Monday, December 24, 2012

The King in the Cave

The year I was pregnant, I read a beautiful poem by Madeleine L'Engle (here, scroll down to the bottom) at Advent service my church holds for the women of the community. The service was so beautiful and meaningful, that I dreamed of presenting an original piece at it. A few weeks ago, I was asked to write a poem for this year's service. We've been studying David in our various women's Bible studies, so the theme of the Advent service was looking at Jesus through the line of David.

Here's what I wrote:

The King in the Cave
by Anna Carpenter

Can you imagine a boy
who knew less what it meant to be king
Than the ruddy shepherd David?

He knew flocks and fields for sure
He could fling a stone with the best of them
Lions and bears, no problem. 

But ruling a nation?
Out of all his brothers,
Prophet Samuel poured the oil on him!

God chose him!
The least likely, dirtiest,
manure-freshest one of the bunch.

Israel had crowned only one other king.
So what could David
Possibly imagine was in his future?

He probably did not guess giants.
Or being the royal harp-boy.
Or spending years hiding in caves.

Were these hard, dark places
Filled with the lost, last and least
Really where God wanted him to be?

What of that promise and early successes?
What of princes? And princesses!?
Was this what it meant to be king?

What heartache and anger
We know that he felt
As he poured out his words on the page.

“The LORD is my rock
And my fortress
And my deliverer!

My God, my strength,
in whom I will trust
My stronghold.”

That hope kept paving
His humble path to the throne
A long journey he never expected.=

From the cave he emerged
To be king at last
With a heart after God’s very own.

The first in a forever line
Of covenant kings
Started out in a shepherd’s robe.

Is it any wonder, then, that shepherds
Were the first to hear the news?
An angelic announcement of the royal birth!

“You there, with your staffs and sandals
You dirty, manure-fresh bunch
Come! See a king born today in a cave!”

God Himself, King of the World
Stripped out of Majesty’s claims
Wrapped once in flesh then swaddled in rags.

A cradle of stone and pillow of straw
Attended by animals
sharing their stalls.

Jesus, the long-awaited son of David
Born to wear the crown
Found the least-likely way to achieve it.

He fulfilled every prophecy about him
While turning every expectation
Absolutely upside down.

He wandered in deserts
Pardoned thieves
Dined with the last, lost and least

He was challenged and threatened
Denied and betrayed
And finally brutally murdered

The throngs of angels
Heralding his birth in song
Were held silent at his death

Once again God made flesh
Humbled himself
To be wrapped up and laid in a cave.

Where are you now,
O child of the King?
You there, with your pains and sorrows.

Is your promise elusive,
Your path full of stones,
Your dream lost in the darkness?

Is your journey much longer
Than you could’ve imagined
Your foes in constant pursuit?

If you think that the cavernous
Place where you’re stuck is too
Far for the light to break through,

Don’t you dare give up hope,
As you cry to the sky
The story’s not over yet.

My friend can’t you see
The miracle here,
The heart that God’s building in you?

You may be waiting
But He hasn’t stopped
No, nothing about Him has changed.

The King of the Universe
still loves to do
Some of His best work in caves!

(Feel free to share this, just kindly link back to this blog. Thanks!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Boxes are fun toys

Relevant picture of cute child

When I posted my status on Facebook today about packing, I went back and read the post I wrote about having our house on the market and I realized I'm long overdue for an update.

(short version)
We're under contract! Hooray! Praise God!

(long version)
We (and by we, I mean mostly me) were getting show weary and after 6 weeks on the market with no offers, talked to our realtor about taking it off. She encouraged us to wait until after the election, since people were waiting on big decisions until then and we agreed. That was a Monday.

That Monday was the day after we got home from a wonderful vacation with my parents. It took us a few days to unpack and put things away, but in those few days people kept showing up to look at the house. Now, to back up a few weeks, I had spent several very stressful and long-hour days early in September getting the house "staged" to show. And if you wondered, it is not like the shows where the stagers come and send the owners off and they come back to a delightfully lovely show-ready house. Ha!

If I thought it was hard to stage the house, it was even harder to live in a staged house, being ready at the drop of a hat to have someone come through it. That's why I was show-weary. And that's why I was taking my time unpacking from vacation, because with no appointments to see the house, I was enjoying just getting to live in it and let Ayla play with all her stuff.

