Wednesday, May 21

Pride disguises itself as something beautiful....

The refugee
           who flees from her God with much abandon and yet is yanked back into his embrace and wrapped around his finger again just as when she was a child, watching a game of tether ball....

Two sweaty kids with blue skies over head
shoes untied
 the sour smell of vinegar on their breaths
            because no one could resist one of those unnecessarily large dill pickles
 from the 'Snack Shack' during recess....

And here I am, yelling until my lungs bleed, "I'M NOT A KID ANYMORE THOUGH GOD!"
as my mouth waters thinking about those dill pickles.....

I don't have crinkled up dollar bills, gross and damp for the snack lady to receive in exchange for that sour snack. I don't scuff my knees on the assfault when I'm chased by the boys on the playground anymore. I don't get pushed off the wall by that dick-weed Jessie who had a "crush" on me and made me have to wear a neck brace when I was in the 4th grade because he "liked" me so much, and so he he pushed me off of the fence and scared my parents half to death when the ambulance put me inside of it and hauled me off....

   but his mom was too broke to pay our hospital bill....her money couldn't fund is short lived infatuation    

but none of us had money that year either, "Jessi's Mom." And this is where we have a conversation with our sons and teach them how to not be total dicks... but the next time "Jessi" decides to "like a girl", tell him that Cheetos go a long way. Just buy her something from the Snack Shack.... This is my advice to you, "Jessi's Mom".

Lately, I've felt a lot like that teather ball at recess.

The way it reaches as far as it can go, wind racing around it's curves and then right when you feel so free & comfortable, it jerks you even faster around and tighter and quicker.... you no longer belong to that wind or that freeness you felt.

Chaos is it's name-that feeling you feel when you're wrapped around that teather ball pole until suddenly you just STOP.  Ive been streched out and drawn closer than I ever wanted to be. I've been drawn to my knees in tears....and shaking....and vomiting.... and this is what it takes to surrender. This is what the hardened heart of a woman who has too much pride to stretch out to her God, and too much knowing to know that she knows very little..... pride is a beautiful creature that lures you in and right as you get close enough to get a good look at it's beauty, it pecks your eye out and then....and then you see nothing.

Pride blinds us.

Nothing has felt normal or good or real. I went to bed last night drinking in the sleepy promise that I'd get a few hours to not think or be grabbed or kissed or wanted or annoyed.... then I thought, "Welll shit, I'll just wake up to it all again what's the point!" and that's exactly the sobering moment when your whole world suddenly stops & you are made to sit still & wait until that rope feels loose enough again to unravel & that's where you are made beautiful.

                      That's where you feel free again. 

Saturday, December 7

Zit Cream & Retainers. This Is Marriage.

            I met you when you were yet a man. Eighteen is not the age of a man, but you were
                                                                                                                                               a man.

you were not prepared for what would come next.

    The night that we first met (and first kissed) and invested so much
I had your heart immediately.

It was the strangest time of my entire life, that one night and the year that followed.

You were the first person besides Jesus to make me feel sorry for who I was.
You were the first person besides Jesus to make me feel free to be exactly who I was.

It was both exhilarating & humiliating.
You were freedom to me and you were conviction.
          You held a mirror up in front of me, forcing me to see who I was.

I remember the awkward fumbling and weirdness of where our hands and arms needed to be to make a hug make sense. I needed so many pedestals to get close to you (figuratively and literally)

I had many ladders to climb. So many bridges to mend. So many "wrongs" to make right.
               And we hadn't even fallen in love- just yet.

Except you say you loved before you even knew me, but a month.

And I BELIEVE you.

I believe that you loved me the night that we met.
    No, I know you loved me from that first awkward encounter.
You just did.
    I hated you for loving something you knew nothing of.
There was something pure about it that made me uncomfortable.

I believe that in the depth of your being, you loved me through the days and months and years that followed the first night that we met & I grabbed your face to kiss you like you or I had never known a kiss to taste or feel.....
    You loved me through the darkness of those days.

Light was an old creaking door slowly opening.
Bundled together under a dusty blanket just waiting, decomposing, rotting-anticipating some sort of   glimmer in the hallway of the house of hell we had built to perk us up and give our hands some sort of path to crawl towards. But we had no idea at all how to crawl out of that beautiful little space that felt so cozy and chaotic.

The only thing that made me feel safe was you.

I believe every word that you say when you speak because you say nothing to gain anyone's acceptance.

You don't draw attention to yourself. You don't ask for anyone's opinion of who you are. You could give two shits about the rest of the world and what thoughts may or may not be circling around in their brains concerning the person that you are.
      You are secure.

This, in itself is the single most attractive thing about you.
Not because you've got a "middle finger in the air" mentality.


The you are meek, incredibly humble & utterly sensitive. You are painfully intuitive of those around you. Your wisdom out-shadows me. Your sensitivity to character helps you navigate those around you.
Unlike me, you wait.....

You wait.

You are sure.

You are certain. You put your finger on it and wait until you know for sure.

You never assume. I ALWAYS ASSUME! 

You consider, then you speak.

             I speak and then I go, "Ah, shit! I said that dumb comment to that one person and now I feel like a real idiot!" 

      And, I need you so much more to reaffirm that I am a real idiot, who REALLY needs Jesus
                                 so much more.

The depth of your wisdom humbles me into such a feeling of almost stupidity at times.
And not always in a really warm-i wanna-snuggle a kitten type of way.

