Done!

Done.
Several times it felt like this day would never come, but today it did. I finished my last term for my Bachelor’s degree. The term officially ends on Sunday, and the graduation commencement is May 11, but I am done with my coursework, and now all I have to do is wait for grades and for my diploma to be mailed to me. I won’t attend the commencement ceremony and I won’t have a cap and gown, but I could not be more excited to finally complete my degree. Even though I have finished in the “normal” amount of time (four years) it has felt like forever in many ways.
As I have been nearing the end of this degree I have been reflecting a lot on how far I’ve come. When I began my college career I never imagined that four years later I would be where I am now, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Around this time four years ago I was graduating from high school and preparing to move twelve hours away from home to attend Florida College. I was inexperienced, nervous, and terrified. I was worried about making friends. I was worried I wouldn’t know how to study, or I would fail a test. I wasn’t confident in my degree choice and I had no idea what I would do in four years.
Thankfully, God knew, and His plans are always amazing.
My first week of classes at FC I met this incredible guy that I liked right from the start, and my life forever changed. We secretly liked each other for a semester, talked nonstop over winter break, and began dating the second semester. Then three days shy of a year after we met we were engaged, and nine days later Sam boarded a plane to Romania.
I completed another year at FC, and although I missed Sam terribly and wished I could be with him instead of at school, I am forever thankful for the two years I had at FC. I made some of my very best, eternal friends, including, of course, my wonderful husband. I grew socially as I got out of my comfort zone to meet new people, participate in events, be captain of the cross country team, and be the vice president/president of a club. I grew spiritually as I was surrounded my wonderful Christian friends who studied with me and had deep conversations with me, challenging me to be the best Christian I can be. I grew spiritually as I was challenged my my Bible professors, fellow students in Bible studies and devos, and by my amazing church family at school. I grew academically as I learned how to study and didn’t fail any tests, changed my major to English because of my love for reading and writing and my admiration of one particular teacher, and as I helped other students as a writing lab assistant.
Less than a month after I graduated with my AA from FC I got married, and seven weeks after that I moved to Romania with my new husband. I enrolled in SNHU’s online program so I could continue my education while moving across the world.
Going from FC to an online program was difficult. I was used to having much more interaction with my teachers whom I knew and loved, and the impersonality and distance of online teachers was hard. The classes were not as in depth and I began to question my decision to pursue this path.
But it got better and I began to settle into the routine of online coursework as I acclimated to life as a wife, homemaker, and missionary in Romania. “Our plan” was to wait until I was done with school before starting a family, but God had a different plan in mind.
I continued school throughout my whole pregnancy. My last term officially ended two days after Mae was born, but thanks to the nature of online courses I was able to finish the coursework the day before she was born (I was induced, so I knew when she would arrive). I took off one 8-week term, then started again when Mae was two months old.
These last six months have been a rollercoaster for sure. I have wanted to quit so many times. I have stressed and cried and lost sleep over trying to balance life between school, a baby, and a home to keep. I never, ever could have done it without the help and support from my parents, siblings, and most of all from Sam.
I may never use my degree. Maybe someday I will. I am glad that I pushed through and finished, and I am absolutely elated to be done!

Mae is excited for Mama to be done too! 

Simple Activities with Baby

My focus for March was simplicity, and as with all of my monthly goals, I am still trying to keep them through the rest of the year.

One thing I tried to focus on in March was single-tasking and focusing on what I was doing in the present. The area most important area for this goal was with Mae. So often I will try to multitask as I play with her, feeling like I need to be “productive” at every possible moment. But relationships are productive. Focusing completely on Mae and providing for all her needs is productive.

Of course, I still cook supper while I play with Mae, talking to her and handing her toys as I go about the kitchen. I still hold her and dance around as I dust the house or let her sit on the floor as I fold laundry. But I am also finding little activities to do with her and nothing else.

These are mostly things I can do with Mae as she’s getting older. She is at such a fun age, and I’m sure it will just get more fun the more she is aware and able to do! Here are just a handful of activities we have done together over the past month or so. I have pictures of some of them, but usually, I tried to be present and without my phone…but I also can’t resist taking all the pictures of our precious girl 🙂

Play Piano

We were blessed to inherit my grandmother’s piano. She practiced her piano on it when she was young and taking lessons, and whenever we were at her house, it was almost always being played by me or one of my siblings and Granmomma would sit and listen with such joy.

Mae loves to sit in my lap at the piano and bang on the keys. She is just learning that they will make a noise when she hits them and it delights her! Sometimes I will sit and let her play, but often I will also practice one hand of a piece I am learning or relearning.

