Happy 14th Birthday, Lilly Jane

Today is my sweet Lilly’s 14th birthday. Being the first born has to be scary- your mom literally has no clue what she’s doing, and yet somehow Lilly has managed to morph into this perfect little ball of perfection! At the ripe age of twenty-four, I was incredibly naïve to parenthood. Having Lilly changed my life in ways I can never fully explain. The excitement, the fear, the unknown. We went through it all together. She helped me grow. She pushed me to do more, be better.

This year is the first time I’ve actually considered how little time I still have with her at home. Before we know it she’ll be driving, and then heading off to college. She’ll start her own new adventures, and the squishy perfect little girl I once held will be gone.

I am beyond lucky to have such a sweet, kind, loving teenage daughter. Everyone warns you about the teenage years, and though we’re in the early stages of those years, I am loving every single day with her. Lilly is truly the most thoughtful girl in the universe. She loves her family fiercely. She is the first one to offer a helping hand. She is genuinely kind and truly cares about other people. To know her is to love her.

Today, I am just so incredibly thankful to have a daughter like Lilly. There is no one like her in the world, and I just thank God for her every single day.

The Longest Month

May 1st. Finally. Thankfully. Amen.

April proved to be the longest month in the world’s history. From learning that we’d never leave our house again, to processing how to work from home with my husband, while also assisting two middle schoolers with eLearning, it’s been quite the adventure.

We filled our month working on a new outdoor dining space, learning new martini recipes, scheduling contractor after contractor to work on various projects in the house, dodging snow one day, rain the next, and then basking in the sun on a few others.

Our dog has developed total separation anxiety, which is mostly fine for now since, see above, never leaving our house again, but there comes a point where her constant shadow behind me grows annoying. She is literally at my heals all day long!

After learning that our WFH adventure would last well beyond the summer, we decided to move my office to our basement so that I could have a designated home office. I am obsessed with my space! Our basement has become one of my favorite spaces in the house- probably because I planned and designed the entire thing, but also because it’s calming and quiet…though both kids have decided to also do their daily work in the basement alongside me!

Today, our governor will slowly begin lifting the stay at home order. We obviously have no idea what that really looks like, but we’re excited for warmer temperatures, date nights, Target runs, and maybe even some outings with friends.

We’re extremely thankful and blessed to have the luxuries that we do. We’re thankful for a family we all love and enjoy. We’re thankful to be working. We’re thankful for all we had in April, all we could do, and most importantly our health. We are truly a blessed family!

 

Patience

Friday night I got a super sweet message from an old cheerleading friend. For whatever reason, I’d been on her mind, and she kept feeling the desire to pray for me, and she kept feeling the word “patience” on her heart for me. This also comes on the heals of another friend (who happens to be our family/wedding photographer and a livelong friend of mine), who chose to do a weeklong fast “for” my fertility. First let me just say, when someone texts you out of the blue that they’re feeling a tug to pray for you, wow, God is doing some deep work. When a friend CHOOSES to do a fast for you and your struggles, it’s beyond humbling. There are just no words what these two friends have done to my heart this week.

It forced me to look at my lack of patience in so many situations. Not only have I continued to, month-after-month, struggle with not getting pregnant again, but I also have some serious issues with doing things on anyone else’s timing. I prefer a very set schedule, well-known to all those involved, and in a perfect world, I’d love to see it on a fresh sheet of lined paper, written in one of my favorite Papermate pens, and in my own handwriting. I truly don’t think I’m asking too much, amIright?

Being in our home nonstop for over a month has also brought to light many of it’s imperfections. It’s many flaws that I just can’t spruce to life. It’s bare walls and drab existence that just beg for character and stories of a marriage that loves well and a family who enjoys their time within it’s walls. And so, I’ve been adding and adding and adding and adding and adding and.. you get it….to a list of things that just need changed in our house.  And we’ll get to all of those things. It’ll just take one thing. T.I.M.E.

The fact that my friends are praying for me means so much to me. And it truly jolted me into taking a look at myself. Am I praying for my fertility issues? Am I praying for my health? Am I praying for my future? Am I being patient and TRUSTING God’s timing?

My husband challenged our family to pick a verse of the day and to write down what it means to us, or why we chose that particular verse. This morning I wrote Romans 8:24-25. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

My prayer is that my heart can trust God’s perfect timing…that I can trust that if/when we have a baby, it’ll be because God has cleared that path for us…that I can trust that this house is much more about the things on the walls or the furniture we sit on, but more about the memories we make together in it, and some of that just takes time. My prayer is that in the waiting, I can be fulfilled by the love of Christ and the love of my family…because I have both of those things right now. May I not be so obsessively planning for the future that I miss out on who and what I have at this perfect moment.

