Friday, March 24, 2017

the five stages of friend dating

I wrote a post a while back about the essential friends for every new mom. Every word of that post is still as true as ever, however, that post was written when I was knee-deep in an awesome tribe that included a lot of my Jax friends. I'm busy building my tribe in VA and I'm more like toes-deep in my tribe here, so I've been busy doing a little something I like to call Friend Dating.

I've been meeting moms at the park and church and just generally playing the field all over my new city. (Don't hate the player, hate the game.) This isn't my first rodeo. I'm an extrovert and I'm all about community, and I know my time here is limited, so I take Friend Dating pretty seriously.

And after five (!) moves, I've given a lot of thought to the awkward dance that is meeting new friends. So, I've broken down the process of meeting new friends in a new city to these Five Stages of Friend Dating. Consider this your helpful guide if you're the new kid in town.

The Intro- Now, if you're lucky, this usually happens on common ground. Maybe you're meeting people at work or your neighbors or for us military folks, a spouses club. Lots of times, it's the built in places that we wind up in after a move. But, I'm particularly sensitive to the plight of stay at home moms because lots of times we have to get creative and step out of our comfort zones and create places. (That's why, if you're all #nonewfriends, you should probably steer clear of me right now. While I build my tribe here, I'm on the hunt and everyone is fair game. Playground mom? Yup. Church ladies? Bring em! Honestly, if you have a stroller and you look like you're playing with a full deck of cards, I'm probably gonna ask you for your number.) But usually, where ever you meet people, you'll zero in on a few girls who seem like your kind of people. Then it's on to the good stuff.

The Ask- So, you've narrowed down that chick that looks like you'd get along. You've thrown out a few lines to see if she'll bite and you discover you're kindred spirits in such important matters as celebrity gossip and champagne being appropriate for any occasion. You want to hang out outside of library story time, so you silence the 6th grader inside your head and ask if she wants to maybe get the kids together for a playdate. You wait nervously for her to throw you some shade and hustle out of there as fast as she can, but instead she says she'd love to! Whew! This is one of the hardest parts of meeting new people. [True Story: The idea for this post was born in the awkward moments right before I gathered the courage to ask another mom for her number a few weeks ago. I thought to myself, "God, this has to be the most awkward I've felt since I was 12." Followed by a mental tantrum fit for a tween wherein I decided I hate the Navy and I hate moving and new cities are, like, so stupid. Then I snapped out of it and asked homegirl for her number and now we're friends, so trust me I'm an expert.]

The First Date- This truly is the most awkward thing about friend dating. You've mustered up the guts to ask a total stranger to hang out with you and now you are both doing the dance to see if you're actually compatible. Maybe you guys have kids the same age and you crushed it with small talk, but really you don't have much more in common. That's okay. Some friendships can live right here in the Playdate Zone. There's nothing wrong with that. I like to think of my tribe as an onion. I've got my childhood friends and my sisters way down deep in the center, but every new move and new city and new chapter of life brings friends that make up the other layers, even the outer ones. If you've made a Playdate Friend, congrats! She'll probably help this new city feel a little less lonely. But if you and this girl click and you think it might be time to get a little more serious, read on.

The Kid-less Date- This is an important DTR moment in a mom friendship. Getting together without your kids truly says, "I want to take this thing to the next level." Kids are a distraction and a safety net and without them, you're likely going to have an actual grown up conversation free of distractions and repeated Goldfish requests and you're going to get to see (and reveal) some of the pre-mom woman that's living deep inside you, under the messy bun and the athleisure. That woman is dying to see some sunlight, so you deserve a friend to ditch the littles with and go be adults for a while. If you've made it here, then go dust off your cute shoes and swipe on some lipstick, girl, cause you are rocking this new friend thing!

