Thursday, September 5, 2013

check out chellysimko.wordpress.com

I'm streamlining my online presence and will now be blogging about being a working mom over at

I'm not saying eos is gone -- it's still here.  I just have to decide what to do with it.

Also, I want to explain a bit of what's going on with my online stuff, so stay tuned.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

on grieving: who am i from?

On August 22, 2013 around 9 AM, the world lost one of the most amazing, giving, creative people I have ever met.  My former theatre professor and life mentor, Mark Hallen, passed away.  I am still grappling to move forward, as I feel there is a gaping wound in my heart.  It will be a lengthy grieving process -- one that eventually MUST take place in the community which Mark formed.  There are hundreds of us who need to come together to mourn communally.

At 8 PM on August 22, dozens of us gathered remotely -- wherever we were -- to salute to the sun in Mark's honor.  It's hard to explain the significance of the act -- a deep-rooted tradition of Actor's Lab that spanned generations of "Actor's Labradors."  I honestly cannot tell you how important this act was in the process of grieving.  If you were part of it, thank you for joining in.  I am looking forward to doing it in person with you all again someday -- in his honor.

Before Mark passed away, we were writing back and forth, calling, and visiting.  I still feel I did not get to tell him everything I wanted to tell him about his impact in my life -- and although I knew the end was near, I naively thought we would have one last Mark/Rachel pow-wow.  That didn't happen, and I am deeply hurting because of it.  

 I wanted to share with you what I wrote to him -- one of the most important stories I shared -- as I know many of you reading will relate.


To Mark Hallen: 
Mentor.  Friend.  My "father-away-from-home."  
I mourn you.
I miss you.  
I will always love you.
I celebrate the life you led.





It was one of the first days.  We all sat on the black stage -- a big group of people who knew each other and others -- like me -- who were new, starry-eyed, and a little socially anxious.  You walked around an amoeba-like circle, staple drum in hand, and asked: "Who are you from?"  We were to name a few names -- people who influenced us -- who helped us become ourselves.


Did I know then that someday my answer would include you?  If you were to ask me today to name those names, who would those names be?  And although it's hard to choose just a few, I know you would be on the list -- you who helped shape who I am today.


You need to hear these words, Mark.  Because gone are the days when I sit -- teary-eyed or hopeful or whatever recent mood haunted me -- in your office or on the stage floor or even in a smokey-filled room at a party and lay my burdens and joys before you.  Time has shifted our relationship a little, it's true, but your influence has not.  My love and admiration for you has not changed.  


I always knew you cared for not just me, but so many of us -- cared to the point where countless hours were given freely to help us.  How many hours did we spend on monologue after monologue?  And you were there.  There was never a question.  How many hours did you spend writing letters of reference?  And yet you did it.  Never a question.  How many times did you listen to me cry?  And you listened - no matter the hour of day or night.  


And how many times have I thanked you for what you gave?  Not enough.  Never enough.


You have filled my life with understanding and awareness.  With compassion.  With joy.  With prayer.  With love.  And there are so many words that are still locked inside me to express what you have meant to me -- but the words always seem so... not enough.  But these are some words to start.  


Who am I from?  Mark Hallen.  That's who.

Sure Thing by David Ives, Directed by Mark Hallen 2010, Elliott & Rachel Simko

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

lots of life happening

Dudes, it is HARD to write these days.
It's hard to be eloquent.
It's hard to say anything.

But here's what I WILL say.
I've been working.
And I love it.
And I get to telecommute most of the time, which means I get the best of both worlds: babies and job.

I've had the same job for almost two years and it's mainly writing.  Which means I get PAID to write.  Which means it's a dream come true.  I have my dream job (one that I never knew existed before getting it).

But I also got a promotion, which means I will be driving some strategy on the marketing-end of things for one month.  If I do really well and get the company some money, it could turn into a more permanent thing.  Sooooo.... prayers sent.  And we'll see what happens. :)

But besides that.  Writing on the personal end of things just hasn't been happening.

There's been a lot of life happening, though.

  • Amelie's already five months old (which means I actually have to start thinking about feeding her solid foods... argh.  Nursing's so much easier).
  • We went on a long roadtrip and survived (Maryland, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia)!
  • The entire house has been rearranged.  I mean: EVERY. SINGLE. ROOM.  Except the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room.  Those sort of have to stay where they are.
  • The weather has been LOVELY and fall-like and so we've been OUTSIDE.  A lot.
  • I've discovered the wonders of hemp hearts in smoothies (lots of protein, super healthy - look it up!).
  • We've been teaching Gwendolyn how to waltz and swing dance.
  • And lots of time has been spent with friends -- breaking bread, reading Shakespeare, and letting children play.

What "life" has been happening with you lately?


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Friday, July 26, 2013

irony and the "a" key

The "a" key sticks on my computer keyboard.
Whenever I type sentences, they come out looking like this:  tody i hd gret dy.

The "a" key sticks on my phone keyboard, but in a different way.
Whenever I type sentences, they come out looking like this: todaay i haaaad aa greaaat daay.

Ironic?  I'd saaaay sy say so.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

every day


every day is a chance for growth
for new experiences
joys, sorrows
celebration, grief
grappling with and teaching of

every day

we are growing up
we are moving on
we are taking in
we are giving out
we are remembering
we are living

every day

it's all about chances
choices
it's about memories
moments
and what we will do
or not do
with what has been given

every day

what are you choosing?
what are you doing?

how will you then live?

