Tag Archives: blessed

Dad-o

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I happen to think that I picked one of the best men around to be the father of my children.

Side note: I happen to know tons of women who think they picked a pretty awesome guy to be the father of their children and that makes me really happy. I have a lot of gratitude about that, and I think it’s pretty cool that my friends have such great husbands.

Awesome dad exhibit 1: He jumped rope for them.

Awesome dad exhibit 1: He jumped rope for them.

Awesome dad exhibit 2: He wore these bunny ears while feeding the baby.

Awesome dad exhibit 2: He wore these bunny ears while feeding the baby.

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Awesome dad exhibit 3: Then he let the kids ride on him – which they do ALL. THE. TIME.

In addition to being an awesome father, my husband also made me feel pretty special on Mother’s Day. Special like, took all three kids to the grocery store on a Saturday morning so he could make me French toast. Then sending me off for a pedicure with strict instructions not to return for several hours. And when I did finally return, not only did he make me chocolate chip cookies, but he also made me scotcheroos. I’ve never, ever, ever had anyone make me chocolate chip cookies. I’m always the one making them for other people – usually my family – and I LOVE doing it. But I would often jokingly complain that no one ever made ME cookies. And then he did. His first time ever. And they were awesome.

So I knew that I wanted to make Husband feel really special on Father’s Day. And I did make him a favorite dessert and get him a cool T-shirt and some of his favorite snacks and a gift certificate for golf. BUT, my favorite parte was something the girls and I worked on over a month ago. I asked them all the reasons they loved their daddy, or things they wanted to thank daddy for, and this is what they came up with.

Daddy …

  1. I want to thank you for making our bunk beds. (Bean)
  2. I want to say thank you for helping me do my best each day. (Monkey)
  3. I want to say thank you for cleaning up our toys downstairs. (Bean)
  4. I want to thank you for getting out our playhouse. (Bean)
  5. I want to thank you for picking up all the sticks in our yard. (Monkey)
  6. I want to thank you for covering us back up with our blankets at night. (Bean)
  7. I want to thank you for making food for us when we’re sick. (Monkey)
  8. I want to thank you for the special Mother’s Day for Mommy. (Bean)
  9. I want to thank you for buying us toys. (Monkey)
  10. I want to thank you for building our wood playhouse. (Bean)
  11. I love it when you give us hugs and kisses at nighttime. (Monkey)
  12. I love it when you snuggle with me at nighttime. (Monkey and Bean)
  13. I love it when you wrestle with us. (Monkey)
  14. I love it when you eat at the table with us and we’re all together. (Bean)
  15. I love it when you give us rides on the lawnmower and let us steer. (Monkey)
  16. I love it when you push us high on the swings. (Bean)
  17. I love it when you help me ride my bike. (Monkey)
  18. I love it that you help me in swimming class. (Bean)
  19. I love it that you help me pick up the apples from the apple tree. (Monkey)
  20. I love it that you help me with puzzles. (Bean)
  21. I love it when you give us horsey back rides. (Monkey and Bean)
  22. I love it when you take our pictures. (Monkey and Bean)
  23. I love it when you give us a bath and you let us throw toys at you and squirt each other. (Monkey)
  24. I love it when you play hide and seek with us. (Bean)
  25. I love it when you hold us. (Monkey and Bean) 

Daddy, these are the reasons why we love you!

I also had the girls answer these fun questions about their daddy:

 

All About My Daddy

By Monkey (age 5) and Bean (age 3)

 

My daddy is 17 feet and 40 inches tall

He weighs 40 pounds

His hair color is brown

His eyes are blue

His favorite TV show is baseball

He likes to go to Qdoba

His favorite food is Hello Dolly bars

His favorite drink is soda

For fun he likes to play with us

I love it when my daddy gives us piggy back rides

My favorite thing about my daddy is when he plays outside with us

I ❤ MY DADDY

Father’s Day 2013

Husband they love you sooooo much. They adore you. You are so important to them and this family and I am so grateful to have you as my partner in the most important job of our lives.

xoxo

They will always be daddy's little girls.

