Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Only by His power...

I hate setting goals.  Probably because of the let down if I don't make it.  I don't start over easily.  I take responsibility and finish to the end, even if it's ugly and no one's watching.  It's just who I am.  Knowing this, I don't make commitments lightly.  That being said, I have "pushers" around me.  Ones who know I'm not into change, and check in on me to make sure I'm growing as a person.

But after being convicted about my pessimism with resolutions on Sunday, I've decided to put on a new attitude (Thanks Scott).  "Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God." - William Carey.  He wants us to enjoy Him, and enjoy this life living for Him.

In starting a new year, I kind of want rest, to take a breather, and to be still.  These are good things.  But they can instill some laziness as a woman of faith, if in them too long.  So I'm going to simplify but expect God to rock our world again.  I'm going to sleep hard but expect God to wake me up when necessary.

And "attempt."  What a great word.  Making an effort to achieve or complete.  It implies really going for it, but in the end it's about the process.  God wants me to attempt.  Whether or not He'll use it is up to Him.  But the expectation of standing up and going is what counts.

I'm going to ATTEMPT to be the wife of my husband's dreams in order to bless the heck out of him.

I'm going to ATTEMPT to be the best possible mother for Colton- whether that means tough love or unending compassion.

I'm going to ATTEMPT to be a faithful friend when called upon.

I'm going to ATTEMPT to find my beauty and identity in Christ, and not in the expectations of this world.

I'm going to ATTEMPT all these things only by His power in me.  Any goal setting, or wishful thinking on my own accord will lead to guilt upon failure.  I know there is victory to be had.  And He's gonna get all the credit this time.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How do we do it?

I'm convinced that we're in the middle of what some moms call a "wonder week."  More whining.  Less sleeping.  Some growing, some teething, learning new skills.  It's all tough on their little bodies.  But it's tough on our bodies too.

It's pretty routine for me to wake up and my very first thought is not "what a beautiful day to be alive" (although, it should be, and I have so much to be thankful for).  But instead I immediately ask myself what I have going on, and maybe I should cancel everything and hide in bed.  I've been a mom long enough now that blaming things on hormones seems rather passe, so instead I find myself sarcastic and exhausted.

Then I look at this photo from this morning.  I see my son.  Wide mouthed.  Clinging to my shirt.  Who am I kidding.  He is so worth all this.  I must go on.

My friend called me on her one free moment yesterday (new mother of two... we mostly text and show our love through emodicons these days).  She reminded me that I did not possess this capacity to love this human sacrificially until he was here.  And then, God granted it.  Now I can extend it.  We laughed thinking about "all of His children" that He loves so fully and perfectly.  And we struggle to stay awake without coffee.  Ha.

So thank you God, for knowing what I can handle.  After a difficult week, my son graced me with a three hour nap window to shower, shave, fold laundry and write.  And thank you friend, for the phone call.  And thank you son, for being an amazing growing and changing child.  I may be tired, but I'm not going anywhere.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Art of Showering

My advise to my nine-months-pregnant sister?

Shower.  Often.  And long.

I actually did this.  Showered twice in one day just because I could when I was pregnant.  I would sit in the shower just to drift off, pray and think.  Soaking up the silence and the water beads.

Now it goes a little like this:

My shower is all about strategy.  It needs to happen after I've exercised, but also after my son's best nap, and decent feeding, and in a moment of time where there really is nothing else that should take it's priority.  Finding that spot is tricky sometimes.  Welcome to 10 minutes of my world.

Photo cred: Alphamom.com
Step 1: During nap set up the bathroom.  Clean clothes, potential changes of clothes, phone, water, clean towel, and about 5 toys that have not been "revealed" that day.  These toys must be exciting enough to hold at least 60 seconds of attention and be small enough to sit on the tub ledge (concealed behind the outer curtain.)

Step 2: Child wakes.  Feed and change him.  Assess mood.  The last thing you want is a screaming child outside of few moments of peace.

Step 3: Strap child into bouncy chair.  Still praying this chair grows with him, seeing that it's your saving grace for this stage in his lives.

