Monday, October 31, 2016

A Happy Halloween Indeed

Celebrating Halloween can be a controversial topic for Christians. This October, I have come across several articles offering different perspectives on the matter. This one is my favorite. And here's why...

Tonight, my family took part in Halloween. Our porch was donned with a pumpkin. We took our two little ones around our neighborhood trick-or-treating. We handed fun sized candy out to costume clad children. It was a Happy Halloween around here indeed!

As we were out taking part in Halloween, we met several of our new neighbors! We've lived in our home for 3 months now--so we are still "new to the neighborhood." I loved having that built-in opportunity to knock on someone's door. Our family met George tonight, who lives a few houses down. In our brief exchange with him, we learned that he has lived in his home for nearly 50 years and lost his wife just a year ago. I'm pretty convinced that without Halloween, I wouldn't have had that opportunity. After we got home, Tyler and I have discussed ways to love George well and reach out to him!

We are aware of the stigma that Halloween holds, the arguments for not celebrating, the reasons for the porch light to be off. But for us, Halloween is an obvious open-door to engage with those in our community. Hopefully, the Lord will continue to lead us to connect with our neighbors in a natural way. This year, Halloween was just the first step.

Monday, October 10, 2016

And Something for the Baby Mama

My littlest will be two months old this week. I don't know how that happened! It literally seems like yesterday that my first born was two months old. The fact that I am Mama to two little cutie girls, still blows my mind. But I am, nonetheless.

In light of the fact that I feel like I'm finally crawling out of my "I have a newborn" hibernation, I thought I'd share some things I've learned over the last just-less-than two years.

I have now given birth to two tiny humans. I have had three pregnancies--two to term, and both of those ending in a gestational hypertension diagnosis. Just prior to my most recent tiny human delivery, we moved into our first home. Two short weeks after Brylee was born, the fall semester started at Rutgers (which, for us, means busy schedules and full work days!). Does this make me an expert? Not in the slightest. Does it make me crazy? Maybe...haha! Either way, I thought it'd be fun to share some things I learned along the way in the whole "bringing tiny humans into the world" journey.

What made me feel cared for when recovering from child birth, transitioning into motherhood, navigating breastfeeding, functioning on little sleep, and what felt like, some days, I was barely surviving?

  • Food. Y'all, I love food. You've probably picked up on that. When Peighton (our first) was born, we had friends bring food from our favorite sub shop to the hospital, a friend left homemade banana bread at our apartment, a student athlete brought over Chipotle for dinner one night, and our freezer was stocked with crockpot freezer meals. When Brylee was born, we had those same subs brought to us--by different friends, my husband picked up Dunkin Donuts *although more for Peighton, but I reaped the benefits!, my mom prepped 20 or so crockpot freezer meals, and a friend from church brought over her DELICIOUS bruschetta and a pan of baked oatmeal. It was so incredibly helpful to have less to worry about when it came to food prep with a new baby. Cooking a full meal was one of the last things I wanted to do, after childbirth. So to have someone thoughtfully provide for me, meant the world.
  • Gifts. Gifts are my love language. When I am given a gift, it speaks directly to my heart. A gift, to me says, "I wasn't with you, but I was thinking of you and I care about you." I've learned about myself that flowers are my favorite post-delivery gift. When my husband and Peighton brought home roses after an errand, my heart was mush. The friend who left banana bread for us, also left a vase full of colorful blooms. And my sweet Mama brought flowers to the hospital when Peighton was born in the vase her mother had given to her when I was born! Talk about meaningful! 
  • Sleep. The gift of sleep isn't just nice, but necessary. I'm convinced there's nobody more tired than a breastfeeding new mama. After Brylee was born, I remember handing her to my mom and saying, "I just need to close my eyes" and my mom snuggled sweet Brylee for I don't even know how long while I snoozed on the couch. It was blissful. Any new mom is grateful for the extra set of hands in order to allow for some much needed Mama zzz's. 
  • Chores. Like cooking, laundry and cleaning aren't high up on my "can't wait to do this" list after child birth. Showering yes, chores no. When a friend from church came over and offered to do my sink full of dirty dishes, I was blown away. When a load of spit-up covered baby laundry gets done--and you have no part in it as a recovering mama--that's a win. When my hands are free from chores, I am free to snuggle my babies, and that's what I really want to do when I'm a ball of hormones. 
  • Errands. Getting out of the house is no easy task with TWO teeny ones, especially in the very early days post-childbirth. Having someone say, "Can I pick anything up for you on my way over?" can mean the world.
  • Initiative. I'm learning about myself that I am not great at asking for help. And, sometimes, I turn down a general offer for help even if I need it. So in light of my own issues, I realized that what's most helpful, and thoughtful even, to me is when an obvious to-do gets done. As a recovering new mama, I barely have enough energy to keep myself and the tiny human I'm nursing alive each day, let alone help anyone else. I don't have the physical energy to do much of anything, but I also don't have the mental energy to even be aware of all that needs to get done for those around me!
  • Words. "Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body." - Proverbs 16:24 A kind and gentle word goes A LONG way for me as a new mama. Anything uplifting and encouraging does the trick. "You're doing a great job. You're great with her. You'll get the hang of ______, persevere. It's hard, but it's worth it. I'm here to help." etc. 
There are many many many articles and blog posts about what is helpful to new moms. Obviously, my list is not exhaustive. AND, it's pretty specific to what was helpful for me. But there you have it, some insight into how to care well for a new mama!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Recipe Review: "Almond Butter Brownies"

