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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Adventure Part II-Read Part I Below First!





Two posts in one day...I know, I'm crazy! I wanted to give an update, though. I just wanted to show you that I take my own advice!

Think back to my last post. Remember how I asked about the last time you'd gone on an adventure? Remember, I quoted Webster and shared that the only necessary criteria was that what you were doing was exciting and remarkable. Well, I helped GG make her first cupcakes tonight!

Gabriella got a cupcake kitchen for Christmas and after making (and eating) about 1,000 imaginary cupcakes in the past 48 hours, I decided it was time to do the real thing. Sure, GG has helped in the kitchen plenty of times, but she's never done almost every single thing by herself...thus the adventure.

2 year old, in the kitchen, oil, eggs, icing...

Like I said...

Adventure!

We had the best time, though! In order to crack the eggs, GG just dropped them on the counter. Adventure! To stir up the batter it took about 45 minutes. Adventure! Some of our fairy toothpicks ended up face-down in the icing. Adventure! It was a great big lovable mess! I even told GG it would be our secret that she sneezed right over the batter. No one needs to know. (Say it with me) "Adventure!"

Anywho, my question is still out there. What adventure have you been on lately? What adventure will you plan?

I had an adventure in my kitchen tonight. Know how I know? It was exciting and...

remarkable.

Love,

Mary


An Adventure-Part I

Operation "Get Marielle and Genevieve's Nursery Ready" is in full swing and boy is it fun!
And overwhelming!
First, we have to figure out a way to fit two babies in one small room! Eeeek! Luckily, I think I've figured out a floor plan to maximize space. Next, we have to get out all of Gabriella's old things: clothes, swing, boppy, nursing equipment, etc. Since we already have little girl things, it's been a huge blessing to have a stockpile of supplies ready. Turns out GG had so many clothes, but when you're clothing two, you wonder if it will be enough. Technically, we didn't even start letting GG wear clothes until the third day of her existence because we were so afraid to move her! Their little heads do bobble so! And I won't even tell you about how long we waited on a bath. haha!

As I was sorting through onesies we'll use for the twins, I ran across one of our favorite ones...





So, I just had to come and find the pictures of GG in her Steelers gear! In these pictures, she was only 4 days old. The first thing that strikes me about the pictures is how much she looked like my father-in-law, Ramon. Next thing, she was so tan...that was the jaundice. Third, she was so little! That little onesie was actually too big for her so we let her curl her feet up in it to keep warm. Finally, in just a few weeks (10-11 if I deliver in mid-March like the doctor predicts) we will have TWO of these teeny tiny Steelers fans to hold and cuddle! I can't even imagine the picture above with an additional child in Rick's arms.

How do you even hold two babies?! And a two year old?! Hmmmm....

When you have a second child, people say things get easier. You've been around the block, so to speak, so you know what's coming and are more prepared to handle it. In many ways, having twins will be no different, I'm sure. Been there, done that. But in so many ways, it will be different. That's the part I like to think of as an adventure. Embarking on the unknown.

Did you know Webster defines adventure (Yes, I looked it up. What else am I gonna do at 6:30 in the morning while everyone in my house is fast asleep?!) as an exciting or remarkable experience?

Exciting
Remarkable

Operation "Get Marielle and Genevieve's Nursery Ready" is getting me pretty pumped up for this adventure. It's going to be a lot things, but two things for sure:

exciting and remarkable!

When's the last time you went on an adventure? Any kind of adventure? I don't mean something over-the-top and crazy like have twins...but something simple. You know, as long as its exciting and remarkable it counts. And I'm sure, if you stop and think about it, there are plenty of things you could do today that are exciting and remarkable. :)

I hear God as I write this post. Do you know what He's saying? He's telling me I'm not starting one of the greatest adventures of my life, I'm right in the midst of it.

Love,

Mary

Monday, December 26, 2011

Your Worth


One of my favorite Christmas songs is "O Holy Night." As Rick and I were on our way to one of our family's Christmas celebrations, the song came on the radio. For the first time, one line in the song stuck out to me:

"And He appeared. And the soul felt its worth."

What a powerful line: The soul felt its worth.

Having Christmas with 2 sets of grandparents, 1 set of great-grandparents, and, of course, us, it's no surprise that GG was overwhelmed with gifts this Christmas. We've all gotten such joy out of watching her so meticulously unwrap gift after gift. It's definitely been the best Christmas ever.

But, there's one gift I hope that we've already given Gabriella; a gift that we can continue to give her as she grows...

that her soul feels its worth

I hope she always knows she's capable, she's courageous, she's strong...

she's worthy.

I appreciate God's reminder this Christmas. He appeared so that every soul could feel it's unique and significant worth.

Do you feel your worth? Do you really know how worthy and deserving God made you? If you know it, do your children know it? I hope so. :)

I know I feel my worth and am so thankful that I do.

Merry Christmas,

Mary











Monday, December 19, 2011

I Forgot

So the past few days have been an adventure, to say the least. It all started Thursday. I'd been feeling sick. Nothing unusual there. Fast forward to the middle of the night Friday when I started throwing up so much that my doctor wanted me to go to the hospital. Rick hadn't been feeling well, so my mom rushed over and took me. I might add that my mom had been up all night because she had offered to keep GG so Rick and I could get some rest. Of course, GG thought it was party time and refused to sleep. at all. meaning she didn't go to sleep that night. neither did my mom.
But, my mom did what any good mother does; she answers to the call of her child.

I was admitted to the mother/baby floor. It was around 1:00pm. I'd changed into my hospital gown, answered the 100 questions the nurse had for me, and was signing the papers for registration. When I got to the line where I was supposed to date my signature, I said to the nurse, "What's today's date? I don't even know what today is."
She replied, " the 17th."