The Sweatpants Phase- I'm gonna be honest here, this is kind of the Holy Grail of Friendship phases in my humble opinion. This is the blessed time in a friendship when the small talk has faded away and we can be real. This is when you're gonna start to hear my trucker mouth and see a lot more of my undone eyebrows and dry shampoo. This is when you're going to hear me admit my kid is sometimes the worst and I will not follow it up with a nicety about what a blessing she is to avoid judgement. This is the place in friendship where we don't necessarily need "plans" to hang out and I will not frantically clean my kitchen prior to your arrival. I love this phase because this little slice of friendship heaven is part of what makes being a woman fun and what makes motherhood bearable. It's definitely okay if every friendship doesn't reach this point, because these friends are about quality, not quantity, but if you're sticking around your city for any length of time, I'd suggesting letting at least one worthy girl into your Inner Sweatpants Circle.

So go! Gather that tribe, lady! And if you're reading this and you live in my new city and the intensity of my making a guide to Friend Dating doesn't completely freak you out? Well then what are you waiting for? Hit me up!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

reasons why my toddler is upset.

This emoji sums up my face a lot these days.

We are entering Toddler World over here and that means the beginnings of tantrums. My precious little angel baby is usually an easy to please lady. Keep her fed with a constant flow of animal crackers and pick her up whenever she raises her chubby little arms and generally she'll be a happy camper. 

But sometimes she makes requests that I simply have to deny, mostly because I'm mean and cruel, but also sometimes for her safety and whatnot. Thankfully, we're not at full on tantrums yet, but she still lets me know when I've disappointed her with some tears and a little protest. 

Here are a few reasons why Her Majesty has been upset with me lately:

Because I wouldn't let her eat dirty tissues out of the trash. 

Because I pulled her sleeves up. 

Because the dog ate the cracker that she handed to him. 

Because I insisted we cook the oatmeal and I didn't give her a bowl of dry oatmeal. 

Because I wouldn't let her get into someone else's stroller at the park. 

Because after she dumped all her lunch off her plate, I refused to put it all back on her plate and hand it back to her so she could dump it all off again.

Because she wasn't allowed to pull tampons out of a box and unwrap them and discard them all over the house. She was legitimately angry about this. 

Because I didn't share my wine. Seriously. 

So cheers to you if you're also making your kid cry these days. We're in this together, comrades. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

a letter to myself at 21.

Dear 21 Year Old Me- 

You think you have a lot figured out. You think you're a pretty wise old soul. You still have a lot to learn. 

Especially about love. At 21, you've been with R long enough to be taken seriously but not long enough to relax and stop white-knuckling your way through love. It's a common theme for you and in ten years you'll still be trying to master the art of just letting that man be and learning to love him right where he's at. You will, somewhere along the way, figure out though, to stop grasping for the grandiose love story from the movies and somewhere in the failures and stumbles and the mundane, you'll find a love that feels solid to stand on. It won't be perfect, not in ten years and maybe not ever, but it will feel more and more like home with every new season. 

Guess what else? Your life is not going to look anything like what you think it will in ten years. You think you are going to be changing the world at a non-profit, maybe working with kids in the inner city or feeding the homeless, but that's not how it shakes down. In fact, your career which will barely advance in fits and starts, will feel like the most unfair lot in life, At 21, you have big hopes for the kind of career and life that people will look at and be impressed with. You've written it in your journals and whispered it in your prayers, "Let me be someone important." And you are, just not the way you imagined. In ten years, instead of being someone who people ooh and ahh over, you're going to be changing the world by changing diapers and no one is going to see it but you and Jesus. And in ten years, you'll only just be starting to come around to the great mystery that somehow the things no one sees are the most important things there are. 

Do you want to hear something really good? At 21, you're still in Milwaukee and your world hasn't expanded too much yet. Your crew is still the same girls you skipped class with in high school and your dilemmas are still pretty minor league. A decade later, those girls are still your crew. And the ten years of marriages and  births and deaths and distance between you all has only made those friendships sweeter and more priceless than you could have ever imagined. You grew up together and you're still around to cheer each other on. And there's even better news? In the ten years between your 21st and your 31st birthday, you add even more girls to your tribe. College friends and Navy wives, co-workers and mama friends- you do a good job of choosing quality over quantity and they make every tough season sweeter. 

Here's some advice from someone who knows you better than you know yourself. 

