Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a fond farewell

There have been many years that I was ready to kick out the door, but 2013 is not one of them.  This year has been good to me, to our family.  There were hard moments, of course, but overall 2013 was most defined by joy.

The first weekend of 2013 we found out we were expecting a much wanted, much loved baby.  As the year progressed, we found out that sweet baby was a boy.  We watched him grow on ultrasounds, then were privileged to welcome him to the world in September.  Since that September morning, we have rocked him, tickled him, kissed his bald head, and become enthralled by him.

2013 saw the twins grow into miniature people.  They started talking, then stringing together two words, three words, whole sentences.  They became steady climbers and jumpers, game players, adorable manipulators, and fun pretenders.

2013 saw our family move to Nashville, a wonderful and exciting move for us.  We end the year closer in proximity to dear family and friends.

And 2013 allowed Andrew and I to celebrate our 7th year of marriage.  Another year of learning to be good, kind spouses, of trying to be the best life partners we can through God's grace.  Another year of falling in love with one another, of doing our best to support one another.

Cheers to you, 2013.  2014 has a lot to live up to.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


It's been a magical week.  Celebrating Christmas, the birth of our Lord, is always the best time of the year.  The time with family, the beautiful music, the delicious food, seeing the joy of children as they discover their new treasures on Christmas morning--there's really nothing like it.  And this year, we were blessed to celebrate from two perspectives.  The twins were Christmas-obsessed this year.  From ho-ho lights, to ho-ho trees, to the ho-ho man himself, B&F have been overflowing with Christmas spirit.  Watching them anticipate the big day, seeing them learn that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, was a new and indescribable experience.  At the same time, though, nothing really compares to a baby's first Christmas.  Sharing my favorite holiday with Shepherd for the first time was such a privilege.  Getting Shepherd's first Christmas ornament, telling him the nativity story for the first time...these are moments I will treasure forever.

As always with three under three, things weren't always picture perfect.  Shepherd managed to poop himself, my dress, and the church floor during communion on Christmas Eve.  While decorating Jesus' birthday cake, B&F decided to eat icing by the handful directly off the cake, leaving the cake looking more like the surface of the moon than a kodak-ready dessert.  There were meltdowns and boo-boos and moments of extreme overstimulation.  But in the midst of it all, this Christmas more than ever before I was struck over and over again by how much God must love us.

We say it so often--God sent his Son to earth--that maybe it loses its power at times.  You see, God sent Jesus here, to our world, to be born as an infant.  Jesus was a newborn.  He was squishy and had that adorable newborn not-quite-cry.  He and Mary had to figure out breastfeeding and sleeping and all the other things new families muddle through.  And God watched all of this.  He saw his little boy, who I realize he already loved fully, as a newborn baby.  And I can't help but imagine that He fell in love with His son just a tiny bit more.  And Jesus was a toddler.  He wobbled as he learned to walk, he bumped his head on everything in sight.  He began uttering words, then stringing words into sentences that probably only his parents could understand.  And God watched...and fell in love a teeny bit more.  God watched his precious Son grow from a tiny baby into a man, all the while knowing his fate.  Through every sweet moment, God knew that Jesus was destined to be killed.

As I watched my three kids this Christmas, nearly paralyzed by my love for them, this fact kept running through my mind.  God sent his precious newborn son to us that first Christmas day knowing how the story would end.  I know the depth of a parent's love.  I know the future I hope for for my little ones.  God must love us so very, very deeply.

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

3 months

As of yesterday, my little Shepherd is 3 months old!  It's hard to believe that a quarter of a year has already passed...the months are going so quickly this time.

Shepherd is so very strong and alert.  He loves to look around, and especially loves to watch his brother & sister.  His favorite thing is to lie flat on the couch with either mom or dad looking over him talking to him.  He is already ticklish, and he has graced us with a few sweet giggles, which is pretty much the best sound ever.  When he's happy, he's very happy, beaming with giant gummy smiles.  He is starting to love the play mat, and can even manage to grab the ring toys sometimes.  He is very tolerant of B&F's antics, for which we are very thankful.  And he loves for mom to sing him the itsy bitsy spider.

A week ago, he weighed 12 pounds 7 ounces.  At that point we were able to increase his reflux medication, and that has made such a difference in his demeanor.  He is so much happier!  It is wonderful to know that he is in less pain...seeing him hurt is so very hard on us.