Step 4: Begin song #1.  I have a repertoire of about 10 songs I can sing on command including mostly hymns, choruses of country tunes and Christmas songs.  Of all the songs we hear throughout the year, it's the Christmas ones that have the sticking power.  Seriously- all 4 verses of Joy to the World?  No problem.  Plus they are jolly and kid friendly.

Step 5: Turn water on, remove clothes and deliver Toy #1.  It deserves an exciting introduction as to hopefully squeeze the most out of it, because there will only be four more options.  The clock has begun.

Step 6: Begin song #2, complete with changed lyrics about how you're shampooing your hair and how much mommy loves baby.  Then you hear that sound.  Toy #1 has fallen on the ground.  The bouncy seat starts bouncing to the rhythm of his whining.  You poke your head out, and he smiles.  30 seconds of peek-a-boo.  Then it's time for conditioner and Toy #2.  Once again brought from behind the curtain with great surprise and exaggerated excitement!

Step 7:  Song #2 suddenly becomes song #1 because your mind drifted off to what's for dinner.  Toy #2 drops to floor.  Panic and sadness abounds.

Step 8:  Failed attempt at peek-a-boo.  Duh mom, you already used that one.  Oh!  Peek-a-boo from the other side of the shower.  30 seconds bought to lather body with soap.

Step 9:  Toy #3 is violently thrown against the door.  Two toys left... to shave or not shave.  That is ALWAYS the question.

Step 10:  Toy #4 surprising lasts longer than usual.  You peek out, concerned, only to find him trying to lean out of the bouncy seat.  Time for Toy #5.  I guess we're not shaving.

Step 11:  Song #3 on repeat cause your mind is a little numb.  You make a mental note of how desperately you need to clean the shower- after all it is your little peace of heaven, sometimes.  Oh and get Shampoo at Costco.  And the grout needs scrubbing.  Should call mom about her tricks for that.  Does the phone need charging?  ...Then that sounds we all hate to hear... Toy #5 hits the floor.  You could lean out to get it for him to buy you another minute, but then there would be water all over the floor and you'd spend that extra minute cleaning it up anyway.  Nah... sigh.  It's time to get out. 

Now there's probably not time for make up, and you might as well just throw your hair in a bun.  Muster up song #4 complete with made up hand motions just so you can throw your clothes on.  All this for 10 minutes of your life.  

But hey... at least we're clean.  That's sayin' something. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Six Months Reflection

I can't believe a little over six months ago, I held my baby boy for the first time.  I watched my husband change his first diaper.  I experienced real sleep deprivation.  And we became a family of three.  How has half a year already gone by?

As I have been reflecting for the last week, 2013 has been a major year of change for us.  We had a child, we bought a house, we have lost friends, new babies have been born, and our church has closed it's doors.  While all of these things have affected me in serious ways, the whole "having a child" thing is what has changed my everyday.

A friend of mine, mother of five, captures her moments of daily life through photography and posts them as #elevatetheeveryday.  I love this concept.  I'm realizing that motherhood with young children really can become a lot of repeating, watching development, waiting, and making everyday tasks ELEVATED so as to enjoy the most simple of things.  My hope is that Colton will learn this along with me.

This is why there's a song for changing his diaper.  This is why I actually wait to fold the laundry until he's awake and can play in it.  This is why I water the garden with him on my hip, so I can point out all the different vegetables to him.  This is why we eat lunch outside when we can, because the blanket on the grass makes such a cool sound.

Even when Colton is teething, growing or sick, I still try to stop and "smell the roses" as a mom.  Attempting to pause and remember that I'll be writing my reflections on a year before I know it, and all those pajamas I just ripped the tags off of will be boxed up and marked "baby clothes" before I can blink.

I'm also learning to be resourceful.  Because in order to "elevate the everyday," one has to plan to do so.  Things like when I'm chopping veggies for my scrambled eggs at 7am, I'll chop some for my sandwich and for dinner on the grill as well.  I'm giving myself set 20-30 minute chunks of time to clean while my kid is asleep.  Beyond that, I need to enjoy some time to myself (writing, reading, sleeping, skyping etc).

