January 31, 2013

25 in 25 Check-in: January

Well, it's pretty hard to believe we're one full month into 2013, as January has completely flown by for me. I was planning on doing individual posts on each of the items on the check-list I created on my 25th birthday, but for this month instead, I'm just going to do an overall check-in and let you know how things are coming along! So without further ado... the list! The ones that are completed I will put in bold, and the ones that are in progress will be written in purple.

1. Have a piece of my writing published (online or in print).-- I have written two pieces (read em here and here) for the Five Minute Friday link-up with Lisa Jo Baker's blog, and am guest-posting on my friend Marri's blog later this month! Yay!
2. Get family pictures taken.-- done! We got pictures taken over Christmas break. I'll be sure to do a whole post on this so you can see some cute pics of Emmett
3. Make a trip to the West Coast.-- ticket is booked! I'm going to California in July for my dear friend Chelsea's wedding to be a bridesmaid with all of my other college besties, and will also get to see one of my other best friends from home, Vanessa, while I'm out there!
4. Take part in a musical or play (acting, directing, helping behind the scenes, etc.).
5. Bake a gourmet cake.
6. Pay down at least 50% of my school debt.
7. Write and illustrate a children's story for Emmett.--I have a concept that I'm so excited about (it involves a very special horse and a lonely old farmer) and a few sketch ideas drawn out. I'm sure this will be one of my longest to accomplish items this year, but I'm thrilled at the progress so far!
8. Run a mile (no stopping or walking!).
9. Memorize 25 psalms.
10. Cook the turkey! (Thanksgiving? Christmas? another special occasion? just for the heck of it?)
11. Have a romantic getaway weekend with my hubby.
12. Host a themed party.
13. Read 10 literary classics (that I've never read before!)
14. Eat healthy, hearty salads for one meal a day for a whole week (I hate salads so this is a good goal for me!)--starting this TODAY, as Neil and I are getting serious about eating healthy and we're prepping for going vegan for a month in March. Salad #1: a fajita-inspired salad with romaine, black beans, sauteed veggies (red peppers, onion, mushrooms), a tiny bit of cheese, and a multi-grain and flax seed wrap on the side which was perfect for soaking up the black bean juice.
15. Take a creative writing workshop (online or at a local community college?).
16. Listen to one new artist/band per week (let those suggestions start rolling in!)- ah I'm behind on this one! I should have 7 new artists so far, as 7 weeks have passed since I established this list on my birthday. I have two so far (The Lone Bellow and Macklemore). Please please send suggestions via facebook or in the comment section below! I'm excited to catch up on this one.
17. Try eating vegan for one month.- my best friend Char and her boyfriend Scott just put together a fabulous document with recipes, substitutions, suggestions, blogs and general info that we're pouring over right now in preparation for meal planning and going for this adventure in March! SO excited!
18. Make homemade toffee, fudge, chocolate croissants, or my mom's carrot cake recipe that Claire made for our wedding.-- done! My sister, mom and I actually made the carrot cake together for my mom's birthday when we headed home to NJ for the weekend. It was so special to make this recipe with family, and it turned out absolutely delicious!!!
19. Go for a picturesque hike somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
20. Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
21. Paint a mural for Emmett's nursery.
22. Go on a picnic with family and/or friends somewhere beautiful on a spring or summer day.
23. Write the thank you notes that I've been needing to write for a really long time (ah yes, I still haven't written them).
24. Take a day or weekend trip to the shore with my family and experience the ocean through a child's eyes.
25. Tell 25 people why I am grateful that they are in my life.

Okay, so there's still 11 months of my 25th year, but I'm very pleased with how the list is coming along so far! Looking forward to February beginning tomorrow and continuing the adventures of Year 25!

January love to you all,
Mama Bird 

January 24, 2013

Life as of Late...

It's been a little while since I've posted an update so I figured I would just quickly post some recent highlights:

-we went home to NJ this past weekend for my mom's birthday! My sissy and I made mom a chicken marsala, asparagus and sweet potato dinner, with her favorite cake for dessert (I'll post soon for more on that!). We enjoyed a relaxing Saturday morning while there, got to see my grandparents, Emmett and his 'Grandpop' marveled over my dad's amazing train village, and I got to introduce Emmett to my childhood best friend and her mama before we left on Sunday.

