Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Day of November

It's the last day of November, and I'm grateful. The Christmas season is coming just in time for me. I know a lot of people get crazy busy at Christmas season, but for me it is an opportunity to slow life down a little bit, to stop and reflect and to enjoy. To go back to child-like wonder.

I need that right now.

 For about 3 weeks the Dude was fully night weaned, culminating in a night in which he slept 6 hours in a row IN the crib. And then everything disintegrated. He began to wake hourly and took hours to console. His separation anxiety suddenly tripled, and he began crying hysterically whenever he couldn't see me even during the day. The night weaning wasn't working for anyone. No one was sleeping and everyone was miserable.

So now we're back to all night snuggles. He wakes immediately if I try to transfer him to the crib at any point during the night.

I don't resent it. Not really. Everyone does things in their own time. And it's not his fault that he needs more of me than I want him to need. And I am certainly grateful to feel so connected to my child. Especially because he is turning out to be every bit as intense as his big brother.

Actually, probably even more like his high energy father than my firstborn. If he is not clinging to me like a baby monkey and crying he is looking for whatever near-death experience he can find in the 30 seconds that I turn my back.

Without those all night snuggles and those frequent moments of reconnection during the day he would probably make me absolutely crazy.

I read once that the definition of a "high-need" child was that they need more of everything except sleep. This definitely defines my kids. I wouldn't trade them. At this moment. But some moments during the day...

Anyway, my hormones are all out of whack from attempted weaning gone wrong. I haven't had PMS in 30 months. Not sure if that is what I'm experiencing right now, but I am exhausted. I'm a little sad, and feeling slow.

I've been on a great big *doing* kick for a while now, never feeling like enough. Everyone seems to have so many needs, and there is not enough of me to go around. I've been reminded lately that I have needs too.

I'm a little lonely. But other than my family and co-workers, not much time for friends. I tried a women's bible study, but came home to basically everyone crying. Night time is not a good time for a mommy to be gone, at least in my house. Don't think JT will be brave enough to try that again for a while.

So this Christmas season is going to be about getting back to relationship with the One who can meet all of those needs. Emotionally, physically, mentally, relationally. I'm going to slow down, recharge, and let myself be taken care of by that baby-turned-Savior.

And we've got some fun activities planned too.

Yesterday we visited two different libraries (disturbing everyone's peace since Judah screamed, threw toys, and climbed on things through most of the visit) and collected a total of 22 Christmas books and then wrapped them up. We're going to open one each morning in December leading up to Christmas, and inside each one is a strip of paper naming a fun Christmas-related activity we will do that day.

Aquaman and The Dude helped wrap the books so they're nothing Pinterest worthy. This is why I have children though, because my own wrapping would never be Pinterest worthy either!

And then we put one piece of candy in a bag, along with a slip of paper with passages from the Jesus Storybook Bible to read at night before bed.

This all turned out to take a lot more time than I thought it would in preparation, but I'm excited now that it is done.

Looking forward to these next few weeks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


This thanksgiving finds my heart swimming with gratitude.

Life is good. It's simple. We're healthy, we're happy, our marriage is strong, our children are developing normally.

Life is hard. It can be confusing. We search, we hurt, we hurt each other. We apologize. Our children grow and change and we change along with them.

I'm thankful for the good things, and I am ever thankful for the hard things that shape us and soften us, draw us closer, and make us stronger for the road ahead.

I am most thankful for prayer. For a relationship with a Living God.

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving".
Colossians 4:2

I'm thankful that He is ever present. That though sometimes I can go all day stewing over things in my head, trying to solve my own problems, or just soaking in my own emotions, the moment I turn to Him- turn it over to Him, He takes it. Thankful for the reminder of who I am in His presence. The shrinking, the humility, the raw filth and the resulting brokenness. The filling and enabling. The strength.

I'm thankful for middle-of-the-night prayers, warm under the blanket. 20 month old footy pajama feet tucked against my body, curly hair brushing a mother's kiss. For not having to be anxious about the future, be it tomorrow or 20 years from now.

