Wednesday, December 18, 2013

In waiting

I can wait.

I'm really good at waiting.

For example, each year that my husband and I exchange Christmas gifts, we manage to wait until around December 15th (give or take) to exchange gifts.

And every morning, I wait until the last possible second to roll out of bed when I have to be up.

And I've waited to get in a decent, consistent workout routine for years.

Bad examples?

Fine.

I can't wait.  I'm notoriously bad at being patient and letting moments 'be' without thinking about what's coming next or what I should be doing.

Sit and watch tv?  Sure, while I sew or copy recipes or plan a grocery list.  Enjoy breakfast?  Sure, after emptying the dishwasher, scrubbing the highchair and wiping down the counters.  A nice road trip?  Sure, I'll pack my books, magazines, 7000 piece puzzle (ok, maybe not).  But, you get the point.

Anyway, waiting is not something I'm good at, and this Advent season, I've finally gotten the message that has been sent to me loud and clear for months.  I don't think I was ready to hear it for awhile.

This fall, when I pictured our Christmas season it included our children running around with their new treasures while I sat in the midst of it all, my belly round and preparing for a new addition.  I pictured a winter filled with home renovations and perusing Pinterest pages on how to make small bedrooms work.  I pictured our summer as a family of five and all of the new challenges and joys that would bring.

But, that was not to be.  We found out relatively early on that our baby wouldn't live to become part of our family.

And we grieved.  And I needed to get out.  So, we traveled to visit family and friends.

Wait.

And Halloween came and it was time for making costumes and picking pumpkins and eating candy and making applesauce.

Wait.

And a round of sickness followed by an early Thanksgiving with my family, followed by another round of sickness.

Wait.

Then, a magical trip to Disney with my in-laws and toes in the sand and lovely weather.

Wait.

And finally, now, a third round of sickness, this time, through our entire family, knocking most of us out for the greater part of a week right before Christmas.  Forcing us to cancel work, school, activities.  (Oh, I see, you wanted me to wait.)

Wait.

Every one of these things were wonderful (minus the sickness, of course).  When I left town shortly after my surgery, I knew I needed an escape.  And we needed events and holidays and once-in-a-lifetime trips.  They were planned, and they have been filling and fulfilling and wonderful and memory-creating.

But, I've finally heard the voice.  Wait.  God telling me to slow down.  Or rather, sickness so strong through all of us that I had no other option:)  That Christmas to-do list?  Meh.  If things happen and they're out of love and they give love and everyone is happy working on them, ok.  If not, scratch it.  Jesus is only in the love that comes in Christmas preparation, not the frustration.  That's all us.

I was given a gift today, sitting in my grubbiest sweats while the sweetest little girl laid across me, her soft hair brushing my face, chubby fingers touching my neck, watching her chest move slowly up and down as she breathed through her fever.  Older brother snuggled up tight under his blankets in my other arm, still in his pajamas, feverish and tired.  We sat in the room lit only by the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, ornaments added each year as our family has grown, changed, traveled.

And we watched the story of the birth of Jesus in all its glory and I knew that this was what I was being told.  My life.  As it is right now.  Amazingly perfect in all of its imperfection.  Sickness and exhaustion and complete lack of preparation.  Grace given in spite of ALL I am lacking.  Such freedom from my own expectations!

And suddenly, I knew peace.  Beauty. Love. Joy. Hope.

This spring, I think I'll be me.  A better me.  Without anything too new added in.  I'll plant a garden.  Play with my children.  Love myself.  And if there's some down time in there, I'll capture those quiet moments in my mind, clinging to them as they happen.  In the end, I know those are the ones truly worth remembering.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Year of the Baby

Well, it's been a year.

An exhausting, wonderful, busy, fast, slow, perfect, frustrating year.

The year of the baby.

10 days old

You know what would be much more helpful in the baby books or the hospital information?

A reminder that the "year of the baby" is not really a year at all.  I mean, it is in the fact 365 days pass, but nothing in that year is anywhere near normal.

You will not hang out with friends.  You will not complete house projects.  You will have a LOT of dirty laundry.  You may rarely clean your house.  You will spend a whole lot of time snuggling and very little time sleeping.

And that's ok.

Because that year goes oh-so-fast.  And you only get to do it once in that baby's lifetime.

One summer.  One fall.  One winter.  One spring.  ONE.

And then ONE is here and that amazing little baby that took every ounce of your being for 12 months is getting bigger and can play by herself and explore by herself and needs a little less attention than before.  And your life gets a little more normal than before.

And here we are.  365 days. 12 months. 4 seasons. 1 year.

Girl loves her some bacon

I wish I could explain how this baby girl has blessed our life.

I could tell you about the softness of her skin or how she smells after a bath.

I could tell you about the shape of her feet or the rolls on her legs.

I could tell you about her fascination with books or how she repeats sounds she hears or how she loves putting things 'into' other things or banging things together to hear the sounds.

I could tell you about that voice that says 'mama' and 'dada' and 'wa' for brother.  I could tell you about the lips that form these words and the start of so many others, the ones that kiss open-mouthed or spread into a wide, sparse-toothed grin.

