Friday, August 31, 2012


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us..."

-Ephesians 3:20

I haven't been blogging lately, mostly because I've been mentally exhausted at the end of each day, attempting to learn and become acclimated into a new job, a new climate, and a new professional identity.  I now work as a Field Experience Coordinator at UNI, mentoring, coaching, and supervising several language arts majors as they complete their field experiences in schools in the Cedar Valley, as well as providing resources and support to the many teachers who have agreed to open their classrooms to these future teachers.  The last couple of weeks, we've had the monstrous task of trying to schedule these students with teachers, making sure they have all the nuts and bolts ironed out, and teaching them all they need to know about education in an intense 'boot camp' course for six hours each week.  It's been busy, and challenging, and at times, a little mind-numbing, but it's also been exciting to push myself in a new way.  I'm learning and I'm reflecting, and after seeing the fear on the faces of 22 future language arts teachers today, just days before they begin their Level II Field Experience in a new school --- I'm seeing the important purpose I have as their mentor, their coach, and their friend.  

But just because I've been neglecting this blog space this week doesn't mean it hasn't been on my mind.  It's actually quite the opposite.  Ever since I stepped out the doors of Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Sunday, my writing wheels have been turning and I've been aching to fill this space with my thoughts --- but, I've tried, many times, and am left with a lot of unfinished fragments that lack connection and fail to do my mind's talk justice.

I'm feeling kind of 'in-between' right now.  Do you ever feel like that?  I would use the fork-in-the-road analogy, but it's more like wandering through a mall for me.  Sometimes, when I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to be doing with myself, I assume the mall can fix just about anything.  So, I drive to the mall for a little retail therapy, wander from store to store, but don't really feel in the mood to shop.  I see things on the rack I like, but can't quite make myself try them on, and likewise, I see things I'd like to buy, but can't quite make myself do it.  I don't really even feel like being there, but I continue to wander, feeling indecisive, unsettled, and non-committal.  

My life feels like this.  I'm in this weird transition time of my life right now, and although nothing is wrong, everything is just kind of there.  I'm in between two jobs, we can't quite decide if we want to buy, build, or stay in the house we've called home for five years, and I'm struggling to understand God's timing in a few other important parts of our life right now.  I'm just wandering and waiting for a lot of uncertainties to become certainties and I've never been a very patient person when it comes to waiting.

I carried these uncertainties with me to church on Sunday, hoping that my church's 50th anniversary celebration would light a spark under my blah-ness.  After all, if anything can, it's that service.  Every year, our church combines all its services from three different campuses into one service called 'The Gathering,' on UNI's campus.  With more than 2100 people in attendance, it's always an amazing experience and the perfect kick-off to a new year and renewed walk with Jesus.  I always leave feeling so uplifted, so energized, and so ready to stare my life in the face with conviction, courage, and compassion for others.

Halfway through the service, however, I just wasn't feeling it.  I was distracted by Cruz, who loved the first ten minutes, but decided to yell and throw Cheerios on the floor during the first prayer.  After getting the stink eye from a girl in front of us, I took him to play in the nursery.  I missed a good part of the service, and when I got back, I was distracted by thoughts of school, of what I needed to get done after church, and whether we should attend the open house (for the third time) of the house we can't decide whether we want to buy or not.  

And just like that, God's power swooped in like a bird eying its 'distracted' prey, and turned my sights on Pastor Dave's message.  A message that hit the core of my wandering, my uncertainty, and my desire for control.  

Dream your best dream.  Dream it big, dream it in color, and then set it aside.  Trust in Jesus and put your faith in the plan He has for your life.  He will blow you away in ways you never dreamed possible. 

As I listened to these words and let them really sink in as I stood in that aisle seat at church on Sunday, I literally felt the weight of control slip from my shoulders.  In that moment, I knew that the plan for my life may look very similar, or completely different from the plan God has in store for me, and that I can't even begin to see how immeasurably better it is going to be with him.  Immeasurably more.  God is there, all the time, and is ready and waiting to do more than I could ask or imagine of him, as long as I am willing to let his power work in me (Eph. 3:20). 

