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Filtering Life

Okay, I have to begin by admitting I’m guilty.

Before I take a picture of my kids, I try to find an angle where there’s no stuff laying around, no piles on the counter, no laundry in the background.

When I get ready to post on Instagram, I often take a second to marvel at what I would look like if my skin actually got tan.  And it looks so much better than the Casper or lobster looks that are my reality, I sometimes choose that filter.

But what are we doing?

When we click on the fox face filter and it smooths our skin, enlarges our eyes and lifts our cheekbones we know it’s not reality, but it’s cute and it’s fun.

What about when it’s our daughters with rosy pink cheeks? Our sons with no dark circles under their eyes? Our babies with lush, dark eyelashes? (Again, full honesty here.  I’m totally guilty of saving a pic of my girl st ten months, sporting the cat filter. So. Completely. Adorable.)

But what are we doing?

In a society when we throw a fit after finding out a celebrities photographs are Photoshopped.  In a society where we have people of all sizes struggling with body image and, sometimes, fighting eating disorders.  In a society where so many of us battle anxiety and/or depression.

What are we doing?

I’m not sure that people need to see all of the details of my daily reality, yet when social media becomes the “magazine pages” of everyone’s lives I think it becomes too easy to feel dissatisfied.  Whether it’s disappointment that my house looks nothing like the Pins I save, sadness that the mirror shows crinkles and wrinkles that cat filters hide away or shock that bodies we see walking down the street look so different from the posed profile pics we see – I think we let what we see shape our expectations.  We forget that we are loved just as we are and we are enough.

I want to feel that I’m doing well when I act kindly, show mercy and follow the life God set me on – even when that means my floor is covered with laundry and my gray hairs are showing (assuming I actually had these, right????).  I want my children to know they are beautiful creations – even when they have food stuck in their teeth and marker streaks up their nose (real life, people – this happened today).

Honestly, I completely fail at this most days (most minutes?). But I want to get better.  I want to focus on things that really matter.  So, today I’ll start by posting some reality…even when I want to angle the camera away or try to make things a neater mess.  I’ll swallow those feelings, push down insecurities and try to just be who I am.  Every unfiltered piece of me.

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One Year

One day, at the tail end of third grade, my dad picked me up in his big white box of a truck.  As we bumped home and turned a familiar corner, I remember a thought slapping into my brain.

Only three more years and I’ll be at the end of sixth grade!  (Insert ironic laugh because I’ve been teaching sixth grade for the past three years.)

That moment replayed as I walked out the red doors of my high school, breathing in the air of summer freedom after my last ever high school final.  I couldn’t believe time had flown so fast.

And now high school is about half of a lifetime ago.

It’s funny how time works.

From the time I found out we were expecting Ms. A to the day she made her arrival Earth-side, it was just over 30 weeks.  The longest 30 weeks of my life.  Weeks filled with vomiting and nausea, weeks filled with pelvic aches, weeks filled with vomiting and nausea…wait, did I already mention that?

And, as of tomorrow, she has been here for one year.

I don’t know if it’s been the fastest year of my life.  Certainly trying to figure out things that didn’t make this little sweetie urp up (what seemed to be) gallons of milk over every cute shirt she owned made time move more slowly for awhile.  Definitely being introduced to a reflux, food intolerant baby who didn’t much care for stretches of sleep beyond 4 hours made time move more slowly.  Yet, I’m pretty sure her 9-month appointment was last week.  Right? (Which seems totally possible, since I KNOW E was just in kindergarten a year or two ago…)

Anyway, time.  We can’t avoid it, only flow with it.  And, if having kids with a huge age gap has taught me anything, it’s to not mourn the passing of time.  Even when you’re certain the best has come, you never know what’s around the next corner.

Thank you, A, for showing me how to appreciate each of my kids at every age and to remember that by “babies” growing up isn’t bad – just different.

Happy birthday, pumpkin pie.  We love you!

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Award-winning; life-changing

I sat at the end of my bed, eyes pressed into my knees.  Taking deep breaths, I wondered if anyone would ever even notice.  Notice how hard I was working.  Notice how much I cared.  Noticed what I was accomplishing.

And I let myself sink into that feeling.  It drew me in for a moment.  Whispered in my ear that I was just as good as anyone who had gotten the recognition I was craving.  

Then, the whispers turned sour.  They started saying that I was probably better.  That I wasn’t overlooked, but this was intentional.  That those other people…

Wait.

My brain screeched to a halt and I lifted my head.  

Long ago, I had decided this wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to be.  I’m ashamed to admit that these kinds of thoughts sneak back in.  Even more ashamed at their frequency.  But they do.

As I pushed them away, my mind turned to less selfish and less cold-hearted thoughts. And I realized something.

I’m not supposed to be the one getting the awards and recognition.  I would be too full of myself.  Just look at how I handled NOT getting the accolades.  No, my recognition coming from others would just take me away from where I should focus.

If I change the world some day, it’s probably not going to be in a way anyone notices.  And I’ve realized that’s the way it’s best for me and my life.  

Maybe one of my students will win a Nobel Prize.  Maybe one of my children will cure cancer.  Or maybe one of my students will be the first in their family to graduate high school.  Maybe a child I meet will believe in their intelligence because of something I do.  Maybe my children will go into the world and love others.  Maybe they will befriend those who have no one.

