One year with Brooks Wilder.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Dear Brooks Wilder,

You're one. ONE! This year flew even faster than I thought it would.

A couple weeks ago, I baked vanilla cupcakes for your birthday party. As I whipped the batter and let your siblings taste-test the frosting, my mind went back to a year ago that day. A year before, I was not frosting cupcakes or feeling light and hopeful. Instead, I lumbered around as if I was carrying a baby elephant, contracting every few minutes but not dilating, wondering if you'd ever arrive. Your swift kicks into my right rib confirmed that yes, you were getting stronger and I was getting closer to meeting you. But I still had a hard time seeing the light at the end of what felt like an endless tunnel.

But then one bright June morning, you decided it was time. The hospital room was quiet, only the sounds of deep breaths through strong contractions and hymns playing in the background. We'd made it to a birthing room - my only birth plan after giving birth to Lanie in triage - and I felt safe and ready to meet you, mercifully two weeks early.

Within a couple hours, you were ready to come. There were other patients my doctor needed to see, but I pleaded with her: "I know I can do this in a few pushes. Please just stay." She agreed, gowned up, and I pushed you out in one long contraction. You didn't cry and needed deep suction to clear your lungs after such a quick passage through the birth canal. But you were perfect. As soon as they placed you on my chest, you stared up at me and looked so familiar, as if I'd known you for a hundred years.

The next few months proved difficult. You did not sleep at night. I made my nest in a bed next to your crib for months on end, hoping it would be easier to nurse you every 2-3 hours without making a trip down the hall. But after 5 months of this, I finally noticed a trend: I'd pick you up to nurse, you'd take one good drink, then you'd nestle in and fall back asleep. You didn't want food. You wanted your mama.

Even now, you're not our best sleeper. The other night, after a 12-hour shift at the hospital, I was exhausted and complained to Shawn as I dragged myself out of bed at the sound of your cry,

This feels never-ending.

I meant not-sleeping-through-the-night. But when I said it, I felt a pang of guilt. Because it does end. Seasons change. Babies will not always need their mamas to hold them in the midnight hours. On the week of your birthday, a dear friend buried her 19-year-old son. His death came suddenly and served as such a startling reminder that we aren't promised tomorrow. I've been holding you a little closer, walking a little lighter into your room at night when you cry out for me to hold you. These days are precious and numbered and fleeting.

Since changing your name at 7 weeks old, you've garnered a plethora of nicknames: Brooksie, Brooksie Bear, Bear Bear, Boo, and Mr. Wilder (Lanie). You respond most quickly to "Bear."

Bear, your Daddy and I say it every day, but I'll say it again: you are a dream come true. Our dream come true.

I love you, son. Happy birthday!



Thursday, July 5, 2018

I started this blog in February 2009 with this post, just 6 weeks after we got married.

I've always been good at starting things. I haven't been as good at keeping them going. So to see over 9 years of posts on this little blog... truly 9 years of God's faithfulness... it blesses me. And to see how he's grown our family from a newlywed couple in downtown Chicago to a thriving family of 5 just brings me to tears. While this blog has always been about chronicling our journey (and I hope our grandchildren might read these words someday!), it's also been a joy to share our life with readers. You've graced us with the sweetest comments and prayers for many years now. (Is there anyone besides my mom and mother-in-law that have been reading since 2009 and is still along for the ride? I'm so curious!)

A few weeks ago, we landed on a really sweet opportunity. I'd been entered in an Instagram contest for a chance at free family photos without my knowledge, and before I even realized it, I won! Callie Doty took these amazing photos in sweltering heat in half an hour. She's a true professional, so kind, and did extremely well with the kids. Considering we hadn't had professional photos taken since our wedding (!!!), this was an enormous gift.

Check out Callie's photography website here: Callie Doty Photography
And her sweet blog post about our family here: The N Family

New DIY page

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

I just did something I've been meaning to do for, oh, 5 years. I made a DIY page with photos so you can easily access all the DIY projects from the blog! If you look at the top menu bar and click on DIY, it'll take you straight there.

It's organized by section (sewing, outdoors, furniture, etc.) and just clicking on each photo will take you to the project.

Happy crafting, friends. And happy 4th of July!

2018 Summer Bucket List

Friday, June 22, 2018

It's officially SUMMER, and for us, the last one before Liam starts Kindergarten. Hard to believe!

We decided to make a summer bucket list and have just started crossing a few things off... I thought I'd share in case you want to borrow a few ideas. Since my kids love arts and crafts, we included quite a few crafty ideas with links.

