Tuesday, March 29, 2011


My grandmother (my dad's mom) passed away two weeks before I was born. From the stories I hear, she was the sweetest woman around... made my grandpa the happiest man in the world and loved her family (and laughing and dancing and loving) so very much. The way the story goes, she was convinced my mom was having another boy and so, when I entered this world, it seemed only natural that I was given her initials, SJW, and more importantly, I was given the honor of having her middle name - Joy.

I was always proud of telling people my middle name, particularly when I was younger, always make sure to add that it was "after my grandma, Nanny." And while I never had the honor of knowing my Nanny, I know that, while she passed away at far too early of an age, she brought so much joy to everyone she knew and loved.

Joy. Everyone should be so blessed to have some in their life. Where is it in ours?

Joy is catching your husband and son having a dance party outside on the deck. And making a mad dash for your camera so that you can capture the moves.

Joy is watching your child celebrate birthdays with his friends; for watching them interact and hold hands and wrestle and love on each other and wondering what kind of madness they may get into down the road.

Joy is cupcakes, preferably with lots of frosting. And having your friends remind you that a year ago, Jacob was the only child not allowed to have the good sweets at the birthday parties.

Joy is the season's first trip to the zoo. In watching your child in awe of the massive and crazy gorgeous animals that we read about in books, in hearing him name each and every one of them, and in thinking how much more awesome this trip is than last year.

Joy is being okay with the fact that your child wants his popsicle and your waffle cone with ice cream. At the same time.

And then watching him hand you his stinky popsicle and saying "here, mommy" while he chooses the cone.

And not worrying for one second about any sort of mess.

Joy is in hanging out with close friends that will soon welcome their own little boy into this world. And for saying to your husband when you leave their house that they are both going to be amazing parents.

Joy is watching a cookie cake for your friends suddenly become another "happy birthday" cake for your little one (over a month after his birthday)... complete with candles and singing and making more wishes.

Joy is having your husband and son walk into the house with huge smiles on their faces as they present you with flowers. For no reason.

Joy is receiving a "just because" card from your little brother, complete with a picture of him and his girlfriend and, oh yes, ending the card in "Justin and Dana." And for loving the fact that he is so head over heals for this lady that he sent me a "just because" letter and picture.

Joy is the "no, self" stage. That is exactly what it sounds like. A "no, self" stage. Where mommas and daddas can not offer any help because little man wants to do it all his "self."

And for watching him learn how to master things so well.

And as if life couldn't get any sweeter than that...

Joy is...

A new baby. A second baby. A baby that is growing strong and healthy during the second trimester.

I wonder if Nanny would also think that this second child is a boy. But perhaps we will surprise her with a little lady. Not that we care either way.

Joy. We've been feeling a whole lot of it these days.... in the little everyday moments and also in the moments that we know are ahead. A new addition for our family.

Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. [Henry Nouwen]

With lots of love, Stephanie Joy

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Letter to Me.

What a gift.

A trip (alone) with Philip to see Brad Paisley in Nashville. I've said this once but I will say it again... there is something so entirely special (and necessary) about mini-vacations with the one you love. It's not that we don't have our time together after the little one is asleep, but there is something refreshing about thirty-six hours alone (not in pj's, not cuddling on the couch... although I do love that, too). It just awakens you.

Hello, Nashville. And yes, I was the tourist that toted my cowgirl hat along.... because give me a chance to wear that and hell yes, I'm going to take it.

If you have a free weekend, I strongly suggest a trip to Nashville. The food is excellent, the live music and atmosphere is unlike anywhere else, and the big performances? Well, I'd be lying if I told you I didn't develop an even bigger crush on my friend Brad Paisley. And I couldn't help but be more than touched by one of my favorite songs, "Letter to Me."

(Yes, I occasionally let Philip turn the camera on me.)

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at 17....
And you got so much going for you going right
But I know at seventeen it’s hard to see past Friday night....

Eleven years ago, I did think I was living the best years of my life... and how could I not?

We had absolutely no cares in the world.... but ourselves. I was convinced I was going to marry my high school boyfriend....

