welcome, baby boy.

Indulge me for just a day as I introduce to you to the campfire we just can’t stop staring at… for on August 29th at 1 pm, we welcomed Baby Boy Meredith into this world.

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Big Brother Cancan and Gaga (my mom) came to meet Baby Brother around 5 that afternoon.  Gaga was, of course, gaga, and Cancan was over-the-moon in awe.

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We began getting to know him…

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We being Dada…

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And Mama…

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And finally, around 8 o’clock that night, after whittling our choices down to three names, we went with Theodore John.  We call him Theo (or TJ, if the mood strikes us), and we’re smitten with its meaning and significance: for he is loved (‘dore) by God (theo).  

He shares a middle name with the HBH’s favorite person in the world, his brother John, and a middle name with my dad and brother.  We also like to think that he high-fived his great grandfather in and out of life, as Grandpa (John) Mac, passed exactly 24 hours after Theo’s birth.  Because it’s all life and death, death and life, folks.  We live and breathe resurrection.

Finally, he bonded with Big Brother and Gaga some more.

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Eventually, along the way, we took a couple baby selfies…

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He’s not-so-secretly made known his favorite place to reside: chest side, neck side, nestled-in-to-your-whole-being side.  I am not opposed.

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We arrived home yesterday, and he’s already started joining in on the family dance party.  Here’s his best “Stayin’ Alive” pose thus far.

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We’re all learning the art of one-on-one parent-child defense, and Gaga is quite the pro teaching all of us the ropes.  (She did raise three children, after all).

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Thanks for cheering us on, friends!

xo,

Cara “up all night, but that’s all the moaning I’m going to do” Meredith

wherein the scary lady strikes at target, again.

I shushed a teenager in Target the other day.

…and then, mortified, I hap-hazardly pushed my bubbling, bouncing Bubs and the bright red cart to aisle 32 where I hoped she and her cell phone didn’t feel like perusing the shelves looking for the best deal on wipes and size 3 diapers.

Since when did I get so grumpy?

And so old?

And so un-understanding of teenagers, whom I love?

Yup.  This is about right.
Yup. This is about right.

I stood there dumb-founded, absently staring at the generic box of sensitive-bum wipes before me, wondering whether or not I should hunt her down and apologize, or hunker down in between the blue and pink and wait it out till morning.  I, of course, chose the latter, instead replaying the could-have’s in my mind:

I could have smiled at her, and then tried to beat her loudness in my own babbles to Canon.

I could have pulled out my own cell phone, and having my own imaginary, really, really loud conversation, beat her at her own obsessively loud game.  OH NO SHE DI-N’T!

And I could have freaking pushed my cart to the next aisle and not gotten so self-obsessed about the 16-year-old who was breaking my peace and quiet in the discount shopping store.  

I mean, the library, I understand.  Nordstrom’s Savvy section?  Absolutely.  But Target?  Oh Cara, shut the front door.

And so we admit our faults.  We say, here in the blogosphere, to the poor, shushed-at teenager: I’m sorry.  I’m sorry I was such a grumpy old lady.  I promise to remember that I was once an obnoxiously loud teenager myself, and that I too sometimes have conversations in public places, probably talking louder into my little electronic device than I realize.  And I promise to go get me some Jesus right about now.

Sometimes little tiny 30-second incidents like this help us realize the bigger picture: I need a break.  I need some rest.  And for me, who needs that spiritual bucket of my soul filled up, I need me some Jesus.

Come to me, all who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest.  

Do you need a rest, a break, some time to close your eyes and breathe in a big inhale, and an even bigger exhale?  

Well friends, grace-grace-grace: sprinkle this gift upon yourselves, receiving the fullness of its embodying do-over self.  Then, think about what you need in order to be filled up again.  Hire a sitter for three hours.  Make a friend meet you for margaritas.  Schedule a night off and hole up with a can’t-put-it-down book.  [I’d recommend Carry On, Warrior for any mamas, and Gone Girl: A Novel for a good fiction read.]  Or go, light a candle and shut the door to your sacred space, away from Facebook and email and Words With Friends, and meditate on the One who gives you life.

Isn’t it about time?

Just bein’ honest.  xoxo.  c.

(PS: Target, why, why is it always you?  I’m gonna get myself kicked out of there if I’m not careful).

stories & date night & capitalization (thankful thursday)

Who knew something as seemingly insignificant as naps would yield such significant consequence in my little mama-world?  But alas, the Baby Formerly Known As The Incredible Sleeper is now fighting it with all his might, and left to my own accord, it’s easy to then view the world through the evil green lenses of my childhood’s Berenstein Bears’ fame, not seeing the good and the Beauty in the everyday.