Then I thought about my friend, Josh.  A pastor himself and friend from high school, anxiously awaiting the birth of his first baby, Josiah, only to find out that their precious baby boy's heart had stopped beating just two weeks before his due date.  

And I thought about Taylor Morris, our hometown hero.  A sailor who lost all four of his limbs when a bomb exploded in Afganistan.  I thought about his girlfriend, about the little girl dreams we all dream when we fall in love with the person we want to be with forever.

I thought about all of these people, walking aimlessly into so much uncertainty right now, with sadness and concern far deeper than mine.  I hurt for them, but felt an overwhelming sense of trust in the plan we can't begin to see.  I smiled at the thought of the joy He hasn't begun to reveal to Josh, and Taylor, and everyone else walking through a time of uncertainty.  There's hope in something so much greater than what we have control over - and the release I felt in letting my own desires go and letting God take over felt amazing.  For the first time in several weeks of aimlessness, I left that building in absolute peace - and excitement as I dreamed of my life a year, or five, or 25 years from now.  

Today, I stood on the sidewalk in 100 degree temps with thousands of others as we welcomed Taylor Morris back to Iowa for the first time since his injuries.  I took pictures, waved my flag, and smiled as he rode past in a convertible, astounded and humbled by the mass of people changed by his story.  And as I walked back to my car, I smiled when I thought about what Taylor will do with his life.  God didn't detonate that bomb that changed the course of Taylor's life forever, but I'm confident he's walking beside him now and hasn't even begun to unfold the plan he has for him. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

this weekend, we...

...welcomed friday night with garden-fresh caprese salad on the deck, a glass of vino, and the sounds of the first football game echoing in our back yard. an extra books before bed.

...ran around the house saturday morning in blanket capes and underwear (well, two of us did, and i'm not revealing the other party)

...had breakfast at the farmer's market.  breakfast burritos, rasta lemonade, mini cookies, and a golden delicious apple for cruz in the park.  i love that my son prefers his apples with the skin on.

...bought a guitar.  i'm not sure who is more excited, beau or cruz.  beau is dead-set on teaching himself, and i have dreams of front porch singing and dancing.

...had milk and cookies (or dough) for an afternoon 'nack.'

...finally finished two boxes of cereal that have been in our pantry forever - project pantry is in full force :)
...drank wine during dinner prep, lit a pumpkin spice candle, and listened to mumford and sons while the rain poured outside.  i felt fall in my bones.

...splashed in puddles in a pirate rain coat (thanks gabe and gina).

...had microwaved popcorn for a bedtime snack.

...celebrated 50 years of our amazing church.

...put cruz to sleep in the swing in our backyard.

...discovered grilled zucchini and Beau's mom's kabob marinade is a fantastic combination.

...bought cruz a potty chair.  he thinks it's a sweet chair, but doesn't seem to understand the 'potty' part quite yet.  if only it were that easy...

We had a quiet, cozy weekend at home this weekend, welcomed by a relaxing morning in the park at the farmer's market, the start of a new hobby for beau, and an afternoon and evening of rain showers, candles at dinner, and a bowl of popcorn before bed.  Weekends like this are my favorite, the ones that give us time to delve into the simple routines of our live and make them extra special with easy details of comfort and home - a glass of wine and candle at dinner, soft light in cruz's room before bed, and a technology-free night and bowl of popcorn for beau and i.  Simple things that make all the difference, it seems.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cruz's New Room - Part 1

I wanted to start Cruz’s new toddler room this summer for many reasons, the first being that we got a taste of Cruz sleeping in our bed and decided that we very much preferred our sleep without a foot jammed in our ribcage or a big toe stuck in our ear.  All of a sudden Cruz gave up sleeping in his crib, and decided its only use was a dance 'cage' to brush his teeth in and listen to Raffi every morning while Beau and I got ready for the day.  He’d scream when we put him down for the night, and wake up about two hours later and scream some more until we took him out. We got a taste of sleeping with Cruz, and after about two weeks, decided it was time we try something new.  I always wondered when parents decide to make the big transition decisions: bottles, pacifiers, crib, naps, etc., and thus far, have realized that Cruz is really making just about all of them for us.  After all, he is the boss baby around here...

