Take my breath away…

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Since moving back to Washington and getting settled I have found the pace of life here starkly different to that of Northern Ireland. I knew this before we even arrived but nothing could really prepare me for it. Yet part of me knows it’s not only the location of this busy professional environment that I find myself in. It is also this season of life with small children. Tasks never get crossed off your to-do list and when they do, the item is added back to the list the next day. Cleaning and laundry seem like complete wastes of time yet add a nurturing feel to our home that I love. (Just so you know it happens less frequently these days and the laundry sometimes doesn’t get folded, just picked through if it’s clean!)

I speak of being intentional often and yet rarely apply my intentions. I find I am tired so the boys watch another show. Life is rich, full and good but this also means that we are juggling schedules, the boys, sickness at times, the weather dependent activities and the growing personalities of our two gifts. All of which Bryan handles with such grace and a growing capacity that astounds me.

Our boys are changing rapidly and growing so quickly it’s hard to keep up! They add words to their vocabulary daily and seem to be mastering new skills often without our assistance. Having two at the same time has been incredible!! So difficult at times but at this stage all I can really see is the unique and lifelong friendship that is being cultivated between these two very different little humans.

Kidran is sensitive, observant to the tiniest details, loves to roughhouse and throw things (anything really!) He is also more sensitive and his feelings get hurt deeply, he will linger when we cuddle and I will soak it up! He enjoys being around people but will usually take time away from the crowd on his own and have a little chat to himself or sing a song. Cohen is our social butterfly. Anxious to meet people and every experience life throws at him. Cohen is a people pleaser but also has some big emotions. I often say that he is Italian!! Cohen loves being chased right now and is all about cars. He also loves to resolve problems for others, especially his brother. Their favourite book is The Three Little Pigs. They love reading along and saying ‘Oh no!’ when the wolf enters the story. They prefer outside play if it’s offered but will settle for jumping on beds and hide and seek when the weather isn’t cooperating. They play so well together and annoy each other but make up quickly and laugh often with and at each other. They make each other laugh harder than anyone can, aside from Bryan.

Yesterday we had an unexpected nice spell of sunny weather. So while still in their PJ’s I let them loose outside. They dumped dirt on each other, slid down our little hill on their bums, chased each other, drew on the sidewalk and got dirty. When they came inside they began sliding off our bed with their dirty little faces. The light was streaming in and I quickly ran to get the camera. I so rarely take ‘real’ photos anymore but love it when I do. These pics of Kiki caught the light just right and Cohen’s cheesy smile and crystal blue eyes melt my heart! I find when I stop the busyness long enough to really take them in I find they take my breath away! They are so beautiful inside and out!

Despite the different pace of life I have began hanging out with some old and new friends. I keep meeting other Moms in parks and end up meeting eventually. We have had a couple of magical evenings the past few weeks and I am so incredibly thankful for these blossoming friendships that are coming from many areas of life.

Yet one area of life I would truly value some prayers in. So I have written a book about our long journey through infertility mainly from my perspective with the help of some other friends and family too. With our schedules it is the last thing I get to. I have sent a proposal to one publishing company and am waiting to hear back. Yet I also wonder if I should print the book myself through Blurb.com ( a book-making website). I find myself stuck at this point. Not knowing the next step to take or how to take it. Doing it myself feels overwhelming yet possibly necessary as actually getting published seems nearly impossible. So for those of you who knew I had written the book, I haven’t forgotten about it. It’s still in process and I believe so strongly there is a place for it amongst other infertility books. I have shared parts of it with close friends who are also struggling and it has resonated so strongly with them which has felt like confirmation that I still must print/publish it. If you think of it, please send your prayers and thoughts my way for this project. I desperately want to complete it in the next few months. Watch this space!

Thanks for reading and I hope the sun is shining wherever you find yourself today!!

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A gentler way…

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Be still my heart! This has quickly turned into one of my favourite pictures of the boys. Rarely do you get them both sitting, smiling and together!!! This is a true gem snapped by their Father extraordinaire! This picture also captures each of their ‘little but growing bigger everyday’ personalities. Kidran still fits his nickname Disney while recently I called Cohen Swag and it seems to fit. These boys experience life so differently. I love my front row seat where I can observe these differences, then watch them share with each other their unique views.

