Thursday, September 30, 2010

...and finally

The rest of Jude's 18th month photos and my maternity photos from Photographic Memories:

Monday, September 27, 2010

bath-itty bath

I'm dreadfully slow in posting pictures of Cohen's first tub bath, but I finally had a chance to get them off of our camera. Despite the fussy faces he's making, Cohen actually does really well with baths. He's super active and likes to kick his legs a lot; he really only gets mad when he's cold. He tends to be super sleepy after baths, and he smells delicious!

Sleeping in Daddy's arms before his first bath:
I know these are out of order, but being wrapped up in Daddy's arms after the bath:

And during the bath:

And lest this post be Jude-less, a photo from when our friends Mike and Jill came over for dinner recently. Shawn took the photo to prove that Jude and Logan don't look that much alike, but I think the plan backfired:

Cohen slept for six hours for two nights in a row recently, which was glorious! Of course, I only slept for five of those hours both nights - for which I'm kind of kicking myself now. Still, five hours is pretty amazing when you're used to running on three, so I can't complain. He went back to waking up earlier last night, but I'm really hoping to be getting some decent consistent sleep soon! There IS a light at the end of the tunnel!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

things i do

I mentioned a few posts ago that I've been doing some thinking about my priorities and how I order my life. It's easy to claim certain things as priorities, but I find those "priorities" often getting cluttered out and altogether ignored by less important things. I heard an illustration long ago about a jar and rocks. I'm certain you've heard it, too. The basic point is that if you fill that jar with big stones first, you'll have room to fit the small pebbles in and around those stones. But if you fill the jar with the pebbles first, there won't be any room for the large stones. My life is easily consumed with small pebbles, though it's usually my fault because I haven't put the stones in first.

And so, here are my stones:

-I'm trying to figure out a way to phrase this without sounding pithy or cliche, but I'm falling short. I love me some God. There, I said it. My life revolves around knowing Him, loving Him, pleasing Him, failing Him, being awed by Him, and being rescued by Him. He is the reason why and the strength through which anything else on my list can exist. Practically speaking I'm in a season of my life where I'm not able to dedicate the hour to Bible study and prayer that I once could, but I'm also in a season of my life where I'm learning what it means to pray without ceasing. I pray as I rock Cohen to sleep, I pray as I watch Jude color, I pray as I take a shower, I pray as I fold the laundry, I pray as I close my eyes at night, I pray as I clean up toys, vacuum the floor, and wipe spit up off my shoulder.

Now, lest you think I'm uber spiritual, you should know that the vast majority of these prayers go something like, "God, please give me patience (or wisdom, depending on the day) to love this family like You love me." Even though my prayers are short and pretty repetitive these days, this interaction with my Abba is my lifeblood.

- I love Shawn and try to give him my best. It's a tough task right now, but I try not to give Shawn my leftovers - physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I take however much time he needs to listen to his thoughts, vents, and triumphs at the end of his work day and I serve him throughout my day by creating order and stability in our home. I speak well of him to others (which isn't a tough task, he's amazing), and I love him enough to do the hard work of challenging him to be who God created him to be.

-I am a prayerful and humble steward of two little lives. Jude and Cohen are mine for only a time, and I'm constantly asking myself if I'm being a wise steward or a foolish steward of their lives. I aim to show them that God created them, loves them, and has a plan for them. I work to speak Truth into their lives - that they are strong, brave, sweet, smart, and capable - but when they are weak, afraid, obstinate, foolish, and incapable God and I both love them just as much and delight in helping them become the former. I know that I'm their world right now, and I strive to create a world for them that is filled with love, joy, peace, patience (most of the time, anyway), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

-I know that taking care of myself belongs on this list because unfortunately, I've seen what happens when it's not. Right now, taking care of myself means not being shy about asking for a nap. It also means taking the time to eat well and fuel my body for the marathon days and nights ahead, and realizing that I need to occasionally get out of this house without the kids in tow. Like everything else on my list, the practical ways in which this plays out change with each season of my life. I'm looking forward to the days when this means rising early to go for a run, get a shower, and spend time with my Creator.

