With Care


We’re in the bathroom flossing, brushing, and talking. The end of the day, getting ready for bed, catching up now that the little people are sleeping. You might call this our quality time together. I finish before him and take a seat. He looks over at me and notices me feeling around in my mouth. 

“My left canine is sharper than my right,” I say. 

“Those are for eating meat,” he jokes, crouching down in front me so we can examine his teeth. “Mine are flat, see?”

I’ll be…they are flat, naturally—and perfectly aligned, not naturally. This isn’t the first time I’ve noted how beautiful his teeth are. No, I remember him flashing those pearly whites the first time I saw him at the old Baptist church in Cumby, Texas over fifteen years ago. Swoon. 

Like me, he had braces as a teenager, but he also got braces just on his bottom teeth a few years back because he noticed a slight deviation from perfection. He also had a retainer made for his top teeth that he wears every night to keep his chompers in line. The man works hard to keep that handsome smile. 

At the time, he asked me if I wanted braces on bottom too. There is no slight deviation in my bottom teeth, rather, they are noticeably crooked on the right side. One tooth falls back while its neighbors crowd in front. But I like them that way, and for a good reason. 

I remember watching my mom floss and brush, after which she always did the floss test. She would jut her bottom jaw forward like a bulldog, exposing her bottom teeth, and then suck air through the cracks in her teeth, and likewise for the top ones, ensuring that the floss had done its job. Her top teeth were pretty straight, but her bottom teeth were a little crowded and crooked in front, just like mine. 

“Who do you take after?” I’ve heard this question countless times growing up, and even now when people see pictures of my mom and dad. It’s a valid question, I get it. While my sister looks very much like my dad, my DNA seems to express the recessive genes. The answer is, mostly my dad’s side. I have my Grannie’s eyes, facial features and body type more like my dad’s siblings, and my dad’s skin tone. 

When I see pictures of me with my mom, I sometimes think there’s a similarity between our chins or smiles, though I can’t quite name it. Or sometimes I wonder if I have her legs. I remember her having the prettiest white legs. While the rest of her body aged, which she hated her baggy eyes and sagging neck the most, her legs lagged twenty years behind with only a wrinkle or two above the knee caps. I don’t have her hair, skin, or eyes, and there’re more junk in my trunk and less up top—she was the opposite. 

But I think I have her sense of humor and the ability to laugh at myself like she did. She was pretty even-tempered and excited by little things, adventurous and loved to travel. And she dealt with things internally, didn’t always communicate like she should have. One could argue that these things are more nurture than nature, that I could have inherited these characteristics apart from a biological connection. 

And though there is not much outward semblance between us, I wonder if we share the same insides; that is, I wonder if I will die like she did–spontaneously, unexpectedly, relatively young–though I’m not really sure what the cause of death was. The autopsy suggests she died as the result of blunt force injuries from when her car wrecked, but something was happening to her before the wreck, and therein lies the mystery. Surely they would have found something obvious like an aortic aneurysm, blood clot, or heart attack while they tested and scanned her body for hours in ICU, but their tests revealed nothing behind the massive amounts of bleeding and cardiac arrest. 

Not too long ago my dad came to visit for the day and we decided to have a picnic at the nearby lake. He sat at the kitchen table while I made a BLT for each of us. I toasted the bread and spread the requested condiments, sliced the tomatoes and arranged them evenly on each sandwich, followed by salt and pepper, then a layer of spinach and bacon before finishing up. 

“You make sandwiches like your mom,” he said, and I knew exactly what he meant. I saw her standing in the kitchen, summertime, showing off those pretty legs, neatly layering lettuce and tomato, shaking the salt and pepper, every bite just right. 

“With care?” I replied.

“Yes, with care.”
You may not be able to see that I am my mother’s daughter when you look at pictures of us. It may be that I only hold the nuture traits and not the nature ones. I may or may not have her insides (dad, I promise I’ll get a thorough testing by the time I’m 40). But, I do have these crooked bottom teeth, physical evidence that I am her daughter, and I make sandwiches with care. 

