This blog is the story of my journey from lawyer to stay-at-home mommy. After finding out I was pregnant with baby #2, we decided that we would give it a go for awhile with me staying home with the kids. I worked after having our first child Deacon, so this experience will be a new one for me. I decided to blog mainly so that I would have a memorialization of the process since those first few months with a new baby are a fog anyway. But years from now, whether I never made it back or whether I am spending my days in suits and heels, I want to be able to look back and see what God is teaching me in these days of going from the courtroom to the playroom.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Holding Down the Fort: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I started this blog when I decided to stay home from regular lawyering to be with my two kids. I wanted to chronicle my experience from working full time as a lawyer to being a stay at home mom. Life has certainly got in the way of regular blogging, but times are a changin' at our house. The oldest was just 2 1/2 back then, and I am getting ready to send him off to kindergarten in three days. The baby is now in a big girl room and just about out of diapers (hello, extra $50 a month!). So, I have been reflecting lately on how eventful this staying home journey has been. Full of ups and downs, moments of shame and victory, and containing the longest consecutive streak of "gym shorts days" of my life. So here are a few of the most memorable moments of taking on the daily task of full-time home management - the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.

THE GOOD

Two words: Beach and Pool. Enough said. Snuggling in the bed in the morning. Getting to come up with crafts and songs and activities to do with them and feeling accomplished when they are successful. Being there for preschool parties and field trips. Actually being home and having supper cooked when my husband gets home. Knowing their personalities well enough to understand that you don't truly parent your children exactly the same - and that's OK. Play dates, homemade forts, movie days and backyard obstacle courses. Having a strong hand in their spiritual upbringing. Watching them become friends with each other. Seeing the first steps, hearing the first words, cheering as they swim across the pool alone for the first time or finally figure out how to put on their own clothes. Love. This. Stuff.

THE BAD

Whining, whining and crying. And whining. Zero bathroom privacy. 24 hours a day. Accompanied by inquisitive stares and random questions regarding differences in anatomy. Play date disasters (I don't wanna play with him!). Lifting or exposing of "no-no zone" body parts in public, such as the expected front shirt pull down with a "these your boobies?!" remark and the not so expected back of the skirt lift in the ticket line for a Double A baseball game. Realizing that they have learned to turn the TV on themselves when you walk in on them watching an intense episode of Criminal Minds. Sibling arguments over whether it's a diaper or a pull-up. Sibling arguments over toys. Sibling arguments over everything possible.

THE UGLY

Having to leave a full cart of groceries in the store because of a quick deterioration over a chocolate donut. Screams of "MOMMY, I'm pooping! Help me, help me! Oh, the poop! The poop!" in an otherwise quiet, but very public, room. Learning the benefits of door locks after being walked in on in the shower by my son and a neighbor boy. (Yes, it happened. Yes, it was totally horrifying.) Battling Little Miss Must Be Naked. Getting a little too upset over spilled juice on a freshly mopped floor (definitely guilty). Realizing that little boys must think of their anatomy as an attached toy.

I'm truly resisting quoting from The Facts of Life theme song here, but suffice it to say, all of the above has made and continues to make this adventure in raising little ones the best time of my life. What a privilege to raise them, hang out with them, teach them and love them. And what a joy to put them to bed at night for just a little bit of reprieve!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Baking Blunders

Has it really been SIX MONTHS since I last blogged?!?! I know that someone out there has just been dying with suspense for another good read. And that person is most likely my mother. Anywho, the subject of my blog post today is about baking. Now you may think, "Gee, Jamie lots of people put their recipes on the blog and post great pictorial how-to's - why should we read yours?" Well, in the hopes that there is some flustered mom out there like me who makes stuff that never looks quite right or turns out quite right, I am going to detail my latest baking blunder from this morning.

