Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Consider This Our Christmas Card for 2016

After trying to get into the Christmas card tradition a couple years ago, I decided the stress it caused me wasn't worth it.

So consider this the yearly update for the Meidell fam.

Update on Work:

This was a big year for us in terms of work decisions! This year, I decided to quit my job after four years of teaching and stay home to be with Raven. Meanwhile, Matt's job at the small animal food company where he's been working (Sherwood Pet Health) went full-time right around the same time that I quit, which was beyond perfect. Additionally, we started buying storage sheds up for auction as a little side job in October (which is SOOO much work), and I've continued doing my photography business part-time. We've been very fortunate this year to have everything work together to allow me to stay home, which is a blessing I don't take for granted.

Update on our Living Quarters:

We're still living in our two-bedroom apartment that we moved into a few years ago, and, while we love it in general, we're looking forward to the day when we can afford a house of our own. To that end, we opened up a down payment savings account at the end of last year and have been diligently putting some money into it every month. We don't have a super specific goal yet in mind of when we'll buy (or how much we'll try and save before buying), but we're hoping that as Matt gets a little further on in his job, we'll be in a better position to make some more specific goals as far as a house goes. For the time being, we're enjoying the low utilities cost of apartment living and trying not to log onto Zillow *too* often to look at real estate.

Update on Church:

Our ward (church congregation) went through a huge change this year, as we were split into about three parts and combined with three other wards. As a result of this split, Matt was released from his calling in the bishopric, and I was released from the calling I had as a member of the activities committee (which I'd only held for about 3 months before the split). Now, in our new ward, Matt's been called to serve in the high priest group leadership, and I've been called to serve as first counselor in the Primary. The funny thing was that Primary was always one of the callings I'd most dreaded getting, but I've been pleasantly surprised that it's not nearly as difficult/crazy/time-consuming/chaotic as I thought it would be. (And I've discovered that my classroom management skills from four years of teaching seventh grade are definitely still coming in handy!) Also, as Raven turned 18 months in October, she entered nursery for the first time, which she generally seems to enjoy.

Update on our Health:

The biggest news on the health front was that my autoimmune disease was declared to be in remission in November, and I went off my last medication at the end of that month. I also managed to get down to my pre-pregnancy weight earlier in the year and ran a half marathon in August (and crushed my previous half marathon time by more than five minutes!). Other than a nasty bout with strep throat in May, I've been hugely blessed with great health this year. Matt has been able to more or less maintain the 20-pound weight loss he had towards the end of last year/beginning of this year, and he even (willingly) went on his first run since the marathon we ran together four years ago. And luckily for us all, Raven has been the poster child for healthy and thriving as she rarely gets sick with even a cold.

Update on our Personal Growth:

Both Matt and I have continued working on our novels, and while we haven't made as much progress as we feel we should, we both have written more this year than we did last year (Matt's book has over 200 pages!). Matt has also gotten a little more into woodworking, which has been a dream of his for a long time, and I've been pleased with how much I've grown as a photographer as I've continued my photo-a-day project and have taken on several paid jobs that challenged my skill set. Raven experienced the biggest growth of all as 2016 was the year that she learned to walk, run, jump, play games, talk, and basically turn into a full-blown toddler right before our eyes. I'm sure every parent says this, but she really is a smart kid---she talks a LOT, has a great memory (especially when it come to books), and loves to go outside (unless it's cold, which apparently she hates more than anything, it seems).

Overall, 2016 has held many, many changes for us, and while we've had some hard things to go through, it's largely been a very happy, fulfilling year full of joy and blessings.

We're so thankful in this holiday season for the extra reminder to look toward our Savior Jesus Christ and contemplate his perfect, exemplary life and his matchless gift for us all. I absolutely know that He knows our struggles and that only in Him may we find true peace.

May you have a wonderful Christmas season filled with many beautiful moments with family and friends and in moments of silent contemplation. Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Tips For Birth Coaches and New Dads-To-Be

On Saturday, I had the opportunity for a second time to be a birth coach to a friend as she went through the exhausting and exhilarating experience of labor and delivery. Although I'm by no stretch of the imagination an expert after helping with only two deliveries, both of my experiences with coaching and my own experiences of birthing a baby (with my sister acting as coach) have made me realize some key principles that could help anyone who is asked to be there for a birth, especially as a coach or as the co-parent-to-be.

