Thursday, September 26, 2013

Give yourself Grace

"Give yourself Grace. God already has."

These are the words I've been repeating to myself these past few days.

This is a short but humbling time of life. A time in which I have to lay down a lot of my identity as someone who gets things done, or who even does a few things well. It's a new reality for a few short weeks, and I finding it desperately hard to remember to give myself grace in it.

I'm intensely grateful that I am still able to work, still able to function on a very basic level and get everyone ready in the mornings and somehow keep up with the laundry and dishes. But I haven't cooked in days, and can't even really bear the thought of it. A couple nights ago I thought perhaps I could bring myself to make quinoa in the rice cooker and boil some sweet potatoes on the stove, and it nearly did me in. After smelling them for 15 minutes, there was no way I could think about eating them, or really anything else save a few bites of instant Grits. At least the boys got a decent dinner.

 Justin sustained himself on cookies and various juiced vegetables, like any real man would do in such a dire situation, especially when the surf is good and your wife gets panicky every time you turn on the oven.

I'm also extremely grateful that, with the morning sickness I had with Aqauman, and the incredibly mild nausea I had with The Dude, it was all ancient history by 14 weeks. That's only 5 weeks away. And surely things will slowly improve long before that.

And man, I love this baby dearly already. I already can't picture my life without him. Even though he is still so tiny and so unobtrusive (though he has already shaken up our world quite a bit), there is a feeling of completeness and finality to our family now that he is a part of it.

One of the best (and worst) things about my job working with special needs children is that I can't really ever take healthy children, or a healthy pregnancy for granted. Now that some of the uncertain days have passed, I am relatively positive that, as before, I am going to have a rather uneventful pregnancy that produces a healthy (albeit extra needy) little baby. But there isn't a single morning, nauseated or not (strangely, I feel best early in the morning, so much for morning sickenss..) that I don't wake up grateful for all of this glorious, normal chaos. And maybe I even glory in the nausea, in my less gaggy moments, knowing that it is a really quite trivial side effect of something amazing.

And now, stretching before me is a 4 day weekend with no doctor appointments and no big plans, aside from a movie date with JT on Friday night (hopefully the popcorn smell won't be too distracting). Two days to drop off and pick up Aquaman from school, and spend the whole morning and early afternoon having quality time with The Dude.

Who is growing up.

And even as he daily grows more unreasonable in certain moments, somehow 2 and 1/2 seems to fit him better than 2. He's starting to *get it* once in a while. He actually cares when I tell him to stop doing something. Annoyingly he now copies Aquaman's enormous production of pronouncing with a wail "mommy's MAD at me!!" and burying his head while still somehow managing to produce deafening shrieks.

Potty training is just about complete, and all week he has stayed dry all night, one night in which I forgot to put a diaper on him at all. And he's sleeping, through no intervention at all of my own because I have been too tired to do anything different. But several nights this week I did not hear from him for 10 hours straight. Though one of those nights I was up half the night thinking I was going to get sick, so it wasn't entirely restful. But at least all I had to worry about was myself.

What can I say about Aquaman? His energy seems boundless lately. Sometimes he makes me absolutely crazy, through no fault of his own but for the fact that he's just different from me, and way too much like me.

Now that we have even less time together, with the start of school, I get even more frustrated with myself for not always being the sympathetic mom when he bursts into theatrical tears at the drop of a hat. Truly, I just don't know what exactly I'm to do. I want to empathize with his pain without feeding his delusion that the things he's upset about are really worth all of that drama. And I'm not quite sure how to go about that. He has a bent toward negativity, anxiety, and narcissism that I see and have seen in myself, and I think sometimes I over-react to it because I know how much pain that kind of mindset causes.

At night we practice his Awana Bible verses together, and read his stories, and by his request he falls asleep listening to Bible stories on his headphones.
He has it all there in his head, but his very sensitive, cautious heart, balks at letting it in. I see him resist it, and it scares me. But it also encourages me.