No, dude. You make me feel like a damn idiot. A lot of times. AND THAT'S THE WAY marriage should feel. You should make me feel reduced down to my lowest.
             If you don't make me feel like a total dweeb, we're doing something wrong.

If you're not making me feel like I'm God's gift to mankind, you're doing something wrong!

You see me at my worst.

Like, the worst of my entire days on this earth, YOU will witness that horrific shit show.

The moments where I've felt robbed, sad, depleted by my circumstances, raped, hurt, taken advantage of, written off as a failure, defeated by my own self inflicted heart ache....You've never stopped celebrating me.

You are "grace" to me.

You have always escalated to being so much greater, always richer, never shallow.
I'm digging deeper into you, being more surprised by you. THAT'S what marriage should feel like.


There was a large part of my childhood that I never knew what a man looked like or what a Daddy was, and you are that person, Dustin.

Moments are frozen in time as I see you father our babies, and parts of me are mended when I see the fullness of what giggles sound like when you tickle them and hugs silence the atmosphere of a totally chaotic moment when she get's hurt and cries for her daddy...... There is a certain sigh of relief when your Dad wraps his arms into you and your tears melt into him.

There is just nothing like it.
     You are daddy.
I love hearing them declare & proclaim who you are.
   Their dad. The one who unconditionally wraps all of who they are in your arms-the good, the bad and the ugly.

That's what you have always been to me.


The worst nights of our marriage, when we've cried so hard, we've prayed so SO so hard- our eyes are blood shot and we're shaking from the shock of just how wretched we were capable of becoming-we're hanging on for dear life-with our world crumbling around us, YOU believed in this love. Surely, in the depth of the lifelessness of what we were, you knew that life would spring up....somewhere. 

We've cried out to God-exhausted, and we've yelled so loud, our throats were burning like when you've cursed & screamed so loudly birthing a child. That's exactly what my throat felt like. That burn means something is being birthed. So what was before that has to die. Whatever that was that we called "life" it has to just dissolve. We have bigger things to do.

Time just stopped caring how sick we were. Hours could pass and we still cried. The sun rose. But nothing mattered. People didn't exist that night. No one. Nothing. Our obligations disappeared. We weren't done mourning the death of our marriage or what it felt like for limbs of it to be sawed off and pruned.

It had to die.

I grieve the feeling of what that night meant to me. The "re-birth" or "death" of us.

  It was ALL or NOTHING AT ALL.....
              which made my heart drop deep down into what felt like six feet of soil.

The one time in my life, the moment that I knew for sure that our bodies had souls was the moment I saw my sister without one. That was when I said, "OK, God, my soul is a real thing. This shit is for real. I'm not playing games with you. I believe you." And that's when I felt the richness of His wrath-and also the depth of His goodness simultaneously. It's when you see a body without one-that's when you realize that we actually have souls.

That was a revolutionary moment for me. Her death brought so much life, yet I needed to see her without hers.

Our souls.

And yet, we were working out how to exist in the same space, not being "two" people, but "one".......        what does that even mean in that moment when the whole world feels like jello. 

I had no idea then how to love you well. There is a large part of us that feels a whole lot like you "snow plowing" paths and weaving in bits of what real was so I could exist and figure out how to be a wife at all.

And in all of it, You see me.

You see the sin that runs deep within me, spurting out of my pores, bursting from my veins, spewing from my lips, making puddles so deep that we both slip and fall-crawling through the sludge of what is my heart some days.

Oh, but you see me.

You never take your eyes off of me.....

   And that is the worst part of it all. I am completely naked before you. It hurts and heals and presses down into me in a way that I never anticipated or asked for.

I had no idea the day that I wore that stupid expensive dress, with tears in my eyes, clutching my step-dad's arm so tightly (it's a wonder it didn't fall off.) I had no idea what this life with you would demand of me.

So this is marriage.

            You feeling my boob for lumps & telling me to take out my retainers so we can make out.....

Saturday, July 20

The First Week.

"Look, your Colorado family, all having lunch together!"

Sitting at lunch with our friends, the Nesteby's today (our husbands both work near each other and Tiff and I had a play date today, so of course we had to all meet up for lunch. Back story: we took a birth class with the Nesteby's and had our babies at home, a week apart. They're legit. We like them. A lot. They moved from Vegas to Colorado in February of last year.) They are like a link to the chain that connected us here. They are a piece to our promise.

 So as we sat there at Cafe Rio, I'm reflecting on Boston talking about "family" and get teary eyed (surprise surprise!) We're so blessed to have that built in support system here. But really, that's what we've had here. Friends that accept us as family and show us the way in a big, scary, intimidating city & who hang out with us.

It's been a full week here. It's been busy.

I'll admit, the first night was hard. Like really really freaking hard. 
I wanted nothing more than to be away from this house and out doing stuff to distract my heart from the truth that I really hated this home that we drove 15 hours to live in and I left my dearest friends to come here.

Nothing the day that we unloaded the Uhaul truck was working. None of our furniture was fitting into our home. Our dryer was a gas dryer and the hook ups were electrical. Our new (gifted) beautiful fridge was too big for our kitchen. What was the icing on the cake was that our entire basement smelled like mildew and the carpets were stained. Like, a dead corpse had legit been sitting down there getting all gross and stinking up the damn place, staining the damn carpets with it's dead-person juices. No, I'm being for real guys. It was that bad. When we looked at this place, I made sure to confirm that the carpets would be shampooed, in hopes that the stains wouldn't be an issue.

 I was sad.
  Dustin was sad.... more sad than I had ever seen him.