Swing

Mama bought Mae a swing to put on the swing set in her backyard and Mae loves it! At first, she was unsure and a little scared, but we started slow, and she decided that she likes it. I love to see her squeal with delight and grin the whole time she’s swinging!

Go Outside

Ever since she was tiny Mae has loved to go outside. I used to bring her out when she was fussy, and it would immediately calm her down. Now she likes to look around at everything. I tell her we’re going on a “nature walk” and I’ll show her everything around us. We’ll touch a tree and the leaves or sit in the grass and feel moss. I show her different plants and flowers, and she always reaches out to touch them. Recently her Aunt Leah took her outside and picked her a dandelion. She was delighted and held on to it for a long time!

Go for Walks/Runs

I’m not sure if this counts because I’m multi-tasking by getting in exercise, but this is an activity Mae and I both enjoy. Almost every day we will go out at some point either for a walk or a run. Some days Sam joins us and other days we go to practice with Mae’s Aunt Leah and Uncle Sam. Other days we head out our door and walk or run up our street! I’ve posted about it before, and we still love the jogging stroller.

Play on the Floor

Now that Mae can sit on her own she loves sitting and choosing which toys to play with. Often I will sit with her and talk to her as she plays with her toys and looks around.

Sing Songs

I sing to Mae all day long. When she wakes up in the morning I sing the songs I remember Mama singing to me: “Good Morning to You” and “I Love You So Much.” Throughout the day, I sing hymns, the books of the Bible, the alphabet, “You are My Sunshine” (or I’ll sing “You are my Mae Mae), or I’ll sing about whatever we’re doing (changing her diaper, washing dishes, cooking supper, etc.) She likes it when we sing interactive songs, such as “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Pattycake.”

Read Books

Mae goes through phases where she enjoys reading books, or she enjoys chewing on them and banging them around. Either way, books are a great way to stop and spend time together.

I’m sure there are so many more activities to do with babies, but these are our favorites at the moment!

What are some of your favorite activities to slow down (with or without a child)?

April Goals

“The only way to have a friend is to be one” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

My goal theme for April is friendships.

I have made countless friends throughout my life, but I feel like I am always moving away from them. I moved away from Mississippi friends when I went to college, then I moved away from college friends when I went to Romania. Then I came back to Mississippi and some of my friends have moved away to college!

This month I want to focus on cultivating current friendships, reconnecting with old friends, and maybe even making new friends! As with all my other monthly goals, I want to continue these goals throughout the rest of the year.

What are your April goals?

Mama at a Track Meet

Athletes milled about, jogging, jumping, stretching. The smell of the rubbery track and grassy field blended in the fresh air with the spicy scent of icy hot.

“She looks like she’s fast. I wonder which event she’s running,” I thought to myself, immediately beginning to assess the competition. My stomach felt light and nervous.

Then I remembered; I wasn’t here to compete, which was strange.

Last week Mae and I attended a track meet in Oxford to watch Leah, Sam, and the rest of the Spartans compete in a track meet. It was my first meet to ever attend without running myself. It felt strange at first, but it was also enjoyable.

As a runner, I was always so aware of my time and careful about what I did and what I ate the day of a race. I needed just the right amount of time to warm up, and I would be anxious until I found a space where I could warm up adequately. Then there were always issues with getting signed into the race, knowing what time I was to start, and where I would start.

Friday I was nervous for the runners, but I just got to enjoy watching everything and not worrying about what time it was or what event was next.

It was the first time I ever got to see Leah or Sam compete. I loved seeing them warm up, talk about their goals, and interact with their teammates as they got ready for their respective events. I loved hearing them tell me they appreciated us coming to watch them, and tell me their goals for their races. I loved seeing Leah’s excitement as she was seeded first for her heat (this means she submitted the fastest time for her heat and got to start in the first lane of the track). I loved seeing the satisfaction in Sam’s face as I congratulated him on his performance in the 400, a race I cannot even imagine running.

Mae loved it too. All the Spartans loved her and she just basked in all the attention from what we called her “fan club”. She smiled and laughed as all the runners passed her around, and she fell asleep in her friend Carson’s lap. She smiled as we went down and watched the runners go by, though she did get scared when her Mama yelled too loud.

Instead of warming up and figuring out the timing of my races, I was bouncing a baby and figuring out when she needed a diaper change or a feeding. Instead of stretching or rolling my muscles and making sure my socks were right, I was putting sunscreen on Mae and making sure she wasn’t too hot or too cold in her clothes. Instead of finding ways to deal with my nerves by playing cards or talking to friends I was looking for a place to lay a blanket so Mae could get down and play.

Everything was different and it was strange, but I loved it. I loved running track, and I love being a Mama. Now I love being a Mama who can watch my siblings and former team do what I loved.

Maybe someday I will watch Mae do the same.