So six months in, Colton is sitting up, crawling, has two bottom teeth and is developing his personality.  He actually smiles on command for the camera, and loves to make little growling and spitting noises- such a boy.  We'll be starting solids at the end of the month which I believe he's going to love.  I read recently "food before one is just for fun."  I liked that.  It takes a lot of pressure off of it.  He'll go through likes, dislikes, plenty of messes and lots of discovery.

Here's to elevating the next six months.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Opening Windows

Sometimes you need to open a window.

It's amazing how stuffy it can get in my little world. I breath my own recycled air as I panic about silly things, worry about plans that don't happen, rethink things I should have said or done. Everyone needs some fresh air every now and then, and for me it was Saturday morning.

Colton, while a good sleeper these days, has been confused lately. Not sure where he got the idea that waking up bright-eyed and ready to play at 5:00am was a good idea (probably from his dad). Saturday morning, I embraced it, got up with my boy and had that cup of coffee even though I knew he'd go down for a nap by 6:30. I decided to use that time to do something I never have time for: reading. I was given a small book by a mother I respect right after I had Colton. Really wasn't sure when I was ever gonna read anything other than a text message these days, but it could not have come at any better time. Within minutes I was laughing and crying and choking on my coffee. What a refreshing feeling! In the first chapter, this mother of five children under five talks about "opening a window." She was right, I needed some fresh air and fresh perspective.

As soon as I let this air in, I realized how stuffy it had been. You never know when you're in the stuffy room until you leave it. Chris and I realized the other night, we had really been just letting life happen to us. And for a short time, after a baby is born, this is totally acceptable. But after a while, it's reasonable to live a little bit more on purpose again. What started out as pillow talk, ended up being a much longer discussion on our marriage, our habits, our future and where we were headed. We needed some new direction, and needed to establish our vision as a family again. It had been a while.

After a long drive and picnic lunch the next day, we connected and got on the same page. We tend to have these planning sessions every few years. We asked questions like "where do we want to live in x amount of years?" "what will my exercise routine look like?" "where will we have taken vacation?" "who will we spend time with the most?" "how much sleep will I get?" "what will we have saved for?" "how will we rest together?" "what will our family look like?"

We are still working through this routine, and it is different answering these questions this time, not just as a couple, but as a family of three now. But I have to say, since I "opened that window" on Saturday, I'm feeling refreshed, motivated and on point- even for a tired mother of a 5 month old.

God, give us the grace to live out these goals while keeping You as our center. Help me be the wife, mother, friend, writer, and observer I hope to become.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A New Anxiety

“And he described Jesus in one word. Are you ready for this, Noelle?  Jesus was RELAXED.”

A friend of mine shared with me about a podcast she had heard from Dallas Willard.  I can’t remember how we got there, but this was a divine word that I knew was not an accident.  I consider myself a fairly even-keeled person, but all that usually means is that I store the extra highs and lows on the inside until they ooze out and somebody’s gotta clean them up.  It’s not until my anxiety is called out by name am I able to deal with it.

Motherhood has brought on a new anxiousness.  Everyone calls it “natural” but anxiety is not healthy, even if it’s for good reason.  It eats away at you, one thought at a time.  While I want to be a more relaxed parent, I know it’s simply so not my style.  I’m trying to accept that.  I like structure, and knowing, and stats, far more than I like to just “let things happen.”  Because, what if I let things happen and it turns out horribly?!  How do my motherly instincts fit into this equation?

First it was feeding.  I experienced so much stress with my first two months of nursing; I’m surprised my body didn’t just give up all together.  By God’s grace, we fought through and my son has gained weight without issue, and now we have a wonderful feeding relationship.

Then came the sleeping issue.  Swaddling correctly, sleeping position, is he breathing, etc.  Then general health questions- why is he congested, what is this skin reaction, immunizations, germs in the church nursery and grocery store, indigestion… it’s enough to work one into insomnia, and at times it did.  By God’s grace, my son is figuring out his sleeping on his own, and all of those health worries have worked themselves out.  Imagine that.

Lately I’ve been worrying about pumping schedules, my husband’s role in parenting and my hesitancy to leave my child with other people- if my insecurities are worth listening to or fighting through.

