Milestone

DSC_0139My shy boy started Kindergarten today. He likes to say he’s shy, but after a few minutes and a couple of strategically placed questions or jokes that smirk starts showing.

DSC_0132He was pretty stoic when we got to school, he didn’t really want to hug us or sit down in the line. Eventually he did. Along with hundreds of other children. 🙂

DSC_0121The day passed. And he was fine. When I picked him up he was all smiles and started talking my ear off about meeting a couple new friends, eating all his lunch, the playground, no nap time, how his teacher was VERY nice and that they read the same book we read to him the night before. Also something about how he and new friend were playing “Paw Patrol” (a Nickelodeon cartoon) on the playground but all his new friend wanted to do was slide and not really follow Miles’ rules. Come on, playground kid!

  DSC_0130 I know it could have been a very different day. He’s not always going to have a good day. He got to pick out his clothes today: a new polo- black and blue, with brown shorts and his almost nearly holey shoes. He may not have a good day one day soon cause his momma might make wear matching clothes with shoes that haven’t been dragged on the pavement for months.

DSC_0134I missed this face today. But you know what? I got a heck of a lot of stuff done. I told him what Clementine and I did all the time he was gone and he said, “I’m glad I didn’t have to go to the store with you. I’m glad I was at school!”

You know what I’m glad about?

I’m glad I got some errands done and dusted vacuumed my house after a couple months of neglecting that chore. (At least the 1st floor. Of my super huge house. Note the sarcasm;-) I’m glad Clemmie sat and watched Tinkerbell while I got a few work emails sent out. I’m glad I got to drink a whole hot cup of coffee. Did I mention it was hot? I’m glad I got the plants watered. Before we got rain tonight. 🙂 Go figure. Hey, I stayed pretty sane for most of the day, so I’d say it was a productive day!

I’m glad I got to take my boy and the little red-head out to McDonald’s for an ice cream cone to celebrate and talk more about the first day of school. My Miles experiencing an educational milestone. See what I did there? Then he had to poop. Badly. I said “Hold it,” cause I didn’t want him going in McDonald’s. There’s some reality for you.

DSC_0126You know what I’m really glad about?

I’m glad I get to be his mom so I can hug him through the bad days and cheer him on through the good ones. Even when he’s embarrassed of me and wants me to park down the street when dropping him off somewhere:)DSC_0129

16 Things I’ve Learned

Do you ever find yourself still doing things you learned as a kid? Habits you can’t break or memories of first lessons learned? I don’t know why but some of these I think about every now and then- especially if it’s some routine thing that I do every day. And probably weirdest of all is that I remember exactly where I was and who taught these things to me. Here are some special ones:

  1. I learned to add ice to my milk In elementary school from Tabitha Ravine.
  2. I learned to put an extra or partially used tissue up my sleeve if I didn’t have a pocket from my mom.
  3. I learned that other people can hear you when you hum. Here, I thought I was the only one enjoying that humming of a tune in the circle I sat in during Mrs. Zimmerman’s kindergarten class.
  4. I learned to brush my tongue when brushing my teeth from the Rosie O’Donnell show.
  5. I learned to gently pull the loose hairs from my eyebrows to – I forget what word she used- thin them out from my Government teacher 🙂
  6. I learned to clean my contacts on the back of my hand at Camp Bethany from Carly Cronin.
  7. I learned that my fingers are doubled jointed from doing weird finger tricks with my childhood babysitter Angie.
  8. I think I taught myself to make 5 waves in my tongue.  I don’t think anyone else was a part of that nonsense.
  9. I learned how to wiggle my nostrils from my dad.
  10. I learned how to cross my eyes in weird ways from my dad.
  11. I learned how to wiggle my ears from my Uncle Frank. That’s cause I couldn’t jiggle my eyeballs like he could his. Ears were easier.
  12. I tried to learn how to wiggle my nose like Samantha from Bewitched, but nostril flexing was the best I could do.
  13. I learned to take bites from this and that on my plate and not to eat one thing at time so I can enjoy all of it while it’s still warm from my Great Grandma Bowers.
  14. I learned to cup my hand to my mouth and say “Girl girl girl girl” really fast over and over to have a really strange noise be made from Katie Frey.
  15. I learned the “f” word from my childhood neighbor Tasha across the street and asked my mom what it meant. I was promptly sent to my room, Tasha’s mom was promptly called, and the Tasha didn’t speak to me for a month.
  16. I learned that stomping on a boy’s foot for cutting in line will send you and that boy (Kyle Krisco) right to the chalkboard for recess in Mrs.Halterman’s first grade class. With violence, nobody’s a winner.

Back to School For the Boys

When ever I hear the phrase “Back to School” I think of two things.

1.) Adam Sandler singing “Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad that I’m not a fool, back…to…schooooollll….” and 2.) School supplies: Wonderfully blank notebooks, Lisa Frank folders, the smell of a new box of crayons and concerningly sharp No. 2 pencils.