As well as being cute and hilarious they are also very rascally. Their wills are getting stronger by the day.  With that comes some meltdowns on my part and I have shouted in frustration which I am not proud of. Yet that is real motherhood and I would challenge anyone to find the mother who never once shouted at her children. She deserves the Nobel Peace Prize!!

Along with this stage of rapid development for our boys, Bryan is putting in a lot of hours. He is recruiting and getting his team ready for the quickly approaching spring season. I say to him all the time that his capacity amazes me!! Then he comes home and continues to love on me and the boys in sacrificial ways. I am one thankful woman for the man that I married!

However lately I have been feeling anxious. Anxious for many reasons, none of which are life shattering or life altering but feel important all the same. Then this morning my boys slept till 8:30, both of them!!! Shock and awe!!  It felt like a real, tangible gift from God and I took it. I spent time alone, sitting in the dark, just being. Not moving or talking or cooking or cleaning. Just sitting. Breathing.

Then today at work ( Purpose Boutique ) I was in the back steaming some sweaters that had just arrived. As I sat their steaming the wrinkles out of these sweaters I felt like I was having an Ah-hah! moment. For some time now I have been treating myself like a bunched up, article of clothing that has been shoved in a bag and taken along for the ride. When I have been taken out of the bag in the past I have ironed my creases out. Applied the heat straight to the line and forced the wrinkles to come out quickly, with no patience. Today as I steamed I saw a gentler way. Instead of trying to force myself to unwrinkle, to smooth out in a flash, I will let the steam do it gently. I will let each crease relax and fall into it’s place in it’s own time. I will allow myself to unwind, untangle and be. Have you been ironing yourself and are ready for a gentler way? I encourage us all to take those few minutes to just be. To not talk or even move and just breathe. I am by no means a master at this art form of being gentle and gracious with myself but today I took a step closer and that is what matters.

 

This new life…

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As I walked down the hill into work today, taking in the view of Lake Washington and the mountains, it hit me that we are living what feels like a new life. I really loved our old life but I also am loving our new life. We have recently moved into our own little house that feels so cozy and sweet. We had our first Christmas here which included Skyping with my parents and us having the whole day together as a family. It was lovely! We also were able to celebrate New Years Eve with good friends at our place, six adults and seven children fit comfortably into our new home and I loved it! Plus we have a great walking/running path right out our front door with access to three parks all within half a mile radius. And did I mention Bryan can walk to work in five minutes too? Perks for sure!!

Part of this new life has been reconnecting with old friends which has been such a gift. Having solid friendships here has made this move so much easier. Bryan’s new job has been better than we could have imagined and he is of course incredible in his role. I am so proud of him and how he handles so much all the time! He truly amazes me with his capacity. I have started working again and feel fortunate to really love my new job. I believe in what we stand for at Purpose Boutique and love getting to help share the vision behind this up and coming business venture.

We are juggling our schedules right now so that the boys are with one of us all the time and that has been wonderful! Bryan has enjoyed more time with his wee men and I have enjoyed more of a break from them. It’s all part of finding the balance that works for us and we are getting there. The boys are so hilarious right now! Their friendship is developing daily. Some days they love well other days they fight well. It’s pretty entertaining though. They also take every opportunity to get into little bits of mischief when they can. I think they were born with a sensor that tells them when the chance is present. The other day it was flooding the bathroom floor during their bath while today it was dissecting the fruit bowl not once but twice using their teeth to destroy perfectly good pieces of fruit. Discipline is becoming very real but they make me laugh more than they make me cross!

My Dad seems to be remaining stable through his radiation and has even put on a bit of weight in the past week thanks to my Mom’s faithful cooking. I am planning on going to visit in February for a few days which I cannot wait for. As well as the daily pieces that make up our life I am still working on my book about our journey through infertility. A friend here is helping me with a book proposal and I am also going to create my own book and make a few copies via self-publishing. I will keep updates regarding the status of the book here so if it does get picked up you will all know.

There is so much good in life right now and I want to celebrate that! I hope you all had a great New Years Eve and holiday season. Embrace this new year and move forward, it’s the only direction God gave us to move in!

