Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I had the immense privilege of being given the gift of wonder and imagination in my home as I grew up. I'm certain it's because of that freedom that my parents gifted my brothers and I that I revel in all things festive. Christmas is filed under magic, joy, giving, sparkle, music, tradition and abundance in my childhood memory-banks and as I'm getting older and now have the privilege of creating memories for my children, I'm unrelentingly thankful that I have those files to pull from.

Elias is two and his everyday life is full of discovery and wonder because of the very nature of a two-year-old soul. This makes for a very magical Christmas season as we're introducing him to new family traditions and festivities. He's learning bits and pieces of the original Christmas story as well, and happily chatters about the "Jesus house," (stable) he learned about in his storybook bible. Another thing that's warming my heart lately.

This is Maddox's first Christmas--special and celebratory in a whole other way. We're still 21 days away from Christmas morning (of course we're counting) and we've already had an incredibly special month.

Brotherly love by the choo-choo at Christmas Knoll Tree Farm

Hot cocoa!

Bundled up and ready to go!

The boys helping decorate the house.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Halloween 2011

For Halloween 2011 we had a little bumblebee (look familiar?) and a penguin. Elias has a penguin super beanie that has flippers that act as a scarf extension that he loves, so we made him a little white penguin chest and orange flipper feet to go with it and called it good! I love any excuse to wear a costume so Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I'm so excited that my kids are getting excited about it too! This year was like Intro to Halloween 101. I'm excited for Halloween 201 next year!

I could not get this kid to hold still long enough for photos once costumes were on. These are the nudie, pre-costume shots.

I may not ever get actual photos of them...they're too fast and too mobile! I settle for candids.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Maddox Martin, you make me gush!

Nine months! Would it be redundant to say again that this is going by way too fast? Just thought the world should have a look at my littlest as of late.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

erica to Erica

I ran into a friend of the "other" erica's yesterday. This is the only way I know how to categorize my life before motherhood. The "other" me. This is the only thing that seems appropriate because that girl and the one that types on this keyboard now are vastly different people who happen to share the same name and a similar (barely) shell. Sometimes it throws me when I'm comparing other erica to current Erica that other erica existed a short 30 months ago...oh how quickly life can alter a person!

Life, the maturation process that we each are embarked on, can make two people who have moved from parallel to perpendicular paths feel derailed and untethered when they suddenly intersect. That is how I felt when I ran into a friend of erica's yesterday. Actually, we kind of literally ran into one another when Elias ran into her shopping cart in the grocery store. There were the usual, "look how big your kids are now!" and "how are you doing?" and then there was this, " stay home with them now." An observation, not a question. Suddenly I'm conscious of my dirty hair stuffed under a beanie and my splotchy face, sans makeup, and my 4-year-old sweater, and my jeans that are the wrong size now. Of course she knows I'm a stay-at-home mom now. There's no hiding it today.

"Yeah!" I said, way too brightly. I prattled on about the privilege of vocational motherhood and why I'm passionate about it, feeling the heat rise in my ears as I try desperately to control my 2-year-old by holding onto the hood of his sweatshirt. Finally, when Elias starts running tiny circles so the hood bunches in my grip and he goes careening into the paths of annoyed shoppers, she states graciously (and was that pity on her face?) that she'll "let me go," and we part ways.

Yuck! I wanted to yell after her that I'm a better person now, even if I do look like I just climbed out of a garbage disposal! I wanted to convince her that the cracker crumbs that never leave the bottom of my purse do not define my state of being. I desperately wanted to articulate to this girl that my world has been changed for the better because two of the most incredible little spirits on the planet were given to me for safekeeping for a while. I wanted her to envy me the way I envied her in that moment. That moment where she stood a single, working girl, in her super-cute platform shoes and perfectly flat-ironed hair. With her pink iPhone cover and her snot-free shirt.

After that wave of awkward, misplaced jealousy, I came to this conclusion: erica was her; Erica isn't erica anymore. Meaning, that while I do miss elements of life as erica, there is no going back. I would never want to go back. Aside from the obvious absence of my boys, I would never want to go back in time as earlier versions of myself in any form because that's not living. I have a new respect for aging as I have come to respect this newly new me, because I figure if I can feel this transformed in a matter of 30 months, then I'm gonna be a damn fine person in 30 years. Circumstance, Elias, Maddox, Logan, family, friends, tragedy, blessing, experience, the Creator and created will all see to that, right? I'm excited to keep discovering new Ericas.