This fall I get to send two boys off to school. One to get his pre-school degree and one for his doctorate. Yes, my babies are growing up. We got Jason some new shoes, new corduroys for when the weather turns chilly and some safety scissors. I reminded him to share the healthy food in his packed lunches, and not to sniff the Elmer’s glue or chew on the erasers I got him to put in his Jurassic Park back pack and matching plastic pencil box. Sigh. They grow up so fast.

Oh, but Miles, yes, the four year old- he will be going three days a week for a few hours in the morning each week to pre-school. I think Kindergarten will be tough for me, but I’m okay with pre-school. He needs another outlet besides me to ask questions to, get lots of attention and burn some energy. I’m excited for him!

Jason is, in fact, starting school again this fall. In Ashland. At the Seminary. Decided to still pursue the Doctorate, it will just be the DMin-kind. What’s great about it? Everything. Well, with Jason’s new job it is the best fit to aid him in what he’s doing there and it’s mostly reading/writing/research from home. He has a full ride scholarship. We don’t have to move. We get to defer his under-grad loans. I think it’s safe to say this fall marks the start of a new phase in Barnhart-land. The two year waiting period has strengthened us on many levels and the timing for much of what is going on in our lives now is perfect. Praise the Lord! On top of that we were finally able to refinance our house after almost two years of asking about it. I have had some solid design work come my way. Since we aren’t moving, we worked early and hard on our yard and porch this spring. It has made a huge difference because we have already enjoyed the fruit of that labor countless times and being outside more has been spirit-lifting. Again, we praise the Lord!

ASYCcollage copyThe summer has been busy with reunions for the children’s chorus I was in for 8 years, the Ashland Symphonic Youth Chorus and a reunion for my dad’s 1980’s cover band, CenterLine in which I got to play the keyboards with them for the performance and benefit at Mitchell’s Orchard for the Wounded Warriors Project. Two very different genres of music, but both so much fun and reminded me of my great love for music. I am so thankful that I was exposed to so much different music growing up. Both reunions seriously filled me with so much joy; I loved every minute of those events. centerlinecollage2 centerlinecollage

As summer comes to a close, I hope everyone had an enjoyable one and I hope you are getting ready for our long Ohio hibernation. I’m one of those weird people that actually don’t mind Ohio winters. Makes me appreciate the 2 week spring we have, summer and you know that 2 week period of colorful leaves we get called “Fall” so much more!

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

First few days of Jason’s “vacation” before officially ending employment at Park Street went like this:

Dropped both kids off at my parents, and drove to Cleveland with the neighbors to have a night away from everything. Getting our mind off of all our unknowns and relaxing with out kids was on the agenda. We decided with no real vacation in our future, we would find a 4 star hotel through Expedia and just enjoy our 24 hours out of Ashland and with no kids to be responsible for.

It was just enough to make us realize that:

A.) we still actually like each other and enjoy each other’s company

and

B.) 24 hours away isn’t enough.

We ate an early dinner at Der Braumeister and had amazing German food and of course lots of laughs and lots of sarcasm from Jason at Heather’s expense. 🙂 (Heather, I know you’ll read this!) Unfortunately we missed making it to the West Side Market before it closed, so we decided to walk around downtown, and eventually found ourselves back in the car and stopping at East Coast Original Frozen Custard. Oh. My. Word. Exceptional. We had a low key evening and after the Cleveland Museum of Art in the morning and lunch at Macaroni Grill on the way back to Ashland, the time away had come to an end. Then Monday came. Mondays usually live up to their reputation, and this one was no different.

We had been waiting to hear more word about a possible job opening with a place Jason very much wanted to work at, but when Monday came, we found out it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe naively we assumed this was what God had in mind and the possible reason we were to stay in Ashland. But it wasn’t coming together. We were at a loss. We were lost.

What were we going to do in Ashland since (if you aren’t caught up) everything about moving to DC fell through? It’s hard to look forward to or have a good time during a 2-week vacation when you don’t have anything to transition to at the end of it. This started off being God-directed but as we lost some steam, it just seemed like self inflicted pain.

Keeping our heads up was hard but gracious words from people who love us that assured us, “You won’t lose your house.” “We will help you.” “You can come eat with us any time.” So thankful that family and friends are so loyal in the hardest of times. Still, there is a pride thing there- we don’t want to HAVE to take anyone up on these things. We should be able to provide for ourselves. And we have been trying to take leaps of faith and had been waiting patiently for God to reveal those next steps- and still silence. Had we been forgotten? If Jason could just get an interview somewhere, anywhere…the weight of the world started to pile up. Burn out had settled in and became a familiar guest in our home. No one was happy. Miles was constantly acting out, Clementine crying at the smallest noises that scared her and had horrible sleeping patterns, Jason and I on drastically different wavelengths. Me, wanting to know what were we going to do- Jason, feeling the burden of providing for not only me, but for two small children.

