Saturday, August 31, 2013

First Day of Kindergarten

Yesterday was Aquaman's first day of Kindergarten.


He started almost 2 weeks later than the rest of his class. In a way, I felt robbed of the excited school anticipation. The roundups, the registrations, the tax free holiday. The opportunity to soak up the last few long weekends I had with him. To read the Berenstain Bears "first day of school" together.

We made the decision on Tuesday afternoon, attended Open House and met the teacher on Thursday night, and by Friday morning he was marching into the classroom without looking back.

His birthday being on the cutoff date, the plan all along was to hold him back a year. It seemed right, I felt good about it. He was going to repeat pre-k. And then, in an effort to ease some of the grandparents' responsibility, we ended up putting both he and The Dude in home daycare the 3 days a week that I am at work.

It didn't work out.

 Aquaman was bored from wandering around all day playing with toys that were never in the place that he left them when he returned. He was anxious from all of the babies crying. He did not like his "teacher", in fact he was afraid of her.
Every day that I picked him up, he practically ran out of the door, usually with tears in his eyes before we even got to the car.

The Dude wasn't faring much better. His potty training, sleep, and behavior went completely out the window. The night that we finally decided we couldn't do this anymore: he threw about a 3 hour tantrum. Which culminated in his hitting JT and I repeatedly, and then smashing his own face into the concrete several times until his lip bled.

If that's not a cry for help from a 2 year old, I don't know what is!

We knew we had to do something, but having limited finances required some creativity. (Daycare centers run $100/day for both of them, and may not have been much better anyway)

I never would have thought we could even change our minds about kindergarten this late in the game. But lo and behold, the school was quite gracious and accomodating. And considering that their open house happened to be the day before we hoped to start him, it felt immediately meant to be.

I thought that the first day of school would be harder somehow. But having just come from a situation that felt hopeless and terrifying, school seemed like a very bright and positive place to drop him off. I guess the start of school is a little less stressful, and more hopeful, for the working mom. Suddenly you feel like a little more on even ground with the rest of the mothers. You're not dropping your kids off so that you can go to work. You're dropping them off so that they can learn and grow, become independent and responsible.

There are 23 kids in his classroom. (Apparently they are working on getting another teacher). Aquaman was not in the slightest bit intimidated by the numbers. He fits easily into a group. He needs only 4-5 positive words from a sweet teacher to motivate and encourage him. He needs very little negative reinforcement, and his teacher seems to be a great fit.

The night before his first day, as we prayed and talked about it together, Aquaman said "I'm glad I get to go to school. There won't be any scary movies there (like at his daycare, which, Aquaman considers PBS Super Why to be a scary movie), the movies there will be all about God and Jesus."
That made me sad on several levels: 1) the day care run by a member of our church is more scary than a public school. 2) There will be no movies about God and Jesus.
But it also gave me a sense of assurance. Because 1) he had a great start in his sweet little preschool which DID include God and Jesus. And 2) God and Jesus are what he wants to watch movies about.

He seems so little, but I believe he will be a light in this world.

I didn't cry at drop off. He seemed so relaxed and comfortable and ready, and besides I was too busy prying his little brothers' fingers off of the table and dragging him kicking and screaming out of the classroom.

But at recess time, I drove by slowly, hoping to catch a glimpse. I thought I saw him, in a pack of boys, jumping up and down on something. And the tears came then. Not happy tears. Not sad tears. Proud tears. My little boy becoming a part of society. Molding right in, but standing out so brightly.

Last night, as I tucked him into bed, his jolly self, the same energy. A new fire, from being challenged, and from finding that he WAS capable: he said to me: "Mom, do you know why I like Grave Digger (monster truck) so much?" I didn't. "Well, you know how I have orange hair and blue eyes, and I'm just a little different than everyone else?" Yes, I do know that. I knew it from the moment that he was born. That he was not going to be just like every other kid. It has given me a lot of anxiety for him. It has given me a lot of respect for him.
"Well, Grave Digger's like that too. I like being different, mom. I like being me."

If that's not the thing you want to hear the night after your first son, younger than everyone else in his class, starts school, I don't know what is.

He came out of his classroom grinning from ear to ear, and said "I had a GREAT 1st day of kindergarten, mom!" He went on to describe that he knew all the answers, even the ones that "most of the 5 year olds didn't know."

The writing was hard, but he hung in. He needs hard, he will thrive in hard, given the right environment.

The Dude and I will have some special time together on Fridays now (thought he spent much of yesterday whimpering: "I miss my Aquaman!".

