We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers. - I Thessalonians 1:2

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thirty and Thrilling

I have to say, one day into being 30 and isn't bad at all...not that I was anticipating that it would be. I woke up yesterday to donuts in bed from my favorite local bakery, followed by some cute gifts from my kiddos (a miniature metal lunchbox with Disney characters wearing extra large glasses and the catch phrase, "Let's Nerd Out," on it-- that will be sitting on my desk and a Matchbox convertible so they could say they bought me a new car).

After breakfast, Eric dropped me off for a massage. Upon picking me up, it was a gray, rainy day, so Eric went ahead and gave me my birthday present from him so I could "play" with it-- it was a new iPad-- I was beyond excited! Apparently we way overpaid into our escrow account and got a refund check; Eric decided to use it to spoil me, because a massage would've been enough.

The rest of the afternoon was spent playing around with it and exploring some apps. As well as trying to convince Cate that it's not her iPad. I'm hoping I can find some good apps I can use at school as well as some fun personal ones. Cate and I painted our fingernails and toenails before we headed out to dinner with my parents and grandmothers. I was expecting a quiet dinner out followed by cake and ice cream at home. Except my husband wasn't done with birthday surprises yet. His step-dad captured my reaction to what awaited me at home after dinner.
So many people that I love so dearly were crowded into our small house to show me some large love. My mom made me wear a "30 and Thrilling" sash.

It was crazy awesome and incredibly humbling to have so many people there to celebrate with me. Family, friends from work, friends from church, friends I've known since college (one who drove from D.C. to be here this weekend). I'm not normally one to really "love" being the center of attention. I found my bridal showers and baby showers to be slightly awkward (I think it's the whole opening gifts in front of other people thing and then trying to "make it around" to everyone). But this was anything but awkward. Friend groups and family meshed well with one another, kids played and kept one another entertained, pink champagne flowed freely, and in all it was a lovely evening.

I awoke only with a small headache this morning. ;-) But a much bigger feeling of being loved. Love that will carry me surely into my next decade and into my next 30.

Thank you to everyone for your well-wishes and for coming to celebrate. I am the luckiest thirty-year-old I know.

~Melody :-)

P.S.  It should be noted that I almost "ruined" the surprise party on a few occasions. Eric was surprised that I was actually surprised as he thought for sure I knew he was at least up to something. Here is how I almost found out:

1. A few weeks ago, when Eric cut his finger and went to the ER, he didn't take his phone. When I left him at the ER to go pick up our kids at our friends' house, I left my phone at the ER with him and I stopped by the house and picked up his phone. When I went to call him, his most recent calls that day were to four of my friends. I asked him what that was all about and he said his phone "butt-dialed" them. I thought that butt-dialing was impossible when you have a keypad lock on an iPhone, but he swore that's what it was and I believed him. It turns out you can't really butt-dial from an iPhone. But just to be sure I believed him, he pretended to butt-dial me later that week.

2. I made a reference to the Friends episode where they all turned 30 and said that I hoped Eric's plan wasn't to send me out drinking with friends only to come home to a surprise party. He thought I knew then, but I really was just referencing the episode.

3. A couple of weeks ago, Eric told me he had made dinner reservations for us to go out for my birthday and asked me if I would call my parents and ask them to babysit. I got pretty ticked off with him because I thought it would be rude to ask my parents to babysit the kids after driving four hours to come visit and said that it would be better if we just all went out to dinner. The original plan was for us to go out to dinner while my parents got everything set up. Luckily my man is a quick thinker and just had his sister come do it instead so that my parents could join us for dinner and I wouldn't suspect anything. Thanks, Kristin! (Sidenote: Kristin even asked people to park down the street so I wouldn't see any recognizable cars-- good thinking)

4. I almost found out about the iPad when Cate told me she had lunch at the mall with Jadyn's daddy but Jadyn wasn't there. Jadyn's daddy is Eric's friend, Tom, who works at the Apple store and hooked Eric up with a discount. Luckily, Eric and Tom get together frequently, with and without the kids, so it didn't seem that unusual.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awareness of Gratitude

Woah...Blogger looks totally different. Anyway...
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to take part in what my church calls a ministry time. It was intended to bring a little bit of closure to a class I took there (in 2010...yes, they've been a little behind in scheduling these times and no, I didn't mind the wait). The short version is that those assigned to minister to you, spend about 2 hours or so interviewing you-- talking about the peaks and the valleys of your life. Then they spend about another hour or so affirming you, praying for you, praying with you, etc. It's a very healing and heart-warming time (at least for me it was).

