Saturday, December 30, 2017

Letter to Our Baby

Click, clack, "So my story begins..."
Dear Baby,

As the clock ticks out the last hours of 2017, your Daddy and I are more excited than we’ve ever been for the turn of a new year. Why? Because this is the year and the expected month that YOU will be born, and we will become parents for the first time!

We’ve been patiently waiting to meet you, and now that the day draws close at hand, my heart is overflowing with love, and I want to tell you how it all came to be.

When your father and I went unto the Altar of God and exchanged vows before the priest and family and friends, we hoped it would only be a matter of time before God would ask of us this special favor: to be your parents.

Nine months later, in the spring, we found out I was pregnant with you, and were amazed. In fact, we could hardly believe the good news! I took the pregnancy twice just to be absolutely sure, and at noon, after the second test, I texted Daddy at work:

“The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”

And he texted back, finishing the opening line of the Angelus prayer:

“…and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

I told him that test #2 was unmistakably obvious: POSITIVE!

It took hours, days and weeks for the news to sink in, because the miracle of your life, which we have so desired and prayed for, we’ve been told will change everything!

The joyous news of our pregnancy, however, came on the heels of very sad news. On May 10th, 2017, your great granddaddy, my maternal grandpa, Ralph, breathed his last in the nursing home. As our whole family went into grieving for Grandpa and the loving, gentle, faithful man he was, it was less than a week later that I learned that a new life had been conceived and given us. So, before we even told anyone else, I felt that Grandpa was already “in on the secret” and that perhaps, in some mysterious way, his passing had made room for a new member on our family tree, someone he’ll not know here on earth but who shares his blood line.

While our hearts were heavy, our tears budded into hope. For the same God who takes life, gives life, and calls us to be with Him for eternity. He holds the world in His hands; He created the stars in the firmament of the heavens, and He counts every one of the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7).

Therefore, we announced the news of you to all our parents when we were home for the funeral. Daddy dropped clues like “Here’s an extra hamburger for Christina now that she’s eating for two!” which elicited a look of astonishment from the grandparents. And “Stay healthy, Dad, because you’re going to be a grandpa again!” … “The family tree is growing!” Seeing our parents’ faces light up with surprise and the laughter that followed, I found comfort in knowing that “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die…A time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1-4).

As you grew little by little each day, Mommy’s body began to change, and she began to experience a real care and concern for you, wanting to protect you. We began to imagine what you will look like and who you will be. Mommy read books and tracked your size as you grew from the size of a pea to a blueberry, a walnut, a lemon, an avocado, a cantaloupe…

The first trimester was challenging. Mommy felt queasy and tired by day’s end, due to your rapid growth the first weeks. There were some close calls on hot summer days when I nearly fainted in public and had to remember to carry a fan with me when leaving the house. The second trimester though brought bliss. I felt a rebound of energy and motivation and good enough to do just about everything, including flying home to the Midwest and having a family baby shower for you, going on adventures with Daddy, nesting and preparing our house for a little child.

Family and friends have been sending gifts for you, such as clothes and diapers and toys, so much so that it has felt like a very long Christmas at our house! So many boxes have arrived that our U.S. Postal Service lady is aware of your upcoming birth!

Then came the third trimester, the final haul, with sleepless nights and diabetic monitoring. My belly bump has grown quite firm and full, with you squirming and stretching your fingers and toes, and swimming around like a little beluga whale. All your moving around tells me that you are healthy and strong! And the challenges of these final weeks are preparing me with the incentive to push you out into the world! For that is what by God’s grace was meant to happen all along: to birth you, my little image, into the world to be a sign of the faithful, fruitful love between Daddy and Mommy. You will be your own unique individual who the Lord loves and has a beautiful plan for your future. I am just privileged to nurture and carry you inside of me for a brief time of your life. After nine months of you being inside of Mommy, coming and going with us everywhere we go, Daddy talks to you and says he can’t wait to have “his turn” to hold you and feel your skin, and smell you, and carry you around!

We have felt the honor of parenting already when choosing your name, one for if you are a girl and another if you are a boy. This name, by which you can be known and loved, is a name whose meaning is significant to us and expresses our hopes for you! We love you so much already and always will! Your arrival will be one of the most joyous days of our lives.

With full and hopeful hearts,

Mommy and Daddy

Sunday, December 24, 2017

End of the Chicken Era, Beginning of a New Era

Snow is falling outside the window on this Christmas Eve as I sit here typing. I remember back one year ago to December, when I was stuck in the chicken coop with our two Rhode Island Red hens (that story here). Looking back, urban, backyard chicken keeping has been a wonderful, learning adventure, but we’re taking a break from that now. As of this month, we said bittersweet adieus to Winnie and Indy and sold them to a new owner. We are letting go of some things in order to prepare our nest for a new little human – our firstborn child is due in just four weeks.