What if…

As you can see, my guest writers have disappeared and are apparently not yet bored enough to be regular contributors to my blog! So here we are…I think 37 days into quarantine and social-distancing.

An article was circulating social media and though I kept seeing it pop up on my friends’ pages, I never took the time to read it. Yet, after another Saturday of HGTV repeats, I finally caved and read it. You can read it here. A lot of it makes sense to me, but some of the things that stood out to me really hit me hard….

We’re going on week six, I believe, of doing church online. We took communion from home a few weeks ago, celebrated Easter Sunday from home, and have gone through an entire series, all while being apart. Not in the church building. And it got me thinking. What if this is the point. What if we were meant to have this period of quarantining to slow us down, and more importantly, remind us that the point of church isn’t the actual church building. What if it’s to remind us that the responsibility of being spiritual leaders is on us, as parents. Joshua 24:15 kept replaying in my mind. It’s a reminder to me that what’s really important is what’s happening within the walls of my home, and it’s MY job to make sure my kids are learning and growing in their faith, even without youth group and Sunday morning services AT the church.

The kids are now completely remote when it comes to school. They won’t return to their school at all this school year. And we’ve all seen the memes about what it’s been like to “homeschool” our kids this year, the truth is, it’s no joke! It’s tough! Our kids love their teachers. And we, as parents, love the kids’ teachers too! What an eye-opening way to make us realize just how much we depend on teachers to guide our kids. And what a perfect time for us to reinstitute the role of actual parenting when it comes to our kids’ education. We have this rare opportunity to reset the way we “teach” our kids, and to teach our kids some accountability about staying on task and being independent in their learning.

As parents, as people, we’ve become lazy. We’ve counted on other people to “handle” things that matter most- our faith, and our kids. Like I said, we have this awesome and unique opportunity to reset. We GET to spend a ton of time with our kids. We GET to spend EVERY SINGLE MOMENT with our spouse. We GET to call our friends on the phone instead of just texting. We GET to say hello to neighbors (from across the street, of course) during a daily walk. And we GET to slow down. Let us truly not miss the joy that can come from this time in quarantine.

Week 1: My perspective

Guys, I realize how incredibly rare this time is. And I’d really like to tell you that we’re killin’ it over here, Brady Bunch picturesque. That’s just not the case. Ryan and I, though working from home, have put in more hours this first week than we have in awhile! It’s been a LOT! And let me say, I am THANKFUL for a job that I love, and even more thankful I get to work alongside Ryan, but…it’s a lot!

The kids, as much as they’ve hated being quarantined, have REALLY been awesome! They have stayed on top of their eLearning, have kept their rooms and bathrooms clean, and have managed their moods as best as can be expected. They’re at an age where they can control their own time-management. I set expectations on “school days”, but they’ve really handled their work within those parameters on their own, smoothly.

Though the weekends don’t feel much different than weekdays, it is nice to unplug and just relax together. Between the four of us, we’ve watched enough Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu to keep all streaming companies alive and running! We’ve ventured out only a few times for wine groceries! Church has gone solely online, and it’s become one of my favorite things about being stuck at home- there’s just something about the whole family sitting around in jammies, drinking coffee and hot chocolate, listening to worship music, and reading and learning God’s Word.

Here’s to another few weeks together….

Week 1: Ryan’s Perspective

Ryan: Gretchen and I started off the month of March with a weeklong water & vegetable only fast; it was an opportunity for a physical cleanse along with a mental and spiritual refresh.  After a week of less than 500 calories a day, we ended the week with a nice steak dinner together… it was outstanding! After going a week without some of my favorite things; a hot cup of black coffee, a cold beer, a great steak… they were great when reintroduced, the “color” in them came back to life.  The week allowed me to focus on my relationship with God and my wife, and I had one very specific ah-ah, which I’ll touch on shortly…

A few weeks later, and COVID-19 has forced many to shelter-in place… our first week was a little rough, as I had already forgotten what I learned during the week of the fast.  I had life on cruise control of sorts – a good routine in place, and I thought Quality Time together with family was just being together.  I’m obviously late to the game here in understanding this, but it is so much more than that.  I love love spending time with my wife, love Anderson’s punny jokes, and Lilly’s cute silliness… and I so appreciate the “color” we bring to each other’s lives.  However, in many ways, I was present without participating.  I took for granted things my wife does, or didn’t notice when kids were about to tell a  great story.  My ah-ha from our week long fast and now from week 1 of COVID-19, is that relationship is more than just being there… it’s a connection.  A connection takes time, effort, and intentionality…with God, my wife, and the kids.   It takes me putting the phone down, shutting off the computer, and making time for those that it matters if you spend time with them!