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Birth Story

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I began having contractions on Sunday night around 10pm. They were mild, every 15 minutes or so throughout the night, and when morning came they were closer to 10. My midwife told me that moms usually wait until contractions are spaced at 4-5 minutes before coming in, so the waiting game began. Erik stayed home from work and I spent the morning alternating between resting and walking. The only problem was that my contractions only seemed to pick up whenever I moved around. If I went for a walk, I could get them down to 5 minutes, but once I went back to resting, they slowed back down to 10 or 12. This continued into the afternoon so my midwife thought that maybe the baby’s head wasn’t in a good position and suggested I do some inversions. So I did down dog, forward fold, and dolphin pose, which caused my contractions to pick back up, but yet again space out when resting.

It had been over 12 hours since labor began, and I was starting to lose heart. I felt like my body wasn’t progressing like it should, and it seemed I was having an usually long stage of early labor. Moreoever, the contractions were painful, more so than I remembered with Sayla. I was angry that I was in so much pain (ha!), yet not getting closer to the finish line. Around 4pm, after doing more inversions, the contractions got closer to 5-8 minutes regularly, and they were intense. Even though I wasn’t at the 4-5 spacing, I was ready to go to the midwife.

As we drove to the birthing center, my contractions drew closer and I was very uncomfortable. We arrived a little after 5pm. I immediately started crying when I walked in the door; I didn’t know what to say—I was disappointed, frustrated, discouraged. This was my second baby. I wasn’t supposed to be in labor this long. My body was supposed to know how to do this the second time around.

They prepared the tub for me, and then checked me to see how far I was dilated. I was dreading this moment, assuming I would be around 4 or 5 based on the spacing of my contractions. Turns out I was at least a 9, almost fully dilated!

I felt immediate relief when I got in the warm tub, the midwife applying gentle pressure to the outside of my hips/back with each contraction, which were now 1-2 minutes apart. Perhaps it was the water, the anti-gravity property, or maybe it was knowing I was at the home stretch, but the contractions didn’t seem so bad anymore. And after about 30 minutes, Erik asked when I should start pushing. “She could probably start now,” they said, “not every woman feels the urge to push.”

It was like this with Sayla, no urge to push. I’ve heard so many stories of women saying they couldn’t resist their bodies telling them to push, and then boom, out came the baby! I thought this time I might feel that urge, my body taking control and not my mind, but no. So I started pushing with the contractions even though I didn’t feel the need to.

After some laboring in a kneeling position, the midwife asked me to switch so that I was more supine (basically floating on my back in a tuck position, the other midwife and Erik helping to support me) in order to have my pelvis tilt in a way more conducive for the baby. I remembered the midwife with Sayla saying the same thing; I needed to lay down because the angle of my pubic bone was hard for the baby to get past. “My body’s not made for this,” I said to my midwife when she asked me to change to this position. She assured me it was, and probably has heard that a thousand times! But really, in that moment, I was irritated at my body, at my pubic bone, that I wasn’t feeling the urge to push.

I continued there for a bit, and the midwife suggested that maybe holding my breath as I pushed would help. Again, I had heard this before with Sayla and I hated it. As a yogi, holding my breath through pain and discomfort is the most unnatural thing you could ask of me. It was so strange reliving these same cues from my midwife (a different one than Sayla’s).

After a while the supine position wasn’t working out so I went to a squat (still in the tub). I suppose I got into the zone at this point, centering myself and channelling my emotions. This baby had to come out. And before long I felt him crowning (yes!), out came his head (finally!), and with the next big push his shoulders and body followed (thank you, Jesus!).

I was relieved, obviously, and so grateful to be done and have my sweet baby in arms. He was little and lanky, big feet, big eyes. He was perfect. Yet in the midst of my joy, there was almost a resentment toward my body and how his birth unfolded. I was in a strange headspace, so many emotions at once, completely unable to sort and manage them. And while I wanted my first moments holding Max to be soaked in pure delight, they were tainted with disappointment and confusion.

Max and I had our special hour together of skin to skin contact while I delivered the placenta and got some stitches. He cried nearly the whole time, and it wasn’t until the very end that he latched on a bit. By 9:15pm we were out the door headed home, so we were only at the birthing center for about 4 hours. This was bittersweet, mostly because I went in thinking I was in early labor, and suddenly I was back in our car with Max in his carseat. A bit of a whirlwind.