It was a rough week. We tried to get our moods up by getting out of the house, but it seemed like every outing we took had some glitch in it. Some small thing, no doubt, but still something enough that our vision of a fun-filled train ride, picnic and hiking at Mohican, walk around Kingwood Center, etc., etc. ended in frustration and tears. Little things in our house were breaking or not working. All of a sudden we had a bug problem. Clementine was waking up 3 times in the night, making my day a little more tired, a little more on the edge of breakdown. Little things, but piling up nonetheless. We were running on a treadmill and getting very tired.

Two years in the making, and it came to this?

We were finally at a breaking point and as silly as it sounds to some of you that have endured these kind of stressful times and much much worse, we had to ask God, “Where are you!? Why aren’t you coming through? We took this step two years ago because we felt you directing us to! Now we feel like idiots- like failures. Now we’re on the brink of nothing- no school, no job, no direction– no clear answer and a shattered excitement to move forward using the talents and the drive You gave us to live a life serving You! What did we do wrong!?”

The next week (last week) was a little better. For no reason at all some of the darkness and the weight we had been feeling was lifted. Some people gave us some encouraging words. We remembered words that brought us hope throughout the last two years. I remembered how months before I had a word from the Lord that things would come around for us- just in the last minute. A mentor of Jason’s also had that same word to give to Jason. Well, when you feel like you’ve been living in “last minute” for months, it starts seeming like you heard wrong. Or that you’re being ignored.

But then just this past Friday something happened. Something that injected much needed hope into our reality.

Something that I’ll have to elaborate on at a later date, but am excited to share with you.

Talk about last minute. Five days to spare, to be exact.

We are feeling overwhelmed and undeserving of all the love shown to us through all of this, and for today at Jason’s “Thank You”/”Going Away” party at Park Street. Going away really just means not being on staff there, but we are glad we will still get to see our church family’s beautiful faces as often as we always had. You have blessed us more than you know. There are many more of you outside of Park Street and outside of Ashland that have also been amazingly encouraging and generous, sharing with us your wisdom and your prayers. We have learned from you and been blessed by your work in our lives just as much.

After days of quoting Annie and Scarlett O’Hara, I can finally say “the sun will come out tomorrow” and “after all, tomorrow is another day” and believe it!

What Speeding Locomotives, Veggie Tales and Poopy Diapers Are Teaching Me

So picture yourself sitting on train tracks and you can see the train from a distance. It’s approaching, and you could (maybe even easily) move yourself from the tracks and into safety. But someone who you trust told you to wait and they would come get you.What would you do?

Maybe that’s a horrible analogy, but that’s how I feel lately in regards to our whole house and financial situation. Jason’s job ends in 5 weeks. That’s like 2 or 3 more paychecks. Then what? Nothing! That’s what! We’ve both applied for jobs but nothing is opening up yet. And the worst part is, I worry about how people must think we’re idiots because he’s stepping away from his current job because of this call to go back to school. I worry what people think too much. He didn’t get let go from his job all of a sudden, we chose this. And since we assumed he’d be going to school in the fall the appropriate time to leave would be near the end of summer, right? Well, since funding was an issue and now he can’t start until January, there is that 5 month gap of nothing to fill. So yes, we struggle with being looked at as silly, irresponsible, reckless. Even if the train hits us, and we’re forced to foreclose on our house cause it doesn’t sell, we have no job and have to move in with family or whatnot, we will still make this PhD thing happen. Trust me, I will be the train wreck when it comes to saying goodbye to a house I love and have been raising my babies in. If we don’t push forward though and do this, we will always wonder “what if”. And worse yet, we would have been disobedient to God’s calling on our lives. I don’t know why He’s leading us down this route, other than to have Jason become a teacher. I’m excited to share with all of you what ups and downs do happen as we’re nearing the end of the beginning of this adventure.

I’m not always strong. Writing this blog has given me an outlet, helped me share our lives with friends and family I don’t see all the time, but mostly it has been a way God has encouraged me through the thoughts He gives me to share, and the responses I receive from readers. That is a major blessing that gives me renewed strength, endurance, hope to believe that what God promises he sees through. Some may think it’s a cop out, but I really do think that just because it’s not the easiest route, or the way we think a situation is going to go, doesn’t mean God’s hand isn’t in it or that He’s not going to fulfill His promise. If you don’t believe me, just watch Veggie Tales Abe and the Amazing Promise.

Seriously, though, God is teaching me to trust through Miles every day. When I tell Miles to wait because I see something ahead of him that will hurt him, he sometimes throws a FIT. He thinks I’m not going to let him go where he wants to go at all. I am. But I see something he doesn’t. So I stop him and ask him to wait. If he doesn’t, he could get hurt. If he calms down long enough to listen, he doesn’t. And sometimes he even listens long enough for me to explain WHY I had him wait and because I want what’s best for him and I love him. So elementary, yet I need those lessons every day.

