Saturday, December 07, 2013

The home stretch

Less than two weeks to go until my due date! The beginning of the pregnancy seemed to go really slowly, then the middle flew by, and now at the end, things are starting to slow down again. The last few weeks have been quite difficult (emotionally, not physically, for which I'm thankful). It's very hard for me to know that something huge is about to happen but to not know exactly when or how and to have basically no control over it. The waiting is really starting to wear on me, and I've burst into tears for seemingly no reason on several occasions. I'm trying to enjoy these last few days of being a family of two and concentrate on the excitement of meeting our little boy rather than the uncertainty of the process of getting him here, but it's difficult at times. I've just got to hang in there a little bit longer, though!

A few observations/reminders for my future self as I near the end of my pregnancy.
  • I should have given in and invested more in maternity clothes earlier. I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on maternity clothes. It seems like such a waste when you only wear them for a few months. However, I also forgot how much I hate the feeling of not having anything to wear. I would have been a lot happier just forking over the money for quite a few good outfits. Additionally, under-the-belly maternity pants and skirts work fine for the first 7 or so months, but it becomes very difficult to find shirts long enough to cover that gap at the end. 
  • Disappointingly, I never really had any pregnancy cravings. I was looking forward to the excuse to eat with abandon or send Darby out at 1 a.m. for some random food item. :) There were a handful of times when I really wanted red velvet cake, french fries, and frozen yogurt (separately), so I went and got some, but it wasn't anything stronger than a regular food craving. I think I love food too much normally for pregnancy to make much of a difference. 
  • I do have some evidence of "pregnancy brain." This became quite obvious when playing word games with my family over Thanksgiving. Certain common words would just totally leave my brain. While playing Taboo, I could think of the word exhaust, but not pipe.Weird.
  • When people find out your due date, there is a universal compulsion to list for you the birthdays and anniversaries of everyone they know that fall into a four-week window around your due date. I'm guilty of this, too. However, in the future, I'm going to try to stop myself. It's getting hard for me to feign enthusiasm when someone tells me their great-aunt's anniversary is 4 days after my due date. 
  • I always kind of thought pregnant women were exaggerating when they would expend so much effort to get up from a seated position. I thought they either wanted sympathy or they must have just let themselves totally go to get to that point. Well, I am repenting. I have stayed active throughout this pregnancy, and it is still super hard to get up from sitting or lying down, especially from a soft seat. I now psych myself up for about 5 seconds before heaving myself up from the couch, often with a grunt. It's not pretty. 
Overall, I wouldn't say pregnancy has been "magical" for me. As with most big things in life, ordinary life carries on with its ups and downs. I now just go through all of those things with a 30-pound weight attached. One thing that has been really awesome, though, is feeling the baby move. For the past 6 weeks or so, I have been able to feel him pretty much constantly throughout the day, and I really enjoy that. It's amazing that there's this tiny little person inside me and that soon he will be on the outside. Any time I see friends' baby pictures on facebook, I get so excited I can hardly stand it. I can't wait to hold this little guy and see his tiny feet that poke me in the side constantly. I'm so happy that the time is almost here!  

Friday, November 01, 2013

Friend Reunions

I guess it's getting kind of old me explaining what a bad blogger I am. Perhaps I should just come to terms with the fact that once a month updating is my new m.o. :) Since I don't know when I'll be motivated to post again, I'll just cram all of my recent friend reunions into one post.

In September, we went to Lake Grapevine and met up with Krista, Jessica and Chase, and Stephanie and Jon for a fun "camping" weekend. (We actually stayed in some little cabins, which beats tent camping any day for me.) Bobbi and Whitney were able to come over for the day on Saturday, and they and Jessica and Stephanie surprised Krista and me with a little baby shower, which was so sweet. These girls were such a huge part of my childhood and adolescence, and I'm so happy we've maintained our relationships over the years.

Chase, Jessica, Krista, Me, Darby, Jon, and Stephanie

All the women and kiddos. Having Finn and Liam there provided a somewhat frightening glimpse into parenting for me and Krista. While Whitney was busy cleaning up a potty-training-related accident, Liam had a big blowout. Poop was everywhere. Krista and I were like, " it too late to back out of this parenting thing?" Just kidding. Those little boys are precious. It'll be exciting to see how crazy it gets when we add two more little boys to the mix.
The 2 preggos. Please ignore the fact that I look like I'm 2 months ahead of Krista instead of 2 weeks.
The adorable quilts Jessica made us.

On Homecoming weekend, Kalyn, Brittany, and Erin came to Abilene to throw a shower for Em and me. It's fun to have friends who are expecting at about the same time. Carolyn wasn't able to come down from Kansas City, but she joined us via Skype. They did such a good job with the food, cake, and decorations. And I got a ton of cute baby clothes and gear. Brittany spent the weekend at my house, and it was so fun to be "roomies" again.

Em and Me showing off our "Smart Cookie" onesies from Carolyn. Little Lily did a great job passing out presents. She was tickled to be attending her very first baby shower. Em's mom did not want to be in the picture, hence the pillow. :)
Hannah and Mom were also in town for Homecoming. I'm so happy it worked out for them to join us.
The Fat Tuesday gals. Love these ladies.
The next weekend, Erin, Britt, and I flew up to Kansas City to visit Carolyn. Her husband is in Texas for 12 weeks doing medical school rotations, so we had planned to go keep her company for at least a weekend. It was sort of strange timing that it ended up being the weekend after our other reunion, but I'll take two weekends in row with those ladies any time. It was wonderful to enjoy some more fallish weather and to actually see trees changing colors. We got to eat some great local food and spent tons of time gabbing. Eating and talking are the main pastimes of the Fat Tuesday women, so it was perfect. Another bonus of the weekend: I suspect that the plane ride might have been what caused Baby JP to move out of his breech position. I can't be certain, but he was sure moving around a lot during takeoff and landing. I'm thinking he might have gotten disoriented and flipped. Whatever caused it, I'm relieved he's in the proper exit position now!