...if only erica's friend knew what she's missing...

I pray that something (if not children) is transforming her into a better version of herself the way that my kids are perpetually transforming me. Maybe if I wasn't so hung up on how out of place our old relationship felt in my new life scenario I could have asked her about hers. Turns out Erica still has a lot of transforming to do.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coming to September

The season is changing again and I'm unprepared as usual. With each shift I find myself wondering where the time went and this season is no different. August was a major month in the Martin house this year; it marked the 6-month birthday for Maddox, who is an utter joy, it brought a Martin family reunion, and the beginning to Logan's longest tour yet.

My baby is 6 months old! Nearly 7, now, and seeing the way that he has settled into this family is a joy that I can't even articulate correctly. It's as though he were meant to be in our family all along, even before he was a light-blue "+" sign on my bathroom counter, he was somehow supposed to be part of our family and no one else would have fit the way he does. There was a Maddox-shaped void in our family that was unrecognizable and unnoticed until he came and filled it. He's quick to laugh, always bright-eyed, patient, determined, constantly moving, working on two little teeth, and trying to sit up. He has enormous chubby thighs and the most perfect little toes I've ever seen--in fact, the nurse who did his footprints in the hospital took 20 photo-copies and shoved them in my bag, making me promise to distribute them to everyone because she too thought they were perfect.

The Martin family reunion was also a first camping trip for this little family, and I'd call it a success. I'm certain Elias thought he'd found heaven. Outside all day, every day, for four days. Little boy perfection. That is until we tried to bathe him in a shower stall. Mistake. Won't happen again. I kept waiting for authorities to bang on the door, demanding the tortured screams be explained. Overall it was wonderful getting to know extended family and introducing the boys to canoe rides, sleeping outside, campfire time and cousins. Elias is still calling most kids he meets "cousin!" and I was regretful to wash the campfire smell out of our belongings when we returned. A close to one of our first family-of-four memories before saying goodbye to Logan for 18 long days.

I'm writing from somewhere in the middle of Logan's east-coast tour and have nothing of substance to say about that, except that it's hard. It's hard to see how Elias misses his Daddy and it's hard making the life-shift that's required when he's on such a lengthy trip. Both myself and my boys (mostly Elias for now) have to mentally move into another way of doing life--the single-parent way where days are a series of carefully crafted schedules to reduce the amount of stress in our home. The nap-time dance, the feeding-time dance, the bath-time dance--trying to meet the unique individual needs of each of my kids at the same time. Every day that I do it alone I wonder in amazement how true full-time single-parents do it. How do they go a lifetime without a partner in the most difficult job I know? I'm thankful for the support system I have in friends and family...without them I would be reduced to a puddle of nerves in the wake of my little ones' demands and my children would be even worse for wear. So for now, each day is a new day and we just keep moving and wishing the time would pass at lightning speed rather than tortoise speed as it often seems to do when one is waiting. Waiting to hear Elias' belly laugh as he wrestles with Daddy in the other room, waiting to hear Logan over the baby monitor in the morning, meaning I'm granted some extra sleep, waiting for this space in my bed to be warm again, waiting for a yummy meal off the grill, waiting for a decompression partner at the end of the day. Waiting for my partner. I'm so proud of the music he makes and the people's lives he touches, but mostly, tonight, I just want him back!

So, to those of you who are sleeping next to your loved-one tonight, enjoy! To those who are single-parents: you're my hero, keep up the good, tough, endearing, important work that you do. And to those who are missing someone or watching the sand in an hour glass for some other reason, won't you please share your time-passing secrets with me?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

And the Greatest of These is Love

I used to think of adoption strictly as a means to a family for infertile couples. When I was younger it would confuse me when I would find out about families with both biological and adopted children. How very narrow-minded of me. I view adoption now as a beautiful act of hope, faith and love. I would go so far as to say, that for me, I may even consider it a responsibility. I have been so blessed with so much, that I can't think of a reason why I shouldn't take an orphaned child into my home and heart. I can think of plenty of reasons why that could be hard. But none that negate the fact that world-wide there are millions of children that have been orphaned by death, drug-use, neglect, disaster, abuse...the list goes on...and they're living without anyone who loves them. I live in America (that alone means I have opportunity to offer), I have a house with four bedrooms, and most importantly I have love to give. Sure, adopting, especially out-of-country is expensive; so are cars, and houses, and weddings and big-screen TVs. None of those things are American taboo. Sure, orphaned children arrive with baggage; doesn't that mean they need our love even more? Where do "damaged" children belong, if not in a loving home?