....I thought my friends and I were the coolest (most invincible) people in the entire world. And if I couldn't see them for a night (one night), I thought the world was coming to an end. I would yell. Slam doors (my parents loved that one). And put up the biggest stinkin' fight. Would I win?

Absolutely not. And I would be devastated. Devastated thinking that I was missing the biggest, most important event of my life.

....And my family? I will say that even in my high school years, I still loved hanging out with my family. Would I choose them on a Friday or Saturday night over a big bash (or even a mini get- together)?

Not if I had the choice.

And that's the thing. You just don't see life that clearly as a seventeen year old.

You’ve got so much up ahead
You’ll make new friends
You should see your kids and wife
And I’d end by saying have no fear
These are nowhere near the best years of your life....

Oh, how little did I know back then...

If I could write a letter to me.....

* I would tell myself that there is no happiness that can compare to seeing your own little one, to watching him grow up and become a talking toddler. (And also think it is the sweetest thing in the world watching him cuddle with a baby doll.)

*....that you will never laugh harder than when you watch your child take his baby doll for a trampoline ride and you wonder whether he will do this with future brother and sisters.

* ... that you will love seeing your children with your own parents. And that you will wonder if you will be calling them for advice in fifteen years when your own child is throwing a fit (maybe slamming doors) about not being able to go out on that friday night.

*.... that those big moments in high school... a first kiss, a spring dance, a rockin' party.... while fun, will never ever compare to the moments you experience when you have a family.

*.... that it's okay to get a B on a test; that you might not marry your true love in high school; that this is just one phase of your life.

Would I have listened back then? Probably not.

I really did get upset if I didn't get A's and I did think my life might end if I couldn't go out for one night. And in the end, after the graduation, the college years, and those first years in the real world, did it all matter?

Not in the big scheme of things. I'm a big believer that we are defined by the moments in our life and yes, those moments certainly do include your high school years. Yet while I received the best education, had the greatest batch of friends, laughed, loved, and shed a handful of tears when things didn't go my way, it was just a moment in time.

And the moments that really matter? Well, my friend, I'm living them....

I wish you wouldn’t worry, let it be
I’d say have a little faith and you’ll see....

In fact, these are the best moments in my life.

(see the song live here.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Welcome, Spring?

I'd be lying if I told you I want to embrace all these endless days of wintry weather. In reality, we are done with it. We're ready to shove the winter coats in our closets, pack up the hats and mittens, and be done with sweaters and boots. I'm ready to run around in sundresses and flip-flops (although my lack of tending to a recent pedicure may speak differently), take the little one outdoors and play until the very last slimmer of sun is present, and have barbeques on our porch with friends and family. Unfortunately, March and St. Louis aren't quite there yet. So until we welcome spring officially, we're just sticking with what we do....

Like a very big boy two year old check-up.... where we upgraded from laying on the mat to being measured and sitting on the scale to be weighed.

Little man can do it himself now.

And since we can't go outdoors currently, we are awakening his inner artist. Welcome, momma's very own birthday present... a complete stage to pull out some big ol' creativity.

And if this means slapping some paint on his hands to finger paint, well my goodness, we allow that.

You'll notice one very grown up little one has become quite the left-handed kid.... painting, eating, batting, and throwing with his left hand. The only thing he has not mastered is kicking with his left foot as equally as he does with his right (which of course distrurbs his father more than me).

I don't know what it is about watching a kid paint, but it's quite magical.

The colors they choose, the designs they create... I'm just waiting on that perfect one to hang in a big frame in our house.

And finally, when the temperature tips above 50 degrees, you better believe we head outdoors.... flip-flops and all.

We create the images we long to see.... mainly sunshines and rainbows.

And Little Man just soaks it all in.... fighting me when I tell him our toes are getting cold and it's time to head in, begging for just "one more" minute.

And who I am to say no to that?

Yes, we are quite confident that spring is coming. The grass is starting to turn shades of green and blue skies and sunshine are soon to make a comeback.

Things are (so very) good.

Just how good? Well.... you'll have to just wait and see... but some little two-year-old is quite excited about it.

Happy Wednesday to you!
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