Stop worrying so much. Stop caring so much what other people think. Stop striving for things that don't matter. And stop buying cheap trendy clothes from Forever 21. 

You're going to be just fine.

Happy Birthday!

Love, 31 Year Old Me

Saturday, February 11, 2017

to the mama who is praying.

This post is close to my heart.

My mother, Patti, is a woman of audacious faith. She has been praying for me and my three siblings since before we were even born. Every morning, even this morning, you can find my Mom sitting on the couch in her living room, talking to God like an old friend. As I have become a mother, and as I wade into the mystery of prayer myself, I've seen my Mom's morning prayer time with new eyes.

I wrote this first as a letter to her, but as I wrote it, I thought of myself and all the moms who are praying for their children. Whether in quiet hours before they wake, or in the car during your commute home from work, or in journals or on iPads, if you've been praying for your sons and daughters, this one is for you.  

Being a mama is hard work, isn’t it?

Maybe you've been at this gig for just a few months. Maybe you've been at it so long that your babies have babies. No matter how long you've been mothering, you've done some hard work.  Your heart has swelled and broken and been kicked and then dusted off and loved deeply as only a child can do.

You are doing the hard work today.

You've nurtured your kids moment by moment, day by day, from the moment you knew their little hearts were beating, nestled deep down inside you, to this very day. You've nursed and diapered, cleaned up messes and washed bodies; you've fed meals and listened to stories, swept the floors and washed the sheets, creating homes and safe places for your kids to grow. The unseen work of mothering, day in and day out, week after week, month after month, year after year until suddenly there are decades behind you.

But you have done more than this, if it's possible.

You've been praying.

You've whispered their names in the hours before dawn to a listening God. You've sat on your couch, your scribbled-in Bible on your lap, and spoken ancient Scriptures over them, with hope in your heart and faith on your lips. You have offered each of them up in earnest prayers of protection and safety and blessing. You have surrendered in faith these people who you love more than you love yourself to the Father.

And it is making all the difference.

Mama, listen closely to what I know is true- these children we pray for? They are the arrows in the hand of the warrior that the Psalmistis writing about. You aren't just speaking to the ceiling in those hours before the house is awake.

You are sharpening arrows.

Prayer by prayer, year by year, you are filing, grinding, sharpening. Affixing them to the arrow with prayers still.

Arrows to be thrown out in to the world to pierce the darkness, to lay bare the liar. Your prayers, thought in silence, written in journals, whispered like a song to El Roi, the God Who Sees, have been heard and they are being answered.

And don't believe for a second the liar who tells you that these prayers are useless. Don't fool yourself by thinking you could be doing more, should be doing more. What a gift you are giving them! What a love you are showing them. To pray for your children, ask for the most intimate of requests, spoken in such humility at the foot of the throne of the God of the Stars and Sun and Moon. "Who am I to ask you of these things?" We often think when we pray. "Who am I that you would hear me and listen?" But we are Mothers, wearing the crown and the robe that we received as royal daughters of God, can walk boldly to him to ask that he usher in heaven on earth by way of our children. And make no mistake, he will.

Oh Mama, how pleased God must be with you. How he must delight when he hears your footsteps approaching. "Do you see her? This is a daughter after my own heart! Look how she takes after me in her love for her children! See how she understands me when she lays down her life for them! Oh, how she makes me proud when she sees them as I see them. Look at my daughter, mothering hard. Who is like her in all the earth?"

So go on, Mama. Keep praying.

You are doing the hard work, the kingdom work, the eternal work. I know it is breaking your heart wide open. But please, keep sharpening those arrows. And in it, in the quiet sacrifice of prayer and in the hard work of mothering, I hope you are filled up and fed well by the knowledge that it matters.

The hard work isn't over yet, but it's making all the difference.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

the giving

In this old house I can hear everything. I hear her coughing sometime after 3am. It's persistent and I can hear her trying to get settled after each bout. I finally decide to make some warm milk and go in sometime around 4. I don't know if warm milk will help but it seems like the kind of thing a mom who knows what she's doing would do. I come in silently. In the room, illuminated only by the street lights outside, I can see her smile at me. She reaches for me without a sound and I pull her from her crib and we sit on the rocker and she drinks her milk. We rock and sip silently for a long time. 