As I was talking to the two women assigned to me, I felt like I do many times when I talk to people about my life. As I said in my last post, it's been extraordinarily ordinary. But sometimes, it's been downright boring (not necessarily to me, but boring-sounding when I talk about it with others). I haven't had any major trauma or drama in my life. Yes, there were things that I thought were incredibly dramatic in my life-- breakups with boys, fights with friends, a bad grade on a final exam. But in "the grand scheme of things" as many like to say, those things were small in comparison to what a lot of people go through.

I don't say all of this to compare problems, struggles, or pain. That's not what this post is about. Instead, this post is about someone else's response, a total stranger's response, to what I casually described as a fairly boring life. After making that comment in passing as these two women combed my life for events that may have led to spiritual strongholds, one of them remarked, "Your life hasn't been boring, Melody. Your life has been protected. For whatever reason, whether you ever come to find out why or not, God has protected you and blessed you for some purpose of His."

I don't say all of this to say I'm better than anyone else. I'm not. That's not what this post is about either. And it's not about what I think God's purpose is for my life. I know that He's gifted me with a lot of love, a lot of patience, the gift of gab, and the ability to teach. But this isn't about spiritual gifts either.

So what is all this rambling about? As I've been chewing on what this woman said, I've realized that she's right. I haven't and I don't live a boring life. I live a blessed life. I've been spared the pain of losing a close family member or friend to death. The deaths I have encountered have been those of people whose lives have been well-lived. I didn't have a dramatic and distant relationship from my parents growing up.  We're still close now. I haven't had a near-death experience. I haven't had something so traumatizing happen to me that I live in fear of that thing happening to me again. I have a healthy marriage, healthy children, and a healthy body. I've paid my bills on time, worked hard, and I generally a reason to smile daily. These are not the signs of a boring life, but a blessed life.

As I prepare to start a new decade, I want to work hard at the art of being grateful. Because I do think it's an art. It's something we have to practice. Growing up, I was taught to say, "thank you" and to write thank-you notes. But it's more than that. It's being thankful everyday, for just the little things. It's being aware of that gratitude. And sharing that gratitude. In extraordinarily ordinary life, I have much to be thankful for-- some are practical (a house, a job, money saved for retirement, clothing, food, etc.) and some are really nice and not at all practical when you get right down to it (vacations, my iPhone, multiple pairs of shoes) and some are obvious (my kids, my husband, my friends, my family).

So that's my goal in this new decade. To practice being aware of all the good things (and even some of the bad) around me and to be thankful.

~Melody :-)

You didn't think I'd leave you without some pictures did you? Here's Cate in her recital costume-- it's in less than 2 weeks! She is so excited to dance on stage.

And here are my two lovelies at the park. I am thankful for the beautiful weather. And for trips to the park.   

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Extraordinarily Ordinary

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

~Naomi Shihab Nye, "Famous"

A friend told me today that, barring a major miracle, she will be saying goodbye to her mother in the coming months. And maybe it's because my heart is so heavy for her, or maybe it's because Cate is having a sleepover tonight with her (now officially) cousin, Emmy, at my sister-in-law's house and Brennan is in bed, or maybe it's because when looking for a stapler this weekend I stumbled upon some things I hadn't forgotten about, but had forgotten that I had put them there, but I feel the need for a weeknight post of the random rambling type. Or maybe it's because I turn 30 in ten days (yes, that's been a theme on this blog lately). Anyway, what I stumbled upon was this:
10 years worth of journals. Because outside of this blog, I keep a journal. Where I document it all. In high school and even for the first year or so of college, I kept journals, but when I'd fall out of the rhythm of writing in them, I'd rip out all of the pages, throw them away, and start all over when I decided to restart that rhythm. But for whatever reason, the journal at the top of the picture, which starts on March 8, 2002, marks the beginning of NOT ripping out those pages, even if months lapsed in between entries. That journal on the bottom? The one my husband made and that has an adorable picture of Cate on the front? Last used on 4/11/12. Oddly enough, it only has a couple of pages left. Looks like I'll be starting a new journal with a new decade.

Anyway. It's all in there-- the good, the bad, and the ugly. And were my own children to someday discover that they only had months to prepare for a final goodbye, I'd give them these. And if they read them, I think they would find that my life was extraordinarily ordinary. And it's the only way I'd want it described.

Because I'm not famous and have not lived that life. Because in all likelihood, I will never be famous. At least not in the way we think of famous in our society.