Max’s birth wasn’t what I thought it would be. In hindsight, I wish I would have had a doula with me at home while I was laboring, or that I had gone to the birthing center sooner to have known where I was in labor; I felt alone and unsupported. I wish I didn’t have to push so dang long to get a baby out, but that’s how God made my body.  And lastly, Max’s birth wasn’t the kind of peak experience I had with Sayla (which concerned me at first), but now that I’ve processed my emotions, it’s ok; it doesn’t have to be the same, and it doesn’t mean I love him any less. It was just a different experience, as it should be. I’m sure those women who have had multiple births have their favorite ones and those that weren’t so great. Such is life.

This experience reveals that no matter how open we think we are or want to be, there are always expectations lurking beneath the surface, expectations that we’ve created or ones that others have established for us. We are never fully surrendered. Just when we think we have laid it all at His feet the Lord reveals something else we’re withholding. I clearly expected his birth to be different, easier honestly, because that’s what everyone told me. Granted, I did not push for 3 hours like with Sayla, but I did push for almost an hour, which is still a long time! And my total labor was actually longer with Max, about 20 hours, when it was only 10 with Sayla.

Now that I’m several weeks postpartum, my feelings about Max’s birth seem a bit unfounded. After all, I had a healthy, full term baby at a birthing center without any medical interventions or complications, and isn’t that all that really matters? What more could I ask? But it is more complex than just the physical facts. There is a heart—a mind, a soul—wrapped up in what is one of the most defining, life-changing moments of a woman’s life. And though we tell ourselves all that matters is mom and baby are healthy, there is so much more invested, hinging on that experience than we give credence to.

But alas, we made it, baby number two. Max Taras Sienty is here, 6 pounds 9 ounces at birth, 20 inches long, and we are so grateful to be entrusted with his life. Thanks be to God!

 

Utah

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We went to Park City, Utah at the end of July for a family reunion/birthday celebration on Erik’s side of the family. We stayed in a big fancy house at the base of the ski slopes. The only meal I made was my morning toast. The coffee was brewed by someone else each day, the dishes done by other hands. I took a steam shower. I slept till 8 one day. I sat on the back patio and breathed deep the familiar smell of aspen and pine, aching deeply for my mom. I planned nothing. Aside from keeping an eye on Sayla (along with everyone else), I barely lifted a finger.

Whenever we travel somewhere, we always end up discussing whether or not we could live in that area. We weigh the pro and cons—the weather, the culture, the cost of living—and we either cross it off the list of prospects, or tuck it away for future daydreaming. Some people know where they want to live, and others (like us) are overwhelmed by the options, keeping one eye on the horizon at all times.

I often wonder which is worse: knowing where you want to live yet not being there, or not knowing where you want to live and constantly searching for where you should call home. Perhaps they are equally unsettling. Some of us have the freedom to live wherever we please, others are tied to a location due to family, finances, jobs, or health reasons.

The area we live now predominantly consists of families that have lived here for generations: people my age who have never even left the county they were born in. At first this boggled (and bothered) me, but I’ve learned to appreciate the endearing side of it, the roots running deep in land and bloodlines. And I wonder, maybe if my mom hadn’t have died, if we still had family anchored in Colorado, we may have never moved to Texas.

When I was at church the other day, a sweet elderly lady introduced herself to me and then asked who I belonged to. Well, no one (around here at least). And I realized how strange I must have seemed to her; she’s not accustomed to meeting an outsider, someone with no family ties. Around here, everyone is related to someone.

Anyway, back to Utah…inevitably, being in the mountains also makes us discuss whether we are beach people or mountain people. According to my neighbor, this is one of the biggest problems with the American mindset: we are an either/or society, ruled by dichotomy. We are country or city people, paleo or vegan, introvert or extrovert, conservative or liberal. Coloring outside these lines, mixing the palette, makes us too uncomfortable.

I’m both, a beach person and a mountain person, probably 35% and 65% respectively if you want to get technical. I always enjoy a long walk on the beach, but I’m partial to hiking trails lined with aspens and evergreens, to cool mountain air and high elevations, because it’s my homeland, probably coded in my DNA. Really, category-wise, I’m a “walking outside person,” and though I’m tempted to tag “in nature” onto that label, I loved walking through the city those years I lived in Denver.

Utah made us revisit our ideas to move back to Colorado someday, awakened the slumbering giant that wants to hike and camp and live like hippies, reminded us of all we miss about life out West. But then we recall the cost of living, how outrageous the housing market is in Colorado now, that we’d be living paycheck to paycheck, and the giant gets drowsy again.