It's quiet except for her sound machine. In the whir of white noise, she leans into me and I feel the weight of her body and marvel at how long it's been since I was up with her like this. She was a baby the last time I soothed her back to sleep in the middle of the night and now she's a toddler, a wriggly, busy toddler. As we rock quietly, her taking sips of her milk, then feeling around for her lovey and settling back into me, I think about the nights I used to do this several times before the sun came up. 

I've become a mother in the hours after midnight. Days and weeks after the pain of labor was gone, a new labor was beginning and I was being born a mother. Needs arise all day long for every parent but it seems to me that after midnight is when the need of this other person seems to pierce me and demand more of me. Maybe it's because no one is around to see it or probably it's because I'd rather be meeting my own need for sleep, but the simple act of getting out of bed and padding across a house in the middle of the night is a kind of sacrifice that aches. I wish I could say I'm the kind of mother who gives selflessly to my daughter no matter what the hour, but I'd be lying through my teeth. Sometimes I give selflessly, but lots of times, especially in the dead of night, the giving feels more like taking. 

Tonight I'm giving though. I stand and rock her, my arms holding her growing weight and my hips swaying in a slow dance that parents the world over know by heart. Her fingers are at my collarbone, she's gently toying with the neck of my shirt. I feel her breath getting slower and deeper and her cough has calmed for now. Her hair, fine and wispy and smelling of baby shampoo, brushes my lips and I press her into me closer still, taking in this moment with each of my five senses, not rushing despite my own heavy eyelids. It feels like time is standing still around us and tears are welling up in my tired eyes. My arms are tired as she drifts into sleep while I hold her, but I keep swaying. It feels like I can't give enough tonight. The giving feels holy tonight. 

Oh, how I love you, my girl. 

I am selfish beyond reason most of the time, but you, my little love, have tapped into a well of self-sacrifice that runs deeper in me than I could have imagined. I will wake in the night for you. I have fed you from my breasts and let my belly swell and my hips soften for you. My bones cracked open and I bled for you. And I will do it a thousand times over. I will wake in the night for you even when I am tired and you've taken from me all day long and I feel empty. I'll wake in the night despite the ache of selfishness that nags me, because in these moments, when I give once more, even when it aches, I see the face of God. He's in the giving. 

He fills me up while I pour myself out and when I press you close, I press into Him, and hear him whisper so true that I can feel it in the marrow of my bones, "Oh, how I love you, my girl.

Nicole Piper Photography

Sunday, January 8, 2017

lonely winters.

Happy New Year! My love for new years is well known. I love fresh starts and blank canvases and resolutions. And I love champagne and late night parties and all things glittery and gold. New Years is one of my all time faves.

Can I be real about what I do not love? The winter.

Three years in sunny Florida spoiled me rotten and I forgot what winter was like up North. And I'm only talking about a Virginia winter, not a Wisconsin winter, which frankly is a place not meant for human habitation in the winter months. Here in VA, the days are short and the sun is only just peeking out from some clouds today after being hidden for days. It's too cold for the park or for walks and even getting in the car to go somewhere is a giant hassle because of the whole getting a wiggly toddler into hat and coat and mittens ordeal. (Seriously, America...Do you know right now people in Florida are wearing tank tops and flip flops?! Get it together...)

This winter feels even more dreary because we just moved here a few weeks ago and I still don't know a soul. That's a real issue for me because I am the quintessential extrovert. I don't feel like I'm alive if I spend too much time alone. I thrive on connection and interaction and start to shrivel up like a raisin if I don't get enough of it. And I'm not getting enough of it, yet. It's lonely being the new kid.

Do you know what's different this time though? I think God is telling me to sit alone a little longer this winter because this won't be the last time I feel lonely.