Aquaman will never be a child who adopts our faith blindly. His faith, which I pray every day he will come to someday, will be real and dirty and exposed. He will come about it painfully and slowly, as he has so many things in his life.

And really, that's exactly the kind of child I want to raise, and I hope I'll have the courage to live the kind of life that will point him that way. I so often struggle with perfectionism, and how I long to not pass that on to my son. I see him struggle with the same inner turmoil I see in myself, and I find myself lashing out inwardly for somehow making him feel that he has to be perfect.

And what I'm realizing is, that is the exact moment to give myself grace. Because that is one of the ways he will find Grace for himself.

We're probably going to watch a lot of movies this weekend. And even though they'll probably jump all over me and make me more nauseated with their frenzy of movement, I'll probably stay on the couch instead of retreating upstairs (where they'd just follow me anyway). The Dude will probably mutter sadly "mommy doesn't feel well" every now and then, and Aquaman will wheedle me for sips of Ginger Ale and bargain for extra Renegade Racing time while my defenses are down.

The rainy days are bringing cooler weather, and, even though the late September winds don't bring the exhilerated thrill that they usually do, we'll probably venture outside some too.

The cooler air is an intense relief, and the sun going down sooner makes it possible to attempt a stroll around the block with The Dude and Cozy in the evening time.

We probably won't be making pumpkin muffins any time soon, and I can't even stand the smell of brewing coffee, so I've given up buying the pumpkin spice coffee creamer.

But when I look at the calandar and realize October is coming, and that by Halloween I'm going to be feeling even more than myself again: well that just feels good.

I'm thanking God for His grace this morning. For that healthy baby up there on the screen last week that feels like a parasite right now but will someday bring me the joy that these other two beautiful boys have brought me. For coworkers who stop and ask how I'm doing, and bosses who buy me more ginger ale, saltines and vanilla wafers. For a husband that doesn't complain too much about eating cookies and juice for dinner or the state of our house, and takes the boys out to play so that I can lie down. For that the fact that I don't have to do or be anything to be loved. That I can come just like I am with my hair sticking up and my eyes half closed and a not-exactly-smile-when-will-this-be-over look on my face.

And, like all good pregnant women, that makes me cry a little. Which doesn't do much for appearances, but is truly good and cathartic for the soul.

I don't know if I'm getting stronger. To me, the hard times make me much much weaker not so that I can get stronger, but so that I can be reminded of Who IS strong. I do know, that even in this 3 steps forward 2 steps back kind of life, that even if I don't get stronger, some part of me is growing. Stretching. Limbering up for the next setback I suppose.

Or for the next great leap of faith.

Friday, September 20, 2013

8 weeks and 3 days

I try not to wish any days or weeks, or even moments away. But I'm starting to wish away the 1st trimester. Miraculously, somehow, I have not even vomited yet, but around 50 times a day, I come really close, and I never really feel quite right. It hit hard last week. Followed by a terrible back ache. Which I later traced to a pulled muscle from taking the paddleboard out on my knees on Sunday. But when it was happening, I was sure that something was going wrong with the baby.
2 days later I was at the doctor's office getting an ultrasound. There was a long pause when the picture came up on the screen. And quiet. And focus. He got up really close to the screen. When he finally spoke, he said "well, I'm sorry." I'm sure it was only seconds, or milliseconds before he spoke next, but in that time I had an eternity of wondering: "is this how you find out your baby has died? 'well, i'm sorry.', and that's it?"
But that wasn't it. His next words were "you're NOT having twins. I thought I saw 2 heads."
When I told him that I was twin, he looked again for a few more minutes, then finally announced. "Nope, just One. 1.5 inches and a strong heartbeat, just what we like to see." Then he handed me a cryptic picture of a tiny beautiful blob named "Fetus A" and said he'd see me in 4 weeks.

Maybe he'll just be double the fun.

How 1.5 inches could make you feel the way I feel lately is quite beyond me. I long to go to bed after 8:30 without feeling completely panicky again. I wish I could organize some clothes, or even adequately clean the floors. I want to take The Dude for a stroller ride around the block in the newly cooling off evenings without feeling like I'm going to pass out. 