Here are some of my top tips for being the best help you can be to a mom going through labor:

1. To be asked to be present for a birth is one of the highest honors you could ever be extended. 

Not only is the couple inviting you to participate in one of the most memorable and sacred experiences of their lives, but the mom-to-be is also trusting you enough to be at her absolute most vulnerable with you. Don't take this honor lightly! I personally offered many a prayer before I was called in so that I would feel inspired as to how best to help the mom and dad to be calm and have a positive experience, and I was definitely offering up many prayers during the experience as well.

2. Understand the stages of labor and birth.

In early labor (when a woman's cervix is dilating from 0-3 cm), the mom-to-be will not usually be experiencing regular contractions or very intense ones (although that can definitely vary from woman to woman). This stage of labor often lasts for days or even weeks and is the easiest to get through.

In active labor (when a woman is dilating from 4-7 cm), contractions will often start coming more regularly and will be much more intense than before. Oftentimes, they will start as a cramping sensation or as an intensity/ache that radiates around the back and down, and they will usually start intensifying the closer together they get. During this part of labor, a woman will almost always definitely know she is in labor---she will often have to stop and breathe through the contractions, and movement can become very difficult very quickly as this stage progresses. It is usually in this stage that a woman who is wanting an epidural will receive one.

In the transition stage (when a woman dilates from an 8 to a 10), the contractions are often longer, much closer together (sometimes with little to no break in between), and the most intense that they will ever be. While active labor can last several hours, transition often happens very quickly--usually happening in well under an hour (although it can sometimes last for longer if labor stalls). Signs that the mom is approaching the transition stage can include body shakes (a sign that her adrenaline is kicking in), nausea and vomiting, and an urge to push. (Basically, if she says she feels like she needs to go to the bathroom, call the nurse in right away.)

Once a woman has dilated to 10cm, she is ready to start pushing, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. Often, pushing will last much longer if a woman has had an epidural than if she's having her baby unmedicated.

After the birth of the baby, the placenta will be delivered and the doctor will administer any necessary care, like stitching up tears (if there are any).

3. Respect the birth plan, but be prepared for things to not go as planned. Know when to be flexible and when to help the mom push through.

Both of the friends I coached had desires to have an unmedicated childbirth. Both friends had taken  hypnobirthing classes and prepared for that outcome (as did I, when I had my daughter).

I don't think any of our labor and delivery experiences went exactly according to our plan.

Realize that the mom-to-be (especially if she's a first-time mom) will probably eventually reach the point in the labor where she will wonder aloud if she can go through with it. This doesn't automatically mean you should jump in and tell her to get an epidural or other pain relief if that was not in her birth plan. Usually her expressing this fear is a cry for reassurance that she is strong and capable of going through with it and a sign to you that you need to take a more active role from this point on in the delivery.

With the birthing experience I just helped out with, the baby's position was not ideal (the baby was head down but backwards, which is called the baby being posterior). This greatly increases the amount of back pain felt during the labor and will greatly intensify the labor and delivery process. Initially, we had her try a few different positions to see if baby would turn on his own. When her back strain started to become unbearable, we decided to go with a pain medicine that would go through her IV to see if that would be enough to take the edge off. Only when that didn't work and we'd exhausted all our other options and she firmly decided herself that the epidural was the way she wanted to go did we take that route.

The fact is, giving birth is hard, no matter how you do it, especially if you decide to go unmedicated all the way through. If a woman's desire to have an unmedicated birth is extremely high, then do all that you can to help her achieve that outcome, but also be willing to follow your intuition in the moment if another route might be a better option.

It's a hard line to know, because there were many moments I wondered if I would be able to do it and I was so glad that my sister and husband helped me just keep hanging on and pushing through. For my first birth coaching experience, a little bit of pain medication through the IV was all that was needed to help her push through and continue without an epidural.