I set out to make a strawberry yogurt cake for a neighbor of mine. Simple enough - hop on Pinterest, print the recipe and follow the directions. Therein lies my problem. I am really bad about following directions when it comes to baking. I read the recipe, think to myself, "yeah, yeah, that's easy, you got this." Then, I somehow manage to seriously botch it up. See, I simply can't be bothered to do things like fold in, sift, alternately add, or the latest baking directive to stump me - make a well and put the wet stuff inside. Seriously?! I have two children nipping at my heels. That junk is just going in there all together American style - like a melting pot. I am sure Betty Crocker would not approve.

Today, the recipe called for 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of powdered sugar. The directions said to cream together the butter and sugar. I scoured the recipe to see if there was any other mention of powdered sugar, but I saw none, so I mixed all the sugars in. I SWEAR there was no other mention of powdered sugar. Whoopsie - I was wrong. The cup of powdered sugar was to be used to make the glaze. You know what that means - an extra cup of sugary goodness that was (1) likely give everyone who ate it diabetes, and (2) not going to meet Michelle Obama's plan for childhood healthy eating. Yikes, not only was my cake done wrong, but it was also going to contribute to the obesity epidemic of our nation and our rising healthcare costs. I just couldn't handle that kind of pressure. So I just improvised a bit, changed the recipe to involve blueberries (so I could save my strawberries for another cake for my neighbor) and came up with the following. It is adapted from the strawberry yogurt cake recipe:

BLUEBERRY BLUNDER CAKE

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
3 eggs
2 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
10.5 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 pint of fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a bundt pan. Tell your kids that mommy needs just a few minutes.

2. Sift (oh, who am I kidding - just mix) together the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in the lemon zest. Change out a load of laundry and make sure the kids haven't destroyed the house.

3. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and BOTH sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the lemon juice.

4. Mix in the yogurt. Add a little of the flour mixture at a time, mixing together as you go. Tell the kids that you are not put on this earth to entertain them day and night.

5. Mix the blueberries gently into the batter until well incorporated. Tell your kids that if they don't stop fighting with each other, they'll be licking the beaters with the mixer still running. If you have preschoolers who take everything literally, make sure they know mommy is joking.

6. Pour in the pan and bake for 60-65 minutes. When toothpick comes out clean, pull out of the oven and completely cool, then invert pan on to a plate.


Are you ready for a pretty picture? Not happening, folks. The directions said to let the cake cool 20 minutes in the pan, but I just had to go ahead and pull that thing out about 13 minutes too early. Again, I simply can't be bothered with directions. So, of course if fell apart, and here it is!!!


But I will tell you one thing - it tastes AWESOME! And I know my husband and kids will eat it up this evening for dessert. I can just hear the hubby now -"That is fine!" He often describes food as being "fine" they way we used to say in 8th grade, "that boy is fine!" which used to kind of creep me out, but after 6 years of marriage I'm over it.

So, it ain't Pinterest pretty, and it was a complete work in progress, but it is still good. So good, in fact, that I momentarily contemplated giving it to my neighbor in that condition, but decided I didn't need one more person in this world thinking I am a little wacky.

For those of you who need a good summer recipe, try this one out (I would probably try with strawberries first) and know that unless you are more direction averse than me, it will definitely turn out prettier than the picture, and really, how often does that happen?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Revisting Senior Superlatives

When I was a senior in high school, my class, like most high schoolers, voted for what are called senior superlatives, or for the less fancy-schmancy, the "most likelys." I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. I am still not completely sure why. I thought I might be a more likely candidate for the Most Horrifyingly Insecure in a Totally Crippling Way award. High school was sort of a middle ground for me - I certainly would never (ever, ever, ever) want to go back, but it was still a very good experience in many ways. My husband, on the other hand, was voted by his classmates as Best All Around, Most Popular, and Class Favorite. I mean, come on! Did I mention he was also voted most likely to marry someone who likes to tease him about his senior superlatives? For some reason he just can't seem to understand why my high school experience wasn't as totally and completely blissful as his. Really?