They will always be daddy’s little girls.

Set This Circus Down

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It’s hard to know where to start when trying to sum up 10 years of marriage, not to mention the six years of togetherness prior to marriage. Husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage a week and a half ago, and our wedding day seems like yesterday.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

May 16, 2003. Bliss.

Until I actually flipped through all of our photo albums since we were married … and then it seemed like a lifetime ago.

Ten years. Our wedding day, up to that point, was the happiest day of our lives.

Everyone who came talked about what a fun party it was, and at the gift opening the next day, Husband and I promised that we would renew our vows and have a big anniversary party for our 10th anniversary.

And then our reality happened.

So much for a special "family" celebration on our 10-year anniversary - crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So much for a special “family” celebration on our 10-year anniversary – crabby, hungry kids and screaming baby.

So I guess our vow renewal and super awesome anniversary party will have to wait a few more years.

For our one-year anniversary, the traditional gift is paper, and I had the brilliant idea that Husband and I should forego an actual gift in favor of each writing down our memories of our wedding day (on paper — get it?). So naturally, I wrote down TWENTY-FIVE PAGES of memories — bulleted, single-spaced, 12-point font. And I wrote down my memories not just from the wedding day, but the five days before it and one day after it. Husband wrote down 11 pages worth of memories, double-spaced, 18-point font. I’d say that’s quite an achievement for a guy who doesn’t like to write!

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Reading memories of our wedding day on our first anniversary.

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Going back to the church we were married at on our first anniversary.

First anniversary dinner.

First anniversary dinner. We look like little kids!

A couple of highlights:

  • When I woke up in the morning I said to my cousin (who’s like my sister), “I don’t want the day to start because I know it’s going to be over before I know it.”
  • Making the very short drive to church from my parents’ house felt like forever. There was such anticipation. When we were driving up the big hill into the parking lot and I saw all the cars, I got nervous for the first time and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! People actually came!” I don’t know why, but I genuinely was surprised that there were people there. It finally started to feel real, and not just like a dress-up game.
  • My mom saying, “Well, Jen, I have to tell you — I take back that you’re going to be late for your own wedding, because you’re early!”
  • When we said our vows. We both had memorized them and we were both so confident. I thought I would cry, but I was just so happy.
  • The same cousin (whom I dubbed the “Cousin of Honor” for the wedding) was dying of starvation by the time we made it to dinner. During the entire meal she made food noises, and said things like “Oh, this is so good. Oh yum. Yum, yum, yum. This is sooooo good.” (this still cracks me up)
  • All day long I said to my BRAND NEW HUSBAND, “We have so much to look forward to.” And I wasn’t just excited about continuing our wedding experience by going on a fabulous honeymoon/vacation. I was talking about all the years we would spend together, having kids, watching them grow up, going on adventures, living our lives together forever.
  • My BFF and maid of honor ended her speech by saying, “May your dreams of today be your realities of tomorrow.” This has always stuck with me (and as far as google can tell me, she made that up all on her own).
My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It's so lovely. I still love this cake.

My grandma made this cake with her own two hands. It’s so lovely. I still love this cake.

What we felt that day is almost indescribable. We felt SO INCREDIBLY LOVED. It was like nothing we had ever experienced before. Every single person who was there, was there for us. We both felt completely honored that people would come and be there just for us.

We had people warn us about how expensive weddings are and how afterward we would wish that we hadn’t “wasted” all that money on a wedding, and instead used it for a down payment on a house. They told us that we would wish we had eloped.

For us at least? Never, ever, ever, ever in a million billion years. We wouldn’t have given up that wedding day or how we felt on that day, for anything in the world. It was exactly what we wanted, and the feeling was more than we could have imagined.

***

Husband and I got engaged in August 2001, and a few months before that, Tim McGraw released his album, “Set This Circus Down.”