-I maintain order in our home. I make sure our bills are paid and our budget is balanced, I organize our paperwork and files, and I manage appointments and schedules.

-I minister to and love my small group girls. I make sure they know that I'm a safe place to fall and that I love them unconditionally.

-I invest in and work on developing friendships (albeit poorly most of the time). I'm constantly checking myself to make sure I'm not putting up needless walls and am being authentic with friends. I try to be a good listener and make sure I'm giving as much as I'm taking in conversation and heart.

These are my stones, the non-negotiable things of priority and importance. I'm amazed by how much of my daily activity I waste on things that are pebbles. In order to make room to do the things on my list - and do them well - there are many things that I need to consciously choose not to do. Coming up soon - my list of things I don't do.

In the meantime, I'd love to hear about the things in your life on which you place priority and how you manage them!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

on the homefront

The Maurer house has been filled with craziness (literally and figuratively) lately, so I thought it was about time to update everyone on said craziness.

Shawn: Is busy. He seems to be handling adjusting to a family of four really well and is enjoying being the Dad to two very sweet boys. Jude's becoming more of a Daddy's boy with each passing day, even asking "Da huh-home?" when he hears the garage door. These boys really have no idea how lucky they are.

Jen: In a nutshell, I'm tired down to my bones. I had my six week checkup today, and while overall things are good, it appears that one of my tears over healed. You know what that means, right? Yep. I'm Superwoman. Only Superwoman would have the power to "over heal." Pretty good logic, I'd say. Even though I'm Superwoman, the doctor said I needed to wait two more weeks until exercising normally. Boo.

Jude: Actually just fell out of his toddler bed twice tonight. Poor thing, he finally works up the nerve to sleep in the bed and then he falls right out. Guess we'll be shopping for bed rails tomorrow.

Cohen: Is growth spurting, which means he's wanting to eat every two hours - hence me being exhausted. He's doing a great job of learning to hold his head up and is becoming more interested in his surroundings. He gave us his first smile about a week ago and has even given us a couple of laughs, which are just adorable.

Speaking of growth spurt, Cohen needs to eat again!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

do. everything. better.

I had read a friend's blog post recently referring to the book Bittersweet: thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way by Shauna Niequist. Anne had written a list of things she does and things she doesn't do in the spirit of the author. Since I read Anne's blog post, I've been slowly marinating on that idea and where my priorities fall. A few weeks later, Anne recommended the book to me, and I just so happened to be looking for something to read beyond Dr. Suess. My time to actually read for myself is limited, but I just felt like my soul needed something. I ordered Bittersweet, and within less than a day of receiving it, I'm already going to blog about it. That's just how I roll.

Anne has great taste in books, so I expected to be challenged, but I didn't expect to find some of my most personal thoughts and struggles written by a stranger. After allowing myself a bit more time to think it through, I'd like to make a list of things I do and don't do similar to the author's. Until then, the following excerpt is a precursor to the author's list, and one of the many passages that made me wonder if she had been reading my thoughts.

And for the record, when I read blog posts that include long quotes from books, I tend to skim and sometimes not even read the thing at all. Just know that this post is just as much for me to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going. So while I personally feel like Ms. Niequist's words are compelling, I completely understand if you check out now.

I'm a list-keeper. I always, always have a to-do list, and it ranges from the mundane: go to the dry cleaner, go to the post office, buy batteries; to the far-reaching: stop eating Henry's (her son) leftover Dino Bites, get over yourself, forgive nasty reviewer, wear more jewelry.

At one point, I kept adding to the list, more and more items, more and more sweeping in their scope, until I added this line: DO EVERYTHING BETTER. It was, at the time, a pretty appropriate way to capture how I felt about my life and myself fairly often. It also explains why I tended to get so tired I'd cry without knowing why, why my life sometimes felt like I was running on a hamster wheel, and why I searched the faces of calmer, more grounded women for a secret they all knew that i didn't. This is how I got to that fragmented, brittle, lonely place: DO EVERYTHING BETTER.