I could tell you about her ears.  The roundness of them and the small, blond hairs that line them.  I could tell you how she loves music and dancing and listens intently to stories and gives big baby belly laughs to loud noises.

I could tell you about splashing in the bathtub and shaking her head no for foods she refuses to try or turning her head sideways and pretending to be shy.

I could tell you about happy, sleepy smiles in the morning and forever nights sleeping on mom or dad all night long with the start of a new tooth or a cold.

I could tell you about whining and the sweet, sad, funny face when she's pouting.

I could tell you that her preferred mode of movement is sitting upright, scooting on her bottom and using her legs in coordinated motions...left, right, left, right.

I could tell you about squeezing teddy bears and long walks and swinging and all of the things she does and all of the things she likes.

But, even though all of those things are part of her, none of them tell the whole story.

Her core is sweet and shy, sneaky and funny, needy and independent, cuddly and loving, happy and curious.

And I am again blown away by the amount my heart has expanded to accommodate this wonderful person.

All over again.

I could tell you that after a wonderful son, I was afraid of what it would be like having a daughter and now I couldn't imagine any day of my life without her.

And all that she is.

And all that she will become.

Happy 1st Birthday, sweet baby girl.

It's been an amazing year.

Our dear little Elliot.

Off to destroy the bathroom. Again.




Thursday, February 28, 2013

Real Heartache

The first cut is the deepest.

Isn't that how the song goes?

I saw it tonight, and it shocked me into a new mama reality.

Ward and I were talking about his school and how his friend, Gabrielle, is moving away next week--her dad got a new position in Alabama and they will be leaving right away.

And even though he knew it was coming, he was suddenly overly concerned.

"But we can go see her, right?" (Well, honey, I doubt we'll go to Alabama, but if we do, I promise we will see if we can get together with her).

"But we can fly there, right mom?  It's not that far!" (Well, dear, I know it sounds easy, but it isn't that simple.  We have no reason to go to Alabama and mommy and daddy both have to work and we can't just pay for plane tickets to go on a vacation."

"But why can't we build a house in Alabama right by hers!?  It's warm there and I like to be warm!" (Well, sweetheart, we live here and we love to play in the snow and we love living by our families and our jobs are here and we have many friends here...)

And it pretty much went downhill from there.  

After establishing that Gabrielle really had to leave and we really aren't going to Alabama anytime in the foreseeable future, he lost it.

Really.

We're in the middle of making cookies and chatting and suddenly, he is bawling uncontrollably, shoulders heaving, tears streaming down his face.

Now, I'm not a very patient person.  I have some empathy, but in terms of sympathy, I pretty much missed out on the gene.  My typical reaction would be to calmly tell him to cut it out and this is what's happening and we're going to have to make the best of it blah, blah, blah.

But, right as I was preparing to go into my spiel, I looked at him and saw that little almost-four-year-old face wrought with emotion.  Anger and sadness and hurt.

Oh, sweetheart...

And I washed the cookie dough off my hands and hugged him.  And held him.  And told him how sorry I was that he was so sad and so angry and how I wish it were simpler and how I understood what it felt like for someone to go away and I'm so sorry that he has to feel that way.  

And that little, independent, stubborn boy cried with his head on my shoulder and told me how angry he was and how sad and as I held him and comforted him, I saw myself, years later, sitting on that same couch and hugging him over tough days in school or mean kids or a bad game or a hard breakup and I knew, in that moment, that these charges we've been blessed with, who bring to our lives such infinite happiness, need so much good and loving care.  

Most of the time, I say the wrong thing and I react too quickly and I speak too harshly or without much thought, but sometimes, there is a moment of perfect clarity that comes like an early morning sunbeam through the window, and I see all things in perfect form, and I get it right.

Tonight, I had that moment.

I didn't react negatively.

I understood him.

I mean, I didn't really, in my adult world, I'm connected to everyone I want to be connected to, whether in person or not, but I saw, in his eyes, the thought of what it meant to never see someone again.  Someone he played with every single day of his life.  The idea of permanence, the frustration of trying different solutions, the anger at me for telling him that it just won't work.

So many emotions in such a little person.

And I knew that his little heart was broken and I couldn't fix it, but I needed to just sit with him and without doing anything to fix it, I had to just let. him. be.

And I did.

After things calmed down and we talked a bit, Ward and I decided that he could make a wonderful picture for Gabrielle--a drawing of her, complete with jewelry (she's quite enamored, I understand) as a memento to take with her.  We also talked about the possibility of being pen pals and other such things to keep in touch, though honestly, I think much of this is just a reaction to the first time something he loves doesn't come back. 


And then we did a lot of cuddling and enjoyed some of the cookies we baked and had a peaceful, happy night.  And I'm sure tomorrow, my patience will slowly retreat to it's typical level and he will do seven trillion things that drive me crazy and I will put him in timeouts and threaten to take toys away and all of the usual chaos that happens here on a daily basis.

But for now, my little boy's heart is mending and I helped apply the band-aid.

Monday, February 25, 2013

True Gratitude

Toddlers are hard.

Modeling his best "angry face."

Did anyone ever tell you that?

I was never let in on the secret.