Erin, me, and Britt at the pumpkin patch. We took advantage of the photo op, then bought much cheaper pumpkins at the grocery store. :)
We had so much fun making these monster cookies (and eating the decorations) for a Halloween party with some of Carolyn's friends.
Showing off our handiwork. A funny story about this picture. I used the self-timer on my camera to take it. When I went to check it, my first reaction was, "Oh my gosh. I look so fat!" Then I remembered, oh yeah, I'm pregnant. I had seriously forgotten for a minute. Not sure how that happens.
It's been wonderful to be able to spend so much time with friends. And they are all so sweet to be excited and supportive about the baby. I love sharing life with them.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sisters babymoon to NYC

Still trying to catch up on posts I should have written in the past couple of months!

Right after we moved to Abilene, Hannah and I took a trip to New York. We've been wanting to do a sisters trip for a while, and this summer seemed like the perfect opportunity. I joked that this was my "babymoon." But instead of going with Darby, I went with Hannah. :)

I had been to New York once before, but only for one day at the tail end of a Spring Break Campaign to New Jersey. That time, I didn't do much planning beforehand, and it was snowy, so I really didn't get to see much. Hannah's been several times, so she's an old pro. It was great having her expertise. We got sooo lucky with the weather (in the 70s and sunny, except for one memorable exception), and we were able to see and do so much. It was a wonderful experience to share with my sister. I was afraid we might drive each other crazy, but we did remarkably well (minus my panicking about being on time to the Broadway shows and the airport---Hannah said she sympathizes with Darby now). Hopefully, there will be many other sister (and brother!) trips in our future.

An unexpected fun memory from the trip was that Hannah got to feel the baby kicking for the first time. I had been feeling him for a while, but this was the first time he kicked hard enough to feel from the outside. Hannah had been dying for the chance to feel the baby, and I think it's sweet that he really wanted to please his aunt. :)

The View from the top of Rockefeller Center. This was awesome. I highly recommend it.

We decided going to The Met would be a great activity for the one rainy morning in the forecast. What we didn't consider was how absolutely soaked we would get riding our double-decker tour bus to get there. We were literally dripping wet by the time we got to the museum. Oh well, we got some laughs out of it.

Frousin Rob, who lives in Brooklyn, met up with us each day. It was so great to spend time with him and to see where he lives.
Times Square after our second Broadway show (First Date...very cute!). Just ignore the guy hiking up his pants in the background. :)

 At the Today show. This was the highlight of the trip for me. Darby and I watch the show every morning, and I've always wanted to be in the crowd. Al Roker ended up talking to a woman next to me (not in this picture) for a long time, and I totally creepily horned in on the interview just to get on TV. I'm not ashamed.

We were reeeeally close to Al Roker. Unfortunately, the other hosts didn't come outside very much because there was a breaking news story. Boo.

On the ferry to see the Statue of Liberty

 At Chicago - good show, terrible seats.

The Empire State Building

Monday, September 09, 2013

They're ba-ack!

I think I may have written before about my gecko phobia. I know it's totally ridiculous because they can't hurt you, but I really, really hate them. I don't mind spiders or most other bugs, but if I see a gecko, I freak out. One of the wonderful things about living in Illinois was that there were no geckos. I never saw even one in the 5 years we were there. So, I found myself able to laugh a little bit at my former fear.

The other day, Darby walked from our bedroom, through the living room where I was sitting, out the front door, and then back in again. I asked him what he was doing, and he said, "You don't want to know." Then I realized he had been carrying a gecko outside. I freaked out a little bit, but it really didn't bother me too much. I began to imagine that perhaps I had conquered my phobia.

And then Sunday morning happened. I was taking my shower, when I happened to look up on the wall and noticed a gecko just hanging out. I managed not to scream, but hurriedly stepped out of the shower (I did have the presence of mind to step gingerly since my balance at 25 weeks pregnant is even worse than usual), flung open the bathroom door, and whisper-yelled to sleeping Darby, "There's a gecko in the shower." He was none too happy to be awakened in this manner, but valiant gecko warrior that he is, he came in the bathroom, knocked the gecko down with his shoe, and then washed it down the drain. I was really wishing he had caught it, though, because I felt like the gecko might be able to crawl back up the drain. So the rest of the time I was showering, I kept an eye on the drain, on high alert for any sign of his nasty little webbed foot or pointy head.

And now, I feel like I've lost my innocence. Those 5 years I laughed at my gecko phobia were only because there were no geckos around, not because I've made any progress. I cannot describe the total terror I felt when I saw that little guy hanging out on the wall. Now, every time I get in the shower, I have to scan the walls, the edge of the tub, behind the shampoo, etc., to make sure there aren't any geckos waiting to scare me. It's horrible. I wish I was exaggerating, but I'm really not. I feel like perhaps I need to go to therapy where I stare at pictures of geckos and maybe even touch one, but I don't see how I could ever do it.

Anyone else have a totally irrational phobia? Or, better yet, have you ever gotten over a phobia? If so, how?

Sunday, September 01, 2013

It's a Boy!

So, this isn't exactly breaking news since we found out a month ago, but I want to make sure I at least get the experience written down while it's still somewhat fresh in my mind.

From pretty early on in the pregnancy, I had a feeling that it was a boy. I can't really explain why, but the feeling just kept getting stronger as time went on. So, I went in to the sonogram feeling pretty confident about what we would find out. Of course, I wouldn't have been upset if we found out it was a girl. In fact, I think I preferred a girl just a little bit---mainly because I feel like I know more about being a girl. Plus, I love pink and other "girly" things. :) But, either way, I knew I would be excited, and was really ready to just find out so we could stop referring to the baby as "it."