In addition to the anti-crib antics he started pulling a few months ago, I have been ready and waiting to redo one of my upstairs bedrooms since we bought our house in January of 2008.  Our house is a modest, inviting, and warm little house on a friendly neighborhood street - the only one-and-a-half story nook on the block.  It's full of blood, sweat, tears, and charm, and two of my favorite parts are the little dormer rooms upstairs.  The ceilings are slanted, the dormers just beg for a reading nook, and the built-in bookshelves create ample space for lots and lots of color-coated favorites.  Besides, it was time for a project and I couldn't wait to decorate.

So, without further adieu, here is Cruz's room, a work-in-progress, but a nice addition that's seemed to have solved our 'three's company' bedroom fiasco for the time being...

I painted the walls a light sky blue and did the back of the built-in a bright red.  I was skeptical at first, but love how the books look against the bright color.   

Beau made the window seat out of MDF board, and we painted it white.  It has a huge pull-out drawer for blankets, and is the perfect spot to read books before bed.     

I got these plastic containers on sale at Pottery Barn and was (as always) pleased with the quality and size of them.  I used one for blocks, one for peg boards, and one for miscellaneous art supplies.  

We cleaned up some old fence boards that have been in a pile in our backyard for three years and used a nail gun to create a frame for this very hungry caterpillar print.  I found this great set of Eric Carle prints on Amazon and am so happy with the results (and price).  

With some leftover Ikea frames, a can or two of spray paint, a wooden letter from Hobby Lobby, and some fabric, I made this art collage for Cruz to display some of his most prized art.  I used some Elmer's spray adhesive (from Hobby Lobby) to stick the fabric on the frame glass, and used hot glue to adhere the wooden letter on the fabric on the bottom right print.  I stapled a piece of twine on the top right, and clipped a couple of small clothespins.  It was fun to coordinate the fabric colors with his very hungry caterpillar bedding, and Cruz points at his fishbowl every morning.        

I think I love Cruz's space upstairs as much as he does.  It's so cozy up there, and he loves sprawling out on his tummy and looking at books on the floor.  My favorite part is watching him sleep in that bed of his.  Most of the time, he falls asleep with his feet on his pillow and his head at the foot of the bed - usually in a pajama shirt and no pants, with his head snuggled up close to his blankie, and paci in hand, not mouth.  

Our bedtime routine is a little much, but it works for now and is quite a leap from rocking.  First, we read books downstairs.  Next, we retrieve blanket and exchange good night kisses with mom or dad.  Next, we say prayers and 'tuck' our wee one in tight before hitting the foot of the bed while Cruz slowly gives in.  Once he's asleep, he's asleep for the night, but at times, it takes awhile.  Sometimes, he does it on his own; other times, he prefers lying face to face with a hand on your cheek.  

I still have a few diy projects to finish and reveal in the near future.  Stay tuned for progress (which is a little slower these days ;).

Happy weekend, everyone.     


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

call me an alchemist

(I am once again struck by the overly fragmented, incredibly jumbled workings of a mind back to work.  Although I felt like writing tonight, this is possibly the most long-winded, tangential ramble I have written in the three years I've kept this blog.  Bear with me...)  

It's taken me 28 years, but I think I finally understand alchemy.  The first and most fundamental law in alchemy, or the study of matter, is called the Equivalent Exchange.  It basically says that when we give something up, we gain something in return.  Likewise, to obtain something new, something else must be lost.  We've seen the proof in this law in many forms, specifically as we've advanced in the way we learn.  In the beginning of time, people relied on their memories to tell stories and make sense of their world.  And because they used it so much, their memory was vast and capable of remembering significant amounts of information.  Over time, this evolved into the oral tradition; a vast and rich collection of stories remembered and told for generations upon generations with nothing to rely on but their memory. 

Then, centuries later, our memories took a hit when we welcomed a little thing called the printing press, this amazing invention that allowed us to record our stories, thoughts, and research to keep a record for all time.  And while this advancement is very likely one of the most monumental inventions in history, you can bet there were old men in coffee shops griping about the thing when it first came out.  

