The kind of guy a girl wants

This happened twice today:

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If that doesn’t make you fall in love all over again with a man, I don’t know what will. Take note, young men: This is the kind of father you want to become. Take note, young ladies: This is the kind of husband you want to marry.

You don’t need a guy who buys you lots of diamonds.

You don’t need a guy who is a superstar athlete.

You don’t need a guy who makes everyone laugh.

You don’t need a guy who is a PhD.

You don’t need a guy who plays the guitar like John Mayer.

You don’t need a guy who runs his own corporation.

You don’t need a guy who can bench press 300 pounds.

You don’t need a guy who went to culinary school.

Those things are nice, and I have found lots of benefits to being married to the smartest and best-looking man ever, but what you really want is a guy who looks like this when you walk in the room:

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That’s what I’m talkin’bout.

Back to “Work”

I’m a stay-at-home mom now.

But in my former life as a choral director, the annual spring Broadway musical was always my favorite time of year. I loved it because I didn’t have to be in charge of the whole thing (the Fine Arts director called all the shots), but as I was responsible for teaching the kids their songs, accompanying rehearsals, and playing piano in the pit orchestra, I got to be super-involved in seeing the students put their talents together in a production that was bigger than themselves. Plus, with my dad as the technical production director, I got to spend lots of (late-night) quality time with him!

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Last year’s show was Little Women, a 2005 Broadway musical based on the Louisa May Alcott book. We had an all-star cast, unreal set, phenomenal orchestra, and a real kite that flew magnificently (thanks to my dad).

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I had barely reached my second trimester by the time rehearsals were underway, and one particular afternoon practice session stands out in my memory. It was with some upper-classmen cast members who I’d been teaching since they were in middle school.

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We were doing the usual –  drilling notes, learning parts, adding dynamics, etc, and the room was electric with excitement as the students were sharpening each others’ skills. I could hear the Lord making something truly special out of these little individual offerings of talent that were being put together! This was what I loved so much about this project each year! And oh, how I would miss doing this next year!

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That was when I lost it. No kidding. What started as a few tears in my eyes quickly escalated into full-blown sobbing in the ladies’ room. One of the girls came in to check on me and make sure I was okay, and when I returned to rehearsal, the kids asked (jokingly), “Were we that bad???” But I just didn’t want to leave! I knew that having a baby was wonderful and special and everyone said it would be “worth it,” but at the moment I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else besides that little choir room!

So, later that year when the Fine Arts director announced that she would also not be returning, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer to come back a few afternoons a week to help with the next year’s play. There would be a new choral director who would be technically in charge of the musical, but I’d be able to be involved as the vocal director. I’d get to be there working with my old kids for auditions, some rehearsals, the retreat, dress rehearsal week, and two or three adrenaline-rushing performances. And, somewhat importantly, I’d get paid a little.

Which brings me to this week, the official beginning of rehearsals! Mr. Poole is able to watch our little girl on Fridays, and my mom covers Wednesdays. There was a bit of a transition for Julia, adjusting to being away from her mommy, and having a new schedule that allows me to be away from home for 3 hours twice a week. But what a thrill to be standing behind the piano in the choir room again! This year, we’re doing the revised and recently-revived “Godspell,” by Stephen Schwartz (who also wrote the music to “Wicked.”) Not only is it awesome because the libretto is based 100% on the book of Matthew, but I am SO loving the Glee-caliber vocals and the rock-style accompaniment. And I think the students are, too.

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It’s so fun being back in the saddle, just a few hours a week! I’m really lucky that I got to be a mommy and still keep the absolute best part of my job, which includes building relationships with students. After all, on May 3rd, Godspell will be over. But the relationships we’ve built along the way will last forever!

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Am I a “Crunchy” Mom?

I was browsing facebook yesterday looking up a support group for a friend in another part of the country, and I ran across a group called “Crunchy Emerald Coast Moms.”

When I think of the word “crunchy,” I think of hippy-type homeschooling moms with eleven kids who wear long skirts and longer braids. Crunchy moms mill their own organic flour and have a compost pile next to the vegetable garden outside. Or maybe they live on a farm. They recycle and reuse everything, never wear make-up, use natural remedies for sickness, and their children are always perfect obedient angels who say, “ma’am” and “sir.”

