trouble sleeping? try a book. (here are my picks.)

Technology has a way of sneaking up and becoming a permanent fixture in my daily routine.

I work from home, so my laptop is constantly around, with emails not-so-patiently waiting to be checked and documents longingly waiting to be tackled. I’m a member of Team iPhone, which means I have Twitter, Facebook, Huffington Post, Tumblr, CNN, e-mail, and a barrage of other apps and tools glued to my hand and available at a moment’s notice.

Confession: I love being connected.

Confession: Sometimes too much.

In an attempt to unplug, I’ve been trying to read more before bed instead of mindlessly scrolling through Twitter feeds.

A 2011 study from the National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of Americans report very active technology use in the hour before trying to sleep. Almost everyone surveyed uses some type of electronics (think TV, computer, video games or cell phone) at least a few nights a week within the hour before bed.

But, our Good Night iPhone routine isn’t so awesome for us. (Or, for the 35+ set, the nightly reliance on TV.)

Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep,” says Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  “This study reveals that light-emitting screens are in heavy use within the pivotal hour before sleep. Invasion of such alerting technologies into the bedroom may contribute to the high proportion of respondents who reported that they routinely get less sleep than they need.”

Since I’m preggo and sleep is extra important these days, pouring my iPhone nightcap down the drain seemed like a good idea.

Here’s what I’ve been reading (in…wait for it…print!).

What: Baby Catcher:Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.

First thoughts: This is a good one, you guys! Peggy writes with authenticity, empathy and intelligence as she remembers her 40+ years in midwifery. I’m only through the first part, where she chronicles her experience in the ’60s + ’70s. I’m happy times have changed and excited to keep reading.

What: Revolutionary Parenting by George Barna

First thoughts: The Barna Group is one of the top research firms for insight into faith + culture. Its public opinion research is frequently quoted in major media outlets, such as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc. The book uses a series of surveys + personal interviews with both young adults and their parents to find what it takes to raise kids who are spiritual champions. We also nabbed a workbook to go with it. I like that it’s based on stats + research, but doesn’t eliminate the human aspect of parenting. Excited to dig in more!

What: 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed by Sherrie Eldridge

First Thoughts: I pretty much skimmed the entire book the evening I brought it home from the library. Sometimes adoption books freak me out by providing plenty of worst-case scenarios. Eldridge (who was domestically adopted in mid-century America) does a decent job of realistically guiding parents through tough scenarios without getting doomsday. Two critiques: I think sometimes her own experiences color her perspectives pretty heavily, and her writing could go for an extra dose of grace. That being said, there were nuggets I definitely bookmarked, wrote down, and read aloud to Jonny. If there’s anything I can do to be a better parent to Joseph (and any other kiddos who come into our family through adoption), then I am all about it!

You can probably sense a theme. A two-year-old toddler + baby on the way have me on the parenthood-book track. (But, I’d recommend Baby Catcher to any one — kids or not!)

What’s on your nightstand? What should I check out at the library?

overcoming mommy guilt: a little moment with a lot of love.

As we were lying in bed last night, I confessed to Jonny that sometimes I don’t feel like a good enough mom. I love our little guy beyond words, and sometimes I feel like he deserves more.

That I should do more.

Create more learning activities. Make healthier food. Be more organized. The list goes on.

Like the awesome husband (and dad) that he is, Jonny reminded me that the best thing I can do for Joseph is ensure that he knows he is loved.

That by just doing our best to love, we are doing OK.

Serving more vegetables and creating a learning environment is great, but so are cuddles and hugs and high-fives and reminding your child that you love him, no matter what.

I fell asleep praying that above all else, I would radiate love. That Joseph would feel and know unconditional love.

This morning, our little two-year-old was watching Thomas the Train in the living room as I got ready in our room. I was putting on my shirt when Joseph threw open the door and tromped into the room. (Still working on boundaries.)

He saw my bare tummy, and playfully smacked it. I looked at him and said, “Oh, Joseph! Remember the baby! Where’s the baby?

Baby?” he asked, looking around the room.

Remember,” I said, placing his chubby hand on my tummy, “there’s a baby growing in Mommy’s tummy.

His big brown eyes looked up at me, and I could see his gears moving.

He took a moment, and leaned over, grasping his hands around my waist.

And then he planted the sweetest, softest, and longest kiss on my little bump.

At that moment, I could feel nothing but his love.

And at that moment, I knew that he knew he was loved.

Because when you know you’re loved, love flows through you.