Happy Birthday, Mom!
-Emmett is now very efficiently moving from his belly to sitting on his own, and he uses this maneuver to help him get across the room (belly, sit, lunge, squirm, repeat).

-I've been making my own baby food and loving it! Emmett really enjoys the peas, apples and prunes, could care less for carrots and sweet potatoes, and is not sure yet what he thinks of bananas.

-Somehow, I stumbled upon an amazing community of women of faith who blog and write and encourage one another through Lisa-Jo Baker's blog Tales from a Gypsy Mama, her Five Minute Friday exercise (you can see my first two posts here and here), and from there I fell into the (in)courage and (in)RL communities. I've actually stepped out in faith and have decided to host a Roanoke meet-up in April for those who are 'attending' the conference from my area. You should really check it out if you're at all interested in community, finding other women of faith globally/locally, and growing in your own writing or making a few new friends :)

-This week, I made homemade chicken stock from a leftover chicken, and then used the stock and chicken to make a huge pot of delicious chicken, rice and vegetable soup. It's super hearty and healthy and I'm so pleased with this newest cooking adventure, especially since you all know I have come a long way in my kitchen skills!

-We're heading to visit some friends this weekend and I'm so looking forward to a weekend that is equal parts relaxing and adventure. I'll be sure to post some pictures and highlights next week. :)

-I took a trip to Joanns Fabrics and I'm getting SO excited about a new adventure on the horizon. I promised some more sneak peek pictures and I promise to hold up my end of the bargain. It may be a few more days but I think you guys will really like what I'm working on!

-I'm learning a lot right now about honesty, community and trust (always, always learning more about trust). I'll surely explore this in more depth as I learn how to put it all into words, but I figured I would just share something I'm currently processing.

This update didn't have anything particularly substantial or ground-breaking, but I know that my friends and family far away enjoy the Emmett updates. And though I wish I could sit down for coffee with every one of you, these little recaps and bullet points somehow help me to feel like I'm sharing what's on my heart with the dear friends that I miss so dearly. Hope you've had a wonderful week, friends. Get ready for a new Five Minute Friday post tomorrow (posted from Baltimore!).

Love always,
Mama Bird

January 18, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Cherished

Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Where we write for 5 glorious minutes. No over-thinking, no editing, just writing. Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link up!


The piles of laundry have built up. There are so many dishes in the sink that I don't know where to start. I think of the friends that I'd love to send hand-written letters; the clothes in my closet that I haven't worn since we moved here in May because I haven't had anywhere special to wear them to; the heavy baking I'd absolutely love to do if I could just get a half an hour to myself.

I have to tell myself over and over again (and over again once more) to stop. The laundry can wait. Those outfits can definitely wait. The muffins may not wait because they will be my saving grace this morning, but all of it, can wait. Emmett, however, cannot. He is lunging forward towards the next milestone every second I turn around. When he laughs at something I missed because I was too busy furrowing my brow at the cobwebs in the corner, my own obsession with works and cleanliness and doing a 'good job' in the eyes of my family and friends is my own fault and is ultimately my downfall as a mama most days.

How does the Lord do it? He managed to create this beautiful, vast, incredible universe, and has so many other children to care for. And yet He never chooses to put the menial tasks above caring for my heart. Watching me grow. Helping me along when I cannot do it on my own. Stretching and challenging me so that I can make it to the next milestone, and I know that He leaps for joy with me when I reach every single one.

He has been reminding me these past few days to let go of all of those distractions that feel like my 'job' and focus on the calling He has placed right here in the nursery next to me, sleeping in his crib so that tomorrow we can sing, and play, and laugh, and grow together. All distractions aside.

What a good heavenly example of how to parent. He reminds me:

Let go of the tiresome tasks at hand and hold on, dear child, to that sweet baby boy I've given you to nurture and love on and challenge and grow. He needs you right now. Cherish him, just as I have cherished you.  