I hereby apologize to anyone who was just offended by the above misinformed generalization.

But then I read the description of the “Crunchy Mom” facebook group. It said, “The ‘crunchy’ way of life! (Breastfeeding, baby wearing, co sleeping, cloth diapering, etc!)”

Wait, is that what it means to be a crunchy mom? Because if so, I am falling dangerously close to this category. I definitely did not set out to be so… “granola.” Every decision I’ve made in the past year has been either for convenience or finance, and ultimately, what would glorify the Lord the most. And yet, somehow, I end up at 9am on a Thursday morning looking at facebook groups that have the word “crunchy” in them.

Let me back up. I grew up in a very metropolitan area. The concrete jungle is my kind of turf. I’ve been camping maybe once, have a Target, Publix, Toys R Us and Wal-Mart within biking distance of my house, and rarely go anywhere that doesn’t have wifi. I use paper towels instead of a washcloth to wipe down my countertops, and (confession here) I’m really bad at remembering to recycle. I am anything BUT a hippie. So anyway, I got a good degree or two, had a career that I loved, and then followed the higher calling of full-time motherhood, fully expecting to blend into the high-tech metropolitan mom world.

This transition into motherhood came with some decisions. The first one revolved around what kind of birth I wanted to have. I did a lot of research. A LOT. And became slowly convinced that although a lot of science and tax dollars had been invested in all of the medical interventions that often accompany normal hospital births, I believed that they interfered with the way the Lord had designed my body to work. So, I had a natural childbirth (in a hospital, to be on the safe side), completely spontaneous and unmedicated.

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I even sewed my own hospital gown.

The second decision had to do with feeding my baby. There was no question in my mind – not only was breastfeeding so much healthier for my baby than formula, it was also waaaaaay less expensive and super convenient! I am not suggesting it was always easy – I had more than my fair share of difficulties, especially in the first few months – but I never gave formula a second thought. Julia only drank mommy’s milk until she was six months old, and now as she’s starting solids, I’m looking forward to continuing to nurse her for at least a year.

Thirdly, where should baby sleep? Some people put their newborn in a crib, some let the baby sleep in their beds, but I felt most comfortable with Julia in a rocker beside our bed. Enough distance to make the transition to the crib easy, but convenient enough to nurse her in the middle of the night. After 4 months, she moved to her own room with no problem.

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Then, of course came the question, “So, when are you going back to work after the baby is born?” Well, I believe that motherhood is a calling from the Lord, and He has uniquely made me the best person to take care of the child He has given me. So, instead of letting someone else raise my child, Mr. Poole and I decided that I would be the best person for that responsibility. Full-time. So, I became a stay-at-home mom, which has been the biggest privilege and blessing ever! I’m so grateful for a husband who supports me in this calling!

But staying at home means the loss of an income. And as I am the one who is now contributing very little to the bank account, I am acutely aware of how much I spend. If I am going to have the blessing of being a full-time housewife, I need to be an expert steward of the resources that my husband works so hard to earn! So when it came to diapering our child, and I did the research and discovered how many thousands of dollars I would save by using cloth diapers, that is the route I took, and I’ve been loving it! I don’t mind the extra laundry (if I am going to be staying home, I might as well do a few extra loads a week, right?) and WOW are there some cute and convenient cloth diapers out there!

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So if you haven’t caught my drift, I have so far made five big lifestyle decisions that fall into the “crunchy” category. The sixth decision, babywearing, is something that has been more of a gradual process. At the moment, I don’t think I’d call myself a “babywearer,” but I think that some of my non-crunchy friends would assign that term to me. I’m actually pretty sure I don’t agree entirely with the “attachment parenting” worldview, which is the battle cry of most babywearers. Using a wrap, in my opinion, just makes life easier. Up until a week ago, all I had was a Moby wrap and a hand-me-down Baby Bjorn carrier, but I used the Moby every day. It was purely a convenience thing – why hold a baby in your arms when you can wrap her up and be hands-free, right? The Baby Bjorn is pretty uncomfortable for both of us, but the Moby has been a great blessing, especially during that dinner-making hour in the late afternoon when baby is fussy and mommy needs to keep things going in the kitchen.