But alas, for now we are on a mission to just get by. To enjoy and live fully our days, but with lower expectations. Today we had peanut butter and honey crackers for lunch. The boys are watching a little extra Netflix instead of doing something Pinteresting.

Yesterday, Aqauman came home from school with the announcement: "lots of my friends threw up in school today, even my best friend Ryan. I didn't see it, but they did it in the trash can in the bathroom."
If those are not the very words you never want to hear from your child, and especially when you already feel like you're going to puke all day, I don't know what is.

So today he had his 5 year old checkup and then I kept him home the rest of the day. I figured, on the off chance that he somehow avoids it from yesterday, I could keep him from being exposed to what's sure to be more vomiting today. He's excited about a "day off", and he and the Dude have mostly been playing well together (though I just had to pull a rabid Dude off of Aquaman as he was pulling hair)

I feel anything but eloquent lately. My brain is completely fried. I would much rather be laying down upstairs right now than trying to fit my scattered and weary thoughts into words, but I want to remember them.

I want to remember the way the salt laden air and the pinking sunrise pulled me out of myself for just a few minutes.

And the way it felt to say to God, though I haven't had much to say lately: "I'm yours. My totally messed up feeling body, and my foggy brain, and this tiny inch and a half little life that never feels quite safe yet, even after I saw that simple little heart beat on the screen at the doctor's office. I'm yours even if we all end up catching the norovirus and I don't sleep or eat for the next 3 days, and you know what? I'm not even going to hate it, because really, there's nothing to hate. Everything is just really really ok."

And there are really great parts of these wishing away days. Like already dug enormous holes at sunrise on a Sunday morning, left just for us.

A 5 year old boy who is gaining weight after all, and learning to swim with his arms out, and getting braver on a surfboard, and memorizing several bible verses a week, and making a best friend at kindergarten.

A family that just goes together. Fits together like these perfect little puzzle pieces even when we're tired and working too much and pulling each others' hair.

Feeding the fish together after school and watching the frenzy (not just the fish!)

Monster truck races

Rainy turtle sightings.

And muddy bare feet.

Exploring the "jungle" together
Doing homework.
Maybe it's not so much that I'm wishing these days away because they're so very terrible, but because I know so many wonderful things are coming behind them. Like fall. Like 2nd trimester, when you can cook without hypersalivating and hyperventilating. The coming day when you can stop calling the baby "it", but it can still stay tucked inside of you for a while.

But for now we're just making the most of our days, and trying to stay cool, and trying to keep the house from completely falling apart, and trying to go to bed as soon as the kids are asleep, and trying to go on a date once in a while so for a few minutes I don't have to be a nurse or mom or even a pregnant lady, but just a girl spending time with the man that I love.

The man that has been a part of all of my dreams coming true in ways that we would never have imagined, in a much messier way, but in the end the mess is really what makes the beauty shine through. And what makes the quiet thoughtful moments that come few and far between the general chaos mean so much.

These pictures, they aren't what our life is really like (well, maybe the mud puddle ones are). These are the in betweens of the everyday, but that's why I spend so much time behind the camera lens. It's those in between moments that I'll cling to someday.

And what I hope my children will someday say was what really mattered to them.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


I'm tired.

Significantly less tired than I would be if JT hadn't skipped his Master's swim practice and taken the boys to the beach so that I could sleep in until a marvelous 8:15 this morning. He has saved my life so many times these past few weeks. I think this has been the best part of the boys getting older. They all badly want Daddy time, and even before a long summer day ahead at the beach, Daddy loves boy time- at the beach.

It suddenly feels like being a working mom is going to be ok.
There are aspects of JT's relationship with the boys that would never be if it wasn't that I worked.
And, though I did take the day off my small 2nd job this week, now that I am pretty much working 4 days a week, and now that Aquaman is thriving in school 5 days a week, some of my perspectives have shifted.