Anyway, I was looking at some old yearbooks at my parents' house the other day, and I got to thinking about whether I had lived up to my given senior superlative. Am I successful now? Have I been successful in the past, at least? I thought about this in light of my decision to put down the practice of law for awhile to stay home. Does that make me less successful? Or more? I guess it is all in how you define success and is definitely part of my own internal struggle to reconcile this season of life with some of my long-held beliefs on what success means.

Some days, when I just "get" something about my kids that I wouldn't pick up on if I was working and away from them all day, I feel successful. And then on days when I see news of my law school colleagues taking off professionally and winning cases and awards, I can tend to feel not so successful. And maybe a little left behind.

Success, or a lack thereof, also has many facets aside from work. You know, success can be defined as getting around to shaving your legs at least once a week. Just sayin'. It may mean being the better negotiator in the battle with your 3 year old over how many Skittles he can have after lunch. Or making just one supper a week that is not too bland, too salty, too undercooked or too overcooked. It may also mean loving a seemingly unloveable person, serving others in an area that you are uncomfortable in, or doing something you know is right even when the world thinks you are crazy.

I continue to tinker with my definition of success, but for now, I believe it is living my life doing the things that God intends for me to do with purpose, conviction and enthusiasm. Now working with that definition, I still don't know that I can say I've been successful all the time (or any of the time, for that matter), but I am working on it. And I am working on knowing that in different seasons I will be doing things that will look much different than what I do now, and I must have my eyes and ears open to the possibilities. Maybe one day, I'll be as close as possible to reaching my definition of successful. And perhaps the most beautiful thing in all of this is knowing that to reach any level of success, I'll never have to go back to the high school version of me. Yuck.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life Lessons in Song

Recently a very dear childhood friend of mine posted a list of 32 things she had learned about life and herself in honor of her 32nd birthday. It was an incredible list of things, and being inspired by said list and friend, I decided that I would blog about life lessons from the lyrics of song in honor of my 32nd birthday. Which was 3 weeks ago. But who cares really. My life lessons will be limited to five, however, since (1) I am an underachiever and (2) I seem to dribble on about whatever it is I am writing about and nobody (except maybe my mom) would read 32 of these things. So, here goes:

1. "If you hold the nails, I'll take the hammer. I'll hold it still, if you'll climb the ladder. If you will, then I will, build." From We Build, Nichole Nordeman. This is a song about a love relationship and the idea is that you gotta work at it. My husband and I have been married for 5 years, so that clearly makes me an expert on relationships. Clearly. Anywho, my lesson learned here is that any marriage worth having takes work and requires both parties to do their fair share. Please do understand the meaning of the lyrics here. She is not saying that when you get mad at your man, you ask him to go hold some nails while you angrily wield a hammer and (oops!) give him a broken finger.

2. "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers." From Unanswered Prayers, Garth Brooks. Ok, now that your eye roll is complete, let me tell you what triggered me to include such a cliche song. My husband and I happened across this show on CMT called Sweet Home Alabama. The premise is similar to The Bachelor. All these women are competing for the affection of some guy named Dribble or Tribble or some such and half are "southern" girls, the other half apparently represent every other region in the U.S. The southern girls are all grits and greens, rifles and Red Wings and the other girls are.......well, they require strategically placed double sided tape to keep their clothes on and they sound funny saying "y'all." Anyway, this non-southern girl who referred to herself as O.C.licious (you can't make this junk up) was getting kicked off the show and she quoted the aforementioned song as a reason that she was down with being kicked off. "Like, sometimes you, like, have to just, like thank God, you know, for, like, unanswered prayers, you know, like Garth Brooks said." Wow. So, short story long, this song came to my mind for this list. You know what the lesson is. Relationships that crumbled, jobs that I didn't get, places that I didn't live, it all ended up good in the end. And that would be because God has rich blessings for me that are greater than my best-laid plans.