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But the Moby wrap is really meant for infants, and it’s been getting a little uncomfortable for Julia, especially when I have to sit down with her in it. I was counting on her being content in the Moby when I started helping out with the school’s spring musical, but now she complains and arches her back when I sit down at the piano. So, I did my research again, sloshed through the unending baby carrier market, and ended up taking the cheapest route I could find – making my own woven wrap. This way, I could carry Julia on my back or on my hip without squishing her when I went to play the piano. I actually had a lot of fun finding the fabric on sale, serging the edges, figuring out where to put little loops for toys, and adding some decorative stitching. So far, Julia has really enjoyed it! We took a walk with her on my back the other day, and she was asleep within two blocks!

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With this new wrap, I feel like I have definitely crossed a line. Am I a crunchy mom? I don’t know. But it doesn’t bother me anymore. I am confident that every decision I has made has been the right one, for the right reasons, and I am constantly in prayer that God would give me wisdom to know how to be a good mom and a faithful wife. I have to trust that He will answer this prayer, no matter what stereotypes I end up becoming!

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“No.”

My little bitty girl is 6 months old today! We celebrated by going to my old school, attending chapel, and seeing my old students. And then, to make her half birthday even more special, I made my mom’s chicken and dumplings.

chicken dumplingsNot that Julia would get to eat any of it.

But this is the ultimate in comfort food for me! There’s nothing like a soft biscuit to sop up all of the juicy wonderfulness from the chicken, celery, and carrots on your plate. Julia must have gotten the memo, because she was EXCEEDINGLY interested in the pot that I was stirring on the stove.

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I mean, come on, wouldn’t you want to touch that shiny pot? I’m sure the savory smell was driving her nuts, in addition to the fact that she was sitting on her mom’s hip SO close to the action! She kept reaching her hand out, and I kept saying, “No!” It’s hot!” She even got to the point where she was leeeeaaaning as far as I would let her, trying to get her hand on that saucepan.

This is the quintessential sermon illustration on God’s sovereignty and wisdom vs. man’s worldly desires. Just like a mother will not allow a child to touch a hot stove (even if they really want to!), in the same way, God will not allow us to have something that will hurt us.

Even if we really want it.

Even if we’re PRAYING for it.

He loves us enough that He’d rather see us struggle with frustration and disappointment than give us something that would not be for our ultimate good and His glory.

I used to ask my 7th graders, “Does God always answer prayer?” The goody-goodies would say, “Yes.” The ones who really thought about the question and the fact that they prayed in vain for a porsche would say, “No.” The truth is that God DOES always answer prayer…but “no” is a valid answer!

So is “wait.” So is, “Yes, and I’ll give you even more than you asked!”

Now, I just need to remember this when I’m dealing with the disappointments that come every day. I know that everything that happens is orchestrated for my good, even if it’s not what I want! When I’m frustrated because things don’t happen quickly enough, easily enough, or inexpensively enough, I must keep in mind that the character qualities that the Lord is using these situations to build far outweigh the inconveniences I’m experiencing. God is just protecting me from the hot stove.

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To the Beach!

A couple of weeks ago, we took Julia to the beach for the first time.

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Despite growing up a bike ride’s distance from the ocean, I don’t get out to the beach too much these days. I think I’d forgotten how much I love the salty air and wide-open expanse of God’s creation.

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I was never a fan of the actual water, though, and Julia seemed to take after her mom in that regard.

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She was like, “Mom, this is COLD!”

We went with my parents, which brought back memories of evening walks on the beach during the summer. The setting sun makes the sand look golden, the tourists have gone in for supper, and the crashing tide imposes its will upon the shoreline.

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Of course, this being such a momentous occasion, Dad brought his ginormous video camera, and both my mom and husband had their DSLRs. So, it was a very well-documented event.

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In fact, my Dad put together a little montage of our outing! Hope you enjoy it!

Going Bananas

Today, we decided to go bananas.

Mashed bananas, that is.

My milk supply has worried me ever since Julia got sick, and then I got sick. Because then I got the world’s worst sinus infection, tried two different antibiotics and a decongestant, and still couldn’t hear out of one ear. Julia’s diminished appetite during her cold followed by my illness was a recipe for a decreased milk supply, and I knew it. And then there’s the fact that she is approaching 6 months, when milk simply isn’t enough to get her all the way through the night. So, sure enough, Julia has started waking up to eat in the middle of the night again.