Tim and his wife Faith Hill (I like to think we’re personal friends) have always been two of our favorite artists. For our wedding slideshow, I chose Faith’s song “She’s a Wild One” (one of my faves) to go along with the photos of me, and Husband chose “Indian Outlaw” for the photos of him. For the photos of us together, we chose “Set This Circus Down.”

The song has such a literal and figurative meaning for us:

Sometimes this road it just keeps winding, round and round and back again
But you’ve always kept me smiling
Over every hill round every bend

Baby you’re the one smilin’ with me
When the sun comes up
I got the wheel,
You got the map and that’s enough

Chorus:
And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

Sometimes I lie awake just thinking
Of all the horizons we have seen
And as another day is sinking
I thank God you’re here with me

‘Cause baby you’re the one laughing with me
When the sun goes down
Livin’ on faith and holding on tight
To the love we’ve found

And we go rollin’ down this highway
Chasin’ all our crazy dreams
I’ve gone your way and you’ve gone my way
And everywhere in between
One of these days we’ll find a piece of ground
Just outside some sleepy little town
And set this circus down

And set this circus down
Baby, one of these days
Gonna set this circus down
Set this circus down
Baby, one of these days

Two days after we got engaged, Husband and I embarked on this crazy adventure where he literally had the wheel and I had the map. We packed up a tiny U-Haul truck with all our crap and moved to North Carolina for me. He left a secure job, a home and all of his family and friends, for me and my dream.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

EXHAUSTED after driving across the country for about 16 hours straight.

Looking back, I’m not surprised he did it. But I am surprised at how easily he made that decision. It really wasn’t a decision — we were young, we were in love, the world was our oyster and we had no real responsibilities at that time that were holding us to Wisconsin. He came with me and chased my crazy dream, and we always knew that we would come back home eventually to be with our family and friends.

When “eventually” turned out to be six months later, because we (mostly me) was so homesick and my dream job was not all that it was cracked up to be, we packed up and came home — despite the fact that he had just gotten a new job in North Carolina.

On our wedding day, when I kept telling him over and over again, “We have so much to look forward to,” I didn’t really have any specific ideas of what that would look like — what our home would look like, what our kids would look like, or how many of them we would have. I don’t know that I could have imagined anything anyway.

Marriage has been both infinitely better than I thought it would be, and also infinitely harder than I ever imagined. Before you get married you think you know that you’ll have your ups and downs; that you’ll have battles; that you might go through a rough patch or have a crisis or two. But here’s the thing — you don’t really know. You’ve heard all those cliché pieces of marriage advice like compromising and fighting fair and trying not to go to bed angry and yada, yada yada. You don’t really know. You think you know what it means to make a lifelong commitment to someone in good times and in bad. But you just don’t really know until you’re in the trenches, making that decision to be in it, in good times and in bad, every day.

But, like I said, marriage also has been infinitely better than what I imagined, because we have built a life together. I have a partner — in life and in everything — and he is a kind, warm, generous, strong, gentle, funny and selfless man. And despite how very hard it is on some days, we have love, respect, faith, laughter, and this:

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

What 10 years will bring you. This is our circus.

We set our circus down, literally in a sleepy little town just liked I’d always hoped, and my dreams of yesterday have most definitely surpassed my realities of today. I couldn’t have dreamt this. I feel so lucky and so blessed. And while I can’t even fully dream tomorrow, I feel certain that my reality will surpass my dreams.

Husband, like I’ve told you countless times before, as we travel this crazy journey, there’s no one I’d rather be traveling with than you. Thank you for our circus, and thank you for being my partner. I thank God you’re here with me.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.

10 years later, at the church where we got married.

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10-year anniversary dinner.

10-year anniversary dinner.

I’m So Glad We Get to Do This Again (and, an explanation)

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Blogging has just not been a top priority for me lately — as much as I’ve wanted it to be. Usually I’ll have a story running through my head; a partial post bursting out of my brain; funny or introspective thoughts I’ll want to run by other parents. Normally I’ll be scrambling to get it written down and the words just pour out. But for the past four months I just haven’t had the head space. Not that I haven’t had the constant chatter in my head … because I have … it’s just seemed like an insurmountable task to actually get those thoughts down on paper.