But today I thought of my friend and her mom. And I thought about that Naomi Shihab Nye poem-- one of my favorites. And I thought about how her mom is famous to her. And my mom is famous to me. And isn't that what we all want as moms? To just be famous to our kids?

And I thought about these journals that I've kept for 10 years. And how one day, under circumstances yet to be determined, my kids will either be given or will find these journals. And as their fingers turn the pages (whether they read every word or not), I hope my extraordinarily ordinary life will be famous to them. If nothing else, they might enjoy the sermon notes I've taken at church each Sunday in those journals or the photographs I've included-- some of them, or the magazine or newspaper articles I've clipped out, or maybe they'll enjoy the list of each book I've read that year that I keep in the back.

If you've hung in with me on this long post until this point, I'll share a few details from the past decade:
  • "Fire drill at midnight last night. Yuck! Anyway, needless to say, I forewent the shower this morning and went to work with semi-greasy hair and an oily face. And guess who came in? Eric. I was just like, please don't look at me, I'm gross." ~3/20/02 (I worked the early shift at the dining hall and Eric used to come have breakfast there, even though it was totally out of his way)
  • "After formal, we sat on the Stoddard study lounge couch and he asked me out." ~4/21/02 (and it's been pretty much wonderful ever since)
  • "I bought myself a present...a guitar...I know G, D, Em, E, A, Am, and C chords." ~5/24/02 (Ummm...I think I remember G chord)
  • "Had a bonfire by the ocean tonight...BIG FUN!" ~6/28/03 (the summer I spent in Los Angeles)
  • "I survived my first day as a sub!" ~1/14/03 (I graduated college in December and subbed for half a year)
  • "So besides the crazies at Hap's yesterday celebrating St. Patrick's Day, there was another reason to celebrate...I GOT A JOB!" ~3/18/04 (still at that job today)
  • "I"ll be in Paris in an hour and a half...we ordered wine with our dinner on the plane." ~7/23/04 (written in flight on the way to our honeymoon in Paris, France)
  • "Well, I did it! I have officially made it through my first year of teaching!" ~6/1/05 (and still going strong)
  • "I have so much to be thankful for and I need to be happy with what I have and not let the clothes, homes, vacations, cars, and other things that other people have and I don't get me down." ~12/30/05 (yes, I did struggle a bit with entitlement and living large for awhile--told ya there was some ugly in there)
  • "We made it to London!" ~6/14/06 (yes, I was crazy enough to take a group of students on summer vacation)
  • "I still finished all 26.2 miles in 5 hours and 40 minutes." ~2/4/07 (I had run the Disney Marathon about two weeks before in record breaking heat and with a foot injury halfway through)
  • "It's a girl!" ~9/7/07
  • "Cate is finally here!" ~2/6/08 (written the day after she was born)
  • "Baby B cooperated at our ultrasound last week and HE is perfect." ~8/19/10 (upon learning Brennan would be a boy)
  • "Well, nothing ever turns out the way you plan. After 21 hours of labor on Wednesday and into Thursday morning, I got to 8cm and Brennan stopped moving down. Around 3:30 am I started getting prepped for a c-section. At 4:13 on 12/23, Brennan Michael finally arrived in the world." ~12/25/10
  • "I'm amazed at what a difference a few weeks of preschool makes for her (Cate). She's so much more attentive at dance class...Cate seems to be enjoying preschool too." ~10/3/11
Thank you for sharing in my extraordinarily ordinary life. For letting me be famous to you. Tonight I'm praying for my friend. For her to feel she has enough time. For her mom to be pain free and to know she is famous to her daughters. Tonight I'm praying that we'd all embrace our ordinary lives and continue to live them in our extraordinary ways for however many days, weeks, months, or years we're given.

~Melody :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Practicality Wins

I turn 30 in less than two weeks. And I think it's safe to say that for the latter part of my 20s, practicality has been the name of the game. I guess for the most part, I've always been fairly practical. Although I did spend $120 on a pair of shoes my senior year of high school on a trip to New York City. And after I finished breastfeeding Cate, my present to myself for going past the year mark was a totally awesome, and totally expensive, pair of Rock Republic jeans. And there was that pricey hotel for our five-year anniversary. And I have been known to pay a pretty penny for a good show. I guess some things in life are worth splurging on.