I looked over at my mother. You'd never know that the date had any significance to her at all. I waited for the nurse to leave and then looked at my mom again. Embarrassed and ashamed I said, "Today's your birthday."

I forgot.
I totally forgot.
I had been so wrapped up in my own world, that I didn't even realize it was my mother's birthday. Who does that?!
Honestly, I thought twice about even writing this post because I was embarrassed to even admit such a thing.

As I apologized to my mom, I told her how sorry I was that she was spending her special day in a hospital room. I mean, seriously. Filling up a cup with ice chips, helping me to the bathroom, rubbing my back...not exactly the most fun way to celebrate another year of life. Each time I apologized, my mom reassured me that she didn't mind.

And you know what? I believe her.

Here's why:

Last year, Rick and I had plans for New Year's Eve. We were so excited. We'd spent a lot of money on one of my favorite nights of the year. I'd gone out and bought the perfect dress to match Rick's shirt and tie (yes, we're that couple). We had our bags packed, champagne ready for celebrating and, as luck would have it, Gabriella started running a high fever and got really sick. Of course. So what did we do? We stayed home. It wasn't even a question.
Last New Years, instead of singing Auld Lang Syne and toasting the year to come, I was rocking a sick little girl.

I wouldn't have had it any other way. That's how I know my mom didn't mind. Because I didn't.

A good mother, a good father...

They go when they're needed. It's part of the job description. It's nothing you have to do.

It's something you want to do...

Because it's your child. And who better to love and care for your child than you.

So, needless to say, there's no picture for this post. However, I bet you can close your eyes and imagine the love a mother has for her child. It's the perfect picture to imagine this Christmas season. Imagine the love that Mary had for Jesus.
Mary was always there for Him,
just like my mom is always there for me,
just like I'll always be there for Gabriella, Marielle, and Genevieve.

I hope you can see God in the love your mother has for you. I know I do.

Love,

Mary


Thursday, December 8, 2011

I Worry




I'm sure you don't remember, but when Rick and I first shared we were having twins I wrote that for once in my life I was not worried. Well, I lied. I mean, I wasn't lying then, but as it turns out, I've reverted back to my worrying ways.
Yesterday, Rick and I had our 22 week appointment and the 24 hours leading up to this appointment were an emotional roller coaster. Even though I'm only a month away from my third trimester, I still worry about both babies not being there. I worry about the $150 we pay each time we see the high risk doctor. I worry about the TWO cribs we've yet to order. I worry about how to nurse TWO babies. I worry about having a C-section and bed rest. I worry about my heart that beats so hard and fast lately. I worry about my class and making sure that, even though I'm carrying around TWO babies, they get the same level of energy, and love, and engaging lessons.
I worry.
Mostly, I worry in the middle of the night.
Like now.
When I can't sleep and there's nothing else to do except think.

Do you know what I really worry about, though?

The little cyst they found on Genevieve's head that is an indicator of Down Syndrome. I'm not worried about her health. I'm not worried about having a special needs child. None of the obvious so much as even rattles me.
I'm worried that somewhere along the way...
way down the road...
someone will make her feel different.
will laugh at her.

That's what I
really worry about. I can't help it.

Please don't think you're being invited to a pity party, though.

Because here's what I'm not going to worry about...

I'm not going to worry about Genevieve and Marielle's relationship. Yesterday, while we were at the ultrasound, we got to see them have a little love fight in real time! Genevieve was kicking Marielle and Marielle was hitting her back! It was fascinating to watch! In the picture above, you can see Marielle's face, but that's actually Genevieve's foot in her face! They are already so close.

I'm not going to worry about being alone. There's not one night that I've been up that Rick hasn't gotten up with me, rubbed my back or feet, listened to me share my craziest thoughts, and reassured me time and time again. He lets me know, in so many ways, that he appreciates everything it takes out of me to carry the latest additions to our family. In fact, I think he just fell asleep. :)

I'm not going to worry about our little family. I think we give everything we have to each other and Gabriella. We were sitting on the couch the other night, watching TV, holding hands. GG crawled right up between us and said, "Hold hand." She stuck her little hand right in the middle of ours'. And sat there. Enjoying our company. Do we make mistakes? Of course! But if having a family means giving every bit of yourself, your time, your love, your attention to each other, then we're on the right track.





In Matthew it says, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

As I look at the pictures Rick took of GG hugging Marielle and Genevieve, I see her unfailing trust. She depends on Rick and me, like I should be depending on God. We've never let her down. We've always made sure she has everything she needs. If I'm honest, she has way more than she needs. In her two year old mind, it's that simple. Mommy and Daddy will always provide. Maybe I should remember that childlike faith at times like this...when I'm up in the middle of the night...
and worrying.

There isn't one worry I've had in the last few months that has been actualized. I worry. God takes care of it. I worry again. God takes care of it.
Again.
and Again.

You'd think I'd get the picture.

Actually, I do. Most of the time. There's just the few times when it's hard.
Maybe you can relate...

I hear God and I hope you hear him, too. Telling me, telling us, not to worry so much. He's got it all under control.

Love,

Mary

P.S. Thanks for reading. Even if no one did, I'd still write, though. My blog is like therapy...only I don't have to pay a co-pay! HA!