The fact is, every woman is different and every birthing experience is different. Try your best to be encouraging and supportive of the original birth plan, but know when to change it if necessary.

4. Try to find a method early on that helps the mom-to-be to relax through the contractions. Don't be scared to be authoritative yet gentle as you help her to focus. As a general rule of thumb, give a very specific instruction that the mom can follow as she feels the surge of the contraction coming on and as she works through the peak of it.

Usually just saying a vague command like "Relax" isn't super helpful---try instead to give a concrete action that can be followed through on immediately like, "Take a deep breath" or "Exhale to 10."

Other things to try:

*Take your fists, palms, or a pair of tennis balls in a sock and push them against key pressure points (like lower back, side of hips, or right under the knees) during each contraction. It also helps to establish which (if any) of these is the most relieving early on in the labor so you're not having to constantly ask questions as it gets more intense.

*As the contractions get more intense, have the mom look you right in the eyes and just focus on your eyes and nothing else. If she starts to look away or look dazed, redirect her focus to your eyes. (This trick got me through 6 hours of super intense, stalled labor).

*If she seems to be stalling a bit in the active labor phase, ask if getting into the tub/shower sounds appealing. Often, the sensation of the warm water against the skin is a great aid to relaxation. Also, if labor has stalled and she's gone a long time without progressing in the active labor phase, she might want to consider having her doctor break her water, which could help to speed up the process, too.

*Standing (if she's up to it) can often help to speed the labor process along as well, so if there are two of you there, have the mom lean into one of you (basically like she's hugging you) and have the other person administer pressure to the back as the surges come on.

*Sitting on a birthing ball or standing and leaning on her forearms against a (raised) bed/surface is also a good position to try during that middle (active) stage of labor. If the mom has been in the same position for awhile and is starting to lose focus and is less able to relax, sometimes a change of position can be just what she needs.

*Often, having the mom make low moaning sounds helps with the relaxation process (and it's also a great indicator of how relaxed she actually is). As she's exhaling, instruct her to keep the pitch of her voice as low as possible. Often, if she's starting to lose focus and panic a bit, the pitch will immediately get higher, and a quick, easy way to bring the anxiety back down again is just to remind her to keep it low.

*Remind her often that she's strong and that she's doing a wonderful job. It also doesn't hurt to remind her that once she's close to the transition stage, it really doesn't get any worse and that she's already made it through one intense contraction and that they won't get any more intense than that. (With the reasoning that if you've made it through one, you can make it through another one. Once again, that's what got me through those six hours of stalled labor at the end.)

5. If she's having an unmedicated birth, tell her to breathe through when she's pushing the baby out, not to hold her breath (like the nurse will tell her). 

Holding the breath and pushing puts more strain on several parts of the body and increases the likelihood of tearing during delivery. It's better to take a deep breath and then push while exhaling. (It can often help to count during the pushing process to get the maximum effect from each contraction. Have the mom take a deep breath and then exhale to ten while pushing. This can be repeated if the contraction is still going.) Have her rest and relax completely between contractions during the pushing stage so that she can save up as much energy as possible for the next surge.

6. If pushing is taking longer than desired/expected, it can be very helpful to have the nurses wheel out a mirror so that the mom can see the progress that's been made. 

(I didn't do this with my own labor and delivery experience, but I plan to do so for any future children.) It can be enormously motivating for the mom to see the baby's head making progress with each of her pushes and to see how close the baby really is.

7. Even if you're not a photographer, offer to take pictures anyway (or just grab the camera and start taking some) right when the baby's born. 

We had brought our camera to the hospital but hadn't formally asked my sister to take any of the birth, but I'm SO GLAD that she did. Those pictures of the birth and the moments immediately following are some of my most prized pictures ever, and I'm so grateful that I have them. Try to capture mom's face right after the baby comes out and is placed on her chest, and try to get a pic of dad cutting the cord (if he chooses to). Don't forget to get a picture of both parents with the baby, as well as a picture of just the baby's face.

8. Wait to post any pictures yourself to social media until after the new parents have officially announced it themselves. 

