Saturday, September 27, 2014

Becoming that Neighbor

Loveys, so Thursday night I was trying to sleep and I kept hearing noises outside. I'm already not sleeping well so the noises annoyed me further. I finally got out of bed, looked at the clock (10 pm) and went to the window. Hm. A whole bunch of teenagers right outside our house, in front of the streetlight, taking pictures of themselves with their phones.

Pregnant woman not impressed.

Jeff's solution was to turn on the porch light.

That didn't work. So I pulled on a hoodie over my pajamas, opened the door and stepped outside.
"Hey!" I yelled. They were not far away from me and yet only like one looked in my direction! So I scream, "HEY!" All eyes on me.

"It's late and you guys are being really loud!" I yell. Quiet for a second. (I am now my mother.)

"Okay, ma'am," one of the guys said (at least he said it somewhat contritely). I go back in and shut the door. Jeff is watching them from the window. The whole crew files into the house next door. The one where new people have been moving in all week and I didn't think they were sleeping there yet. The one that I'm supposed to take a "welcome" cake to soon. Tricky. I'm sure I'm now known as the "crazy, pregnant woman next door" by the kids (here's the worst, there could have been adults out there too, but I didn't put on my glasses before going outside so I have no idea).

It's one of those "I'm a grown-up woman and I yell at loud teenagers" moments. Sweet Jeff just puts his arm around me as we go back upstairs and he assures me that it's a good thing, we've set a precedent and hopefully this will deter any more shenanigans (by "this" I mean myself).

I truly am lucky to have Jeff.

For example, he took over some cinnamon rolls to the neighbors tonight as a "welcome." :)

It's been a full few days. And I think that's been good for me. I can be pretty emotional during pregnancy. Time with friends helps. Lincoln's new habit of telling me I'm his girl helps too. :) I mean, really, I melt every time. Both my kids are just incredibly sweet. The other day I told Ashtyn to hug me, that I needed to feel loved. She gives me a tight hug, then just looks up at me, really studying me. Then she looks at my belly and smiles and says, "Now how's Honey Bear doing?" Precious. (The kids call the new baby "Honey Bear".)

There's nothing quite like the love of family. I was thinking the other day about how Ashtyn sneaks and climbs into our bed all the time. I wake up and she's just between me and Jeff. It can be annoying, to be honest, when you're tired and she's stealing your pillow. But I understand it so well. Nothing feels quite as safe as Mom and Dad. (I know for some children, that's not the case sadly.) For me, when my dad was home, I never worried. (It helped that he's super tall and strong and carried a gun for a living, I suppose!) Come to think of it, my mom always made me feel safe too. She's a strong woman.

You guys know I can be a bit unsteady when Jeff's not home. (Read: crazy and terrified and prone to calling the police) It's amazing to me that when he's home, it takes me about ten seconds to fall asleep. I grew up in a home where I always felt safe. And I feel blessed to live in a home where Jeff makes me and the kids feel safe. Maybe it's the love that does that. I don't want to take for granted the love of family. It's such a gift. And it matters the most.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Not Going to Happen and the In Between Season

So when I first got pregnant this time around, I had all these lofty goals of walking every day, sticking to ONLY 300 extra calories per day, and so on.

Then I got hungry.

Like on day two. And all those dreams and aspirations floated out the window and were replaced with snacks.

Then I got tired.

And I don't feel like walking. I want to sleep.

This is not going to be a skinny pregnancy, loveys. It's just not. There's no going back at this point. People who know me, don't be shocked. Just roll with it.

I was thinking today of my to-do list. All the things I need to do this fall (not to mention this week!). And I was thinking that being pregnant sort of puts you in this "in between" spot. You're growing a baby and you know that in a few months, things will change and there will be a new member of the family and that's a huge deal. But for now, you're growing the baby and going on with life as usual.

When the baby comes, things stop for me. At least, that's how it's felt before. Work stops, busyness of life stops. I'm home in my pjs, living on very little sleep and completely enthralled by this new tiny person who has taken over my heart and my life. Those are special times. Tiring, of course, but very special.

Those days are coming, but not yet.