𑛅  Eat snowcones
𑛅  Go to a waterpark
𑛅  Visit the zoo
𑛅  Make fruit fans
𑛅  Have a water balloon fight
𑛅  Play on the slip 'n slide
𑛅  Make giant pinwheels
𑛅  Make a colorful paper spinner
𑛅  Make prints with foam stickers
𑛅  Construct a fire breathing dragon
𑛅  Make a banana split
𑛅  Make sidewalk foam paint
𑛅  Visit a new park
𑛅  Pick blackberries and blueberries
𑛅  Play with marshmallow shooters 
𑛅  Make erupting ice chalk 
𑛅  Create a mason jar aquarium 
𑛅  Make peach jam
𑛅  Do sparklers
𑛅  Paint with squirt guns
𑛅  Make beachy vanilla pudding cups
𑛅  Make tile art with sharpies 
𑛅  Try scrape painting
𑛅  Make bubble wrap jelly fish
𑛅  Make fish in a bag of slime

Happy summer!!

True, kind, necessary.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

An elderly woman with deep wrinkles surrounding her water-blue eyes looked up at me from her hospital bed and said, "You've found your calling: caregiver. By day, you care for us patients. By night, your family. It's what you were clearly meant to do."

I was stunned by the gift she gave me, realizing she knew so little about me and yet spoke such deep affirmation. She was bed-bound and could have chosen a miserable existence, but instead, chose kindness. And I realized: there are people in this world who choose kindness and those who do not. There are people who walk into your home (which you've poured so much time and energy and sweat cultivating into what it is) and curse it. They point out the crack in the ceiling or the wilting plant in the corner. It makes your heart beat a little faster as you muster up a response, knowing full well their attack was borne of insecurity. But still, it hurts.

Then there are those who are kind, those who bless. Those who welcome you into their homes with spit up on your shirt and dirt under your fingernails and look you in the eye for longer than 2 seconds to ask, "How are you really doing today?" with every ounce of sincerity. They're in your corner. They're your advocates, your cheerleaders.

Our world could use so much more kindness.

I vividly remember being 13 years old and all of the 7th grade girls were called to the library to have a meeting with the school counselor. We were nervous... what had we done? The counselor calmly told us that she'd been catching wind of a lot of back-biting and gossip. So she taught us a little phrase she wanted to go through our heads before we said anything: "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? If it isn't all three, it shouldn't be said."

It's been almost 20 years since 7th grade and I still remember that phrase.

Is it true? 
Is it kind? 
Is it necessary?

Maybe we should all start thinking about that before we "say" anything on social media. As a mom, I see so much that, if filtered through these questions, would never end up in my newsfeed or yours.

Is it true?
Is what I'm posting real life? Or is it completely posed, pushing the mess out of the way in order to show forth a cleaned up, dishonest portrait that you'd like to send out into the world? I'm not advocating posting pictures of your dirty laundry (no one wants to see that), but simply... is it true?

Is it kind?
I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of hashtags on Instagram as I think they can often veer into unkind toward others, or trying to "one up" others. Not always, but so many hashtags seem to say #Iambetterthanyou #andyou #andyou. Is what you post pushing others down to lift yourself up? Or is it kind to those who see it?

Is it necessary?
This is probably the most controversial of the three, or up for debate. Is anything really necessary on social media? Perhaps it should be asked this way: does it lift others up? Does it point them to hope?

In college, I held a host of nannying jobs in downtown Chicago, some more gratifying than others. One woman I worked for had advertised for a nanny, but was actually looking for someone who would hand wash her lingerie while she played Solitaire at the computer a mere 10 feet away. (Her kids, meanwhile, played video games unsupervised for hours on end in the other room.) The aura about this woman toward anyone beneath her social stratum was demeaning at best. But the money was decent and she provided a free place to stay for the summer, so I stayed.

Meanwhile, she employed another woman in her home: an older black lady who worked as a maid, tidying up the same corners and dusting the same ledges day after day. This dear woman had worked for the family for more than 40 years. I'm sure she must have suffered. She must have felt the scorn of white privilege and menial tasks she was given and the ungodly hours she was expected to work. But her smile lit up every corner of that dark apartment and when we'd talk, she'd often say, "What a blessing!" with a broad smile. I'm sure she had plenty to say about her very unkind boss. But she chose kindness, and it made all the difference.

True, kind, necessary. Don't you think using those three simple filters could go so far?
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