We are incredibly thankful for this adorable little man.  He is oh so precious, and we couldn't be more in love.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

our advent art

It's advent.  God tells us that advent is a time of waiting, being still, preparing our hearts for the Lord.  Pinterest and facebook, however, tell a different story.  If you follow many moms on social media, you know that advent has become a peak season in the world of competitive parenting.  Preparing for Christmas is filled with purchasing perfect red outfits, getting the best Santa photo, and of course creating pinterest worthy crafts with our little ones.  After all, it's not Christmas without a handmade felt tree and a perfect reindeer footprint. 

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these activities.  Sharing the magic of Santa as you wait in line to meet him, spending time sitting together and creating a Christmas craft, these are good things.  These are some great moments in parenting.  The problem creeps in when we are too focused on choosing an instagram filter to notice how amazed our toddler is by the texture of cotton balls.  Or even worse, when we fail to even try to make a special moment because we know our effort won't look like anything on our "holiday" pinterest board. 

As a recovering perfectionist, this is one of my struggles: learning that B&F don't need a picture perfect effort, that they are so proud of the result no matter how crazy it looks.  But with three under three, I'm learning to embrace their perspective a bit more.  As advent began this year, I browsed through all the adorable things I had pinned over the year.  And then I returned to real life.  So for our first advent art project, we made cookies.  Slice and bakes, to be exact.  I sliced them onto a cookie sheet and let the twins cover them in store-bought Christmas sprinkles.  And....they loved it!  For the 15 minutes we were decorating those cookies and talking about how we cook things, they thought I was an awesome mom.  Our next advent art was painting ornaments....that I bought at the craft store.  I literally peeled a sticker off each ornament and plopped out some finger paint.  And the twins were AMAZED.  So far, other projects have included decorating paper trees and ornaments from the Target dollar section, coloring pages from our Christmas coloring book, and literally gluing cotton balls onto a purple piece of paper (this was snow art on the day it snowed, and was actually a crowd favorite).  Trust me when I say that none of these would be pin-worthy.  Not even close.  But my kids loved each project.  They loved having me sit at their mini table.  They loved having my full attention.  They loved talking about Christmas and trees and ornaments and Jesus' birthday.  And isn't that the point?  Isn't the point of this season to slow down enough to love our family well, to treasure the gifts God has given us, to take the time to talk to our little ones about precious baby Jesus.

So mommy friends, remember that your kids don't need a pinterest Christmas.  They just need you.  If your reindeer rolo/pretzel creations turn out less than recognizable, who cares!  Kids enjoy the process, not the result, and we would be wise to remember that.  In fact, perhaps we should ban pictures of crafting results, and instead only capture those precious process moments.  The way our little ones look when they are trying to figure out the perfect place for their next spot of glue.  Their pride when they pour sprinkles on their cookies all by themselves.  The way their face lights up when you tell them how much dad will love seeing their latest creation when he gets home from work.   Perhaps there should be a pinterest board for that.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Despite the twins' obsession with all things Santa, they were still terrified to see the big guy in person.  Mom & Dad were forced to be part of this year's picture and we still couldn't manage pleasant faces.  Nonetheless, it was a successful meeting.  Shep thought Santa was super fun, and B&F talked to him a bit from a distance after the picture, telling him they wanted toys and confirming that they like trains and dolls.  And they are loving looking at their "ho ho" picture, so perhaps they enjoyed it more than their faces imply.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

that mom

On Friday, I was that mom.  The one that everyone stares at like she has no clue what she is doing.  Like she has one (or three) too many children.  Like maybe she should just lock herself in her house until her youngest gets to kindergarten.

Shepherd has been more difficult lately.  Over the past several days, his colic/screaming/whatever it is seems to have gotten significantly worse.  On top of that, he is spitting up more than ever.  Fun times.*  B&F, though, still want to go at their usual speed.  Too many days without an out-of-the-house activity results in stir crazy twins.  So Friday they decided they wanted to go out to lunch, which is usually a pretty easy thing to accomplish.  The problem this Friday was that it was cold and pouring rain.  Not the best conditions for getting three children out of a car.  What was my solution?  Go to the mall and park in the garage!  Genius, right?  Apparently everyone else in Nashville had the same idea. 