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

am I the only one?

Am I the only one
who
is wearied by the day
at
the mere 7 AM hour
with
coffee in my body
and
only one child awake and out?

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one
who
is shaken by the mommy-anger
and
filled with the mommy-guilt
from
the mommy-anger I never knew I felt?

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one
who
struggles to find their worth
yet
at the same time finds motivations
are
mainly self-absorbed?

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one
who
wrestles with the fact
that
there are dozens of my friends
suffering
at any given moment?

And am I the only one
who
feels this suffering so deeply
that
it's hard to get through each day
knowing
there's nothing I can do to help?

Am I the only one
who
can't seem to shake the sense
that
maybe God isn't listening
as much
as I originally thought?

Am I the only one
who
feels burdened with a Faith
that
doesn't always make sense
but makes complete sense at once

and

who struggles to explain
why I still feel the pain
why every day is just a strain
but I know I can't complain

and

sometimes





I just don't get it.





Am I the only one
who feels she fails
not only every single day
but every single moment?

Am I the only one
who
feels insignificantly so small
who
is stuck against a wall
who
doesn't understand
why
He would choose to hold my hand
at all?

Am I the only one?
Am I the only one?
Am I the only one?


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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

"Whodunnit?" Don't Be Such A Child!

Today's guest post comes from Tim Fall. I met Tim through the Christianity Today blog her.meneutics. Tim always had an insightful comment to share (still does!) -- whether on my blog or other blogs. Pretty soon, he decided to start his own. Tim has a natural ability to tie in current events (or life events) into a narrative that connects to Biblical application.  Please give a warm welcome and leave some comments!

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."
1 Corinthians 13:11
Kids Ask Some Great Questions
I first became a judge in 1995, and my kids were really young. They liked coming to the courthouse and seeing where Dad worked. One time my son asked about the people in jail. He wanted to know how they could stay in jail over the weekend when there was no bathroom in there.
He was thinking about the little holding cell next to my courtroom. All it has is a bench. There's no bed, no toilet, nothing but the small bench. Of course, people in there have been brought over from the real jail and sit on that bench only long enough for us to be ready to call them into the courtroom for their hearing.
My son had never been to the real jail. As far as he knew, that was where people in jail stayed. He quickly understood my explanation though, and stopped worrying about people in jail who had to go to the bathroom.
Adults Who Still Can't Figure Things Out
There's a new reality show on TV called "Whodunnit?" The premise seems interesting: contestants are in a house and one of them is soon the victim of a murder, and then a second person falls prey to the resident villain. The rest compete to figure out who did it. It's like being in an Agatha Christie mystery novel or playing the board game Clue, but getting a $250,000 prize at the end if you are the first one to get it right.
Sounds like good fun, doesn't it?
Not to some of the viewers, who (according to this article) feared that reality TV had gone too far this time:
Viewers knew the show was a murder mystery, but it's now clear what many of them didn't know was that the murders weren't real.
Of course, the people who posted their concerns on Twitter might have just been pulling our legs, but the many tweets listed in the article, like this one, seem awfully sincere:
"Soooo, I'm watching Whodunnit? On ABC. Can you kill people on reality tv? Are they really dead?"
As the article's author explained:
That's right, despite the fact that killing off contestants would be illegal (and, of course, just plain wrong), some believed that two players might have actually been killed as part of the show.
Growing Up
This brings me back to Paul's quote at the top of this post:
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. (1 Corinthians 13:11.)
Paul says this in the midst of talking about how people can focus on the wrong things in their relationships with God. Paul said what we should really be concentrating on is love.
It's not a matter of thinking great thoughts, or doing great things, or any other measure that the world would say is a measure of success, or even being able to understand a reality show on TV. The important thing in life is love.
So what is love? Or perhaps I should ask Who is love?
God.
John makes that clear as can be in 1 John 4:8: "God is love." It's such an important truth he repeats it in verse 16: "God is love."
And according to Paul, it's childish to think otherwise.
Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 25 years with two kids (one in college and one graduated, woo-hoo!), his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California. Tim blogs here.
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Monday, July 8, 2013

Confessions of a Christian Actor

"Why don't you do Christian theatre?"

It was a common-enough question, and yet it always took all my effort not to cringe as I made the involuntary eye-roll look more like a far-off, thoughtful look.  I never had a good answer.  What I wanted to say was, "Because I don't like Christian theatre.  It's all fuzzballs and sugary syrup."  What I said instead was, "Yeah.  I should probably look into that."  Or when I couldn't choke that lie out of my mouth, I just nodded.  Sure.  Why not.  You evangelicals think what you want to think.


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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

potty training: multiple choice test

For a busy, introverted mommy, potty training an active, extroverted child is:

a) difficult
b) messy
c) socially exhausting
d) all of the above

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Monday, July 1, 2013

our plans

We have dreams.
We have plans.
But we have no idea what God's (specific) dreams and plans are for us.

There's a comfort in knowing that even with all the planning, our dreams may never happen because God's dreams are different for us.  It's comforting because I know that no matter how much we may screw up, as long as we're seeking the Lord first and foremost, we won't stumble.  We'll be exactly where He needs us to be.

Even if we take a few wrong turns in disobedience, He will still use us where we end up.

