.
As my family and I were getting ready for a trip to visit family, Julian announced that it was Christmas Eve. He declared, “This Christmas Eve I want to give my heart to Jesus.” I replied back, “What does that mean to you Julian, how exactly are you going to do that?” He looked at me with his big green eyes and long lashes, and said “I will serve others.” Yes, I said, that is what giving your heart to Jesus means. What a blessing it is for me to see God at work in my children.
This Christmas I strive to give my whole heart to Jesus as well. For me, giving my whole heart means to consider other people, remember those in hardships, honor marriages, be content with the things I have, be faithful to God’s teachings and submit to authority. (Thanks to the classes I am taking at Bible Study Fellowship I can list all these.) It is my prayer that with God’s help I can accomplish this over my lifetime and that my children will also. So as my children open gifts and announce that they already have this toy, that I will remember that becoming like Christ does not happen overnight.
Our family visit includes visiting Brian’s grandmother who is a young 100. She is a Godly woman who always has scripture to share with you that she has memorized since she is now blind. I pray that as we visit Brian’s family and my own that we will “serve others” as Julian reminded me we really need to give to Jesus for His birthday!
My heart is heavy this morning. One of my cousins went into pre-term labor and lost her baby girl at 21 weeks last night. To lose a child at any time is cruel and it seems even more so this time of year. As a parent, I can only imagine what their loss feels like and the thought struck me that I would go through infertility again rather than the loss of a child. I remember how desperate I felt when we had a miscarriage scare when I was only 15 weeks with the babies. There are just no words for how helpless the situation feels.
I know that Jeremy and I didn’t have the easiest road in having children, but I also know that in spite of our challenges in getting pregnant and a delivery at 32 weeks, we were tremendously lucky. At the end of that journey, we took home two healthy babies. Some people only ever wish to do that.
My prayer today is that my cousin and her husband can find peace that passes understanding. I pray that her infection heals and that God will see them through their grief. I’m also praying for those, including two of my friends, who also lost little ones this year. Their Christmas looks much different than they anticipated; may they find strength and peace in the truth that one day they will all see their precious children again in heaven.
Julian loves to sing and most of the time will now sing when we ask him to. Natalie is too shy to sing for other people, but does enjoy singing at home. It is truly a blessing to see how Julian puts his whole self into the song and just sings his heart out. May this video put you in the Christmas spirit and remind you what Christmas is about.
• Maria learned the word “no” and uses it often. No surprise there since it’s probably the word she hears most every day.
• She’s rapidly picking up more words. She can say the name of our cats, Ally and Lucy. Any round fruit is an “AP-ple” and my mom got her to say “touchdown” while watching football the other night. She also says “pretty” when she sees flowers. When she’s not saying real words, she’s a constant stream of babbling.
• I’ve been told that it’s too early to tell, but I think Maria is left handed. She readily reaches for utensils with her left hand. I thought she was mirroring whoever is handing food to her, but she also uses her left hand when coloring. Grant is showing more right handed tendencies.
• My Christmas tree cage works to a point. Grant and Maria can now climb on the couch and quickly crawl on the table next to the tree. Both have served time in “time out” as a result.
• Speaking of climbing…they can get on the couch unassisted now, but prefer to use a step stool in the form of their drum or block box. Both toys are put in time out regularly.
• I think there is hope for potty training in our future. When dirty, I can say, “let’s go change our diapers” and they go to the nursery and lie on the floor. Whoever is waiting assists and hands me wipes, which is an improvement over running away with them.
• We have not visited Santa Clause and don’t plan on it. He’s a creepy old man and given their dislike for strangers, I don’t think they’d be too keen on the idea of sitting on his lap. Perhaps we’ll try when they are older.
• Grant’s favorite song is “Christmas This Year” by TobyMac. He gets a grin that is visible from behind, bobs his head, and taps his feet when we turn it on.
• Grant also loves to dance, especially with me. We had music going one night and Jer and I took a turn at dancing together. Grant came up and demanded that I hold him. When I pick him up, I snuggled back up to Jeremy, but Grant pushed him away. Oedipus much?
• Lowes gets two thumbs of up for “twin friendly” bascarts. The seat elevation and racecar design was a hit. The double kid carts at Target sit too low and are still too big for Grant and Maria, meaning we have to use two carts, which makes life difficult if you do not have two adults.
• Maria doesn’t like any type of talking doll or animal. We were at Target the other night finishing some Christmas shopping, including for the kids, when we thought she might like a doll. Apparently, most dolls talk or do something these days. We handed her a doll, which she seemed to like, then pressed it’s belly to activate it. Maria recoiled and pushed the doll away. Don’t blame her. Dolls aren’t supposed to talk.
This morning we got an early Christmas surprise in the mail from the Cassidy family! Julian and Natalie were so excited to open up their gifts. They each got a book with a cd in it. We have read some of each book and listened to Natalie’s Ballet cd from her Ballet book! Julian’s book is about animal tales. What a wonderful way to start the day!