Last night, my husband asked the dreaded “is there anything you need to talk about” question.  What started as a minor concern about the perception of others blew up into a complete projectile spit up (baby pun intended) of anxiety that had been building up itself.  Poor husband, didn't know he'd need a burp rag for the wife too.

Does caring/loving your child so much HAVE TO accompany such high levels of anxiety?  Does thinking about your child 24/7 HAVE TO include worrying about them 24/7?  I think the answer is no, but I realized this was something I most definitely was NOT doing.

When Dallas Willard described Jesus as RELAXED, we’re not talking about the ultimate vacation or spa day.  Jesus really, in every circumstance, trusted the Father.  This is a NEW place for me to trust God.  I may trust him with my marriage, our jobs, family drama, friendships… but suddenly I’m like the kid with the new toy.  I don’t want to share it.  It’s new, and I want to figure it out.  I want this part all to myself.  Why am I so relaxed about trusting the Lord in these other areas of life that are old hat compared to the new, but not this new one: my child.

If I could only stay reminded of how much more God loves my son than I ever can or will, I could finally relax.  I could finally trust.  My shoulders would drop away from my ears, my hands would soften and I could drift back to sleep, if I could just remember how to be like Jesus in this way: at times angry, at times staying up late, at times up early, at times in pain, at times with the weight of the world on his shoulders, but all the while- trusting that the will of the Father to be the ultimate good.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Dad's Take on a Birth Story, Part 2: The Scariest and Greatest Night of My Life

We checked in to Sutter Roseville hospital at about 5:30pm, brimming with optimism that the moment had arrived - of course Noelle's optimism was tempered by the pain she was already in and what she knew was coming.  The head nurse was Kendall, a sweet and honest lady who informed us early on that what Noelle had gone through - thus far the hardest 24 hours of her life - was actually not real labor.  What the H-E-double-hockey-sticks was she talking about?  All those contractions were not the real deal?  By the book, it had only just begun.  Wow - it kind of took the wind out of our sails, but Noelle dealt with the news like the champ she is and was ready to meet the greater challenge ahead.

We got checked into our room and settled in for the long haul.  Noelle had registered a solid "4" on the dilation scale upon checkin, so it was hard to say how long the ordeal would take.  Lorrie and I were doing our best to encourage her and remain peaceful even though neither of us could possibly contain our excitement.  Lorrie just wanted to hold and spoil her new grandson... I meanwhile wanted to see this little guy who had already changed so many aspects of my life while remaining inside my wife's body.

6pm... 7pm... 8pm... The first few hours passed with plenty of

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Dad's Take on a Birth Story, Part 1: The Time Before the Time

See that guy in the photo?  Not the one in the beanie... the one smiling like a complete dork who has no idea what he just got himself into.  That's me, proud father of my firstborn son Colton Sterling Ritter.  This is the story, from a dad's perspective, about the birth of this little guy and about what my amazing wife went through to bring him into the world.  My intentions, just so you know, are two fold:  help myself remember the details and feelings of that fateful day (and night!), and encourage anyone facing this beautiful, life changing, and strange experience.

It all started way, way back on April 12, 2013.  It was a Friday evening and I'd just gotten home from work.  Colton was already 8 days past due, so it literally felt like every hour that passed could be the hour it would all get started.  Sure enough, Noelle's contractions began

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Appreciating My Mother

We're at that just barely comfortable stage.  Colton is approaching three months old and he is letting us "think" we have him figured out.  Of course, everyone tells us that's when habits change, growth spurts occur etc.  Either way, we're enjoying him.  More smiles, more noises, less irritability- he really is such a good baby.  My mother said those exact words two days in.  My thought was "riiight Nana, how in the world can you tell?"  But sure enough, he really is a great baby.  Mom- you were right again.

While I'm on it, she has been right about a lot lately... she sold us on the perfect timing for a pacifier, convinced me to try out a new floor cleaner that has been wonderful and even gave Chris some vital lawn care advice the other day- new home owner stuff.  We're learning EVERY DANG DAY.