"People don't talk anymore --- they all got their heads in a book."

Research has shown that as we grew accustomed to writing and reading our thoughts, our memories shrunk significantly.  After all, if you don't use something as frequently as you used to, it becomes less efficient.  Case in point:  my body.  Tonight, I tried to relieve some stress by going for a run in my neighborhood.  I ran as hard as I could, for as long as I could, and found myself near death after what was probably a half-mile.  In high school, I'd run for a half hour straight and not break a sweat.  Let's just say my body was in a little better shape ten years ago...  

I digress.      

Today, we live in a world full of social media, 24/7 technology, and instant access to whatever it is we're looking for.  Instead of relying on a map, or a compass, or Gary from that Kwik Star off the interstate, we let Siri, or Tom Tom, or Google tell us where it is we're going.  Instead of calling someone on the phone, we send a text, and instead of keeping in touch with friends by writing or visiting, we would rather sit behind a computer screen and stalk their Facebook page without them knowing.  We can't even sit through a dinner date without checking our email, responding to a text, or Googling the unknown answer to a question that comes up in conversation (even if knowing Macaulay Culkin's age really could have waited until after dinner).

And while it's true that this technology can literally take us to the ends of the earth (and back again) in a matter of seconds, many believe it's come with a cost.  Our writing skills have worsened, our level of focus has weakened, and our ability to think for ourselves, use our imagination, and play has went out the window with the rest of the natural world we oftentimes ignore.  We've gained, we've lost, and I often wonder that if this is the case, are we ever truly advancing or are we continually stuck at zero?

Today I lost my summer break, but when I tucked Cruz in tonight, kissed his cheeks, and whispered sweet dreams in his ear, I realized I've gained something equally as special.  While I may have had him here all summer, taking part in creative projects and eating lunch out of muffin tins under shade trees, I think I have a deeper appreciation, a keener sense of awareness as a working mom.   

When I work all day, it seems every minute counts when I get home.  From the time I leave that parking lot, I'm aching to get to Cruz's daycare, and the minute I see his face from across the playground, the stress of the day just washes away.  I pay closer attention to his smile, listen and hang on every 'word' he says, and make sure I make up for the kisses and snuggles I missed throughout the day. 

I picked Cruz up today and he hasn't seemed happier to see me since May.  He spotted me from across the playground, and immediately came running, talking a mile a minute as I scooped him up in my arms.  He was excited about his day, but even more excited to tell me about it, and he had my full attention as he jabbered all the way to the car.    

Tonight, we had rhythm, we had structure, and we had fun.  There's something about working again that makes me get home and feel more productive.  I feel like setting the table for dinner, cooking a fresh, balanced meal, and saying our prayers before we eat.  Meal plans get crossed off the list more frequently, bath-time happens more regularly, and it seems I appreciate those family walks at sunset a little more after not being outside all day.
I put Cruz to bed tonight and thanked my lucky stars for the sweet boy I get to raise.  And as if he knew our life was starting a new routine, he made sure to make the most out of bedtime.  Instead of our usual perch on the end of the bed while Cruz falls asleep, he pulled me close, put his little hand on my cheek, and together we lay face to face in the quiet coziness of his upstairs nook.  For the longest time, he laid there quietly, blinking his eyes slowly and staring into mine with a relaxed and casual concentration.  He looked so adorable staring at me that way.  Then, after a a minute or so, he'd reach over and lay a soft kiss on my lips, making his little 'mmm' sound effect, before laying his head back down ready to drift to sleep.  We played this little game for awhile, before I finally kissed his forehead, tucked him in, and tip-toed out of his room.
I had plenty of special moments like this this summer, moments that blended together to make this beautiful little experience I am beyond thankful for.  And although I've often longed to be home with him everyday, being a working mom isn't so bad.  Maybe it's alchemy.  Maybe it's just perspective.
Either way, it's a good place to be. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

goodbye, sweet summer break...

let me count the ways...

I took a few pictures this summer!  It's so fun to look back and see the colorful images that really tell the story of our summer.

Until we meet again...bring on apple-picking and leaf piles!  


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