Thankful for the thanksgiving season prayers that have brought about new seed sowing in the heart of my 4 year old son. Thankful for his calling to me to lay with him right before he falls asleep, and for a husband who does not resent it. For his trusting me with his questions about Jesus, and his hesitations, and his innocence. I'm thankful for glimpses of the future in his sparkly blue eyes. For the newfound respect that has been growing in my heart for him as I watch him turn into his own person with his own purpose and talents and passions.

So so thankful for the opportunity to share with him what it means to follow Christ. Having had not nearly as much experience evangelizing as I should, being this many years a Christian; the dizziness of sharing in that moment when you know a heart is being deeply spoken to, that a life is close to changing is nonetheless as exciting each subsequent time as the first. And multiplied many times over when the young disciple is your own child.

I'm thankful for Florida Novembers. For playing in the pool (!) and eating dinner by the fire pit in our courtyard.

For thanksgiving memories of large family gatherings and impromptu kickball games and football tossing, and the hope of more of the same in the future.

Thankful to be entering the Christmas season, when life becomes more intentional. When the calandar, and our hearts, are full.

Believe it or not, I'm thankful that life's not exactly what I thought it would be. That people aren't exactly who I think they should be. And that there's a place I'm going someday where it will all make sense, and it doesn't have to down here.

Thank You God, for thanksgiving. For prayers of thanksgiving and with thanksgiving, and for another year to celebrate You.

Friday, November 16, 2012

No Such Thing as SuperWoman

To be honest, I never really liked the Proverbs 31 woman.
I mean, have you read about her lately? What an overacheiver. What a goody-goody. And even worse...what a GIRL.
The kind of girl I've never been, and I think that's why I never liked her.
I spent much of my childhood wishing I had been born a boy. Life just seemed better for boys. Their handwriting wasn't expected to be pretty and bubbly, and no one laughed if they cut crooked with scissors or if their hair looked a little messy.

I think that's why I've been so happy to produce boys. Have you seen the kind of boys that we produce? Aquaman regularly runs into walls, and trips over his own feet. His head is so large that he frequently loses his balance when he bends over too far. He has no idea what the term "indoor voice" means, and I once caught him absent-mindedly opening the refrigerator when what he really needed was to go to the bathroom.
The Dude isn't a whole lot better. In the cleanest room he can manage to cover himself in dirt. He never ever walks. He runs. And when life is not cooperating with him, he quite often slams his head into the closest wall or floor available.

These are all well and fine, if you're a boy. And if you are said-boy's mother, you can shake your head with a wistful smile and say in that sweet way: "boys will be boys!" and everyone will smile too (even while they're taking cover) and agree.

Not so, for girls.
Granted, I've always been pretty quiet. And I can generally control my impulses for longer than three minutes. But I've never been terribly coordinated or graceful. I've never really looked at myself for longer than thirty seconds in the mirror before running off to the next thing (which means I can leave the house with my shirt inside out or some unknown crusty substance on my face and not discover it for hours), and I've definitely never ever been good at the things that girls are supposed to be good at. Which gave me a pretty good complex for a long time.

Exit college: life can finally begin. The emotional rollercoaster of social dramas and figuring out what I'm supposed to do with my life seems to be over, and I can start new. Figure out what a woman who wants to be like Jesus is supposed to look like. And what do you know, I meet up with that Proverbs 31 woman again.

"Beautiful in God's Eyes", that's the book I discovered. A book that breaks down the virtues of a woman whom God will find beautiful. And what girl doesn't want that? Especially a girl who seems hopelessly destined to be overlooked. I chided myself for having ignored this perfect role model for so long. "If you just TRY", I told myself, you can be like her too.
It is a great book, and in the end I think it helped open up my eyes to the real Truth in the Bible about this woman, and God's ideal for women. But for a while all it did was feed those old insecurities. Case in point:

She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with
sashes." Proverbs 31:24

My friend S told me a long time ago that when she imagined me as an old lady someday in a knitting circle, she saw me spending the whole time rooting around my purse looking for my knitting needles. I think this is a pretty accurate statement. And a sign of how far I've come, because now I can look at that picture of myself fondly, with acceptance and peace and even a little amusement.