I resist the urge to be like Sarah and when promised she will have a child (that she’s longed for) at her very old age, she decides to take matters into her own hands and has her husband (Abraham) sleep with Hagar, her servant. That wasn’t what God had in mind, He wanted Sarah to have a child (Isaac). I feel humbled and scared because I have the power to tell Jason, forget about this. We are going to be homeless and broke, so you do what ever it takes to get a job in Ashland, or I will get one, you stay home with the kids, I’ll just work to make a paycheck, we’ll keep the house, on and on and on. I don’t feel like that would be an easy route either, but I know doing an about-face on this call on our lives would be cowardly and very control-freakish of me. This feeling of being out of control in this situation is terrifying. Yet, extremely exciting and comforting. I know who’s really in control- and who wouldn’t want the creator of the universe, who is so madly in love with all of us, to be so in control of our lives that we aren’t even worried about the outcome of a situation? I’m not saying every situation will end happy or well or how you want it to. Our current situation may not either. But I know it’s not about what I think should happen or about being successful and responsible in the eyes of our society. It means just being open enough to be silent and listen to the One who knows you in and out.

Sometimes we are to act on something, other times we need to wait on the Lord, as painful as it may be. Jason and I are pretty impatient people, this has not been easy for us by any stretch of the imagination. We’re not doing in perfectly, oh my goodness are we not doing this perfectly. I’m just sharing this process of learning I’m experiencing. I have an equal amount of faith and doubt. I just hope we’re stepping aside long enough, now that we’ve done all we can do, to let God take over and fulfill the work He wants to do through us.  Trusting that He will come through and save us from the geyser eruption that I see gurgling up over the diaper and up the back of my daughter as I write this- I mean speeding train. I was using a train for my analogy. Okay, gotta go. Dooty calls.

Orchestrating More Than We Can Imagine

I’m tired.

I know that it’s not unheard of for a mom to be tired, but I still feel like a bad one sometimes. I wish I had the energy right now to do lots of activities with Miles, most of which would require more baths. I’m blessed to have a husband that helps with and does most of the laundry, dishes, cleaning up. I’m unmotivated to exercise, and have little time to do so. Taking walks with the family occasionally is about all the exercise I’m committed to right now. I go to yoga class when I can. I think a lot of it has to do with the stress of all the unknowns in our life still and on top of that I’ve had an annoying amount of minor health issues lately. I’m so thankful none are serious, but they are distractions that get me in an irritable mood and suck the energy from my body. I’m sick of doctor’s offices, prescriptions and driving. Hopefully that’s over now and I can focus on my kids more, and all the next steps we need to take for our future. Future. A cloudy one, indeed.

All we know for sure is that there are enough funds available that Jason will start school in DC, but not until January 2013.

Jason’s job ends here at the end of July. Thus creating a five month gap of ______?______ (fill in the blank).

Our house is still for sale.

Money is tight.

We have applied for a number of jobs (mostly Jason and mostly in the DC area). I’m hoping to find a part-time or telecommuting job so I can stay with the kids. Or, just beef up my freelance clients so I have more regular jobs coming in. (Easier said than done.) Babysitting would be another option as well.

One job for Jason in particular we are really hoping he gets. It involves campus ministry at Georgetown University.

We have good connections when it comes to finding a place to live in DC (family and friends) once we find a source of income to move there sooner than when school starts. It would be nice to get acclimated to the area before Jason starts full time school and full time job all at once.

I’ve been working on more freelance jobs. I go to bed very late.

That’s about all we know.

I wish we knew more details! But, while I’m listing things, let me take a moment to list the things I’ve either learned or have been hearing from the Lord lately.

We have been doing all we can do, now it’s God’s turn to make things happen. A good friend used the word “orchestrate”. I love that. We’ve taken the first steps and obeyed the direction we’ve felt Him call us to, now He will orchestrate the rest and we need to trust that He’s going to do that. We’ve stepped out in faith- as crazy and irresponsible as it seems and feels even to us at times- and now we have to rest in the knowledge that He’s going to work it out for our good. It hasn’t been the way we envisioned it yet, so I think I’m getting it through my thick skull that the rest of this story probably won’t go as I envisioned either. It’s stretching Jason and I and it doesn’t always bring out our best sides, but I think it’s also brought us closer together. I would say we’ve never bickered as much since our first year of marriage, but we’ve also never have prayed together as much either. Normally, when there are constant roadblocks and problems that arise in life, we’ve decided that route isn’t the way to go, etc. But with this situation, for some reason, every hurdle we come to, our resolve becomes stronger. I feel like things are being thrown at us right and left to distract us and bring doubt to our minds, and sometimes it starts to work. But then one of us comes to our senses and reminds the other what the goal is, or some God-send comes along to encourage us, and we are back on track.

Basically God’s been telling me “I see you. I got this. You don’t need to worry. I love you. I love your family. I want to do a lot of things through your family. This stuff you’re stressing about is going to happen at the last minute, so just hang in there.” I’ve been hearing that in my heart and through others. And lastly I keep going back to Ephesians 3. I had a dream where I heard “read Ephesians”, so when I woke up I re-familiarized myself with it and the third chapter stuck out to me most. Especially the prayer for the Ephesians:

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

*Photos by Aemee Ellis 🙂

To Do List

I remember in the winter/spring of 2006 laughing about my to do list.