In some ways, it makes me all the more aware that these times with The Dude, and someday with our Grand Finale, will go all too quickly. To be sure, Aquaman still needs his mom as much as ever. But he needs me in a different way. And for 6.5 hours a day 5 days a week, I don't feel guilty about not being there any more.

When I dropped Aquaman off this week on my days off, I did feel little pangs of guilt. He looked so small walking into that classroom. But he knew right what to do. And he didn't want my help. When I offered to open his water for him so he could have a small sip before class started, he practically shooed me out of the door.

I once had small fantasies about home schooling. But now I can see that even if I didn't have to work, that would never have been the right choice for Aquaman. He is so sensitive to my teaching, and so receptive to a teacher's teaching.

There must be something about the age of 5, and an explosion of learning. He is almost obsessed with practicing his writing skills. He is asking for swim lessons, with "a teacher" (i.e. not me or JT from whom he feels too much pressure). This boy whom I thought would always struggle in school because he was an active preschooler who was only interested in playing with trucks and never colored for longer than 15 thriving.

I can see where socially, this will be a harder year for him, being the youngest in his class. He does not have much social confidence with his peers, which isn't surprising, given JT and I are neither exactly gregarious personalities. He loves teachers and adults, but has a bit of an Elijah complex.

"I don't like playing with any of the other kids, because they don't listen to the teacher", he informed me, with his nose in the air. I told him there must be SOME kids who listen like he does. He was skeptical.

But perhaps it will just take him a while to get into the groove. He's been interested in a boy named Ryan ever since his first day. In the beginning, he wasn't very sure, because "Ryan was an unusual name" (This coming from a child whose name was ranked like 170 in 2008, and what was Ryan...10?)
Then, he thought that Ryan didn't get moved into his new class...
But it turned out he was just wearing a different shirt so he didn't recognize him.

And this extra time with The Dude, has been practically priceless.
I feel guilty after dropping Aquaman off for like 10 seconds in the morning...until I realize he would have only gotten about 10 minutes worth of attention in that 6.5 hours because I'd be so busy putting The Dude in time out and cleaning the house.

The Dude is struggling with a severe case of separation anxiety currently. Every time we get in the car, he says "but I want to stay with Mama!" Convinced I am taking him back to the babysitter's house.
Don't know how long it will take to get over that, but I do know, I've been holding him a lot. And realizing that this goes really really fast. His night waking has started up again badly, probably a result of the anxiety, combined with his making huge strides in potty training.

He is finally really getting it. Accidents are now few and far between, and he wakes up in the middle of the night, wearing a diaper, but crying that he has to pee. I think we're going to be done with diapers. I just hope we start sleeping again soon.

I don't have much time for Pinterest anymore, except for making dinner, because that still has to happen.
But our recipes are as uncomplicated as possible. Our play time is much more unstructured. And on the weekends, we get out of the house as much as possible so that I can enjoy my boys without facing all the unfinished house work.

Sometimes, I don't know how I'm going to do it. Sometimes, it all seems like so much.
But then I look over at my husband, our team captain, who seems so unrattled, and so understanding, and so supportive, and I realize it's way more than ok. We're going to do this, together. And from the outside it might not look really pretty, and other people might not approve of it all the time, but from the inside, it feels so beautiful, and so right.

"In real life, keeping our eyes on God rarely-okay, never-means watching for a biplane with a message in the sky. More often it means steering a boat in the dusk with only some buoys and a vague map. But even to the chronically uncertain like me, God offers a kind of gut-level assurance. Enough light in the dark to navigate by, a way out from the shoals where we've foundered- when we're watching and listening and paying attention. So you and I, we've got to keep our eyes on the only One who can tell us when to lower the anchor and when to hoist all the sails and when we need to quit being so scared of the storm."
-Joy Jordan Lake- Working Families

Thursday, September 5, 2013

5th Birthday, Labor Day Weekend, and Living.

When I asked Aquaman if he had a good 5th birthday, his answer was: "you know I did!"