Monday, November 28, 2011

There's More Life


So there we were. 7 1/2 years ago. Honeymoon. Oahu. I look at this picture and remember how our only care at the time was how to snorkel over the coral reef without touching it because the oil from our skin would kill it. Our biggest decision was how to spend the next day: shopping spree of our lives or Ferrari for a day. Seriously! We were actually going to rent a Ferrari and drive around the island.
Our spontaneity...
Our naivety...
Our irresponsibility...
They make me smile.
What makes me smile the most, though, is that my 24 year old self thought life was as good as it could possibly get. I couldn't fathom feeling more love than I felt as I held onto Rick.
How could life get any better?

***************************************

Fast forward to 7 1/2 years later. Thanksgiving weekend. Rick and I help our 2 year old daughter ride her tricycle for the first time. As she puts her feet on the pedals and starts to move, we exclaim, "Go, Gabriella Grace, Go!"
You'd think she was moving mountains.
To us...
She is.



I love looking back and seeing how much the life I have has changed and how, in my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined where I'd be.
Hanging from our fireplace...
five stockings.
Hey, 24 year old self, did ya ever see that one coming?!
I bet not.
What's funny, as I mentioned before, is that I really thought life was as good as it could get.
It hasn't gotten any easier, that's for sure. In many ways, things are much more difficult.
More responsibility, more disappointments, more bills, less money...
But.
It's so much better.
It's so much richer.
Somehow, there's more love.
There's more time.
There's more appreciation.
There's more understanding.

There's more...
life.




For the past few days, I have just stared at those stockings. They bring me such joy. They remind me that the future is so uncertain and full of surprises. Who knows what I'll be thinking in 7, or 10, or 20 years from now as I look back on the pictures from this weekend. I can only hope that I'll still be able to say that life (even with it's rough spots) has continued to get better,
that I have more love than I have now...
even though that seems impossible.

Then again, I never thought life as I know it would be possible! Ha! What do I know?

What I know is that I see God in the 5 stockings that represent the life of each member of my precious (I almost typed little here...whoops!) family.

Love,

Mary

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where I'll Be


21 1/2 weeks along and every day gets a little bit more difficult. Words can't describe the fatigue and discomfort that comes with carrying two babies. Sometimes, it's all I can do to sit up straight with my eyes open! It is that exhausting.
Last night, Gabriella wanted me to read her a book. I looked at her, looked at the book, looked back at her. That book was awfully long and, as crazy as it sounds, I was too tired to turn the pages and speak, but...
somehow God gave me the energy to read that book
and another.
I never thought there would be a time in my life when I would be too tired to read to my child.
Guess what...I haven't been...yet!
God gives me bursts of energy at just the right time.
Thank goodness.

That's why I am so thankful that I have the next 5 days off with my little family! I have cleared my schedule so that there is absolutely nothing I have to do other than spend time with Rick and GG!
Just how will we spend our time, you ask...
Well, at Gabriella's birthday party, she got a princess tent and it is quite the addition to our living room. Somehow, that tent can hold my ever-growing belly and Gabriella! We've already had such fun playing and pretending in her little castle. When I said I had cleared my schedule I wasn't entirely honest, though. There is one thing on my list. Crawl, okay, maybe waddle, scoot, have Rick drop me down in it...anyways...I plan on, somehow, getting into that castle, raising the drawbridge, closing the doors and making the most of every second with Gabriella. We're going to invite Mickey and Minnie. Phineas, Ferb, and Perry will be there. I even think Glo-worm might make an entrance if it gets too dark. Of course, we'll be sending love messages through the window to King Rick. hehe :) 5 days in a castle. Sounds magical, right?

So, if you're looking for me this Thanksgiving holiday, you won't find me in front of the TV. You won't find me on facebook. You won't find me at Black Friday sales.
Instead, you'll find me snuggled up in a castle in the clouds enjoying the last of Gabriella's only-child days. You'll have to peek through the window of the tower high in the sky because that's where I'll be.

No worries (not that I'm in high demand), though. The drawbridge will come back down on Monday morning. But until then...I'll enjoy every second of my royal long weekend.

Hoping you spend your Thanksgiving holiday in a castle somewhere!

Love,

Mary

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Too Fast


What a week it's been! Rick and I found out we will be adding two more GIRLS to our family!
Marielle Corrine and Genevieve Elise

We are beyond excited and for anyone wondering or wanting to ask, we are not disappointed (several people have asked already). How could you ever be disappointed in two miracles...
Life exists inside of me. Two to be exact.
I...WE are overjoyed!

We had clearer pictures to share, but I love this ultrasound pic because you can see Genevieve in the bottom corner resting against her sister, Marielle. It almost looks like Marielle is letting Genevieve rest on her chest. I love to think that they're already relying on each other. :)

Being able to call the babies by name has been the best! Marielle, Genevieve, and I left a little love note for Rick and GG on Thursday morning. I loved being able to sign our names.
Love,
Marielle, Genevieve, and Mommy
That's how the note ended. Something so small brought me such joy.