But today I do.  Today I choose to see Beauty in the most ordinary of places.

*I’m thankful for learning to taste my way through a meal – I start by chopping an onion, then grabbing my wooden spoon, I feel where the spirit of that night’s dinner is leading me.  Bam.  Grateful for tastebuds.  Who knew?

*I’m thankful that even when the Unknown and the Uncertain (deserving every undeserving proper capitalization, ever) seem to outweigh the known and the certain, that we can still choose to Trust (capital “T”).  We can still choose to view life as The Great & Exciting, Super Daring Adventure – and then fully leaning into that truth, fully live.

*I’m thankful for healing, restorative conversations.

*I’m thankful for Everyday Friends.

*I’m thankful that the rules of grammar and punctuation – like most areas of expertise, I suppose – can and should be broken once we’re grounded in the basics.  Oh, Emily Dickinson, I get you on a whole new level, woman!

*I’m thankful for the HBH (Hot Black Husband) – boy oh boy, am I thankful for that man and for friends who come over and watch Baby sleep, and a Date Night that includes a green-lit Great Gatsby surprise.  

My directions for Date Night: "wear comfy shoes and look hot."  Done.
My directions for Date Night: “wear shoes you can walk and look hot.” Done.

*I’m thankful for stories.  I’m thankful that writing is therapy, and that by learning to sit down and be still, a story that’s been there all along is finally given breathy words.

*I’m thankful for that simple theological truth: there is a Jesus who loves everyone, everywhere, no ifs ands or buts, no questions asked.  He comes and sits on the couch next to me, and it’s not then about how much I love him, but about how much he loves me. And that is enough.

Thank you, Carina Lee, for prompting us to sit down and find those nuggets of thankfulness!  Friends, I double-dog dare you to do the same.  What are you thankful for today?

cray cray (and then some).

Today it struck me: we’ll be in Boston and New York in a couple of weeks, shaking hands and kissing babies, hanging out with the HBH’s side of the family and sight-seeing galore in the big lights, bright city.  …And we’ll be toting an Ergo, a travel stroller, a diaper bag and an “I want to crawl everywhere and stick everything in my mouth” 10-month old with us.

Photo credit: http://mashable.com/2012/06/24/new-york-city-upgrade/
Photo credit: http://mashable.com/2012/06/24/new-york-city-upgrade/

Suddenly, visions of sewer rats and darkened criminals and the altogether too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU I watched while lying prostrate on the couch first trimester dance through my head, and I realize …we’re cray cray.

Because New York, at least in my Sex and the City-soaked mind, is for made for girlfriends.  It’s made for flights across country with Copey to visit Re, for wrapping scarves around our necks and our noses and our ears in order to watch the Macy’s Day Parade Live!, and for Thanksgiving dinner at the corner Chinese restaurant.  It’s about visiting the Seinfeld coffee shop and scooping up leaves in Central Park, and it’s about standing in line in the bitter cold to get tickets for RENT, that night.  Because we can.  It’s about bachelorette weekends and wearing all black – because isn’t that NYC’s official color? – and wondering why you just don’t feel quite as crazysexycool like Carrie and Samantha, although you do hope to wear that ribbon of confidence in a couple of years.

And here’s where I come to the realization of intertwined expectations and memories – and the unhealthiness that can exist in that space.  Maybe I realize that vacation to me now means getting to take an eensy-weensy breather in the realm of mama-hood, and that a three-hour difference in time zone, without the comforts of home might not be the breath of fresh air I was looking for.  And maybe there’s also the realization that it’s so easy to become creatures of habit, eager to stay in our closeted, homey caves, because it helps our kid sleep better, and because it’s more frugal to make your own latte than to daily consume a cup from the green and white.

But then we realize we’re forgetting to live.  

And I, for one, am certainly not ready to play dead yet.

And so the dance begins: we’ll head to the east coast for vacation, and Cancan’s sleep schedule will get all screwed up.  I’ll miss an afternoon of sight-seeing, and will instead curl up in our hotel room with a good book – but then I’ll sit on the balcony and I’ll order room service, and I’ll think to myself, Oh self, you silly little thing you.  Pish posh, apple sauce.  You’re living the dream, little lady.  

And then I’ll thank God that He’s not done with me yet, and I’ll muse over how He makes all things – even silly things like trips to Boston and New York – new.  I’ll hum a Jesus-diddy, and I’ll shake my head in wonder and in disbelief, and then looking back towards the sleeping miracle of a son in the other room, I’ll say aloud …we’re cray cray.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How do you need to let a little cray cray into your life?