I have nothing to fear in the future because God is guiding us.

I tell Him every day of my dreams, and I ask Him to take them away or change them if they are not aligned to His plans.  And yet, they become stronger.  My husband starts dreaming them too, without my even saying them.  So a big part of me thinks we're on the right path.

But that doesn't mean things could change.  We have to be ready for whatever happens.

We have to remain thankful for what we already have.

We have to remember that life is not about us.

Life is not about our own plans.

Life is much bigger than we even realize.

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

the second baby drastically changes everything

She's changed me.


Maybe it's her content, chilled-out, "I'll-be-right-here" attitude.
Maybe it's her peaceful spirit that radiates with each sweet smile.
Maybe it's just her existence in the world.

Whatever it is, since she has entered into my life, I've changed.

My pace has become slower.
The pressure I usually put on myself has subsided.
A once-frantic soul has been quieted.

Moments are stolen here and there.
Plans are put aside.
The day is seized.

All because of her.

Is it because she's the second child?
-- because now, with two kids, life just had to become radically different?
-- or is it specifically something about her that has shifted my spirit in such a dramatic way?

What IS it, little one?

What IS this bewitching you have done in my heart?

How have you drastically impacted my personality in so short a time?

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the discipline of engaging

Life moves swiftly and I get caught up in its movement.
For these moments, I breathe easy as I find myself busy.
I find myself busy because I just keep saying, "Yes."

This time, it's okay.

I've gone from a time of nearly complete-disengaging for the sake of mental health
to just practically over-engaging for the sake of mental health.

And at the rate I'm going, usually by this point I find myself suffocating -- 
begging to come up for air.

But for now, it's okay.

I'm enjoying the service -- 
whether it's at church, for a friend, for my family, or for my job. 

I'm finding joy in giving myself up for others and things outside myself.

  • How have you experienced the discipline of ENGAGING or DISENGAGING? 
  • What has been bringing you joy these days?e

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Friday, June 14, 2013

lately I've been... in the ER

Where do I start this story?

I guess I start from yesterday morning.

After scarfing down a quick gluten-free millet-flax bagel with butter, I raced around my house to get into my running gear and head outside.  My husband had graciously decided to give me an extra hour in the morning to run, and I had to take advantage of the opportunity before my playdate guests would arrive at 10 AM.

It was supposed to be a routine thing.  I run or exercise 4-5 times a week -- and quite intensely, at that.  I was supposed to be out for a quick little sprint around the neighborhood and be back in time to shower and set up some toys for Gwendolyn's buddies.

It was around minute ten that I realized something was up.  I started to feel a familiar itch.  I looked down at my arms and saw them: hives.

At first, I just decided to ignore them.  A couple weeks prior, they had made a brief appearance at boot camp but had gone away quickly.  Five minutes later -- covered head-to-toe in itchy blotches -- I realized these were not the hives to ignore.

I stopped running, hoping that by stopping strenuous activity, I could stop the allergic reaction.  It was the longest walk home, as I felt my body burning up and getting worse and worse.  Finally, I said "to heck with it" and just sprinted home -- the desire for Benadryl far outweighing whatever I thought I was doing by walking home.

Running inside to the bathroom, I quickly took two Benadryls and was readying the shower when I just had to sit down.  I felt dizzy and lightheaded and fuzzy.  My thoughts weren't coherent.  I called for my husband who took one look at me and said, "We're calling an ambulance."

"What?"  I was surprised.  An ambulance??  This is a man who is very level-headed.  Why would we need an ambulance?  "No... I just took medicine..."

"Well, we're going to the hospital.  Get in the car."

I stumbled around, gathering diapers and things for Amelie -- who had to come with us, I told Elliott, because she doesn't take a bottle and would inevitably get hungry.  Thankfully, my sister-in-law was with us so Gwen stayed home to play with her Tia.

In the car, I felt my lips and tongue growing tingly, but tried to remain calm, per the advice of my husband.  My skin looked ... just unearthly.  Like some sort of lizard creature from a sci-fi novel.  I felt gross.  My skin was so itchy, it was burning.

This hadn't happened in six years

Six Years Ago
To make a long story short, since high school I had been having problems with hives.  They would happen suddenly -- usually when overheated or while exercising -- but not always.  As time went on, each reaction would get worse and worse.  Finally -- six years ago -- I ended up in the ER twice in one week.  The first time, I was home alone and passing out -- barely making it to the phone to call 9-1-1.  The second time, I took one ibuprofen (something I had taken my whole life), and my throat started itching almost immediately and my body inflamed into one big hive.  I took an Epipen and ... I think we drove to the hospital that time, as my parents were home (but I can't really remember...).

After multitudes of tests, my allergist told me that I have allergies to wheat/gluten, corn, shellfish, and (surprise!) ibuprofen.  Although I could eat bits of these things here and there (except for shellfish and ibuprofen -- I will most likely just stop breathing if I consume those things), the reality is that if I have it in my body, then I could very well have a severe allergic episode.  There's also this thing called exercised-induced anaphylaxis (I'm SO GLAD this is an ACTUAL thing now -- as I don't think anyone knew anything about it when I was going through this in high school/college and now I don't feel so crazy).  Basically, some people randomly go into anaphylactic shock when exercising -- not all the time, but some of the time.  For others, if they consume certain foods  (ie. GLUTEN) and then exercise, they will go into anaphylaxis.  I believe I am the latter (although I need to get my runner's feet to an allergist asap).