Adopting a child is not in my near future. We still see more biological kids in our future and it's not lost on us that that is a gift of it's own. Right now I only know that my outlook on adoption is changing and evolving. I'm educating myself and I'm preparing my heart for when the right time to bring our next son or daughter home from war-torn Uganda, disaster-impacted Haiti, disease-ridden Rwanda, or the foster home around the corner comes around. If it were right for my family: if my kids were older, if we were more financially secure, if, if, if...I'd bring a child home tomorrow. I look forward to the day that I run out of excuses and my "ifs" turn to "whens" which turn to "nows."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Growing a Gardener

It's happening slowly, like when a super hero is first given their powers in a Marvel comic, but it's definitely happening. I'm becoming a gardening addict. I, Erica D. Martin, killer of most things green, impatient, flighty and irresponsible, am in fact gardening. There is something so satisfying about growing food to nourish my family with! I went outside today, bowl in hand, to pick the ripe raspberries off our bushes. I started out with a 3:1 ratio of raspberries into the bowl, raspberries into my mouth. I came inside, with the entire bush picked clean, with nothing in my bowl and everything in my stomach. I adore growing things in the ground and watching them come to life and bear fruit. It's beautiful, and I've never really understood that before! It makes my heart and my stomach happy. What things fill you up these days?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Toys to Mozambique

Logan has recently partnered with an incredible organization that is changing the world. Food for the Hungry is touching the lives of our world's most neglected and most forgotten and they've let us partner with them in changing the world--thus being changed in the process. As Logan travels and shares his music, he also shares Food for the Hungry's vision of eradicating world hunger through supporting entire communities with clean water, shelter, education, and so much more. He offers concert goers a chance to sponsor a child. A chance to, for a dollar a day, support an entire community of people and send a message to an impoverished child that they are worth something. That someone, somewhere is thinking of them. Loving them, both emotionally and tangibly. Our family recently chose a child to sponsor to ensure that we were walking what we were teaching and experiencing and participating in the changes and the vision that FH is making and casting.

I need my boys to know about our world. About the injustice that they're charged with facing and fixing in the name of Jesus if they choose to follow Him. I want them to grow up with the largest world-view I can offer them. So, I took the picture of the little six-year-old boy from Mozambique that our family is now supporting to try and explain "child sponsorship" in two-year-old language to Elias. I told him how there are kids who live far away that don't have clean water to drink, or snacks all the time, or toys. I told him some of those kids don't have mommies and daddies and they don't have houses like us. I told him how God loves them like He loves him. My precious Elias studied that photo of the little African boy and said astutely, "Sad." True. He does look heart-wrenchingly sad. I recapped what I had just said about him not having everything that Elias does. "No toys?!" Elias exclaimed in disbelief. He hopped off the couch, toting the picture with him and heading for the door, saying, "I go. I go. Give toys, wa-wa, yummies. Make happy! Make happy! I go! I go! I go on plane! Make happy!"

My mommy heart grew and nearly exploded. I was shocked and impressed that he had understood, but more importantly, the answer was so easy for him. He heard of an injustice that his sweet little soul just had to make right and he was certain he could do it. He wasn't bogged down with the cost of plane tickets or the dangers of going into a place like Mozambique. He didn't mentally defer the responsibility of being change to someone else. He just knew that a boy without food or water, or toys for goodness sake, needed help. So he set out toward my front door at age two with nothing but a sad photo of a little boy he's never met, to ensure that that little boy knew love. Tears pour down my face now as I type this because the child-like faith that we're all called to as adults was raw and real in my living room. It convicted me that day. And the compassion and fearlessness in my little boy inspired me. Thank God for my kids, in all the ways that they challenge and inspire me every day of their young lives.

We are only limited by our own lack of faith and imagination. Children are champions of both. It reminds me (with a huge, metaphorical slap in the face) that there's a reason we're told to have "faith like a child." Oh, the things we could accomplish if we all had faith that size! I'm storing that moment with Elias up in my heart and locking it down with all the force I have because I don't ever want to forget his words; because every time I'm challenged to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this world, before He returns to make all things right, I want to hear my son saying "I go! I go!" I will go. Will you?

