My plans, Your plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

This is my favorite Bible verse, which is interesting because I am a person who loves to plan. I use 2 apps on my smart phone to create multiple task lists. I often stop mid-task to add something to a list, in an effort to not forget anything. I also am known to print and purchase multiple calendars. In addition to the calendar on my phone, I have a calendar on our bedroom wall, a mini one in my purse, and a printed one in my budget binder. Oh that brings me to my budget spreadsheet. I drive myself crazy updating it, trying to track planned and unexpected purchases, bills, and payments. I have always been proud of my organizing skills and ability to come up with a plan and stick to it, and come up with a new plan if necessary.

As you know we moved back to the US 6 months ago. Nothing has gone as planned, and though I realize that I am very blessed, my husband and I find it frustrating that we do not feel settled yet. Silly us, thinking we could make such a huge life decision and have everything flow smoothly in a short frame of time. There are so many things for us to do to establish our little family here. We have had many conversations about what our goals are, in the next month, next 6 months, in the next year.  We check 2 things off the to-do list and add 4 more. Some days, I don’t even want to talk because I think “What is the point?” the plan is just going to change.

I’ve been stuck in the house for a few days, because it’s apparently the coldest it has ever been in Michigan and schools have not resumed since the Christmas break. It has been nice to spend the extra time with family, and as everyone else went back to work today, it was just Izzy and I at home today. I was in a contemplative mood today. I just didn’t feel like doing anything important. So other than paying a bill, I just spent time watching TV, reading, cooking, and playing with Isabelle. As she was playing with a game she got for Christmas, I had a thought: Maybe I plan too much.

My daughter will wake up tomorrow and I can only predict a few of the things she will do (e.g., eat, nap, ask me to chase her). That’s all I know though. She has no plans and as she sleeps peacefully as I type, I know she isn’t even thinking about what activities she will participate in on January 8, 2014. She also won’t think about her plans this weekend or better yet, what she would like to do for her 3rd birthday. She will wake up and just be the happy sweet child I love and adore.

I really do love making plans, but today I’m tired of planning, because in all that planning I become so focused on my plans that even when I recite my favorite verse in a stressful moment, it does little to alleviate my racing mind and heart. I wave my white flag. I have to focus more energy on trusting God and less energy on creating a plan. Life is NOT going to go according to my plan. Am I ok with that? Well, today I will try to be. And I’ll try some more tomorrow and the day after that. Will I still make my lists? Oh definitely, that’s just part of who I am. However, I am hoping to have a different mindset as I make them. That each and every detail on that list is not up to me.  I think I have often used my favorite verse to apply to big situations in my life. Now, I will try to use it daily. I will hear the Lord saying this to me after I wake: Toula, I know the plans I have for you TODAY. That sounds more reassuring than stressing about whether my plan for the day will pan out or not:)

My cousin pointed out I have been a slacker and have not included my Izzy moments, so here they are!

  • Recent highlights:  She is a little person now. It’s the weirdest thing. I find myself just staring at her, in awe of how much she has changed. I would dare to say that “two” must be one of the greatest ages of all.
  • Recent funny moment: She loves to sing, dance, play music (she got quite a few instruments for Christmas). We took her to a party on New Year’s eve. I was worried that she would be overtired and have a meltdown. Instead, she danced from the moment she walked through the door. Her personality amazes me.
  • Recent crazy parent moment: We are trying to encourage her to go on the potty so I purchased her underwear. Well she won’t pee on the potty (that’s another story), but she sure loves wearing her new underwear. Whenever she sees one she proceeds to take off her diaper and ALL her clothes and insists on putting them on immediately.
  • Recent milestones:  She jumps now. On her bed, the dog’s bed, our bed. Why is jumping so fun to children?
  • Bellelesson of the week: God has a daily, weekly, yearly, lifelong plan for you. Spend time asking Him to show you what it is.

Great Expectations

I am a person that expects a lot. I’m learning that about myself. I expect people to treat me fairly. I expect to be spoken to with respect. I expect my mother to help me out of any bind. I expect my husband to tell me he loves me. Though I expect all these things with good intentions, it doesn’t mean that I’m not presented with situations where these expectations aren’t fulfilled. I remember the list of expectations I had when I got married, even some of them being expectations of myself (e.g., do laundry weekly, feed my husband, keep my home clean). At times, my expectations were too high, and frustration, disappointment, and worry would meet me at my front door. My husband would remind me he didn’t create those list of expectations for me and pointed out that I was unnecessarily causing myself a great deal of stress. Well, what is it they say? That old habits die hard?