So even though I ate what I believed to be a gluten-FREE bagel the other morning, the bag says, "Contains Traces of Wheat/Gluten."  I guess I'm a little bit more allergic than I realized.  Oh bother.

Back to the Present
Thankfully, it was a short visit to the ER, only lasting a couple of hours (and a BIG shoutout to DCMH -- Ame's birthplace and the calmest hospital I've ever been to -- I LOVE that place!). I went home, complete with some Epipens and steroids and what-have-you.  Then I slept and slept and slept all day, woke up to eat, and then slept and slept and slept all night.

I am certainly better physically.  The hives and bruises from the hives have all disappeared.  But emotionally, I guess I'm a little more shaken up than I realized.  The scariest thing to me is that I have children now.  I'm no longer a single gal who can simply call an ambulance and head out.  I have dear little ones who depend on me -- and a little baby who probably doesn't know how to take a bottle and needs to nurse.  And even though there are many people in my area who would come to help at the drop of a hat, there's no guarantee that they would be reachable at the right moment.  So you know what?  I'm a little freaked out and fragile right now.

My plan moving forward is to be ever-so-vigilant about not eating things, even with traces of wheat, gluten, and corn.  This is going to take some concerted effort on my part.  I also should be very good about eating certain foods that have NEVER caused an allergic reaction from me -- like bananas and eggs.  Oh, and find a way to get to an allergist in the next couple weeks.

But hey, the good news is I'm fine, right?
And the even better news is that we're celebrating Gwen's TWO YEAR OLD birthday TOMORROW!
And I'm here to celebrate it.  Good stuff.

Happy weekend, everyone!

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Monday, June 10, 2013

the only words I know

I am
emotionally spent
for various reasons.

By the time there's a moment of silence, of stillness,
I have nothing left to give.
No words.
No energy.

I sit curled up on the couch, cradling tears in cupped hands, and all I can offer are words I've heard before...

O Lord, You are Good
O Lord, You are Kind
O Lord, You are Merciful
O Lord, You are Sovereign
O Lord, You are Savior

I cling to these words and repeat them over and over again until I am no longer drowning in myself and my own thoughts.  When I focus on the truth of who God is, I can let go a little bit of the present hurt.  I can be taken out of myself for a time.  I can refocus and remember what is Real and what is False.

O Lord, You are Good
O Lord, You are Kind
O Lord, You are Merciful
O Lord, You are Sovereign
O Lord, You are Savior

These are the statements I pray.  
These are the only words I know.  
These are the only things I have to offer.


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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

(slightly) wordless wednesday (because i like words)

Just uploaded this classic photo from Mother's Day...


(I'm looking forward to sharing this with them when they're teenagers.)

  • Describe your favorite "classic" photo of your kids or of kids in general ("classic" dripping with sarcasm here).

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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

learning lessons from kid songs

Do you remember the song If I Were a Butterfly?


If I were a butterfly
I'd thank you Lord for giving me wings
If I were a robin in a tree 
I'd thank you Lord that I could sing
If I were a fish in the sea
I'd wiggle my tail and I'd giggle with glee
But I just thank you Father for making me, me

    
For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child

And I just thank you Father for making me, me  

I grew up with this song.  Maybe you did too, or maybe you remember your kids singing it along with their Psalty cassette tape (oh yeah!-- by the way, I totally thought it was "Salty" growing up, and I don't think I really understood what he was supposed to be...).  


So this song randomly popped into my head over the last week and I started teaching it to my (very-almost) two year old.  I especially like to teach her songs with hand motions and she loves animals, so this turned out to be perfect.  But as I sang it, I realized that I think God gave me this song for a reason.  

But I just thank you Father for making me, me

Do I?  Do I really thank the Father for making me ME?  Or do I spend a lot of my time wishing He made me someone else -- or at least gave me slightly different qualities?  

It's good to be humble, but it's not good to demean myself.  I was created by the Lord; I was made in His image; I have value.  So why do I find it difficult, at times, to rejoice in God creating me?

Just something to think about...

  • Have you ever learned something (as an adult) from a kid song or book?

BabyLinkUp500px

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Friday, May 24, 2013

"right" and "wrong" decisions

I'm still experiencing some sort of mind- and emotional- block to writing, but then I remembered I've been writing here since 2009.  There are LOTS of posts that you've probably never read (since in 2009, it was really only opened up to a few close friends).  So I'm taking advantage of the even-one-sparrow-post-vault, and publishing an older one.  I'll probably do this a few times.
Hope it encourages you in some way...

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Romans 8:26-28, NIV

I recently found myself in a familiar conversation with a friend: my friend was concerned about (and possibly second-guessing?) some major choices she had just made. Were they the "right" choices? Would she be okay?

I've had this conversation with myself so many times: how do I know if I am making the "right" decision? Will it all blow up in my face? Will I regret it?

As Christians, we seek God first when making decisions -- hopefully the minor decisions as well as the major ones. We certainly know when something is against His will if it is confirmed in the Scriptures. However, we often find ourselves in a dilemma, for most of our modern-day decisions are not outlined in the Bible. Decisions like, "Should we re-locate?" "Should I take this job?" "Should I start graduate school?" "Should I stop graduate school?" "Should we buy a house?" aren't explicitly outlined in the Bible.