Each of the three words has a particular flavor of poison all its own. Do: we know better than do, of course. We know that words like "be," and "become," and "try," are a little less crushing and cruel...But when we're alone sometimes and the list is getting the best of us, we abandon all those sweet ideas, and we go straight to do, because do is power, push, aggression, plain old sweat equity. It's not pretty, but we know that do gets the job done.

Everything is just a killer. Everything is the heart of the conversation for me, my drug of choice. Sure, I can host that party. Of course, I can bring that meal. Yes, I'd love to write that article. Yes, to everything.

This winter, I got the kind of tired that you can't recover from, almost like something gets altered on a cellular level, and you begin to fantasize about what it would be like to just not be tired anymore. You don't fantasize about money or men or the Italian Riviera. All you daydream about is not feeling exhausted, about neck muscles that don't throb, about a mind that isn't fogged every single day. I was talking to my husband about it in the car one night. I was complaining about being tired, but also bringing up the fact that lots of women travel and work and have kids. Everybody has a house to clean. Why can't I pull it together?

He said, gently, ostensibly helpfully, something along the lines of "you know honey, just because some other people can do all that, it doesn't mean that you can or have to. Maybe it's too much for you."

One tiny, almost imperceptible beat of silence. And then I yelled, viscerally, from the depths of my soul, as though possessed, "I'M NOT WEAK!"

As soon as the words came out, we looked at each other in alarm. It seemed, perhaps, we'd hit upon the heart of something. One of my core fears is that someone would think I can't handle as much as the next person. It's fundamental to my understanding of myself for me to be the strong one, the capable one, the busy one, the one who can bail you out, not make a fuss, bring a meal, add a few more things to the list. For me, everything becomes a lifestyle. Everything is an addiction.

And then better. Better is a seductress. It's so delicious to run after better, better, better. Better is what keeps some women decorating and redecorating the same house for years on end...Better is what makes us get "just a little work done," after the last baby, you know, or just to look a little bit fresher and more well-rested. Better is a force.

The three together, DO EVERYTHING BETTER, are a super-charged triple threat, capturing in three words the mania of modern life, the anti-spirit, anti-spiritual, soul-shriveling garbage that infects and compromises our lives. The "do everything better" way of living brought me to a terrible place: tired, angry, brittle, afraid, hollow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


While Jenn was taking Jude's 18 month shots and some maternity photos for us, she agreed to sneak in a few pictures of Jude and two of his cousins who were in town at the time (yeah, she's basically amazing like that). It was no small feat to get all three in the same frame, much less looking relatively happy at the same, but that Jenn has some skillz.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

sneaky mcsneakerson

I wasn't allowed to wear makeup until I was a freshman in high school. Lipstick? Nope. Mascara? Nope. Concealer? Nope. I have no doubt that my tantrums at the injustice were monumental, especially since most of the other girls in my class had been experimenting with makeup since we were in 6th grade. Yet there I was, one of the few fresh faced 8th graders left. In retrospect, I'm grateful to have missed out on the trend of wearing eyeliner so thick it brings to mind a raccoon who got into a bar fight, but at the time I felt like like my makeup-less face was horribly naked.

The worst part of not being able to wear makeup was that any blemishes I had couldn't be hidden with concealer. Nope, my acne was a big, flashing, neon sign right smack on my face that read, "PUBERTY!" To be fair, my face was actually pretty clear - most likely a nice side effect of not wearing pore clogging makeup. But oh, the inhumanity when I did get a blemish.

One day in 6th or 7th grade, I decided that I'd had enough. I knew there was no way I could sneak wearing makeup past my Mom, but something had to be done about the breakout on my face. After babysitting one Saturday afternoon, I took my pay and rode my bike into town (I grew up in a small town in rural Indiana). I brazenly walked into the one pharmacy in town and with a quick look over my shoulder, made a beeline for the face care aisle. Glancing over the products, I grabbed a product from Clearasil titled "Advanced Acne Zapper," or something equally ridiculous. I do remember clearly that it was Clearasil because I remember seeing the commercials of perfectly complected youth and deciding that particular product would obviously solve all of my problems.