I tried to prepare myself mentally for the possibility that the baby might not be cooperating and they might not be able to tell the sex. But inside I knew I would be so disappointed if that happened. We went to the appointment, and, just like the first sonogram, waited FOREVER to be called back. My parents were in town to help us move, so my mom got to come with us, which was really fun. Finally, it was our turn, and the technician spent a long time measuring all of the organs and getting pictures of all the individual body parts. I was trying so hard to be patient because I know that stuff is really important, and I'm grateful they're able to check all of those things, but inside I was dying to ask, "But what about the sex?" It didn't help that the technician kept saying the baby wasn't in a very easy position to see everything, which made me think she maybe couldn't tell. But finally, she asked us if we wanted to know. We said yes, so she moved the wand around and then, without saying anything, typed "BOY" on the screen. Mom and I didn't even notice at first because we were busy talking. Darby was just waiting for us to react. :) When we finally noticed, we were all excited and quickly shared the news with my Dad, Darby's parents, and Hannah and Matt. Mom had prepared a boy gift and a girl gift just for the occasion, which was really sweet.

Since we found out, I've had a few moments of panic where I think, "I don't know anything about being a boy! How can I raise one?" But then I think of all of the awesome boys I know and what a great job their moms have done, and I realize that raising kids is raising kids. You don't have to be a boy to be a boy's mom. (Insightful, I know.) Plus, I happen to have a pretty awesome husband who can clue me in on any boy-specific knowledge I might be lacking.

Now that we know the sex, the name question comes up ALL.THE.TIME. We plan to keep the name a secret, since we've found that most people are more kind with their opinions after the baby is born. However, it's kind of a moot point for now, since we cannot for the life of us come up with a name at all. We had a girl's name almost decided on (which we're saving for the future), but boys' names have proved more difficult. We don't have exactly the same tastes. And it turns out that coming up with names for my actual child is a lot harder than naming my hypothetical children was. So, if you have any great boys' names ideas (that you won't be using yourself), throw them at me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The new normal

Wow, the last month has been a complete whirlwind! Between finishing teaching summer school, packing, moving, unpacking, going to New York with Hannah, and starting a new job, I feel like I've barely had time to breathe. Things are still pretty busy for the next couple of weeks with school starting, but I'm at least starting to get into a routine now.

I'm teaching three classes at ACU this fall: one freshman-orientation type class, called Cornerstone, and ESL Grammar and Writing. I'm super-psyched that I have the opportunity to teach so much. There will be a bit of a learning curve since I've only ever taught Pronunciation and Oral Communication, but I'm excited to get some experience with different courses.

We had some hiccups with our new house at first (no water, followed by locking ourselves out), but now that the dust is settled, we really love it. It's a 3-bedroom/2-bath, which is the perfect size for us. It's only a little bigger than our house in Urbana, but the layout makes more sense and there's more storage, so it feels even bigger. I actually have an empty cabinet in the kitchen! What luxury! We're being rather slow in getting stuff hung on the walls, and the "nursery" is basically a junk room, but I'll try to post some pictures once we've made more progress.

Moving back to Abilene has been an interesting experience. So much is the same, but so much has changed. We've enjoyed revisiting our favorite restaurants and catching up with old friends. But, it's not like we're just picking up where we left off. There's so many new people to meet, and our friends haven't just been sitting around waiting for us to return. So, it's still going to be work get into a social routine; I don't think I had really considered that, even though it seems obvious to me now. One difficult thing has been the decision not to go back to the church we were members at before. We loved that church and still love so many of the people there, but we're not the same people we were 5 years ago, and we just don't feel like it's the best fit for who we are now. We've been visiting a different church that we really like so far, but we're trying to "take things slow", since we're still reeling a little from leaving our church in Illinois a year ago.

Overall, though, we're feeling really positive about the move. Texas is definitely our home, and there's something that just feels right about being here. I'm slowly but surely reacclimating to the heat, although it feels very strange to hear the weatherman talk about the "mild" temperatures in the mid-90s. Snow cones and copious amounts of Blue Bell have helped immensely! Perhaps the best thing about living in Abilene is that my brother lives here, and we've been able to see him several times a week. We haven't lived in the same town since he was 14 and I was 18, so we have a lot of catching up to do!

Thursday, July 25, 2013


On July 12, Darby successfully defended his dissertation. It was the culmination of 5 years of very hard work, and I am so, so proud of him. It's hard to believe that this stage of our lives is over (but in a good way!). The other day, Darby joked about going back to school for a second Ph.D.; then he said, "or I could join the Marines, I guess." I told him, "Honestly, at this point, I'd much rather you join the Marines. I mean, it would be hard, but you would be away from me for the hard parts. I don't think I could handle living with the stressed-out you for another five years." Of course, I was (mostly) joking, but I really can't tell you how relieved I am that this process is over. Darby did a great job of making our relationship a higher priority than school, and I am so grateful for that, but it was still so hard to see him under so much stress. It's been great to spend the last couple of weeks relaxing, celebrating, and looking forward to the next stage!

Darby and his adviser right after the defense. He was fortunate to have a wonderful adviser who truly cares about his students and understands that they have lives outside of grad. school. We heard so many horror stories about slave-driver advisers, and that wasn't his experience at all.
On the Sunday after his defense, we drove up to Chicago to meet Erin and Brendan, who were in town for a vacation. We had a great time eating brunch, walking around Taste of Chicago, and seeing a hip-hop version of Othello at the Shakespeare Theater. I'm so glad Erin and Brendan let us crash their vacation.  It was also nice to make one last trip to Chicago, one of my favorite cities.
As a surprise for Darby, I booked us a night at a little cabin in southern Illinois. The owner was so nice and provided us a delicious homemade dinner and breakfast. It was so nice to get away from packing and just relax. We spent most of our time on this couch enjoying the satellite television. We're easy to please!
The smiles of 2 people who are done with school forever!
Tonight, Darby threw the traditional Papa Del's pizza party for his lab in celebration of his defense. These are some of his lab mates.
And here are some more. I remember going to these parties for others when Darby first started. So happy that it was finally our turn!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The waiting is the hardest part

I am one of those people who has known I wanted kids from a very young age. To me, it was never a question of whether I'd be a mom---just when. And for the past 4 years or so, I've been dreaming about the day that we would start our family. I always imagined loving pregnancy and thought I would walk through each day filled with happiness as I enjoyed my ever-expanding belly.