We realized that honestly, this home wasn't going to work unless that extra space was usable for our kids. The basement had to be fixed. The dead cold of winter was going to be shitty if we were snowed in and these crazy kids didn't have a place to run and play.... they needed that basement.

As I watched more and more stuff go wrong the day we moved in, I felt paralyzed. I just watched everyone move stuff in and wanted to cry. The house was not "move in ready" by any stretch of the imagination. It was filthy. Dustin and I both had this look of defeat on our faces the entire day.

We went to bed that night feeling sticky and itchy and gross. I was not happy there. We both knew that if either of us brought it up, we'd both just ball our eyes out together and cry ourselves to sleep, both taking turns complaining while the other tried to see the good in the of course, I bring it up-the elephant in the really gross room and we cried until we couldn't go anywhere but to sleep.

 We just felt like, why would God lead us here to a house that we had so much excitement about and then disappoint us?
...why did it seem so bleak.

So that's exactly what we did. I held my husband as he cried out to God, asking questions of why and the frustrations he felt and the anger and emotion of just wanting to build for his wife a gorgeous, beautiful home-and what we had moved into was certainly not that hope of a home that he urned to give me.

I remembered my going away party and how surreal it felt to have every single person who meant something to me there (aside from my family). How I paused for a moment and soaked them all in and let my heart remember moments that I had with each one. Years with some, childhoods with others, meaningful months that felt like lifetimes with some...... ugh! I HATED leaving my friends like you have no idea..... I just wanted to go back there to Vegas and love on and be loved by my friends in a safe place.

I wanted safe and this was NOWHERE near safe.

But I held Dustin that first night and he held me.
We didn't cry, we wept.

I was scared. Did we make a huge mistake in coming here. Were we doomed to live lots of cold, empty months without friends in heaping mounds of icy loneliness?

We had never left home until now and we felt so sick over leaving.

I hadn't cried that hard in a very long time.

I was scheming ways to just get home. Pack up our stuff and get the hell back to Vegas.
    I was telling myself lies and believing every last one.

Just imagine having no real reason to leave the only place you'd ever known as home, and all of your favorite people, but holding onto promises that you'd gotten from God that moving was the best thing to do. Those promises felt light years away and all were slipping right out of my grasp.

Anger started building up inside of me towards Dustin that first night.

We talked, cried & prayed until we couldn't anymore and passed out.

The next morning we made coffee and started unpacking stuff together. It just felt like a war zone of emotion. I think I cried here and there all day. Thankfully, my parents were there and my Dad reaffirmed to me that this is where God led us, so just trust and let go. I got a text from a friend encouraging me to shake off my emotions-which can't be trusted and fall into the arms of Christ, who can be trusted.

This week, I got to see time after time moments where I felt really down and Boston showed up on our doorstep to hang out, or neighbor kids knocked on our door asking for a shy and timid Conrad to come out and play or strangers loved on us when we needed it, blessing us mysteriously. (It took Conrad two full days until he was willing to brave the 11 neighbor kids-but he did it. He knows them all by name and begs to see them!)

God's fingerprint has been ever-present in this whole process. It's almost like, when we want to give up and doubt, he points us right back to what he promised and holds us close in the scariness of newness and unfamiliarity.

The beauty of this place holds me captive daily. I drive down new streets and see new things and places that I want to see. This city is unending in it's diversity and intricacy. I am forced to be kind and tolerant of everyone I see because I am hungry for community and friends. I can't afford to be prideful, snarky or rude. I just feel so much peace here.

The owner has agreed to replace all of the carpets down stairs, we just have to install it, and he has been extremely accommodating. The house that we live in is older, yes, but this is exactly where we are meant to be. He also is taking off $100 of next months rent since I had to clean this place. I think one of my most humbling moments here was cleaning the toilets.....I'll clean my own family's poop off of the floor no questions asked, but someone else's? That's where I sort of draw the line.

We feel incredibly grateful to be here in this home with lots of amazing kids who love on our kids, and this quirky little house and this amazing city that we already love.

I don't have time these days to blog much but I will update as often as possible with more of this journey we are all on. I covet all of the prayers of my friends who have been believing for God's favor when I doubted. I love you all like crazy.

I update (wayyyyyyy too often) on Instagram. Username: Ellerad1

Lots of pictures of our adventures there!

{ Goodnight friends. }

Monday, June 10

"Does The Sun Shine There?"

Was a question I asked my husband a few months back when the idea of our family living in Denver was just being birthed in us. Over the last few months, the Lord has been leading us to a place we never imagined we would go.....

In just five weeks, our family will pick up and head to the mountains of Denver Colorado. Dustin accepted an offer to work in the Denver office with his company. Just as God's favor would have it, we later learned that he beat out four other people who were also hoping for this position (who were more qualified, had already had their professional engineer stamp and their masters degree...)  His promotion will be such a blessing for our family, as will the change of scenery. We are looking forward to this adventure that God is taking us on. We've gotten several confirmations that moving there is God's will for this season of our lives.

It hurts my heart to leave our family, friends AND our church, but we're trusting that there is MORE for us in Denver. We're kind of clinging to that word "MORE" because really, Vegas hasn't been that bad to us. Our best friends are here, our amazing church is work is here.... our kids best little buddies are here.... it's sort of sad to leave that.