I rejoice when I receive a clear answer from the Lord. God spoke clearly to me in regards to quitting acting graduate school, marriage, and trusting in Him. I have heard His voice with regards to these decisions, among others. But sometimes, the answers aren't so clear. How do we make a "right" decision when we feel we receive no direct guidance from the Lord?

There are the practical ways: speaking to friends, seeking counsel from parents and older friends, checking finances, and evaluating multiple situations. But, in the end, a decision must be made. And then, we are haunted by the ever-looming question...

How do I know this was the "right" or "wrong" decision?

It's hard to know when we're doing the "right" things or making the "right decisions," but the reality is that God uses every situation for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Friends, I have made decisions in my life that weren't exactly the "right" decisions -- some were blatantly the wrong ones and against God's will -- but God is redeeming even my worst decisions. We can rest knowing that no matter what, God is using our decisions as a part of His story, and as a part of our own refining process.

He'll use it, we'll grow, and He will be glorified.


  • How do you make decisions?
  • What have you done when you don't feel strongly one way or the other about an important decision?

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

update your reader and subscribe to my blog

By now, I'm sure everyone knows that Google Reader is going to expire in July.

What's that??  You DIDN'T know?  Well, good thing I told you, then!

I'd love it if you kept following my little confessional space on the internet.  So I'll give you a second to update your reader-of-choice and subscribe to my blog.

Go ahead.  I'll wait.

...

...

...

Okay, great!

What's that?  You don't know what reader to use?  Well, lucky for you I did a little searching around and I absolutely love Bloglovin.  

So once you sign up, go ahead and click the link below:


Thanks!

how's THIS for being vague and elusive?

There's this blog post already written, waiting in the blog queue. I've gone over it a half dozen times -- writing and rewriting it with some sort of half-hearted, futile attempt at perfection. But every time I go to hit the orange "Publish" button, I hesitate.

 It's very personal, but my blog is very personal, so it fits. And as with most personal things that I'm experiencing, I like to work through my weaknesses and share them with others, in hope that it might encourage someone else. And yet this blog post sits week after week, awaiting its fate.

I'm not sure if or when it will ever be released, but I sort of feel like I can't move forward in writing here -- or even reading and commenting on other people's blogs -- until I just admit its existence. And since I've written it, I've been having a difficult time accessing my emotions in a way that would benefit my readers, and so my posts have been extremely practical and baby-related. That's not a bad thing... it's just not entirely me or what I want for this space.

So.
Now what?

I guess, this:

I'm struggling with some "stuff."
I'm trying to work through it.
I want to be able to share it someday so I can help someone else, but I'm just not there yet.

And I hope with this confession, maybe my brain will be released and I can start writing and engaging again.

One can certainly hope, right?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

the postpartum body and exercise

Photo by sashamd on flickr

In my mind, this is what it looked like:
My feet pounding the pavement, the wind rushing by me, running as fast as I could possibly go.
Strong.  Free.  Fast.
In reality, this is what it looked like:
My knees horribly aware of the hard pavement, the wind traded in for humidity, bumbling along with a postpartum waddle.
Weak.  Tight.  Slow.
It's amazing what your forget during the whole pregnancy/labor/postpartum period.
The tiredness.  The pain.  The recovery.

Did it feel this way last time?  I found myself -- and find myself -- asking.
But that's really unfair, isn't it?
It doesn't feel like "last time" because it isn't "last time."
It's this time.

I'm two years older.
Elliott's in a more demanding job, which means my job is more demanding.
And, oh yeah, I've already got another kid this time -- one that doesn't sleep through most of the day.

But it's still a difficult reality to swallow.  The weight's coming off slower, my stamina is down, and my body aches in ways I didn't know possible.  It's discouraging, to say the least.  Maybe more like disheartening (which I know is just a synonym, but it seems to fit my mood more aptly, okay?).

Yet when I feel the poisoning whispers enter into my head -- the whispers of, "You can't!  You're weak!  Just give up!"  I fight back.

I am made in the image of God.
I am healthy.
I am strong.
I will overcome.
Image. Of. God.

Because you know what?  It's no small matter that I am able to run -- to use my legs and body in a functioning way.  Not everyone has this privilege and it's one that can be taken away from any one of us in an instant.  

So I choose to accept my postpartum body as is -- weak joints, soft belly, slow run, and all.  I am thankful that I am healthy and strong.  I am thankful that I am made in the image of God, and I choose to use my workouts as a time to rejoice rather than despair.

Amen?


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Monday, May 6, 2013

spiritual lessons from an obstinate toddler


My daughter is about a month-and-a-half shy of turning two.
And, not to brag, but she really is quite wonderful.  As far as toddlers go, she's just a great kid.  I love her.  I adore her antics.  I think she's -- hands down -- one of the coolest people I've ever met.

However.

She is a toddler, approaching those "Terrible Two's" we always hear about in parent-talk.
And as a toddler, her favorite word tends to be, "NO."

Friends, I am getting a wee-bit-weary of hearing the word, "NO."

Sometimes, she is exercising her independence.
Sometimes, she has a specific reason for saying it.
But sometimes, she has no idea why she's saying it.

Take lunch, for instance.
She's hungry.
I provide her favorite food.

"NO."
It doesn't make any sense.
"But you're hungry."
"No."
"It's for your own good."
"No."
"I made your favorite."
"Noooooooooo!"