So, Sunday we get home, Monday we decided to stay on the market a bit longer, Thursday a couple shows up to see the house without having called me first. Our place was a mess! Probably not hoarder style mess, but definitely not show ready. I let them come in and see it since they had gone to all the trouble to come, I just apologized profusely for the mess and asked them to please come see it during the open house that weekend when it would be beautiful. They were very kind about it and mentioned that they didn't mind getting to see what it would look like when they lived there.

The following Monday they came to see it again, with an appointment, and the next day they put in an offer! Full asking price with no seller subsidy. This was such an answer to prayer. The week before we put our house on the market, two other houses in our neighborhood went on. Since we're in a townhouse community, all the houses are virtually identical. Ours has a few more upgrades than the others that are (still) for sale, but I think the main difference was the mess. Had to be!

That was about three weeks ago and we close in another three weeks and have passed all the hurdles between offer and closing so far. The home inspection and appraisal came back with expected results and the couple seems really excited to move in and start making this their home.

Meanwhile, we've been looking for a place for us to live between now and next summer. Of course God answered this prayer, too, and provided us with a beautiful rental house in our price range right in the neighborhood we wanted with a landlord who was willing to do a short-term lease. We're moving in over there this weekend, though we can take our time before having to be out of here.

We are still looking for a new family for Mocha. The Virginia family I mentioned before turned out to have dog allergies, which may have been important information to know before they started looking for a dog, but at least they found out before adopting her!

She's got a new best friend, though, who would spend every waking moment with her if we'd let her!
Cute child with new best friend

And in completely unrelated moving news, Ayla's hair is long enough for this now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A letter to me (now) from me (now)

Hey you/me,

Nice hair (ha ha, inside joke).

I just wanted to let you know that it’s ok. It’s ok that you aren’t pregnant this month and it’s ok that you really wanted to be and it’s ok to be (a little) sad about it.

It’s ok that most of your friends who were pregnant with you the first time are pregnant again or already have had their next round of babies. I promise you, the next time you are pregnant, someone else in the world will be pregnant at the same time.  It’s even likely that you will know one or more of them.

And if you never get pregnant again?

That will be ok, too. Remember how hard it was to lay down your desire to give birth to a baby? To leave it in the trustworthy hands of your Abba Father? I know you still wanted it after that, but you knew life WOULD go on. It was still two more years of wanting after that, but they were FULL, weren’t they?

Your life is full now. You have a kind, brilliant and strong husband and a darling, thriving daughter.

You have friends out the wazoo, and make more daily it seems. I could go on and on about the free country you live in, the amazing technology you have access to, everything that is just right here at your fingertips.

But those aren’t the things that make you full, and you know that. Christ alone fills. He came, lived, died, rose, filled. It would have been enough, as you say at Pesach.  He is enough. Don’t forget it.

Don’t forget about your other friends, either. The ones who will forever carry in their hearts the babies they will never hold in their arms. The ones who are still waiting for even just a positive pregnancy test. Even just that would be a miracle for some of those girls you love so dearly.  Don’t forget about those parents who are waiting simply for words on paper so they can kiss the soft heads of children who have been waiting just as long for them.

If you keep thinking about others like this, you may even remember your friends who are single, who would love to even get to the “WE are trying,” phase. 

You may even get the idea that everyone you come into contact with is waiting on, wanting something. You may have compassion or understanding for them. In fact, you only have one child to hold, so that gives you a free arm to throw around someone else’s shoulder and say, “Me too!”

Oh, it’s ok that you want another baby to hold in that arm, but there’s no reason for it to be empty for now. Ok?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Big, Not-Pregnant, News

When I blogged my pregnancy news, I snuck it in the comments of a post about a Walmart being constructed across the street (It didn't turn out to be of the Neighborhood variety after all). When my husband was deploying overseas for a year, I came up with a cute story about our dog, Mocha, taking a big trip (She didn't end up going with John, but has gone to live with her cousin in Texas).

Well, the news I have to share now is probably equally as big, but I'm just going to straight up tell you.

Next summer, we're moving to "EssAy" for two years.

I know, I said I was going to just tell you, but we do need a little bit of a code. I'm careful with what gets posted here so we don't end up in some crazy search results. However, you are smart enough to get this one easily.

Just imagine the word above is sounding out the initials for a big, oil-rich country where women can't drive and I won't have to worry about pork being in any of our food, and you've got it!