The good news, (which brings me comfort) is that I will be back three times between now and February (to photograph fall sessions & doula for three babies that are making their debut in January.) In the meantime, for  my clients who need work done on the fly (last minute) I've got your back! I am working alongside two photographers that I trust have the same vision that i have when it comes to documenting life. They are offering my clients a certain percent off of their packages when they book a session (having had booked a session with me previously). The right thing to do in leaving is to put my clients in the hands of photographers that I trust to treat these friends that I have made with as much care and enthusiasm as I would in capturing the details of their lives. So when I am not able to be home, I can refer my clients to these photographers. BUT also, when I am coming home, I will be more than honored to run around and be goofy and take photographs of your sweet families as It has been my great pleasure to do so in the past. *And I will give you lots of notice of when I will be in town.

I wish you all could truly understand and know all of the intricate details that have aligned perfectly to make this all happen for us. A lot of this has really felt like we didn't "Try" to make it happen... it all just sort of fell into place. We're thrilled, but I'd be a liar if I said that many tearful embraces haven't happened in the last few weeks as this decision has been prayed over and the YES! WE'LL GO! was solidified. I've been a freaking basket case around my closest friends.

If we sit long enough and think about it, we can convince ourselves to stay. This has been my busiest year as a photographer, and my most stressful year as a mom and keeper of my home. I feel like I'm being lead to a season of rest and soaking up God's grace a little bit-just enjoying my small children and the heavy roll of being a better helper to my husband. That is where my worth will draw from. Ministering and loving on my family more this year. There have been times that my job has taken me away from my family (every working mom feels this way) and more than that, times where I feel completely grateful to have such an amazing job where I get to be creative and feel a certain freedom that you get when you work for yourself. Plus, my doula clients & my photography clients have grown more like family than friends. What more can you ask for in a job really?

In our hearts, staying in Vegas doesn't feel right any longer. It's time to go. We've never really put down roots here... we finally feel eager and ready to leave Vegas, the only place that both of us have ever known as home. I'm no longer kicking and screaming (in my heart) about moving, I'm at peace with it. I feel excited and I have an expectant heart for what is ahead.

 I know that I won't be lonely (God gave me this sort of picture in my mind while I was praying about the idea of how lonely it could be to go there and it was a picture of a family that is waiting for us there....) When you find an entire family that you just click with, where the husbands get along and their home feels like your home and you can yell at each others kids when they wrestle each other too hard and you love them like they are family, it's so easy to be around them, but when it's hard, you fight for one another and work your stuff out- I've been grieving the thought of not having that family near us. That's been the hardest part, leaving our best friends. So I'm holding onto that. I will approach each day as an adventure and opportunity to meet new people and get outside of myself.

I can imagine we'll grow more than ever before and I'm ready!

There have been too many weird and unexplainable "God" things that have happened, that have pointed us to this decision. Too many answered prayers and ways that God showed up to push us in this direction.

So anyway, I'm finished rambling.

Please pray for us as we go on this adventure. God has been drawing near to us in a really tangible way recently-it's like we truly can't get away from Him. Everywhere we turn, there is a new and creative way that he's speaking to us and it's {creepy} amazing to feel like we're completely in the middle of his desire for us.

{See you later Vegas!}

Thursday, June 6

Separation Anxiety: The Life Of An Engineers Wife.

I felt the warmth of his breath on my ear before I heard the words from his lips.

Before I was even aware that i was awake or asleep, his body was folded in half over my side of the bed, almost in a perfect hug.

Enveloped in his love, I hear his voice and it perked my ears right up, jolting   my eyes open.
      All I saw was the back of his freshly cut hair, as he held me tightly against himself.

To me, he is greater.
He sees the big picture and doesn't get overwhelmed easily.
He's more patient than I am, more gentle in correcting our kids.
He cleans the house without complaining.
He's the fun parent.
He cooks better.... no it's true. He legit cooks way better than I do.

Next to him, I felt less than.
      (This is a struggle I deal with at times.)

My hand cups the back of his head and neck as he speaks gently into my ear with as much tenderness as he does authority. His confidence pumps air into my lungs and I am buying into his whole vision, even if it's total crap, I am hooked on what he is selling and it makes me feel alive.

I knew he was saying goodbye and good morning.

I fucking hate these goodbyes. 

I'd rather he just left without a single noise or kiss at all, quite honestly.

Just put your stupid loud belt on in your truck and not heat up the iron at all to make your shirt nice and perfect looking.....leave without a single sound and I wouldn't feel so bad, maybe. 

For my own sake, can you just for once be a little disheveled? 
      Leave for the air port with a wrinkle in your shirt?

I could see the sun coming up as the light began to illuminate our room through the slits in our blinds      and I knew he was leaving me.

I take a deep breath and soak him in. He turns a little and I can smell his deodorant through his super stiff, ironed shirt, which makes my mouth water. (yes, I love the smell of his deodorant and I've craved that smell ever since I was pregnant with Conrad....)

His six feet, five inches doubled over me, as I lay in bed, he and whispers.....

"God,  Love on my wife and give her grace to get through the next few days without me-not just "get through" but conquer these days and love our babies even when she's tired and exhausted. Protect her and comfort her. Be her God. Love on her. Grace her with more patience than she knew was possible. Cover her with Joy through the moments of frustration and difficulty. You are enough for her. Let your adoration for her be what spurs her towards a greater confidence in herself and her ability to mother her children."


(do we have time to make-out real quick? Hot praying husband???)

Tears pool up in my closed eyes as I spoon my daughter and kiss my husbands lips, saying goodbye.

There simply is nothing sexier than a man who prays for his wife without her asking him to, and praying exactly what she needs at that exact's faith affirming and LOVE affirming at the same time.