I bought the breakout cream, stuffed it into my bag, and rode home. That night, after everyone had gone to bed, I carefully read the label and instructions, and applied the miracle cream. I went to bed, but couldn't get one phrase out of my head. Somewhere on the bottle, I'd read the words, "highly flammable." Over the next two days my mind churned that phrase over and over, until I just couldn't take it a single moment longer. Tears welling up in my eyes, I confessed it all to my Mom. I couldn't take having this weighty secret over my head and had no choice but to confess. I told her every sordid detail - from the saving of my babysitting money, to the biking into town, to the application after hours. And then I said, "And the worst part of it all is that I read that it's highly flammable. I'm so afraid that I'll put this on my face, and go to pull something out of the oven, and my face will catch on fire!"

That's right. I was legitimately afraid that my face was going to catch on fire the next time I baked cookies.

I'm a little amazed that my Mom didn't bust out laughing. No, Mom sweetly explained that my face was most likely free from spontaneous combustion, and let me know that she appreciated my honesty. I'm fairly certain that she gave me permission to continue using the product, but with a mind wracked with guilt every time I looked at that Clearasil bottle, I tossed it.

Even though he's not quite two, Jude has already displayed this tendency to tell on himself. As he's playing in another room, I'll often know that he requires discipline when I hear him telling himself, "No, no no!" (which sounds more like Nyo nyo nyo!). Bare in mind of course, that him saying "no" doesn't actually stop him from doing whatever he knows he's not supposed to do, but he proceeds to tell on himself nonetheless.

Jude also has a look that is a dead giveaway that he's getting ready to misbehave. In fact, there have been many times that I haven't noticed that he's doing something I've asked him not to until he gives me that look. I barely have a chance to think "why is he looking at me funny?" before I realize that he's waiting for me to notice his misdeeds. The sweet boy tilts his chin down to his chest, his face gets dead serious, and his eyes shift to looking at me from one corner. It's really kind of a ridiculous face, and alerts me quickly that he's working on being mischieveous.

I love that Jude has a hard time being willfully disobedient without telling me about it. I know right now his disobedience pertains to things like slamming his trains down and playing with the vacuum cleaner, but I also know that it'll soon be things like trying alcohol with friends and cheating on a test. I pray that he remains forthcoming with us, and I pray that our reactions are always rooted in love and patience. And if he ever tells me he's afraid his face will catch on fire while baking cookies, well...I can only pray that I won't laugh out loud.

what's that?

You say you need some more Jude-a-bug-ness in your life? Well, don't we all? Okay, okay, if you insist (and the photo laden posts have everything nothing to do with the fact that I'm barely sleeping at night, so coherent thoughts are few and far between):

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010


1. Shawn preached a few weeks ago during two of Pinedale's Sunday morning services. He doesn't often preach, but is really pretty dang good at it. He and Jon (the High School minister) spoke about family, teenagers, and specifically family ministry. Like any good preacher, Shawn uses our family for a couple of illustrations. It's always interesting to me to hear Shawn's perspective on our family. If you're interested in hearing Shawn preach, then CLICK HERE. The message is from 8/29 and is titled For The Win.

2. It would appear that after almost two and a half weeks, Jude has transitioned from his crib to his toddler. And by "his toddler bed," I mean the floor. We put him in his bed for both his naps and bedtime, and he promptly crawls out and falls asleep on either the floor or the rocker/recliner in his room. As long as he's not screaming for an hour, banging on the door, and calling our names before he falls asleep on said floor, I'm cool with that.

I figure that you rarely see a thirty year old who refuses to sleep in his big boy bed, so I have faith that he'll one day sleep in his bed just fine. Between having a newborn and Jude's screaming before bed and waking up in the middle of the night crying, things at the Maurer house were hairy there for awhile. Thankfully the worst of Jude's fit throwing happened while Shawn's parents were here. They were such an incredible blessing in helping us understand that if we kept going in to soothe him, he'd keep crying to get what he wanted. I think my willpower to outlast Jude was worn down by that point, so having them here as backup during that period could not have been better timing.