My current situation's midnight and there is a sleeping toddler upstairs, sick sleeping husband across the hall, and I am in the nursery with a sleeping baby on my chest. I am not as tired as I normally am this late because about 4 hours ago I had a cup of coffee, haha! With Tyler feeling under the weather, I wanted to have energy to stay up to nurse and put Brylee back to sleep.

AND, I am back in the game, folks! Maternity leave is officially over and I am feeling so excited to get back into the swing of things with Athletes in Action here at Rutgers. While a lot of my days won't change, my Monday nights will look a little different for the rest of the year. Twice a month, I am hosting our student leader girls for a discipleship group. The material we will be covering is some of the best stuff I've ever gone through--it challenged me and helped me grow in so many areas. I can't wait to dig into it with our student leaders!

With tonight being our first scheduled meeting of the semester, I wanted to roll out the red carpet, if you will =) One of the girls is gluten-free, which isn't how I typically bake, so I had to think outside the box. A friend suggested I try Food Babe's Almond Butter Brownies. Y'all....oh my sweet goodness. These gluten-free, diary-free delights were absolutely delicious and a hit!!

Substitutions I made to the original recipe:

  • peanut butter for almond butter
  • Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips for "Enjoy Life" chocolate chunks
  • organic sugar for coconut sugar

Because this was a last minute decision, I used ingredients I already had on hand. And I wouldn't personally call what I made brownies. They tasted far more like peanut butter cookies. I would label them "Peanut Butter Cookie Bars." The short ingredient list, ease of this recipe, and yumminess has me already planning when to make this again. Without flour, I did not feel like I was sacrificing flavor at all. It was pure gooey, rich peanut butter chocolatey goodness that came out of the oven. And my cup of 8pm coffee was the perfect pairing.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

My Heart Language

Empathy is defined by Webster as "the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions; the ability to share someone else's feelings." And I say, YES YES YES.

Recently, I have come to realize just how vital empathy is to relationships. I would go as far to say, it is the oxygen to relationships--without it, death is immanent. I have seen this in a few different areas. I've learned that I need to first listen to and choose to empathize with my friends who walk the challenges and realities of life as a black man/woman in America. My friendships will have no depth, truth, or real meaning if I am not engaging with their emotions and struggles. I've learned that I need to hear and empathize with my husband, especially when we are in conflict. That is how he knows I care for and respect him! And I have learned that as I walk through the daily challenges that are MOTHERHOOD, I NEED EMPATHY.

This week was a hard one, in a lot of ways. In summary there was projectile spit-up, leaky diapers, refusal to wear a diaper, disobedience, fits,  messes, hitting, crying, a constant need to be held, refusal to sleep, all topped off with an often impatient Mama. I texted my husband throughout the day with updates of how hard the days were feeling. I vented a lot in quick snippets via social media. And as I look back wondering, "why did I advertise how ridiculously hard this week was? why did I involve my Facebook friends in my challenging days?" I came to the conclusion that I was seeking empathy. AND I GOT IT. I was so encouraged to read comments from other moms--some who are also in the thick of it, and others who were able to say "this too shall pass." In my venting, I just needed to hear someone else say, "I've been there, too. I know how you feel. I am so sorry. And, there is hope." Because most days, I spend the majority of my awake time with little humans, not rational, emotionally mature adults. My heart needed comfort that only can be found in the verbal embrace of another: empathy.

I can't imagine I am the only one who has longed for this. How in your life have you sought the life giving words "I know how you feel" from another? How can you seek to grow in empathizing with others in your life? Lead with a desire to hear, understand, and feel with. It will change your relationships!