The Dude's going to go back to spending more time with Noni and Papa, Gramma and Grampa, and Daddy when I am at work.

I am so grateful for them.

I am once again discovering that following God and finding His will for your life is a fluid and dynamic thing. It is setting out each day to walk in it, to live it with an open mind, and a willingness to change it.

I don't know if I somehow missed it before, and got caught up in what I wanted to do, and what I had planned, and what made the most sense at the time. I don't know if I was trying to do what was easiest for me, or selfishly holding on to something that I wanted to be, or assuming that I knew something that I didn't.

Or if this was exactly the route that God wanted us to take all along. A little different, just like our redheaded son with the missing teeth (a little early), and his deep sensitivity and convictions. A little round-about, through muddier waters.

What I do know, is that it doesn't really matter.

What matters is that, today, we are looking for Him. For what He is doing. That we're not so determined to do things our own way, or so discouraged by the fact that our previous way didn't work that we can't believe in His plan for the future.

What matters is, today.

The last day with a 4 year old Aquaman.

The first day of the rest of our lives.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3:5-6

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Surprises

A week ago yesterday, we celebrated JT's birthday. He was very confused, being that his birthday is April 20th.
As he opened his present, he kept looking at me funny: "is it my HALF birthday?" he asked, confused. I am quite sure that he thought I had made a terrible terrible mistake and forgotten what month he was actually born. I almost felt a tinge embarrassed.

Rewind to Wednesday morning. Driving to work and realizing that I was one day late.
The day before I brought a bottle of Ibuprofen to work, expecting a sudden arrival at any moment. I was cramping all day. But nothing happened.

About an hour later, I was sitting in a work meeting when the subject of our ear suction machine came up. Since I used to run the ENT clinic, I felt obliged to share the story of the last time I had cleaned out the said machine.
I almost vomited at my own description.
After that, it was hard to concentrate on the meeting.
Instead I concentrated on holding my pee so that I could take an early lunch break.

Like any good 3rd pregnancy, I found out in the Wal-mart bathroom.

There was no 2 minute or 30 second wait.

There weren't any tears.

 I didn't feel the need to take another one.

I just pocketed the thing and set out to buy some $0.99 birthday supplies.
And something babyish to make it all seem a little more real.


4/29/14.

It's not exactly JT's birthday week, but close enough.

This baby and The Dude will be 37 months apart.

It is not what I had planned. Not what we had planned.

And it is exactly the perfect time.

I can't begin to describe the way that hope has invaded my heart since that morning in the Wal-Mart bathroom stall.
It has been a hard year. There have been many adjustments and difficulties and disappointments. Perhaps this is the biggest change yet, but it is not a difficulty, and it is definitely not a disappointment.

There is something about new life that brings hope.

With my first two pregnancies, the first few weeks were hard. I cried a lot. I wondered if it was the right time. I worried about what would happen.

Those pregnancies were more or less planned by us, or at least expected.

This little unplanned and unexpected surprise has left me with only smiles. Because I know that, in fact, he was not unplanned at all.

Just 2 short months ago, struggling with emotional and physical side effects of the pill, and also the with the anxiety of not being on it, I prayed: "God, what do YOU want me to do?" I knew it was not working out for me, but given how many things we have on our plate right now, it just didn't seem worth the risk to stop taking it.

I distinctly heard Him say: "it's about time you asked Me. Stop taking it."

Now I know why.

I know that this baby will be  every bit the blessing that the other two have been. And that this is yet another amazing opportunity to see how God will provide for our family if we put our trust in Him and not in the strength of our own hands.

In the next few days, our baby, the McVicker grand finale, will have a heart beat.

His (I just can't say "it", and his is the most familiar to me) spinal cord is coming together.

And our family is becoming complete.

Morning sickness hit yesterday. I wasn't afraid of it.
Every little twinge, every ache, every wave of nausea or disgust at the normal, usually unnoticeable smell of my own wonderful husband's skin, thrills me.
I feel like I am tucking it away somewhere deep inside of me.

The feeling of new life growing inside of me. The way my sweet onion chicken teryaki sub tastes almost unbearably delicious.

Because, most likely, I will never be 5 weeks and 2 days pregnant again.

It's been another week of rapid changes. Last Wednesday we found out we were expecting, and tomorrow, Aquaman will be starting kindergarten almost 2 weeks late.

Once again, the best laid plans have disintegrated.