As I shared in my last post, Isabelle just turned two. As excited as I was about her reaching this important milestone, I also used this as an opportunity to become stressed about her development. It’s so funny, because I usually find myself so impressed with all the new things she does daily, like any parent. However, at times we allow a little seed of doubt to grow into a large, horse sized problem. This is how it all started:

A friend posted a video on the internet of her daughter, who was born just a few days after Izzy, on her 2nd birthday. Now, I don’t believe I have mentioned that I am a speech-language pathologist. So, if there is anything I worry about at all, related to development, it’s her language. As soon as I watched the video this thought entered my head: “I don’t think Isabelle speaks that well” (the seed of doubt). Well, my brain just ran with it. I started checking language development lists, worried that Isabelle had a language delay. (Before I continue, I want to clarify, it would not have mattered if she did have a language delay, she wouldn’t be the only child to have one, or I wouldn’t have a job). Anyway, I started thinking I wasn’t doing enough as a mom to encourage language development with her, and immediately texted my friend who primarily works with pre-schoolers to share my concerns (we are now at the stage of a horse sized problem). I wish at this point someone would have hit me over the head with a sign reading: CALM ALLLLLL THE WAY DOWN CRAZY LADY.

Nevertheless, I wasn’t paying attention to any signs at that time, my brain was solely focused on this delay I diagnosed my child with. So, as I’m listing my concerns to my friend, she asks me questions about Isabelle’s communication skills. In hindsight, I actually think I was answering the questions wanting my child to have a delay, because all the things that I said she didn’t do, she did them this week. I continued to answer her questions and I start to realize I have a long list of expectations of things Isabelle should be doing communication wise, some of them completely unreasonable.  I realized that I ask her questions all the time, as if she is some genius child whose understanding surpasses that of any two year old. For example, after her birthday party I asked her “Izzy, what animals did you see at the petting farm?”, expecting her to rattle off the list of animals I know she knows. Oh, that brings me to my other realization. I have been asking Isabelle questions to make me feel like she’s right on tract. What color is this? What animal is that? How many do you have? What does a cow say? Where is your teddy bear? What shape is that? I am explaining this to my friend and she says “ You’re her mom and her best friend. You’re not her teacher to test her.”

WOW. Not only did I diagnose my child with a language delay, I kind of have been treating her like she has one. I know the first rule of teaching language to a child is to model what you would like them to learn. However, I’ve been questioning her like a mad scientist, secretly evaluating what she knows and doesn’t know. WHO DOES THAT?!!! In my defense, I was trying to create learning experiences by asking all the questions. However, to really enjoy my time with her, I should have been having conversations with Isabelle, knowing that she was benefiting from me just talking to her about what we were doing and spending quality time with her. But my list of expectations, of what she should be doing at her age, prevented me from really relaxing and as usual created unnecessary worry.

Hey, but the point of this blog is for me to change and learn from my experiences in this thing called motherhood. So, this week I talked to Isabelle lots. We took a walk and talked about the things we saw. We talked about what she was doing during bath time. We talked about the pictures in her books during story time. I banned myself from asking too many questions and shifted my focus from judging her actions to enjoying the time we spent together. This happened a few weeks ago, and I can truly say it really has changed my interactions with her. I feel that I am more present and I am worry-free.

To anyone reading this, I encourage you to think about the expectations you have for different areas of your life and evaluate if they are hindering you from truly enjoying your reality and the blessings granted to you. Expectations usually are created in an effort to create peace and avoid conflict. However, could it be possible that our lists of expectations do the opposite?




Our little girl turned two on Friday! I could definitely tell the difference from last year, that she understood a bit more that it was a special day. She lit up when her class at daycare sang happy birthday to her, and screamed with glee “Happy Birthday!” when she saw the cupcakes I was trying to hide before dinner.  Things are still very crazy since our move, and I’m beginning to accept that this is actually just how my life will be, busy. Work is  a lot more stressful than expected. Her birthday was no exception. However, in the midst of all the chaos a thought came to me and I shared it with my husband. I believe God gives us children to force us to experience happiness throughout the day.  He says: “Oh no! You will NOT sit there and wallow in your bitterness, stress, confusion, worry….” “Get up! You have a little person that’s waiting on you to be their parent!”

This is so very true. When we come home our routine  COMPLETELY revolves around her. Give her snack, make her dinner so she can eat (and sometimes negotiate with her to eat), spend some quality time with her, get her bath ready, give her a bath, get her in her room before 8, read a book (or 2 or 3 if she gives you the puppy face), say our prayers, and the list goes on.  So even though life was trying to get me to focus on all the things that were going wrong on her birthday, she kept reminding me that there are also a lot of things going well for me.