However, all of this daydreaming—for mountains, winter snow, and cool summer nights— convicted me of a peculiar covetousness: of grasping for something that isn’t meant to be had in a permanent sense, but simply experienced. I was challenged to enjoy our fancy accommodations in ritzy Park City for what is was: a perfect getaway in a beautiful place with wonderful people. To let it be amazing, and fleeting, and okay with its passing. It’s fun to play the could-we-live-here game, but sometimes it just feels like the place we really do live isn’t good enough, like there’s something better and we’re trying to find it—a bit gluttonous: we can’t just enjoy a few bites, we have to stuff our faces.

This is a word for all of us, not just the nomads and travelers. We all take pieces of our lives—say an afternoon off from work, a splendid meal with our favorite people, a perfectly productive and restful weekend—and instead of accepting those experiences as gifts to be enjoyed for what they are, in the moment, we devise plans to make all of our life look like those pieces, so much that we begin to lament, or even worse—despise—the reality of our everyday living.

So here’s to enjoying the part without trying to make it the whole. Here’s to grand homes and hobbit houses, aspens and oak trees, mountains and prairies. Here’s to being in the moment for however long or short it may be, wherever it may be, and with whomever. Instead of hoarding and molding all the best places and people and experiences into our very own golden calf, let us enjoy new manna each morning, hands and hearts open.

This Time Around

This pregnancy has been nearly identical to my first: the first-trimester sickness; the various food cravings (nothing strange, really); the ailments (some heartburn, mediocre sleep); the perks (clear skin, thickening hair, yet leg hair that practically stops growing…strange, I know); and the way my body carries the weight of baby (like a basketball). It has only felt different these last couple weeks, as if he has snuggled lower into my pelvis. Perhaps this is what it means to have the baby drop? Or maybe this is just what it’s like now that my body’s already been around the baby block. With Sayla I don’t remember feeling as much pressure so low, like she would stay in me forever (41 weeks and 3 days). But now I’m thinking, “Dude, can you give a girl a break?” Oh, and the vericose veins streaking my thighs—these are a new thing with this pregnancy.

It was around 30 weeks that the reality of childbirth set in, when I felt the slight panic of what the coming months would entail, his grand exit from my body. I began to eat the words I told my husband at the beginning of pregnancy, how I wasn’t really all that concerned with labor and delivery, wasn’t worried about the pain of giving birth to a tiny human. Like it was just a side note (ha!).

At this point the panic has subsided, and I’m in the stage of acceptance. I’m more concerned with setting aside expectations of how this birth will play out. With Sayla I had no frame of reference to gauge or compare against, but now I do: I remember the intensity of contractions; the actual labor it requires to push a baby out; how exhausting, yet not unbearable, it was for me the first time around. I’m aware that this birth can be (and probably will be) completely different. I may not handle the contractions as well, I may not push for 3 hours (please no!). My water might break (it didn’t with Sayla). I might begin having contractions days leading up to the actual birth, or it may come really fast. There’s no way of knowing, but I’m certain I’ll be better off approaching this birth with an open mind like I had to with Sayla, that as much as I hope and wish it will turn out a certain way, I really have very little control over the process.

However, I do have plans for post birth, which is the primary reason I have chosen to use a birthing center over a hospital. With Sayla I gave birth on a Saturday morning and was not released to go home until Tuesday. I was at the hospital for over 3 whole days after having a natural birth, Sayla and I both completely healthy, other than her losing a little more weight at the onset than desired. I couldn’t sleep, we were constantly having our vitals checked every few hours, and my milk supply was being questioned within 48 hours after birth. For a first-time mom, the pressure was crushing, and thus my relationship with breastfeeding started out on the completely wrong foot and never really recovered.

So this time around, I want to be at home after my baby is born. I want to hold him and nurse him in the comfort of my own bed, without fluorescent lights and beeping monitors. I want to actually sleep within those first few days after birth, eat food that isn’t from a hospital cafeteria. I want zero questioning of my milk supply until it’s actually an acceptable time to be concerned. I want our life as a family of four to begin in a relatively calm, relaxed environment. And barring any emergency situations, Lord willing, this is a reasonable expectation.