This pregnancy has been much harder on me mentally and emotionally than my pregnancies with Monkey and Bean. I don’t know exactly what accounts for that … except that I know that every pregnancy is different. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it has a lot to do with already having two young kids to take care of. Add to that the overall growing pains of raising a young family, i.e. some terrible two’s, growing independence, and general “WTF am I doing as a parent anxiety,” plus work obligations and ding, ding, ding — you get some major emotional/mental exhaustion which leads to more crabbiness, short temperedness, anxiety. Don’t forget the extra credit — the hormones and physical tiredness and limitations that come with every pregnancy.

I honestly think that the physical limitations of pregnancy sneak up on you so slowly and gradually that it’s almost unnoticeable until one day you’re just SO frustrated that you can’t fit between the bathroom door and the sink to brush your uncooperative 4-year-old’s teeth and you just LOSE it and yell “WOULD YOU COOPERATE SO I CAN BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!?” And then you realize that you just totally overreacted, and yes your 4-year-old is being a pain, but you’re mostly just pissed because dammnit, you cannot MOVE normally.

And as far as the hormones go, all I’ll say is that in the moment your reactions seem rational. And for anyone who’s never been pregnant and thinks that the whole “hormones” thing is just some ploy to act like a crazy person, believe me, it’s not. Because honestly, no one wants to feel like a crazy person.

OH! And the extra, extra credit — being pregnant during the summer of 2012. Do you think that will be a thing that women who are pregnant this summer talk about? “YOU were pregnant during the summer of 2012?? OMG, ME too! That HEAT was just unbearable, and I just didn’t go outside for like three months, unless I could lay in a pool like a beached whale and not move and be jealous of everyone with their fruity drinks, and we kept the air set to 73 degrees, but I was *still* always hot, and it was just miserable, and …”

I think what drove all this home for me (why I’m experiencing this added mental/emotional exhaustion) was being away with my husband for our final “babymoon” this past weekend. We quite literally, did nothing. We ate, we walked, we sat, we walked, we sat, we ate, we slept.” Repeat. No one needed our attention. We didn’t have to follow anyone else’s agenda. We were only concerned about our own needs. There were no stressors or obligations. We watched all the other parents enjoying the three-day holiday weekend with their kids and we were a little sad that our kids weren’t with us, and envious of all the family fun. In the moment, I tried to remind myself how much harder it would be if the kids were with us, how the weekend would not be ours, and that I needed to just relax and enjoy the alone time. I told myself that those kids were probably being pains. But still, I was a tad sad and we were really excited to get home Sunday afternoon.

And then after I got home on Sunday afternoon I wasn’t so excited to be there. Because damn, they need A LOT of attention! And at times they can be pains! And I am TIRED! But seriously. This is what I realized — I did nothing while we were gone. I did nothing except eat, walk, sit and sleep, and I was still physically tired and limited (there was no light hiking as I hoped; baby being in VERY uncomfortable positions made slow walking and sitting the only things comfortable). So take me, already tired, physically limited and uncomfortable, and add caretaking and stressors of everyday life and work, and yeah. I’m kind of crabby! So I guess this weekend made me realize there’s probably nothing earth shattering about why this pregnancy has been more emotionally/mentally draining, except for normal things that have left me with little motivation to tackle extra things.

Hence, not much head space left over for blogging. I guess I feel like I’ve been surviving these past few months as opposed to thriving.

BUT, what I’ve also realized in the last few months, is that I’m so glad we get to do this again.

My brother-in-law is getting married this month to a wonderful girl and in June they asked me to look through my photos to see if I had any of the two of them together. So I started in 2010, the year they started dating and the year Bean was born, and boy. I really started to miss two-year-old Monkey and baby Bean. I may have shed a few tears.