And, don't get me wrong, I am very happy to be pregnant and am fortunate that, so far, I've had a pretty easy pregnancy. So, I've been surprised that this is not a particularly blissful time in in my life. And most of that has to do with my lack of patience. Somehow, it never crossed my mind that pregnancy is basically 9 months of waiting. And waiting is one of my least favorite things! When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn't wait until we could tell people. When we told our parents, I couldn't wait to tell Hannah and Matt. When we told Hannah and Matt, I couldn't wait for the ultrasound and to tell everyone. When we had the ultrasound, I couldn't wait to start showing. Now that I'm showing, I can't wait to feel the baby kick and to find out the sex. And on and on and on. I've realized it's never-ending.

I feel like this is a good experience for me because it puts in sharp relief a problem that I've known about for a long time. I do not live in the moment well. I'm always looking forward to the next thing. And while I think that is sometimes a good thing because it keeps me motivated, it can also get in the way of my day-to-day happiness. So, I'm trying (and mainly failing, but trying) to take things one day at a time and enjoy the current stage I'm in. After all, I'm sure there will come a day when I'll regret wishing that my belly was bigger so everyone would know I was pregnant, not just pudgy. There will be plenty of time for the world to see that I'm pregnant, I'm sure. :)

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Very welcome visitors

We were lucky to have two sets of good friends come to visit us in the past two weeks.

First, Laura and Dan and baby Gabriel swung by for a couple of days on their Midwest road trip. Laura and I met when I worked in Student Life at ACU and bonded almost instantly over shared loves of food, reading, and long conversations. We've only lived in the same town for a year of our friendship, but we've kept up via e-mail and phone calls and occasional in-person visits. She and Dan got married about two years ago and welcomed adorable Gabriel in December. I hadn't seen Gabriel since he was a couple of months old, so he had changed a lot. He's precious and very good-natured. It was a nice glimpse into what our lives might look like exactly a year from now. I enjoyed showing Dan and Laura around campus (and finally making a point to visit the two museums I'd never gone to!), and we all enjoyed great conversations over dinner. Both Dan and Laura are excellent conversationalists and come up with the best questions. One of the most exciting things about moving back to Abilene for me is that we will get to spend more time with them and that our kids will grow up together.

Laura and Me

Dan, Laura, and Darby

Baby Gabriel. I meant to get a picture of me holding him, but he fell asleep before I could. So, this was first thing in the morning right before I left for work. What a sweet face to wake up to!

This past week, Mica and Harrison stayed with us, as part of their Wedding Victory Tour road trip. As usual, I was horrible at taking pictures and just relied on Mica to document our time together. As usual, she did an excellent job. So, check out her post for more details and pictures. They were here to help us celebrate both Darby's birthday and the 4th of July. In between, we were able to squeeze in a coffee date, a lot of Dr. Mario, and some general lazing around with all of us on our individual electronic devices (that is true friendship!). We hosted a little cookout for the 4th. It was wonderful to have someone to cook with. We made a patriotic trifle with a crazy delicious pound cake, and Mica was so sweet to make her famous mac and cheese after I got a pregnancy craving for it. Yummmmm!

I have seriously missed HarriMica since they left Champaign in May, so it was great to have them back for a few days. They are "grad school friends" who will definitely be lifelong friends. We're already planning a trip to the UK together in the future. I can't wait!

(Pictures from Mica, of course!)

Me and Mica and our trifle

Fun at the fireworks!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

30 before 30 update

Since I recently celebrated my 28th birthday, I thought I should check in on my goals. Actually, I haven't thought much consciously about them this past year, so I'm happy to see I accomplished some of them anyway. 3 years might be a little long for goals to hold my attention. :)

Completed goals are in bold, and in progress goals are in italics.
1. Get my master's degree
2. Earn a graduate teacher certificate
3. Take at least two Spanish classes
4. Begin studying two other languages (Started Italian)

5. Learn to sew
6. Create a card stockpile (I did this last summer, but then I depleted it. I need to keep it going.)
7. Start a successful container garden
8. Take piano lessons

9. Save 10% down for a house
10. Increase retirement savings to 10% of our income per month (I'm up to about 5% from nothing.)
11. Increase percent saved on groceries each month to 40% (I was doing really well on this for a while, but it's kind of gone by the wayside. I need to get back on track.)
12. Get life insurance for both Darby and me (We've reeeally got to do this, now that baby's on the way.)

13. Go to Italy
14. Visit 3 new states (We went to Iowa for a wedding, and I went to Nevada for my Vegas trip.)
15. Go camping

16. Learn how to cook steak (This was easier than I thought. The secret: buy a good steak. :) Who knew?)
17. Take a cake decorating class (This was kind of a flop.)
18. Completely replace 3 storebought staples with homemade versions (I've replaced salsa, and I'm working on chicken broth.)
19. Whittle "to try" recipes to under 100 (I feel like this is one step forward and two steps back sometimes.)

20. Switch to antibiotic-free animal products (I've switched to organic milk and eggs, and I'm working on beef. I'll post more about this sometime.)
21. Maintain my goal weight (except, see 23 below)
22. Take four different fitness classes (I did KickFit, yoga, strength, and RIPPED.)