So far away and so hot, you're thinking. Yes.

We're excited though. We've talked about living overseas, especially in that region, since before we were married. Though we've both been deployed and traveled extensively, this will be our first time actually living together abroad. We'll find out for sure if this is the life for us.
From our visit to Turkey this summer. 

I don't know many of the details of us going yet, and I'm trying not to think about the leaving part right now. I'm sure you'll be hearing about it plenty, though!

I do have two big prayer requests regarding the move, if you are into the praying sort of thing.

First, we are trying to find a new home for Mocha. She is such a wonderful pet and we'd love to keep her, but where we're going is not very dog friendly, especially the kind of dog who needs space to run around outside. I've pleaded and bugged everyone on Facebook and we've placed Craigslist ads. Right now there is one family here in Virginia who is interested, but we have to get her here from Texas (where she's been since last February!) first, meet them and be in mutual agreement. Please pray we find her a good home and that she adjusts to them well.

Second, we have our house on the market. This could be a post unto itself and probably will be, but if you've ever sold your home, you know what we're facing. Even though we're not moving overseas until next year, we thought we'd try to take advantage of the slight rise in the housing market our area is having. It's been about a month and we've had no offers yet, but we're going to wait a few more weeks. If we don't sell now, we'll try again in the spring. We just thought it would be nice to sell with no real time crunch. Obviously if we don't sell in the spring, renting is an option, just not our preferred one right now. Please pray we stay in perfect peace throughout this process and keep our eyes on our true Source

Thanks, friends! I'll be sure to report when we see movement on either of these. By the way, thank you for reading after all these months of sabbatical (yeah, I'm gonna call it that).

How are you doing?

Friday, July 13, 2012

A little video to illustrate my last blog

Having a ball dancing

(no endorsement of lyrics implied!)

(Also, you may need to come to my actual blog to watch, may not work in reader or email.)

Eighteen Months

Dear Ayla,
Eighteen months ago, around this time (late at night), I got to meet you for the first time. I was just so excited that you were here, that you were you (a girl I got to name Ayla) and that you were mine, really with no idea what my life would be like with you in it.

It's been a hard year, baby girl, not gonna lie to you (ever), but you kept me going and made it all kinds of wonderful. Now your daddy is home from his deployment and we're learning how to be a family. You are discovering how much fun Daddy is and remembering that his strong arms are the best place to be (whether cuddling or swinging or tickling or dancing).

Even though I've been with you every day of your life, I still look at you and marvel. I love seeing you in a new light as Daddy gets to know you all over again.

You started walking about 4 months ago and now you're so good at it, you aren't content to just walk anymore. You're practicing new styles of walking, such as with a swagger, on your toes, with a little knee bend added in or just running. You're also becoming quite the dancer. I love to watch you stop whatever you doing to do a little boogie when you hear music. It actually doesn't even require music, if you hear pounding, buzzing or the beat in your heart, your feet start a jig.

One of your favorite things to do is slide. You call it "outside," even though you understand that outside is also "outside." You turn anything with the slightest angle into a slide. The back of the couch? Easy. The side of the tub? Yup (not that I let you do this, but you still try). A pillow on the floor? The slight incline between the driveway and parking lot? My bent legs? Angle + you = slide.

You are great at playing games. I think we make up 50 new ones a day, but your favorite is to pretend to go "nigh-night." You're not really picky about the surface, sometimes there's a pillow involved, sometimes it's just the floor of the Women's Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. You lay down on your back, say "nigh-night," then go, "shhh, shhh." It's pretty cute, but your comfort with dirty floors may not reflect well on my parenting style.

As for actual sleep, that's still a moving target, with emphasis on the moving rather than the still. I wish I could record our view on the baby monitor to show you someday how much you move around while you sleep. You dropped your morning nap a few months ago and your afternoon nap is anywhere from 1-3 hours. Or no hours, like today. You do sleep a good 11-12 hours at night and for that you are greatly loved. You're a big fan of getting sung to before bed and now that you've learned to say and sign "again," you get lots and lots of songs. Your dad and I both love that you say "Amen," after we pray. I can't wait to hear what you pray about when you start to say your own.

