Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 365.

It's hard to put to words the mix of emotions I feel as I write this last post. I have completed my journey, my year of gratitude, having not missed one day. This blog started out as a goal, turned into a welcome discipline, and now I admit it was feeling some days as annoying homework. The amazing thing about it, however, has been the blessings that have overflowed from my openness and will to not give this up. Each time I sat down at the computer to do my blog, rolling my eyes, I would end up smiling by the end of my post. I mean it - looking at the bright side really does make you happier. At least writing about it does. Because of my blog, I've had one of the most positive and stress-free years of my adult life. Everything is put in perspective when you focus on gratitude. Even outside of my blog, I would notice myself talking about being grateful so much more than I ever had before. I had developed a whole new gratitude vocabulary.

So, what am I grateful for this last day of 2009? That feels like a lot of pressure, to punctuate this experience with something extra meaningful. So, I'm going to halfway cheat (cause I can do that - it's my blog) and I'm going to have a list.

Things I'm grateful for, looking back at the year 2009...

I am grateful for this blogging experience, this spiritual discipline, and for fulfilling it.

I am grateful for a year full of health for my family.

I am grateful for Jason having a stable job, when many in this country are struggling.

I am grateful for four wonderful parents who love us unconditionally.

I am grateful for siblings (both natural and in-laws) who are fun to be around and who love my children.

I am grateful for my nieces and nephews, who I love and can't get enough time with.

I am grateful for two amazing children who challenge me, make me more patient, give me hugs, and make me laugh every single day.

I am grateful that I am able to stay home with my kids.

I am grateful for my church; it's been a hard year, but things are looking up.

I am grateful for my incredible husband, who is also the best dad I could ever want for my children.

I am grateful for you, all the readers of this blog, who have inspired me and encouraged me to keep writing, even when I felt like I was writing something no one would want to read.

Happy New Year!

P.S. I will continue (or go back to...that blog has been neglected) to post life updates on my Rhodes Family blog ( and may continue to do some gratitude posts here and there on this blog. Check back for more updates!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Day 364.

I had heard good things about the Wonderland Express, an exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden which had several trains running through a nature wonderland. One man had crafted various Chicago landmarks out of different forms of nature and it all worked together seamlessly to form a really cool exhibit! I highly recommend.

I am grateful for family outings.

Whereas I married a homebody, and I have recently admitted how much I love my days at home, I am still a person who LOVES a good outing. I love leaving home to go do something fun. Anything really - going out to eat, to a park, a trip to Target, a museum. It's all pretty fun for me, as long as it's not freezing cold or raining - too times I don't really like outings all that much.

So today we ventured out in the just about 30 degree weather, slightly snowing (only enough to be pretty and not slow traffic too much), and headed to the Botanic Garden. It was a lovely afternoon/evening and even though our first three restaurant attempts did not work out (first one closed, second one 45 minute wait, third one 20 minute wait), we finally found a little quaint Mexican joint to hit up for some much needed chips and salsa and a margarita. Yum!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 363.

It snowed in Chicago while we were down at my parents' house for Christmas. So, we came back to plowed roads and trampled sidewalks. BUT, there was still barely enough snow to play, and barely enough snow to go sledding down the side of the viaduct by LakeShore Drive. Yay!

I am grateful that I got both kids home without any major meltdowns.

Snow play is fun stuff. It has to be, because anyone brave enough to put on two pairs of pants, two shirts, snow pants, socks, coat, mittens and hat on two preschoolers better be in for the time of their life. Lucky for me, it didn't disappoint. But there were several moments where I thought...this could turn very, very sour.

For one, I made them walk...I mean DUH, it's two blocks to the park/viaduct we were going to. That is not far. BUT, put on layers of clothing, snowsuits, coats and mittens, and you have a "The Christmas Story" situation, and all the folks passing us on the sidewalk could not contain their amusement. I knew on the way there that the sledding/snow play was bribe enough to get their little feet moving. But when we were done, what would be the cheese luring them home? I spent the way there thinking about the possible bribes I could use to get Noah to walk just one. more. block.

Then we lost Noah's orange ball that he brought especially to play in the snow. Somewhere it just disappeared among the white fluffy stuff. Luckily as he started crying, I enthusiastically threw out, "Let's come back and look for it when the snow melts!" and he thought that was the most incredible idea EVER (phew). He stopped mid-tear.

Or a meltdown could have ensued from the stupid broken mitten that Noah was wearing on his left hand. The zipper broke (to hold it on) last year and I'm too cheap to replace it (I paid $10 for that pair of child's snowproof mittens!). So, it kept falling off and he was getting a cold, snowy hand. You can just picture how that could go bad, no?

But instead, the worst meltdown of the day? When I had to convince them to go home. Yep, that's right. It was THAT fun.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 362.