But not straight out of college. Straight out of college I was trying to impress my friends and find me a husband, and then BAM I found out that not even God likes a woman who can't make pretty things.
I'll have you know I tried to cross-stitch some bibs for neices and nephews when I was a tween. And my twin sister's...well hers were gorgeous. Mine were just a wad of thread. I can't even CROSS-STITCH for goodness sake, and God wants me to try to sell home-made sashes?

After a while, I put that book away. But I kept Proverbs out.
I started working as an RN, and I realized I was "opening my arms to the poor, and extending my hands to the needy" (vs 20), and that I was pretty good at it. That I "set about my work vigorously, and my arms were strong for my tasks" (v 17). I slowly began to learn that God loved me just as He made me, and that maybe my "distaff" and my "spindle" were a syringe or a computer. That I could work with eager hands on a special needs child instead of with wool. That even though I'm clumsy and occasionally awkward, my strength and dignity can clothe me from the inside out. With laughter at the days to come. Not fear, or uncertainty, or insecurity. With......laughter.

The one thing I always did like about that crazy Proverbs 31 woman were the last verses. "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." v 30

I always liked it because I never felt charming, and I never felt really [conventionally] beautiful. I don't even know if I ever cared if I was thought of as beautiful, on the outside anyway. But a woman who fears the Lord...well I could be that. ANY woman could be that.

And that was the final word of Truth to my heart.
There is no such thing as superwoman. These days our culture seems even more intent on producing superWOMEN than supermen.

As a working mother, one very blessed to work only part-time at least during these days, I've had my days of never feeling like enough. I'm not enough at home, because I'm gone. I have to leave my children with someone else (though I am beyond fortunate to have two sets of grandparents in town), even though they are ultimately MY responsibility to raise properly. This also means the house gets crazy out of order during my work-week. And that there is definitely no time (even if there was money) to fill it up with artistic decorations or cutesy home-made furniture.

But believe it or not, as an ambitious woman who likes to do my best wherever I am, I am never enough at work either. I'm sleep deprived. I'm distracted. My schedule has to be pretty particular. And no, I can't take that full-time job making lots of money and doing something I would probably be very good at, because I would miss my kids too much, and because they need me too much right now. (Not to mention their grandparents would probably fall out from exhaustion, or else we'd have to send them to daycare).

I'm not superwoman. Because there's no such thing.

It's not just working moms. It doesn't take much imagination to see how staying home full-time with your kids, changing endless poopy diapers and giving endless time-outs and trying to make the perfect meal for your husband every night while also managing some volunteer work and being hospitable might leave someone feeling less than adequate. Without the concrete rward of a paycheck, or at least the glow of a positive yearly evaluation.

And the danger of reading Proverbs 31 too much when you have the kind of overzealous, enabling personality that I do is that you can start assigning yourself value only in as much as you accomplish in each day.

Some days there's not much measurable accomplishment.

And even if there is, the danger of pride in "seeing that your trading is profitable" and "your lamp not going out at night" (v 18) is very present reality.

My firstborn son has the typical characteristic perfectionism of his birth order, combined with a very strong desire to work and accomplish, and to be praised for it. I'm sure this comes, at least in part, from being the so frequently praised for his help around the house and with his baby brother. I'm happy for him in watching him stand up and take responsibility, and not be afraid to work up a sweat or get a little uncomfortable. But I am also thoughtful for him as I watch him grow and put his value on these fleeting accomplishments.

All the work of that Proverbs 31 woman: all the efforts and open arms and sucesses are nothing without being tempered by the Fear of the Lord.