Right now I'm thinking of work projects I have to do. Book projects I'm hopeful about. The fact that Jeff's back is hurting and he needs to go back to the doctor this week and I'm worried about it. The fact that the garage needs to be slightly cleaned out by winter so I can park my car in there. Ashtyn needs to get enrolled in gymnastics (and practice this crazy math homework). Lincoln needs a bath . . .  probably. I had my bangs trimmed this week and the girl seemed to forget what she was doing and now I look twelve years old (except for the pregnant belly). I was like, "Um, this is a little short." She says, "Maybe you'll like it once you get home." Hm. I guess that's an option.

I'm tired. (And hungry but let's not mention it.)

The 'in between' season feels a bit hectic at times.  And heavy, come to think of it.

Do you ever feel 'in between'? You know . . . I want to do something fun like a join a book club, but I'm tired. I'd like to go to a Bible study, but I really can only do so many things without feeling stretched too thin. I go to work and colleagues say that they feel like they never see me. I see friends on my days off and they feel like they never see me. I'm in between, I suppose. Popping in here and there.

Loveys, we do so many things. Life is busy. Carpool and grocery trips and homework and bills to pay. It's hard to slow down when life doesn't slow down. Jeff and I were talking about going up to the mountains for a weekend soon. Sometimes, we just have to take ourselves out of our schedule for a few days, in order to recharge. Stop for a minute and regroup, then keep going. People need us. Children depend on us. That doesn't stop. People get sick. People get hurt (I'm thinking of Jeff's back).

I'd rather be needed than alone, wouldn't you?

But still, it's important to recognize when we need a recharge. When we need a day to ourselves. When we need to have coffee and connect with friends. I went to the library the other day, in search of a new devotional. I just felt this need to find something to minister to my heart this fall, something to give me some spiritual truth and encouragement during the next few holiday months. I was thinking of One Thousand Gifts. If you have recommendations, please send those my way! 

October is almost here. I've been holding on to summer, but I can't fight October. Costumes and candy corn and yellow leaves. Once we cross into October, it's sort of like my pregnancy weight gain, there's no going back. :) Embrace the falling leaves, the cool breezes, the chocolate-covered apples. Stick a wreath on your door. Invite a friend over for cider.

The in between season. We all have them. Let's live them together.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The New Me . . . (She Yawns A Lot)

Loveys, there's something different about me.

It's evident in the way I'm eating 24 hours a day. I'm tired 24 hours a day. And I cry sometimes.

You guessed it.

Baby number three is on the way. We were hoping for this so it wasn't a surprise. I'm due in March and that makes me happy. March was my Mimi's month. And Sara's birthday is late March. March will be the perfect time for celebrating a new life in our family. (Mimi would have loved that the new baby will share her birthday month.)

We've just recently told the kids, and that's been interesting and hilarious. Ashtyn told me yesterday that God told her that we're having a girl. Lincoln started crying and said, "For real, we're having a brother." Oh dear. I tried to change the topic and said that we'll have to pick a name for the baby. Ashtyn immediately said, "I want to call her Twinkle Toes!" Lincoln then stated that we were naming him "Bo Bo." Oh dear again.

But other than that, the kids are thrilled at the thought of a new baby. Lincoln kisses my tummy. Tonight we were in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and Ashtyn broke into giggles at the sight of my stomach. She said: "I love your tummy! Soon you won't have a lap!" Ha ha ha. Mommy is not really laughing. I feel like I look a million months pregnant when I'm actually only 11 weeks. Jeff says not to worry about it. What can I do? I am literally hungry from the moment I wake up until . . . well, it's 9:38 p.m. and I'm wishing I could go downstairs and eat my third bowl of cereal today.

So, I'm thinking that when my strict nurse practitioner told me I am only allowed to gain about 25 pounds (that was right before she frowned while reading my chart and told me how much I gained on the last two pregnancies), she was not really hitting the mark.

Loveys, I am not in the skinny season. I must be okay with this. This is the growing season, or so I keep telling myself. Jeff shrugs and says, "Don't worry about it! You're eating for two." Hm. It feels like I'm eating for five. I'm nauseous when I'm hungry. Eating seems to be the only thing that helps.

Not the skinny season. If that's where you are, cool. But remember that I'm in the growing season and I'm probably thinking about a sandwich.