23. Have a baby (I'm working on it!)
24. Go on a trip with my sister (We're going to New York in August!)

25. Create two new units for the Cradle Roll class (Well, I don't teach Cradle Roll anymore, so I don't think this is going to happen.)
26. Teach an older children/adult Bible class (Well, we tried...)
27. Read 18 spiritual books.

28. Plan/attend three Fat Tuesday reunions (I've done one big one and one smaller one.)
29. Plan/attend at least two reunions with my high school friends (We did one last September and are doing another this September!)
30. Start/join a book club

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sharing the News

So, as most of you know by now, I'm pregnant! I'm 14 weeks along, and Baby H is scheduled to join our family around Dec. 18. We decided not to share the news publicly until after my first ultrasound at 12 weeks. We spilled the beans early to our immediate families and some close friends, but, of course, I couldn't post about it at the time. Now that the news is out, I thought I'd go back and post a little bit about those first few weeks, mainly for my benefit when I'm looking back.

I found out I was pregnant on April 10. We were very excited, but, since it wasn't a surprise, our reactions weren't anything like what I had imagined based off of TV and movies. Imagine that, real life is different from TV. :) We didn't tell anyone for another month, and that month was difficult for me. I've heard people say before that they really enjoyed the time when only they and their husband knew about the pregnancy; it was like a fun little secret for them. Not so for me. I was dying to share the news with others. It was weird having the biggest thing going on in my life be a complete secret. The hardest person to keep it from was my mom. I dreaded talking to her on the phone because I just wanted to blurt it out. Luckily, she and my dad went on a two-week vacation during this time, so we were out of communication much of the time.

We wanted to wait until about 10 weeks or so to tell our families, but my parents came up for graduation at 8 weeks, and I just didn't think I could keep it a secret from them in person. So, we decided to go ahead and tell. My mom's birthday was right before graduation. She collects Willow Tree angels, so I got her the "Grandmother" one. As soon as she and Dad got to the house, I had her open her gift. She got what it was right away, and her reaction was very sweet. Dad had no clue there was anything special about the gift, so he was like, "What's going on? Ohhhh..."

We tried to call Darby's parents the next day, but they were too busy having fun in Austin to take our call. :) So, we told them on Mother's Day---appropriate, I think. A few days later, we received our first congratulations card from them. That made it seem even more real.

At the end of May, my brother and sister both went to my parents' house to celebrate several May birthdays. I decided that would be the perfect opportunity to tell them. I sent them each a gift. It was a pound of coffee with a little tag attached that said "Baby H is brewing. Coming December 2013." I was afraid they would be suspicious when they got the gifts, since it wasn't Matt's birthday. But my mom played it off really well, and they were totally surprised. Dad captured their reactions on video, which is priceless. The coffee happened to be called the "Jean-Pierre" blend, so "JP" became the baby's nickname.


After everything looked good on our ultrasound, we shared the news with our extended family and friends, then made it "facebook official." It's been wonderful to share our excitement with others, and everyone has been very sweet and supportive. Little JP is going to have wonderful grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and lots of friends.  

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Catching Up

So, I'm really losing my motivation to blog, as I guess is obvious from my sporadic posting lately. I guess part of it is that I've been doing very little in the past three weeks since graduation. I had a nice long break between the end of the semester and the beginning of my summer teaching job (this week). And, don't get me wrong, I was thankful for it. But I just do not do well without a routine. In general, I'm a pretty self-motivated person, but when I have long stretches of free time, I end up not doing much of anything. It's strange. I did manage to get all my winter clothes put away (and my puffy coat donated---won't be needing that any more!). And I sold a Total Gym that I had gotten for free from a friend who was moving four years ago. Pure profit. It had never been reassembled, of course. :) I've also made it to level 84 on Candy Crush, so that's a pretty big accomplishment. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT get started on that game unless you want it to take over your life.

Here's a few pictures from the last 6 weeks or so to kind of play catch up.
We had a Korean sushi/karaoke bachelorette party for Mica, who got married over Memorial Day weekend (yay!).

I put together a "mocktail" bar, which was a lot of fun.
The bride-to-be was a little skeptical of the underwear Cassandra bedazzled for her. They say "Mrs. Mebane." Hee-hee.
Me, Ester, and Mica at our department's awards ceremony. This was the third time I've attended, and I could have recited the program from memory.
Kristen, Jin, and Me
Mom and Dad got me an iPad for graduation. I LOVE it!
I finally graduated! Now, we're just looking forward to Darby's defense on July 12.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Eshet chayil - woman of valor

Last year, I read Rachel Held Evans' book A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which she attempted to follow all of the Bible's commands for women for a year. The point was to show how much Christians pick and choose when deciding what constitutes "Biblical" womanhood. One of the most meaningful parts of the book for me is when Rachel discusses the Proverbs 31 chapter,  a description of "the wife of noble character." She talks about how this passage has long been used in evangelical circles as a kind of checklist for a good wife. As such, it is daunting (she rises before dawn, stays up past everyone else, sews the household's clothes, etc., etc.). But, in talking with an Orthodox Jewish friend, Rachel found out that the chapter is actually a song of praise for what a woman has already done. On the Sabbath, Jewish men sing the first line to their wives. Rachel began adopting the phrase "Eshet chayil" as an expression of praise for women and hosted a series on her blog for people to praise the women of valor in their lives.

Since that time, I've been thinking about that phrase, and today, on Mother's Day, I wanted to talk about my own eshet chayil - my mom. She is a woman of valor for so many reasons. Here are just a few:

She has never given the impression that motherhood is a burden. If any of us kids need her, she is there in a heartbeat, with no guilt trips, no sighs, no hesitations. When I was "stressed" in college, she drove out to Abilene in a huge thunderstorm to do my laundry to help me get ready for a trip. (I put stressed in quotes because I now realize that wasn't truly stress. I'm sure my mom knew that at the time, but she always took my feelings seriously.) When I was young, I just figured that's how moms were. But now that I'm older, I've seen a lot of people who can't count on their moms the way I can on mine. I hope I don't take that for granted anymore.