I made a major faux pas on this one just this weekend, when I accidentally posted a picture I took of the new arrival before his parents had (so sorry, guys!). If I'd really been thinking straight, I would have asked permission first, too (as I wised up and did for this post!).

Other general tips for the birth coach/dad-to-be:

*Eat, drink, and go to the bathroom right at the beginning because it might be a reeeeeeally long time before you get to do any of those things again (especially if the mom is choosing an unmedicated birth).

*Wear comfortable clothes and super comfortable shoes. If you're full-on coaching and helping in the labor and birth process, you might be squatting down and pushing against pressure points or standing for a long time with someone's weight against you or helping to hold one of mom's legs during the pushing process. Whatever it is, chances are you'll be standing for a good long while and doing quite a bit of physical activity as well, so be prepared.

*I know nurses and doctors will hate me for saying this, but pack snacks for the mom (and you!). The hospital will only let the mom have clear fluids or a popsicle, but if she's in labor a long time, her energy might seriously dip if she's not allowed to eat anything else. For the birth on Saturday, we brought in a smoothie, and it was heartily and happily downed when the mom needed to replenish her flagging energy stores about halfway through. So pack granola bars or yogurt squeezes or fruit pouches because chances are that she could really use them at some point.

*Whatever you do, STAY CALM. If the mom sees you panicking or acting unsure, she'll immediately start second-guessing herself. Know that the absolute best thing you can do for her is to be supportive, to be involved, and to be reassuring.

*Be prepared to advocate on behalf of the mom, especially if she's desiring an unmedicated birth. Often, nurses are much more familiar with women having a baby after getting an epidural, so sometimes their instructions to the mom-to-be will run directly contrary to what she has practiced. Don't be afraid to step in and tell the nurse that the mom has practiced things differently and that she would like to go forward as she has prepared.

 All pictures were taken by me on Saturday immediately following the birth (around 4:15 in the morning!)

With all that said, birth is seriously one of the greatest miracles you will ever get to see in your lifetime. Consider it a great privilege to be a part of it!

Moms and fellow birth coaches, are there any additional suggestions you would add for potential birth coaches and dads-to-be?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

When You Know It's Worth It, But It's Still Hard

In a time of year when I should be feeling beyond motivated to set resolutions for the new year, I'm feeling a little lackluster in the dreaming department.

During a season when I should be feeling grateful and counting my blessings, I find that once they're counted, I might feel content for the next ten minutes or so, but then the doubt and anxiety and uncertainty creep back in to their usual nesting places.

(And trust me, I make myself count my blessings on a daily basis. It's one of my coping mechanisms, apparently.)

So what's my deal?

Well, here's the Great Truth I've come to after thinking about this for months on end:

Just because something is worth it in the end, that doesn't mean it won't be hard to go through it.

Just because something is what your wiser self knows you need, doesn't mean that it's something your childish, immature self is going to be okay with all the time.

I was talking to Matt the other day about how it seems that I don't dream much anymore. Perhaps it's because so many of our dreams didn't come to fruition (like becoming a bajillionaire by the time we were 30, naturally), or perhaps it's just because my child seems to have been on a napping boycott for about three months now, but my mind doesn't delve into the realm of possibility so much, anymore---

It's usually stuck instead on, "Wow, I have a messy apartment that I really should clean and a child that's super whiny that probably needs to be bundled up and taken outside because we're both going stir crazy and oh yeah, I haven't eaten any real food in 6 hours or even gone to the bathroom for that matter, so I probably should get on that."

The fact is (and we all know this, deep down) is that to get anything of value, something must be sacrificed. It's the Law of the Harvest---you reap what you sow---but of course, you actually have to put in the work and the sweat and the tears to actually be able to harvest something.

Knowing something is going to be worth it in the end though, doesn't necessarily make it easier to go through.
It just makes you more willing to push through it.

I can apply this to so much in my life right now.

I know I need to stay at a healthy weight for both my health and my sanity, but that doesn't mean that I'm loving going out for a run or out to an exercise class when I'm already exhausted from the day or when I'd rather stay home and watch more episodes of Gilmore Girls or when it's bat-crap-crazy-cold outside.

