the in-between

It's quiet, and I'm home.

My apartment is squeezing as much light as it can get, but the shadows are sharp and the clouds aren't leaving. And I'm okay with this. I'm okay with the lingering rain, and today, I'm okay resting in the shadows.

Breakfast has been slow; eggs and toast done, yogurt and blueberries to go. My coffee is keeping me warm, and its slow descent into my bloodstream is propelling me forward.

The last few months have been a whirlwind. I've had insane highs and unexpected lows, but not a lot in-between. And that's exhausting, because I crave the in-between. I crave its expectations and its structure, I crave its consistency and its early bedtimes.

I'm wondering, though, if the in-between is due for a closer look. I'm wondering if the in-between has become a crutch, and this crutch is actually doing more harm than help, because the goal isn't to live with the crutch, the goal is to live without it.

Not that I want to get rid of the in-between, because it's still necessary, but I want to do better when I am, in fact, without it. 

I want the in-between to be the place where gratitude and normalcy meet day-in and day-out, where life is lived and noticed and grafted into whatever else is going on, even if it's utter chaos. I want it to be adventure within my normal context. I don't want it to be what I need before I can do anything else. Because when that happens, I'm just left crippled.

I'm watching Ayden and Avery grow in mountainous proportions everyday, and ironically enough, spending time with this 2-year-old and (almost) 7-month-old has been the most consistent part of this season.

Ayden is potty-training, and is successfully going pee-pee, but is still unsure about the whole poo-poo-on-the-big-girl-potty thing. 

Yesterday, I was upstairs putting Avery to sleep, and when I came back down, Ayden was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. This is pretty normal---I'll tell her that I'm putting baby nigh-night, that I'll be right back, and she either plays on her own or waits patiently at the stairs. 

As I'm walking down, she exclaims, "SA! PEE PEE!"

"Alright! You have to go pee pee? Let's go!"

"! I deeeed eeet!"

"Um, what? You already did it?"

[Ayden's typical sheepish laughter] "Heheh YAAA!"

Now, usually we do the whole potty-process together. She struggles to get her pants back up after, and you know, she's learning it's predominantly a you-go, I-go kind of thing. But when she was telling me how she already deeeed eeeet, her pants were up, she was waiting at the stairs like she never left, and when we walked into the bathroom, the light was already off.

So Ayden marches ahead, turns the light on, excitedly points to her froggy-potty, and says, "SA! SEE! PEE PEE PEE PEE!!" [more giggly toddler laughter]

And sure enough, there was pee in the potty and homegirl had gone through that whole process on her own, while I was upstairs, and then waited to show me what she did. 

If that doesn't just make your heart swell, I don't know what will. ;)

These moments are more and more and more every single day. She's talking a TON, her inflections are hilarious, and she is one the most intentional and caring little humans I know. I see her with Avery, and with her lion, Leo, and it's evident how much she loves them. Leo may or may not be an inanimate object, but...he's really not. He's does everything we do, and I'm grateful she had a buddy of her own to take care of when Avery first entered the picture. Because when Mama or Dada or Sa were helping Baby, she got to help Leo. 

And speaking of Avery, she is fascinated and enamored by her big sister. We were eating lunch at the counter on Wednesday, and Ayden did something ridiculous, and out of nowhere Avery just started laaaaaughing. I haven't really heard her laugh yet, but Ayden did it again and again, and again and again Avery would let out this belly laugh unlike anything else. 

Avery is rolling all over the place, trying to eat everything, and really really loves hot milk, hot food, hot anything, and she'll let you know if it's not to her taste. She's particular, but also the sweetest baby. Smiley and babbly and cooey and I'm going to stop making up words now. 

Sometimes I'm so busy existing in the world that Ayden, Avery, and I are occupying now, today, as a toddler and baby, that I forget I've known Ayden since 5 and a half months. That I've been with her for so long, that I've seen her grow so much. It's weird even thinking of her as that baby anymore. And I remember that I've been with Avery since she was born, that I watched her grow inside Ashley...that this baby is still a baby, but is only getting bigger and in a way, only getting closer to Ayden everyday. IT'S SO WEIRD. 

I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million more: I LOVE these girls and I love this family.

This kind of feeling--- this kind of gratitude and awe in the midst of normal days, this is what I want my in-between to be. As Mack and I plan more and more for our wedding, my biggest fear is that it'll become one more thing we have to check off a more thing to take care of before this date, one more thing to DO.

But I want to settle into our engagement, I want to fully exist in this stage of our relationship, because it's the only time I'm gonna do it. Yes, we'll be checking lots of things off lists, and yes we have to do it by certain dates, but it seems so counterproductive to let myself get worked up over that. Let it be an adventure to keep organizing and dreaming and executing what this beautiful, wonderful, imperfect day will be. 

I'm already on this journey with my favorite person, my best friend, my home-base, and I can't wait to keep journeying forever. Even in the hardships. Even in the highs. And especially in the in-betweens.

My best friend got married last weekend, and her wedding was such a good reminder of what the day is about. People aren't going to remember the table decorations, or the colors, or what kind of flowers you had (although it's still fun picking those things out). They will remember celebrating you, and love, and grace, and the miracle of God bringing two lives together and saying hey, I think this is your fit---this is the person I want you to REALLY know and keep knowing, so that you can know me more; this is for you, and this is for me, and this is for us, and let's celebrate that. Michelle and Eric, I love you two so much and congratulations on entering all the beautiful and real and fun and hard layers that marriage exposes. I can't wait to exist in it alongside you. 

Man, I'm thankful for the shadows today. I'm thankful to have sat in them and thought through them and written about them. I'm thankful for life and it's twists and turns, and today, that's (more than) enough.