The ever-challenged and 'cherished' Mama Bird

January 14, 2013

Simple Joys

My heart is full right now with those simple little joys that make a big difference:

warm towels fresh out of the dryer
waking up before the sun (on purpose)
hot hazelnut coffee in a favorite mug
toast with honey
looking at pictures of fresh flowers
dreaming of the first big snow
the smell of woodsmoke on a winter's day
cozy quilts
dried lavender
sending letters to beloved friends

What are your simple joys this morning?
Happy Monday, dear friends!

Mama Bird

P.S. Also, if you haven't read it yet, check out yesterday's sneak peek post and get a glimpse into what's coming soon!

January 13, 2013

Sneaky sneaky peeky peeky...

Something exciting is a'brewin' in my neck of the woods. I decided to give you a few sneak peek pictures today to see if you can guess what's coming soon! Look for more sneak peeks over the next week or two!

Photo courtesy of my hubby :)

Also, a few other highlights as of late:

I've been driving more and more since my lesson last week and I'm getting much more confident on the road!

Obviously parked, but cute nonetheless
Emmett is now eating solids (he loves cereal and peas and carrots, is not so sure about sweet potatoes), sleeping through the night for the most part (hallelujah!), up on his hands and knees and so, so ready for crawling (almost there!), waving (mostly at strangers ha), sticking out his tongue like crazy (a fun new trick), and ready for it?? ...

Pulling up in his crib! Uh-oh world! Here he comes!

I got to sing in church again this morning and it filled up my soul in a much needed way :)

We've been a little under the weather these past few days and have had a much needed quiet weekend, but I'm feeling very excited/joyful for this coming week (which will be capped off by a very quick weekend home to celebrate my own mama's birthday!).

Hope you had a great weekend too, dear ones.

Love, sunflowers and exciting changes,
Mama Bird

January 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Dive


I've always envied how children on a warm summer's day arrive at the swimming pool or the beach and jump right into the water. It seems that they take no time to analyze the temperature of the water or second guess themselves. It's almost as if they can't remember the cold of that water from the summer before, or maybe they like the crisp shocking cool that may envelop them for a moment as they slide into the water. They trust that they will warm to the cold eventually. I'm much more the type to proceed with caution.

I usually take a while to find the perfect spot to settle down for the afternoon, set up my space, peel off articles of clothing one by one, and pretend to read a book for a while as I eye the water and decide whether or not I'm ready to take that first step. You know the one-- where you place a toe into the icy water and wonder how those sweet children have that big, bold, courageous kind of trust to dive right in. 

I wish I could claim to abide by that kind of trust.

As a mama, for the first time in my life, I'm finally learning to go with my gut, stop over-analyzing (little by little), to let go, and trust that my body and heart will adjust if I just take the leap. In terms of decisions about parenting, my creativity, finances, finding community, marriage, trusting the Lord's will for my family's life, and so, so much more. So today, I'm making the courageous decision to run straight to the water's edge and go for it.





A trying-to-be-courageous Mama Bird

Today I'm joining Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Where we write for 5 glorious minutes. No over-thinking, no editing, just writing. Will you join us? Head on over to Lisa-Jo's blog and link up!

P.S. This was my first Five Minute Friday post, and though I'm a few minutes after Friday, I really wanted to participate in this writing challenge and get out the thoughts that were on my heart when I read Lisa-Jo's prompt. Hoping to stick with this challenge and keep writing for five minutes each week along with the rest of this community!

January 7, 2013

Driver's Ed

I'm in the process of conquering one of my greatest fears.

I'm re-learning how to drive.

When I was 16 years old and learning how to drive for the first time, I was a very nervous driver. For some reason I didn't feel relaxed and in control behind the wheel, and I was kind of constantly afraid of the other drivers on the road. That year, one of my friends from high school, who I also looked up to greatly and worked very closely with on student council and the morning news program, was in a car accident and passed away very suddenly. I will never forget where I was when I got the phone call about what had happened, and I honestly can say it altered my life forever. It was the first time that I lost someone, and it definitely made me question things on a deeper level about the purpose of our time here on earth, my faith, and how I wanted to live out the rest of my life in knowing now how fragile it could be. I committed my faith anew later that year, and also decided to live my life as fully as possible, almost for both myself and Brittany, since that chance was taken away from her.

