Wednesday, April 23, 2014


I never knew a single heart could hold so much love.

Meet my boys...

Gus Allen and Lewis David

They were born on April 17th at 10:52 and 10:53 in the evening. Gus weighed six pounds, three ounces and Louie weighed six pounds, twelve ounces. 

I can't wait to share their birth story with you and give more details about life with these darling boys, but for now, I'll just share a few pictures.

Louie on the left, Gus on the right
Gus on the left, Louie on the right
Harriet meeting her brothers for the first time

the Grandmas finding out that they have two grandsons

they already love each other 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

upon the waters

Last summer was a hot one. It's hard to imagine it while waiting out this everlasting winter, but the end of July and most of August were scorching. So every morning, before the heat set in, I threw on my running shoes, strapped Harriet into the jogging stroller with her breakfast, and we took Murphy for a good run. I'm not a runner. I ran because Harriet only has so much patience for the stroller and because it's a better workout for the dog. I listened to music for inspiration, playing it from my iPhone without headphones on so that Harriet could hear it too. A little Katy Perry, some Miley Cyrus...upbeat stuff to help me keep my pace. But oddly enough, there was one song that kept me running more than any other - a slower song, nearly impossible to dance to, not the typical workout playlist staple. It's called Oceans and it has gained lots of popularity in churches and on the radio in this last year. As I ran, I contemplated the words...

You call me out upon the waters,
the great unknown,
where feet may fail.

The song refers to that miraculous story in the Bible where Jesus is walking on the water in the midst of a storm. His friends are in the boat, terrified for their lives. He welcomes Peter to step out of their vessel and onto the waves - the ultimate test of trust. Peter does it - not without fear or second guesses, but he lifts himself over the boat's rail and places his feet on the water's churning surface, his faith in his Savior keeping him above the treacherous waves. As I ran and listened to the lyrics, I pictured myself in Peter's sandals and wondered whether I would have trusted enough to do the same.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.
Let me walk upon the waters,
wherever you may call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger 
in the presence of my Savior.

The singer repeats these words over and over again, and as my feet pounded the solid, dry paths, I visualized a "trust without borders" and I wanted that. I imagined where Jesus might call me, how He might stretch my faith. And slowly, carefully, like Peter stepping out of that boat, I began to make the words of that stanza my mantra. I began to beg that of Jesus - that He would make my faith borderless, infinite.

This was terrifying.

I know that I serve a God who is completely and utterly good. A God who loves me endlessly. But I also know that sometimes He makes choices that my finite mind never would have made, choices that cause me pain because I can't even begin to comprehend them with my limited scope. I knew that He would answer my request to grow my faith but I didn't know how. I was fearful of what my "great unknown" would look like. I imagined awful things - an illness, an accident, a loss - you know, those unspeakable events that wound us nearly beyond repair but are, in the end, supposed to make us better, stronger people.

But then...I was pregnant again, against all odds. And there were two babies, against all odds. I remember in those first days and weeks, people asking me how I was feeling about the news. Of course, the most powerful emotions were elation and blessing, but there was also a part of me that felt sobered by this new development. I felt, in some ways, like I was going into battle - a private, miniature battle against gravity and time and anxiety. And as I've walked through this pregnancy day by day, I have realized that this is it - this pregnancy (and assumedly motherhood afterwards) - is God's answer to my request for trust without borders.

Really? While He has others wait endlessly and suffer unimaginably, He grows my faith through joy and blessing? Not that I have been completely unfamiliar with struggle and not that there isn't more of it in my future. Of course there is. But for now, He seems to have chosen to gently stretch the borders of my trust with a priceless gift rather than ripping them away like I foolishly expected Him to. To say that I am humbled by words can express how much.

This journey over the past thirty-seven and a half weeks has not been easy. That's for sure. The discomforts get worse by the week - swollen feet, arthritic joints, trigger finger, nausea, back pain, pulled muscles, difficulty breathing, extra weight (a full sixty pounds), limited mobility, restless legs, and insomnia...oh, the insomnia! At my final OB appointment today, I burst into tears while telling the doctor that I got two and a half hours of sleep last night and three and a half hours the night before. Even with Benadryl and a homeopathic sleep remedy on board, I can sleep for maybe an hour at a time. It's making me feel crazy...and rather anxious because I was so hoping to go into the birth feeling well and well-rested. It's not going to happen that way. And I feel silly saying it, but it's true - these little discomforts have stretched my faith more than I would ever have thought.