I know that it's better for us to wait to buy a house until we have more of a down payment and our financial situation is more stable, but it doesn't mean that I don't get frustrated living in an apartment that is absolutely jam-packed with stuff (despite all my years of decluttering) and with no yard to escape to.

I know that stay-at-home-motherhood (or being a mom, period) is absolutely the best thing for me to do right now, but it doesn't mean that I don't get tired of having a little shadow dump out every last thing that can be dumped out and then whine for an hour straight and then refuse to go down for a nap.

Of course, these things are worth it in the end--staying healthy, being fiscally responsible, being a parent.

But it doesn't make the sacrifice any easier when you're going through it.

And that's really all I have to say today about it---

I don't have any brilliant words of wisdom that will make it all better, that will make you not want to tear your hair out because you're now in the fourth week straight of dealing with the insurance marketplace, and they still can't freaking verify your income, and you just have a feeling that it's all going to end badly...

But all I can say is that my wiser self has been around long enough that she knows that it really is all worth it, in the end.

So I just need to hang in there.


Monday, November 28, 2016

(Black & White) Scenes From a Thanksgiving Weekend

I fully intended to do a Thanksgiving post on the actual holiday (or shortly thereafter)--I had packed up the laptop (okay, I'd asked Matt to pack up the laptop), I'd made sure my camera cord was in the case to transfer pictures, and we had plenty of gaps of time without anything planned that would have allowed for it.

But instead, I watched way too many episodes of Gilmore Girls (only five more seasons to go before I can watch the new ones, ha ha), finished a book (The Light Between Oceans--my heart is still recovering, thanks for asking), spent a lot of time with Matt's family (mine was out of town), and passed many an hour solo just thinking about things. About life. About my dreams for the future. About the past, and how time changes things. About how even though this isn't where I thought we'd be right now in life, how I'm still so grateful for everything we have.

So today, you get a photo-and-brain dump of our weekend.

(And in black and white too, because everything looks better in black and white.)

Here we go.

Thanksgiving Day
It's so funny to me how absolutely different each Thanksgiving is from year to year. We never seem to know who exactly we'll be seeing or what exactly will be happening or what exactly we'll remember. 

This year, we spent Thanksgiving not just with Matt's family (we do the on year/off year thing for Thanksgiving between the two families), but with most of his extended family on his Dad's side, too. Every time we get together with them, I am reminded anew of the dire need to make a family tree with photos and names so that this can finally be the year that I get everyone straight and in the correct family in my mind.

It's still a work in progress.
(Should I even admit that after five and a half years of marriage? What a slacker I am!) 

Fun with the In-Laws  (Pictionary, in this case)

Just one of the many kinds of impromptu things going down at the Meidell house anytime people gather together.

Raven Gets Another Haircut (& has another meltdown)
My sister-in-law Katie, an experienced cutter-of-hair, had brought Oreos to bribe Raven into submission (a wise move, considering her distinctly unsure-slash-slightly-negative impression of the whole haircutting business the last time around). And for awhile it totally worked...until we moved Raven around to the other side of the sink. Who knew that such a simple act like switching directions would cause such a complete and utter meltdown?ˊ
 Now we know.

Family Pictures at the Capitol Building

In the beginning of our marriage, Matt and I used to have his mom take some pictures of us right around Thanksgiving so we could have some shots of the two of us together that weren't just taken by a stranger or by one of our hands extended out as far as it could reach. (Click here for some outtakes and here for our real card from 2013 and here and here for ones from 2012.)

Well, we apparently stopped doing that when I was pregnant and then for Raven's first Thanksgiving the year after, but I missed the tradition and wanted to remedy that this year. So on the day when we were scheduled to go to the Capitol building to get family pictures with Matt's whole extended family anyway, we ended up having my mother-in-law get some of just the three of us (and then we took a ton ourselves too of the other spouse with Raven). 

Be prepared over the next three weeks or so to be bombarded with the family in black as I share some of the (several hundred) images we took.

Hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful!