Lonely winters tend to crop up in other places in my life. We just pulled up roots in Jacksonville and we're getting ready to put down roots here, knowing full well we'll just have to say a bunch of hard goodbyes and move in a few short years. All while living hundreds of miles from family and our oldest friends. Military life can be very lonely sometimes. But there are other lonely winters. Motherhood has seasons of loneliness. Long nights spent nursing, the isolation of staying at home, the nagging feeling that everyone else read their copy of "How to Parent with Ease" and mine got lost in the mail. My marriage can be lonely when we're not connecting or when we're standing on opposite ends of a conflict. Even my closest relationships can feel lonely when I desperately want to share my heart but I'm too scared that I'll get a side eye, or worse, a pat on the head and an overused adage like, "Prayers go up and blessing come down!" (To be fair, if you've made it into my inner circle, you've probably never said something like this to me cause you know what's good for you. If this is a saying you use and you are not a wooden sign at Hobby Lobby, then personally I think it's time to retire it.)

Life is full of lonely winters. Sometimes they're long and brutal and other times they vanish as quickly as they came, usually with the feeling of authentic connection that I crave so much. But I can feel God urging me to embrace the solitude this time so that, when the lonely winters do crop up, I can greet these seasons gently instead of my usual frantic anxiety.

The beauty of seasons is that they are always changing. I'm hoping spring will be even more beautiful and more full of life if I can wait for it's arrival patiently.

Also I'm taking the time to step back into writing, which is at times the loneliest of hobbies, spent in my own head at a computer by myself. My hope is that if you're reading this and you too are in a lonely season, you know you aren't alone. Let's be alone, together? I think it's the best way to be.

Cheers to the new year and embracing the loneliness and the changing seasons! Meet you back here soon.

Monday, November 14, 2016

one year!

My favorite things:
  • Yelling! I like to yell across the house to see if anyone will answer me. I don't care if Mom is on the phone or if Dad is trying to watch something on TV- I just want to yell back and forth!
  • Going to the park. I can't walk still, but I love swinging and sitting watching the big kids run around. I sometimes like the slide, but I'm happier to just observe. 
  • Dogs and cats! I laugh and smile every time we see them out on our walks and sometime I'm just so thrilled to see Beau come around the corner that I squeal with delight!
My least favorite things:
  • Being too far from Mom. I've been pretty consistent about this since I was just a teensy babe, but if my Mama could hold me and carry me everywhere she goes, I'd be pretty glad. 
Eva is one! And this update is overdue, but it's because we were too busy celebrating! My mom and R's parent's flew down to help us celebrate and we had a wonderful party (pictures coming soon!) and spent the week reminiscing about what a difference a year makes. We talked about what we were doing last year at this same time and I reflected on how far I've come as a parent in just twelve short months. I haven't enjoyed every single moment, but I find that as she gets bigger and as I become more confident, I'm able to take the tough days in stride and relish the sweet moments a little more. It's been a wonderful year and I am thankful and excited for the year ahead!

Here's what we've been up to this month:

Eva and her bestie Ember taking a wagon ride. 

We're in full on toddle mode over here with this little lady getting into cabinets and drawers all the time. This Tupperware cabinet is her favorite and the drawer with the Ziploc bags is my least favorite... 

Checked out our local used bookstore and Eva was in a heaven of pulling books off the shelf. 

It's not fall until you visit a pumpkin patch. And I managed to get a rare photo of her standing with no help! 

Grandma and Grandpa got Eva the same wagon that her buddy Ember has and she loves it! 

We all survived out first hurricane! (With the help of  important provisions, of course.)

She let me put this clown wig on and she kept it on for a lot longer than I expected. Maybe she''ll have a future in the circus? 

This is the scene several times a day under the highchair: Beau lets Eva kick him in the head because he knows the reward is food falling from the sky right into his mouth. 

Who knew Q-tips could make a girl so happy?

Soaking up all the warm Florida weather while we still can.

Helping Dad build a bed frame. 

Wrestling her buddy Ethan. Cue the heart eyes!

Where there is food, there is a happy Eva. 

Sometimes they look so much alike I have to do a double take. 

More heart eyes for these two!

We also began the process of selling our house! More information in later posts, but we're bidding Florida farewell soon!

And just for good measure, here's one of my two faves taken this same week last year.