Last night, right before we went to sleep, Jeff asked me what I was thinking about. My answer? Breakfast.

Anyway, so in the midst of my first trimester, we held Ashtyn's birthday party, got her in first grade, we packed up and cleaned our rental and moved to a new house (all without the help of my mother this time). This means that I'm very tired. And I don't live well in chaos, as you know, so even with being tired, we're unpacking and trying to settle in as quickly as possible (which isn't all that fast). And I'm working on a tight deadline so I'm editing away wherever I have free moments.

Loveys, I'll just tell you, it's been a lot the last two and a half months. That last week before closing was brutal. We walked through the house the night before closing and I cried because nothing was ready. We had to push closing back another week because so much still needed to be done.

Emotional rollercoasters, exhaustion, nausea, not enough hours in the day. Excitement over the baby mixed with overwhelmed feelings of all we have to do.

I think the worst has passed however.

We're in the new house. We're finding stuff and getting comfortable. We celebrated Lincoln's birthday at the park near our house (honestly, someone should have warned me about having babies in August--that month is nuts already). My birthday was yesterday. (On the way to school, I asked Ash how old she thought I was. Her answer was 47. Then she asked if I'll be around much longer.)

So there have been birthdays, a new house, a pregnancy--and all that goes with those things. And gosh, what can I say? Blessings, each one. Blessings and love and new spaces to walk through. It's worth every step of the journey. Because it's life and it's good and I'm so thankful. Even on the days where I'm yawning . . . or crying. Still, blessed and loved and not alone. I might need to be reminded of that on the days where I'm feeling frail (which I know there will be more). But I'm sleeping in a house tonight that's filled with love, with my husband and children. That's a dream come true. That's magic and fireflies and happiness.

There's work to do. But I can only do so much. That's okay, I suppose. I'm here. I'll do what I can.

My kids are sleeping in their rooms. There's one more empty room--soon to be filled by the newest Bruce. How wonderful is that. Jeff's asleep next to me (the poor guy is exhausted. He's worked so hard and I'm so proud of him. I'm so lucky to have Jeff). And I'm about to roll over and dream about Frosted Rice Krispies.

Life is filled with yawns and tears and smiles, lovey. And during pregnancy, I can experience all three in the span of forty-five seconds. It's going to be a long seven months to go. Stick with me.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Feeling Frail and Surrounded by Chaos

Loveys, my house is a mess.

Not a little one either.

A big fat mess. With boxes that are sort of packed (by packed, I mean stuff crammed into them without rhyme or reason). So the week before we move, the dishwasher breaks. Have you washed dishes lately? By hand? Holy macaroni I've forgotten what a chore that is and I'm grateful for that genius who invented dishwashers. Seriously, having to wash dishes every day was soooo not on my list of things to do the week of moving. So this morning, I'm trying to motivate myself to go into the kitchen (which looks like a tornado hit it) and wash dishes like Suzy Homemaker. Where is Blanca Brumble when I need her?

Here's a truth. I'm a teeny bit tempted to put them all in a box and just go use the dishwasher at the new house. Jeff says that's not allowed yet.

Anyway, so I'm surrounded by chaos. Nothing went as planned this week. We were supposed to close Monday. Didn't happen. They ended up needing to redo the floors on the first floor of the house. And move light fixtures. These things needed to be fixed, but it meant closing on Friday instead of Monday. Which makes me twitch since we need to turn in the keys of our rental bright and early Sunday.

And this house looks like yellow tape should be at every corner. And I need to pack and clean, but first, I must wash a million dishes.

Chaos and I don't live well together. I need order. I just function better with it. I'm like my dad in that way. I like things to be put away. (P.S. I just looked up from my computer and saw a vase of dead flowers that I forgot about.)

Picture me sighing and pushing up the sleeves of my purple robe and thinking that coffee would be good right about now.

On top of a chaotic week and a messy house, I've been feeling frail, which never helps. Especially during weeks when I need to be superhuman mom. Frail gets nothing done. Frail is weepy sometimes. Frail can't motivate herself well.

I normally think of women as incredibly strong creatures. We do amazing things like push other 8-pound humans out of our bodies. We are so many things to so many people. We run households and sit in business meetings and comfort crying kids and listen to stressed husbands and put gas in the car and sign homework sheets at night.