If I’m honest, the excitement of a new baby—the tiny feet, soft skin, and peach-fuzzy head—is not what has my thoughts right now. Instead, the reality, the weight of it all, is consuming most of my head space. The how-will-I-manage-a-newborn-and-toddler?, the woes of breastfeeding, the healing of my body, the lack of sleep. With Sayla I had no idea what the postpartum stage would be like, and likewise, I really don’t know what’s coming with this one. But, I do know how it could be if history were to repeat itself, which is not something I want to experience again.

In spite of my pessimism, or realism (probably a combination thereof), there is some hope that this baby will bring healing, mend the small tears. Hope that this time around I will not be so overwhelmed by and scared of the 8 pound life in my arms. Hope that this newborn experience will be more sweet than bitter. Perhaps there are some moms that don’t have a rough start to motherhood, for whom newborn life runs pretty smoothly. But others know how hard it can be—whether because their baby is colicky/inconsolable, or has some health issue, or breastfeeding is not working out, or childbirth was traumatic, or postpartum depression—some moms know how these kinds of things can rob one of reveling in the newness of her sweet baby.

I know one thing for sure will make a difference, and that’s confidence. When before I had none, plagued by the question of am I doing this right?, I now have some grasp on motherhood, an understanding that it’s going to be okay, and I can, in fact, keep a baby alive. I finally have some footing, which took months, if not a year, to find with Sayla. I think all parents are inherently haunted by the am-I-doing-this-right, even when kids are grown and living independently, but not to the scorching degree it is the first time around.

I promise I do have a motherly heart and there are some things I’m looking forward to. Childbirth, the end part, when he finally comes out and is placed on my chest. This was the most divine, remarkable experience of my life (with Sayla), and I’m certain I will feel that same high again. And that first smell of his head, right from the womb. You’d think it would be a strange (bad) smell after nine months in bodily fluid, but the scent is wonderfully sweet and pure. And yes, tiny hands and feet, his fuzzy head and soft skin, to see how he’ll look; Of course, I am excited to see and feel and behold the beauty of our newborn son.

And lastly, I don’t want to be so crazy this time around when it comes to breastfeeding. They say hindsight is 20-20, but when I look back to Sayla’s infancy, I’m not sure that persisting with nursing was the right decision, mostly because it was so emotionally and physically taxing on me. I’m not going to lie, breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby, but for some moms the cost (supply issues, health issues, stress, time spent pumping, etc.) can be too high. My earnest hope is that this baby nurses like a champ and I get through the initial discomfort relativiely quickly. Lord, help me.

Pregnancy and childbirth have a way of training you in one of the great paradoxes of life: to hope and hold on while surrendering and letting go. To have a will and plans and grit, but to also relinquish control. To cry out to God, laying petitions at His feet, yet finally yielding—nevertheless, not my will, O Lord, but Yours be done. I remember with Sayla wanting so badly to have a natural childbirth and no interventions, yet also knowing I had to accept that things may not go as planned: I might need an epidural or pitocin or c-section.

So again, this time around, as I enter these final weeks of pregnancy with heavy hopes and weighted mind, I must lay my expectations and concerns at His feet, trusting He will provide the perfect outcome. Trusting that He designed my body to bear children and nourish them, that He has formed the sweet life in my womb, that He is Lord over all—labor and delivery, breastfeeding, postpartum hormones, you name it—and I can rest in Him.

Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure

A couple months ago I felt a nudge. A nudge to put our TV away, out of sight, for an undetermined amount of time. I had been feeling a little frustrated by how many shows my daughter had started watching in a day—moving away from one in the morning and one in the evening—to double that if not more, which was entirely my doing. It’s not like she could start the programs herself. But I found myself caring less and less about the amount of time she was consuming Netflix, loosing the reigns because I just didn’t feel like saying no and fighting her persistence: “show! show! show!…”

Despite my own irritation with the direction we were going, I sensed something apart from that urging me to remove the TV from the living room. And so I sat with it, Googled it, texted a friend about it, emailed a blogger about it, and prayed about it. Google and looking to what others were doing didn’t help me much. Deep down, I knew that what other people were doing meant nothing if this was God nudging me. Other parents are not to be my guide, He is. And deep down, I knew it was the Lord nudging me because if it were just my own voice of reason I would not take such drastic measures. Instead, I would simply tighten the reigns—stop the shows but keep the TV as is, or go back to the two-a-day rule. But this wasn’t what God wanted. He wanted it gone, out of sight.