Recognizing the gifts and abilities that The Great Provider has blessed us with in order that we might bless our families and the world around us with them. Not for our own benefit, but for His.

I have also been very fortunate this past year or so to do some contracting RN work on the side doing monthly assessments on elderly patients in assisted living facilities.
Each month I look forward, even if cautiously, to entering these surreal surroundings and seeing to what point each of us is headed (and that's if we're lucky enough to live that long). There's the lady who pushes herself along rapidly with her feet in her wheelchair, staring at some infinite point in the distance and mumbling "mm mm mm mm" as she goes by.
The man who shakes my hand, and holds it just a little too long as I walk by.
The one who refuses to get out of bed.

In the end, I highly doubt it's going to be our accomplishments that guide us through those last days. It's going to be the knowledge that we feared the Lord, and followed Him. That we got up while it was still dark, that we did not eat the bread of idleness- not because we wanted to BE much. But because we loved much.

Because we are Loved much.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Why I Rocked You for Three Hours Last Night Instead of Sleeping

Dear Little Dude,

I love you kid. Even though I know sometimes you doubt it, like when you take off running across the parking lot and halfway down the sidewalk behind your Winne The Pooh push toy when my hands are full. Or when you throw whatever you're holding violently whenever I pick you up. Or when you keep me up all night long.

I loved you from the first positive pregnancy test, even though the next day your Daddy found out he might be losing his job, and we spent the next 2 months scared out of our minds about what we were going to do. Loved you enough to cut out every food protein known to man when you still had colic at 4 months old.

 I love the way you surprise me every day with your generous and willing nature. I'm really proud of who you're becoming, Dude.

That's why I spent three hours rocking you last night. With your head snuggled on my shoulder, your body as limp as a rag doll except the water cup clutched desperately in your hands; and your eyes eerily wide open every time I peeked.
After a week, you are officially night weaned this time, and this time it was not hard at all. I cut the feedings down by a minute each night, and by the time we were only at one minute, you  only asked for water when you woke up. You love your water.

Your sleep is improving (we had a record 4 hour stretch the other day), so I am hopeful, but once every 5 days or so, you have a night like last night. Where you just can't seem to go back to sleep in the middle of the night. So we rock.

And do you know why we rock?

Because tonight we can.

I hold you in my arms, and these days you fill out my whole lap. You are getting so big and strong. We look at the Christmas lights that are already lighting up your window, twinkling with the Hope of One who came to the earth as a baby. And we look out the window at the great big world that is full of uncertainty and pain and opportunity.

Mostly I pray for you, and for the days ahead. I pray that I'll know how to point you to the One who has the answers. Pray that I won't get distracted by the house that needs cleaning or the food that needs cooking or the letters of the alphabet, and that your Daddy and I will have the wisdom to focus on the things that really matter. Often I pray for your big brother, because already at 4, his life is more complicated than yours, and that makes me very thoughtful about the future.

Last night you surprised me in the middle of the night, when you turned to me with a smile mid-rock and counted: "one, two, fwee, fooah, fibe." I've never even heard you count to two before.
But we spent half the morning yesterday walking on the water meters outside our house and counting them.

I can't believe the things that you are learning.

I hope that you are learning that God loves you. And that you need Him. That life would have very little meaning without him.

Even though I like to peg you as my less sensitive one, I am finding each day that you have a very tender heart. Every day, you ask me to read "Are you my mother". And you smile through the beginning part, and recite pieces of it with me. But when it gets to the climax...when the baby bird is really starting to get worried about where his mother went...your eyes start puddling up, and your lip comes out, and you start sniffling...and you cry right through to the end when he finds his mother.

And then you ask me to read it again.

There are nights up ahead that are going to be darker than last night was. The lights of Christmas may seem to have gone out, and not even your mother's arms will be enough to soothe the unrest that's in your heart.