After a few more scenarios of this familiar battle, she's finally asleep for a nap.  As I ready myself for a few moments of stillness before my other daughter wakes up to nurse, I sit down to complain to God about my oh-so-obstinate toddler.

That's when I realize I'm God's oh-so-obstinate daughter.

God might be asking me to do something that would feed me spiritually.
For no good reason, I respond:

"NO."
It doesn't make any sense.
"But you're hungry."
"No."
"It's for your own good."
"No."
"It would bring you so much joy."
"Noooooooooo!"

But unlike me and my daughter, God doesn't send me to my crib without reading a book before a nap.  He doesn't give me a time out.  He doesn't count to three.

So how does He get my attention?
Simple.
He sends me an oh-so-obstinate toddler who likes to say no.


  • How God get your attention in unlikely ways?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

6 Suggestions for Managing with Two Kids



A few weeks ago, my husband and I had our first (and only) date out of the house after the baby's birth.  He took me to see one of my all-time favorite movies in 3D (yes, I LOVE Jurassic Park -- it's the only solid dinosaur movie out there).  We met our friends at the theatre, whose kids are already grown up and getting married.

As I sat next to my friend, I mentioned how weird it was being out of the house for the first time with Elliott.  She made a comment that stuck with me.  My friend said that when you have the first baby, you expect that your life is going to turn upside down and you'll never have a spare moment again.  Instead, it's just sort of a little bump in the road and things go back to normal.  When you have the second baby, you expect another little bump, but instead you are sitting on a roller coaster and it never goes back to normal.

I completely relate to this statement, realizing that not everyone does.  When we had our first daughter, we were sort of already in a lifestyle conducive to children:  as homebodies, we rarely ventured out; we liked early nights and earlier mornings; we were ready to nest.  The adjustment was really easy for us -- just a little bump in the road that went back to normal.

Our youngest daughter is just about two months old, so maybe this will change, but I'm finding that life is anything but "normal" or "the way it used to be."  That's fine, but it's just different and requires some "intentionality" on our parts.

Here are some suggestions to adjusting to life with two kids (my kids are 21 months apart):

1. Get Used to Crying
As a person who HATES having her children -- or anyone -- cry (because it makes me oh-so-sad), this was something I just embraced immediately.  Someone is going to cry.  If I'm putting Baby A to bed and the other one needs my attention, I have to finish what I'm doing before I go to comfort Baby B (otherwise there will be TWO babies crying).  It doesn't mean I like it -- it just means it's the reality in which I now live.

My sister-in-law mentioned that you have to start doing some bargaining in your brain.  "It will take me 15 minutes to put down Baby A but it will take me 30 minutes to feed Baby B.  So I'll put down Baby A first, and then get to Baby B."  Sometimes things -- like naptime routines -- are a little rushed, but overall, you have to time-bargain in your head.

2. Get Some Rest
The whole "nap when baby naps" mantra is not very practical with two kids.  Although it might happen on some days, I've found that it's best not to count on getting a nap.  If you can get one, great.  If not, find other ways you can rest.

My toddler is obviously more active and requires more energy than the newborn, so when the older one is asleep, I plan on doing restful things even if the little one is awake at that time.  Sometimes it means putting on a TV show while nursing, reading a book while bouncing the bouncy seat, or doing some yoga while babygirl is on the play-gym mat.  Whatever it is, I try to make sure I conserve as much energy as possible so I have the amount I need to get me through to bedtime.

I've also been planning very simple meals -- ones that require barely any prep time.  This allows extra rest time during the day, as well as delegation   If I'm too tired to make dinner, I simply have to tell Elliott what's on the menu and he can whip it up.

3. Get Comfy with Clutter
Did I mention the house gets cluttered very easily the more kids you have?  Well, it does, so get used to it.  Between baby swings and baby doll clothes and books and socks hastily strewn on the floor -- not to mention the pile of mail that "we'll get to later" -- it's easy for things to collect.  Throw in the fact that the time when I used to do chores is no longer available, there's bound to be more mess than ever.

If mess bothers you (like it bothers me), then you just have to accept your limitations.  I do little things here and there (a quick sweep after every meal, grabbing dirty clothes while walking to the closet, quickly wiping down the sink during bath time) instead of setting aside a "major cleaning" time.  On the better days, Gwen even helps me a little bit.  I do what I need to do to keep things orderly, but gone are the days when I have a scheduled time for every chore.

And I remind myself: this is temporary.  Someday they will both be old enough to help me with the chores, and our house will be neat(er) and tidy(er) again.  It's not the end of the world.

4. Get Your Schedule Down (or not!)
I try -- as much as possible -- to schedule things nicely.  By this, I mean I anticipate the next thing.  At two months, the little one is still too little to be on a schedule (and let's face it, during the first year, naps are changing all the time depending on what nap they are dropping), so I do what I can.

Babies this small tend to only want to be awake for two hours or less at a time (at least, according to this book, which I have found to be both accurate and helpful).  So in the morning, I can gauge when baby is going to go to sleep depending on when she woke up.  If I want to ensure time to myself, then I start getting the toddler ready for quiet time or a nap as soon as baby goes to sleep.  This doesn't always work (and sometimes baby's naps are super short!) but it keeps the crying to a minimum, at least.