3. I may be off my rocker, but I've decided to start weaning Jude from the paci. He'll still get it at naptime and bedtime, and possibly occasionally when he's tired cranky in the car (his screams in the confined space of a vehicle are like nails on chalkboard to me sometimes). Other than that, Cohen will be the only pacifier-ed person in the household. Except for me...but only on my bad days. Luckily, Cohen isn't a fan of the Nuk pacifiers that we use for Jude and much prefers the Soothie brand. It hasn't been difficult for Jude to distinguish which pacis are his and which are Cohen's, so we just need to hide Jude's pacis and do our best to distract him and remain firm when he asks for it. Hopefully this will be an easy transition, but realistically - very few transitions with Jude are easy. I'm bracing myself.

4. Jenn Lewis from Photographic Memories came to the house a few days ago to take some newborn photos of Cohen. I've only seen a couple, but I can already tell you that they are priceless. Words cannot describe how great she is at what she does, and how immeasurably blessed we are that she thinks our kids are cute enough to photograph. I have some maternity photos, Jude's 18 month photos, and Cohen's hospital pictures, but I'm having a hard time uploading more than one at a time. I'll try to add a couple to each of the posts I do for awhile since I can't seem to get as many as I'd like in one post.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

dairy schmairy

Dairy is one of the biggest food groups of my diet - just under caffeine, in fact. I was apparently sensitive to dairy as a baby and was put on soy formula. I outgrew it though, and the only way I'm currently affected is that I can't have any milk, ice cream, or large quantities of cheese within 24 hours before going for a run. My mom is also sensitive to dairy and drinks soy milk and avoids ice cream. If Jude drinks a sippy full of cow's milk, we end up with a very cranky toddler on our hands, so he drinks either soy or lactose free milk. He's fine to have moderate amounts of yogurt and cheese on a daily or every other day basis, and I fully expect him to completely outgrow it by the time he's an adult.

So when I noticed that Cohen is especially gassy, has some constipation issues, has a stuffy nose, and spits up out of his nose often, my first instinct was that he may be sensitive to the diary I'm eating. I consciously avoided dairy for two or three days, and I was starting to see a less gassy, less spitty-up, and more content Cohen. I decided yesterday to have two bowls of cereal and a slice of cheese on my turkey sandwich, and I paid for it last night in the form of a fussy Cohen.

So starting today (minus the cream I had in my coffee this morning before I was thinking clearly enough to realize that it contained dairy), I'm embarking on a one to two week dairy fast. I may be wrong and Cohen's gas may just be normal baby gas pains, so this fast is to help us determine if I need to avoid dairy as I continue breastfeeding, or if we need to be looking for another culprit. I had just been avoiding milk, cheese, and yogurt, but I probably need to stay away from any kind of dairy in order to have the most accurate picture.

Once I see if the diary fast is making a difference, I'll start adding dairy back into my diet to see what Cohen can and can't tolerate. Apparently sometimes the dairy sensitivity in babies is mostly caused by young and immature stomachs, so I can always try to have milk again when Cohen is three months old, and again when he's six months old.

Giving up dairy is NOT easy for me. But I happen to love Cohen and sleep more than I love dairy. Which is saying a lot, because I really love dairy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

emotional recovery

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Cohen, one of my biggest fears was postpartum depression. If you've experienced depression - especially PPD - you're more likely to deal with it after subsequent births, and that fact hung over my head like a cloud. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I did my best to organize my life (freezing meals, working ahead on budget, taking a Serwa Chic maternity leave, etc.) as if my head would be floating around in a thick fog for a couple of months - as that was how I felt after I had Jude. I knew this time around I didn't have the luxury of being too stubborn to ask for help or take medicine if needed - you might be able to hide depression from an infant, but a toddler can't help but feel the effects of a Mommy who isn't okay.