And, girl, you are saying so much! I counted today and you're at 102 words, and that's not including all the words you sign or body parts you know or animal sounds you can make. You don't really babble, instead you just pick a few words and say them over and over. I can even consider you bi-lingual, since you insist on calling "water" "agua," even to the point of correcting me. You've put two words together a few times, such as "No Mommy," or "Bye-bye Daddy," but no real sentences yet. One of my favorites is how whenever you hear us say "now," you say, "Now-I-Know," (from the ABC song) as if it's one word. Oh, and I also love how when I try to comfort you when you fall, you mimic me repeating as you cry, "I know, I know," as you pat my shoulder.

I probably take the falling harder than you do. Oh, I know you're tough and maybe like me you're a little clumsy, but I just hate to see all the bruises and scratches marring your beautiful baby skin. You're so bold and adventurous, like your daddy. Other parents comment about this when they see you on the playground or in the soft play room. Usually that's right before you tumble off a step or climb right over their child on your way to go down yet another slide. I hope we can add some thoughtfulness to that courage soon.  You'll really be unstoppable then!

Like most kids your age, you love climbing on anything, opening and closing doors, putting lids on and taking them off, stacking things and then knocking them down. You love balls, bubbles and balloons. You're learning about sharing your toys with your friends, although right now sharing to you means, "give that back to me."

"Sharing" with your birthday buddy, Behr

You do throw your fair share of tantrums, but you snap out of them pretty quickly. We haven't started time outs with you yet because usually a simple, "No!" or smack on the hand gets your attention. I'm not really looking forward to the discipline phase, but I know it's one of the most important aspects of my job, so we'll get through it.

Every day I thank God for you, and today I thank Him for eighteen months of awesome joy with you.
You are my jewel, today and always!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thoughts near the finish line

Hello, my name is Anna. It's been 120 days since my last blog.

Wow. That's a long time. It's as long as Air Force deployments used to be. At least I blogged while I was deployed (back in the MySpace blog days). While I could spend this whole post giving excuses and explaining why it's been so long and what I've been up to, I won't. Not now anyway.

I'm writing now because my year "alone" is almost over and that seems to call for a blog post. I've been doing quite a bit of reflection on the past year, trying to sift through all the excitement of anticipating John's homecoming and just everyday busyness of raising a toddler, to find nuggets of what I learned or how I changed or the meaning in it all.

I imagine I'll be sorting a lot of that out in the next few weeks, and hope to write about it here. I will tell you a few of the things I'm aware will be different once John gets home. While it's been hard in so many ways to have lived separately for the past year, we have done as most humans do and found coping mechanisms to help us through it and most of those will be irrelevant once we're together, so we'll have to unlearn them. For me, I'm thinking about:

* Where I focus my time and energy
I've had the luxury (?) of being able to devote almost all my time and energy to Ayla. I hear that most new moms do this anyway, but I haven't had to feel torn about it since John hasn't been here to remind me that he needs me, too. On our last vacation together (Turkey. 3 weeks in May. It was awesome. Yeah, I'm really behind here.), it was very obvious who gets most of me. It was very hard for me to remember a time when I wasn't thinking about her schedule, what she needed to eat, how much sleep she had, where potentially dangerous objects were, what sounds what animals make, more sounds more animals make, how dirty the floor was that thing had fallen on before being in her mouth, and so on. Oh, husband, what?

* How I take care of our home
John is not a husband who judges or complains when the house isn't spic and span, and he certainly does a fair share of the housework. That said, I'm kind of in charge of stuff getting done here, since I am here more, and I have given myself a lot of grace this past year. For his part, he's had a house guy taking care of his laundry, cleaning, and cooking. We both know I'm not that guy, but we'll just have to figure out what this all looks like, at least until Ayla can start pulling her own weight!

* How I take care of myself
Yes, I know John will love me no matter what my hair looks like or how late in the day I wear my pajamas. However, what he is attracted to and what Ayla is attracted to are very different things, so I just need to consider that.

Really, these are issues all, if not most, couples and parents work through. This is the work of marriage, which has looked different for us over the past year.

So, yes. I am excited about him coming home, about him discovering the wonder that is being with our daughter every day, and reconnecting with my best friend. I'm excited about having his help, his insight and his presence. I'm excited about the season stretching out in front of us that has no looming departures or separations from each other. Remember, we knew he was leaving for most of my pregnancy, so everything since then has been tinged with his impending or actual absence.