3. "Well, I'm right here and you're right there, and God knows we have to start somewhere. 'Cause I'm messed up and you're broken, and those shots we fired are still smokin'." From Start Somewhere, tobyMac. Lesson here is two-fold. One, there is very little in life worth getting mad over in a lasting way. Very little worth killing a family or friend relationship over. Make up, ASAP, and as my husband likes to say, at least clean your side of the street. Two, when we have been wronged or someone is acting all freaky towards us, there usually is some sort of hurt that we simply don't know about that colors that person's pespective. Maybe they are sick, maybe they lost a loved one, maybe they have been abused, maybe they just lost a job. Give people the benefit of the doubt and try to think the best of them.

4. "What if there's a bigger picture? What if I'm missing out? What if there's a greater purpose I could be living right now? Outside my own little world." From My Own Little World, Matthew West. It's not all about you. Or me. Every bit of our culture tells us otherwise, but I have learned, and continue to learn daily, that my worldview must grow bigger and I must act on the needs of others that I see and have been made aware of. God can use me and you greatly if we get our focus off ourselves and on to what He wants us to do.

5.  "You're gonna miss this, you're gonna want this back, you're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast." From You're Gonna Miss This, Trace Adkins. Amen and amen, people. Motherhood amplifies this life lesson. I've learned children grow way too fast, and I think even faster the more you wish they could feed themselves, dress themselves, tie their own shoes and wipe their own butts. But this doesn't just apply to kids. It applies to every area of life. When I look back, I can see that every season has its goods and bads and that I am better off enjoying the season for what it is rather than longing for another one.

Ooo, and a BONUS!! It's like a free gift (which makes NO sense since a gift, by definition, is free...why do people say this?) But I digress.....

6. "To anyone who hides behind a smile, to anyone who holds their pain inside, to anyone who thinks they're not good enough, to anyone who feels unworthy of love, to anyone who's ever closed the door, closed their eyes and locked themselves away, you don't have to hide." From Hide, Joy Williams. Oh, I know there is some sweet woman that needs to hear this lesson. Being a woman myself and having had many women friends, can we say that this describes some of the root of our issues, girls? Hasn't our world hit us hard in the self-esteem department? I have had the stories and have heard the stories. But the most important lesson I have learned is that I have a Savior in Jesus Christ who loves me and can free me and you from the bondage we live under, no matter what that bondage is. Thank you, Lord, for freedom to feel brave in our marriage relationships, to be bold in our parenting, to feel confident with our abilities, to know that we are capable at work, and for myself at least, allowing me to not have a complete panic attack while I am putting on my jeans that have gotten too tight and doing that squat thing to stretch them out (don't you guys dare act like you don't do it, too.) Good grief, I'm breaking a sweat just thinking about it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Raising Honorable Men

From the movie Rob Roy:
Son: Father, will the MacGregors ever be kings again?
Rob Roy: All men with honor are kings, but not all kings have honor.
Son: What is honor?
Rob Roy: Honor is....what no man can give you, and what no man can take away. Honor is a man's gift to himself.
Son: Do women have it?
Rob Roy: Women are the heart of honor, and we cherish and protect it in them. You must never mistreat a women or malign a man. Or stand by and see another do so.
Son: How do you know you have it?
Rob Roy: Never worry on the getting of it. It grows in you and speaks to you. All you need to do is listen.

I read this movie quote recently in a book for mothers about how to raise men of character. One aspect of doing this is raising a son who knows how to treat women right and is (dare I say it) chivalrous.

Let's face it - chivalry is pretty much dead among the younger male set in this country. I'll spare you my personal opinion on why. Not long ago, my husband and I were stopped at a gas station on our way out of town from his parents. Near us was a young couple, both probably between 18 and 20 years old. I probably would not have otherwise noticed them, but the young man had his tongue so far down the girl's throat that it was hard not to notice. Once he extricated himself from her, he lounged back in the driver's seat while she pumped and paid for the gas and went in and got some drinks and snacks for them. I'm pretty sure he smacked her on the butt when she was coming out. What?!?!?! I nearly peed myself, I was in such a tizzy. I had to hold myself back from running over there and telling her to hold out for something better. Seriously. Hold out and hold on, sister.