P.S. Even though it sounds all sorts of cliché, I just wanted to say that I am so grateful to all you readers out there--it has been nothing short of incredible how many people I've been able to connect with because of this little blog that I started way back when, and you all make it worth coming back to the blank page, week after week. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Getting Dressed Every Day: The Struggle is Real

I've talked before about how I used to kinda sorta judge stay-at-home moms who stayed in their sweats all day and talked about how it was such a struggle to get dressed. At the time, I was a full-time teacher who needed to dress somewhat professionally every weekday, so it was no problem for me to put some effort into what I looked like every day.

Plus, I was also going through a bit of a "style revolution" at the time (mostly thanks to my reading WAAAAAY too many fashion blogs and magazines), and I enjoyed coming up with different clothing combinations and pushing my style comfort limit just a little more day by day.

When I became pregnant with Raven, my love of style and getting dressed in "real clothes" every day started to seriously wane by the end of the second trimester. I was quickly outgrowing every piece of clothing I had (AND that I'd bought for the pregnancy), and seemingly every piece of clothing I put on my body felt uncomfortable. One of the (many) reasons I looked forward to giving birth already was so that I could finally stop feeling like a stuffed sausage in everything I put on.

Well, the postpartum body blues hit me harder than I thought they would (mostly because the weight didn't come off as fast as I thought it would, despite my best efforts, and also because the AI disease diagnosis seriously threw a wrench in EVERYTHING to do with my body image due to the weight retention of the medication).

All of this is to say that even though I was still teaching at the time, the zest for getting ready every day had all but disappeared, and even though I still forced myself to do it, I hardly ever put in one iota more of effort than I absolutely had to (which translated to me looking pretty frumpy a lot of the time).

And now, being a full-time SAHM, my attitude towards getting dressed unfortunately hasn't changed too much. I consider it a serious accomplishment if I am dressed and ready for the day before noon (and on some days, it's a serious accomplishment if I get ready at all), and I feel like I rarely put serious effort into what I look like.

Part of that reluctance to get dressed is because we don't leave the house that often (and there are usually about half the days in the week when we don't leave the apartment or apartment complex's grassy area at all).  The other reluctance comes because I still haven't found pants that are truly very comfortable since giving birth that actually look good. Sure, I've bought myself about four pairs of pants postpartum, but none seem to fit right and about half aren't really too comfortable at all.

So the self-defeating thinking that starts creeping in when I get ready and feel like I don't look as good as I used to anyway makes the whole thing feels rather futile, and I stop getting ready for the day, which only feeds the beast that says that I'm just not as attractive as I used to be.

I've been thinking a lot lately about my new year's resolutions for next year. (I mean, of course I have--this is me we're talking about here). And after reading an interview with a blogger I've long admired about some of her philosophies about mothering, I felt a bit convicted--

When asked what advice she would give to new moms (she's a mom of four), she said:

Our culture will tell her she can sit in her sweatpants all day watching TV, forgetting to brush her teeth, and letting Elmo babysit, (those things all have their time and place – believe me!) but I’d tell her that motherhood can and should be an intentional position of leadership. Being a mom is like being a guide. We show our kids what to value, where to spend their time, and how to take care of themselves and their surroundings by what we model. Yes, motherhood will be all of things people tell you it is – messy, full of mistakes, and selfless – but after you’ve gone to the bathroom and had a good cry about that, tell yourself that it is not an excuse to just survive every day. Create good, intentional habits in your home. These don’t have to be Pinterest-mom-perfect. I’m talking a Word document with some chores printed out and stuck to the refrigerator. Or a ritual of nightly prayers with your kids. Or family dinners (we love pancake night!) at 6. But be intentional.

I felt a big smack in the face--

How much of my mothering since staying at home had seemed like "just surviving"? And how much had staying in pajamas all day and not bothering to take care of myself half the time contributed to that feeling?
I've been thinking a lot lately about that. About what being intentional looks like for me.

And I realized that I want my daughter to take care of herself--to take pride in her appearance every day (not in a vain way, naturally, but in a "I know my value and I want to put my best face forward" kind of way).

But how on earth will she learn to do that if I don't model it first?