****************************

A couple of nights ago, I couldn't sleep. I was up, it was 4:00 am and I'd been awake for hours. I kept thinking about Marielle and Genevieve and how small they are. 8 ounces each. Gabriella was once that small. Now, she's running around here, flipping that long hair around, and throwing herself on the ground when we say no, only to peek out from her covered face to see if her tantrum is having any sort of impact...
I might mention that it's not. Ha! So, we don't get many of those!
BUT, as I thought about how much Gabriella has grown, has changed...I could hardly stand it.
Time is going too fast.
I want it to stop.
I tip-toed into Gabriella's room that night and listened to her sleep. I looked around at her itty bitty clothes that she just wore just a week ago and are already too small. I tried to peek through the slats of her crib so I could see her little fingers. As crazy as it sounds, I wanted her to wake up. I know what you're thinking: What mother wants her child to wake from a restful sleep in the middle of the night? I'll tell you:
a mother who doesn't want her child to grow up
a mother who wishes we didn't need sleep because that would be 8 more hours a day together
a mother who likes feeling the head of her child on her shoulder as she sleeps
No such luck.
She didn't wake up.
So, I just rocked in the rocker and cried like a big baby!
I guess because I hate the fact that time just keeps on ticking and there's nothing any of us can do to stop it. Not one single thing.
I think I will invent a time stopper. That way when Rick rolls over in the middle of the night and holds me when he thinks I'm asleep, but I'm really wide awake, when Gabriella puts her hands on my face and kisses me, and, one day, when Marielle and Genevieve are blaming the other for lost clothes and bows, I can freeze the moment. Make it last.
Turn each second into 5 or 10 or 100.
Light bulb moment: Maybe that's why God doesn't give us forever. We wouldn't appreciate it as much. When you only have a set time, you have to enjoy each moment because it is fleeting.
It doesn't and it won't last forever.
Just looked at the clock...it's almost 7:30. Since it's not in the middle of the night, I think I'll go wake up Gabriella and start enjoying this day with her and Rick.
and Marielle and Genevieve, of course.

As Rick and I sat down for our first dinner together in months and opened a card that read, "TWO GIRLS!!" I saw God. I felt Him.

Love,

Mary

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pink-Polished Toes

I was super excited to have a slumber party with GG on Friday night! Rick was going to the Lexington Catholic game, so it was a perfect chance for us girls to spend some precious time together.
Although I've always valued my time with Gabriella, the upcoming arrival of the twins makes me appreciate our time together even more. For the past 2 years, it's been Rick, GG, and me. Alone time with Gabriella will be harder to come by when there are 2 extra little ones fighting for our attention. This time matters.
I guess that's why the fact that I'm still sick upsets me so. On Friday, I felt good all day, until...
I got home and that familiar sick feeling started creeping around, threatening to ruin my night. Rick let me rest before he left with the hopes that would help...
it didn't.
I felt sick the entire time, BUT
at least I was able to do almost everything I had planned!
We painted our toenails. For Gabriella, it was the very first time her little toes had been polished. We popped popcorn and watched my favorite movie, Annie. While I was laying down on the couch, Gabriella was propped up against me, listening to me sing along. Every now and then, she would look back at me and smile. I think she liked my out-of-tune version of It's a Hard Knock Life. The later it got, the worse I felt, though. Later, I cried to Rick because I couldn't follow through with one special part of our night: a dance party. I wanted us to turn the music up extra loud and dance around the living room. It would have been nice to feel 100% for this special night with my daughter. As it turned out, I gave her everything that I had; every bit of energy I could muster. Amazing what you can do for your children.
I took the picture below as we were waiting for our polish to dry.
My foot.
Her foot.
One day, that little foot is going to be as big as mine. One day, that little foot will be walking 10 steps ahead of me instead of waiting patiently beside me. One day, GG won't care that we didn't dance on Friday night. She won't care that I couldn't stay up past 9:30. She won't look back on any of the things we didn't do.
Instead, I hope, she'll look back on the things we did.
The things we did...
together.
Like paint our toenails.
and giggle.
and hold hands.
and give big kisses!



I see God in the pink-polished toes of a mother and daughter.

Love,

Mary

Friday, October 14, 2011

Seemingly Ordinary, But In Fact, Extraordinary

There we were, all gathered 'round, waiting.
and waiting...
and waiting...
GG sat there reading the closest book available (James Dobson's Dare to Discipline). I sat off to the side with my camera in arm's reach and Rick sat perched and ready with words of bribery, "McDonald's, cookies, etc..." Gabriella had just let us know moments before that she needed to go "poo-poo" so off we all went to the bathroom in hopes of experiencing the first successful attempt together. Well, we waited...
and waited...
Gabriella stood up, sat down, stood up, sat down. She even had a brief stay in each of our laps, but that didn't last long as having a bare booty baby that wants to "go poo-poo" is not ideal for a lap-time cuddle session.
Rick and I just knew it was going to happen, but the longer we waited, the more our doubts grew.
"Patience," I told my little family to no avail. It just wasn't happening on this day. Of course, I had plans to take pictures of this monumental occasion, but since it wasn't going as planned, I snapped a few honorable mentions. This one stuck out.



While we were busy waiting, we were having the best time. We were making jokes and laughing. Watching Gabriella's little hands turn the pages of James Dobson's book and point to the words like she was actually reading...it was hilarious! I enjoyed that time with Rick and Gabriella more than they will probably ever know and there was no main event.
Everything seemingly ordinary, but in fact, extraordinary.
Maybe it's why I'm so incredibly content with my life. Maybe it's why I'm brought to tears by something as silly as laying awake with Rick in the middle of the night and getting the giggles over nothing at all. Maybe it's why I want to get on my knees and thank God for this life when Gabriella says, "Help Mama," and holds my hand as she leads me to bed when I'm sick.
It's finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
It's being thankful for the smallest things and finding such joy in them.
Trying to get lost in every precious second of life...
Are you able to? Do you?

I see an extraordinary God in the ordinary mismatched socks of a little girl waiting.

Love,
Mary

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You Know You're Pregnant with Twins When...