But sometimes . . . sometimes we're frail. Or, at least, I am. We cry over things we can't change. On Tuesday I dropped Ashtyn off at school, and suddenly I felt my heart ache. I drove as slow as possible through the drop-off lane, craning my neck to see her until she disappeared into the school. Walking with her little backpack, the tiniest person heading into school. I'm crying now again, thinking of it! Good grief. I'm frail this week, loveys. It would be a good week to curl up and wrap myself in a blanket and watch marathons of Downton Abbey, sniffling the whole time and drinking tea.

But I look at the chaos covering my house, and I know the big move is Saturday, and there's no time for frailty.

I wish I were stronger.

But I'm just me. I can do a million things, but sometimes I can't stop feeling frail. All I can do is try to tap into that source of strength that's not my own.

I've been having insomnia. It's really uncool. I wake up every night from about 2-3 or 3-4 a.m. And I can't sleep. Before we went to bed last night, Jeff asked me what I do when I'm awake during those hours. "Oh, I pray for the people in Gaza and Israel," I told him. "I pray for the children being trafficked. I pray for the children who are hungry. For the parents who are out of work. For the people who are abused and hurt and neglected. Children in orphanages in Russia. I pray for my own kids. That sort of thing."

Jeff reached over and touched my arm. "No wonder you can't sleep, Bran," he said softly.

It occurred to me that I'm probably not the only one feeling frail.

But we keep going. Because the boxes aren't going anywhere. And neither are the dishes. And the moving truck is coming. When I was a kid, the Secret of NIMH was my very favorite movie. I think of that mouse, running, yelling, "Moving day is here!"

Loveys, here's what I know to be true: It's okay to be frail. It's okay to feel broken sometimes. It's okay to know we're not the strongest. It's okay to push through when you're not sure where the strength is coming from, because you know you ran out about twenty miles before.

God doesn't need us to be crazy strong. He just wants us to be His. He'll do the rest. He's the crazy strong one. I'm the frail one.

He's the calm, ever-present one. I'm the weepy mom who doesn't like washing dishes so much and is easily distracted.

He loves us even in seasons of chaos and frailty. Maybe especially in seasons of chaos and frailty.

I don't know about you, but I needed to remind myself of that this morning.

It's alright to cry when we need to. It's alright to be frail and let God be strong. When the crying is over, we pick ourselves back up and keep going. Sometimes even amid the crying.

And even when I'm frail, my mother tells me that I'm stronger than I think.

She's right, I suppose.

But if you're feeling frail this morning, like me, you're loved. You're okay. What needs to get done will get done, the rest can wait. One breath at a time. One step at a time. Frailty and chaos are part of life. For people who think they're not--those people must easily forget that life is made up of different seasons. And when we cease to empathize with those around us--that's a tragedy. There are a lot of hurting people. Hungry people. Desperate people. Pray for them, lovey.

Jeff just told me he'll be back in about an hour, bringing me a cappuccino.

Excellent. He loves me.

Love makes all the difference.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The End of Summer . . .

Good grief. Is it mid August already? School has started. Ashtyn turned six years old on the 15th, and the big move is right around the corner. The past few weeks have felt like a whirlwind. Laura came to visit. I can't believe the move is almost upon us. I don't feel quite ready. Summer has been so nice . . . I hate to see it end. But with the coming of school, the freedom of lazy summer days seems to vanish.

Then again, with fall comes leaves and pumpkins and magic.

Not bad at all. :)

But for today, I'm thankful for still-warm days and green grass.

Actually, I'm thankful for so much. It's hard not to feel emotional when you read the news lately. So much suffering going on all around the world. So many people living in fear and turmoil. It's more than enough for me to remember to be thankful. And to pray for those near and far. An old roommate of mine from college passed away this past week. My heart has been heavy for her husband and four children.

People hurting. People broken.

It all makes me feel broken too, in some ways.

Then I remember that we're a broken people. All in need of grace and redemption. And that God is the author of grace and redemption.

Hope amid brokenness.

It's all we have sometimes.