Moments…

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Before I share anything I want to thank everyone for your support, prayers and encouragement over the last wee while. My Dad went through his surgery with great ease, has not been in any pain following the operation and is planning on pursuing some alternative forms of cancer treatment first before any type of radiation or chemotherapy. Both my parents are in great spirits and feel a lot of peace about the direction they are heading. Again I am so very thankful to be close and able to support them face to face at times rather than over the internet or telephone. The week I spent in Idaho was a gift and I am very grateful for it.

Now back to the business of normal life and motherhood. Normal life is still a bit busy and chaotic at present. Bryan’s team made it to Nationals this year and are currently in Southern California and will play their first National game today. Nail biting stuff I tell you! The boys and I are so proud of his coaching, determination not to make this ‘just a building year’ for these ladies and his constant communication with his team to encourage and build them up. We are BIG fans of Coach Chud!!! Go Eagles! Talons up!!!!!

Once Bryan gets back we will celebrate Thanksgiving with Lynda, his Mom, and some of the Ambrose side of the family in Wenatchee, WA which is so special. Being closer to family and adding to the memory bank is always important to us. After that we will head back to the Eastside, I will start a part time job, we will move into our own place in Kirkland and Bryan will continue coaching, recruiting and getting ready for his next season (with some ski instructing thrown in there too!).

So this week while Bryan is away I decided to come visit some good friends again in Tacoma, the Olsens. They are some of our oldest and dearest friends whom we have grown up with over the years even with the distance between us physically. We love them so much!! One of the things that always seems to happen when we are here are dance parties. We turn on the music, pump it up loud and just cut loose! We dance around the kitchen and living room letting go of any inhibitions. Recently they have upped the dance stakes by buying a light up disco ball to project onto the ceiling and create an even more epic dance vibe. This is stellar I assure you!!!

We have had two dance parties already. At the end of the day, after dinner, when everyone is feeling a little tired and crazy but there’s still youthful energy to burn with the winter nights forcing us to stay indoors. So we have danced our backsides off!!! Samuel, their youngest, and I are two peas in a pod. The music hits and we just let ourselves go however we feel like moving. It is wonderful therapy for any calamity life may throw at you! I highly recommend it.

Our boys have very different approaches to dancing. Cohen right away starts bouncing, marching and waving his hands above his head to the music. Kidran sits back and watches or wants me to hold him close while I dance around with him on my hip, eyes wide in observation until he warms up to the notion of dancing by himself. The other night while we were dancing he raised his hands to be lifted. He snuggled in close, rested his head on my shoulder and I had a moment.

You know the ones. You flash forward twenty plus years to your baby’s wedding day. Your son is in his tuxedo or suit, looking the part of the handsome groom. You have a permanent lump in your throat as you and your husband discuss how fast it all went by. ‘Remember when we were taking them for walks in the woods, showing them how to tie their shoes, teaching them how to write their names?’ you say to one another. Then bam, you are in the middle of one of the most significant moments of your child’s life. They are no longer a child but a grown man who is becoming someone’s spouse. You go through the ceremony and make it to the reception. Then the music begins. Groom and bride take to the dance floor for their first dance. Everyone claps. The bride then finds her father and your son finds you. So, once again, son and mother dance, heads resting on each others shoulders now. His strength no longer requires your support or hip, but he will still lay his head on your shoulder in act of familiarity that takes your breath away. And there it is, the flashback to your friends living room and your slow dance with your hesitant, wide-eyed two year old, leaning in and clinging on to you because at that moment you were his comfort and world.

Good grief! I am bawling now imagining this scene in the future. I have no idea what the future holds for my children and whether or not this will ever play out even close to how my mind sees it. I know some people don’t like skipping ahead to the future, they say stay in the present and be here, now. I appreciate that but one of the best ways I know how to do this is by dreaming of what the future may look like. One thing I know for sure, it won’t look like today. For these moments with my sons are fleeting and fast even if somedays drag by marking each second and minute till finally bedtime arrives and I collapse on the couch. Looking forward makes me take in this moment, today, right now.