So it looks like one of my new year's resolutions for 2017 will be about getting dressed every day, in real clothes, in an intentional way (and earlier than noon).

It seems silly, really.

But I think it's what I need now, funnily enough.

Other moms---do you struggle getting dressed every day? How do you beat back the tendency to just lounge in sweats or yoga pants all day? Do you even try?

All thoughts welcome here!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Our Smallest Friendsgiving Ever

We almost didn't do Friendsgiving this year.

(And, really, it's not like we were under *too* much pressure to do anything of the sort since we've only done it for the past two years, not like for our whole married life or something like that.)

This weekend before the actual holiday (which is when we've always done it before) was busy, full of prepping for our church's Primary program, doing a baby shower and photo shoot with that awesome couple on the left up there (who are expecting their first child any day now), and editing editing editing photos any spare moment I could so that I can finish up all my shoots before the holidays hit in full force.

 Some shots from our shoot on Saturday (my very first maternity shoot ever!)

It wasn't until less than a week before the actual day we set for it that we invited people over, and we had originally intended to just have a simple dinner and play some games and not even call it Friendsgiving.

But apparently I can't be trusted to go into a store the week before Thanksgiving without buying a turkey of some kind and then calling my mom for that cranberry salad recipe she's been making for years and then planning to whip up a big batch of homemade crescent rolls (naturally), so Friendsgiving it was.

And last night, when our few friends showed up with their dishes to share and their new games to try out, and we stayed up WAAAAY too late playing Andrew's zombie game (Dead of Winter) and eating pumpkin cheesecake, and we talked about the Owens's new baby coming up and Andrew's programming work (which none of us understands), and Harry Potter and the goodness of caramelized sweet potatoes and all the extra church meetings we were accidentally missing out on, it just hit me that this, this right here--this gathering and sharing and laughing and connecting--is why Matt and I do crazy things like plan a Friendsgiving for one of the busiest weekends of the year and why we're willing to literally spend almost every spare second in the 24 hours leading up to it cooking and cleaning and primping and prepping.

Because it's all worth it.

And because it's fun to see how it changes from year to year.

And because you never know where life is going to take your friends over the next 12 months, so you need to spend time with them while they still live by you.

And because you realize that while friendships might be a little different from when you were a kid just because of all the other responsibilities heaped upon you, you realize that the core elements of friendship--love and generosity and thoughtfulness and loyalty and trust--never change. You realize that you've picked some good friends when the Owens bring sweet potatoes because they know Andrew doesn't like mashed potatoes, and when Andrew brings mashed potatoes because he knows everyone else loves them.

And because whether you have only 5 people (like this year) or 11 (like we happened to have the last two years), it's always worth getting together with those people who only live two blocks away but who you want to see more of and sharing some turkey and some mashed potatoes and some almond punch.

So thank you, friends, for a wonderful (albeit last-minute Friendsgiving). Thank you for being a part of our life.

And thank you to our many, many friends who do not live nearby but who we nevertheless consider our dear friends, no matter where life has led you---

We wished you could have been there.

For last year's Friendsgiving, click here.
For the one we held two years ago, click here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Raven in the Snow

 Her first glimpse at the snow this morning
Last winter, Raven was too young to appreciate the snow too much, so we didn't take her outside hardly at all.

This year, we were actually kind of excited for the first snow--we were excited to see her reaction to this strange cold white phenomenon that had coated her little world overnight.

We didn't bother with getting her changed out of her pajamas---

We just threw some boots on (which work perfectly over her footie p.j.'s because the shoes are slightly too big for her still), pulled her little pink coat out of the closet, and set out, her "wubby" tucked firmly into the crook of her arm and the curl of her fist.

We convinced her to reach out and touch it, to take it all in with her eyes, to scoop it up with the tops of her shoes as we trekked across the unmarked canvas of whitest white.

The face below brought to you be an inch and a half of accumulated snow under her boots, making her walk tall and awkward 
(with the boots only accumulating more with each step)

I'm not sure she knows how to feel about it, after just one little excursion out.

Then again, 30 years in, and I'm not sure how I feel about it half the time, either.

 But it was a beautiful way to start a Thursday all the same.

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