Summer is coming to a close. And I'm so thankful for a summer filled with family outings and fun memories. I'm ready for this move to be behind us and for the Bruce family to feel settled in our new place. I have a feeling the next few weeks will continue to feel like a whirlwind.

That's okay.

Life is full of whirlwinds, you know.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Food and Books and Giveaways! Oh my!

Loveys, I know I've been a little MIA the past couple of weeks. Our summer schedule's been rolling along and we've been having a lot of family time with our little ones before school starts in about a week! But I wanted to let you know that I did a fun article over on Inspy Romance and they're doing a giveaway for the Second Chance Café! All you have to do is leave a comment to enter on the blog post (the one on Inspy). It's a great beach read or any-time summer read so hop over here and enter to win!

That reminds me, for all my loveys who've read the Second Chance Café, don't forget to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever! Those reviews really do matter and I appreciate each and every one so much! And definitely leave me a comment over here to let me know so I can check it out! It's so nice to receive feedback once readers have finished the book. Let me know what you think!

Having said all that, I hope you guys are having a fantastic summer! This has been such a nice, laid-back kind of summer for us and the kids. Lots of fun days. I can hardly believe school's about to start.
I'm so thankful for the warm, sunny weather and the time with my kids. Moving day is creeping up on us. We're about two weeks away from that as well! I'll be posting about the move once it happens. We're so excited!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Crumbs on the Table

There are crumbs on the table, loveys.

And under it, as a matter of fact.

And it's 7:59 and my kids are already eating suckers. Bribery starts early sometimes. (Imagine me shrugging and saying "Eh" and shrugging again.) I need a moment to slow down. This mom has already been to the dentist this morning (which went well. We may eat suckers but we definitely brush teeth in this house!). This week has been packed for me. My literary agent was in town so I got to reconnect with the great and fun Chip MacGregor (and Amanda and Erin) and talk shop. Then one of my authors was in town (the lovely Pam Farrel. Great seeing you, Pam!) so I got to have lunch with her and her husband and my boss. Lunch included gelato so obviously it was a delightful experience for all of us! :)

So my schedule was a little rearranged--taking the kids in late for Jeff, picking them up (late). It's been the kind of week that, even though it's only Thursday, we've already had cheeseburgers and pizza for dinner this week. A lot going on and this mom hasn't been up for cooking. But it's home-day today and I've got chicken thawing in the fridge and I'm looking forward to cooking real food tonight. I'm thinking shredded chicken enchiladas with black beans and salad.

And I'm hoping the coffee kicks in and I will do something about the crumbs soon.

Last night we went over to the new house. Surprise to us, lights were installed! Yay! That was fun to see. So it's coming along. Moving day approaches. I better not say that again or I'll start to feel a teeny bit panicked. Really, I know it'll be fine. Jeff and I are a pretty good team when it comes to moving. We're about 25 days out from the closing date. Wow. That means we're less than 3 weeks from school starting.

We need to buy pencils or something.

We've continued along with our #100daysofsummer and it's been truly great for our family. Fun memories. Tired kids at the end of the days. We went to the zoo this past weekend and had a wonderful time together. The kids loved it. Picnic lunch. Elephant swimming. Monkeys flying. Seals performing. All of us riding the carousel. Linc fell asleep halfway through the day. Beautiful family moments.

This week we all snuggled up on the couch together for a movie night (complete with popcorn and hot chocolate) and watched the Tinker Bell Pirate Fairy movie (loved it). I'm hoping for more movie nights at the new house. Honestly, I'm just looking forward to moving in and unpacking and having more than a handful of glasses and finding the lids for my corning ware. It's all so exciting! :)

I remember when I was a little girl and we moved into a new house that we'd had built in Conroe, Texas. It was so exciting. The house felt huge on that first night. (Laura was not even a dream in heaven yet. We were a family of four for a long time.) We slept on the living room floor together. Those are wonderful memories. Sara and I used to roller skate around the kitchen. It was a great house.

And here we are, years down the road. And Jeff and I are moving into our house with our two little ones. And it's fun and exciting. The same way it felt so long ago when Sara and I were singing and performing on the stage (aka the fireplace) at the house on Andershire.

The blessing of family.

Really, who cares if there are crumbs on the table? There's love in the house.