I couldn't believe that this was occurring. And we were in Andalusia, Alabama for crying out loud. South Alabama, people. I would have that a town like that would be the last bastion of civility and chivalry, but apparently this disease of male "eww-ness" has infiltrated the ranks there, as well. I see it here at home all the time. A couple of weeks ago, I was going into the gym when I saw a young man that goes to our church about 10 feet in front of me. He saw me, and when he went to open the door, he opened it for himself and let it slam back in my face. Now look, I realize that it may have been 5 o'clock in the afternoon and I was still sans shower, but come on! Is it too much to ask for that guy to hold the door open for Greasy Hair Lady? I think not. I wasn't even asking for him to open it just for me, just continue to holding it open once he went in. 

I started to wonder about these young men. Did no one teach them better? Did they not have a father model the behavior? Or maybe they were given a perfect example, but simply have not followed suit in light of what are becoming increasingly bizarre social norms. In any event, it made me begin to think about what I can and should do as a mom to make sure that Deacon, as Rob Roy said, cherishs and protects the honor in women. It's a serious and tall order, indeed.

When I was a summer missionary in Pike County, Kentucky 10 years ago, I stayed with a couple in their 60s who ran the local Baptist Association. One weekend their grandson was in town, probably about 8 or 10 years old. We stopped to get gas. I immediately tried to get out of the car to pump the gas because I wasn't going to let the older lady pump the gas, and I didn't think the young boy was old enough to do it. Boy, did grandmama have me back in my seat lickity split. That boy was gonna pump that gas because that is just what the menfolk do, thank you very much.

That example has stuck with me in these first three years of parenting a boy. At such a young age, it's hard to pass along too much, but we do try to make sure that Deacon says his "ma'ams" and "sirs." We try to encourage him to always get the door and hold it open for women. As a result of some dating horror story I recently heard, I told him I didn't care how old he was, that if I caught him honking the horn for a girl instead of getting out of the car to go get her, I was going to pop his bottom. He just laughed and said, "Mama, you so silly!"

I don't think being honorable for a man is as easy as it was back in Rob Roy's day. Culture hits them at every turn. Peer pressure pushes down on them. My hope and prayer is that my husband and I can teach Deacon what it means to be a man of honor and character. He doesn't know it yet, but he is blessed to have such wonderful examples in his daddy and the other male family members in his life. And more than any self-help book or anecdotal examples from other parents, we know that the Holy Spirit will lead us in the way in this effort.

So Happy Teaching, mothers of boys! What a journey. Oh, and my future daughter-in-law can thank me later.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Sound of Silence

I think I have pinpointed one of the more difficult things for me to deal with in the transition to staying at home. It's noise. When I was working, although I had a lot of interaction with co-workers and clients, there was a significant portion of my day that was spent in my office, often with door shut, just researching and writing. In silence. In dear, sweet, wonderful silence. I am learning that silence is a rarity around my house being a stay at home mom.

The first thing I hear every morning is the sweet voice of my now 3 year old Deacon saying, "Mama, what are we doing today?" Yes, he ultimately ends up sleeping in our bed every night. Sigh. Don't judge. Anywho, from that first question of the day, we launch into countless hours of conversation punctuated by frequent "whys" and extraordinarily loud renditions of the ABC song.

It clearly takes a special person to work with preschoolers and very young elementary kids day in and day out. I am certainly not that special person. When Miller's crying and Deacon is in her face belting out "Jesus Loves Me" (all with the best of intentions), I generally feel like my all my nerve endings are going to simultaneously explode like 4th of July fireworks.