We got to the mall and circled the garage, finding absolutely no where to park.  I then tried to convince B&F that Panera was closed and we would have to go to a different restaurant.  They didn't buy it.  When we finally found a spot, we proceeded to have a near tragedy when a guy in an SUV that could seriously hold an elephant almost backed into our stroller (which was currently holding the twins) as I got Shepherd out of the car.  I beat on his window, but he failed to stop or apparently care.  Finally in the safety of the mall, Shepherd began screaming.  And screaming.  And screaming.  I wrangled a double stroller through a single door, ordered food, and located the only available table (which was "conveniently" located in the very middle of the restaurant and not near any large aisles), all while holding a screaming two month old.  And everyone stared.  The entire restaurant was literally glaring at us.

Luckily, a few people did more than stare.  One nice man went to get our food when our buzzer went off.  When B's milk straw broke, thereby causing a true toddler fit, two different ladies got us new straws (the first lady brought the wrong size straw, increasing the volume of the fit).  And upon our exit, which I'm sure everyone was cheering, one couple helped with the door and putting away the trays.  Yes, we had lots of helpers pop up, and I was so very grateful for them.  But more people just stared, not even offering a smile.

Y'all, it was an ugly scene.  At one point, I literally started crying in Panera.  Yes, tears fell down my face and onto my dairy-free baguette.  So what's the point of this story?  The point is that we can all be the helper in this story.  If we are out and see a mom or a dad or an older person who seems a bit frazzled, it takes minimal effort to offer to grab her food for her.  Or ask if you can go to the drink station for her.  Or go get her toddler a new milk straw.  Or, if our own hands are full of our own problems, at least offer her a knowing, "you can do this" sort of smile.  Because sometimes we can all use a little help.  A tiny act of kindness can be just the thing an exhausted mom needs.   

*In all seriousness, we are quite worried about our sweet Shepherd.  I just make light of it because it helps me cope with the constant screaming.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


*Just saw that this failed to go through on Thanksgiving day.*

Things have been a bit stressful for the Shafer family lately. We managed to cram three huge life changes into three short weeks (new baby, new town, new job). We have two houses for sale. We have been living amidst boxes with three tiny people who seemed determined not to let us unpack. It's safe to say that life hasn't exactly felt stable lately.

So sadly, I needed this reminder to stop and be thankful, for even in the craziness my life is insanely blessed. I got to carry and give birth to my beautiful Shepherd this year. I have three amazing, healthy children. I have two-year-olds that make me laugh every single day. I have a devoted, incredible husband who I could never deserve. I have the special opportunity to spend my days with my little ones. I am living in a city and state I love. And above all, I have a good and faithful and stable God.

Yes, I have so very much to be grateful for today and everyday. Sometimes I just need to be reminded.

our child of God

On Saturday, Andrew and I had the privilege of watching as Shepherd was baptized.  It was truly glorious.  We were surrounded by family and dear friends as we formally introduced our son to our faith.  Baptism is a sacrament, an outward and visible sign of God's grace.  Watching as the holy water was poured on his head, seeing our son clothed in pure white, God's grace was both apparent and abundant.  Through Shepherd, God has continued to bless our family beyond our wildest dreams.  It was an honor to recognize, in front of our loved ones, that Shepherd truly belongs to the Lord...we are just lucky enough to parent him here.

Father Joe McMahon, a priest who grew up with Andrew's mom and her family, presided.  Accordingly, the baptism was uniquely personal, with Father Joe including anecdotes from the Coulter family as well as a quote from Emil Shepherd, the man for whom Shepherd is named.  Emil apparently was known to say that "each child brings its own loaf of bread."  Isn't that so true?  Doesn't God somehow provide for each blessed child that is added to our life?  When we don't think we possibly have any more time or heart or money or energy, the addition of another child reveals our hidden reserves.  I know that Shepherd has opened my heart and spirit in new ways, and I thank our God for the gift of this precious child.

getting all dressed up

plotting to disrupt the ceremony

proud parents

the entire shafer family

my sweet sister who flew in just for the baptism

can you tell i love this boy?

the godparents, Will Coulter and Ashley Coulter

"a baby who cries at his baptism will fight for his faith"

barnes was quite friendly during the ceremony

and of course, a party to follow!