If you are interested in finding out more about FH and/or child sponsorship, please visit their site:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!...and Happy Birthday, Elias.

Elias is 2! Both in year and attitude. He is fascinated by the PBS Kids show, Dinosaur Train and chose that as his party theme when given multiple options. So, Dinosaur Train it was! We kept this little shindig small, with just his cousins, grandparents and best little buddies Caleb and Samaria. He told me for about a month that his birthday needed "Cake! Presents! Balloons! Sam at my house!" Thanks to fickle Oregon weather, we didn't get to have the party outside like I had hoped and planned (cold, wind, rain on June 18th? Really, Oregon?) so we had to go to plan...C, I think it was, and make due inside. The good news is that I was able to deliver cake, presents, balloons (Dinosaur Train themed nonetheless...thank you, eBay) and Sam at his house (thanks Kara!).

Cupcakes integrated with the Dinosaur Train=perfect (and easy) Dinosaur Train Cake.

How lucky am I that I have such a talented and creative husband who is fully invested in my children's the point that he happily comes alongside his crazy, birthday-party-obsessed wife to create fabulous cakes (and so much more) for our kids.

You should know 2 things: 1) He looks exhausted and ill because he is a horrific allergy sufferer like his Daddy, 2) For some inexplicable reason he chose to use the dinosaur topper off his cupcake as a utensil to eat the cupcake with.

Once the cupcakes were devoured, the train was free to be played with with his buddy, Sam.

The kids got dinosaur masks in their goodie bags and cousin Bryce was kind enough to model one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Good Morning, Baltimore

I never thought I'd be a public nurser. Those moms who casually pull their shirts up in public and latch their squirming children to their chests nonchalantly, like it's as socially acceptable as holding their hand always left me turning away shocked, even after I had nursed my first child for a full year. No, I'm still not one of those moms. I draw the line at full exposure; but, life has forced me to tote my awkward and uncomfortable nursing wrap around with me wherever I go and feed poor baby Maddox wherever we happen to be when hunger strikes. My first little man, Elias had the luxury of a perfectly planned eating schedule that was carefully crafted to happen in the quiet of our home 90% of the time. As the second-born, Maddox does everything according to his family's schedule, and we are a family on the go.

I had a quasi-out-of-body experience when we were in Baltimore, MD last week, traveling with Logan. He was outside on the phone with our bank, dealing with a financial crisis (note: DO NOT use the photo deposit app for the iPhone through Chase Bank if you want to see your funds in the near future) which left me alone with our two children in an unfamiliar city--the youngest of which was screaming for food. I scooted up to the nearest friendly building, an enormous Barnes & Noble near the harbor. After finding no success in locating a ramp, I pulled Elias out of the stroller, threw it to the ground and lugged my children inside, out of the wind. I had half-hoped someone would steel it: Baltimore, while a fantastic city, is not stroller friendly...and umbrella strollers make me walk like a hunchback anyway (do they not make them for people over 5'5"?). Unfortunately, Logan witnessed my tantrum and rescued my abandoned stroller. Once inside I hauled the boys upstairs to the children's section, the one place I thought I might be safe from glaring onlookers, as Maddox was exercising his right to be heard. Hallelujah! A Thomas the Train set was set up in the cars and trains section: in my memory it was glowing in a heavenly light. Yes! Something to occupy Elias, and even a chair for me to sit in! I plopped down with some quick instructions about not running away to Elias and fed Maddox. Only five minutes into his meal, right as I began to think, "hey, I have this under control," Elias said "uh-oh." It's never good when Elias says "uh-oh." Uh-oh is "I dropped the whole roll of toilet paper in the toilet," or "I just poured your cup of milk into this drawer," or "I poked the baby's eye and now he's screaming in pain." That day, in that moment, it was "I just peed my pants and now there's a yellow river flowing beneath Thomas the Train's tracks right here in Barnes & Noble." This is where I seemed to step outside of myself and see myself sitting there, incapacitated by nursing while my oldest son tracked urine all over the children's section of a public bookstore that was all the way across the country from my home. And I laughed. I literally laughed out loud at the fact that there was a time before I had children, that I thought that parenting would be a breeze. How ironic that I remembered that in a lowest-of-low moment. My funds were frozen in some kind of internet black hole, my oldest son was scurrying around in sopping wet pants, my youngest had just screamed his lungs out to the entirety of downtown Baltimore and was now attached to my chest, rendering me helpless to fix any of the aforementioned issues.