Almost ten years later, I still have a really hard time getting behind the wheel. Brittany's accident really shook both me and my parents up-- she was our neighbor and only a year older than me so I think it definitely hit close to home for them. So when I was in high school, my driving became limited to the fifteen mile radius around our house- school, work and the houses of a few close friends. I left for college on the North Shore of MA at the end of high school without a car, and honestly didn't really need one for the next six years or so. My friends took turns carpooling with each other into Boston on weekends, to local apple orchards in the fall, and to the grocery store once a week when we were all seniors. I lived on campus all four years, and then used the commuter rail train and subway after college to get to and from my job in the city. It worked out pretty well.

Fast forward a few more years, as I now live in a very rural area of Southwest VA, where the roads are very different from those suburban blocks I learned on years ago, and there isn't a coffee shop or pharmacy within walking distance. In a lot of ways, my lack of driving all of those years prior led me to this place of being paralyzed by the fear of driving on these winding country roads. 55 mph around curves with no shoulders and ditches on both sides? No thank you. I get terrified even in the passenger seat. Add a crying baby to the backseat, and I think Neil, his parents, and I all agreed that it may be best for me to take my time getting on the road around here with Emmett, and since Neil and I only have one car it has gone that way by default. But now, I would say I'm definitely stuck.

I've talked about it a lot with friends and family these past few months and have complained about being trapped on the farm and having to rely on my husband/in-laws to drive Emmett and I to doctor's appointments, the store, and even events with other moms to try to make some friends around here. I don't really know why I let it get to this point, but with the start of a new year, some great motivation to make positive change, and no more time for excuses, I decided to put on my big girl pants and LEARN HOW TO DRIVE. For real this time.

I called around to a few places last week and ended up finding the most delightful older man who specializes in working with adult drivers- people who are new to the area and need help with the kinds of roads around here, older women who need to learn at 65 after losing their spouses, those who have been in car accidents and need to take driver's ed by court order, etc. He was affordable, came recommended by the DMV, and was able to start right away.

Saturday morning I was so nervous! Neil made coffee for us while I rushed around, frazzled and anxious, but underneath it all I was so excited! We met my instructor near the mall, I waved goodbye to my boys, and we drove around for the two most relaxing and enjoyable hours of driving I've ever imagined I could spend behind the wheel. The instructor was incredibly patient, and very gentle in his criticisms rather than making me more nervous, and at the end of our time together he said I was an excellent driver and really just needed to practice. He said I just need to get my confidence back and I should do really well! And I honestly believe him. And I believe in myself. I let go of a lot of my tension that morning, and felt like I was able to see the roads/the drivers around me/my role as a responsible driver very clearly instead of constantly cowering in fear of being hit or making a wrong move.

I feel so incredibly invigorated to have grabbed the bull by the horns and to have conquered my fear. I know that once I practice a bit more, I'll be able to drop my hubby off at work in the morning and spend a day every now and then writing at coffee shops when Emmett is napping, running errands on my own, meeting up with friends without feeling like a burden on the family, and most of all feel better about being independent. It's essential as a mama! But it also makes me so happy as an individual to have gotten over a fear I've held onto for almost ten years. Thank goodness there are always new ways to grow and new things to learn!

Hope you can feel encouraged today to let go of whatever fears you've been holding onto for too long and remember that life is too short to not get out there on the open road :)

Mama Bird

January 3, 2013

Space to Breathe

I am so, so thankful to be sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops in the area, snacking on pretzels and eating a turkey reuben. I am thankful for the space to breathe, and soak in the sunshine as I listen to the lull of conversation around me and sip on my hazelnut soy latte. I am thankful most of all that my little boy is sleeping soundly next to me so I can write and sketch and dream and be Heather instead of mama for a few minutes.