For the first time in a long time I felt so homesick for my husband who hasn't yet left me. My heart is hurting and missing him, and yet he's. right. there!

He kisses me and we say our "I love you, be safe, call me...." 

Just hours before, we had fought one of our worst fights in all of the seven years we had been wed.

I wanted to curl up into a ball and just die in a dark, gross, cave that night.

I sat on the toilet in our bathroom sobbing after we had hashed our shit out and said mean-nasty things to one another. He has the ability to love me like no one loves me, and yet holds my heart in his hands, ready to crush it-squash it-consume it-make it into nothingness....he has that power to love me more and hurt me more than anyone ever could or ever will. What else is a lover for, than to crush or consume you completely? 

I sat on the toilet planning my next move. Could I sleep on the couch and cry myself to sleep? We've never done that-I've never slept apart from him in my anger....shit has never really hit the fan that hard before.

"God, don't abandon me now!"

Could I dare humble myself enough to crawl back into bed with him after he had murdered my heart and let him possibly stretch his arm over me and possibly pull me back in? Could I endure him? Was I brave enough to swallow my pride for the sake of reconciling with him....Whether he would adore me or break me, would I lower myself down under him for the possibility of dying to him or living towards something greater with him? It was a mighty gamble to pull the sheets back and lay next to him again. I felt so alone and scared.

We fell asleep that night both with wet cheeks and soaked eye lashes. Our hearts felt wounded. We both were stressed about the future, and the present and weren't coping well. What we needed to do was go smash some glass plates somewhere in the desert and scream to the top of our lungs, but instead we used the other as our personal punching bag. Nothing in me wanted to trudge on through the muck with him. I felt dead and sick. My body felt useless. My insides felt numb. I felt the sting of the tears he had caused me burning my cheeks. I wanted to grab him and cry into his chest and just find my refuge there under the blankets curled up on his bare chest. In that moment, loved him and yet, I wanted to take all of the hate, fear, pride & insecurities inside of me and beat the shit out of him. It was the perfect intensity of love and hate all coupled into one. A storm of passion & disgrace that no one could have really anticipated, BECAUSE, sometimes a fight is never really about the thing that you're fighting about. It's always about something much deeper, it's just that we needed something to get the ball rolling, something that pisses us off and gets us to talk. Gets us on the same page again, towards the same goals-together.

Begrudgingly, I accepted his apologies and said my apologies. My pride is a giant monster which needs to be killed continually. I ache and mourn it's death when he kills it. My husband is good at anticipating my pride or my "love of self" and is good at completely bludgeoning her before she can even realize how freaking cute she looks with her red lipstick on..... he see's when "she'" is being a total "self whore" and shuts it down. What else is a helper for than to sanctify me until I see how utterly gross I am and how much i need Jesus..... 

It was 4am, on a Tuesday. I heard his alarm chime, he then kicks the covers off with a tired sigh. I hear the way his feet slid into his slacks as he quickly whipped them up his legs and tucked his perfectly ironed pink and white stripped "skinny-tall" fitted Gap shirt into his pants. I heard his belt clank as he pulled it through the belt loops and then secured it tightly through it's metal clasp....He pulled open his sock drawer searching for a brown sock that matched his outfit. I blinked my eyes open and sat up out of bed offering my help. He refused it with a sweet smile and continued dressing himself. I closed my eyes in a tired stupor and wrapped myself closer  to my baby, almost consuming her. Our breaths became in sync as we fell back asleep.

I felt sincerely concerned for him as I heard his key fit perfectly into our doors lock and turn, securing itself shut. Why was I so sad this time? I felt like I was seeing him off to war, just another few days off to another city where he would work on a project and go out to dinner with his co-workers and rest peacefully in freshly washed white sheets with a chocolate mint on his pillow..... he wouldn't wake at midnight when his four year old son needed a drink, and again at 3am when his son was having night terrors that kept him consoling for a good five or so minutes until the screams became moans and the moans became sighs and our boy was back to sleep....the dinosaurs who once tormented his sleep-state had been slayed by his poor tired mommy. I was a little jealous too that he got to leave and work for a few days away from all of us.

It's days like today that I feel like If only I could switch rolls with my husband and give him my "PA-GINA" (as Elle Calls it) in exchange for his big old brain and masters degree, I'd totes be an engineer and sleep in some bad ass-freshly laundered sheets and not have a four year old in miles to wake me the hell up from my deepest sleep...... I'd trade you for a day or two maybe.

Cause god knows I haven't washed our sheets in a long time and SRSLY need a day off from this thing they call "work at home mom!" 

Our jobs aren't easy. I know this. You deal with idiots sometimes at work, and today I said to Conrad, "Well, if you're going to act like an idiot and push Tenley Down for no reason, then you'er going to have a time-out and think about how not to be an idiot towards your friends...." 

I Love you Dustin. Come home please.
            I have major separation anxiety.......

Wednesday, March 6

His Tiny Train Bed.

There is nothing quite like a non-judgemental, non-critical, honest, loving, encouraging word from a friend.

After a day filled with argument after argument-the good moments mixed in with the incredibly awful moments, the highs and lowest of lows, I found myself in tears sitting on the kitchen floor.

Nothing I seemed to do that day was working. I kept failing. All of my instructions were met with grumpy glares & disobedience. I found myself exhausted to the core with calm explanations of why and when and what I needed from him. Explaining and "re-directing"..... I found myself exhausted to the core with yelling, threatening, time outs, spanking, taking toys away, all of it. I pulled out all of my tricks and tried so hard and felt like nothing worked. Nothing.