The end of that story simply goes that Logan eventually came to rescue me and we worked out our financial issues before having to head back home, but that was not the end of my public nursing exploits. I would later find myself nursing at the table over lunch in a restaurant, in an exhibit at the National Aquarium, on airplanes, and next to a strange man who smelled like garlic in an over-crowded Chicago airport during a 3-hour flight delay. I imagine that won't be my last war story either.

Life is messy, isn't it? Life with kids is messy. Life on the road is messy...and beautiful. I'm so thankful that we get to travel with our kids. I'm so thankful that at the end of the day I laid next to my husband and partner in life and listened to our two beautiful children sleeping. I'm so thankful to have experiences and stories that make up who I am and who I am becoming. And I'm so thankful that I will never see any of those Baltimore Barnes & Noble patrons ever again!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Welcome to the World, Maddox Joseph

Maddox Joseph arrived February 10 at 10:14pm. Weighing in at 9 lbs, 1 oz and 21.5in long, he was nearly a duplicate of his big brother...except for his facial features, body build and all around personality. They aren't kidding when they say that your kids will be totally different. Somehow, we know even now, that our boys are polar opposites. How simple life would be if Maddox would just do everything the way that Elias did as an infant--then maybe we'd actually know what we're doing as parents. Evidently there's some kind of cosmic lesson we're all to learn from each of our children respectively, so they don't seem to do anything the same. Why would they ever want us to feel like accomplished parents rather than adults reduced to exhausted and floundering emotional wrecks (all right, I won't speak for Logan on that one--perhaps "emotional wreck" is only a label I've earned). At any rate, Maddox has arrived and he's beautiful, unique and flourishing. He's growing like a weed and we're getting to know him every day...and night...ALL night occasionally. :)

For those who are curious, Maddox means "leader of men," and Joseph was my paternal grandfather's name, who, unfortunately won't meet Maddox in this life. Sometimes, though, I think Maddox looks a bit like him. He was a sweet man, whom I wish I had had around a bit longer.

So, world, meet Maddox, the newest light of my life.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Goodbye & Hello, baby

It has happened--my due date is near. I don't know where all nine months of my pregnancy went, but suddenly I have a hospital bag (mostly packed) and an infant car seat (not installed but available) sitting on my landing. I'm due February 9, I'm refusing to carry that long, but with a husband out of town until January 31, I can only hope to be slightly early. I've politely told God and my unborn child that if his appearance could be February 2 that would be ideal for me.

In all the excitement and anticipation of having another baby everything has been a push to be "ready" for him: all necessary equipment purchased or borrowed, moving Elias out of his crib to make space for the next little one, finishing house projects, etcetera...and now with most of my "to do" list scratched off, I was hit with a deep form of panicked sadness. Suddenly the birth of another baby in my house, in my life, in my heart meant somehow that I get less of Elias. Perhaps that's not entirely true, but it's my feeling and my fear for now. Somehow, during the passing of these nine months my first baby has become a little boy. He's talking back to me and playing monster trucks. He's potty trained and sleeping in a big boy bed (ok, this is still a transition, but nevertheless...). He's testing boundaries and pushing his independence...and I'm praying that I didn't miss the transition to this place in my mad rush to be "ready." When he took my finger in his sweet little hand to walk downstairs to bed last night I felt irreparably torn: how do I share? I don't know how to share myself with another one who needs me just as much. I can't shake the feeling that sharing me with another child equals missing out on things with Elias. He's been my only focus and the reason I do everything I do every day for the last 21 months. The fear in this change has never been so palpable for me as it is now, in these final days of our one on one time. I'm desperately trying to absorb every moment we spend together these days, even when he has me exhausted and frustrated. I want to take mental pictures of who he is right now and hold onto him forever because I feel (perhaps illogically) as though I'm saying goodbye to him in welcoming his brother. I don't even have a nice wrap-up for these thoughts and fears because I'm still very much wrestling with them. So, this is me, signing off from my place of illogical fear and looming unpredictable change. Thanks for hearing my crazed mother's heart.