It looked like this:

  • Graduate college
  • Find a full time job
  • House hunt and buy a house
  • Get married

It was a daunting list, with each having their own sub-to-do-list. It seemed ridiculous and overwhelming. I understood, however, that there would be a handful of times in life that those huge life changes seem to all happen about the same time. The only two items on the list that I knew would happen and when were the day I would graduate and the day I would get married. Even with that, Jason could come to his senses and bail on me. 😉

I (semi-jokingly) wrote our current to-do list on our cork-board calendar and felt the same way about this list. And, like the list above, each item will be crossed off, I just don’t have the luxury of knowing any of the dates on this list.

  • Get accepted to a school (Jason)/figure out where we’re going to move
  • Have a 2nd baby
  • Sell the house
  • Find a part-time job wherever we end up moving to (Ali)

And, also like the first list, each of those points are loaded down with smaller to-do lists of their own.

It’s comforting to know many of you have had similar tasks lie in front of you and you all turned out okay and kept most of your sanity. 🙂 Like the list in 2006, my 2012 list will get crossed off in time- and probably sooner rather than later. Turns my stomach into knots when I think about it too much. Maybe I’ll just breathe deeply, remember what I felt the Lord tell me yesterday (“I see you, Allison.”) and have some hot tea for now. And maybe some chocolate.

On Visiting A Prospective School, Part 2 of 2

It was a long walk back to the car. A long, soggy walk. I was already tired and it wasn’t even noon. There was a kids museum with activities but it cost money and we planned on doing that the next day when Jason was available to have fun there as a family. So I drove. And drove. Found a organic garden and “home brew” store. Sounded interesting. Not a store for kids. “Miles don’t touch ANYTHING.” I was glad he listened for the most part. Mostly because I was holding him. All 32 pounds of him. Did I mention I was tired? They ended up showing him their indoor small compost pile that had worms, he could care less. But I did find him a made-for-kids leaf rake and he was excited about that. I found a couple of things off the 40% off shelf, and bought them, cause let’s face it, girls, when you’re having a crappy day, buying something really does make you feel better. That, and chocolate. I would find a “fun-size” Snickers bar in the car I hid from everyone earlier, so that helped too.

We were getting hungry. Made a swing past the building Jason was at, hoping he would call and say it was time to pick him up, but no such luck. We waited there for 20 minutes or so, me begging Jason through texting just to text me how much longer he thought he’d be, so I knew I could wait or head out again and not have to turn right back around to get him. Nothing. I understood we were there so he could visit. But momma bear and baby bear were getting antsy and hungry and momma bear couldn’t listening to baby bear whine and strain to try to get out of his car seat any more. So I made a decision to run Miles out to some fast food chain and get him some sacred chicken nuggets and apple slices. We had devoured all the snacks I had brought with us, plus there was nothing else to drink. I can only pack so much when there is no refrigerator at my disposal.

Off to Burger King we went, and I think I had the nicest lady ever to grace a fast food restaurant’s cash register. She merely double checked my order in a very friendly way to make sure she had it right and complimented the image on my credit card. It was a painting by Degas. For whatever reason that made my day. Miles sucked down the chocolate milk and ate a total of one and a half nuggets. Sigh. No matter. I had gotten myself a small fry to hold me over, and chowed down on the rest of his nuggets, tried an apple slice and since they tasted like preservatives, had no more and vowed never to make my kid eat packaged apples again. We had shared a real live apple earlier anyway. Sticky and juicy, but it was real and it was a Honeycrisp from Mitchells. Yum.

Surely Jason would be done by now. Still no word. It was 1:30. Trekked back across town and waited in the tiny little parking lot again. At least there was a nice space this time. 15 minutes passed. Miles was at his breaking point. As was I. Now, I know what you’re thinking, this is not why we decided it would be the only school visit we came with Jason on. Its a good reason, now that I see how flexible I really have to be with these visits, but it was more about timing, and cost of us going all together for 4 different overnight trips. I will be fine staying at home next time. Having a home base with a fridge and a microwave that isn’t a hotel room on the top floor is so much better. Finally at 1:50 a call comes in. At this point I’m just upset with the whole morning and situation and things not going how I thought, that the waterworks let loose again. The weather was only enabling my emotions. Jason apologized, but I knew that it wasn’t his fault, these were important meetings and he was in constant conversation with two different professors who were giving up their time for him and he had put his phone on silent like a polite person, and had no idea that 3 hours had even passed! I was too upset to ask how the meetings even went at this point, as I made him drive us to Chipotle so I could pig out on a burrito bowl and chips. I was able to be somewhat myself again and asked how everything went. Extremely well, he said, and as visits with faculty goes, that was how the whole trip was for him. Which was awesome! He was invited to a student luncheon, made a quick friend who also has 2 little ones, and the seven faculty total he met with in two days were very encouraging and responsive to the work he was interested in doing. So a very positive trip on that side of things, and I’m proud of him.