While I have had many aches and pains, there have been no complications. Not one. Not even a close call or a test that warranted repeating. Nothing. These babies have surprised me and the doctors by staying put in my very short torso for a full thirty-seven weeks without even a hint of dilation, not a single contraction. I am so, so grateful. I am clearly not a medical professional, but I really wonder if part of the reason that they have stayed so solidly put is their breech positioning. While I have had a bruising type of pain in my pelvis for about a month (feels like a did a hundred-mile race on a road bike yesterday), I have absolutely no pelvic pressure. These babies' heads are right up under my bra line and their butts are high too, so although I've bemoaned their breech status and the fact that I have to have a c-section, perhaps this should be more a matter of gratitude than complaint. Perhaps if these babies were vertex, those little heads (which a growth ultrasound recently put in the 89th and 98th percentiles) would have pushed themselves out much, much earlier. Again, a reason to trust that His plan is far greater than mine.

Every once in a while, I feel sad about the idea of a c-section. I feel sorry for the babies. I feel worried about the recovery. And I feel...oh how spoiled this is going to sound...even cheated. It sort of feels like running the majority of a marathon, only to hand the baton to someone else at the twenty-six mile mark and watch them cross the finish line for me. Is there part of me that's a little glad to be done at 26 miles? A bit tired and relieved that someone else is tackling the final fifth of a mile? Of course. But deep down, I want to do it. All of it. Even the messy, excruciating parts. Maybe even especially those parts. I have done it before and I know I could do it again. Even with twins. Even in an operating room with lots of people watching. So yes, sometimes it bothers me to be finishing this way.

But lately, I have become much more content with the idea of a c-section. I think this is partly due to the fact that I have tried and tried to flip these babies. I saw a chiropractor several times. I visited an acupuncturist who did moxibustion. (I tried very hard to believe in both of these practices, but when the acupuncturist in the Hawaiian shirt commented that holding the moxa stick felt like holding a crystal wand due to the energy pouring out of it, I nearly laughed out loud. All I knew was that it smelled really, really, really bad. I bought four of the sticks anyways, fully intending to use them at home...but then my dog chewed them up, so that was the end of that.) I laid upside-down on a board that we rested against the couch and nearly died of a coughing fit when the babies came crashing into my diaphragm. I put icepacks where their heads are, hoping that they'd turn to escape the cold. Nothing worked. And although some of these things were a bit miserable, I'm glad I did them so that I can at least say I tried. Baby B is bigger than Baby A anyways (sizes roughly estimated at the growth ultrasound to be 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 6 pounds, 14 ounces), so even if they flipped head-down, the doctors still wouldn't want to deliver vaginally. They like the first baby to be bigger and pave the way.

And as with anything, even the less attractive option has a positive side. A friend recently told me that when she had her c-section, she felt so grateful that she could come out of it feeling fresh and ready to mother her baby rather than dog-tired and in desperate need of a long hibernation. I can absolutely identify with that, especially given my recent lack of sleep. So again, perhaps this c-section is a gift - another gesture straight from Jesus, beckoning me to trust His plan and join Him amidst the waves.

Another area that brings me anxiety is my daughter. She is going to be a fabulous big sister. I know that for a fact. But every time I think of expanding our family, of stretching my love to include other children whom I have not yet met, I want to cry. Often, I do cry thinking about leaving her behind as we head to the hospital. We are desperately grateful to have both families nearby and I know that she will be fully loved and entertained during the four days that I am in the hospital, but the thought of nuzzling and nursing and loving on these babies while Harriet is across town breaks my heart. She is more resilient than I give her credit for and she will be just fine sharing her mama, but I am already grieving that time with just her and I. Most mornings, I go into her room and hold her and bury my face in her neck and tell her that she is my best girl in the whole wide world. And she adamantly disagrees, saying, "No Mama, you are my best girl in the whole wide world." Can we still say that if there's a little sister? I am so grateful to my wise, wonderful doctor who, without me having to even bring up this issue, randomly warned me that it would be very normal to feel a little bothered by the possible lack of love I feel for the twins at first in comparison to the adoration I have for Harriet. Normalizing is always helpful. And even more than that, I know that this is another area where I am being asked to trade my fear in for faith and to trust even my daughter to His capable hands. Because He loves her immeasurably more than I's hard to even fathom that but wonderful to believe it.