It made me realize how glad I am that we get to have another baby. I can’t wait for the snuggling and the feedings and even the diaper changes. I can’t wait to see how this third person will enliven and enlarge our family. I can’t wait to see what she looks like, and slowly peel back the layers of her temperament and personality. I can’t wait to see Bean in the role of two-year-old big sister, like Monkey was for her. I can only imagine how Monkey will fill her role as biggest sister. She is such a nurturing soul, and already is instructing us about when, how and where she wants to hold and feed her baby sister.

Honestly, they’re both so excited. Have I mentioned that they both walk around with their loveys stuffed up their shirts and ask me if I want to feel their babies move?

This little girl is already such a blessing to our family and I really feel like she completes us. After being so indecisive about should we or shouldn’t we have a third, I feel so privileged that it was even an option.

With Monkey setting the pace for us, I’m just so happy that I get to experience all these stages again one more time.

I’ve Never Been Pregnant on Mother’s Day Before

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Unanticipated

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I don’t normally feel “old.” But I was especially reminded of my age and impending birthday (the big 3-3!) at Monkey’s first school Christmas program.

I stood there, holding back tears, thinking, “I can’t believe I’m the one holding the video camera.”

I’ve always watched the parents holding the video camera taking videos of the kids, and I was always one of the kids!

Now I’m the one with the camera.

I thought, “I can’t believe I’m old enough for this. I can’t believe I’m responsible for two children.”

I can’t believe I’m the mom.

It’s funny how motherhood still catches me by surprise sometimes.

Monkey looked like she was on the verge of tears when she filed into the room with the rest of the kids. Finally, our eyes met and I could see a look of relief on her face.

Monkey got over her initial shyness and then went on to be su-per loud during this Beatles-esque “Shape” song. Good lord.

Monkey and Bean post-performance with Nana and Mimi.

Incidentally, I guess b*tching on your blog about how people overlook your December birthday really pays off.

😉

A week before my birthday Husband came home with flowers and proclaimed it birthday week. We had a wonderful date on the weekend before my birthday (which honestly made all the difference because we weren’t trying to cram it in on the same weekend with all the Christmas festivities), and even though we both got sick with a horrible stomach virus, the week ended on a high note with a lovely dinner with our families.

Monkey with her Great Grandma, or GG, as we call her. So sweet.

By the time my actual birthday came on the 16th, I felt like I had already celebrated a marvelous birthday!

And then my cousin-who’s-like-my-sister showed up on my doorstep with a birthday morning Starbucks! And a hysterical card about carrot cake, which is only funnier because that’s my favorite kind of cake and the one my Grandma always makes me for my birthday.

Do you get it? Carrot cake. His nose was a carrot. Tastes like boogers. Sooo funny.

The carrot cake that my Grandma made me.

I couldn’t have been more shocked.

And then my awesome neighbor stopped by with a smoothie!

Plus I got two of the sweetest and most unexpected cards in the mail. Truly, so unexpected, so sweet and they made me feel so special.

I was very humbled. And thankful.

It made me realize that I need to put my money where my mouth is and make sure that I’m following through on making birthdays as special for other people as I expect it to be for myself.

Cheers to another year!

Gratitude

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For me and many people, the month of November is a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for. A time to count the blessings that have been bestowed upon us over the last year. Something about THANKS-givin’ (as my friends from the South would say) does that to a person.

There are moments, okay some whole days, where I’m just so frustrated with my kids’ belligerent behavior, sassy attitudes, the mess, the lack of organization, the mounds of laundry and the overall list of things to do.

And then I remember the premise of a book that my BFF recommended, which is, this is the life I asked for. This is the life I wanted. I wanted a house I could call my own. I wanted a big yard with room to run. I wanted a husband and children. I wanted a family. And I got it. AND, those things come at a cost — yard work, lawn mowing, home improvements, spending money, and oh yeah, RAISING kids.

Kitchen table or craft table? Don't forget the baby and its bottles!

Two coats, four gloves, two pairs of boots, a backpack, a scarf, a hat and a piece of play broccoli!