She took care of three of my grandparents in their last days, sitting with them at the hospital, driving them to doctor's appointments, running errands, etc. And I never heard her complain about it. That was a very powerful example for me. 

She treats Darby like her own child. Sometimes we tease her that she loves Darby more than me, but, seriously, it means so much to me that she loves him.

She has cut the apron strings gracefully. I was a little concerned with how she would handle an empty nest, since she's always been a stay-at-home mom, but she's just as wonderful a mom of adult children as she was a mom of small children. She lets me make my own decisions and doesn't pry or give unsolicited advice. Because of that, I feel like I can talk to her about anything, and we're closer now that we were when I was at home.

She is open-minded and willing to listen. Recently, Darby and I have talked a lot with both of my parents about issues in the church. Some of the topics we talk about are things that, 5 years ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of talking with my mom about. But, I underestimated her. She's a great example to me of someone who quietly does what she believes is right and doesn't feel the need to convert everyone to her way of thinking. 

The older I get, the more appreciative I am of the example my mom has been for me. She has truly put her heart and soul into her chosen vocation (motherhood), and that makes her a woman of valor. Eshet chayil!

Monday, April 22, 2013


When we left Abilene 5 years ago, I was sad to leave our friends and our wonderful church, but I wasn't sad to leave the town. It was small, ugly, and boring. We were on to bigger and better things. Fast forward a few years, and Abilene seemed like heaven on earth. Amazing how your perspective can change. Until about 3 months ago, we didn't think moving back to Abilene was an option for us in the near term. Then, suddenly, it was the most likely option and then (quickly, but it felt like forever), it was a reality. I never thought I'd be giddy with excitement over returning to West Texas, but there I was literally jumping up and down when Darby called to tell me he got the job. We're thrilled to be going back to the school that we love in a city where we already have so many friends (and my brother!) and only a 3-hour drive from our parents. I know it won't be all rosy (the lack of ESL job opportunities is already a little disheartening), but I hope that when I'm tempted to complain about the lack of good restaurants or the dust or the lack of trees, I hope I remember the extreme excitement that caused me to tell Darby: "I feel like I can never be sad again!" (I have already proven that false, but the sentiment was sweet, I think.)

Sunday, April 07, 2013

March Books

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
This fat book has been on my shelf forever. I loved Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, but it always seemed like such a commitment to start this one. Finally, I decided I'd rather go ahead and read it, then have to lug it with us when we move. It took a while, but it was definitely a worthwhile read. As the title suggests, this epic family drama about a father and his twin sons in California during the early 1900s has a lot of Biblical allusions. Drawing from the stories of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, the prophet Samuel, etc., it's a story about people's free will and ability to turn away from evil. It drags in places, but the story overall is quite gripping.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale
I love Hale's young adult books and had read and enjoyed Austenland a few years ago, so decided to give this one a try. This story about a recent divorcee who gets caught up in a murder mystery during a Jane Austen period re-enactment vacation was pretty silly but good fun all the same. I think Hale is poking a bit of fun at the Austen fan-fiction genre in general, so the book doesn't take itself too seriously.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon
When Julia Child was living in France, she wrote a fan letter to an author in Cambridge, MA. His wife responded, and a lifelong friendship was born. It was so neat to see the deep friendship between Avis and Julia develop solely through letters. Both women were whip-smart, and their letters are hilarious and insightful. And it's interesting to read about Avis's huge part in getting Mastering the Art of French Cooking published. While some of the details about politics in the 1950s were a bit tedious to read, overall the letters are entertaining and inspiring. I now have gotten my friend Mica to agree to be my pen pal after we graduate. Perhaps our letters will be turned into a book someday, too. :)

Young Adult Books
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
This fictional story of a teenage boy who is imprisoned and put on trial after becoming entangled in an armed robbery is eye-opening. Although it is fiction, it is not a stretch to assume that similar situations happen every day. The boy struggles to retain his humanity while in prison. He tells the story of his trial in the form of a screenplay, which allows him to see himself the way others see him. A gripping, sad story.

A Monster Calls (inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd) by Patrick Ness, illustrated by Jim Kay
Siobhan Dowd had the idea for this story but wasn't able to write it before she died, so she asked Patrick Ness to finish it. A teenaged British boy begins being visited by a monster at night when his mom, who has cancer, takes a turn for the worse. The monster says he will tell the boy three stories, and then the boy must tell his secret nightmare. The book interestingly explores the ways we interpret stories and calls into question what is truth. A definite tear-jerker (I bawled for about 30 minutes after finishing it) but a worthwhile read.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Learning to Pray

I grew up in a church tradition that eschews liturgy. The actual reasons for this philosophy are many, but the main argument I always heard growing up (not from my parents, more from other church members) was that liturgy is bad because it causes people to "just go through the motions." When you recite certain prayers or Scriptures at appointed times, it becomes empty. It's better to pray in your own words "from your heart."

This always struck me as a bit hypocritical, seeing as we had no problem singing songs written by others. It seemed to me that "going through the motions" could happen no matter what worship style you ascribed to. And, in fact, many of the prayers I heard Sunday after Sunday sounded rather, well, scripted. People used the same phrases over and over again. If I ever prayed in public (which was somewhat rare, given my gender) or even in front of close friends or family, I felt the need to utilize these phrases and style.

As I've gotten older, my ideas regarding the purpose of prayer have changed. I struggle a lot with the questions of what I should be praying for, why God will answer one prayer and not another, and what tone I should have in prayer (reverent? familiar?). I still don't have answers to my questions, but I do know that the prayers I grew up hearing and saying don't fit with my newer conceptions of the purpose of prayer. When I pray, the old words come out, and they sound so false to me now. So I've found myself slowly distancing myself from prayer. I can't seem to pray in a way that's authentic to me, so I just don't pray. I really don't like this, because I do feel like prayer is an important spiritual discipline and that we don't have to understand it completely to practice it. It's mystical nature is part of its very design, I'm sure.