But with two kids, practicality wins. I traded my sporty little Caliber for a minivan. I traded sun-tan oils for sunscreen. I started doing pedicures at home (allowing myself to indulge only every great once in awhile). We rarely bother with the expense of seeing a movie in the theaters. And this weekend? Well, I got some new wheels. My racing bike just isn't practical for riding around town, either next to Cate or pulling a trailer. I love riding it, but it's pretty much sat unused for a good 18 months. The time had come. It's part beach cruiser (big comfy seat and handlebars) and part hybrid (thinner tires and it actually shifts gears, unlike a typical cruiser). The rack on the back is commuter friendly. And it has a bell so I can warn people to move before I run them over. It also hauls children like a champ. And let's face it, if gas prices go where they say they're going, I'll probably be hauling groceries too.
My husband has the men's version. It's the most practical bike purchase we've ever made. We both love to bike and in the past we were gear-hogs who wanted awesome mountain bikes for trail riding or road bikes for racing up, down, and around the river valley. We had the specials shoes, shorts, jerseys, helmets, cycle computers, etc. It was actually weird to bike around this weekend in our normal clothes and tennis shoes. And fun. And well...practical.

I know there will come a time in our future where we'll be out on those long road rides again. But, again, with two small kids, that time is still far away. And I'm okay with it. I kind of like this practical stage. It scores $15 sundresses:And restaurant.com gift certificates that we can use to go kill a bowl of 50 wings with friends (totally did that last night-- 50 wings between the four of us-- definitely gonna own it) and pay less than $30 for the dinner out. And grandparents that are nice enough to take our children for the night so we don't have to pay a babysitter.

I'm sure my 30s will continue the trend of practical thinking and purchasing-- although I'd definitely call our upcoming Disney vacation a splurge. And there are plans in the works for a 10 year anniversary trip. And I am splurging and getting my hair highlighted in a week and a half (to celebrate this new decade, y'know).

While some may call the iPhone a splurge, I will lump it in the practical category. I use it to find cheap gas prices, keep up with the news, email, and take cute pictures and videos of my kids when lugging around my good camera just isn't well...practical. Like this one:

Happy week to you all!
~Melody :-)

PS...If you didn't already know, we spent the better part of last Tuesday night in the ER. Eric did a number on his left index finger while chopping veggies. There wasn't enough skin to stitch together, so they had to use this foam stuff to get the blood to coagulate. He'll be fine and it's healing wonderfully, but his finger won't be back to normal for about a month (ie...he won't be playing much guitar until then).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Cate had an egg hunt on Thursday at school. The only large fenced-in area big enough for all of the kids at once was the cemetery next to the church. So that's where the egg hunt took place. They do have a fenced-in play area, but it's not large enough to hold all of the classes, plus parents, plus siblings.
Cate helped Brennan find a few eggs of his own.
Each kid was only allowed to find 5 eggs, which made it very fair for each kiddo.
Thursday was also opening day for the Cincinnati Reds. So we all sported our Reds gear (but I only managed a picture of the kids). We can't wait to head to the ballpark. Being so close to downtown means we can decide at the last minute if we want to head down to a game.
On Friday both Cate and I were off school. We dyed some eggs. I ate one and had no issues. I've been feeling pretty awesome lately, too, so I think the worst is over and we'll chalk it up to some weird viral or bacterial thing complicated by an ulcer-- which is pretty much what the doctor called it.
We started a little container garden in our backyard. I've never been much of a green thumb, so if this works out, we might try a raised bed next year. For now we're trying our hands at tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, green peppers, and strawberries. Putting them in containers means we don't have to deal with weeds.
Eric and I have decided if even one pot yields something useful, we'll consider it a success and try again next year. If more than one yields something edible, we'll aim for the raised box. Cate helped me decorate a large pot for each crop.
We visited the bunny at the mall. The kids got fun masks.
Brennan didn't scream or cry the way he did with Santa. But he didn't sit still for long. This was the best I could get unless I wanted to pay $17.99+tax for ONE 5x7.
The bunny visited my kids last night and was very generous. Playmobil 123 is genius-- Brennan loved the rocketship. Cate got a Playmobil egg with a zookeeper and animals. Of course treats and books were part of their baskets. Cate also got a couple of new coloring books.
He also left me this. My mason-jar lovin' heart is so excited to have a lid for when I drink my coffee or tea out of mason jars. Today we celebrated Easter at church and then with family. I think this quote from Brennan Manning (yup, that's where we got Brennan's name) sums it up:
"He could not be glorified until he had been crucified. The whole purpose of his redemptive suffering, death, and resurrection was to share with us the fruits of his Easter triumph." ~Brennan Manning

Happy Easter! I'm off to attempt to put two children, who have ingested probably three times their normal daily sugar allowance today, to bed.
~Melody :-)