____________________

The next day for Miles and I went much better. I had my bearings, the rain had let up a bit and we had found a Barnes and Noble that we spent the morning in. Praise God for children’s sections. I don’t have to constantly keep him quiet or contained, just civil. We even found 3 books that he was enthralled with and I just happened to have a gift card on me- lucky Miles! What he really wanted was a soccer ball from the top shelf. I had to explain to him that it wasn’t a soccer ball- it was a globe. And we weren’t going to get it down. Well, sure enough this man comes and takes a kids bench, stands on it and pulls a globe down and takes it away. Thanks a lot man. Now here’s my kid trying to climb on every kids bench to see if he can reach another globe- I’m sorry- another soccer ball so he can coerce me into letting him take it home. Ugh. We made it out with our 3 books alive, anyway, and found a sit down pizza place that just the two of us ate at. Pepperoni for him, Margherita for me. He was pretty well behaved, more like the Miles I know at home, apparently happy with his pizza. We went back to the hotel room, (which entails a lengthy wind up a parking garage, an elevator and down a long hallway to our room) did a diaper change (for him), back down the hallway, down the elevator and since the rain was almost totally let up, got the stroller and took a stroll down the street our hotel was on. I was headed for a Starbucks I spotted down the way to treat myself to a Pumpkin Spice Latte, as a little pat on the back for not breaking down into tears on day #2 of the visit.

It was nearing 1pm and Jason had said he’d be done this time around 1:30. So, being the sarcastic, passive aggressive wife I can be at times, I said, “So like, about 3?” But to my pleasant and humbled surprise, I got a text at 5 after 1 “I’m ready”. Miles and I were just finishing up a Kit Kat from the vending machine in the lobby I decided I would let him share with me since he was being such a good kid and cooling off from our very humid walk. It was still a little misty, but the pouring rain was long gone. I told Jason we’d be just a couple minutes, made our way up the elevator, unpacked the stroller, put baby and everything else in the car, got the stroller all folded up and in the trunk, got myself into the car (one humid sweaty frizzy haired mess by this point) and drove the down and around around around the parking garage levels, out the exit and off to pick up my future grad student husband. We spent the next couple of hours lettting Miles explore at a children’s museum, which was fun, then freaking out when we couldn’t find our one car key anywhere, and it took ten long minutes with Miles carrying on and crying and us getting angry before we did find it, then going back to the room and showering, resting, napping. We needed those last three things badly. The rest of the evening was pleasant to finish out the somewhat stressful trip-it started raining hard again, so instead of walking around to find a neat place to eat dinner, I spotted a Mexican restaurant from the car, so we stopped there. It was a winner. I realized how hungry I was and Jason even said, “WHOA, slow down there, preggo!” It was probably you’re average “authentic” Tex-Mex food, but I found no flaw in it. Only that it was making me commit the sin of gluttony.

Overall, I’m happy to say that his meetings went so well and he felt so positive about them; and I’m also happy to say that the next time he makes a small visit to a school, we will not be with him.

Thus endeth the tale of a prospective grad school visit from the perspective of the moody, hungry and pregnant spouse. Amen.

On Visiting A Prospective School, Part 1 of 2

Since Jason will be applying to (about) five different schools this fall, we decided that this time around he would visit at least 4 out of the 5 before he applied to meet with faculty and get a better feel for the program he’s interested in at each school. Jiving with the community and the environment of the town the university is located in is also a factor as well. The first one we visited this year seemed like a good one for all three of us to visit together.

It seemed like a great idea. I had high expectations. When will I learn there is a difference between having hope about situations and life, and having high expectations. Two completely different things. This is where me being a “realist” comes in many times. Jason says I’m the negative person out of the two of us, but I’m sticking with “realist”. So, as I was saying, I was allowing my expectations to soar a little higher than my average day of middle of the road expectations, when the weather decided to give us flood warnings and rain for the 3 days we hung out in this particular college town. Not only that, I think we seem to forget we’re traveling with a two-year-old, and not another adult that can understand time or the word “wait” or that we are doing everything in our power to get everyone fed in a timely fashion. I found myself repeating more things including my son’s name than I ever have before in my 2 years of being a mother. Maybe he was taken off guard by all the unfamiliarity, but he was not acting like the Miles I knew. I said the following I think about twenty times every day of the trip. Exhausting.

“Don’t throw that!” “Put that down.” “Don’t put that in your mouth.” “Are you listening to me?” “Listen to me!” “Lay down.” “I just have to change your diaper then you can run around like crazy again!” “You will get a snack in a minute!” “I’m getting you a drink!” “I can’t reach the animal crackers you flung across the seat, I am DRIVING!” “Please stop whining!” “Don’t step in that!” “Pick up your bear, the floor is filthy!” “Do not stand on that! You could fall!” “Stop throwing your food on the floor!” “Keep your food in your mouth!”  “Sit down in your seat.” “If you don’t stop I will take that away from you.” “If you do that again, you will get spanked and we will go back to the car.” “Stop crying and just tell me what you want! I can’t help you if I don’t know what the problem is!!!!”