I mean, sure, I heard about the "terrible twos" and all of that.

But, we floated through two.

Seriously.  Two was an awesome year.  Tons of sweetness, lots of learning, joy abounding.

We thought we were home free.

For real.

But, then came three.  Ohhhhh, three.

Don't get me wrong, we have AMAZING moments with him everyday.  Seriously.  Cuddles and giggles and dancing and reading and laughing.  The good stuff.

On his third birthday last spring.

But three has come with a whole new set of challenges.

Fits and yelling and stomping and arms crossed and whining oh my.

Who knew that talking and knowing would come with opinions and determination and frustration?  Everyone else?  Oh.  Got it.

And as a parent, you sort of expect those things, right?  I mean, you know that no matter what, you're going to have some craziness.  It's more about channeling it and trying to guide.  Figuring out that balance between pushing too hard and having those oh-so-high expectations of good behavior and realizing that this little person has as many emotions running through his body as a full-grown adult with only an ounce of the coping skills.  Yikes.

And eventually, you start to wonder.  And second guess.  You read a million articles and ask a million friends and try a million different approaches to parenting.

And sometimes, you have a brief respite (God's gift to keep your sanity?) but the chaos comes back, sometimes in a new form, sometimes in the same one.

And the self-evaluation continues.

And then, something amazing happens.

It stops.

Not for a few hours or a day or even a week.

It actually stops.

Sure, there are regresses, but things have shifted from chaos all the time with pieces of awesomeness to awesomeness all the time with pieces of chaos.

I can TOTALLY handle pieces of chaos.

And that little crazy person amazes you.  He's funny.  And smart.  And wonderfully independent.  He's trying new things.  He tells you how tough he can be.  He hugs his sister and asks to buy her a gift for his birthday.  He shares.  When you apologize for doing something to him accidentally, he tells you not to apologize because 'you didn't mean to do it.'

Seriously.

And then you go window shopping for hours looking at some ideas for this little man's birthday in just a few short weeks and he shows you his fantastically engaging and well-behaved personality.  No whining, no begging, no fits.  (Who IS this kid!?)

And after two and a half hours, he sees a small thing that he would love to have, and you say 'yes.'

And he spends the next two hours thanking you and tell you how cool it is and how much he loves it.

And you're almost embarrassed that this $10 toy makes him this happy.

But it's also pretty cool.

Because you know that you're witnessing true gratitude.

Actual excitement and thankfulness.

And suddenly, you're majorly humbled.

Because you know that you had so very little to do with it.

This little toddler has gone through that time of learning and challenging, and although it's not over, you realize a new level of maturity has been reached right before your eyes.

Loving on baby sister a few weeks before turning four..

Happy early birthday to the little man who came into our lives and shook us up in the very best ways possible.

Thank you for teaching us more about love and life every single day you're here.

I only hope we can allow you to grow and guide you without interfering in your already-there awesomeness.

We love you.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Coming Up For Air

Wardie's participating in swim lessons.  

Remember those?  Your little body shivering in the cold water, the instructor urging you to trust, teaching you how to cup your hands, straighten your knees, kick your legs.  Blowing bubbles in the water.  Getting the courage to duck your head under for just the quickest moment just to come up, sputtering and gulping, to catch that breath of air.

Do we ever learn how to properly breathe underwater?

Miss Elliot turned 8 months old last week.  My baby is 2/3 of the way through her first year.  Ward is going to morning Montessori preschool and taking swim lessons two nights a week.  We're considering soccer this spring.  I am watching (in addition to our children) between two and four other children each day.  I just started coaching club volleyball again.  I became the Board President of the local Food Bank.  I deliver food once a month to another location through our church.  We have Sunday School and church groups and Bryan's playing music and trying to coach soccer on off days and travelling for work....

How can I possibly breathe properly?  

I mean, I'm not complaining.  Honestly.  We fill our time to the brim with friends and family and outings and projects.  My cup runneth over, truly.  I know how lucky we are to surround ourselves with love.  

And I know everyone does it.  And some do more of it.  And do it better.

But, I'm talking about the practical aspects--how can we function as human beings during this time?  And honestly, we don't TRY to be busy--we actually try and have a great deal of time at home--where do people find it!?

How do we balance all of these things?  How do we keep swimming and not forget to come up for air?

I'm not looking for June Cleaver here, I'm just working on breathing through the strokes.  I'm admiring the moms who do this daily.  I know with all that I am that we're doing it right--cleaning and projects and all of that can wait for a time when little boys aren't interested in making rocket ships or reading stories and little girls are weaned and don't give mom the biggest smile in the world when she enters the room.  I know I will look back and miss these days and wish my house wasn't so orderly and long for the days of fingerprints on glass and dust and chaos and noise.  These ARE the good old days.

So for now, I'm going to keep making schedules and running around and I'm not going to fight the busy-ness--I'm going to revel in it.  And keep on swimming.  Hopefully, my body will know when it's the right time to breathe.

PS--Thanks to my friend Amy for encouraging me to write again.  It may be another item to do, but the reflection it offers for me probably is similar to getting a manicure, and we ALL know that isn't happening!