Wanting to redevelop the discipline, I decided to ask for a book for Christmas, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime, edited by Phyllis Tickle. This book is based on the early Christian and monastic tradition of praying set prayers at various times of the day. Each day has texts for the morning, midday, vespers (evening), and compline (just before bed) offices. The texts include Psalms, other readings from both the Old and New Testament, and prayers (most from The Book of Common Prayer, but some from other sources).

I decided to start slowly and only observe one office per day (whichever was most convenient that day). If I am at home at other times, I try to do more than one, but I figured if I started out with all 4, I'd just give up. I've been using the book since February, and I've really enjoyed it. It's nice for me to have some structure to my prayer time. And I really appreciate the beauty of the prayers. It seems strange to me that we will readily admit that some people are better teachers, singers, writers, etc., than others. But we don't consider that some people might be better prayers. I enjoy praying the prayers of others who are able to express what I'm thinking in a more eloquent way. And, surprisingly, I've found that I'm more likely to pray spontaneously on my own now. I really do feel like this practice is re-teaching me how to pray.

One of my goals for myself personally and for my future family is that we would observe traditions related to the church calendar. I find it meaningful to know that I am participating in something that has been practiced by Christians for centuries and is currently being practiced by Christians all over the world. I have been following my book's special section for Holy Week, and I've felt that this has been one of the most meaningful Easters I've ever celebrated. I attended a Good Friday service for the first time, and I was really moved by the symbolism and history behind it. I feel like, as a person who really loves structure, tradition, and routine, liturgy is hugely helpful for my spiritual life.

Here are some of my favorite prayers from the book:

(each morning) Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen. 

(at bedtime) Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen. 

Heavenly Father, in you I live and move and have my being: I humbly pray you so to guide me and govern me by your Holy Spirit, that in all cares and occupations of my life I may not forget you, but may remember that I am ever walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

The Gloria: Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen. (I can't really explain why this prayer moves me so much. I just find it incredibly beautiful.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our last big snow (I hope)

According to the news, we got 11.5 inches of snow last night. Quite a shock after spending five 70-degree days in Texas. I'm sooo ready for spring, but I must admit it's pretty. Classes were cancelled, but I don't have any classes on Mondays, so it's just a regular day for me. I'm grateful I don't have to get out in it until this afternoon. I'm also extremely grateful to Darby for spending an hour shoveling our driveway and sidewalk this morning. If I had had to do it, I'd probably still be out there!

Maybe should have brought the patio furniture in for the winter. Oops!

Friday, March 22, 2013


Remember how I was all proud of myself for being so patient about this whole job search thing? Well, yeah, that's out the window. :) As our expected moving date creeps closer, it's getting harder and harder to be ok with not knowing where we're going. Due to a coincidental convergence of events, it seems like much of my life is waiting now. And I'm getting tired of it!

Two Sundays ago, the sermon at our church was all about taking advantage of where you are now and not wishing your life away. This is something I have always struggled with, especially in the last two years or so. I do want to enjoy the present moment, and there are a lot of good things about my life right now, but it's so hard not to wish I were on to the next phase. Have any of you struggled with this? How do you live in the present while still making plans for the future? What do you do to distract yourself while you're waiting?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

January/February Books

I didn't read very much in January and got kind of behind on my posting, so I decided to combine January and February's books into one post.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
This was another book I downloaded to Kindle and then forgot what it was about before beginning to read it. Turns out, it's a memoir of a young mother who is diagnosed with breast cancer. Perhaps not the best choice to read at this time of my life, but it was so good that it made the difficulty worth it. Primarily, the book focuses on the author's relationship with her father, who is also battling cancer. "The middle place" refers to that stage in life when you are an adult and have children of your own to take care of but you still feel like you need your parents to take care of you. It was touching and hilarious, and the family dynamics were very relatable. Highly recommend.

A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
This was a sweet, if somewhat trite, book about a woman who begins a new life in New England after her divorce. She opens a quilt shop and befriends a group of women who help her as she gets treatment for breast cancer (surprise! it's everywhere...sigh), and, in the meantime, work out their own problems. While the friendships between the women were touching, the book was a bit to predictable and preachy.

Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan
This was the third and final of the free Francis Chan books. As with the other two, I was a bit underwhelmed. I guess I'm just not a Francis Chan fan. I did like one point he made about how people get caught up figuring out "God's will" for their life in terms of the next 10 years, when usually we need to think about God's will for our life in terms of the present moment. 

The Search for Major Plagge: The Nazi Who Saved Jews by Michael Good
This was the fascinating true story of the author's search for the Nazi officer who was in charge of his mother's Lithuanian work camp and who his mother and others credited with saving their lives. I didn't know a lot about this particular part of WWII history and it was fascinating. As usual, I was so impressed by the tenacity of those in the labor camps. This book also brings up a good point about what it means to be a hero. Does one have to give up everything, including his or her life? Or can relatively small actions, but ones that others are too afraid to do, really make a difference?
Life from Scratch by Melissa Ford
This novel about a blogger who finds herself through cooking was an enjoyable read. But, the fact that it was fiction and not memoir made me like it less than Julie and Julia, which it seemed partly modeled on.

I'm taking a class on children's literature this semester that requires a lot of reading. I've really enjoyed being introduced to quality children's literature. I won't share all of the picturebooks I read, but I will share the young adult books. 

Saving Sky by Diane Stanley
This was a thought-provoking story set in an America in which the terrorist attacks continued after 9/11, and anti-Arab sentiment reached levels comparable to anti-Japanese sentiment during WWII. A young girl and her family choose to help one of her classmates. 