So those are my final thoughts on this twin pregnancy. Just a few more days and we'll step out of our boat and into a wholly fresh and even frightening lake storm - parenting these tiny twins and their big sister. But the best news? Our Jesus is already there, walking those waters and gently calling us to join Him - right there in the midst of the toss and spray. And as intimidating as it may look, nowhere could be safer than where He calls us.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of me and my belly (measuring 52 weeks today) - some of the last ones before we meet these precious babies face-to-face.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Andrew and I had been married for about two years. All of our married friends seemed to have dogs and were always telling us that we should get one. So I did what I do best...researching, more researching, and overthinking. We decided we wanted a boxer, so I spent hours upon hours scouring the internet for the perfect breeder, the perfect puppy. I got us on four waiting lists and agonized about which litter to go with. (Sidenote: we will rescue our next dog...not sure what we were thinking at the time.)

Then one day while searching online yet again, I found a family with a litter of eight-week-old boxer pups. I called her and she said we could come pick one up. Unlike the others, she didn't need references or a downpayment or a formal contract. She didn't expect me to wait six months for a dog. I called Andrew and we rushed to her house.

When we got there, the pups were hanging out in the front yard. Most of them were dozing on the steps or stumbling around aimlessly...except for one. That little rascal was gnawing on his mama's lip, pouncing on her head, batting at her tail. He was barking the toughest bark he could muster and was racing around in dizzying circles. Yep, that was our dog. 

The family called him Hook and when the dad told his two daughters that we were taking him, they cried and cried, "Not Hook!" I wondered if I should see this as a sign and back out, but Andrew was already in love, so we scooped him up, took him home and changed his name from Hook to Murphy. He was adorable and snuggly and clumsy in that perfect puppy way. We picked up the essential supplies and did our best to puppy-proof the house.

That's when everything fell apart. 

The next year...maybe two years...were rough. That crazy dog refused to be caged. We tried one of those big metal crates but he broke free...twice. Just collapsed the entire thing and somehow got out alive. So we tried barricading him in the kitchen with a baby gate while we were gone. (Now let me clarify, I'm talking about times when we were gone for maybe an hour or two. When we went to work or were away from home for any length of time, we brought him to my parents' house. He was spoiled from the get go.) The baby gate proved no match for him. He just climbed over it. So we got another baby gate and put it on top of the first one, creating a five-foot barrier. He scaled that one a tree frog. 

That's when we gave up. 

Every time we left home, we just shut the bedroom and bathroom doors and prayed that everything else would be safe from this little devious creature. 

That's when he destroyed everything. 

He wrecked two couches. Several pillows. Probably ten pairs of shoes (including my wedding shoes). He crushed a few pomegranates on our carpet. And a few avocados. And a potted plant. He chewed a hole in our wall. He ate countless loaves of bread and countless bags of tortillas. He chewed up the cases to over half of our DVDs. He ate books, books and more books, including my Bible. He turned our Christmas tree into a Charlie Brown-esque mess. I could go on and on...endlessly.

Also, dogs are gross. As in, beyond disgusting. In his first week with us, he killed a baby mouse, a snake and about ten frogs. And okay, those of you who are runners - I get the fact that sometimes when you go for out for a run, especially a long one, your bowels can catch you off guard. And I realize that sometimes you have to take care of business in the bushes. But if you do that, my dog will find it. And he will eat it. Every time. 

And then there was that one time when I was pregnant with Harriet and walking him on a frozen lake...sounds dumb, I know, but I was staying very close to the shore where I knew the water would only reach mid-thigh if I fell through...well, that was until he found the head of a northern pike and pranced around me with it for twenty whole minutes, refusing to let go of his prize until I chased him into the middle of the lake and distracted him with some other gross object. He's done the same things with random deer legs and other unrecognizable animal parts. He just loves that kind of stuff.

Having a puppy is not easy. Some people will tell you that it's like having a kid, and I think there's some truth to that. They turn your world upside-down. They swallow all of your free time. They completely defeat the purpose of cleaning. The week after we got Murph, I fell into a post-puppy depression. I'm not kidding. I was so incredibly bummed out and regretful about getting this dog. I honestly remember hoping that he would become ill or get hit by a car or that someone on the street would ask if they could have him. I fantasized about our life before Murphy and would have given anything to get it back. It was a seriously hard time for me. 

