Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Warming Up in Arizona

In January, I was sitting in my (new  and very comfy) chair, and mindlessly attending to one of the three things I do at night.
  1.  Hold Anna
  2.  Rock Anna
  3.  Nurse Anna
I can't remember which one I was doing.  But I was also doing another of my favorite pasttimes-- complaining about Iowa winter weather.  (Complaining is a pretty mild term, actually.  In all honesty, I was probably down-right bitching about it being snowy and cold and blustery and all-the-things-I-hate outside.  But I digress.)  In a moment of hasty bitching, I made a comment about running away to Arizona.

Mason glanced up from his tv viewing, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Buy a ticket."

And that's all it took for the Heavens to open up and angels sang beautiful songs of sun and warmth. And then, golden light rays of opportunity began seeping out from every snow-covered blade of grass and sliding off every snow-covered roof on our street.

"Seriously?  You better be careful what you say or I'm totally out of here."

Mase shrugged again and said, "You'll never have this time again.  Go for it.  I'll take care of Charlie.  It'll be fun."

And just like that, I was texting my wife asking her if I could come visit for a week.  And an hour later, I had an email confirmation from Allegiant proving that I was escaping this tundra for one glorious week.

There is nothing better than boarding a plane in 10 degree weather and then stepping off that same plane three hours later --only to feel warm 60 degree air on your skin.  It's amazing.

Our whole trip was amazing, actually.  Even though Miss Anna came down with a fever and battled a cough/ stuffy nose the entire time, she knew enough to not complain while she was on vacation.  She was such a trooper!

We soaked up as much sunshine as possible-- even if it was just hanging out in Kelly's backyard.

The babes got to know each other-- Jay let Anna explore him.  I'm not sure if he liked it or just knew he was screwed because he can't roll over yet.

When I asked Anna what she thought of the warm weather....

A walk with our little ones...

Meeting Gramma Karen.  Both ladies seemed pretty enamored with each other.

A morning walk with my girl-- the sun tuckered her out.

Charlie wanted a picture of Anna next to a cactus.  Here ya go, Buddy!

Oh my god.  This picture.  I can't even.

That tongue!

She was finished with the photos but I wasn't.  Selfies in February?  Don't mind if I do!

When Anna realized there was a big brother in Kelly's house, her entire world lit up!  She watched Turner like she watches Charlie-- and smiled every time he came around.

A walk with the whole crew

Me & my girl on our girl's trip

A little Arizona landscaping for you.

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto!

My family.  (Well, might as well be.)  I love them like they're my own.  And I can't wait until the next time I see them again.

And while it's always sad to leave the sunshine and a friend who knows you almost better than you know yourself, being reunited with the other half of my heart was pretty great too.  Until next time, Arizona.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Anna: Four Months

Is it fair that all of Anna's month photos will have Big Brother in them?  Yes, I believe so.  He is a HUGE part of her life, so I find it perfect that he's with her in each milestone photo.

So here we are: January 21, 2015
Anna is already FOUR months old!!

What life is like:

*  Anna is a very happy baby--- although she rarely smiles for the camera. Stinker.
*  She has found her voice and uses it often.  Her favorite sounds are "bubbling" her tongue like making motor-sounds.  She also likes all-out screeches.
*  She's ticklish.  Mostly on her chest, her sides, and her thighs.  And who can resist those thighs!?
*  Charlie is her LOVE.  Unsettled? Fussy? Tired? Uninterested in anything?  Enter Charlie and all is right with the world.  She watches him and smiles at him and giggles at everything he does.  I often find him in her crib reading books to her after she has woken up.
*  Favorite activities include: watching Charlie run back and forth in the living room, watching Charlie and Daddy play football/basketball/baseball/soccer/wrestling/chase in the basement, and nursing.
*  She loves to instantly roll over from back to tummy.... but then gets pissy when she can't figure out how to get rolled back over.
*  She LOVES to watch TV.  Young and the Restless is her favorite.  And The Bachelor.
*  She found her toes!  Life is so fun when you can play with your toes.
*  She can go 4-5-6 hours between feedings.  Only during the day.  At night she prefers to nurse often.  And her mother cannot resist her smile at 3:00 am.
*  She always smiles at 3:00 am.  And giggles when Mama whispers, "You're supposed to be sleeping little girl."
*  She sits in her chair (on our table) during supper and loves to watch us eat.  She's an adorable centerpiece.
*  Her Daddy captivates her and ALWAYS makes her giggle.  The way they look at each other melts-my-heart.
*  Four months, and I can't even remember life without her.