Starting last week we were privileged to attend a birthday party for Jesus! It took place at a church near my house, in a program called, Mornings with Mommy. Later that day we got our picture made with Santa at the mall. They would not sit with Santa alone, so Mommy had to join them. The next day the whole family went to a “Winter Celebration” held by Healthy Families, and then last Saturday we went on a train ride with Santa and our friends! Later that night we attended a parade with the Thomas family as well. We are very excited to be seeing friends during this Christmas Season and are looking forward to our Bailey Family Christmas celebration tomorrow morning.
What people do out of love includes all sorts of things. This week it included my aunt, uncle, cousins, nieces, nephew, brother-in-law as well as my mom’s two dear friends sitting through several very long performances before seeing the ballerina they came to support. It was so kind of them to come and it meant so much to Natalie that they all came to see her. She was so excited about her performance the next day she wore her tutu all day long.
The day of her performance, I came home from a doctor’s appointment and she was wearing the tutu I had for my first recital. She looked absolutely adorable! It was a bit big since I was six when I wore it, but still so sweet. That day I put make-up on her, just like my Mom had done for me for my recital many years ago as well. It reminded me of when my friend Judy and I had ours and what happy times those were. Now I am living those happy times with my daughter. What a delight. Every day I thank God for my children and pray blessings over them. It is my prayer that they will be blessings for others as well as for me. As you watch the video may it remind you of the blessings God has given to you or the promise of what is to come.
Lily’s Ballet Recital from Ryan Bridges on Vimeo.
I’m getting in the Christmas spirit. Admittedly, last year I was a bit bummed not to have my whole family together for Grant and Maria’s first Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun even though my brother and his family were living in Germany, but I think this year is going to have a whole different feel.
I gave Grant and Maria their first gift on Friday. It’s a singing and pouncing dog that I got in a silly Christmas gift exchange at work. I thought they, especially Maria, would be exceptionally pumped about this dog. She might have been had it not been for the initial trauma inflicted on her by said dog. The thought never occurred to me that it might accidentally get turned on during opening and forever terrorize her against mechanical animals. As she lifted the dog from the bag, he started his rendition of Deck the Halls and Maria freaked out. Grant stood beside watching and smiling as I filmed the terror. Jeremy was across the house and heard the situation unfold and started cracking up. Does laughing at her sheer terror make us bad parents? She continued to scream and back away from the dog, now named Trauma. I stopped filming and she ran to me and climbed up my body to get away from the ferocious beast. She stayed glued to me for some time and when Trauma was sitting out she’d take a wide berth around him. We’ve spent the weekend trying to get Maria to warm up to Trauma but to no avail. She was brave enough to hold him, but dropped him and bolted when she pressed his “on” button. Grant thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread and will play with him for hours on end if we let him.
In addition to traumatizing Maria, we put the Christmas tree up for the first time since 2004. The first year we didn’t put it up we had a legitimate reason. We were getting ready to move and didn’t need to be taking anything out of boxes. The subsequent years were really just laziness and a lack of desire to deal with the cats’ tree antics. I limited our Christmas decorations to my nativity scene and a brushed metal art deco tree that I got at a local art fair. But, this year it was time to pull the ole Charlie Brown tree back out of the box. Grant and Maria were super excited and “helped” me with the lights and ornaments. After the tree was decorated, it proved to be much too tempting for both the cats and the kids and it is now in protective custody behind the baby cage. You do what you’ve got to do.
Christmas is right around the corner and I’m working on focusing on its real meaning, rather than getting caught up in the commercialism that is everywhere. It’s not about Santa Clause and parties and presents. Yes, we might laugh about a Christmas dog named Trauma for years to come but the season is about birth of Christ and we’ll work to ensure that Grant and Maria don’t forget the reason for this season.
I just read an article, “Six Things I Miss Now That I Have Kids,” and it made me think about what I miss. Of course those of us who went through infertility might relate to feeling guilty for thinking any negative thoughts about having kids, since I tried and wanted them for so long, but the good outweighs the bad things!
• Memory, which was never great anyway, but now it is much worse. Julian often asks me when we get in the car if I have my phone. I seem to always be looking for it!
• Sleep when they were infants, but I have to say, for the most part it is much better, but no sleeping in on Saturday!
• Alone time with myself. This just includes showers, baths and toilet time.
• Time alone with my husband. We use to eat dinner in the bath, those days are long gone!
The ways my life has been greatly improved since I have children are as followed:
• Seeing God through my children.
• Eating healthier, this was not hard to accomplish, since I did not make it a priority before.
• Feeling such pride in someone. Their accomplishments just make me want to burst with pride.
• Understanding the amount of love my own Mother felt for me.
• Being given the gift of parenthood, which I do not deserve, has made me more appreciative of those who donate embryos or children to another home.
• Just overall trying to be the best person I can be for my children.
Whenever I start to miss things I had before I had kids, I just think before long they will be grown and then I will be missing all that I had while they were living with me!