Life is the simplest it’s going to be. All I have to do with my boys most days is feed them, make sure they stay relatively clean and safe and sleep at the times they need to sleep. I can easily distract them when they cry, they laugh readily and want more cuddles than sometimes I have time for. It only gets more complicated from here on out and I recognize that. So today I celebrate the simple moments, the ones that help me look forward and then redirect my gaze to what lies before me right this very minute.

For all you Momma’s out there having one of ‘those’ days with your kiddos. Do whatever you need to do to find the joy in your kids and the joy in being a parent. You won’t regret it!!

My Papa…

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It is raining here in Lake Stevens, unrelenting raindrops that will keep us indoors for the day. The boys have just gone down for their morning nap and I have a cup of hot chocolate to make my way through. To be honest though, my mind is miles away in Idaho and my heart is caving in from the weight of so many emotions. My Papa, my Father, the man whose hands have always cradled mine in his, whose eyes are filled with kindness, the man who walked me down the aisle and is loved by many, is having a PET Scan. He was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma cancer. It appeared in a lump on his neck and grew quite quickly over a three week period. We will know more after today but my whole being wants to be there to support him and my Mom. To hug him tightly, to hold his rough, strong hands that I love so much. I want to be with my family as we all rally around him and my Mom during this time.

So tomorrow the boys and I will drop Bryan off at work and make the eight hour drive to Idaho. It’s a long drive but I am so thankful we are close enough to make that now. Many of you are praying and will continue to do so and I appreciate it!!! We are hoping, praying and believing along with many others for a positive outcome from the scan. Depending on the results he will possibly go in for surgery on Thursday so please keep thinking of and praying for him!

While this is happening, my head is spinning with other things. I have an interview for a job when I get back, I still haven’t properly finished my book, I miss Northern Ireland, I don’t feel like I have been kind to my boys the past few days, my back is sore making sleep not so great, and the list goes on. I am not looking for a pity party. I am aware and know how wonderful my life is. I have an incredible husband, two wonderful sons who are gracious, forgiving and always ready for fun. We have a roof over our heads during this period of transition from the UK. We are surrounded by wonderful people who are invested into our lives. Our families are closer than they have been for years. So no, I am not looking or asking for pity. This is me processing and being vulnerable when I feel my life is spiraling out of control and I can do nothing to stop it. This is me saying there are too many emotions, too many BIG things going on all at once. I am sure most of you know exactly what I am talking about. Sometimes life presents multiple paradigm shifts at the same time. And whilst you could possibly adjust to one or two, the other three or four are just too much. That’s where I am at. Feeling overwhelmed with the depth of this thing called life. The hardest and most shallow trials can hit at the same time creating the perfect storm of emotional turmoil. I am clinging to the quote that ‘this too shall pass’ for I know it to be true. So what will I do?

What I will do is this. I will be kind to myself. I will allow myself to cry as much as I need to. I will not beat myself up if I shout at my boys when they misbehave. I will breathe. I will sit still when I can. I will open my heart to my heavenly Father and ask for His grace to fill in the gaps and fill my heart. I will sit some more. I will hold my boys, hug them, kiss them. I will cry on Bryan’s shoulder when he gets home from work. I will pack what is needed for our journey. I will take one step at a time. I will not rush. I will be.

I know the picture above is not the best quality, yet I love it. It captures the essence of my sweet, kind, gentle-giant loving Papa. My boys love him. When we stay with my Papa and Mom the boys love sitting on his lap, reading, chatting or watching cartoons with him (he’s a big kid at heart!). My boys are not alone in loving my Papa though, all the grandkids do and we are so very thankful as his children to have him and my Mom. My Papa has always been such a great earthly representation of my heavenly Father and I thank him for making that relationship easier than most. I am excited to get there tomorrow and throw my arms around him in an extravagant gesture of love!

I would ask you to please keep praying for him and our family though. I know it makes all the difference. For those of you who like me, find yourself in a similar season, what do you need to do today to be kind to yourself? If you can, do it. Ask for help, cry, read, walk, sleep. Do whatever it is that will ease your mind and soul. You have my permission and most likely the permission from all those around you too.