I blinked. Guess what happened? The baby that was in my womb so snug and warm, who was birthed in less than three hours of labor, who was taken from my arms, who I wasn't allowed to feed, who was so critical...but still mine, YOU are no longer a baby.

I am grateful for growing up.

I am equally sad, nostalgic, and happy for this milestone. This special baby of mine is no longer a baby, and no longer in a crib, but in his very own Big Boy Bed! With a capital B! And not just any bed, but a bunkbed to boot. Noah Quinn, I cannot believe you are big enough for a real bed, but you are. You're happy and healthy and full of life.

Watching your kids grow up is an amazing and wonderful thing. But there are elements of sadness there too, and so while I will happily kiss you goodnight in your bottom bunk tonight, I will also remember the more than a thousand times I've lifted you in and out of that crib. I'll remember your first night in that crib, sharing a room with your big sister. I'll remember how rested I felt the first time you slept all the way through the night (although that did not last). I'll remember when you wouldn't go to sleep unless you'd told me "I want this right here, this right here, and that right there" (arranging your pillows and animals just right). I'll remember when you couldn't be tucked in without us laying down your blanket just right (feet first, then up to neck, in one swoop). I'll remember when you decide no covers was actually the way to go and you forbid any blankets in your crib.

We've never been without a crib in our house for the past five years. It's hard to believe that we've been in "baby" mode for that long. Part of me longs to keep it going, to hold on to the crib for the next go-around. And part of me is happy...content...and grateful, for what is and what is yet to come.

Finally letting them climb on after three hours of putting together...

Their room, with the extra space now that they have bunkbeds (notice my daughter who is disobeying one of the new "bunk bed rules").

Reading peacefully together, all snug in their beds.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 361.

We're walkin' in a Winter Wonderland. Why is it that whenever we wake up to a day of travel it starts snowing like crazy? It is beautiful here, and we finally got the snow I'd been hoping for all week...but on the day we are leaving. How inconvenient!

I am grateful for traveling mercies.

At my parent's church a lot of people asked for traveling mercies for family and friends on the roads. When I heard the prayers in church I was thinking how vague it seemed, like a blanket prayer that didn't have as much meaning or something. Now I feel so grateful for the same thing I was judging just hours before.

Sometimes it's hard for me to pray for something that seems generic or vague. Like, "I pray for my family." Or "world peace" or "the situation in the middle east." But while I feel inadequate in these moments of prayer, for not naming something specific, God is lifting my prayers up and holding not only my words but my thoughts and my whole being in his arms. Just because I feel like my prayer is falling short, doesn't mean it actually is.

Lately I have loved the "sitting in God's lap" image to sustain me in times of fear, helplessness and depression. But why can't we "sit in God's lap" in vague and generic times too? Sounds like a safe seat to ride home in.

Day 360.

Saturday, December 26, 2009.

I don't like the day after Christmas much. It's sort of a let down after spiritual highs, fabulous family overload and fun in gift giving and receiving. All the planning and waiting of advent is over. Well, not entirely over...we still have Epiphany, right? But really. I have to be honest here, and it's sad for me. So what is my silver lining today?

It's not hard to find, as I look around at my wonderful family, our abundant love and many blessings of health and happiness. What is there NOT to be grateful for.

I am grateful for time, however fast it goes.

This week has sped by. We came on Tuesday to enjoy almost a week with my family. And now it's drawing to a close, while feeling like we just began. But as I moan and sulk about how fast it went, I realize how wonderful it is that we had it at all.

Our kids are making memories that will truly last a lifetime. It's very possible that Dylan and Anya will remember some of this Christmas celebration this year. We have pictures to account for Noah's adorable obsession with baby Nora. I'll remember Evan's free love and hope that he's still telling me "Hilwee, I love you too." (without me saying it first, mind you :)) when he's 15.

These are beautiful times, and so whatever time it is, however fast it goes, I am so happy it was here at all.

Day 359.

Friday, December 25, 2009.

Christmas Day.

I am grateful for Jesus Christ, and for his mother, Mary.

Back to my wonderful devotional book by Jan Richardson. I love Jan's focus during advent on mothers, birth and women in general. Usually I don't focus on Mary all that much during advent. Besides one of my favorite songs being "Breath of Heaven" (which is very Mary focused) - I just kind of fail to dwell on that perspective.

But as a mom, when I start to think about Mary's own journey to motherhood, I am really blown away. I guess for so long I thought of the Christmas story in very abstract ways. I didn't picture an actual mother and father with an actual baby all that often. So I didn't think about that mother as someone with labor pains, with anxieties about her new role, with hopes for her newborn child.

Now I see Mary, and can see all women past, present and future, linked together. And I am so grateful for this deeply felt bond with people I don't even have to know, but whom I can appreciate and be inspired by. I am also grateful for the many wonderful female role models in my life. I am truly blessed.