But then, when he was almost one, he really did get sick - pancreatitis. He nearly died. If you have a dog, you know that stuff like this only happens on weekends when you have no choice but to take your dog to the emergency vet...where they charge about three times the regular price and treat you like least that was my experience. Andrew was asleep after working the night shift and I couldn't get ahold of him, so I literally dropped thousands (as in several) of dollars to save this animal's life. Whenever I tell this story, the person hearing it says that they would have put him down. But you can't know what you would do until you're standing there in that echoing, cement room with your dying dog who could have a full life ahead of him if you'd just hand over your American Express. We had lost Ethan a few months before and my grandma a few months before that...we couldn't handle another loss, so I swiped my card and didn't look back. Well, I tried not to. 

Murphy is needy. He has really great life, but if you spent an afternoon with him, you'd never know it. He constantly sighs, whines, cries and makes all sorts of mournful sounds. He doesn't tolerate rain, leather couches, or wind. If there's a heated seat in your car, that's the seat he needs. And he insists on being on top of us as often as possible. If we lie down on the floor, he will sit on us, most often right on our heads. He plants himself on my lap any chance he gets. Or he'll just get as close as possible and stare me down with his nose mere millimeters from mine. This canine barnacle issue is much, much worse when I'm pregnant. It feels as though he never leaves my side. He just follows me from room to room and adheres himself to me whenever possible. He loves to rest his chin on my belly, and of course, I kinda love this. Andrew thinks Murphy is worried about me and is trying to protect me and the babies. I have to wonder if he's just trying to squeeze every last bit of attention out of me before the babies are born. But either way, he's there...right there...all the time. After Harriet was born, this continued. He had to be there, right in the middle of whatever we were doing with her.

But here's the thing - Harriet loves him. They're true siblings in the sense that she doesn't always feel love for him though. Sometimes she wants him to leave her alone, get out of her way, that sort of thing. But most of the time, she calls him "my gog" and says "I love my Murph." When we ask who is in her family, he often gets top billing. 

And he's teaching her lots of great stuff. Like how to be gentle, how to be patient, how to forgive. Because sometimes he's still a bit mischievous...he ate half of her birthday cake and a wall off of her gingerbread house a few months ago. But she took it in stride because it's not the first time. Won't be the last. 

And it works the other way around too. Murphy has sacrificed so much for our kids...the born and yet-to-be-born. When we were thinking about getting a dog, we promised ourselves that we wouldn't do it unless we could be good dog owners. And for the most part, we've done that. Until Harriet was born, he got at least one, usually two or three walks per day, even in ugly weather. Now that Harriet's here, that's sometimes harder, but he still gets to come with us almost any time we're outside. Harriet knows that if the weather is nice enough, the first thing we do in the morning is take Murph for a run. And she also knows that when he needs something - food, water, a potty break - we stop what we're doing and make it happen. I'm glad that she's learned how important it is to be respectful and caring towards animals, to put her needs and wants aside for a moment in order to do something for somebody else.

But this pregnancy...and this freezing, endless winter - has been rough on Murph. He has made lots of sacrifices in the name of letting me rest or letting Andrew work an extra shift in preparation for the babies' arrival. We're so grateful for my parents who often take him to the dog park for us or keep him overnight for a couple days in a row (even though he insists on sleeping in their bed and pees on their deck because he's too much of a diva to go in the snow). But a lot of the time, he's just chilling in the house with us, listening to us read a book or watching us eat our meals with the most pathetic, hungry look on his face. His patience amazes me and challenges me every day. I want that kind of patience. I want to be able to handle disappointment with such grace. 

This post was supposed to be titled "Why Kids Should Have Dogs." And I really believe that they should. But the more words I type on this screen, the more I realize that the true title of post should be "Why I Need Murph." Because I do. I need him every remind me what true patience and selflessness looks like. To remind me the importance of slowing down and snuggling with the people you love. To show me how important it is to ask for exactly what you need rather than expecting others to read my mind. To show me true, unconditional love even when I look like crap, or just stepped on his toe, or haven't showered in a day and a half. To remind me that stuff - even expensive stuff that I was really hoping to hold onto for at least a few more years - is just stuff. And to show me what it's like to find deep, deep joy in the little things - running fast, soaking up the sun...eating poop.

He is a good dog...a great dog...the best dog. 

And in about ten minutes, I'll probably be trying to sell him on Craig's List.

Totally kidding.

Sort of.

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