He had won the battle.

After he has passed out for his afternoon nap, I quietly tip toed into his room and knelt down beside his huge plastic train bed and just prayed and sat there and looked at him and sat there and prayed some more until I was all prayed out.

Can't this day just please get better Lord! Please!

The day just continued to get worse after the kids woke up.

I hate that it has to feel like a battle raising kids sometimes. Can't we just love & let live & be all peaceful and stuff?  It shouldn't have to be a fight. In a perfect world, I could calmly, in my sweetest voice ask my four year old to stop squirting his sister in the face with the water toy in the bath because she's crying now and I've asked you twice already and he'd just stop. He'd stop and not do it again or fight me with his whole body strength when I took the toy away. He wouldn't yell and cry. He wouldn't climb out of the tub and run through the house screaming and angry, his naked little body sliding on the hard wood floor and consequently hitting the coffee table..... One might reason that running dripping wet and slipping because you weren't listening to your mom was your own fault and maybe it was coming to you.... either way, these fights we have are exhausting.

Once they were both clothed in their Pj's and sitting on the couch watching Disney Jr, enjoying some cuties, I went about my business cleaning up the water on the floor, the dishes in the sink & putting my home back together. I kept trying to just pray and be strong, it's just a hard day, everyone has hard days! If you call another mom, you'll be showing that you're just weak and don't know what you're doing, they'll think you're a total mess.... BUT I AM A TOTAL MESS though! This dialogue went on in my head for a while. I'd cry for a minute and then fight back the tears, and pull myself together and try to be strong. I felt defeated and hurt. Hurt that I had a hard day with my son, that he felt no remorse for yelling in my face right back at me and that he didn't feel a need in his heart to obey and treat me with respect. I felt un-loved.

So there I was on the floor. Too emotionally bankrupt to clean another inch of the counter or sweep up another crumb. My arms held high in surrender, blubbering & feeling hopeless. He won! When will it ever click in his heart to obey & that desire to obey just settle into him? Will I be one of those stories where the teenage kid chops up his mom in her sleep? Does he love me? Why is this so hard!

I just truly needed a friend to say I'm not alone. So I called the veteran of motherhood, my friend kristi who has five kiddos of her own. I was expecting a play by play critique of where I'd gone wrong, or "maybe try this next time" or "I have this great book on how to be a better parent" but she didn't say any of that. As I cried she encouraged. As I told her how I failed at this or that, she told me that it was ok, tomorrow is a new day, he loves you, God loves you, you're doing the right thing, you're a good mom, & forgive yourself for losing your temper and move on. She told me that she'd been there too and it's HARD, but you're not alone, it'll get better. Boy did I need that kind of support.

Once our last book was read, I tucked him in and said goodnight. Right as I was about to shut his door and walk out of his room, he says, "Mom, will you cuddle me?" Of course I'll cuddle you, son who made my day feel like a total bi-polar roller coaster! Sure.

I scoot in behind him in his plastic Thomas the Train bed, under the covers and start scratching his back....

I feel his little body melt and relax and he lets out a little sweet sigh.

He turns to me in the quiet and stillness of that sweet moment and says, "Mom, I'm sorry for yelling today and not listening. Will you forgive me?"


My eyes fill with water. "Yes, I'll forgive you Conrad. Will you please forgive me too for acting crazy today and yelling and not being as sweet as I could have been-even when you were not listening?"

It was like all was well in our little bi-polar relationship, he and I. He felt remorse. REAL remorse. I wasn't forcing him to say he was sorry when he disobeyed. He did it on his own! SO I'M WINNING THE BATTLE NOW! I felt victorious, I felt like a good mom, & I felt loved..... the prospects of being chopped up into little pieces by my someday teenage son were becoming less and less!

When Dustin got home from his basketball game, I told him about our day and my conversation in the Thomas bed with Conrad. He made me feel like the fact that Conrad asked for my forgiveness means that I'm teaching him correctly, even if It feels like we take one step forward and four steps back most days.

One day he'll be big-like really big and maybe won't ask to cuddle and 
I'll look back on these days and wish I had given myself more grace and 
really believed that I was a good Mom, given myself more credit. 

Sunday, March 3

Birth of Daniella

My phone rings at 5:00am on Friday. It's Maryanna, my doula client. She tells me she's having contractions and asks what she should do. I tell her to try to go back to bed and sleep through as much of early labor as possibly-or false labor as possible. Don't obsess over the contractions too much, just relax. Go get lunch, watch a movie & go on about your business. I pack my bag, get my essentials oils, snacks, two changes of clothes, honey, coconut oil, olive oil and all of my birth essentials. Make sure my camera is ready and charged and I go back to bed myself. Dustin would be getting home from a work trip in a few hours. I get everything ready as far as childcare is concerned (my mother in law would be watching the kiddos.)

Dustin gets home and we decide to go have dinner at a friends house late in the afternoon. I'm texting back and forth with Maryanne as she is laboring at home throughout the day. She knows that when she is needing "more" support, I'd be ten minutes away. We get home and I  get the "I need you!" text. Dustin prays for me with the kids (just as he does before I go to any birth), I nurse my Elle to bed and I'm out the door. I arrive at 9:00 at night and can feel the excitement as I enter Maryanne's home. Her dogs are jumpy and know that something is happening-baby is coming.