After about a week of sitting on it, I brought it up to my husband. Explained what I felt, my reasoning, why I sensed it was the Holy Spirit and not my own idea. I was worried about his reaction, that he might not be on board, mostly because I know Netflix is a big help to him on the nights I teach yoga. But he was actually in favor of the plan.

My biggest concern with ditching the TV was not how my daughter would handle it, but how I would. Netflix is the ideal babysitter—always there for just $10 a month. What would I do when it was time to cook dinner? Or when the weather was bad and she was bored? Or when I just wanted to sit there and do nothing? I knew this was more about me than her. It would require more effort and energy, getting down on the floor with her, reading more books, putting my own agenda aside when she needed my supervision or help. This action would require me to be more attentive and engaged.

In spite of my fears to banish the TV, His still small voice persisted: “There is buried treasure here.” And so I’ve been trusting these words, this promise—that in doing the extra work resulting from cutting back screen time, by digging deeper, getting dirtier, I will find buried treasure.

The morning after we put the TV up, my daughter asked “where show?” a few times throughout the day, but she didn’t whine or cry for it, and within a couple days she stopped asking altogether. Out of sight, out of mind. For me, however, it was not out of mind, and there were (and still are) times when I want it back in sight.

But perhaps what has surprised me most about taking Netflix away from our daily routine is that I don’t feel pressed for time like I thought I would. I am still able to get stuff done—make dinner, do dishes, get dressed, whatever—without her sitting in the recliner zoning out on Sarah & Duck. I realized that oftentimes when she was watching a show I was using that time to scroll through a social media feed, not always to do something productive. So in cutting back her screen time, I’ve unintentionally limited mine, which I’m certain is part of the buried treasure, and a conversation for another time.

And there has been a change in my daughter. When before she would head straight to the couch upon waking, asking for a show, she now plays with her toys. She is actually capable of entertaining herself without technology (gasp!). She is less whiney, more independent. It’s amazing.

Furthermore, I have come to seek the Lord more as a mom than I did before, simply because I must rely on Him for the strength and energy to keep up, to help me be engaged and savor these toddler days. Ordinarily I would depend on Netflix in my moments of tiredness or overwhelm, but now it is Him. Again, another part of that buried treasure.

I would like to interject here that my daughter still has some screen time. She has a Kindle she watches whenever we’re in the car, and I know my husband still turns on a show on the computer when I’m gone teaching yoga. I don’t know how long the no-TV season will last. Though I would like it to remain our new normal, I might just fall apart without Netflix once I have a newborn to manage and winter is here. We will see where He leads when the time comes.

I don’t know what else the buried treasure entails. Maybe it’s simply being present and enjoying these last few months with just my daughter before her brother arrives. Maybe it’s the little moments that would ordinarily be spent watching a show getting turned into teaching or bonding or playful moments. Maybe it’s my daughter becoming more imaginative and independent, less instantly gratified. Maybe taking the time to invest in her in these early days will reap benefits down the road. I can only imagine, only hope, only trust His word. I can only obey His voice calling out to me. But I do know this: He leads me beside still waters, to pastures green and full. He is my Shepherd, and His leading will always restore my soul.

Likewise, may you remember this the next time the Lord nudges you to do something you don’t really want to do. When He opens His hand and gives you bread to provide for your heart, though you’re certain He’s offering a stone. When you think He’s leading you to a dungeon for torture instead of peaceful pastures. Stop and remember who He is. That He is a good Father, a loving Shepherd, one that desires to satisfy you with His mercy and lovingkindess. To bring you into deeper intimacy with Him, dependency. He is aiming to restore your soul.

 

 

Florida Family Vacation

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My dream vacation looks something like this: an all inclusive yoga retreat on a tropical beach. That is, a couple yoga classes a day; fresh, organic vegetarian cuisine that I don’t have to plan, prep, or clean up; a juice and coffee/tea bar for all of my liquid cravings; daily walks on the beach; ample time for reading, writing, meditation, and slow conversation. And no small children.

This kind of trip is not on the horizon right now. Maybe five or ten years from now. Instead, I settle for a version of this, or at least that’s my hope. I hope that I can get some reading done while away, practice yoga, spend time outdoors on a walk, maybe not cook as much. But honestly, not even the watered down version is very accessible right now. Because I have a small child, almost two of them. This is a sobering realization for a wanderluster like me. I’m one of those people who was (and is) determined to continue traveling after having kids.