Honeybee by Naomi Shihab Nye
This was a great collection of poems and short prose. Honestly, it seemed just as appropriate for adults as children. I was first introduced to Nye's work at ACU. One of my professors really admired her, and she even came to do a reading on campus. She is hilarious and scathing (often at the same time) and eloquently captures the experience of growing up Arab-American in Texas (she's from San Antonio).

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
I absolutely loved this memoir of a girl who was 4 years old when she and her family were forced to flee their home when Israel occupied the West Bank. It was a great window into the Palestinian experience, of which I was virtually clueless. Highly recommend.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
This was my first graphic novel, and it was easier to follow than I anticipated. It was a darkly funny story about a teenage girl who is haunted by the ghost of a girl who died 90 years earlier. Despite the somewhat strange premise, it's basically a story about the teenage tension between being true to yourself and fitting in. I'm a little too far removed from high school angst (thank goodness!) to be totally captivated by the story, but it was a fun little read.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fat Tuesday reunion

Last weekend, I flew down to Abilene for a long-awaited Fat Tuesday reunion. Although I've seen most of these girls fairly recently, this was the first time we have all been together since the summer of 2011. I got in on Friday morning and was able to spend some extra time with Kalyn and BJ and their two kiddos and Em and Lily. Lydia was in a much happier mood than when I first met her at Christmas, so I held and held and held her. Such a sweet little thing! And little Lily just gets sweeter by the day. Before she went to bed on Friday night, she came to each of us individually and said, "Good night, Miss ______" and gave us a hug. She is wise beyond her 3 years and cracks us up with her insightful comments. Shepherd is talking up a storm, and although I can only understand about 50% of what he says, his impish smile communicates a lot.

Em tried valiantly to get a good picture of me and Lydia to no avail. So, here's what I've got. Lydia likes to nuzzle. :)
Teacher Carolyn displaying her "toddler whisperer" skills with Lily and Shep.

Lily showing off her cheesy smile while reading with Britt.
Saturday was full of memories. Britt and I started out the day with a walk around campus, just like the semester we took "Walking for Fitness" together. Then we got donuts from AM Donuts, which was where Darby and I went every Sunday before church. Saturday afternoon, we went to Sing Song, the annual variety show and singing competition. It brought back so many fun memories. Mainly, I remember everyone getting so stressed about Sing Song. How I wish that was the biggest concern in my life now. :) In general, I tend to think that the best is yet to come in my life; however, if I could go back to one time in my life, it would be my time at ACU. Yes, there were stresses, but overall, I had very little to worry about. I wasn't concerned about budgeting, so I ate out and went to Target whenever I wanted. After the show, Britt, Erin, Carolyn, and I went back to our freshman dorm to visit one of Brittany's friends. Oh the memories! Even though I was happy when we were able to move off-campus, it's hard to beat having all of your friends live in the same building. These girls made my 4 years at ACU awesome, and I'm so thankful that we're still a part of each others' lives.

The whole crew. We just keep adding to our number. Shepherd was content running around inside, so we didn't force him to be in the picture.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Cake decorating school dropout

Wow. It's been a while! Things have been super busy lately. I'm planning on catching up with several posts soon.

One of the things I've been bogged down with is making tons and tons of nasty frosting. In order to cross off one of the items on my 30 before 30 list, and because I have a baking friend who was willing to do it with me, I decided to take the Wilton beginner's cake decorating course at Michael's. Well, it was pretty much a big flop. The amount of prep before each lesson is insane, and you have to buy all sorts of Wilton products. And, as it turns out, the secret to making a pretty cake is basically to have it taste like plastic. The Wilton frosting recipe is, I kid you not, shortening, water, powdered sugar, and imitation vanilla. I tried it one week with butter, which was definitely tastier, but it wasn't nearly as smooth as everyone else's (and it was super yellow, which I don't mind, but the teacher found hilarious). So, this past week I made the gross stuff (although I used real vanilla), and it looked better, but who wants to eat that? It tastes like oily sugar. So after the lesson, I was in a really bad mood because I got overwhelmed in class by the million bags of frosting and decorating tips I was trying to maneuver, plus I had several cupcakes I didn't want to eat, and a bunch of leftover synthetic frosting.

Needless to say, I was relieved the next day when Mica tentatively voiced here desire to just skip the last lesson. Neither one of us could stomach the thought of making a whole cake that was just going to go to waste. It's not a total loss, as I think I can recreate some of the decorations with the tools I now own and my own frosting. But I'll do it on my own time. No need to add cake decorating to the list of things stressing me out right now, right?

Mica showing off her star decorating skills the first week. It was all downhill from there.

We could choose whatever we wanted to put on our cake, so of course I chose Hello Kitty! It looks much better from this angle than it did close up.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Super Bowl

I hosted the second-annual MATESL Super Bowl party this year. Just like last year, it was mainly an excuse to eat tons of yummy food. I honestly had no preference about which team won, but I was rooting for the 49ers at the end, just because it was so exciting.

I made baked spinach dip mini bread bowls, pizza dip, Hawaiian roll sandwiches, and homemade Butterfingers. I was skeptical about the homemade Butterfingers, which I had seen on Pinterest, but they were so crazy I just had to try them. They only have 3 ingredients: candy corn, peanut butter, and chocolate candy coating. I had a really hard time getting my candy corn to melt and I was afraid they would be inedible, but they actually turned out well and pretty similar to a Butterfinger except more peanut buttery. Everyone else brought so many other yummy things, and I ate waaaayyy too much. Parties with lots of snack foods are my absolute diet downfall. I try to tell myself that I don't have to eat everything just because it's there. But the little voice in my head says: "Hurry! Eat it alll. If you skip one dish, that might end up being the best one!" The little voice always wins.

The food table. Yum!

Mica's Texas sheet cake. It was delicious!
Mica and me. My goodness I'm pale.
Ester and Marcia