He’s going to be a great big brother.

what it’s like to be a work-at-home mom.

The mommy wars have me thinking about what it’s like to be a work-at-home mom (WAHM), an awesomely tiring combo of being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and working mom (is there a mommmy blogger abbreviation for that?).

Before getting into this, I feel like I have to say that I give a giant standing ovation to all moms who love their kids and parent to the best of their abilities. I’m still learning that being a mom is beyond-words wonderful and difficult all at the same time, and I know that every family is different. OK, so no judging here.

At different times in my life, I’ll probably experience being a full-on stay-at-home mom and a work-in-an-office mom. Right now, on this day, in this moment, you could/can call me a work-at-home mom.

But what is a work-at-home mom?

That’s a good question.

Most conversations with acquaintances usually tend to follow one of two formats:

Conversation 1

Person: So, how do you like being a stay-at-home mom?

Me: Well, I actually work from home, too. It’s stressful but great!

Conversation 2

Person: Hi, Kayla! Good to see you!

Me: Hi, person!

Person: So, what are you doing?

Me, to myself: Well, this morning I was planning a content schedule, grocery shopping, writing an e-newsletter, visiting the pediatrician, wiping my son’s nose…

Me, to person: I work remotely and stay home with Joseph.

Honestly, neither of these conversations bother me. Unless you have experience being a parent and freelancing/working from home, it wouldn’t be fair to expect folks to understand.

I’m a weird mix of both, but it works. I get to experience life with my son, and I’m thankful to have a gig with a flexible schedule that I can do remotely.

Sometimes, I’m stressed. Really stressed. Sometimes I feel really guilty for being on my computer and plopping my son in front of Curious George. Sometimes I feel really guilty for taking my son to the park and not working on that newsletter. It’s a balance that is new every day.

I will now be slightly self-indulgent and let you know what being a work-from-home mom currently looks like for me:

What I do: Edit magazine print content for Web, plan and write e-newsletters, and tackle story assignments for various media outlets as they pop up. (I don’t know if this sounds fun to you, but it is! Now you know I’m a nerd.)

How often I do it: I work about 20 hours per week (give or take).

When I do it: My laptop is never far from me. I work during naptime, in the evening, and on weekends. Friends & fam fill in and watch the little one during in-office meetings. Sometimes I have conference calls while simultaneously cooking chicken nuggets and serving mac + cheese.

Working from home means that your office looks like this:

And you need lots of this:

And your afternoons get to look like this:

And it’s all worth it.

adventures in story time.

Joseph and I just got home from “Fun with One” story time at the library. It would rank high on the list of Stuff White People Like.

I felt like I was back in middle school, the new girl awkwardly trying to find the right room and blend in with the right people, all while everyone else already has friends because they all went to elementary school together.

We arrived at the library precisely at 10 a.m. (Those familiar with our usual morning routine should be super impressed, as we’re usually not showered until early afternoon.) We milled about the kids’ area to kill time, and at 10:12, we headed to the main atrium/reading room in the kids’ area.

No one was there.

Did I read the wrong time? Was reading hour canceled this week? 10:15 came and went. Still no other kids. No parents. No teacher.

I scooped up Joseph and sheepishly asked the overseers of the kids’ area, “Ummm, is there a story time today?” They both looked at me, half with sympathy and half with condescending librarian eyes, and said it was held on the other side of the library in the main conference room, obviously. The female librarian glanced at the clock and surmised that we could still make it, if we hustled, of course.

It was like being late for homeroom all over again.

After navigating the library with my curious 1.5-year-old in tow, we stood in front of the french doors to Conference Room 1. I took a deep breath and opened the door. Wrong one. Locked. Now everyone knew there was someone late, someone who was loudly attempting to break in. I clumsily tried the other door. Success. Whew.

My eyes fell on a giant circle of 30-something moms (and a few progressive dads, including a red-headed guy donning a shirt that boasted, RELIGIOUS LEFT), sitting cross-legged with babes perched on their laps. They were singing about washing faces in the morning or something. At least 50 people, each with their mini-me babies, singed and swayed.

I spotted an open space in the ring and joined with Joseph on my lap, cheeks warm with that all-eyes-on-you feeling. Was it because we were late, or because Joseph was the only dark-skinned kid? Was I just being paranoid? I bumbled through the ultra-cheesy verses about basic hygiene and Joseph kept looking at everyone and then glancing back at me. Really mom? Really?

My neighbor to the right sensed my trepidation (intimidation?).