Me and Church. Getting There.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at church.  Although I haven't written about it here, I officially became a member at the Unitarian Universalist church in Cedar Falls last January.  It's a perfect fit for me and I just wish I had found it sooner.  I spent years and years of my life thinking I was pretty much alone in my beliefs/ lack of beliefs/ apprehension/ questions/ etc.  If only I had known that there was a whole community of people out there--with similar beliefs (or lack thereof) and questions and ideas-- who were amazing and wonderful and kind and generous and good!  I feel welcome and happy and purposeful and part of a greater good when I go to church-- and while church isn't for everyone, it's something I'm glad has been carved into my life.  Here's what I shared with our tiny congregation:

 I'm not exactly sure how my journey to CVUU began, but I suppose it started thirty some years ago, when I was attending Sacred Heart Church with my parents and grandparents.  Raised Catholic, I grew up with a heavy dose of tradition and an equally heavy dose of guilt.  Weekly mass was traditional-- never wavering, always the same.  There were many expectations-- things we were supposed to believe and do, without much question.  I felt guilty the very first time I even questioned Christianity-- which was at a very young age.  I was always an inquisitive child and tended to question the answers that were given to me.  (I'm sure this made me an incredibly fun teenager to raise.) As a second grader, I remember questioning the purpose of "confession" and the role and power the priest held.  Even at eight years old, these traditions didn't add up.

As I continued through adolescence, I was active in our church-- but not by choice.  My parents insisted I volunteer as an altar server, and I was always expected to attend CCD classes.  It wasn't until my junior year in high school, when I simply refused to be confirmed that I felt my parents start to take me seriously.  I'm not sure they realized how much thought I had put into religion up until that point.  I simply could not go through a ceremony confirming my belief in a faith/ church that I did not believe in and agree with.  (And yes, there was guilt associated with this decision-- especially since I was still attending mass with my very Catholic grandparents at the time.)

When I was in college, I tested out a few more Catholic churches but aside from enjoying the music (Sing to the Mountains!  Sing a New Song! Though the Mountains May Fall!) I did not feel connected to the beliefs.  In fact, I usually found myself looking around and thinking, "What am I missing?  Why can I not just accept and believe this doctrine like everyone else here?"  And finally, after trying for years, I loosened my grip, attended mass on holidays,  didn't think much more of ever becoming a member of a congregation.  I would often mull questions over in my head, but I didn't know anyone who had similar questions or who would be willing to engage in a conversation about these.

So fast forward a few years (like fifteen) when I was pregnant with our first child.  Suddenly, what had seemed like a non-issue was back at the forefront of my mind again.  People were asking me about baptism and Christenings and things I hadn't thought of.  Suddenly, I found myself thinking of those questions again.  I remember talking with Mason about baptism and thinking that we should probably baptize Charlie just to be on the safe side....

Ultimately, we did not have Charlie baptized, but I did begin searching for..... something.  I didn't know what I was looking for at the time.  I knew I missed church.  I missed the community, I missed the special events, I missed the singing.  But I didn't miss Catholic church.  I wanted questions and conversations and non-answers.  I wanted to belong to a group of people who knew me and cared about me and my family.  I wanted to belong to a group of people who would bring me soup if I was sick or offer to babysit my kids during an emergency.  And, perhaps more than anything, I wanted my children to grow up knowing "church" but in an environment that allows them to ask all the questions they want--- and then some--and not be given any answers.  I want my children to be exposed to many different ideas of thought-- and understand that no particular religion or belief is "right".  I want them to seek spirituality, in whatever way works for them-- not within certain parameters and following certain rules.

At some point, a friend suggested I look more closely at Unitarian Universalism.  So where do you go for information?  Google.  I began to google UU, and read different UU articles and blogs.  A quick search  revealed that there was a UU church in Cedar Falls...and I made the decision to check it out.

The first few times I attended CVUU, I was similar to a social media lurker.  I came in conveniently late, sat in the back row, and left as soon as the service ended.  I avoided the greeting crew at all costs--which is very hard to do in this church.  I attended once every few months for over a year until I finally decided to get serious about this place.  I joined a purpose moia and that was it.

Through the purpose small group, I met six women whom I have come to know and love so much.  I leaned on them, during a particularly sad and confusing time in my life... and I hardly knew them.  As I attended church more frequently, I met more people and felt more comfortable.  I knew I belonged.  When Anna was born, I felt like I had a community to lean on and share her with.  I look forward to coming to church-- to hear the sermons yes, but mostly to see and connect with the people here.  This is not my home church, but finding the CVUU feels like I've come home.