Better ones have formed.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.....
You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers myrtle will grow."
Isaiah 55:8,9,12,13

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Along for the ride


It's been a great week. A busy week, an adjusting week.


A surprising week.


But a strangely peaceful one.


The boys seem to be adjusting to daycare. Enough so that The Dude managed to be involved in a soapy bathroom flooding incident with another little boy. He doesn't cry at drop off, just scrambles off for muffins. But he still greets me with an enthusiastic: "mommy WILL come back!" in the afternoons.
Obviously, he is processing a little change anxiety though, since he has been waking up frequently at night, and crying: "I want my mommy!!" Which he has never done before.

It's been hardest on Aquaman. Never one for new situations, or crowds, or loud noises, he often comes home and completely falls apart. We've learned that a 10 minute shower by himself when he comes home is a good cure. I think by next year, he is going to be thrilled to go to kindergarten and leave the babies.


For now he's enjoying a little extra brother time.
Life is getting busier.
I knew this year would be a year of change and growth, but I had no idea what kind of changes they would actually be. I guess I thought there'd be a firefighter job for JT, maybe paramedic school. But instead, I'm gearing up for job #2, the boys are starting daycare, and well....something else quite unexpected.
Funnily enough, I find that the thing we most thought we wanted to change...JT's ocean rescue job...now feels like a very comforting and predictable stability in light of all the rest of the changes.
And that's probably why I've had so much peace this week.
Because I'm realizing that sometimes, I have no idea what God's plans are, or what His will is, even though I presume to know.

And that really and truly, it's better that way.

My plans were never that great anyway. And things are unfolding on a unique and beautiful path.
All we have to do is go along for the ride.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Welcome to Holland


Wednesday was the boys' first official day in Daycare.

It's a home based daycare, and there were a total of 6 children including them there today. I guess, you could call it a babysitter, to make it seem less...institutional.

But it was daycare.

I was prepared for The Dude's reaction. A mild protest when I dropped him off. The report that he cried a little for me in the morning, and a lot for me when he woke up from his nap.
The fact that he greeted me like I was some sort of rock star, and that he told me "I had sooo much fun at church! Bye church! See you later!"

I was prepared for reports of what a big helper Aquaman was. He's a busy little beaver.
And in hindsight, I should have been prepared for his alligator tears as we were heading out the door. The release of those powerful Aquaman emotions that he so bravely regulates under anothers' watchful eye. For his difficulty adjusting to something new. That he didn't like her particular kind of macaroni, that the "room with the cars in it" wasn't unlocked until afternoon, and that he was scared of the tv show everyone else wanted to watch during afternoon rest.

What I wasn't prepared for?

Feeling like I was going back to work from my maternity leave all over again. That same sense of loss and helplessness. Knowing that someone else (who thankfully we have known for a long time and trust) would be talking to my still so small and impressionable children differently than I would have talked to them, and caring for them differently than I would have cared for them.

I've done this long enough to know that, like Aquaman, I will adjust with the tincture of time to change.

I remind myself that I am not leaving my children to go to work for my own pleasure, or sense of accomplishment, or to have a big savings account. I am going so that they can eat. And if I am doing the right thing by going to work, then God is going to provide extra for them when I can't be there.

I read this devotional the other day, and felt like it was written just for me:

"He comes where He commands us to leave. If you stayed home when God told you to go because you were so concerned about your own people there, then you actually robbed them of the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. When you obeyed and left all the consequences to God, the Lord went into your city to teach, but as long as you were disobedient, you blocked His way. Watch where you begin to debate with Him and put what you call your duty into competition with His commands. If you say, “I know that He told me to go, but my duty is here,” it simply means that you do not believe that Jesus means what He says."
-My Utmost For His Highest



I am learning how to trust God with His children's today, and with their tomorrow.

I am letting myself grieve briefly, while at the same time, remembering to look for the things that are beyond what I could ever have asked or imagined. There are too many to count, when I stop to do it.
Months ago, I read a story by a mother with a child with special needs. It was about what it is like to have a child who is born with a disability. What struck me about it, was how applicable it is to basically anybody. Though most of us do not have the depth of heartache of watching our children suffer like this woman did, I don't know a single person whose lives have turned out like the fairy tales they dreamed they would be.

And that's ok.
Welcome to Holland (Emily Perl Kingsley 1987) 

 it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."

 It occurred to me this week, that maybe this year is not so much about change in our circumstances. Maybe we're already in the jobs we're supposed to be in.


 Maybe this year is just about growth in our character.
 Because that's what really matters to God.

