Monday, May 26, 2008


This weekend has been a great weekend. I have had time to simply be with my husband and daughter. We’ve taken long walks, snuggled together, watched sort of pointless movies, eaten our favorite foods, socialized with friends at numerous graduation parties, and even found time for a nap here and there and a trip to Hobby Lobby.

Life, as we’ve known it, has become much, much different. In no small degree, Sydney’s advent into our lives has actually given us the permission that we needed to just slow down a bit and take it all in … it being the proverbial “moment.”

Missing the moment is a hazard of living I guess. Certainly life as a teacher followed by life working at the YMO contributed to a sense of rather frantic living – constantly pressing, planning and preparing for the next momentous occasion. As a child and as a student, I was forever waiting for the next big project, holiday, class outing or special event. As a teacher, I lived life bell-to-bell, break-to-break, and lesson plan-to-lesson plan. My professional life over the last six years has been gears up toward the enormity of the National Youth Gathering. So, in my new context of parenthood and professional life, it is a pretty novel experience to being living life recognizing that (and I don’t mean for this to sound pitiful) this is pretty much “it.” Waking and living and working and playing and caring and cooking and laughing and … this is LIFE.

And, is it wrong to say this so boldly, I like it very much.

There are moments when I am giving Syd her evening bath, or chopping veggies for some yummy dinner concoction, or simply enjoying the evening (like I am now, clicking away on my keyboard while Leon stretches out and watches ESPN) and I stop – breathe – and take “it” all in. This living of life in ordinary moments. And I think, “Wow. I like it very much.”

And so as a new week begins and our first real holiday weekend as a young family (and yes, I know that Easter was tucked in there … but we were still too foggy headed and sleep deprived to appreciate it much) draws to its close, I think Leon and I would say: it is indeed a wonderful life and we like it, very, very much indeed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

... our date night with indy ...

Last night, Leon and I enjoyed our first, real "date" :) Sure, we've been out and about, but this was a bonafide, let's arrange care (thanks Grammy and Papa) and let's hit the movies kind of event. All day long I was thinking about buttered popcorn and Indiana Jones! Woohoo. My sister posted a great recap of the film and you can read our thoughts at her blog as well!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

“Safety Clown Says” … or, today was just a great day!

A few years ago, as the ice cream truck circled our neighborhood, Leon and I had a conversation about how slightly creepy and sort of Hameln-esque we found ice cream trucks.

Sure, back when we were kids the ice cream truck was exciting enough. Deep in the heat of summer, you would hear that alluring bell; run to your room to scrounge your pocket change together and then indulge in a syrupy sweet bomb pop, or an orange dreamsicle, or those really tasty strawberry shortcake bars and – if you were like most kids – you enjoyed every sticky faced moment of sugary bliss; but then you grew up and moved on to more sophisticated ice cream treats. And the neighborhood ice cream truck with its clanging bell and music-box soundtrack was forgotten.

Well, like so many other things these days, Leon and I have reevaluated our “oh-so-grown-up” attitudes toward the neighborhood ice cream truck.

Before I get to that, let me just say that today was an absolutely show-stopping day. I woke up with the birds at 5AM, but was content to dose with a sleepy smile on my face until I heard Miss Sydney at 6:45AM. (Actually, truth be told, I was waiting to hear her. Saturday mornings have become family snuggle time, and I honestly just could not wait for her to wake up. I know, I know – someday SHE will be the one waking us up at 6AM for cartoons and cereal, but now it’s my eagerness that wakes me up early!)

Finally, I heard it – just the hint of a nerfing around sound – and we were able to enjoy snuggle time, smile time , genuine happy, babbling, let’s-bother-daddy time.

And the day began.

The best part of the morning was packing up our gear and heading to our local nursery, Daniel’s Farm. We love Daniel’s. We buy all of our plants there: our herbs, our hanging baskets, and in the wintertime – our Christmas tree. It’s a family run farm with 15 greenhouses and we enjoy the owners, who always work the counter and are generous and willing to put up with me and the lists of odd plants that I bring with me, most usually discovered from garden plots I find in MidWest Living.

Sydney and I went to Daniel’s together. She “rode” in her snazzy front carrier. Sydney is very much into smells and colors these days – so the herb house was awesome fun, and she also proved a great help in selecting the pansies we took home. Hauling our treasures out to the truck, a kind older woman took pity on me with my pull-cart, infant, bag of soil, car seat, full-tray of herbs, diaper bag … etc. Her help put a smile on my face and convinced me yet again that people are often far kinder than we dare to imagine.

We headed home. Sydney napped. I gardened.

The day progressed, one content moment after another; nothing fancy or spectacular, just peaceful, calm and infinitely memorable.