It’s not that vacationing with a small child is too stressful or too tiring to even bother with, because I know some people feel that way. Rather, it’s just not what it used to be—more laid back, more down time—and it’s taken me a few years to acclimate to this truth. However, instead of stopping the vacation train altogether, it’s my expectations that need altering. No, I’m not going to have extra time to read or go for walks or sleep in when we go on vacation right now, but I still get to experience a change of pace and scenery; I get to spend time with my family; I get to explore a new or familiar place with a little hand holding mine.

We’ve vacationed to Florida many times and have had different experiences with each visit: sometimes good, sometimes not, and that’s with and without Sayla. The truth is, we’re all subject to be let down by a vacation because of expectations, regardless of whether or not children are present. It once rained every day, all day, the whole time we were there, another time I got sick.

So here were the unexpected things:

The car ride. I thought 13 hours in the car with a toddler would be rough, but it wasn’t. Sayla did great, and it was actually one of the sweeter parts of our trip; the simplicity of being in the car, talking, dreaming, enjoying each other’s presence. Breaking the drive up into two days helped, I’m sure.

The beach. I thought Sayla would love playing in the sand with buckets and shovels, but she was primarily interested in getting out in the water. “Go to the beach!” she would say.

Fireworks. I thought Sayla would love them, but they scared her.

Plumbing problems. Erik ended up having to install a dishwasher and re-do the plumbing under the kitchen sink at the place we were staying, which took about 2 days total. We live in a fixer-upper, so certainly the last thing we wanted to do on vacation.

Ants. I peered my eyes open one morning to see Erik standing in the kitchen with the vacuum: “I need you as a witness. Come see this.” There were about 100 carpenter (big!) ants crawling on the floor, counter tops, and ceiling. And they kept invading. Thankfully this happened on the tail end of our trip.

Mashes sands. This is a small beach a few miles from where we stay. The water is coffee colored because the fresh water from the river meets the gulf. A bit of a lowly beach. But this year we went nearly every day because it was so great for Sayla.

Jelly fish. I got my first stings—on my pregnant belly, mind you.

And the things we learned from this trip:

As previously mentioned, we need to adjust our expectations for vacationing as a family. It’s not about kicking up our feet anymore, but all of us being together and creating memories.

Staying at a house/hotel on the beach is ideal, because packing the car and kids to go to and from the beach is a heck of a lot of work, especially cleaning off their salty, sandy, sticky bodies. I timed it—one day it took us 25 minutes. The principle behind this: have some fun/activities at your doorstep.

We must be getting older because both of us were jealous of Sayla’s long sleeve swim shirt. Yeah, a little tan is nice, but spending hours in the sun is too much, and instead of going inside, a long sleeve shirt and wide brim hat are an easy fix. We will be those people covered up at the beach.

We have visited the coast house with family and friends, and as just us, and we decided this last time that it’s better when there are others there to enjoy it with us.

And lastly, something that’s been lingering in my mind for a while now—even before this trip—is rest. Where do we find it and how do we get it as mothers/parents? I’m learning that rest sits in pockets at this stage in life, not stretched over long periods of time. Like when we sat on the screened-in porch with iced drinks and watched the boats coast by while Sayla ate ice for about 15 minutes, a pocket of rest. Or when we gathered on the picnic blanket on the beach for lunch and listened to the waves roll in, another pocket. I may not have a whole morning to myself, but these little moments can be found throughout the day if we slow down enough to notice them.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of complaining; we are thankful for the opportunity to get away, to afford a trip to the coast, to have a family vacation home to stay at. Really, we’re just rookie parents learning how to enjoy traveling with kids, and this is an honest look at how that process is unfolding. Ultimately, like most things in life, it’s not about the circumstances needing to change, but one’s outlook and attitude. So we will press on to new adventures both near and far, little hands and feet in tow, with a new perspective and realistic expectations.

Just Yesterday

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Every May and June the orange lilies bloom around here, a sweet reminder of my wedding day, ten years ago now. I remember standing at the counter of the florist with my mom, 21-years-old, with no idea what I wanted and taken off guard by how much flowers cost. I told the lady my colors and she suggested lilies. I was easily swayed.