I am so thankful for the “color” in our lives… and I pray I don’t miss the opportunity to use the time together, during the COVID-19 lockdown, to strengthen our relationships together!   I’m definitely not nailing it over here, just ask em! Just so so thankful, and forward looking forward to the next….. 6 weeks together??!?! 

Week 1: Lilly’s Perspective

Lilly: When I first found out that they canceled school I had mixed emotions. I was excited to stay home (at first) but I was super sad that I wouldn’t be able to see my friends (which is the only reason I like school lol). On the first day of quarantine, I was all good until I was done with eLearning (funny, right?) because Mom told us the we couldn’t go to our friends house and hang out (“chill with our homies” in Anderson’s words). Anderson and I both were very disappointed and angry. Being on quarantine is the worst thing ever! It’s only the first week and I went CRAZY!!! (But not as much as Mom!)

We are off school until May 1st but I think that they will change it so that we are not going back to school. Luckily, my cool mom is letting me have a few friends over for a mini graduation so that we can all wear our last day of school outfits and hang out. But for now, Mom won’t let us hang out with anyone so it gets so very boring. Also, everyone gets very crazy and annoyed so boy is that fun!! So, basically quarantine is terrible, boring, crazy, stressful, and oh so hard!

But just because everything about it is horrible, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it seriously. So, SIX FEET AWAY AT ALL TIMES, KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!

Week 1: Anderson’s Perspective

COVID-19 has impacted everyone. From school kids, to parents, to pets who want us out of the house, we are all directly hit from the effects of the Coronavirus and self-quarantining. What “fun” would a national emergency be if we didn’t document the whole thing. Enjoy the next few days of Quarantine 2020 with the Middleton-Hahn’s!

Anderson:

Our last day that we were actually at school was Thursday 3/12. That day I had to go home early because I sprained my ankle in PE, which is my second period, so I was hardly at school that day. On the following day (Friday the 13th) was what is called a flex day, which is a specific day of the quarter where we have a scheduled eLearning day and we basically do our work at home online. That very Friday was the day where we found out that we would have to stay home for 2 weeks, but technically 3 weeks, because spring break started when the quarantine ended.

That weekend my sister went out to an ice cream store called Zestos, with her friend Erin. Erin’s little brother Jackson is one of my friends, so the following day both my sister and I went over to their house. We were there for about an hour, and it was a blast! This turned out to be a pretty consistent pastime. The next day we went to their house, we went to Zestos, and did it again the following day. Jackson wore a banana costume to Zesto’s… (he didn’t get a banana split if that’s what you are thinking!)! Why did he wear a banana costume? To be completely honest I’m not sure. Anyway, lets get back to the story. We loved going over there, especially me, because everywhere we have lived, my sister has always had a friend in the neighborhood, and I never did. So this was exciting and wonderful! The following day, we were going to go over there, and just chill or whatever. But my mom decided “They might have the Corona Virus” and “Social distancing is very important at these times.” We were seriously disappointed, especially me, because like I said, I’ve never really had friends that lived close.

Anyway, to make a long-story-short, one day this week my mom decided that we could go over there for an hour or so!! We thought that there was a catch, but apparently there wasn’t except… it started RAINING. We were so annoyed and frustrated.

It is currently the following Saturday night, at 9:30 and I haven’t seen them since. I also left out that we discovered that the quarantine is extended till May 1 ‘___’ so how’s your  quarantine going?! LOL!

 

 

“Torono”

We knew we wanted to do a quick getaway this month since the kids will be in MN for spring break, and summer break is already looking incredibly full. A couple weeks ago the kids had a Friday and Monday off school, so we saw it as the perfect time to sneak away and explore a new city together.  When Ryan suggested Toronto, I thought he was insane, but of course he assured me it would be fun! Anywhere we could go within driving distance was going to be cold (hello, FEBRUARY!), so why not Canada?

The kids had a church event Friday night that lasted into the early morning Saturday, so we couldn’t get started on our adventure until after that (and a few hours of sleep, of course!). We made our way across Ambassador Bridge, and made the final trek to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls just as the kids were falling asleep again! Luckily, the vastness of the Falls were enough to snap the kids back into action as we walked the sidewalks to see the incredible views. What an awesome place to visit!

the fam at the falls

From there, we made our way into downtown.Toronto.on.a.Saturday.night. Holy moly! Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America, and we felt it that night! After a long day of driving, navigating a super busy downtown in the dark was not our idea of fun! BUT, we made it to our downtown condo, right across from the Scotiabank Arena (where the NBA team, the Toronto Raptors play)! Our little travel guide had found the perfect Airbnb for our visit!