The other thing that might work for some people (but not me because I thrive off of schedules) is just throwing the schedule away.  You'll probably have to find another blog for this advice, though.  I'm not sure how to operate that way, but I know it works for certain families and kids just fine.

5. Get Some Date Time
During the first year, it was so easy to schedule in time as a couple. Our older daughter went to bed really early (read: 5 pm), so that meant Elliott and I always ate dinner alone and had the whole evening to ourselves.  Now our time has been squished to about an hour -- maybe an hour and a half at the most -- between my working out and cleaning up dinner and having to go to bed early.  So we realized the whole, "let's just see what we want to do," and, "let's watch TV for an hour for fun," thing isn't working.

We can't really afford a dinner-date-and-babysitter thing except maybe on special occasions, so we're just making do by focusing on the quality of time we spend together.  Instead of a show, we're going to start playing games together more -- to give ourselves more fun interaction.  Maybe we'll even start reading plays together again.  Whatever it is, we're going to make sure that we are interacting, and not just existing, together.


6. Get a Firm Foundation
In the first few weeks of being home alone with two kids, I found my fuse to be shorter than I realized.  Yelling, crying, throwing fits -- these all became really easy for me to fall into.  I didn't like who I was becoming.  

There are times for yelling, but kids do not deserve to be yelled at when I'm just frustrated or tired.  This is why I've started turning to the Lord in prayer.  At 3 am when my daughter just doesn't want to burp and is keeping me up for an hour or two, I pray for the next day: "Lord, please help my attitude tomorrow.  I'm going to be tired and I need your help to be patient and kind."  I ask for gentleness in my spirit -- for peace.  In moments when I feel like I'm about to burst, I pray my way through them.  I sing.  

Without the Lord, I don't know how I would be able to manage.  He keeps me grounded in what really matters and gives me "peace that surpasses all understanding."  When I have nothing left inside me to give to my girls, He provides me with what I need.

  • Any other advice for managing with two kids?  What are your suggestions?
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Friday, April 26, 2013

Hey Pinterest/Instagram/Facebook World: I don't like to cook (and that's totally okay)

The other day, I signed on to Facebook and saw this picture:


What's that, you ask?  Why, that's just my (amazing/inspiring/incredible/resourceful) sister-in-law, making homemade pasta.

Why is this a big deal?  Well, it just so happens that this awesome family-member of mine works FULL TIME, has TWIN 4-year-old boys, and a NINE-MONTH-old daughter (who still wakes up at night to eat).  And here she is -- making homemade pasta on the weekend in her free time.

My first thought was, "That's awesome -- and so like her!"
My second thought was, "Why don't I ever do that?"
My third thought: "I'll do stuff like that someday when the kids are older."
My final thought: "No, you won't, Rachel."

And that's it.  Therein lies the truth.  I kept waiting to turn into a certain-type-of-mom-and-wife that I'll never be.  I gave up sewing long ago (sometime in college) after I whipped together my first (and only) sewing project: an early-20th-century dress.  After I finished the project, I realized that I found no joy in doing it -- I just rushed through it to get it done.  I never wanted to sew again (and I didn't, except for a brief stint in a costume shop).  

And over the last few years, as my social media feeds kept getting inundated with beautiful snapshots of fantastic dinners and baked goods, I kept waiting for "the time" to start cooking "that way."  Yet when I saw that picture of my sister-in-law, I suddenly realized that I will never do it.  It's not that I don't LIKE cooking -- it's just a practical thing for me.  It's not my least-favorite chore, and sometimes I find great peace in it.  But it's a chore to me, and I find no true joy in it.  AND THAT'S OKAY!  (Hurray!)

My sister-in-law said, "If I have a week where I don't have a day that I cook a significant amount, I start to get kinda stressed and restless."  If it's not Thanksgiving (which is a cooking holiday, in my opinion), "cooking a significant amount" is a recipe of stress for me.  For me, cooking is about being practical:  what can I make in 30 minutes or less that's nutritious, yummy, and will give us leftovers?  That's how I meal plan, and I reckon that's how I will always meal plan.

So all this got me thinking:  what do I do to avoid getting stressed and restless?  If I had extra time on the weekend, how would I choose to fill it?

On a weekend with extra time, you will never find me making homemade pasta.  Instead, you'll find me outside in the yard gardening or running around with my daughter, doing some sort of high-intensity exercise, writing a blog post, reading a book, or taking in more time with my husband and family.  Heck, you might even find me cleaning my house (THAT was the kicker of the self-realization for me:  I actually enjoy cleaning my house more than I enjoy cooking).  But mainly, I think my top choice would be high-intensity exercise or a run with a friend (ahem BECCA ahem let's make a running date ASAP).

So here's the main point:  hurray! for who we all are, and for how different we are!  I celebrate that my sister-in-law loves cooking so much, and that it is a part of who she is.  I celebrate that I like being outside so much and working out.  And I celebrate YOU -- whoever you are, and whatever it is that brings you joy.


  • What are you doing this weekend with your extra time?
  • What activities bring you joy?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I swear, I have a MILLION blog posts ready...in my head

For real, I write THE BEST blog posts at 3 am.

The problem?  I'm usually holding a pretty baby in my arms.

The BIGGER problem?  The next day, I either can't remember the post I was thinking about, or I'm not nearly as eloquent as I was at 3 am.

And there it is.