Yet, as I write this Deacon is away at the grandparents' house for a week and Miller is asleep, leaving a house that seems just a little too quiet. For all the annoyance of having a preschooler running around talking, talking, TALKING ALL THE TIME, I sure do miss that little voice tremendously and we are only on day one. And as I sit in the silence, I am reminded how truly blessed I am to have these sweet little noisemakers at my feet everyday and just how full life is with the sound of their voices.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

At the Table Love Prevailed

If I were taking my usual maternity leave, this week would have marked my return to the office. Miller has come alive in the last few days, and I am so excited to be here to experience it.

When I was working and things were exceptionally busy, sometimes I would feel like I was living in a hotel. With the rush of the morning and the hurricane that characterized every evening, I felt at times like my house wasn't really my house, but just a hotel that we were sleeping in when the rest of life wasn't going on. We have a wonderful playroom for Deacon and he wasn't using it because we were never here. Weekends we were usually out and about trying to do the things we didn't have time for during the week. You know that feeling you get when you walk out in your backyard and you realize that you haven't seen it in months? That's what was happening, and we don't live in either of the Dakotas.

Now that I am spending much more time at home, I have begun to think more about what I want this home to be for my children. A number of years ago when I was in college, my mom mentioned to me that she'd been shopping for a new kitchen table. She'd looked and looked, but couldn't find anything to her liking. I asked her, isn't there ANYTHING that you like well enough to buy? And I was touched by her response - she said that she believed she wasn't finding anything she liked because she really didn't want to replace the table. She said there were so many memories associated with that table and she just wasn't ready to part with it. Not long after that, I was listening to the album of a singer named Riley Armstrong and heard a song called "The Table." I wish I was tech savvy enough to put an audio link here, but since I am not, here are the lyrics:

The table's where my father thanked the Lord for providing
The table's where he sat us down and told us to stop fighting
At the table there were tears, at the table there was laughter
The table's where my mother brought the fruits of her labor
We never did go hungry though there were times we were able
At the table love prevailed, at the table love was always there.

Chorus:
And I was always safe and warm
Sheltered from the sticks and stones
And although time passed by and we moved on
I will still pray Lord keep my family strong
Cause Life out there isn't how life was around the table.

The table's were my family shared the joys and the sorrows.
Stories of the day and the goals for tomorrow
At the table someone listened, at the table someone always cared.
And I will never forget all the memories at the table
Holidays with relatives and coffee with the neighbors
At the table we were home, at the table we were never alone.

Bridge:
Around the table we were one
Round the table we were fortunate to grow up
And as we asked to be excused, we never will remove it from our hearts.
I believed then (and now) that those words rang true about my childhood experience. I had countless memories, good and bad, around that table. That's where we ate as a family every night. That's where my mom and us girls decorated Christmas cookies every year. It was an eat one, ice one kind of event for me. It's where we read the paper Saturday mornings and dissected whatever ball game I had just played in. It's where my dad tried desperately to teach us the virtues of abstinence over burgers ("You see, girls, here is a jar of mayo. It's pure. It's white. But when you go sticking this knife in it after the knife's been in the ketchup and mustard, it's no longer pure and white anymore" Wha???) Anywho, that table, and everything it symbolizes, was the hub of so many experiences and events in our house growing up, good and bad.


Now that I have children of my own and actually have this precious time to spend with them, I have wondered what will be "the table" at our house. No matter what the physical location may be, my hope and my prayer is that Deacon and Miller will grow up with a multitude of memories that let them know that they are loved without condition and that they will always, always be able to come home. My favorite line from that song is "At the table love prevailed, at the table love was always there." Dear Lord, please let us create such an environment for these precious babies so that they may claim that statement as truth in their own lives. May they know that they can always come home. May they learn, as I have had to learn, to remember the best and forgive the rest. And may they be able to say that no matter what happens, in our home and our family, love prevailed and love was always there.
Here's little man and me decorating Christmas cookies this past year.