Not career success, or money in the bank, or that perfectly comfortable white picket fenced family life.

But about seeing the tulips in Holland. The windmills.  And the Rembrandts.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

What is Good

If there's one thing you realize a few days into your second child being born, it's how different each of your children are.

The Dude was born with lighter hair, darker eyes than his big brother. He didn't come into the world angry. He actually soothed to my touch soon after birth.


Not far into his entrance, I discovered how many similarities they had as well. They both had very sensitive stomachs and colicky periods. They both loved nursing much more than sleeping. Both of them threw their pacifiers out of their mouths at exactly 7 months.

Aquaman quickly attached to a blanket when he was weaned, but The Dude still sniffs at the idea of a "transitional object". He accepts no subsitutes. They both prefer to be naked than clothed. Neither of them can ever sit still. Aquaman has the lowest pain tolerance ever, and The Dude can smack his head against the wall and keep right on going.

Parenting two very different people, at the same time, when they are both in very different developmental stages, can be incredibly difficult. Factor in a job, a husband who is often not off on the same days as I am, and well...

I realized yesterday that there is one aspect of it where I have been falling short.

It's been just a little too easy to expect a lot of Aquaman, and very little from The Dude. Some of it is birth order, of course, and that's how I've justified it in my mind all along. There's a reason firstborns become who they are for the most part. Responsibility is a part of their lives from the day their little sibling is born. Developmentally, Aquaman should be held to a higher standard. He's old enough to "know better" in a lot of cases. But it's not all that in our home. Some of it is just that Aquaman is easier to discipline. Probably partly because he had more consistency from the beginning, since there was only one of him. But it's also just who he is.

Losing toy time or time outs have always been very serious to him. He takes himself very seriously, and does not like to make mistakes. As a result, even though he is quite strong willed and strongly emotional,  boundaries have been *relatively* easy to establish.

But The Dude.

The Dude thinks it's all pretty funny. He's awfully cute, and, unlike Aquaman, he knows it, and knows how to use it to his advantage. He has a temper.

 And he's arguably even more persistent than his brother.

It's been easier to give in. Not all the time, but enough times. 

This morning, I took a run on the beach at sunrise. It was amazing.

 I saw a sea turtle who had just laid her eggs heave a sigh of relief as she entered weightlessness again in the water. I thought about how her responsibility as a mother was already done. That was it. It was a long walk, since she came in at low tide, either due to lack of wisdom or just bad luck, but she was done.

Parenthood is so hard. You can do the best that you can, with the best of what you know, and still get it terribly wrong.

You can end up with one son who is hyper-responsible, and perfectionistic, and another who thinks that all rules are just suggestions.

It's impossible to do on your own. It's a really long walk and you can feel pretty heavy sometimes.

You have to take the long view. Use up the last bit of energy and creative mental resources that you have. And mostly, spend a lot of time in prayer, so that you can see the deceptions in your own heart that are leading your children, ever so slowly, in the wrong direction.

When I came home from my run, I read this verse:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" -Micah 6:8


Of course I have heard this verse a million times, and memorized it. I most clearly remember it being our verse of the week one year when I was teaching at VBS. But I never realized before just what a perfect life verse it is as a parent. It was exactly the reminder that I needed.

-To walk justly. Kids are different, and as a result they will need to be parented a little differently. But standards should be the same for each of them. Long term character goals should never vary.

-To love kindness. You know, most of the time I think I am a pretty kind person, but by 4 pm and 400 time outs and 300 messes later, I mean, I'm not really loving kindness. I'm not really feeling very merciful. Especially to my firstborn, who likes to emulate his 2 year old brother. And no wonder, since his little brother seems to frequently get the longer stick.

-To walk humbly. Because the sin I see in my sons- well some of it comes directly from me. It comes because sometimes they bump up against a boundary, and sometimes they run right through it, and who wouldn't keep pushing on in that case? And even when it has nothing to do with what I'm doing- don't I still occasionally thrill to do the wrong thing? To have things my own way, without thought for the future implications.

He has shown me what is Good. And these requirements- they're not too steep. 

They're life giving, to all of us.

Even the little one, who is spending a lot more time in the penalty box today...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Simplifying


So much change is on the horizon, but life feels like it is getting simpler.

This week, just 3 days ago, I embarked on a Facebook fast, inspired during a few Monday morning moments with my Bible and journal. I don't think I realized how free it would make me feel. Scarily, I am starting to wonder how I will ever go back. But for now, it is just for a month.