We had his favorite lunch of macaroni and cheese at Panera to kick off the party.

Here he is next to cousin A, demanding a party hat, because that's how he rolls.

And here he is wearing the one he was given, because that's how we roll.

The birthday cake was an unoriginal oldy but goody...bake a cake and stick some cars and a monster truck on it. The trick was, since he knew he was getting the "Tasmanian Devil" from Aunt J, we had to unwrap one present before we did the cake.

I love love love 5 years old. He is so impossibly easy to impress.

The Dude got a half birthday present from Noni and Papa too, since he was getting close. But let's be honest: he was pretty sure the whole party was for him anyway. His brother was incredibly gracious.

Except when it came to Bounty Hunter. How Noni and Papa made a find like that, we'll never know.

Then, off to Play Plus to play with other peoples' toys.

I don't think we've ever come close to having this relaxing, or this fun, of a birthday party.

We were tired this weekend, having just completed a flurry of activity in registering Aquaman for school and making all kinds of new plans and reformulating our ideas of how this year is going to go.

We were tired from the crippling heat and humidity that never ceases to shock me this time of year.
It was lovely to have an entire two days off in a row together, and we made good use of it, and had a lot of great extended family time as well.
We went out with the boys on the paddleboard and kayaks for the first time, and they had a great time. Aquaman has recently decided that he is "never going to grow up and get a real job". He is going to be a "professional surfer." I told him he better start practicing if he wants to make a living that way. So here he is practicing.

And I'm not quite sure what's doing here...praying perhaps. That he can be a professional surfer someday and not have to get a "real job".

Though I am completely exhausted and a little sick, life is good.

Great in fact.

Aquaman continues to thrive in kindergarten. Being that he has never been a guy who deals well with change and transition, I am so amazed at how seamless this one has been. Yes, he complains in the mornings. He knows The Dude gets to go to Grandma's and Noni's and he doesn't think that's fair.
But I can already see how he is being challenged and inspired and how his world has been opened up by this new adventure.
On Tuesday he got to wear a birthday crown all day at school. It was hard to convince him that he couldn't wear it to school again on Wednesday.

He and JT have had some special bonding time together too, heading to school together in the mornings. I am once again thankful for JT's job and a 9 am start time so he can do that.

It is so much easier to drop off The Dude in the morning. I don't have to shut off the mommy warning that is clanging loudly in my head. I don't have to worry what is happening that I will never know about, and whether my children are going to be permanently damaged by it.

Two and a half and Five are here to stay for a little while, and they look to be great fun.

And even though it doesn't feel like it, Fall is approaching, with all its glory.

My favorite season, with gusty tropical winds and water that's warmer than the air in the evenings, and Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer, which I just bought my first seasonal bottle of this week.

With my busier work schedule, I am thrilled with the fact that the pressure is off to teach Aquaman how to read and write. Now the time we have together can be spent enjoying our zoo passes which we just renewed after a year off, or swimming in the pool, or admiring his homework, of which he is beyond proud so far.

Judah sits impossibly close to him the entire time he is doing it and says repeatedly in a stage whisper: "WOW!" He is such a good little brother.

Life is going so fast.

I can't believe that Aquaman is 5 years old, and starting Elementary school, and The Dude is the same age Aquaman was when we brought him home from the hospital, and that another fall is rolling around. It seems like we were just out there sweating in the St Mark's pumpkin patch, and making pumpkin muffins together, and looking for Halloween costumes.

Today, I am not going to try to slow it down. I'm going to enjoy it. All the nausea and exhaustion and late night snuggles. But most of all, I'm going to make it count. It's all we have, today.

"Well one thing I've noticed, wherever I wander 
Everyone's got a dream he can follow or squander 
You can do what you will with the days you are given 
I'm trying to spend mine on the business of living 
Seize the day, seize whatever you can 
'Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand 
Seize the day, pray for grace from God's hand 
Then nothing will stand in your way"
-Carolyn Arends