At one point, Maryanne and I are on the ground in between a contraction, starts to cry and we're hugging, I'm praying and I can tell that her tears are tears of joy that this is it! Her baby's birthday. The anticipation was over. She would finally know the sex of her baby and experience the birth that she'd been preparing for so long to endure. She was excited and ready.

We labor in her room using her birth ball for an hour or so and I suggest that we all go on a walk. The air is crisp but not cold. The moon is shining bright & the neighborhood is quiet. Every time she would have a rush, she would stop and put her arms around her husband and I'd do hip compressions or rub below her belly until the rush was over and we would continue walking, laughing, & talking. Another hour passed and Maryanne decided that she was ready to head to the hospital. On the car ride there, I sat in the front seat and Maryanne stayed on her hands and knees in the back seat (her hands positioned in the empty car seat) while I sat on the consul and rubbed her back and belly. It was about a 40 minute car ride.

Once we were checked into the hospital, we got back down to business. The birth tub company came and set up her tub & we watched the hours pass as Maryanne labored. I don't think I've ever prayed so hard, worked so hard, affirmed so much, loved so much, cried with, gotten soaked & enjoyed a birth as much as this birth. The thing that set this birth apart from the others that I've attended was that this was my first hospital birth with a first time mom. The others have been at home (apart from my cesarean birth) and the moms were all second timers who didn't need coaching or reminding to keep their sounds low and deep, or needed refocusing or encouraging or someone to talk them off of the ledge as much as a first time mom needs. They knew what contractions felt like and weren't surprised by the "pain" and discomfort. The weeks leading up to this birth, while praying about this birth, I felt like I knew that this was going to be my first long birth. The longest birth before Maryanne's was 7 hours.....

We labored in the dark bathroom, in the shower, on the toilet, on the ball, on the bed.....we did lots of moving around. I'll leave the details to Maryanne to describe.... but will describe a few of my favorite moments during her birth. My favorite part of this birth was that the couple was a praying couple. It's always neat to work with someone of your same faith because you know that you don't have to pray to yourself, you are free to pray and love as you are led. There were challenges during this birth, as there are during most births, but as each challenge came or possibly challenge, Shaun & I prayed and we got to watch the grace of God cover each prayer. It was absolutely amazing and reaffirming of my faith to watch each thing be taken care of right before our eyes.

For example, at one point during her labor, we noticed that when her nurse Bunny came in every 20 minutes to hook her up to the monitors for 20 minutes to check contractions & baby's heart beat, all of a sudden, her contractions were very weak and labor seemed like it stopped. I finally realized what was happening and asked that we stay off of monitors for 45 mins at a time instead of 20 minutes hoping that it would help her contractions stay closer together....I knew that Maryanne was "stopping" labor because something innate in her was telling her that she wasn't "safe" so to speak. Once she had more time in between monitoring, without distractions, that's when things picked up it seemed.

Bunny was very verbal about not liking natural birthing mothers (at least to me she was) and said things like, "You don't get a medal for natural birth." or "Sometimes labor needs to be faster and pitocin helps that, and sometimes you have to have a c-section, so that's always a possibility that we have to think about...." Bunny wasn't my favorite. She always had a very concerned look on her face. She was afraid of birth, if that makes sense. She didn't believe that my client could birth this baby. She talked about "big" babies and how if it takes too long, we would have to go to the operating room to get "cut" Which really made my blood boil. You just don't say these things to a laboring mother. I couldn't really kick her out of our room either because the other two nurses were worse-but that's a whole other story.

So, when Bunny was getting off of her shift, we gave her a hug goodbye and thanked her, and Shaun and I began to pray immediately, fervently & specifically. We prayed for a nurse to come into that room that would be like a gift from God to us. In walks Kimberly. Little did we know, she was our gift. Young, super cute, blue hair, so sweet & had a natural birth with her last son. She believed in what we were doing. When she saw a little merconium in Maryanne's ruptured membranes, she didn't act concerned or scared. She told us that as long as baby was tolerating birth, we'd keep going. She was on our side. She spoke to Maryanne with words of encouragement.  When Maryanne would yelp during a contraction, Kimberly would say, "Yes! That's it Momma, that's how you get the baby here. That's what it takes Maryanne. You're doing beautifully! You can do this!!!" Total gift from God.

Shaun was the greatest labor partner ever. In between contractions we'd both fall asleep and wake back up as a contraction started and our hands needed to be rubbing or pressing-or his lips kissing or hair being played with as Maryanne needed. Shaun was a great partner to have. He loved on his wife so much and reminded her that she was strong and brave and beautiful.

While Maryanne was laboring in the tub, Shaun behind her helping her through contractions in the water and me sitting on a stool in front of her with my arms underneath her arms, ear to ear holding onto each other, Maryanne would pull away from me and shout, "I'm done! I can't do this anymore! I'm DONE Chelsea!" She'd grab my face with her hands and yell at me. She'd hit the water soaking my clothes, hair, shoes & the floor. She bit Shaun's shoulder at one point, which was pretty funny. It was nothing out of the ordinary of a laboring mom's behavior. Because, well, labor is work and it's hard, and, it hurts.

I remember telling her, "Maryanne, cry out to God. Tell him-not me. Shout if you need to." Then I'd grab under her arms and look at her and firmly shout back at her, "You're not done yet! You've got more fight in you. This is what it takes to get your baby here....this is what it takes." Then she'd calm down, rest between contractions and then it would start up again, "I can't! I'm tired! I'm exhausted!" with tears and more yelling. That's when more praying started-which was always a very natural, sporadic thing. Shaun would pray as something would come to his mind. There were many moments that Shaun's words were life giving to me and encouraging to me-got me choked up. At that moment, I remember saying, "Jesus, more energy, more encouragement to her heart, more grace, more favor, more love, more of you. Get this baby here please. We trust you, we wait on you, it is in your time and we will wait patiently."

