One of the boys favourite little games we play right now is fee-fi-fo-fum. They run down the hall, jump into our bed and ‘hide-hide-hide’ under the covers until I stomp down the hall pretending to be a giant shouting for them. Recently I have been invited into the game in a new role. They take turns playing the giant and want me to hide under the covers with them. Some days I don’t want to play these little games that feel like ground hog day and there’s a pile of laundry flooding out of the next room. But then there are these moments. The kind that cause me to stop breathing. The kind that make me realize how short life is. How short this time with the boys being little is. The moments that I am pretty sure are going to replay in my mind when I watch them ride a bike for the first time, drive for the first time, graduate, get married, etc.
When we are playing this sweet game and we are hiding under the covers, they come in close. Each of them. They whisper to me to be quiet, that we are hiding. I get to have their faces inches from mine. I get to study their different and distinctly blue eyes, their mouths with ruby lips, their wild blonde curls. I get to smell their hot little boy breath that doesn’t stink yet but smells warm and sweet. Sometimes they will grab my hand or snuggle in close for only a second. One. Little. Second.
These seconds are precious and so tiny I almost miss them some days. Because as the other little man stomps down the hall, the anticipation builds. The door bursts open with a squeal of delight and we are all joining in! The noise is astounding as is the untamed excitement. We all end up on the bed laughing and wrestling as that’s what most things turn into when you are a mom of little boys.
This little glimpse is teaching me a lot about my own life. I struggle to live in the present on a daily basis. I am a future kind of girl. Always thinking, dreaming and planning for the next step. That is useful and helpful at times but also can steal joy in the present, very real and beautiful moments of my day to day life. I am working on being more mindful. Breathing more deeply. Not pushing myself to run on fumes. To learn what real rest looks like for me and be okay with taking that rest when I need it. Thankfully I am married to an incredible man who sees me so clearly and knows what I need often before I do.
This ‘living in the present’ struggle also runs into many other areas of my life. But now more than ever I see the desperate need to live in the here and now. To look people in the eye and tell them I love them. To truly listen when someone shares what they are going through. To find connection in even the briefest of moments because I am really seeing the person I am with, not moving on to the next time we get together.
So what I am hoping for is a few more seconds…
I.LOVE.SUMMER!!!! The heat, the light evenings, the unstructured-take-it-as-it-comes schedule, the playing!
This summer is no exception. Our summer has been filled to the brim with fun, family and friendship. Time in Idaho, Northern Irish visitors and then a magical escape to Alaska have all been pretty epic if I do say so myself! We have pushed ourselves and the boys to keep going at breakneck speed and for the most part all of us have done okay.
Yet our first two days back in Washington, routine, normal bedtimes and familiar surroundings have shown me that maybe we went a bit too far. When your normally early rising toddlers aren’t getting up till 9am (thank you Jesus!) you know you went beyond your capacity. The cracks have been showing for the last week with the boys being a bit grumpy and us being just really tired. So the unraveling of some bad habits is happening and we are in one of those lovely adjustment periods. You know what I mean right? The times when you feel like your parenting skills are substandard and your children have developed super human powers to push all your buttons at once. Yeah, it’s one of those times.
Bedtime tonight was especially delightful. And yes, I am being sarcastic. I took all of the boys toys, comfort pieces and blankets. I even unscrewed the lightbulbs in their bedroom to discourage their war on sleep. The boys did not nap today which made them extra cranky tonight. The thinking that this would mean an earlier than normal bedtime was completely inaccurate. Ha! So many grand plans lay in wreck and ruin from toddlers who took over the world inside their home!!
Yet once again my boys melted my hardened heart towards their little revolt. Kidran would continually agree with me when I would reprimand them with his encouraging ‘Yawh!’ Somehow he has inherited this from me and I got it from my Mom! It’s so stinkin’ cute though! Then Cohen asked me to kiss all the places he hurt in his little mutiny in his bed. We finished by me kissing each finger tip and the not to be forgotten thumb.
It was in the sweetness of that moment that once again my heart turned towards my two little men. Tired and overstimulated from the experiences of so many trips and people in such a short space of time. Exhausted from the pace of life their little legs were not meant to keep up with. I also have noticed that they seem less enthused with their normal favourite spots to play. Alaska has gotten into their veins and the restriction of modern city life is cramping their ever-growing style. I find myself saying ‘no’ more often, ‘don’t do that’ a lot and that is okay. They will learn to appreciate the offerings of each place they land in the future. Right now it’s just hard to explain the feeling of being out of sorts to our little men.