And that's why I rocked you last night. Instead of putting you back in the crib by yourself, putting in the ear plugs and climbing into bed. Because last night, I could. Because right now your problems are simple and easily solved. Because for now the nights are warm and snuggly, even if they're tiring. And I know there are days ahead when I will be up all night again, knowing that you are hurting or afraid or just alone, and you'll be too big to rock, and your problems will be too complicated to hug away.

So thanks for sitting with me last night. For a little while longer. I love you buddy, I always will.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I went to Work Yesterday, Instead of To Your Pumpkin Parade

Dear Aquaman,

I love you, kid. I know sometimes you doubt it, like when you spill your milk on the floor for the thousandth time or when you accidentally kick me in the face during your wild tumbly moments, or when you scream at the top of your lungs because something isn't going your way. But I really do.

I loved you before I even saw your alien like form on the 9 week ultrasound. Loved you enough to do a lot of crying with you those first few weeks after you were born when you were learning to fit into your skin outside of mine.

Love the way you've grown into a boy who never ceases to amaze me with his wit and charm and fierce loyalty and determination. I'm so proud of who you're becoming, Aquaman.

That's why it was really hard for me to watch you climb into Grandma's truck yesterday, with the wagon that we decorated together (well ok, mostly I decorated it while you pushed your little brother wildly around the garage in the Little Tykes car, and occasionally yelled "suggestions" to me about where to put one of the plastic spiders) and drive away. It's why, getting in my car to head to work, I brushed a tear away, even as I smiled at the mental picture of you marching through the sanctuary pulling your freshly painted pumpkin in that decorated wagon and waving at your Dad, and Grandma, and Noni, and Papa, and Aunt K (who all really really love you too, by the way).

It wasn't the first big day I've missed because I was at work. (I missed your first day of school this year too), and it won't be my last, Aquaman.

I wrestled with this decision a lot these past few weeks. Thought about going in to work late (but it would have been really really late), or switching my days, or just taking the whole day off. When I first told you I wouldn't be able to go, you got very sad, and I started making plans to be there no matter what.
But when we found out that Daddy had that day off already, and that he really really wanted to see your pumpkin parade, suddenly it didn't matter to you if Mommy was there at all.

And that was when I knew what I had to do.

 Because the reason I go to work, Aquaman, the MAIN reason, is because if I didn't your Daddy could never be at your pumpkin parades or your future athletic events or debate team contests or even your quiet weekends at home, because he would always be working. And I know that even more than a boy needs a Mommy who holds him and reads to him and washes his face; he needs a Daddy who is not overworked and overtired and who can wrestle with him and mess up his hair and show him how to be a man.

Your Daddy, and you, and your baby brother (who is rapidly losing his babyness, isn't he?) are always more important than some job, and as often as possible, I choose you over it. It's why I've only worked 3 days a week since you were 7 months old.

I've been what many would call a "Helicopter parent" thus far, and I'm not ashamed of it. I unabashedly take every picture I can and post it all over Facebook. I follow you all over the playground just to take delight in your newfound physical prowess. When you were a baby, I never let you cry more than 5 minutes in the church nursery. I still climb into bed with you in the middle of the night when you feel cold or lonely.

"The maternal instinct is a Gift-love, but one that needs to give; therefore needs to be needed. But the proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift. We feed children in order that they may soon be able to feed themselves; we teach them in order that they may soon not need our teaching. Thus a heavy task is laid upon this Gift-love. It must work towards its own abdication. We must aim at making ourselves superfluous. The hour when we say "They need me no longer" should be our reward. But the instinct, simply in its own nature, has no power to fulfill this law. The instinct desires the good of its object, but not simply; only the good it can itself give. A much higher love - a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes - must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication.."
- C.S Lewis

This is why I wasn't at your pumpkin parade yesterday. And why, despite the twinge of sadness I felt, answering phone calls in my office while you were pulling that little red wagon, I also felt a sense of accomplishment.

Because yesterday, for one of the first of many many times: I was superfluous.

And you know what's really crazy? I'm ok with that.