"Hello. Your first time here?" An English accent whispered. Oooh, cool. I thought. She’s so Masterpiece Theater! I came back with a really talkative answer. “Yep.”

She asked me what my son’s name was, to which I replied with another lengthy answer: “Joseph.” What was wrong with me? Why was I being so awkward?!

"This is Elizabeth, and I’m Sarah.” Oooh, fail. She wanted to know my name. That was the moment I realized “Fun with One” might really be geared toward mommies interested in finding a friend. I went along with it and told her it was nice to meet her.

"How old is he?" She asked as Joseph clung to my lap, giving me confused looks as the tots were told to practice opening their mouths. (What?) "Oh, he’s about 19 months," I answered. "Wow! I thought he was 2 and a half!" She retorted. Yes, lady, I know my kid is big. Thank you for pointing out yet another reason we don’t fit in here, I thought to myself. Wait…story time was for kids 18-24 months…was she alluding that my kid was too big to be here? Oh no you didn’t! I smiled and nodded, trying to master the weird actions to go along with the song the chubby, over-enthusiastic librarian was now leading.

Activities changed approximately every 2.5 seconds (How amazing that we diagnose so many kids with ADHD!) and Joseph was skeptical about them all. He even made attempted a quick escape to the door, and I was tempted to run right out with him, picking up my purse after story hour was over.

We settled back into our spot and I feigned interest in the adventures of Maisy. We chased bubbles. We did a strange dance with scarves. We played with a felt board. (And read only one book?)

Joseph had brief moments of joy, but when story time came to a close and we began “structured free play” Joseph quickly grabbed his jacket, announced “Coooat!” and proceeded to attempt to put it on. As I helped him, I chatted a bit more with my English frenemy, and Joseph bolted for the door.

"See you next week?" She asked politely.

I think we both knew the answer.


Today, a little boy startled from a bad dream, placed his head on my chest and whimpered until I sang him back to sleep.

Today, I woke up for the 46th morning with an ocean separating me from home. Today, I will find out when I can bring Joseph home.

Today is 8-15.

Today is my son’s first birthday.

"For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.’”

[Romans 8:15]

Last night, as I stared at the ceiling waiting to fall asleep, I played the audio version of ‘Forgotten God,’ a book by Francis Chan. As Joseph fell asleep, and as I contemplated, listened and prayed for God to bring us home soon, this came from the speakers:

"The promised Spirit is not a small promise. Jesus suffered a grueling death so that I could have the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit. How dare I take this for granted? Because of Jesus, I have received the promise. This spirit is not a remote force. He takes up residence in our lives, in our very body, and by doing so brings with him a deep level of security. Again and again in the scriptures, we read about being God’s children, being led by his spirit and how we received the spirit of adoption.

Kristen has been a friend of the family for the past ten years. I’ll never forget being with her at her mother’s memorial service. As I watched her grieve, there was no doubt that she was loved by this woman who had adopted her from Korea. She was Kristen’s mothernot just some lady who looked after her and paid for her food. It has been years since her death, yet Kristen still has a hard time talking about her without getting emotional. She misses Mom.

This is the type of adoption God speaks of in Scripture. It’s not about having an impersonal guardian who looks over you. It’s about having a parent. The best parent there ever was or ever will be. We have been chosen, grafted, adopted into the family of God. And now that we are a part of the family, the Spirit causes us to call out, “Abba Father!” Remember that Abba is the most intimate form for referring to a father. It is like saying “daddy.” It connotes a deep level of familiarity and intimacy.

As God’s Spirit speaks to our hearts, we can call out to god as Abba. We will begin to experience this intimate relationship more deeply than we ever thought possible. So much so that we will begin to wonder, does everyone feel this loved by God?”

Exactly what I needed to hear.

I am thankful for a living God who loves me enough to dwell in me, even when I am angry and doubting and at my ugliest.

I am thankful for a Spirit who encourages me and comforts me when my hope has been beaten, bruised and buried.

I am thankful.

The Message puts it this way: This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

It’s easy to doubt or feel numb to the glory of God’s fatherly love. But when I look into Joseph’s eyes, the unbounded love I have for this little child reminds me that I only love because my father in heaven loved me first. And while I have an imperfect love, God is unflawed, unconditional love. He who is holy loves me. I am his daughter. My Father’s love is a beautiful, unexplainable mystery.

So, Joseph, happy birthday.

My deepest prayer is that you will come home this week, but beyond that, may you always feel our heavenly father’s all-consuming love, and know and believe that you, too, are a beloved son of the most highest.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.