Books, books, babies, books, baby clothes, books.

Just more typical mess.

For the past 12 months when I feel like I’ve reached my limit I try to remember to take a breath, pause and remember that this is what I wanted. And I’m grateful.

I am thankful for:

  • Girls pulling each other’s hair
  • Girls pushing and hitting each other (usually the small one hitting the big one)
  • Girls pile driving one another (usually the big one pile driving the small one)
  • Girls fighting over toys
  • Girls shrieking, screaming and making the most annoying mouth noises (gah, where do they learn that!??)
  • Girls invading each other’s personal space
  • Cleaning food off the floor after EV-ERY meal (uugh, I think this is my most hated parenting task)
  • The utter disaster of my living room
  • The utter disaster of my older daughter’s room
  • The mad rush of getting two lazily playing, daydreaming girls dressed, fed and out the door on time
  • The annoyance of realizing you bought the next season’s clothes in the wrong size (Why didn’t I anticipate Bean would be in 3T winter clothes when she’s been in 2T since last spring!!?) — and then having to switch over her entire wardrobe. Again.

I am thankful for all of these things because they mean that I have two healthy children and a happy home. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by the minutia; by things that don’t really matter. But when I do that, I lose sight of that fact that all of these things mean that I have what is most important to me.

And I am grateful.

I Love This Face

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Runny nose and her crooked smile. Love it.

I just love this face. I am truly, madly, deeply (thank you Savage Garden) in love with this face. The love I feel for Bean is so intense and so deep and that makes me SO happy.

(Especially because I didn’t feel that instantaneous deep connection with her like I did with her older sister. When another blogger told me she felt the same way with her younger daughter, and pointed out that it was almost impossible to compare the love you have for someone you’ve only known for a few months versus someone you’ve had a chance to love for years, it made me feel so much better. She was totally right.)

Bean has an opinion about fashion.

She pushes away shirts and socks she doesn’t want to wear, and when I hold up pants she says, “No, mama. Jean.”

Whaaa!? What 21-month-old doesn’t want to wear an Elmo shirt and has a preference on what elastic pants and multi-colored socks they want to wear!?

Her hair is finally, FINALLY starting to grow longer. It’s definitely in an awkward stage, just barely peeking out from behind her ears, and when it gets pushed forward (instead of swept to the side) it covers her eyebrows and she looks like a crusty old man.

Are these not the tiniest and most adorable pigtails you've ever seen? She *insists* on having her hair done like her big sister.

When she wants to show me something that she knows I’ll find exciting or surprising she runs to me with this priceless look, eyes wide and mouth open like an “O” and then waits for my reaction. I’m guessing she’s modeling that after me. She also says “Ta da!” OMG. Cracks. Me. Up.

She seems to understand humorous things better than Monkey ever did. If she’s watching Sesame Street she’ll laugh at the funny parts. Monkey’s just starting to get that stuff now. Either Bean just gets humor better, or she’s learning from her older sister.

It’s so interesting to me to see how these two children are affected by birth order. For example, we purposefully spent time teaching Monkey her colors, the alphabet and how to count to 10. With Bean, I’m a little ashamed to admit that it’s kind of an afterthought. Yet, the other day I started counting with her and asked her if she could say “One,” and she immediately replied “Two!” So she knew it, but probably because she observed it and not because we purposely taught it to her. In some ways Bean seems “smarter” than Monkey was at this age, yet her language is not as developed. I think it’s because she spends a lot of time copying her sister and less time talking.

One of her most adorable phases as of late is that we’re seeing less and less of “the pout” and more and more of the “CHEESE” face.

Classic pout. Or stink face as we like to call it. Copyright McManigal Photography

As soon as the camera comes out she starts saying “CHEESE” over and over again, many times without even actually looking at the camera. After I took pictures of her yesterday she also set up her baby for a photo shoot, saying “Cheese, baby.”

CHEESE!

She was trying to make a cheese face here, but I think it turned into stinky cheese.

I can’t believe she’s almost two. 😦