 

 

The Nursery…

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This picture is of our old nursery, our boys first bedroom. The nursery has so much significance as you prepare for the arrival of your first child/children. You imagine your child sleeping here, waking here, playing here. You carefully choose the colour of the walls, the type of crib you want your baby to sleep in, the changing table you will use more times than you could ever have imagined. You wash their tiny, little clothes and place them on hangers or in drawers. You place their teddies and blankets in the crib/s and anxiously wait for their arrival. You prepare space in your life for this new little human being about to join your family.

Yet the nursery is also a way for the parents to mentally prepare their checklist of ‘Are we actually ready to bring this baby home from the hospital’? You may store your hospital bag in this room, you may have your cotton wool for cleaning up your baby’s dirty bum, you may keep an abundance of newborn nappies here. You try to prepare for something you have never experienced (if this is your first child). As you countdown the days to your due date you also countdown the projects left to finish in the nursery and possibly around the house. Many of which will be left untouched for years after that first babies arrival, this my friend is perfectly fine and acceptable.

As time went on and we organized our nursery, I realized it told so much of our story. On one wall was pictures of Bryan and I as babies with our own parents with the letters of our last name hung below representing the blending of our two lives to make one. In one corner you can see Bryan’s trophies from football over the years which in the beginning was one of our main instigators for moving to Northern Ireland. On another wall we hung a world map, hoping that our boys will love adventure and travel as much as their parents do and to remind them of the big, extravagant world that awaits their explorations. This map also had attached to it individual pieces of art representing each boys life that my mother-in-love painted for us.

We had two cribs in their nursery. Eventually they couldn’t sleep together because they needed more space to stretch and grow. One crib was borrowed from friends who were some of our closest Northern Irish family. Their two children both slept in that crib and now ours had too. The other crib is warmly referred to as The Box. This crib was loaned to us by a Dutch friend who we met through church. We always seemed to gravitate towards each other with an understanding of being a foreigner living in a different land. The final wall though was our most precious. It held a bright, lime green frame. Inside that frame were scans of our boys as embryos as well as in the womb at 20 weeks. It held pictures of our first family photoshoot with our tired eyes, contented smiles and my slightly swollen belly still present from carrying the boys for 35 weeks.

As we prepared our hearts to leave Northern Ireland, (which by the way I am not sure how you actually prepare to leave a place you love dearly), I would walk into their nursery often. I would stand and absorb the details, the smell, the light, the memories that room held for me. Nights of feeding my boys, naptimes, white noise shouting from behind a closed door, hearing the boys wake in the morning and going into get them up with their jammies and sleepy eyes. Even as I write this I pray I never forget those sweet, precious moments of the first bedroom they possessed. My eyes are welling up with tears and I have a lump in my throat as I vividly recount that time of our life.

Not only did we leave behind the boys first room, a house that we had finally filled with the sounds of our boys pitter patter running up and down the hallway. We left behind one of the most beautiful, challenging, fulfilling, heartbreaking seasons of our life together. I haven’t written about our move that much. The reason is because it is so painful to do so. Let me explain as best as I can.

We are loving this new life we have begun back in the states. In many ways it seems like our lives here are just extending from 2003 when we left Kirkland to begin our pursuit of moving to Northern Ireland. We still have many of the same friends and get to connect with them as often as we can, we are back in the same town we went to University in, Bryan loves his job and is thriving in it. The closeness to family is so special right now. I am so thankful to be staying with good friends while we wait for the little house we are going to rent to open up in December. We know we made the right move at the right time and are thankful to be here.

However, we still feel very much Northern Irish. We long for a cuppa with a bar of galaxy chocolate or a digestive biscuit. We long for a drive to the North Coast to visit friends and soak up the landscape of sea and cliffs. We long for the short drive to the Big Smoke(Belfast) to the Christmas Market with friends. We long for a curry from Bengal Spice on a Saturday night with our friends. We long for the closeness of community with people we had done so much life with over the years. We long for the Bush Road and Dungannon. We long for the slower pace of life. We long for the proximity to the rest of Europe making it possible to travel to places like Italy and France. We long for the people who carved themselves into our hearts, never to be forgotten. We long for it all.