As I pondered the way Kidran and Cohen had dealt with the transitions of the summer I felt a new grace applied to my heart and soul. The 17th of July marked our first full year back in the states after our 12 year planting/rooting in Northern Ireland. The year has been incredible in so many ways. Reconnecting with old, dear friends, starting new and exciting jobs, being closer to family, being surrounded by mountains again, the list could go on. It doesn’t feel that long ago that we left this place because it is so familiar.
Still when I think of home my heart sees Northern Ireland. The green, the sea, the people, the growing up and growing together that was done. At first I would try to push these thoughts and feelings away. Not anymore. I welcome them. I sit with them. I treasure them. They are an intricate part of my story now. A part that is filled with love, depth and peace that came from pressing into a place. Often times people talk about growing where you are planted. I remember releasing myself to that way of thinking in Northern Ireland at times when I didn’t feel settled, when it felt foreign and not like home. So I am comforted that right now I am back to working at growing right here, right now, where I am.
Are you growing right where you are? What would help you to do that easier, with more grace for yourself and others? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Last night Bryan and I had a date night of sorts thanks to two of his players! We said goodbye to the girls, hopped into the car and drove to downtown Kirkland and picked a coffee shop out of the plethora of choices that we have. (This feels just a little bit different than making this choice in Dungannon!)
This date happened because before I left for work I told Bryan my head was spinning with loads of ‘life’ conversations that we haven’t been able to have lately. So what did he promptly do? Got the girls to watch the boys so we could go and connect and chat through many of the topics we had been avoiding because we haven’t had the proper space and time to chat through them from start to finish.
My husband is amazing for so many reasons! The way he responds to my needs when voiced is just one of those reasons. The pictures above are snaps that he has sent me when I am at work. He loves the times he gets with the boys and it shows! I love how involved he is in every aspect of their lives and it still blows me away that he is my husband!!! I am thankful beyond words!! His capacity is far greater than mine and he is always watching out for the boys and me, making sure we are doing okay. His heart is so big!!! Thank you Bryan for being everything to the boys and me! You are a wonderful father and an amazing husband and I am thankful for you!!!
As I reflected on our date night and how little time it takes to reconnect (thankfully) in this mildly manic season of life, my mind went to other areas of my life. Over Lent I read a brief devotional each day that helped me feel more connected to God than I have in quite awhile. Again I was thankful for the little time it took to reconnect my soul to God. As I thought about Lent, I also began thinking of the many years where being a Christian and the promise of resurrection felt like a slap across the face.
For so many years I wanted, prayed, asked and begged for resurrection in one specific area of our life…that of infertility. I asked for my womb to be resurrected. I asked for our situation to change. I am still so closely connected to those feelings of waiting, of longing and this year they surfaced again as a distant but burning memory.
Lately I have been looking at my resurrection, my boys. The life they bring and represent, the promises fulfilled, the hope seen in a tangible way and I am overwhelmed. Four years ago I could not have imagined my life looking like it does right now. On Easter Sunday my heart ached, wounds re-opened and I felt some of those old feelings all over again. Not for myself this time but for many friends who are still waiting for their own resurrection. Some are waiting for it in their own journey through infertility and that especially tugs on my heart strings. Others are waiting for a relationship, a job change, a family member to come home or be healed and the list goes on.
Staying connected to the old feelings and memories of waiting and hoping has been hard at times. There have been moments where I have wanted to forget all of the painful parts yet it’s been in those parts that others have been encouraged by our story. We walked through the pain and came out the other side. I know that we eventually had our two incredible miracles and so it seems easy and shallow maybe that we would feel okay remembering the past. But I never want to forget it. I want other people to know that no matter where they are right now, it’s not the end. The thing they desire most they may receive, or they may not but where they are will not be forever.
Awhile back Bryan and I fell in love with one of Zach Braff’s films and in it the father figure says a profound statement: ‘We have to keep moving forward, it’s the only direction God gave us to go.’ So today I would encourage you to keep moving forward. Stay connected to yourself, to your spouse, friends and family. This too shall pass. I cannot say the other side will be more beautiful, that you will have everything you have been waiting for but what I can say is that in four years from now, you may not recognize the life you are living and you will be thankful you kept moving forward.
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!!
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!
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.
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!