I must say that the past 10 weeks have been the most trying weeks of my life. Many of my close friends and family know that I was super sick with GG, but that pales in comparison to how sick I've been with the twins. The purpose of this post is not to complain, though. There are far more important and significant stories of people facing difficult times in the world right now. I have the miracle of life waiting on the other side of this for me.
I prayed (and many have been praying as well-thank you) that I would start to feel some sort of relief, and this week, I had a total of 35 hours of relief! Yes, I counted every single one because they were so precious! hehe
Being so sick all the time can kind of start to wear on your mental state. You start to feel like you're going to go crazy. In order to keep from totally losing it, I have to find the humor in the craziest situations. So, I've decided to compile a short list of scenarios from the past week or so.
You Know You're Pregnant with Twins When...
1. You are a super conservative republican and a speech by a democratic President makes you weep. And not in a bad way. Seriously. Barack Obama was giving a speech and I was so overcome with emotion I cried. Definite sign I'm carrying TWO babies!
2. You're in the middle of your nightly throwing up and your almost-2 daughter joins you in the bathroom. She stands in front of her potty, puts her head down, and starts to make gagging sounds, trying to spit up. It's become the norm around here. Another sign of TWINS!
3. After a 25 minute shopping spree in the clearance aisle of Wal-mart, you have the sudden feeling that you're going to pass out. So, you grab a pillow that's 50% off and lay right smack down in the middle of the floor, sweating profusely, while your husband says to every passerby, "It's ok. She's pregnant. She's having twins." You know it's TWO babies because you don't even care that people are starting to walk by just to get a glimpse of the "crazy lady" in the clearance aisle.

I probably have somewhere around 20 weeks to go. Sounds like a long time, but...

If I am laying on the floor at Wal-mart every single day of that 20 weeks, it still wouldn't be a steep enough price to pay for the life that's inside me.

On another note, I came home from school the other day and found these two jewels waiting and waving...



I can't wait for the day when this shot will include two more sets of tiny feet, two more sets of adoring eyes, and two more hands waving and welcoming me home.

Today, I felt God on the furry side of a hot pink, discount pillow and I'm so thankful that He gives me the insight to see Him and feel Him in the strangest places.

Thank you, everyone, for lifting my family up in prayer. We feel it.

Love,

Mary

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Reoccurring Fear

I was talking to a friend the other day and she was sharing her pregnancy experience with her twin boys. She shared some of the fears that she had along the way and how she thought they were "crazy." I thought to myself as she spoke,
I've had that same fear! I'm not alone or crazy after all!

We all have fears that worry us, that keep us up at night. I can promise that no matter what your fear is, someone else has also felt the same way at some point in time. It's comforting knowing that someone else has been where you are...knows how you feel.
With that said, I've had a reoccurring fear for the past few weeks. The sight of two precious babies on that Ultrasound screen 4 weeks ago has been the center of my life. I eat, breathe, and dream twins! It's all my little family has been discussing these days. It's like our home has a heartbeat from the palpable excitement!
Lurking around the corner is our next visit. Next Wednesday to be exact. While I can't wait to see those precious reminders of God's miraculous work in our lives, I have this dread. What if when the picture shows up on the screen there is only one baby? To carry and deliver one healthy baby is a miracle in itself, but two...
Rick says not to worry. Of course, that's easier said than done.
I just want to see those two sets of precious arms touching each other. I want to hear two sets of heartbeats.
At work we have secret pals. Last Friday, I got a note with just the right message.
The will of God will never take you where the grace of God will not protect you.
How true this is...
God will not lead my family to a place of His will and not protect us.
So, as I wait for this next appointment, I'm going to try and push my reoccurring fear aside.

I see God every day when I look at the best picture I've ever taken.

Love,
Mary


Saturday, October 1, 2011

I Think It's What Heaven Must Be Like

Seems as though our backyard has turned into a wildlife refuge. It all started with this little guy, featured above. Lucky (or a Praying Mantis as most normal people probably refer to such an insect) was spotted as Rick was mowing one day. He saw this little guy (I'll never know how) and in order to save him from the blades of death, picked him up and put him in a cage....
three weeks ago.
He's still there.
In this picture, he's been let out for a walk.
Don't worry. Lucky comes back.
I guess he likes us.
OR...
Maybe Lucky likes his company, the one footed frog that Rick and Gabriella found in the garage one night when they were on their way to find bugs for Lucky to eat.
Toe, Gabriella named the frog this because he's missing toes, is also in our backyard now, loving life.
The crazy thing is (that's right, I haven't even gotten to the crazy part yet) Rick and Gabriella have tried to release our new friends back into their natural habitats...TWICE.
They keep coming back!
So, it looks like we are now the proud owners of one really large Praying Mantis and a one-footed frog.
I love it...and here's why:
Every night, when I'm so sick and in between being on the bathroom floor and the couch, I hear my little family mapping out their plan of attack so that they can find food for Lucky and Toe. Gabriella starts the conversation with, "Catch bugs! Eat ant!" This is her way of saying we've got to feed the mantis. Then, Rick tells her where they will sneak around, what bugs they're attempting to find, and off they go as the door closes behind them.
But I can still hear them...
I hear them laughing and whispering and I just imagine them tip-toeing through the grass sneaking up on some unsuspecting prey. I just lay there and listen to them.
They always come back super excited to tell me about the adventure.
I think it's what Heaven must be like...hearing your family so full of joy as they share the memories they are making together. There isn't one other way I think I'd rather spend the rest of my life...
or after.
I can't wait until the twins are here and they can share in the excitement of our ordinary, everyday life. One where we catch bugs and set up wildlife refuges in the backyard.

I see God in Lucky, one of our newest and most unique family pets.