Kimberly would come in frequently during transition and check on us, check baby's heart rate, give Shaun and I sips of cold ice water. We joked that the doula's needed a doula! Kimberly took great care of all of us.

Kimberly checks Maryanne and she's at a 6! More than 20 hours of labor and she's at a 6?!

We're all a little defeated but keep going. Contractions get more intense and I can see that all of us are being pushed to our limits.

So Maryanne tells us that she's done. She's exhausted & tired. We're on our 13th hour of labor at the hospital. She'd already been in labor at home since 5am (She labored for about 30 hours or so). Shaun tells her that if she wants the epidural, that's ok. It's whatever she wants-no judgement at all. I could see the hurt in Shaun's heart as he watched his wife experience labor. In my spirit, I knew that she was going to fight longer. I kept reassuring her that this pain brings life and that she was almost done. Nurse Kimberly walks in again and Shaun looks at her and starts to tell her that Maryanne is ready for her epidural and I look at him and mouth the word, "NO!"

Maryanne at this point was very calm. It was like a peace settled in the room and she was super focused. She had that fight back in her again. She was determined. She was repeating, "I can do this. I can do this. I can do this." Over and over.

20 minutes later, Maryanne's body starts pushing on it's own. At this point, Shaun and I look at each other elated and both start crying. We're overjoyed to be at the end. Nurse checks Maryanne again and she's complete! It took her an hour to labor from a 6-10. The doctor ran so fast down the hall to get to the birth, he literally knocked over a food cart and didn't have time to even put on gloves. 26 minutes of pushing and baby girl Daniella is born. We didn't know what the sex of the baby was going to be but Shaun totally called it and just knew that he was going to have a daughter.

During our prenatal appointments, we talked a lot about trusting her body, prayed that she'd go into "labor land" where her mind wouldn't think about too much but just relax and know that every contraction brought baby closer to being in her arms.

Nurses prepare to cut cord and Dr. Harter tells them to wait about 15-20 minutes until it stops pulsing, just let them be for a while..... LOVE that he respects birth like that.

This was the birth that really taught me what it takes to support a mom in labor. This birth reignited the deep desire I have to help give families the birth experiences that they and their baby's deserve.

Telling her that I was proud of her when she pushed out that baby she was one of the proudest moments of my own life.

This is what birth can be if we let it.

 Looking up at Daddy. (Water babies are always so alert!) 
 Looking up at Mommy!
 Grandma's reaction is the best!

Ugh, I can't even look through these photographs without getting teary eyed. I'm SO thrilled for your new, gorgeous little family, Maryanne! I'm honored to have been right there to love on your through your birth. What a gift you gave me! 

Wednesday, February 27

Nineteen & Four

Elle is nineteen months now! How did the time fly by so fast? I can't believe we've had this sweet little lady in our lives for 19 months. She's been such a joy to love and watch grow and learn. She and Conrad wrestle like they're brothers, she loves to help me with chores, she is totally fearless, talks to just about everyone and anyone when we are out and about, loves food-will eat whatever I put in front of her & has the funniest grin. And my Conrad will be four next month. FOUR! I can't believe it. He is the most emotional boy I know. But in a good way. He feels everything and is very intuitive of how others are feeling as well. I hear other moms at birthday parties say that their son is "all boy" and I wouldn't describe Conrad as being "all boy." Although he certainly is all boy, he's not your rough and tumble type necessarily. He is incredibly affectionate, loves to learn about peculiar things, he will dance his pants off-talk your ear off-hug your neck off..... it's been a journey with him this year and because we're so much alike, I know our relationship has been sometimes a very difficult one. Three kicked my butt. He never had the terrible two's, he had the terrible three's! We know how to push each others buttons and that's what makes parenting a three year old so hard. Lately, I've done a lot of letting him stay up instead of napping so we can cuddle on the couch or letting him do big boy things with me that Elle can't do so that he feels extra special. We've been closer lately than ever before and it has been a huge blessing to feel any little gaps between us fill in.

Yesterday was a fun day. I had asked my friend Nicky to come over and take just a few pictures of Elle & I together nursing since Elle is now only nursing about 4 times a day and we're in that weaning phase (It's been a slow process and I'm letting her lead the way with it) but we're at the end of it and I wanted to sort of document this season of my life (because heaven knows when I'll be nursing a baby again & it has meant so much to me) just to have photos for Elle for maybe when she's a mother herself and I can show her pictures of how sweet it was when we nursed and how it's not weird that she was a toddler.... anyway. So Nicky is over and we're getting ready to take some photos and Conrad asks to build a fort, so we grabbed two chairs and threw some blankets over them & made one real quick. He asked to read some books in our fort, so we read some books...... Below is what ensued. Kids in a fort, Elle & I and my two crazy kids dancing to music in their underwear/diaper.
Elle rubs her face with my hair & plays with it while she nurses.... 

 Afterwards, we went and ate Chipotle for lunch & had Golden Spoon with Nicky for dessert. The kids love her and I love that so much. I love that she was around to take 
Conrad's 18 month photos and now she's taking photos of my 19 month old Elle. 

Thank you Nick, for capturing these moments of me and my crazy kids. Love you dearly!