Friday, April 19, 2013

measuring spiritual growth

"How are you doing spiritually?"

He asked the question just as simply as any other question.

It was a cold day and rain was tapping gently on the window.  I shifted in the chair as I glanced outside, as if the answers would be found out there somewhere.  The warmth of the fireplace next to me reminded me that I was, in fact, inside my therapist's office, and there was the silence of an unanswered question lingering in the air.

Spiritually.  How am I doing?  It's such an interesting question, I thought -- so much more complex than perhaps he realizes.  It's more complex than any of us realize most of the time.  In Christian culture, we ask it so flippantly.  But what do we mean by it?

My first inclination was to go back over the last week and think about how many times I had turned to the Bible -- how many times I had sat in quiet before the Lord -- how many specific, purposeful prayers I had offered.  With a three-week-old and a 21-one-month old at home, and some unsettled hormones inside -- not to mention a recovering postpartum body -- the answer wasn't great.  Maybe once in the last week, I thought, I had spent some time in the Word.

But that's not it, I thought.  That's what I jump to when people ask me this question, but that's not a true gauge of my relationship with the Lord.

It took me a couple minutes to answer, and I started with some "Ums," and, "Well, I guesses," and, "Okays," but eventually I realized my true answer.

"There are seasons," I said. "And I'm in a very specific season of life and of connection to God.  I may not be able to read the Bible as much as I'd like to, but ... I don't feel like I'm sitting in judgment from the Lord because... I'm just in a different season."

Now let me be clear: I'm not saying that reading the Bible isn't important.  I'm not saying that disciplined time with the Lord is superfluous.  What I'm saying is that those things aren't always possible in one's life.  When they aren't possible, God finds other ways to minister and work in our lives.  Our spiritual growth is not dependent on checking off that "Quiet Time" box on our to-do list.

In the last few weeks, I have had to be really conscientious of God's work in my life.  It's a 3-am-feeding-prayer instead of a 9-am-focused-prayer.  It's in the moments of "God-Help-Me!" and "God-I-need-you-right-now!"  It's when God gives me a song instead of tears -- when I need to be patient with a daughter and need prayer to get me through -- when I have a choice between a TV show and reading a book about spirituality.  It's in these moments that God is choosing to mold me and make me into something new.
"I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul...about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, "Am I growing in love for God and people?"  The real issue is what kind of people we are becoming.  Practices such as reading Scripture and praying are important -- not because they prove how spiritual we are -- but because od can use them to lead us into life.  We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: "But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ."
- John Ortberg, The Life You've Always Wanted

  • How are you doing spiritually?
  • How have you answered that question in the past?  
  • What's your first instinct in answering it?
  • What do you mean by the question when you ask someone else? 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

guest post on breastfeeding

Right before I gave birth to Amelie, I started joining in on the Tuesday Baby Linkup over at Every Breath I Take (Jennifer is just one of several bloggers who host, but she was the one I happened to know first).  It has definitely been my favorite linkup because I've gotten to meet a lot of great people and join a community of moms devoted to supporting each other.

I started reading every single blog post on breastfeeding over at African Babies Don't Cry.  Christine is running a breastfeeding series called Mommy's Milk.  Knowing I had some trouble the first go-around, I read frantically, asked questions, and got to know a lot of other cool mamas out there.

Christine's blog and the community from the Tuesday Baby Linkup has meant so much to me, and that's why I am SO EXCITED that Christine is hosting a guest post by me for her breastfeeding series.


Alright, here's my deal with breastfeeding. 
Everyone posts about how it's not easy but it's amazing, and then they give a gazillion pointers on how to get through the rough patches.  But can I tell you about MY rough patch -- the one that tends to get glossed over? 
Latching.
It absolutely drives me crazy to hear things like, "Latching is as simple as X, Y, and Z."  Because you know what?  I've tried X, Y, and Z.  A million times.  And latching has never been that simple for me or for my babies -- not for my first daughter, nor for my second.  For whatever reason, latching has been and always will be a source of great difficulty for this small little family.

Read the rest here and please comment!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

one of those days

It starts really early in the morning.
The first noise I hear is a cry.

It doesn't matter who makes the first noise --
whether it's the small baby with no other means of communication
or the anxious toddler just looking for company after 12 long hours of lonely sleep --
it's still a cry
first thing.
in the morning.

As the day progresses, I can tell it's going to be
"one of those days,"
where if I put the baby down, she'll cry frantically until I pick her back up,
but once I pick her back up, the toddler cries because suddenly she needs
a hug
a toy
a doll
a snack
a something that will make me put the baby down,
who then -- you guessed it -- cries.

Just one of those days.

They'll happen quite frequently, I'd imagine.

And as a newly-inducted mommy-of-two, my instinct is to yell or join in on the crying...
but
I have been praying for gentleness.

God, let me be gentle with these little girls...
...whether in discipline or in fun, let me be gentle.

Unbeknownst to me, my mother is also praying for me on this day.

The prayers are felt.

In the midst of the most frantic moments --
when I am so wiped out that I think I might cry --
when I am so frustrated that I think I might yell --
when I am so hungry that I think I might pass out --
when I am so run down that I think I might fall asleep --
gentleness courses deep within my soul, and a song emerges from my throat.

Instead of yells or cries, You have given me a song.

And so I sing my way through
one of those days.


  • How do you get through on one of those days?
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