But I'm also so aware of how intentional we will need to be to do the needed repairs and maintenance to our marriage for it to continue being the healthy, safe place it is. I know we're both selfish, sinful people who need tons of grace as we settle back into an "us."

 I'm more and more convinced every day that healthy marriages that last don't happen accidentally. I'm blessed beyond belief that I'm married to a man I love and am excited to be with, who loves me and is willing and ready to do this work together.

Now, I just need him to step off that plane and into my arms!

We're almost there, people, almost there!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Hmm... a blog about weaning. Exciting reading for a Friday night.

My goal was to nurse Ayla for a year and wean her around her first birthday. I'm so grateful to say that we made it! I know that breastfeeding isn't easy or possible for all moms, and even though it clicked right away for us, I never took for granted that we were able to do it for as long as we did.

In deciding to wean at a year, here are some of the things I was worried about or concerned with:

1) I didn't start her on dairy until her first birthday. I know a lot of people start their kids on yogurt and cheese earlier, and I probably should've, I just waited until one for a lot of things. So, I was concerned with how I was going to keep her hydrated during the transition from breast milk to cow's or another type of milk. Then, when I did give her cow's milk (fresh, raw, organic, delicious stuff!), she would have nothing to do with it.

2) She stopped drinking from a bottle at some point around 8 months. She never had confusion with a  pacifier or bottle early on, but by that point she hadn't had a bottle in so long, and had already discovered the fun of straws, that she just wouldn't take a bottle. However, she didn't drink much of anything (pumped breast milk, diluted juice or water) from anything else. I tried several different sippy cups, and she would just drink one or two sips.

3) I'd read about different ways to wean, and had decided to save the bedtime feeding for last. The problem I anticipated was transitioning away from that when I didn't have her dad here to introduce her to a new routine at night that didn't involve nursing. The last several weeks, when we were down to just that once, she was clearly and quite frantically requesting it, which she had never done before.

4) One thing I loved about nursing was the confidence I had in knowing my baby was getting exactly what she needed from me, especially when she was sick or teething or just being picky and not eating much else. I wasn't as confident in anything else being able to supply that for her after we were done.

Compounding all these concerns was learning that she only gained three ounces from her 9-month-checkup to her one-year, which isn't unusual as babies get more active. It's just not something a mother likes to hear. When we went back to the doctor for a follow-up visit a month later, Ayla had lost weight! Really not what I was expecting! The doctor suggested I stop giving her water, which was all she would drink at that point, and give her something like formula, with more calories. Several of my friends suggested using coconut milk, and after a few days, she chugged the stuff down!

I was also experiencing the emotional toll of the hormone shift from the decrease in nursing, was feeling very mushy about her turning one, wondering if her increased fussiness was due to the weaning process or separation anxiety or teething or something else, and didn't want to lose any of the intimate bonding we had built up. As sure as I was about wanting to wean at a year, I was unsure about how it was going to work.

(Are you completely bored yet? Sorry. 
I don't know why I'm writing about this. Maybe because it seems like a big milestone?)

I planned to use John's visit home in February to eliminate the bedtime feeding, by pumping and having him put her to bed, and slowly transition from breast milk to coconut milk. However, she didn't acclimate to being alone with him for the first few days, then we went on a trip, then we had people over every night, then we went on another trip, so I just kept nursing her.

At some point shortly before he came home, that nursing session had become pretty unpleasant, though. She would fall asleep, which would've been great except she would wake up screaming and frantic when I pulled her off to switch sides. She'd never done that before. Also, she usually played with my ears or nose while nursing, but she began to really yank and scratch and be quite violent for a one-year-old, then lose it when I'd put her down. It was very frustrating for both of us, so I knew it was time to be done.

(Don't worry, I'm almost done with this post, too!)

It ended up happening almost accidentally. The day after we got home from Costa Rica we got a babysitter so we could go on a date. (Didn't I mention we went on vacation to Costa Rica? Oops, more on that to come, then!) I figured we'd be back early enough that if Ayla hadn't gone to sleep yet, I could still nurse her. But she had gone down just fine. The next night when I put her down without nursing, she didn't even mention it. And that was that.

That was almost two weeks ago. Since then, my big, happy girl also started drinking (fresh, raw, organic, delicious) cow's milk, mostly because I ran out of coconut milk and she didn't even notice the switch.