Love,

Mary

Saturday, September 24, 2011

He Provides

As I've shared in other posts, the decision Rick and I have made for him to stay at home with Gabriella has been one that's come with a lot of sacrifice. We each had this little voice inside, telling us it was the right thing to do, so we've stuck to what we feel is God's plan for our family.
With the latest development of twins, many people have asked me if Rick is going to get a job now. Well, you see, that is a tricky question because we still feel like God's plan for our family is for him to stay at home with our children.
This is where faith kicks in...
In each of our lives, God will call us to do something that makes us uncomfortable. He will ask us to do something that goes against our first reaction. Sometimes, it's easier to go with a sure thing instead of stepping out with nothing but your faith to tell you you're going in the right direction. How many times in my life have I gone with a sure thing?
This time, we're stepping out in complete faith; that if we do what we feel we should, He will provide.
So, I'd like to share just one way God is starting to provide...
Rick bought me a camera earlier in the year when he was working. There's no way we could have afforded expensive camera equipment without his job. He bought it for me because I wanted to take pictures of Gabriella. I had never taken photography seriously, knew nothing about lighting, aperture, speed, or any of the things real photographers know about. I simply looked through the lens, found something I liked, and snapped.
As I shared my pictures, people began to approach me and say they liked the moments I was capturing. At the beginning of June, just 4 months ago, I started taking pictures and getting paid for it! I never expected that anyone would ever want to pay me to take pictures for their family!! It's not at all what I had in mind when I started taking pictures.
So here we are, several months later, and I'm going into a week where I will have FOUR paid photo sessions. Rick and I are putting this money back to help with the hospital bills that are sure to come! Just look at how God has provided!
Is it possible, that it has always been part of God's plan that I would take up photography at this particular time in my life? I don't know. I hate to speculate.
What I can say, is that He provides...through ways I never thought possible!

This week, I'm going to see God through the lens of my camera as I, with His help, capture the very precious moments of life for my clients. I hope they will see Him, too.

Love,

Mary

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Big Sis






I am an only child. One thing I will never have or understand is the phenomenal bond that sisters and brothers share. My family is very small (big on love, though!) and I always said if I couldn't have a big family, I'd produce one! Ha! I didn't know just how right I was.
One of the things that delighted me most when I found out I was pregnant was the idea that Gabriella would have a brother or sister. I love the idea that Gabriella will have these two siblings to conspire with, take up for, fight with, love on, tell secrets to, and form a bond that will (hopefully) long outlast Rick and me.
I don't know how to do it, though...foster and nurture that bond so that it remains tight and unbreakable; so that it stands the test of time and trials and hurt feelings. For now, I guess I won't worry about that. Instead, I think I'll revel in the love that Gabriella already shows her little siblings: feeding my tummy goldfish, making my tummy drink juice, whispering who-knows-what in case they hear...
She's already just so darn good at it! Being a big sis that is...

I see God in the balloons Gabriella carried, the balloons that showed just how little we know about life because they read, "My mommy's having a baby."


Love,
Mary

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Best Picture I've Ever Taken

Life is so funny! It's full of twists and turns that you never see coming. Just when you have everything planned, God steps in with the surprise of a lifetime.
For my little family, that extra special surprise was this week.
Rick and I have known for almost 7 weeks that we are having a baby (I'm 2 days away from 11 weeks)! We've been planning, planning, and planning some more. This week, we went to the doctor to meet our precious little one. We had no idea how this visit would change our lives.
As we sat watching the ultrasound screen, we were both so nervous and giddy with excitement. To see life in its earliest form is truly remarkable. To think that God designed us to make life is probably one of the most complex and miraculous ideas of all time. The importance of the moment was not lost on Rick or me.
However, it was to our surprise that after a few seconds of maneuvering, the picture on the screen settled to what you see below...



Our doctor calmly asked, "Does everyone see what I see?"
We did.
We did.
Right in front of us was proof that every moment in our lives is hand-made, wonderfully made...
intentionally made.
Not one precious life.
Two.
So, here we are, meeting another adventure in life head on. Ready to fully trust God and know that if it wasn't meant to be...
it wouldn't.
Now, I would lie if I said we hadn't talked about some of our fears since finding out. There are some risks associated with a multiple birth and the financial commitment, well, you can just imagine.
BUT!
For the first time in my life, this perpetual worrier is 100% content in God's plan! I'm ready. Rick's ready. We're ready.
Back at the doctor's office...Rick could not stop laughing. I don't think he ever said anything except, "I love you." I exclaimed over and over, "It's a miracle!" The doctor gave us the information we needed and he handed us a picture. The picture that represents the next chapter in the Maldonado Family Book of Life. If I had seen this picture in a chapter in our book, I would have expected the caption to read something other than,
"Mommy and daddy meet the twins for the first time."
Well, I took that picture from the doctor and I can honestly say it's the best picture I've ever taken.

Please pray for the health of our babies.

Love,
Mary, Rick, GG, and the Twins

P.S. I have not told my class or administrator at work. Please respect our privacy and exercise discretion. I know if you are reading this you care about our family and will do this for us. Thank you so much.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Don't You Know I've Always Loved You

GG and I hopped in the car this morning for a very special day together! It's my last day at home before another school year starts and I wanted us to have some girl time! As Rick stood in front of the house waving goodbye, I started filling GG in on our plans. When I was finished, I turned up the radio and the very first song that played was perfect.




I don't know how to explain it
But I know that words will hardly do
Miracles with signs and wonders
Aren't enough for me to prove to you

Don't you know I've always loved you
Even before there was time
Though you turn away
I'll tell you still
Don't you know I've always loved you
And I always will

Greater love has not a man
Than the one who gives his life to prove
That he would do anything for you
And that's what I'm going to do for you

Don't you know I've always loved you
Even before there was time
Though you turn away
I'll tell you still
Don't you know I've always loved you




And I always will

The lyrics, the moment, the just-right timing...
I don't know what life will bring. I don't know what GG will aspire to do or become. I don't know what adventures she'll choose or what trouble she'll get into along the way! What I do know, and Third Day says it perfectly, I've always loved her and I always will.