Early evening found us enjoying a family walk at Laurel Park. We stopped and watched a family flying a kite and listened to the laughter of the man and his daughter. We caught up on our feelings, worries, concerns and joys … and when we heard the clang, clang of our younger years, Leon dashed for the truck to find his baggie of spare coins and we hailed the ice cream truck, picked out our familiar favorites (wow, prices have certainly gone up!) and our walk became this awesome combination of new family centeredness combined with yesteryear memories. It was pure bliss – those sticky fingers, I even managed (no surprise here) to drip orange dreamsicle all over my shorts! We laughed our heads off and discussed the finer merits of the modest offerings of the ice cream man (the menu hasn’t changed much in 20 years) and considered what a completely terrific Saturday evening we were having: ourselves, our baby, a beautiful park, our new stroller and the ice cream man.

Talk about enjoying the simple life.

Friday, May 9, 2008



Worry is a powerful thing.

Anxiety is probably my worst enemy in life. Sure, I worry about things that normal people worry about, but most often, I worry about things I fully recognize I absolutely cannot control, which is more than disturbingly neurotic. I even worry about how much I worry. And this worry seeps into my down time, my resting time, my prayer time, and my commuting time. In fact, just about the only time I am able to shut out worry and anxiety is when I work.

So, I work … a lot.

In college, I would take more courses, read more books, study more hours and write extra papers. As a “grown-up”, I do more emailing, write more strategies, develop more angles to projects already on the docket … etc. etc. etc.

Things always look better in the morning light, and most of my worrying starts at night. So, since it’s 8:38 on a Saturday night, bear with me.

Currently, I have been worrying a great deal about my vocational life. Making the big move from Youth Ministry (a place I loved and a mission about which I was passionate) to my new role at the Publishing House (where – although yes, I have a passion for the mission, I haven’t been working long enough to know if I love it or not) has been a bit of a sleep-depriver for the last three weeks.

But, today, all that worry was well and truly trounced by a new, monster anxiety – for our little Sydney.

Today, Sydney was officially diagnosed with a condition called positional plagiocephaly. In addition to learning to spell plagiocephaly without requiring a spell check – the past few days have been fraught with mind-numbing moments of concern followed by mind buzzing moments where I generate more questions than any Mommy should be allowed to ask. We have come to learn that plagiocephaly is especially common in babies who are born breech (which, as faithful readers know, was very much our reality with Miss Sydney Grace, starting back at 24 weeks of pregnancy and lasting until her surprise early arrival at the end). After x-rays and consultations at Children’s Hospital, we have learned that Sydney’s condition is not the more serious condition, craniosynostosis, that would require surgery, and we have learned that we have an array of treatment options to consider.

We have learned that we are not bad parents (though I am having a really tough time not blaming myself entirely) and that even though we have done tummy time, and repositioned her sleeping positions, etc. etc., this condition is very common given her early birth and her “I like to hang out breech” reality. Overall, we should be (and really are) really thankful. After all, today as I sat there in the radiology department at Children’s, I saw many, many Mommies and Daddies with many more reasons to be worried than our little family.

The thing I am worrying about is this: am I doing the “right” things for Sydney? I work. Is that a good decision? I’m not home to watch her 24-hours each day. I can’t guarantee that her head isn’t turned left too many hours (we have EXCELLENT women watching our precious baby …). Have I spent enough time playing and holding her? Am I to blame? And what if the treatment option we decide to use doesn’t correct the problem? I don’t want to fail her.

That’s the root of it all. I don’t want to fail Sydney. Not now. Not ever.

And the reality, as we all know it, is that I will. Actually, the reality is that I already have. And at some point, the Gretchen-who-hates-to-let-people-down is going to have to get over the fact that she is less than perfect. It’s not that I don’t “get” this. But it’s time to really, really get it, or else I have this sneaking suspicion that I am going to miss a whole lot of genuine, authentic opportunities to be comfortable with being the Mom I Just Am, as opposed to the Mom I Am Obsessed with Trying to Be.

And, maybe I am wrong about this, I think that Mom I Just Am is going to enjoy life a whole, heck of a lot more.

My friend, Lori is forever telling me to give myself some permission to go easy on myself. And you know what, she’s right. If I have any hope of being the “best” kind of Mom for Sydney, I need to whole-heartedly embrace that I am often going to be the worst and – rather than dwelling in that and rolling around in my own absurd and ridiculous pity party – LET IT GO!

So. Depending on what we decide, you all might see some fun photos of our little Miss Syd wearing her super cool new ‘DOCband’ helmet … and I hope that you’ll all cheer along with us as our little bug gets her noggin back in shape. Hers is external; here’s to hoping that Mom gets her internal noggin back in shape right along with her.

Do they make that helmet in the adult size?