I've spent the past four weeks carefully watching myself - checking my emotions, making sure I get as much sleep as possible, and monitoring any feelings of being overwhelmed or irrationally frustrated. Shawn has been purposeful to check in with me, and has been awesome about making calls for help when I'm feeling overly tired, sad, or overwhelmed. When Cohen was about two weeks old, I had two or three days that scared me. I hadn't been getting much sleep and was dealing with a personal issue that was consuming. I found myself spacing out, shutting down, crying easily, getting angry easily, and feeling like I was emotionally sinking. I thankfully came out of it, but I tell you that only to say that I kind of feel like I'm working to out-run postpartum depression. I fear that if I go several days without enough sleep, if I let frustrations or day to day decisions overwhelm me, if I don't ask for help when I need it, or if I keep my emotions and thoughts bottled up, that PPD will catch up with me. And I worry that if I let it catch up, I won't be able to get away and it will consume me.

To clarify, I don't think I'm dealing with PPD this time around. I have so much joy that I just didn't have when Jude was an infant. Beyond the usual Mommy Brain, I'm able to think clearly and make rational decisions. I'm not overwhelmed when Cohen cries, I'm not crying for no reason, I'm not getting irrationally angry, and I'm able to feel happy, excited, and content. It's incredible how much easier taking care of a newborn is when you're not coping with PPD.

But while I'm feeling great right now, I know that I'll have a bad morning, afternoon, or even whole day. I know I'll get tired and impatient, and probably even weepy. I also know that just because I'm okay at four weeks postpartum, I'm not immune from finding myself once again battling postpartum depression when Cohen is two months old...four months old...or even six months old. I know how easily a bad day can turn into a bad week, which can turn into a bad month. I'm doing my best to say ahead of PPD. I'm doing what I can and am thankful that Shawn is doing what he can to keep me from that slippery slope. At the moment, I'm outrunning postpartum depression, and my earnest prayer is that I can look back in a year at this time of our lives without regret, but with joy at watching our new family grow and change.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

a letter to cohen

Dear Cohen,

Can you believe that you are four weeks old today? Four short weeks ago, I looked into those eyes for the first time, held your tiny hands for the first time, and snuggled you close to me. The past four weeks have seen a lot of changes for you! I mean obviously - you went from inside my womb to outside it - but a lot has changed for you even beyond that. You're starting to pick up your head more and want to look around at everything going on. You're scooching a little on your tummy, and you've just begun grasping small objects.

Physically, you're changing tons too! Your hair is lightening up a little - I think it'll be blonde like your brother's before long. I love bath nights with you because your hair is super soft and downy (plus bath nights make you extra snuggly). Your eyes have remained blue, but you've lost the ring of broken blood vessels around the iris. Thank goodness - that ring of red around your eyes would've gotten creepy had it stayed! You're getting longer and putting on weight with each passing day. We don't have an official weight, but according to our bathroom scale you're right between 9.5 and 10 lbs. You're nursing really well, but have some serious constipation issues. I'm actually giving up dairy for a bit to see if that helps. Yep, THAT is just how much I love you, sweet son.

We've begun transitioning you from sleeping in Mommy's arms at night to sleeping in your crib. We've done two nights so far. Night one was fantastic (you woke up at 2:30 to eat and while you fussed for a bit afterwards, then slept from 4:00-6:30 but didn't want to eat until 7:30), though Night Two was a bit less fantastic. Hopefully you'll get the hang of things soon!

You and Jude seem to still be getting along well so far. He likes to play with your feet while I'm nursing you, and he happens to think your hands and feet are hilarious. My prayer is that this is only one of the many things you two do to make each other laugh. Your brother really does love you very much. You were crying yesterday, and Jude took out his pacifier and offered it to you. I know you don't understand what a big deal that is, but Cohen - that paci is Jude's current prized possession. By offering you his pacifier, he was pretty much offering you the most important thing in his world. That's how much your big brother loves you. Don't worry, he won't always show you his love by giving you his pacifier. Hopefully.

So on your first month birthday, Cohen-Bear, I just want you to know how much Mommy and Daddy love you. In fact, you could say that we're crazy about you. We're crazy about your long fingers and toes, about the little noises you make when you sleep and eat, about your big eyes, and about the way your hair naturally falls into a pretty amazing faux hawk. In fact, we can't imagine ever having lived our lives without you. We love you so much, Cohen. Happy One Month!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Daddy and Cohen

You could say he's in love...