It's not like I've been spending hours on Facebook every day. But just this compulsion to check it, like I might be missing something. I don't even have a fancy internet phone, but the computer has been enough.



There are 2 reasons I decided to take a break, and they go pretty much hand in hand:

1) I've been feeling overwhelmed for a long time now. And some of that is just life with young kids, but some of that is pressure to be everything. And some of the pressure to be everything comes by inundating yourself with media that is constantly telling you who you are and who you are supposed to be.

And #2 goes along with that:

2)I've been struggling with contentment.
I haven't been feeling comfortable in my own skin recently. I've been wondering if I'm good enough.

And sometimes lately I've found that Facebook shouts louder than the voice of God.
Because I know the Truth about who I am. I know, more importantly, the Truth about Whose I am.
But I need to spend more time listening to that voice and less to an information overload newsfeed.

And if nothing else, I imagine that this is going to cause me to pick up the phone just a little bit more. Even if it means that the exact moment I do that is the moment that The Dude decides he has to poop, but doesn't make it to the potty in time, and then Aquaman steps in it. I need to take that risk a little bit more. I need to engage a little more. And, I need to pray more.

I so, so often want to go back to a simpler time in history.
But there are so many benefits to being right here- in this time. (Aquaman would say they are Monster Jam on xbox and Renegade Racing. I say they are hot water and air conditioning. And netflix)
And there's no reason why I can't choose now to protect my family by living more simply in time that we are in.
A friend of mine came from out of town a few years ago and visited our home. She remarked that she was impressed that we lived as "minimalists". I never really thought of myself that way. I still don't. And if you saw our grocery bill you would agree that we are not.
 I guess I've just always preferred small and simple. Less stuff means less time spent on stuff or worrying about stuff and cleaning up stuff.
But lately, I think I've found myself a little ashamed of who I am in that way. I've been finding it hard to be hospitable when we don't have many chairs or much room and our second hand couch is draped in a blanket to protect it from pee and peanut butter. Which has made it hard to initiate new friendships (it doesn't help that we also now have a very loud stranger shy dog)
But God has been showing me lately, even in these few days since I signed off Facebook: that what I really need is to embrace who I am.
But really embrace it. Not the way that people embrace the way they are while simultaneously making everyone else feel bad about who they are.
That's really just insecurity.

No, what I want to do is be ok with who I am because it's me. And be ok with who everyone else is because it's them. And not feel inferior. And not feel superior. But just feel: content.

And there are plenty of things to keep me busy at home right now.
It is a wonderful feeling to turn my brain in only direction at a time.
To make homeade purple slime and watch the boys play with it. And watch Aquaman's hands get stronger in a way that is completely nonthreatening and un-school-like.

And enjoy the way he incorporates cars and trucks into everything he does.
And wonder, what about him is going to make him feel different someday.
His "orange" hair, I suppose. His tendency to fixate on one subject at a time (currently Monster Trucks)
His sensitive nature, his overwhelming emotions. (The past several nights his only prayer request has been that he would be able to keep from screaming when something didn't go his way. Precious little guy)

He went from this:
To this:

this week. You should have seen the red curls all over the floor. And the way that The Dude was gleefully picking up piles of them and throwing them high in the air while I tried to hold Aquaman's head still for the around-the-ears part because he's terrified of the clippers.

The Dude is next. But we're trying to hold out until he's 3, partly because his curls are just too precious, and partly because I'm concerned for the hair cutter's safety coming at him with scissors.

 Although, we have had a toy train incident (stuck to his head when running), and an even more recent Purple Slime incident that resulted in some short cropped bangs.
Aquaman never got to play with markers at this age.
But these days, we do what we gotta do (and buy washable)

And scissors of the safety variety


I am inordinately excited about "home schooling" Aquaman this year, especially now that I have discovered ABCMouse.com to give me a little direction and give us something to do together, instead of my just teaching "at" him.
Yet another of the benefits of living in this day and age.


It's fun to watch him get into it, and to learn more about him by doing something difficult together. It's fun to figure out what works and what absolutely doesn't. For instance, in our house, physical education has to come BEFORE all the other subjects.

Life is good. This morning, the first morning of my weekend, started early, at 4:30 am. And it makes me feel like I almost have a handle on the day. Only 2 more 4 day weekends left. I'm going to soak them up. I'm going to be faithful in the little things.



 I'm going to watch God be faithful in the big things.

I can feel hope rising. Can feel that change is going to be good.