Neither of us had visited Toronto before, so we were really exploring it blindly! We headed out the next day to the Harbourfront which, not so shockingly, happened to be Ryan’s favorite spot of our trip! It was a gorgeous morning, the sun was out, and the kids were in (mostly) good moods! That in of itself is a success in my book! RM and LJ Lilly picked out a cute spot for brunch, then onto the CN Tower we went.

We learned that Tim Horton’s (though we have them in Fort Wayne now!) is referred to as Timmy’s by the locals, and that pronouncing the second ‘T’ in Toronto just screams tourist!

We surprised Anderson awhile later with a quick walk to Graffiti Alley. The kid was hooked! We’ve never seen him SO excited about anything! He loved the different art, the creativity and the colors!

anderson toronto

We spent the entire day just exploring this new-to-us city! We had an awesome dinner downtown before turning in for the night! It was really cool to spend the time away, just the four of us, with no specific destinations, no timelines, and zero prearranged plans. I am so incredibly thankful for a husband who will step outside of the box, plan a trip that will include something for us all, and just take the “risk” of something new.

The Selflessness That Is PARENTING

I am aware that what I’m about to admit is going to make me look like a giant jerk ball. I’m also confident that I’m not the only single-to-now-married mom who feels this way, or has felt this way at some point. But really, even if I am, that’s okay too.

I was a single parent for more than ten years. During that time, I played mom, dad, doctor, nurse, teacher, coach, etc. It’s the job description that’s required of all moms, sometimes even more so of single moms (or dads). It’s just what you do to keep.swimming.

When I met Ryan, my biggest hope and prayer was that the kids would like him and that he would like them. Of course, being that they’re an extension of me, I knew he’d love them. It was a prerequisite! But, my kids were elbow deep into the tween years, and getting them to like new people can be tough! (No idea where they get that.) Clearly, things went well and…here we are!

Flash forward to this week. While helping Anderson with some homework and cleaning out his Trapper Keeper (hehe!), I found a note he wrote to Ryan, thanking him for always being there for him and Lilly, along with other things! Of course it’s a super sweet note and I would NE-VER be upset that he wrote it, but…it pissed me off!

Ryanandkids

Because, let me tell you about one of the writings that my daughter wrote about me.

Last summer at church camp, Lilly wrote in her journal that she was praying for me because I’m always mad and tired. She wrote that I always seem upset and overwhelmed. O. U. C. H.

She isn’t wrong.

There’s just a heavy responsibility of being the sole disciplinarian. Of course, it’s not Ryan’s place to discipline them. And their dad lives so far away that I wouldn’t expect his input or help either. So that leaves me. Always the “bad guy” and always the “mean” one. It’s just what it is. But sometimes it really really really stinks and sometimes it really really hurts.

Being a mom is the most selfless job there is. It’s not about me at all. It’s about keeping them safe. Keeping them on task. Holding them responsible, and creating accountability. It’s about making sure homework is turned in, laundry is done, beds are made. It’s about creating tiny humans who will turn into productive teens and young adults. It’s about teaching them that they have ownership over their actions, their body, their words. Everything I do is to ensure they are learning and growing as kids so they can be self-sufficient adults. That is my job. And for now, it comes with zero reward!

I know that with time, my 38 year old daughter will spend a Monday morning crying on her bathroom floor texting me, telling me how thankful she is for me, and apologizing for all the times in her life she took me for granted (sorry mom!). I know that at some point, my son will be there for me, the way that I am always there for him. I know that the rules and restrictions I’m putting on them now (on my own) will benefit them in middle school and high school and cut down on the drama that they just aren’t equipped to navigate. I am confident in my parenting, even though it oftentimes goes unnoticed.

Here’s to all the single moms, working moms, and everything in between…I SEE YOU. I see the effort, the tears, the stress, the heartache, the celebrations. I see all of it. You are doing all the right things. You are doing it all for them. THEY don’t know it, but I DO. KEEP SWIMING. You’ve got this! Do not give up because those kids are sooo incredibly worth it. They’ll come around. They’ll grow up and they’ll realize YOU are the one who kept them on track- even with your constant nagging and occasional yelling. YOU DID IT FOR THEM! I SEE YOU!