The Canon Chronicles (10): a letter

Today we interrupt the regular flow of writing to bring you the monthly update of the little man’s life.  So without further adieu, The Canon Chronicles…

Hello, baby! (A normal, morning, mascara-from-the-night-before, yoga-pants donning day).
Hello, baby! (A normal, morning, mascara-from-the-night-before, yoga-pants donning day).

My dear Cancan,

You’re officially in the double digits, Little Man!  Well, kind of – soon enough we won’t be referring to your age by months, and you’ll be back to the bottom of the age-barrel again, but Baby, that’s life.  [More on that lesson in 11 years or so when you enter those creepy-crawly, stuffed-in-locker middle school years.]

You’re a charming, dapper little dude.  You’re crawling everywhere, helping me clean the hardwood floors though I’ve not even asked.  You pull yourself up onto everything, and we’re learning what it means to actually “baby-proof” the house (although Mama would like to continue to think that in some sophisticated French Bringing up Bebe’ sort of way, this is unnecessary and needless at best.  Daddy and the broken pieces of the candelabra disagree.  Who’s gonna win?)

You love bouncing in your “bouncy-bouncy”, and the brilliancy with which you now associate objects, knowing what they are, amazes me.  You are already my little rocket scientist, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  You say “Da da da da da,” and “Ma ma ma ma ma,” and just yesterday, with tears in our eyes, we really, really in our heart of hearts believed that you put “Da” and Daddy together, and knew they matched.  Totally brill, totally brill.

You put everything in your mouth and when you’re the happiest, your tongue is out, permanently affixed in glee.  You seem to have an endless oral fixation for my flip flops and Daddy’s slippers – are you a future podiatrist, Little One?  You eat chicken and cheese and sweet potatoes and your greens, and you just discovered that goodness called Cheerios last week.  Just recently you started to hate nap time, and your nanny-friend, Miss Juvy, helped Mama realize that it’s due to the height of separation anxiety.  I say she’s pretty brilliant, too.

All in all, You’ve made me a mama.  You’ve done changed everything, and for the better, I’d say.  You’ve flipped-turned my world upside down and opened up this new portal of love in my heart.  You gave me a new holiday to celebrate, but Baby, just remember to keep on saying thank you to the many mamas in your life – I mean, you don’t need to serve everyone breakfast in bed, but I want you to practice thanking all the women who’ve cared for you and nurtured you.  There’s a village who loves you deeply.

Happy 10 months, little one.  I love you so.

xoxo, mama.

PS: I totally understand if months-by-age makes you feel better about yourself, so we’ll start with me.  I’m 410 months old.  How ’bout you?

fighting it out.

True confessions: I totally judge books by their covers.

It all goes back to that trite little belief that somehow know what’s best for me – which, generally speaking, is usually a good thing.  But when my inner Veruca Salt screams for an  Oompa Loompa of her own to take home, ignoring then the obvious need in front of her, that’s a bad thing.

So when my dear friend, Anna, mailed me a pre-baby copy of And the Baby Makes ThreeI looked at the front cover – rubber ducky and all – and pitched it to the back of the to-read pile.  Now here’s the deal: Anna’s one of my best friends, but she’s also what they’d call on Real Housewives of Orange County, a real Jesus Barbie.  Naturally, I looked at the smiling duck on the cover, thought about the gift-giver herself, and immediately assumed I already held all of Life’s answers when it comes to marriage, babies and Christendom at large.*

Naturally.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Somehow Anna knew what I needed long before I’d even had time to utter the words, “Uh, things are a little different now that Cancan is around.”

So a couple weeks’ ago I finally succumbed to reading it, preparing of course, for my own general chorus of eye-rolling to begin.  But the eyeballs stayed in tact.  Instead, the pen came out and the underlining began.  And I stared in amazement at these two authors – a husband and wife pair, at that – who had somehow secretly planted a hidden camera in our little 1100-square foot house.  By jove, they’ve done it again!  

By the time I got to the chapter on fighting – because, apparently, it’s inevitable in marriage – I was sitting up in bed, reading the chapter aloud to the HBH.  See, we’d just had another silly, pointless squabble, and I’d felt his tone was mean, and he’d then felt attacked, and so the cycle spins, over and over again.

But then the magic happened: when (not if) a fight ensues, fight calmly, gently and with humor.  And then they gave examples of how we should fight.  I mean, who thinks of this stuff?  I felt like I was back in Psychology 101, furiously taking notes, while jotting a reminder to use “I feel, I feel, I feel…” in the margins of my notebook.

So last night when someone (okay, me) decided to use the blender for very good baby food-making purposes AFTER said baby had gone to sleep, thus waking up the peaceful Little Bubs – and another someone (okay, himbounded into the kitchen to stop the insanity, I didn’t like his tone.