We don’t know what the future holds and there is no point clinging to the past. The present is our home. So today, I reflect with a humble, thankful heart for the fullness of our life both there and here. The two look vastly different but both show me the goodness of God in the land of the living. I stand with my hands outstretched and open once again to all that God has in store.

The Necklace…

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Last night I gave our two energetic boys a bath. While they played in the bath I put fresh sheets on our bed. I could hear Cohen whining a bit so I went back into the bathroom to find that Cohen (it’s always Cohen) had pooped in the bath. Thus a fresh bath was drawn and the boys enjoyed having more time to splash and play. Once Cohen was dried and in his PJ’s, he headed downstairs to watch a show while I got Kidran out to get him ready for bed. In the moments while I dried him off, I lifted him up to put his arms into his PJ’s. Each time I tried to put his arm into his sleeve he leaned into me and hugged me tight. This went on for five minutes at least. He would lean out, look at me, smile and then lean in for another tight squeeze. Of course my Momma’s heart melted. These are the moments I am sure Mary pondered in her heart. These are the moments that feel like I am touching heaven. In these moments, I am the reality of a dream so long sought after. I am a mother, who is holding her precious child. These are also the moments I hoped for that caused me so much pain at times as I wondered if they would ever come to be.

Flashback to the image above. The one of me wearing a beautifully crafted necklace, eyes closed tightly, touching my swollen bump while multiple hands pour out heartfelt prayers over me. I remember that moment so clearly. It was two days before my scheduled C-Section. I was uncomfortably large, feeling sharper pains by the day, anticipating the arrival of our two miracles. The women hosting my baby shower and those attending had walked this painfully long journey of infertility with me. These babies were as much theirs as they were mine. Each of them had cried with or for me at some stage, prayed and longed for the day when they would see me become a mother. In that moment I had the privilege of representing hope fulfilled, no longer hope deferred.

After a nine year wait I knew what it meant to experience hope deferred. At times I wanted to throw hope into the sea and never think of it again. I couldn’t squelch my hope though, which if I’m honest was annoying. My hope kept rising, kept resurfacing, kept appearing.

Over those difficult years I wore the necklace you see in that picture. I used to rub it between my fingers as I prayed for our future children. I used it as the image for a women’s conference at our church and now I even have it tattooed on my wrist. So many people knew of this necklace, they knew of its significance to me. The necklace was a timely gift from my dear friend Ailsa during one of my lowest points. I treasured the generous gift from the moment I received it and the necklace became a reminder of hope. A hope that was strong, resilient and based on the promise from a good God that someday I would be a mother. It brought me strength on days when I didn’t believe or couldn’t believe it would happen. It reminded me on days when I wanted to forget. It brought me comfort when I needed it the most. In many ways it was my own Ebenezer stone, reminding me of all God had done so far in my life, and encouraging me to keep believing for what He hadn’t done. It kept my flickering flame of a dwindling hope alive when the circumstances of our situation nearly snuffed that flame out.

I will not lie to you and say that this hope was easy to carry. It was not. Some days it felt like a ton weight placed on my back. This hope caused me to question my faith, caused me to correct some faulty doctrines in my own belief system, this hope caused me to relinquish the way in which I saw myself as a mother and allowed me to open my heart to many other forms of mothering. Some of you may be at the beginning of a very long journey, one which may be causing you much heartache. Some of you may be in the middle and some of you may be approaching the end of a difficult period of time. Where is your hope? Do you need more hope today? What would remind you, visually of God’s faithfulness and character on the days when you need it the most? What would ignite your own hope fire? Whatever it is, find it, use it, do it and keep at it.

After the boys went to bed last night, I looked down at my wrist. My symbol of hope has been birthed into two, vivacious boys. My hope that was deferred has been resurrected in abundance. I could not and would not have planned the way my hope was fulfilled and most likely you can’t either. This is the way of Jesus and His mystery. He has a third way for you as He did for me. Your situation or circumstances are not unchangeable. Yet your outcome may look very different to what you are dreaming. So today, as you look at the picture of my wrist, with this tattoo forever marking this personal journey for me, look also at my open hand. Keep your hands open to that which God may place in it. Open up your dreams and your hopes, because most likely what He has in store is far better than you could dream up yourself!