We've been on fast forward these past two weeks or so, as the Christmas season flew by, New Years snuck up on me, and Emmett has been a little sponge learning and growing right before our very eyes. We were so lucky that Emmett got to spend his first Christmas surrounded by loving family on both sides. We had a wonderfully relaxing week with my husband's family here on the farm over Christmas, filled with Southern breakfasts, the most decadent baked goods (can anyone say FRESH coconut cream pie and homemade cherry bonbons?), beautiful warm weather, a ton of Downton Abbey, and catching up with Neil's sister and brother-in-law who live in Texas. It was great fun to see that Emmett picked up right where he left off with his Aunt Beth and Uncle Tony, and he had an adorable time getting to know his 'cousin' Winnie (Beth and Tony's miniature schnauzer). They got along great, and we're totally convinced that Emmett needs a dog of his own sometime in the nearish future;)

We headed to Northern Virginia to see my mom's side of the family at the end of the week (before New Years), and Emmett warmed up to everyone right away. There were 17 of us at my aunt and uncle's house, but we had so much fun laughing over those embarrassing stories that come out once a year, drinking egg nog and lots of wine, making up stories and songs with my cousins ('Marshmallow Kid' and 'Gutter Ball' to name a few), watching Emmett cuddle with his grandparents, aunt and uncle (my sissy and brother), great-grandparents (who he got to meet for the first time this Christmas!), great aunts and uncles, and all of my cousins (who I think were all completely smitten with baby Emmett). It made Christmas feel so complete and joyful to be able to celebrate with both families!

Upon our return to Roanoke, we enjoyed a very laid back New Years Eve with some of Neil's best friends from college. Emmett and I snuggled upstairs for most of the evening and watched the New Years Rockin' Eve, and Neil had a great time catching up with his college pals. After more Downton Abbey (we're rushing through the second season in time for the Season 3 premiere on Sunday!), some more decadent eating and time with friends/family, and Neil's return to work yesterday, I think things are starting to settle back into a relatively normal routine. Whew!

I think the highlight of these past few days for me has been watching Emmett, who is now officially over 6 months old (can't believe it!) and is feeling so much better in general from all of the problems we encountered early on with his reflux and allergies. I can't say enough how different of a baby he seems to be! Sometimes we hit a stretch where I cannot believe how quickly he is learning and changing, and we're definitely in one of those periods right now. Over the break, Emmett has gotten SO close to crawling, he began to WAVE (!), he said 'Papa' for the first time (as Neil was holding him before he left for work yesterday!), and he's been making sounds that definitely resemble words like 'hi' 'bye' 'yeah' 'whoah' and 'ow.' He laughs so hard now, wants to 'walk' everywhere (where we hold his hands and he pretty much does all of the leg work by walking across the room), and we started him on solids this week. Just rice cereal so far, but I have a butternut squash and some peas/carrots just waiting to be cooked so that I can start giving him his first real veggies! Finally, the biggest milestone to date.... Emmett slept through the night last night. In his crib. In his room. For 10 hours.

What the what?! I'm working on a sleep training regimen that is a little bit less harsh than the 'Cry it Out' method (it's still really hard though), so I think part of it was pure exhaustion from trying to get me to give in, but once he finally fell asleep he was out for the entire night. I think it helped too that his tummy was much fuller from the rice cereal, but I'm so hopeful that I can rejoin my husband as a nighttime sleeper and not have to spend half the night in the rocking chair/on the couch anymore. Here's hoping!

One more exciting update- I have officially accomplished one of the items on my 25 in 25 list! We got family pictures taken over Christmas with Neil's family in a Sears portrait studio (some great group shots, a few hilarious pics with props/costumes... and of course the classic little family shot of Neil, me and Emmett). I will definitely post a few pictures when I get a chance, but as I'm in a coffee shop right now I don't have the disc with me. What a great way to end 2012 and start of 2013!

How did you spend your Christmas/New Years? How is 2013 starting off for you? I'd love to hear!

Love, lattes, and relaxation,
Mama Bird