I'm also thankful that I didn't have any engorgement issues when we stopped. It even makes me wonder if she was getting so frustrated towards the end because she wasn't getting much, if anything.

I really should take a lesson from myself here. So far, every thing I've been worried about in parenting hasn't been that bad when I actually get to it. I certainly learned some things I will do different next time, if given the opportunity, such as:
1) Not worry so much about it. If I'd have known how easy it was going to be, I'd have done it sooner!
2) Schedule in a regular bottle feeding so the baby stays acclimated, then transition to cup at appropriate age.
3) Start the baby on higher-(good)fat foods earlier to make up for the drop in calories from weaning.
4) Not worry so much about it.

Now, if I could only figure out how to get her to start walking.
(I'm kidding, I'm kidding! I'm not rushing her on that!)

I almost forgot to add a picture of the source of all this absolutely-worth-it fuss!
See, happy as can be!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Community-- and why I'm glad to be a realist

Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arch communities, has written,
"Almost everyone finds their early days in a community ideal. It all seems perfect. They feel they are surrounded by saints, heroes, or at the least, most exceptional people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the let-down. The greater their idealization of the community at the start, the greater the disenchantment. If people manage to get through this second period, they come to a third phase -- that of realism and of true commitment. They no longer see other members of the community as saints or devils, but as people -- each with a mixture of good and bad, darkness and light, each growing and each with their own hope. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready to walk in it, and with it. They accept the community and the other members as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards something more beautiful."

I have found this to be true for me. What about you?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crooked Toenails and Relentless Love

My friend Lindsey asked me to be a guest blogger for her series on Relentless Love, which is also her One Word for 2012.

Now, usually when one is a guest blogger for someone else, they put a little teaser part of the post on their own blog and link to their guest spot. Before I do that, I have to set the record straight.

Lindsey always gives me so much credit for something that happened in college, and though I pretty much did change her life, it was only because she had already changed mine. During my senior year I worked in the Spiritual Life Department (for the campus pastor and men's and women's chaplains). We had a few openings for student chaplains and I just happened to know of this amazing girl who lived on my friend's floor. Lindsey was just a freshman, but she had a spiritual depth and maturity that made me a little bit jealous. She didn't just have potential, she was already a leader. It was a no-brainer that she should fill one of the openings and it didn't take much to convince the leadership to agree.

I would tell you that was 15 years ago, but then I'd just feel really old! 

I'm still super impressed with this girl, though now I suppose we have to call ourselves "ladies." I've recommended her blog before, but if you're still not reading it regularly, I suggest you do. I've got a hunch about these things!

Ok, here's the teaser:

Battle Scars & Crooked Toenails

have a few really messed up toenails. I brutalized them in years (too far) past by running a couple of marathons, causing them to die and grow back in lumpy and crooked. Even though they look somewhat normal when painted and pedicured, I know what they really look like and that they will probably always be this way.

That’s what my heart is sort of like, too.

You’d never know it by my usually hilariously awesome personality, but I had a broken heart at least one day a month for almost three years.

You can go read the rest here, and be sure to check out the other posts in the Relentless Love series. Lindsey is still changing lives all over her world!

PS- You'll see a few pictures from our photo shoot with Bex White during our vacation to Colorado in November. I'll post more of those just right after I get to all the other vacation pictures from last summer!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ayla's First Birthday Party

My goal was to get these pictures posted before Ayla's birthday balloon was out of helium and wouldn't you know, today it is about an inch off the floor, so I totally still have time!

As her birthday approached, I wasn't sure what to do to celebrate. You know I have issues with my own birthday, the short of it is that you should celebrate what my mom did on that day, not me, as I pretty much didn't do anything except show up.

However, I love celebrating other people's birthday however they like to, so my own daughter's day presented a bit of a dilemma. I don't want to pass my issues on to her. I don't want to deprive her of special moments or others of celebrating her life. Of course, she's too young to tell me how she feels about it (in a language I understand, anyway). She's also too young to remember it, though pictures will tell her the story. I didn't want to do anything too extravagant and couldn't host a "small party" of my own because as I've said, we have too many friends (a good problem, I know), and we wouldn't be near our also not-small family.

Sometimes the answer to life's questions can be found by looking right in front of you. For me, I realized we had a built-in "small" circle with the mom's group we attend every other week, which was also a pre-established time and place. We also could share the celebration with another mom, whose son, Micah, is four days older than Ayla. So, that's what we did.