Here is a list of things that she did just in one day to put a smile on my face:

I leave the house for work before she wakes usually, so I didn’t see her the morning of her birthday. Her dad sent me a video that morning though of her saying happy birthday to herself, and smiling in the opposite directions of the camera *insert smile*

I went to pick her up from daycare a little earlier than usual. She was still sleeping and when she woke up it was snack time. She ordered me to sit down beside her “Sit Mommy!” and was so proud I was in her class. Her class then sang happy birthday to her and all got cupcakes. That part was mostly hilarious because all of the children just stared (including her) during the song and only the teachers were singing. It was the most silent happy birthday rendition I have ever heard.

When we arrived home she had a present waiting for her from my brother and sister in law in Maryland. A Doc McStuffins doctor kit and a tea party set. Bring on the fun. We spent the rest of the evening having tea with her teddy bears and getting check ups by the little doctor.

Her dad bought her a Sesame Street DVD and the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was on there. We watched the video that evening, and as we were getting her ready for bed she says “Don’t worry”. Actually, she was yelling it over and over. I had just received a stressful phone call and couldn’t help but smile that God was speaking through my little angel, reminding me that He has already gotten it all figured out.

To be honest, it’s actually quite impossible for me to stay in a disagreeable mood with her around. If I were single, or it were just Caleb and I, I could sulk, worry, be angry for hours. But that’s a little hard to do when she makes me laugh continuously.

So as my daughter continues her journey here on this earth (I still can’t believe she is two!), I want to take this time to thank God for all the ways she continues to bless my life.  I always worry about how much she is learning, but as you can see I am the one who really has the learning to do:)

To my sweet Isabelle. Mommy loves you with her whole heart, mind and soul. You are perfect and you make me a better person. Thank you.

Grace Hope

I’m tired. I can’t remember the last time my brain has concentrated on just one thing at a time. I’m always doing 3+ things, which is really inefficient if you we’re wondering. I can’t help but think of this person I have become- that I don’t recognize.  I feel crazy and disorganized. The new me:
– has to look through piles of mail to find a bill that I’m praying isn’t late (that I remembered to pay at 5 o’clock in the morning)
– has 1000! (1000 you guys ) emails in my inbox.
– never remembers what I was trying to say and takes forever to type an email because I can’t figure out if I’m making sense
– is always doing laundry – ALWAYS
– forgets something everywhere (at work, home, the counter at the grocery store)
– can’t seem to go throughout the week without worrying about things such as sleep schedules, teething, baby proofing, ear infections, runny noses, healthy toddler meals (which is hard if your toddler only has 6 teeth), and yes how could I forget poop!

This new me is someone I don’t recognize.  I just want to sleep and not worry about anything. If I could invent a game show it would involve moms playing for the coveted prize: a nanny AND a personal assistant.

What I’m trying to say is no one told me it would be this much work. Well, maybe someone did, but there is no way of knowing how much your life will change when you become a mother.  And somedays you don’t want to be positive, or cheery – you want to cry, throw a tantrum, then take a nap:)

I’m blessed to have an awesome group of Christian women who are like family to me who are also mothers.  I reached out to them recently because it was 6:00 am and all I could do was think about my gigantic “to do list ” (since it appears like I took the week off from everything, not just work). The feedback I received was truly priceless and two themes stood out from their advice.

HOPE – they all understood where I was coming from and that alone made  me hopeful. Hopeful that I’m not crazy and that I’ll find new ways to adjust to the hectic demands of my new life. My daughter did not sleep well this week. She took forever to go to bed, woke up in the middle of the night, and then still felt like 6:30 was a good time to start the day. She’s teething I’ve come to conclude and I’m going to have a serious conversation with the teething monster when I find him.  We also thought she had another ear infection (which she didn’t-praise God) and she was just a bundle of crankiness this week. I guess she didn’t get the memo that mommy and daddy took the week off to relax:) This week made me feel like she was a newborn all over again, and I was mad. I thought “You are not following the schedule Isabelle, didn’t we pass the stage when we have trouble sleeping?”  Well that brings me to my next theme…


One of my friends gave me the advice to give myself GRACE daily. She she shared something someone one shared with her:

In life and in raising children there are seasons. Right now the season you are in is to  be the caring and loving mommy you are. There will come a season where the home stuff just happens and fall into place. For right now give yourself some GRACE.

That made me wonder: why do we put pressure on ourselves for everything to fall into place, to be perfect moms? Giving myself some grace releases me from that need for things to work out “right”.  There is no “right” at this time in my life! Isabelle is going to do whatever she wants! She runs my life and I’m reminded now that it is not such a bad thing. So instead of stressing I’m off to cuddle with my izzitypoo:)

Side note: I just read something from these devotional emails I receive daily that was VERY timely. Thought I’d share it with you in case you’re having some trouble slowing down to notice the blessings right in front of your face:)