I am grateful for the past year’s supply of fresh, brown eggs with rich, golden yolks. I hope that someday we can keep chickens again. It has been a rewarding venture and feels right and just to be able to feed them our compost scraps and to receive fresh eggs daily in return. Their quirky, friendly, social demeanor has entertained me too.

One day last summer, Robert and I were out greeting the new neighbors next door, and soon our free-ranging chickens that had been happily scratching in our garden beds, took off across the driveway after us and wobbled over, which greatly delighted the neighbors’ children. The young boy began to chase the chickens but they escaped his capture with agility, scurrying this way and that, their necks jerking back and forth, enjoying it like it was a game of tag. How funny they looked as they stretched out their necks and eyed the boy, and he ran this way and that, falling down and getting back up, constant machine of energy and motion. His little sister began to giggle and squeal with a combination of both delight and fear, staying close to the safety of her mother’s arms who had crouched down beside her.

When we went back home, the scene shone brightly in my memory, and I cherished the priceless looks of the children’s faces when they encountered the animals. How can man-made toys ever inspire the same passion that burns when we encounter the wild and free, uninhibited cycle of life in the natural world?

My mind turns this scene over like a coin. I envision this coming year, being a mother, raising my own child, and introducing our child to the beautiful, wild world around them. I remember that Our Savior Jesus was born so vulnerably into an imperfect world, in a stable with wild animals and hay. As Christmas Eve 2017 draws to a close, I gaze at the sky and wonder, like the Blessed Mother Mary, what my unborn child’s destiny will be. Like Mary on the verge of a new era for humanity, I ponder my role in bringing this new life into the world we live in.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Pizza and Marriage

Independent Bookstore Day is tomorrow, April 29, 2017. In honor of this day, you will find my husband and I standing in line at one of Seattle’s unique community bookstores called Book Larder to get our copy of Delancey signed by local author Molly Wizenberg. 

We have been reading Delancey aloud to each other at night. It’s a memoir about starting out, about new beginnings. Molly tells the story of her first year of marriage, during which her husband Brandon starts up a New York style pizza restaurant in Seattle without any prior business experience. While Brandon sweats to find a real estate deal, build a wood-burning pizza oven and invent his crust recipe, Molly has one hand in pizza recipes and the other in writing and publishing her first book called A Homemade Life (now New York Times bestseller). Molly writes candidly and humorously about the challenges they faced and the vision and determination her husband had to see his dream to completion. It’s a fun, local read and especially relatable for us as newlyweds.

A couple weeks ago, after spending the afternoon filing our first, joint tax return as a married couple, we decided to celebrate the occasion by going out for pizza. Of course, being in the middle of reading Delancey, there was no contest about where we would go. 

We arrived at Delancey just before 4:30 p.m. and waited outside for the restaurant to open. Before long, who emerged from the doorway but Brandon himself, rolling a large garbage bin behind him with a cheerful, impish smile on his face. We watched him disappear around the corner of the building and then come back a few minutes later with the same bin, filled to the brim with wood burning logs for the pizza oven. My anticipation increased as more smiling patrons gathered around us, waiting and expectant.

We were seated at a table for two. The table was a thick concrete block, but a lit candle warmed it. We ordered one house-made sausage pizza with mozzarella, Gana and prosciutto, and an oven-roasted radicchio salad. When our pizza arrived, the edges were blackened and blistered to perfection just as the book described. Flavors blended harmoniously together. We divided and shared it all, including lemon curd mousse and cookies for dessert.

I remembered the advice we received early on in our relationship, that love and marriage require revising the story between the two of you often. Sometimes, we need to revise our lives daily to meet the other’s needs; or in the grander scheme of life, we revise and recreate our story to grow together year after year.

In the article "Love Tips From the Very First Couple," published in The New York Times earlier this month on April 2nd, Bruce Feiler describes love being an active process, "But love is not a moment in time; it's the passage of time. It's the long-term practice of reinvention, reconciliation and renewal. Love is the act of constantly revising your own love story."

When it came to the first couple ever created, Feiler says, theirs is not the story of Adam, or the story of Eve; it is and forever will be the story of Adam and Eve. He writes, “Theirs is the first joint byline.”

One can see Molly and Brandon revising their story page by page in the book Delancey as they pursue a shared life, and every couple does. Herein lies the great potential, and responsibility, even the key to making a love story last.

That’s Brandon waving hello in front of the pizza oven. And that's me giving a thumbs up!

Inside Book Larder, the walls are lined with nothing but cookbooks and books about food. Delancey being one of them. As our dating involved so much of eating our way through Seattle, I suppose it makes sense we’d find our way into the cookbook store too, hand in hand. The food we’ve bonded over and meals we’ve shared in the past two years are already in the thousands, and counting. Again and again, we agree to spread the table and raise our glasses to the life we’re writing, we’re revising, we’re publishing day by day.

Won't you join us at our table?