I made cupcakes and frosting. That's about as fancy as I get!
Somehow, I glanced away from the table after setting the cupcakes with burning candles down, and managed to introduce my daughter to fire. (There was only 4 seconds between these pictures!)

I don't mean to brag, but Ayla clearly won the unannounced mess-making contest.
To honor Micah's Korean heritage, we played the Toljabee. We set out a number of symbolic items for the babies to crawl to, and tradition says that what they choose first says something about who they become or what they do when they grow up. Micah's dad had added a computer mouse to the other options of rice (riches or plenty), a book (scholar), money (riches), a pen (writer), or string (long life).

Ayla went straight for the mouse! Her second choice was rice, so we're set. I'm sure she'll be running an internet company by the time she's in pre-school. I'll let you know when it goes public.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Six Things

File under random:

I've been a little online shopping click-happy lately, so to prove I don't only blog about Ayla, here are six things delivered this week about which I am very excited.

1) Ayla's birthday present from her PaPa (John's dad). He sent a check, I picked it out! It's a P'kolino Little Sofa-Sleeper. Right now she mostly uses it to climb as high as she can and look out the window, but I'm sure many hours of story-time and sleepovers are ahead.
2) An Ergo carrier! I have used the Baby Bjorn, a few different slings and wraps and ties, but I needed something that was better for her and my back and easy to get in and out of. It was a steal on
3) Inspired by Finn Baltic amber necklace. I don't know why this brand is the only one I've seen with these necklaces, but my sister swears by them and I think it's really cute! So far, Ayla likes wearing it, but I don't know if it's helping with the teething pain yet. Another great steal from BabySteals.
4) Much needed replacement lens cover for my camera. I lost the original in California this summer and have been recklessly tossing the Rebel into bags with no protection to take hundreds of pictures I don't edit or upload. Call me a, I don't know, a rebel?
5) Hand-made honey pot from Etsy. Look, it was just getting messy getting the honey out of the giant jar.
6) Sublime Imprint Anti-Fatigue comfort mats for my kitchen floor. I finally found the right color, size and comfort combo, and Amazon had them for half price. Winner!

Since it's now officially Tuesday here, I can tell you about something else I'm getting today. Want to guess?
Here's a hint: He once took me for a ride, then gave me a beautiful shiny thing. His name is John and he's my husband.
Got it?
I am a little more excited about this delivery than the other ones!

Have a great rest of your week, my dear readers!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Every Day Ayla - One Whole Year!

For the last two weeks as I've been alternating between procrastination and frustration at getting this video done, I've also been pondering what to tell you about my one-year-old daughter.

I usually tell you what she's doing now, her new tricks and skills. But the days are just whipping by and she keeps changing and I honestly can't keep up. By now I can't remember what she was doing or saying two weeks ago, so I'm just going to do the update as of now.

The word for her current phase is spongexplosion. I had to make up a word since she is soaking everything in and then exhibiting growth in huge bursts.

She has four teeth, all on top. I think the bottom ones are working their way up. At least I hope what all this night-time fussing has been about.

She's not walking independently yet, but she loves to finger walk, push toys around and cruise on the furniture. I think she might be waiting for her daddy to come for his next visit (next week!!) to take her first steps, so we'll see. I'm still in no hurry! She's great at climbing up the stairs and going down backwards.

She likes putting things in and taking them out. She has discovered the magic of putting things behind her to make them disappear. She has also discovered the spatial relationship between her finger and nostril. I'm sure this will also be used to make things "disappear." She hugs everything and makes a sweet "oooh" sound when she does it.
She's as friendly as ever, a bit clingier, a whole lot moodier, and quite the little entertainer. I think she's pretty advanced in that she's already throwing herself on the floor in tantrums with big ol' tears and everything. The ramp between happy and not-happy is gone, so I'm trying to learn how to predict and react to the sudden changes. I'm sure much of this has to do with her frustration at not being able to communicate as much as she wants to. 

She is selective in what she says and signs, but she understands SO much. She even makes up words and signs when she's in the mood.

Here's what she says, in the order in which I can remember them: daddy, mama, doggy, ball, puff, pul (apple), tatuh (water), hugy/eggy (hungry), ity (kitty), mungy (monkey), Teta (Greta, the girl who lives with us), aaaht (hat), Aaah (Abigail, her best friend), touch, shhh (shoes), caka (cracker).