But these past three months, actually past

Father, Help Me Change

Heavenly Father,

There has been a great deal of change in my life over the past year, all of which I thank you for.  Whether I've immediately seen it as good or not, it has all been working out in my life for my good and your glory.  I know that you have been working in my heart to make me less selfish, and the change from "just the 2 of us" with Noelle and I, to the 3 of us with Colton has helped with that tremendously. I find myself more and more often thinking of Noelle and Colton first... not perfectly as you know, but more and more.  Thank you for all of your grace, and for the work of your Spirit in my life to lead me in that change.

While I've changed in many ways, I still feel there is

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Learning from the Father and Son

In one of my classes for seminary, I am able to develop a few of my own assignments based on things I feel I need to learn and grow in.  One of the assignments I gave for myself was to read the book of John and find some connecting points between THE Father and Son relationship and other father-son relationships.  When I created the assignment for myself, I was not certain what I would find - after all, I did not want to become heretical in saying that my relationship with Colton is similar to Jesus and the Father in terms of divinity, perfection, and so on.  However, I have found that in a general sense there are points at which the human relationship and divine relationship does intersect, and so I'll list a few of those here:

Reflection #1:  Sons reflect their fathers

Jesus had a

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Going From Two To Three

Dear Husband,

I know when I told you in your work parking lot that I was pregnant, late summer of last year, that you were excited.  I'm sorry I didn't include what would follow for the two of us.  Now I know...

I would have told you that everything I am about to say for the next nine months will sound ridiculous and crazy, but you are never allowed to admit that in the moment.

I would have told you that

Friday, June 7, 2013

Make Me Willing (Prayers From the Midnight Hours)

A happy boy after some daddy-son bonding time.

Let me be clear:  I know I do not have it as hard as my wife does throughout the day.  I get to work in a shop all day, shipping stuff around the world, and she is home every day, each one being an unpredictable day, being dictated around by a little 12 lb boy.  That has to be humbling.  My big responsibilities right now during the week are the midnight hour changing "opportunities" as I'm calling them.  A chance to get up before Noelle to change this beautiful kid and see what he managed to do to his diaper this time. It's really quite a game he and I have going.

All that to say, these changing opportunities have not always been a smooth ride.  Sometimes he's weeping and wailing so loud I can't hear myself think, and even though I want to lovingly whisper sweet nothing's enter his ear so he'll be a happy little boy, nothing works.  By the time Noelle comes in to feed him, my blood pressure is up and my words are better left unsaid (even though, sadly, they usually still get said).  Other times I've just been frustrated that I have to wake up at 12...2... 4:30 or something like that.  After all, Noelle is about to get up to feed him, right?  Why am I bothering to change him when I could just stay in bed?  It only seems necessary for one of us to be up.  This sucks.

Those are some of the thoughts that

Friday, May 31, 2013

Still Surprising Myself

Colton and I have been loving our walks.  Tomorrow is supposed to reach 100 degrees for the first time this summer.  That's okay, I'm up at all hours, so we will just fit it in earlier.  With his sun cover shading his stroller seat, there was a surprising silence followed by a loud sneeze.  Then two more.  Colton has been a three sneezer since day one.  Fun fact about him.  The last one sounded a little more wet than the other.

Naturally, I slowed my race-walker pace, and lifted the shade.  There he was, all smiles and top lip covered in precious baby slime.  Then I did the unthinkable.  Wait a sec...

You see... I DO NOT DO NASTY KID JUICES.  Moms for ages have

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

You Are Beautiful: Postpartum Insecurity

The other day I caught myself in my own words.  Have you ever done this?  When you just shock yourself for what just came out of your mouth.  Sometimes it's humor, sometimes it's horror.  This was straight up conviction.

Anyone who has had a baby knows, no matter how you carried your baby or how much weight you gained in the process, your body will never be the same.  Things have shifted.  It's the great sacrifice.  Maybe part of The Fall with child-bearing.  That such a beautiful process of bringing life into the world would cost the mother her body.