On June 9th we married, on a muggy Saturday afternoon beneath the oak trees. It rained while I was getting ready, but half an hour before the ceremony the skies parted and sun shone. He was wearing a suit too hot for a Texas summer wedding, but that’s about the only thing I would change.

I had very little idea what I was doing when I planned our wedding. Being out of state didn’t help. And we had a small budget. There was no Pinterest at the time, no flood of wedding blogs to peruse, and none of my friends were married yet. I was on the frontier.

We had a free location, but a tent and chairs were still needed. The other big ticket items were food and cake, a photographer, and my dress. The lady who made my cake baked out of her home. It was more of her hobby, not her job. I remember sitting in her living room drinking a glass of iced tea while looking through a scrapbook of cakes she had baked. In the fireplace across from me were some cardboard items they were planning to burn with their next fire.

And the caterer—I went with a hole in the wall BBQ restaurant, and by hole in the wall I mean their seating consisted of standard folding tables covered with plastic, red-checkered cloths resting on a dirt floor. I remember calling them the week before my wedding in a panic because I hadn’t heard from them since booking: “Are you going to be there?! I haven’t heard from you!” My bridezilla moment.

I wanted a simple dress, something that wouldn’t drag on the ground, but even that was daunting. I wasn’t the girl who always dreamed of herself wearing a certain kind of gown. I didn’t have my colors picked out at fifteen. Instead, I chose burnt orange and red because I thought they would provide a nice contrast to all the green. That was a good call.

My favorite parts were walking down the aisle to the score from Meet Joe Black. Partaking in communion. Seeing our friends and family. The BBQ and cake both turned out pretty good despite their humble origins. And then the bubbles that showered us as we walked to the limo, the ride to our hotel over an hour away, giving us the much needed time to soak it all up.

A lot of people might say “it seems like just yesterday we said ‘I do’,” but I don’t feel that way. Partly because I hate that saying—like you’ve missed out on something, ten years in this instance. Like you’ve been sleep walking and life has danced around you without you knowing.

These are the chunks that form our life together: the tree house apartment with the real fireplace and christmas and camping gear stored in our car trunks because storage was so tight. My senior year of college and our jobs at Starbucks. The condo—way too much storage; evenings spent at that huge 24 hour fitness, and trips to Sunflower Market for groceries. My first non-coffee job. His PTA schooling. The apartment in Capitol Hill—walks to Whole Foods for a snack and then a lap around Cheesman park, riding our scooter and playing frisbee. The death of my mom. Faraway travels to Maui, Mexico, Tahiti, Turkey, Greece, and Ukraine, and many places stateside. Hiking, camping, bike riding. Calvary Chapel Aurora, Westminster Presbyterian, and now Cooper First Baptist. A cat named Jilly, and now a dog named Rocky. A move from Colorado to Texas. The Hobbit House. The start of a family we were so unsure of: a daughter and soon to be a son.

And these are just the physical chunks, the roadside markers of our lives. Like an iceberg, the real girth lies beneath the surface—the people we’ve become, the lessons we’ve learned, the way the Lord has shaped and molded us.

There’s a lot of talk of mindfulness, which usually refers to the present, being in the moment and being aware. But what about mindful remembrance? identifying the parts that comprise the whole and reflecting on them, not lumping them together as if they’ve disentegrated to nothing, to “just yesterday.” I want to remember my life well, the ups and downs, the happy and sad, and that most certainly starts with mindfulness in the moment, but then translating that to recollection.

I will probably give in someday. Perhaps when my own daughter is walking down the aisle: my heart will ache at how fast the time has passed, that just yesterday she was a bleach blonde toddler running around barefoot outside. And I will have to remind myself to slow down and remember all of the pieces—the long, hard seasons, the places we lived and traveled, the heartfelt conversations, the everyday living, that the woman she’s become didn’t happen over night.

The truth is, our marriage contains 3,650 “just yesterdays” and counting. Three thousand six hundred fifty new mercies every morning, abundant opportunties to give thanks, noteworthy moments filling up each of those days. This is fullness I cannot contain, a cup that runneth over. May the Lord help me to be mindful of all His gifts—from the ordinary to the extravagant, noticing them as they happen, and then remembering all that He has done, both tomorrow and the next ten years from now.