(Insert completely exhausted dead-pan blank stare here- and don’t forget the frizzy hair and bags under the eyes.)

I don’t think my blood pressure has risen because of this child as much as it had on this particular trip. Parents, you’ve all been there. These are the times Jason and I, (I, being almost 5 months pregnant), look at each other and say “And we think having another one is a good idea?”

I’m glad I’m taking a yoga class lately because it has reminded me to breathe. Sounds odd, but it really has helped me to remember just to take a deep breath, realize I may or may not be able to change the circumstances of the moment, give it to God, and calm down. Easier said than done, but I do try.

Since it was raining from day one, we had to drop Jason off at his first appointment. He estimated he’d be done in a hour and a half, two hours at most. Okay, what to do…what to do…I didn’t want to just go back to our hotel room, they’d probably be cleaning it anyway, and I did want to get a feel for the city myself. With my trusty Tom-Tom, I found that I was very close to the university’s art museum and it was free and open to the public. Perfect. Rainy day, take my kid to an art museum. What a great mom am I. Good thinking. We’ll have this awesome morning together and tell Jason all about it and he’ll be so impressed that I just made my way through a city I’ve never even seen before and found something fun to do with our son and held things together and was strong enough to carry my purse, the diaper bag, a sippy cup, a snack, and 32 lb. baby when it was necessary…Fun and Confident Mom of the Year Award goes right here, people…Oh- no parking right outside of the museum? Well, okay we will park in this parking garage. Oooh, it’s free too! Bonus! Stroller? Nah, we will walk. We’ll take this oversized golf umbrella to cover the two of us, it can’t be that far, it’ll be fine. I see a lady walking down the sidewalk. We’re a little wet already from the downpour but no problem, we’ll be in the museum, and dried off in no time. Okay, lady, make eye contact with me- yay- okay-

“Excuse me, do you know how I get to the art museum?”

“Yes, it’s down this street, up those two big sets of stairs, go through the middle of those two buildings up another set of stairs and turn right- then you’ll be at the staff parking for the museum behind the building and you’ll have to go around to the front and up those stairs.”

Okay. A little more daunting than I originally thought. No problem, we’ll do it anyway, we have some time to kill. And I have that award to win. It’s taking a little longer than I though- you know, little 2 year old legs aren’t the quickest way of transportation, and we’re getting wetter by the second…Of course Miles walks through and jumps in every puddle he sees, and is upset and besides himself as to why his socks and pants are drenched. And stops every few steps to remind me that his shoes are wet. My mood starts to change. Let’s just get there and we’ll get dry. Up another flight of stairs. And another. Pregnant lady is getting a little winded. And tired of holding a massive golf umbrella that is doing a poor job of keeping both 3′ Miles and 5’6″ mommy dry. Back is hurting. Sciatic nerve, please behave yourself. Ah, the end is in sight. Up more stairs. Old columns, nice. If only I could remember my art history to make note of what style…Inside the doors. Relief. We’re here and dryness is near. Aw, an umbrella rack, thoughtful! Shake the umbrella off, put it in the holder. Keep toddler son from picking up and stealing other colorful umbrellas he thinks are free for the pickin’. Check. Open another set of doors, try to walk in gracefully though the 15lb diaper bag that’s bursting with over-preparedness is falling off my shoulders and getting caught on everything and my son that I’m trying to hold the door open for is being shy and won’t walk in front of me. Just go in! I am right behind you! Pull it together, wheww. It’s only 11:15, we still have until about 12:30 or maybe 1 before Jason is done. I had seen a group of school students go in the doors when I was circling in the car earlier so I knew the museum was open. There was a wall sized expressive painting greeting us as we finally entered the museum. I love art, la la la la la-

Lady at the front desk: “Can I help you?” “It’s open to the public, right?” “Not until noon.”

Wha whaaaa.

(You know, the muted trumpet wha wha sound? that’s the one.)

I hesitated for a second, maybe hoping she would see my plight and maybe that my whole face had changed expressions and let us be the exception to the rule, being first time visitor to this booming little college town, toddler-ahem- wet toddler in tow, moody from pregnancy and at a loss of what to do or see while it was pouring down rain. But there was no empathetic “It’s okay, we’ll let you sneak in early!” I get it. Rules are rules. I hate rules. “Oh…okay…” sounding lost, and I’m sure defeated, I turned around, shuffled Miles and our umbrella out by way of the heavy old stupid door, stood on the top stairs by those big old columns and started to sob.