Here's what she signs: more, finished, please, dog, banana, eat/water (her sign for these looks the same), fish, baby, and milk. She's getting close on frog and cat.

She knows where her/my head, hair, ears, nose, eyes, mouth and bellybutton are. She makes the animal sounds for cows and monkeys, pants for a dog, makes a fishy face for fish, and hops for bunnies and frogs.

I'll do the eating and sleeping update in another post, because this has gotten so long and you've still got to watch the video, which is a whopping 6:24. I couldn't figure out a way to go through the stills any faster, and just wanted to get it out there while she was still a baby. 


(link to video on YouTube, let me know if you can't view it)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nothing like I'd planned

I had planned to do a whole week of Ayla's-turning-one related posts leading up to a big reveal of her 365 Every Day pictures and a snazzy video and fireworks and pizza for everyone. Ok, maybe not the fireworks.

(Coincidentally (?) my post from this date last year was also about "plans" and our intentions for letting people know about when the baby "Blueberry" (awww... remember Blueberry?) came.)

Point being, her birthday is actually the day after tomorrow and this is it.

Tomorrow is the last day of her first year.

And since it's 11:33 (awww... the exact time she was born), that's in less than 30 minutes.

So, here's a little teaser photo from the birthday celebration we had for her today at the moms' group we are blessed to be a part of. My friend's son, Micah, turned 1 on Sunday, so we brought snacks and balloons and let the kiddos go at it.

Ok, just one more...

I have a feeling this is the start of a long
and beautiful relationship with chocolate!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Ayla is going to be a big sister

Someday. I'm not pregnant. I promise.

Even as my heart tightens around every little baby thing my growing daughter does, because I know the days are getting faster and it hasn't even been a year yet, I feel this space in my heart growing for our next child.

It's a bit conflicting, this feeling. A desire, really. Verging on a hope.

Dare I?
Dare I ask for another?

I have this amazing, perfect little girl who looks like her daddy and has my stubborn streak and a smile straight from heaven and I am definitely not bored raising her. It is one thing to be content and just "see what happens," but it's another thing (for me, at least) to step into the hope zone again.

People have asked me how many kids I want to have and how far apart I want them to be. I tell them, "We've gone through too much to suppose our wants have anything to do with it." Seriously, if it had been completely up to me, I would've been married at 20 and finished having/adopting 8 kids by 30 (math and science weren't my strongest subjects)!

Thank GOD that was not His plan for me! I look at my Ayla Jewel and am so grateful. SO Grateful for the very day my first child was born and every day of her life that has been when it is. Do you know what I mean? And if she's all we get, then we will be full and grateful.

I mean, look at her:

I have friends with different kinds of stories of how their families grew. They have decided to get pregnant and have done so. They have decided to have kids so many months apart and have done so. I'm so very happy for them.

I have friends who, like us, who walked the infertility road for some time, got pregnant, then their bodies "figured it out," and it never was a problem again. I know others who experience miscarriages between every full-term pregnancy, or just have long, unexplained waits every time. I know others who are "one and done."

Of course, there's no way for me to know what my body is going to do or how long the wait for Ayla's sibling will be. I don't know if said sibling will be birthed or adopted. I don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow!

I'm okay with not knowing the when, the who, the how. I hope I learned something in the 3 1/2 years we waited for Ayla.

What I don't know if I'm okay not knowing (follow me?) is the if. If we will in fact have a who somehow somewhen.

I'm pretty sure our family isn't complete yet. I may not want 8 kids anymore, but how can I not want to see if luck would hit us again with another angel baby? I see how much Ayla loves people, how great she is around other kids and I know she would be a fantastic big sister. I think of how much I love being a big sister (and a little sister, too) (had to put that in because my older brothers are two of the 10 people who read my blog), and I want that for her.

These are my thoughts as we speed down the track to complete this first-year lap. What did I learn during the pre-Ayla season? What lessons about hoping and waiting stuck and which will I have to learn all over again? I know I didn't write about my One Word very much in 2011, but it was ask and I did learn to be a better asker. So, am I ready to ask for this? For Ayla to be a big sister?

Gratefully, simply, humbly, in whispers and with a longing I don’t quite understand,

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