Which means it’s time to start adding “real food” to her diet.

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I’m a believer in exclusive breastfeeding as long as possible, and had planned on waiting until 6 months to introduce food. But we’re only 2.5 weeks away, and with the sickness and medication and the waking in the night, I didn’t want to starve my baby for 19 more days just because the calendar said she wasn’t 6 months old yet! I did a little research and chose to give her bananas as her first food, given her age and my tendency to lean toward foods that God created ready-made, as opposed to processed rice cereal. Plus, we had ripe bananas on hand already.

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Julia wasn’t quite sure what to think. It was a puzzling experience for her.

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She was more interested in eating the spoon, and not so much the banana.

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I think she swallowed a total of 3 good spoonfuls, tops, before she started getting squirmy and wanting out of the Bumbo. I knew it would be a messy endeavor, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how much was going to end up on her clothes, her hands, the Bumbo seat, the tablecloth, her feet (?), not to mention her face and bib. Certainly, there were more than 3 spoonfuls of casualties. The biggest problem, I think, was that Julia didn’t understand the need to actually open her mouth. So, most of the time, I was trying to push banana into her closed lips, which was a pretty comical endeavor.

She sure liked getting her mouth wiped at the end!

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So, we have a bit of practicing to do for both of us, I think. I’m not sure that she ingested enough banana calories in the morning or at dinner to make a difference in her evening routine, but we’ll see. Should I try rice cereal next week? What times of the day should I give her food? Should I mix the banana with breastmilk? How do I keep banana from getting smeared all over my house? There are so many things I don’t know! I’m so thankful that every day, I can seek counsel from the One who created my little daughter to begin with. How I need His wisdom!

Mr. Poole took a video of Julia’s first few bites of banana today. Ironically, what cracked us both up SO hard when we watched the video later was not so much Julia’s expressive toes, or even her expressive face – it was MY face! Julia gets her demonstrative facial expressions from her mother, and it is nowhere more evident than in this video, where you can see me doing with my face what I’m trying to get Julia to do with hers! It’s really quite embarrassing. I’m posting this video at the risk of my own reputation as a normal human being.

In totally unrelated news, tonight while Mr. Poole and I were eating dinner, we put Julia in her Bumbo and put her little piano in front of her, right with us ON the dinner table. As she banged away to her heart’s content, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “It really doesn’t get any better than this.” In my soul, I asked, “Can I just ask for one leeeeetle favor, Lord? Can you just possibly maybe let time stand still for the next 70 years? I want to enjoy this moment for the rest of my life!”

But then 20 minutes later, after the dishes were done and Mr. Poole was holding Julia on his lap, sharing the piano bench with me while I rocked out to some Chopin, I thought again, “No, THIS is the moment that I want to last forever.” We were a little family, all cozy and snuggled up next to each other, enjoying each others’ company, and chuckling when Julia reached out with both hands to press the keys. It made my eyes get all watery.

Little girls won’t be little girls forever! They grow up into bigger girls who want to crawl out of your lap and do gymnastics and wear make-up and go to prom and study abroad. But I want my little five-month-old Julia to stay a five-month old for always! They tell me, “It only gets better as they get older!” but I don’t know how it could be true. Life is pretty much as awesome as it gets right now.

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What I Learned from Julia’s First Cold

Well, we made it to five months. But the inevitable, even for a breastfed baby, finally did come to pass. Julia got sick. We survived almost two weeks with Mr. Poole’s family, amongst the colder weather, sniffling, and sneezing coming from all sorts of family members and friends, but then three days after coming home, that suspicious-sounding cough appeared, and within two days, not only was Julia’s cold in full swing, but I had it, too! So, it was an extra-special challenge to take care of a little cranky sickness monster, when I was feeling achy and fatigued myself.

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But we persevered. When she got to the point where she couldn’t breathe through her nose (making nursing extremely frustrating), and I desperately needed sleep, I called the hubby at work and he was home within 30 minutes. What a blessing! Side note: When I was considering marriage, I have to admit, I mostly just thought about what kind of a husband Mr. Poole would be. But in God’s providence, I also landed a guy who would be the most wonderful father I could imagine! End of side note.