What comfort there is in having the security of unconditional love for a lifetime.




Today, I see God in a set of photo booth pictures.



Love,



Mary



P.S. Here's a link to youtube to listen to the song if you've never heard it:








Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Choice

So, it's 6:45 am and I'm up...ready to start another school year! Don't worry, I know there won't be any students there today, but teachers start getting everything ready a few weeks before the big day. There's so much to do: unpack everything, set up your classroom, attend PDs, start planning lessons for a new year. It's a lot of work.


My first day back always means that summer has (almost) ended. Sure, it still stays light longer, we'll still have cookouts, and play in the pool, but...

I go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and take on a new, heavy load of responsibility. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining one bit. It's just the facts of a teacher's life. We know all too well when summer's coming to a close.


At the beginning of the summer, I posted an entry about my eagerness to find out what God had planned for my summer. At that time, I did not know that Rick would be leaving his job to come back home. I had no idea that the biggest surprise in God's plan was that my little family would be together for 6 weeks.

There's no way I could possibly find the words to convey what having this time with my family has meant to me. It's the biscuits-for-breakfast together. It's the backyard games in the middle of the day. It's the lazy, no-rush nights. I would say I'm lucky to have this time with my family, but that would insinuate it happened by chance and...


it didn't.


Our time together is a choice.

You see, I am a firm believer that there's not a person living that has it "all." We all accomplish, possess, and sacrifice things according to our values. If we examine ourselves closely, I think it's easy to see our priorities, what things are most important to us. I'm sure you can look at the "so and so" family and see what's most important to them, just as you can look at the "this and that" family and see what they value. With that said...


There are things Rick and I sacrifice (things I won't bore you with the details of because the last thing we need is a pity party) so that we can be here with Gabriella together. There are things we sacrifice so that we all eat dinner together every single night. There are things we sacrifice so that when one of us accomplishes something, we're all here to celebrate it. There are things we sacrifice so that we have so much time together. I know there are people who think (and say...yes, I hear) that we spend too much time together. If only they knew that at the end of this life, I'm sure I will be wishing it was even more! hahaha To spend this summer together was a sacrifice, but it was important to us. It's funny because Rick stayed at home with Gabriella her first year, but it took this summer for me to truly realize that any sacrifice that results in time together will always be worth it. Hey, I like that line!

Any sacrifice that results in time together will always be worth it.

So, put down the remote, turn off your IPhone or IPad or whatever you constantly check fb with, clear your busy schedule, put away your golf clubs, put down the laundry and spend some time...

together


I snapped a photo of Rick and Gabriella at the park the other day, albeit not a very good one, but I love the look of Gabriella's hair blowing in the breeze, her mouth wide open with laughter. I know I said I couldn't find the words to convey how great this summer's been, but the look on Gabriella's face comes pretty close!


I hope that no matter who you are, no matter where you are, that you can relate to this same sense of excitement. I hope that when you see your family, your spouse, your children...


it feels like that, it looks like that.


Yes, Rick and I make a choice to be there for moments like this. Maybe we should be investing more in other things, our savings, our house, our retirement...


but, if we have to make a choice


(and we do)


we're making the choice to invest in us.


Something tells me that when it's all said and done, neither one of us will regret our choice.



I see God in every memory of my summer and I'm thanking Him for it!

Mary

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Any Father EVER Ready?







This weekend, a good friend of mine, Andrea, got married. She asked if I would do the rehearsal dinner photos, and of course I said yes. While Andrea and Matt were running through everything (practicing their vows, lighting the unity candle, speaking with the minister) I noticed Andrea's father. There he sat...so serious.



I couldn't help but wonder what was going through his mind. For the second, and last, time in his life, he would walk one of his daughter's down the aisle. What's it like for a dad to escort his daughter to her future husband? Being a mother, I'll never know that feeling. Andrea's dad joked at the rehearsal, "Don't bring her back." It was a good way to break the tension. Everyone laughed, but on the inside, I know he was probably saying, "Please don't go. Not just yet." Of course, you always want what is best for your child: An adoring spouse, a happy life...


but...


there's always got to be that small part of a father's heart that wants to keep his daughter to himself. Unselfishly, he pushes that need aside to share his love with someone else. Daddy gives up being the first person called in times of trouble, the first person called to help. He resigns many of his duties to another man. Is any father ever ready for this?


Probably not.



As it turned out, Andrea wasn't the only daughter to walk down the aisle this weekend. Gabriella had the honor of being the flower girl in the ceremony. In order to get her down the aisle, Rick, on bended knee, waited for her. He waited, with his arm stretched out and a cookie in his hand! She walked to him. She walked to him because he is her Daddy and what daughter doesn't long for her Daddy as she walks down the aisle. I don't know if Gabriella will ever be a flower girl again, but if she's not, then the next time she's walking down an aisle at a wedding she won't be walking to her Father.



She'll be walking beside him.




I see God in the love between a father and his daughter.




Hope you have a fabulous week,


Mary

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Need for Touch

It is a fact. Humans need the affection, love, and touch of another in order to survive. It is one of our most basic needs. Recently, I ran across an interesting study that exemplifies this idea.


In the 13th century, Frederick II conducted an experiment on 50 babies. He wanted to see what language a child would speak if he never heard a word from his caregiver. The caregivers were forbidden to have any interaction (other than feeding and bathing) with the child. No talking, rocking, petting, playing, singing, etc. The children were given their very basic needs except for affection, touch, and love. The experiment ended in a devastating tragedy; all 50 infants died. Love and affection are so necessary for life that without them, the results are fatal.