Naturally in my profession, I see women who are haunted by their physique on account of carrying, feeding and providing for their children.  There is nothing wrong with remembering "what you used to look like."  But our culture is obsessed.  And here I was thinking, I was above all that.  I ate healthy, yes.  I love to exercise, (I know- not for everyone), yes.  And I think I have a relatively wholesome body imagine.  But there I was, nine months later, thinking about it.  Knowing my child was worth it, but wondering about this scar, this belly weight, my lack of muscle tone.  I just wanted out of it, and wasn't wanting to hear "it took your body nine months to get like this, it takes about nine months to completely recover." Stuck in the impatience and dissatisfaction I judged my own clients over.

So this hypocritical, vain, new mom was

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sincerely, A New Mom (Typed One-Handed)

(Originally written and published at onthewillows.com)
I gave birth to my son, Colton Sterling, just a few short weeks ago. It was a bit traumatic, ending in an emergency C-section after laboring for what seemed like an eternity. But here I am, feeling so compelled to write that I’m typing this one-handed ’cause my little guy is congested and won’t sleep anywhere but in my arms today. For all the profanities, contractions and pain it has cost me thus far, I’m so proud to be this little boy’s mom. I.  Noelle Ritter. Am a mother.
Motherhood has caught me by surprise. My sister was always the one to play with dolls and show the natural motherly instincts. I, on the other hand, baby-sat for the money and never really considered myself a “baby person”. I used to say I wish I could pop them out at age twelve so we could have conversation from the get-go. But when my son was put skin-to-skin with me fifteen minutes after my C-section in recovery, I became a “baby person”. Thus began my love affair with Colton, but with motherhood- I wasn’t so in love yet.
My post-partum experience has been

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Birth Story: Colton Sterling Ritter

As I sit to write this birth account, I tear up a little, looking down at my sweet son fast asleep on my chest secured by the his Moby wrap.  It was just a few short weeks ago that he lay in that same closeness inside my womb in no hurry to ever leave that wonderful place… but I’m so glad he changed his mind on Saturday April 13, 2013

Random contractions began on Monday- I was 4 days overdue.  I coincidently had a doctor’s appointment that morning.  I felt fortunate to actually be experiencing something while at the office.  A strong contraction had me pressed to the wall in the elevator.  Maybe after all this waiting, today would be the day?  Ultrasound showed plenty of fluid and a happy baby.  Dr. said she wanted a non-stress test done but hopefully she would see me sooner, although I was still dilated to 1cm.  Before I left she said “oh there was one thing I wanted to review about your birth plan.”  We discussed my wishes regarding an emergency C-section.  I laughed it off, as did she, in a professional way- thinking aloud that I wasn’t a likely candidate but you just never know.  Little did I know, I would be so grateful we had that conversation.

Colton’s non-stress test was strong.  I had a friend drive me to the hospital and back seeing that my contractions were very uncomfortable and irregular.  Colton performed well during contraction and passed all the requirements of the test within three minutes of the 30 min test.  Show off.

Contractions continued over the week- ranging from 1 hour apart to 15 min apart.  Some were mild, some were intense.  I was surprised by how good I felt in-between them.  When I pictured early labor, I thought I’d be handicapped.  This was a pleasant surprise.  It was more my depressed spirit and my increasing fatigue that began to eat away at me.  How long would my body contract for?

Friday April 12, at 12pm things started

Friday, May 17, 2013

What Are The Ritters Doing?

The Ritters are starting a blog... together.  "Together?" you ask.  Yes, together!  After deliberating for a while over what Chris' blog about fatherhood would be called - whether it should be "mysonisawesome.com" or "coltonisawesome.com" (kidding!) - we decided to start something both of us would contribute to on a regular basis and just sort of see what happens.  After all, we both love to write, a unique couple attribute we have found.

Our main goal is just to enjoy writing about life - the experiences with Colton that make us laugh and the ones that make us pause to reflect; the mistakes we make and some lessons learned along the way; how God is helping us, teaching us, and making us more like Christ.  We're trying not to lay too many expectations on ourselves.

But why the title?  Why "This Is Why We Love?"  It comes from the idea of 1 John 4:19 in the bible - "We love because he first loved us."  Human love is