I’m nourishing our baby!  Hiss, hiss.

We looked at each other, and I looked at the nearly blended food – 10 more seconds wouldn’t hurt anyone, right?  And then because we’d been talking about this very chapter all week long, we inhaled deeply and then went our separate ways, just for a couple of minutes, to think and breathe and relax.

Fight calmly, gently and with humor.

Yes.  Yes, yes, yes.

I can’t remember what to die for hysterical funniness I must have uttered, but I’m sure it was good.  And calmly, gently, the Best Man I Know took me in his arms and we hugged it out.  [That wasn’t exactly in Gottman and Gottman’s fighting chapter, but we believe in hugging it out, fiercely.]

So friends, in a Real Housewives of San Francisco kind of way, that’s the truth of where we are.  We don’t have it down – and I’m guessing, as I’m sure a future book can attest – that we never will, but we’re trying.

And sometimes that’s the whole battle.

*It’s not a Christian book, by the way.

a teaching cousin, a few jobs & Ecclesiastes.

Today Little Buddy and I made the drive down the 280 to Santa Teresa High School to cheer on Cousin as she taught English to class after class of squirrelly freshmen.  Clad in matching houndstooth cap and a puffy gray pants with attached suspenders, Cancan, of course, stole the show without batting an eye, providing the best-of distractions to the tribes of 14 and 15 year olds who gladly accept any excuse not to talk about paraphrasing and plagiarism and the rest of the day’s lessons.  (Sorry, Miss D).  Eventually she figured out that the best way to capture their adolescent attention was to walk around with Mr. Houndstooth in tote, so she did.

The teacher and her trusty TA.
The teacher and her trusty TA.

To say I was proud of my “little” cousin is an understatement – because I saw her world and the place in which she naturally comes alive.  I saw the respect and admiration her students have for her, and the eagerness with which they begged for Miss D stories.  “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done together?”  “What’s your best memory ever with Miss D?”  “How old is she?  When was she born?”  And so we kept it PG, and told stories about taking her to get her nose pierced in Seattle when she was still a little too much under the tutelage of her father’s kindly wrath, and of how we played HEY COW whilst driving the long, stretched out I-5 corridor from Washington to California, much to the chagrin of the innocent bovine bystanders.  I told them how she sang at our wedding, and within seconds every iPhone was out, ready to record American Idol’s next great singing sensation.  (And, for your information, we did then harmoniously bust out “You are my Sunshine” to an instantaneously quiet room C-2.  Watch out, Youtube).

These teenagers wanted to get to know their teacher because she’s taken the time to get to know them.  She’s proven that she cares, and like eager puppies at the water bowl, they lap up this love like it’s nobody’s business.  And in that way, for right now, Miss D is right where she’s supposed to be.

I couldn’t be more proud.

At one point, Miss D called me up to the front, letting the students ask as many questions as they wanted (which, students, if the same opportunity is ever awarded to you, pull out your best reporter skills and milk it for all its worth – it’s like the best invitation ever not to have to do your work).  And as she gave them a little 15-second bio on me, my mind reeled over with all the jobs I’ve had in my lifetime:

High school: server at Izzy’s Pizza & Rockin’ Rogers, insurance telemarketer (after I got fired from the second waitressing gig), security guard at the Oregon State Fair.

College: caterer, front desk worker, tree counter, RA, YMCA lifeguard, YL student staff, Starbucks barista, Frontier Ranch “red hat” and program team.

Grown-up years: English teacher, leadership advisor, YL middle school director & area director, substitute teacher, retreat and camp speaker.

And now: mama, writer, speaker – kind of, mostly, sort of.  No, really.  I’m still buying into it and accepting it, I suppose.  I still haven’t bought the business cards yet.

It’s easy for me to build a seemingly concrete wall around me, thinking that every decision and every action is utterly permanent in nature.  But when I look at a list of the aforementioned jobs, I’m reminded of the changing, constant motion of life itself.  There is a time for everything, writes Solomon, and a season for every activity under the heavens (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  The feelings and emotions that sometimes creep in, invading my mind, yelling at my heart, making me question the current strivings after a career in writing and mama-hood (or whatever fill-in-the-blank activity one wants to insert) – they’re not forever, they’re not permanent.

I feel like I’m living in the midst of Ecclesiastes right now, in that in-between, restless spot of waiting and wanting and yearning and hoping under this unique umbrella called change – but even that is okay.  I’m under his banner, in heaven’s kingdom right here on earth, and for today, it’s enough.

What about you?  What’s your craziest job ever?  Are you living in the midst of Ecclesiastes, too?  Let’s converse!