This study reminded me of a stranger Rick and I encountered right before I had Gabriella. We were in the elevator, I was having contractions, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to know where we were headed and why! The sweet lady that shared the elevator ride with us had some important advice for Rick. She told him as soon as Gabriella was born, he should take off his shirt and hold her against his chest, skin to skin. Of course, Rick thought it might look a little funny to the nurses or various medical peeps running in and out of the room, but he did it any way. I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of Gabriella's entry into this world. The mother and child bond is an unbreakable bond of phenomenal strength, but I'd say Gabriella's bond with her Daddy is as strong as her bond with me. I credit that to the need for touch that she had...the need that Rick, in those first moments, was able to satisfy.
So, maybe I kiss GG a little too often, maybe I hug her a little too much, hold her hand a little too long, but it's because I know that within each of us is a need, better, a longing, for contact.

The need for touch...
The need for love...


The picture I chose, was from Gabriella's first day at home! I see God in the exchange of love between the tips of my two favorite noses touching.

Think I'll go give GG a big 'ol kiss,
Mary

Monday, July 18, 2011

French Fries and a Coke





As long as I can remember, I have always loved french fries. I mean LOVE! Everyone who really knows me, knows this. It's a love affair of the silliest kind! hehe And what could go with a large order of hot, salty fries better than a refreshing coke?! It's one dynamic duo! Unconsciously, I have passed on my love for french fries and coke to GG. She is now developing her own little love affair with Mommy's favorite combination. What can I say?


Like mother, like daughter!


As we were sharing McDonald's the other day, it occurred to me that for a very long time, GG will be looking to Rick and me as an example of what to do. In us, she sees how to act and respond, how to treat others, what to say, how to live her life. Even, what to eat!


Wow.


That's a pretty hefty load to bear; shaping GG's life and her personality in a way that we feel is right.


My mom used to tell me that when she was growing up, my grandfather would say, "Don't do as I do. Do as I say do."


I want GG to do as I do. I want to be an example for her.


Compassion, respect, loyalty, empathy, sincerity...


These aren't traits that happen by chance. They happen because they are taught and learned. They happen because somewhere along the line, an example was shown. I can think of no greater challenge than to try and embody the type of person I want my child to be. It will make me a better person, that's for sure. Of course, I'm human and have too many of my own faults to be a perfect example. However, can you think of a better reason to try?


I can't.


So, I hope that when GG grows up and she prays,


and loves


and laughs


and dances


and stays strong


and encourages


and appreciates


it's because she saw her mother and father do the same.


I hope.


Looks like I've got a lot of work to do,


Mary

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Through the Years...

1 Year Anniversary
2nd...




3rd...



4th...





5th...





6th...





present...

I see God in the pictures that represent each year of our marriage together! When I look at it this way, it doesn't seem like much time has passed at all. So thankful I've stopped to enjoy each and every moment. Not one has slipped by without my sincerest gratitude. Not one regret; it's all happened just the way it was supposed to and I've been present and aware of the value.




Mary

Monday, July 11, 2011

7 Down, Forever To Go...



















Rick and I just returned from Charleston! The occasion: our 7 year wedding anniversary. Technically, our anniversary is the 16th, but we celebrated a little early.



For this trip, we decided to leave Gabriella With Granny Di and Papa Ramon. While it was one of the hardest things I've ever done (being away from GG for that long) it was necessary. Here's why.


I believe that in order for a family to have a strong foundation, Mommy and Daddy must have a strong marriage. That relationship is first and foremost. Rick and I are the core of our little family. In order for things to work with our family as a whole, things must work with us first.



I see my marriage to Rick like a big Oak tree. In the early years of our marriage, prior to GG, we were planting our roots; gaining the nourishment and strength we would need to hold up our future branches. This is why we waited several years to have Gabriella. For us, it was the right decision to use those years to strengthen our marriage, to get our roots further in the ground, if you will. But, if you've ever seen a big tree, a really, really big tree, you know its trunk is humongous and its roots run so deep, and are planted so firm in the ground that nothing can budge it. Those strong roots, to me, represent the couple that's been married 50, 60, 75 years. Their life together has seen rain, sleet, hail, snow, sunshine, and rainbows...




and the roots are still planted in the ground




tree upright and thriving

stronger than ever.


I want my and Rick's tree to still be standing tall and strong in 50 years. I want our family to have a strong foundation that is centered on God and is, at its very core, a picture of our love for each other. I want our family to be a reflection of the roots Rick and I are taking care to nourish and strengthen. So, I'd like to share a few moments from our trip in which I could feel our roots growing stronger and deeper ...



When I grabbed Rick by the hand and dragged him out into an ocean that was only lit by a half moon, we couldn't see a thing as we kicked and splashed and laughed



When Rick made me try fried gator and I had to (very politely) spit it out in my napkin (sorry, but it was gross!)



When we arrived at an abandoned beach right after sunrise to sip mimosas and write in the sand



When Rick took my hand and twirled me around to a man playing a xylophone on the side of the road



When not one of us reached to turn on the radio for the entire 8 hour drive because we were too interested in what the other had to say



When I wrote in the sand with my tanned and polished big toe...



"Happy 7 year anniversary! 7 down...forever to go."



I feel God in his presence in my marriage and I am truly thankful.



Thank you for reading,


Mary




P.S. I had to add the last shot because I think my hubby looks like he's turning around in the middle of a modeling shoot! hahhaa He's gonna kill me when he reads this!