How We Met, Part I

Maybe it’s the family historian in me, or the romantic (hidden deep inside me it seems), but I always enjoy hearing how people met the loves of their lives. At family get togethers it’s been one of the things I hunt down my older relatives for and beg them to share their story with me. With new friends, it’s one of the ways I understand more about who they are and where they’ve been. And friends or family who have a different story that defines them- what they are passionate about, or they are going about their business and that kind of love is in their future: I love hearing those journeys, too. It just depends what they desire for their lives, and that is what I love to hear about when getting to know someone or knowing more about someone.

I always knew that I had a desire to get married and have kids someday. I didn’t know when or how that would happen, and with every relationship there was always the question of “is this the one?” Well, not every relationship. Long term or short, there were those doomed from the start. There were those that taught me how strong I could be, and ones that taught me to ask myself what I really wanted out of life. I’m grateful for those. Not that there were many. But enough. Enough to allow me to give up control of the desire to find “the one” and let it happen on it’s own. And without dwelling on that list I had made in high school of what I thought the perfect man for me would be. Because he doesn’t exist.

In the fall of 2004 I packed up my world that, at the time, was scattered in a 13’x13′ wood paneled deep sea blue painted room topped with a checkerboard painted ceiling in my parents basement. I had lived in that room since 1993. It had been a nice retreat from my little sisters and parents as a pre-teen then teenager then commuting college student. As I got older though, I noticed there was something wrong with my cozy basement room. It had no windows or doors to access the outside. I had been tricked! I loved my family, but I needed out! And I couldn’t sneak out if I tried! So I, along with five other AU art majors, moved to Pittsburgh for our Junior year of college to attend the Art Institute for a year in the Affiliate Program. We also lost my aunt that fall to a long, but incredibly courageous battle with Ovarian Cancer. I had the chance to visit her many times and say goodbye that summer before I moved away. She was an amazing woman of God and left a legacy of kindness and love on her students, family and friends. And so, I left Ashland for those nine months single and happy about that fact. It was liberating. I lived in Allegheny Center on the North Side of the city, and while there were many safety measures taken where we lived, this lifetime Ashland girl was definitely out of her element. Weed, profanities being yelled, not said quietly when stubbing your toe, homeless, drugs, guns, drinking heavily, different lifestyles, piercing and tattoos everywhere imaginable. It was interesting. The only thing in that list I was apart of was having my nose pierced (but I did that while still at AU) and I had a couple run ins with the homeless. Some truly in need, some became hostile and aggressive for money for drugs or alcohol. Some actually drove away in their nice cars at the end of their “work” day as a panhandler. Nice. My heart went out to those that I passed on below-freezing days in the winter on my walk to the AI from my apartment. They were covered in newspaper trying to stay warm and I wondered how they made it through the night. There were many homeless shelters around Pittsburgh, and I wondered why they didn’t go there and get help.

I did my art. I learned a lot. I felt more passionate and geekified about fonts. I got fairly good grades. I felt independent and a bit more grown up. I felt like I was understanding myself a little bit better and I think I felt closer to God that year than I ever had before. I think it took me moving away from the town I had always known and the familiar surroundings to see what I was really made of. I met knew faces of all walks of life in my classes and in my building and at my work at the Children’s Museum.

I came home for my sister’s graduation party in May of 2005, and that same weekend we had to put our 11 year old yellow-lab mix, Norman, down. It was a weekend of mixed emotions. Her party was missing Norman running around in our backyard, but we were glad to have so many family and friends around celebrating her graduation from high school; she was a great student and active in lots of academic and musical endeavors and we were proud of her.

Sunday morning I came to Park Street for the first time in a few months and it was great to reconnect with some old faces. That day I remember seeing my old friend Barney, who I had counseled with as full time staff at Camp Bethany in the summer of 2003. It was an amazing summer and I loved everyone on that staff. We would all write each other encouragement cards on construction paper and pray for one another; it was a lovely and uplifting summer. We said hi to each other and I asked him if he was attending Park Street now and he said that yes, he actually was hired as the new Youth Pastor back in March. I said something like, “Oh that’s great, congratulations!” and we went our separate ways, having others wanting to mingle with us.

Back in the fall of 2003, we had actually been on a date together. A double date. But not with each other.

He and his girlfriend at the time were trying to set me up with a couple different guys that Barney knew. I was high school friends with his girlfriend, so other than the guys they “picked out” for me, I was comfortable in the fact that I knew those two. And they were my friends. Although I asked him what he thought of my nose ring and he, being the blunt person he is said, “I don’t like it.” Wow. Thanks, Barney. It’s an artist thing, apparently. He doesn’t get me. During the few double dates/blind dates there was laughter and awkwardness and subsequent dates, but ultimately none of it worked out. For me- or for Barney. So seeing him again, even after becoming good friends with him during camp that one summer, was a little awkward, knowing that he and my friend were broken up and they both went their separate ways. As did I. I hadn’t really talked with either of them or others from Ashland in a while just because my life was going in a different direction while I was away at school in Pittsburgh.

After that quick weekend home, I headed back to my city home and a few weeks later I get this email. It was from Barney.