I believe all of those things can and will change the world.  No award I could ever win would be better than that.

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Every Book Lover’s Dream

If you loved books as a kid, you can’t tell me you never wanted one of these.  I know I did!

E now has a bookshelf/secret door.  In his bedroom.  Complete with secret book latch.

Having a grandpa who can literally build anything pays off. 

(Wish I could give you instructions on how to build your own, but this is completely an “awesome grandpa custom job!”)

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A Different Life

Once upon a time, I was going to be an architect and live in Boston.  When I decided this, I had been to Boston exactly one time and, as it turned out, I had a somewhat skewed idea of the skills that would help me as an architect.

It’s almost as if I saw a career in a glossy book of college majors, thought it sounded good, visited a city, thought it seemed cool and assumed I had my life planned out.  Come to think of it, I think that’s exactly what I did.

And then my life started to happen.

Although it took me a year of architecture school to admit, architecture was definitely not the career path my life was destined to take.  Nor was living a long plane ride away from the people who knew me and loved me throughout childhood.

It took having every single person I met struggle to comprehend where I was from – despite giving the usual description and relation to our state capital.  It took a 4 AM slap in the face from a professor saying he would have to leave at six to take his son to school because that was the only time he would see him for a few days.  It took realizing the one friend who stuck by me through it all was the man I was meant to marry.

In all my plans, I never quite saw what my actual life might be.  There was just sort of a fuzzy vision, which could have its entirety summed up in the phrase “an architect in Boston.”  Suddenly, I found myself dreaming of the “mundane.” What would it be like to be a wife?  A mother? What would our home look like? Would our children have dark hair or light? Blue eyes or green? Could we live in the town where we both grew up? Go to the church where we were both raised?

I didn’t want that fuzzy vision.  I wanted the life that came in to focus as sharply as if someone auto-tuned it.  I wanted the man who was at my side, I wanted my parents to get to be grandparents who saw their grandchildren every week and I wanted to encounter people who could always remind me of who I was and where I came from. 

Somewhere along the line, I also realized the right career for me was one where I could wake up every day and know I was making a difference.

And so, I find myself living in the home where I grew up.  The home my dad built with his own hands.  Married to the boy who grew up across the street.  Living in the church where we both were dedicated and baptized.  Sending my older kids to the same elementary school The Dad and I both attended…and this year teaching in that same school.

At one point, I felt this was taking a step backward.  Playing it too safe. Missing out on something.

Now I know it’s where I was always meant to be.

Sometimes the best plans are the ones you didn’t even realize you were making.

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Introducing A

Of course, it’s been forever and a day (or two) since I last wrote.  Some things have changed, yet many things have also stayed the same.

For years, I begged The Dad to have more kids.  I’m an only child and I have always loved watching sibling relationships.  As a kid, I wanted so much to have a huge, close family.  Secretly, my favorite part of Home Alone was when the house was packed full of cousins, aunts and uncles racing around and feeling comfortable enough to tease one another.  I adored the idea of family that knew each other well enough to drive themselves crazy.  In my mind, three kids would ensure huge family Christmases down the road and our kids having someone to call for advice on what to wear to the first day of school or how to ask a girl on a date.  (The really important things in life, obviously.)

Not only did I beg The Dad, I pleaded with God.  I raged at Him, sobbed at His feet, stormed Him with prayer.  I confess I even lost faith, only to grapple and grab it back and feel it slip away again.  

He had a plan though.  As always, He knew best.

Slowly, I realized what a gift it was to have the children we have.  I truly couldn’t ask for more.  They are kind, funny and intelligent (obviously, I’m biased, but I’m pretty sure people who don’t have to say that about them would still tell you those things).  Not to mention that I started to come around to the idea of never going through the new mom milestones of leaky boobs, crying at 1 am and explosive diapers ever again.  I learned contentment and how to appreciate what I had. I was learning to enjoy the moments where both boys were at an activity and I could choose how to spend my time.  I even learned to love cleaning the house on Saturdays while they entertained themselves!

And then we found out I was pregnant.

Honestly, it was an overwhelming time. I wanted this baby – five years earlier.  I adored the idea of a baby – five years earlier.  I had finally learned to appreciate and enjoy not having a baby or toddler around and, I admit, I almost felt I was being punished for finally admitting I liked the idea of just my two boys who were close in age and becoming more independent.

Five days before E’s tenth birthday, baby sister A joined our family.  We expected her a few weeks later.  The joy I felt when she not only had no problems keeping her temperature up and nursing, but also did these things better than many full-term babies was more than I could have predicted.

A daughter.  I actually didn’t quite let myself believe it was going to be true until she was born.  The first thing I remember asking The Dad was if someone had checked to make sure she really was a girl.  
I plunged into the world of having a baby again.  A world that also brought hair bows and more pink than I could imagine.  A world where The Dad snapped a pic of a cute outfit he bought his baby girl.

She’s everything we didn’t realize our family needed.  Her brothers adore her.  We love having a daughter.  She turns one on the 20th and we can’t wait to see what the next years hold!

God knew what He was doing all along.

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