We’re still in the thick of it, although I’m hoping we’re on the upswing. So without further ado, here are the lessons I’ve learned thus far.

1. You don’t have to go to the doctor the first day she coughs.

I did, which I suppose was the typical, safe, first-time-mom thing to do, but I wish I’d waited to spend my $20 copay until her symptoms were more than a little gunk in her nose. Later, after she’d thrown up a lot and was running a fever, that would have been a better time to take her in.

2. It’s okay to actually call the pediatrician if you’re worried.

I’d never called an actual doctor before (as in, “press 2 if you’d like to receive a callback from a physician”) until the night I went into labor and was calling to ask when I should go to the hospital. And I honestly hadn’t thought about calling Julia’s pediatrician about her fever until someone on facebook recommended it. I ended up calling because although I’d taken her in earlier in the week, she’d since then thrown up big time on several occasions and was running a 100° fever. Talking to the doctor who’d already seen her was great peace of mind. And there was no copay involved.

3. Buy baby tylenol before your baby actually has a fever.

The lady you saw frantically running into Walgreens at 6pm searching the shelves for the one remaining bottle of baby tylenol? The one who was hurriedly calling her mother on the way home to figure out what dose to give her 18-pound baby, who was meanwhile throwing up all over her daddy at home? Yeah, that was me.

4. Sick babies who are crying really hard sometimes start coughing really hard. Sick babies who cough really hard throw up really hard.

It’s a fact of life. And then, the medicine and milk you just tried to give them is all over the crib, and you have to wash and dry the sheets and the mattress cover before they can lie down in their bed again. And you have to wonder whether or not to give them more medicine. And you have to give them an early bath to get the vomit out of their hair. So do WHATEVER it takes to get them to stop crying and you won’t have any of these problems!

5. Let sleeping sick babies lie.

I run a pretty tight schedule around here, and this involves occasionally waking Julia up if it’s time for her nap to be over. But when a baby is sick, just let them sleep. They need more sleep for their little bodies to fight the germs wreaking havoc in there.

6. Your baby might not eat as much at each feeding, but she’ll want to eat more often.

This was a surprise. Julia is a champion eater, as evidenced by her 96th percentile standing for weight. I wasn’t expecting her to get tired from eating so quickly at each feeding. But then it made sense for her to go from eating every three hours to every two and a half during the day.

7. Be prepared for your previously perfect schedule to go nuts.

This is kind of a result of lessons five and six. Last night, Julia decided to stay up until 11:15pm, and then wake up at midnight again. And then, she was awake (as in, playing, wanting milk, talking, and crying, but not acting sleepy) from three until five am. Thank goodness for Mr. Poole – I took the first hour shift, he took the second. And then she slept in until nine, and would have slept longer if I hadn’t woken her up. Okay, so I broke rule #5 there, but I was afraid of having another horrible night if we let the madness continue!

8. Pray for wisdom and peace.

I feel like I do a lot of this these days – “Lord, I need your wisdom!” and “Please give me peace in this moment!” I’m so thankful that God answers these prayers!

9. Ask facebook for help.

Note: since I posted this the first time, I switched around the order of these last two. Prayer comes first. Asking facebook comes second. But I tell yah, there’s no better human advice than that which comes from the mommy friends in your life! I actually have a friends group called, “mommy friends,” and so when I posted a status asking for wisdom about what to do about the throwing-up-the-medicine problem, I only made the post visible to my friends who might actually have wisdom to give. That way, I don’t spam my entire friends list with baby questions. Also, I belong to a few mommy groups on fb that have people asking questions and giving answers all the time, but I instead preferred to hear just from my actual friends. Within a few hours I had almost 30 responses from some pretty amazing ladies. It was such an encouragement, and I felt so much better about the whole situation!

10. It’s okay to just sit in front of the computer and let your little one watch a baby video.

I am not a fan of TV. I think I have personally turned on our television three times in the past four years. I definitely don’t want my child growing up addicted to media. But when she’s just sick and cranky, all she wants sometimes is to snuggle up next to mommy and watch a video. And that’s okay. I’m learning to enjoy these precious moments, however difficult they are!

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Having a sick little girl is harder than I thought it would be. But I remember that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 1 Corinthians 4:17