Sunday, January 26, 2014

Trains and Bathrooms

In a flash, life has returned to normal. Well, as "normal" as it ever gets. It feels really good.

I almost forgot who The Dude was. I didn't even realize how much I missed him, until his crazy eyes, poopoo jokes and silly mannerisms returned this weekend. True, we're back to hitting and potty training issues, and general non-cooperation, but those are familiar trials. I can work with those.

This weekend, which also marked the beginning of my 3rd trimester, I began sifting through the general chaos that has become our lives and our home. I looked for and found a used "bunk bed" for the boys to try to create more space. I finally cleaned out the refrigerator. I momentarily caught up with laundry (I'm behind again). I almost completed our taxes.

More importantly, I played a lot, and laughed a lot. I listened to Aquaman's run-down of his entire school schedule, as well as every bit of train and monster truck trivia that he knows.

My New Years resolution to be intentional is going well so far. I have sat on an unmade bed, with dust gathered around it, and sunk deep into prayer and quiet time with my Bible. I gave all my unfinished work and the total lack of energy and time to God, and He made the important things work.

And that has been my cry this week. My constant mantra. Not what feels urgent, but what is really important?

"What is important is rarely urgent, and what is urgent is rarely important."
-Dwight Eisenhower

I've believed that this week, mostly. Well, I've tried to.
There have been a few moments when I've almost lost my mind trying to sort through it all.

One in particular at the end of the day yesterday, when the floor remained un vacuumed, the clean sheets were still off the beds, dinner was being cooked, and Aquaman was crying. Again. Over who knows what.

And to be sure, I find myself wondering frequently what is going to happen when an infant is thrown into all this mix. But then I think...well, who cares? That's tomorrow. This is today.

The little one inside of me is strangely silent. Maybe it is just that I am so much busier, but I only feel him when I eat something cold/sweet, when the boys make extra loud noises, or when I poke him. Even then, he tends to find somewhere to retreat rather than fighting back much. I'm interested to meet this little fellow who feels so foreign and far away. I don't know him. All I know of him are those occasional pulses and one picture of him cuddled up to the placenta. I don't even pretend to imagine him. He will be entirely new to me the day we meet. I look forward to it intensely.

And I hope the time slows down a bit before he gets here.

JT is working a merciless schedule lately. His only day off this week he spent watching the boys so I could do some extra work, and then take a nap because I was exhausted from 2 weeks of being sleep deprived.
Now he is the exhausted one.

I continue to struggle with Aquaman's sensitivity, because I am his mother. Because it's my job to help him navigate in the world, and relate appropriately to others, and overcome his weaknesses. I envy sometimes grandparents who can simply cater to his tears. I don't resent his sensitivity, but I do sometimes stress over it. He cries when he hurts someone else, because it hurts his feelings that he hurts them. Which is sweet, and all, but not. I've seen that trait in adults, and it's not pretty. In fact, it's called narcissism.

Aquaman remains a mystery to me, and I find the balance of parenting him precarious. He cannot be injured in correction too deeply, or he will retreat or harden. But he can't be just allowed to wallow in his sensitivity either.

But lately, I just try to go back to the important. I pray and do the best that I can. To listen to the things that are important to him, but sometimes make him wait. To console him when something hurts him, but try to let him learn to handle the pain on his own.

I read a quote on another blog the other day that totally summed up my hopes for my children:

The plain fact is that the world does not need more successful people, but it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.” – David Orr

And as I read it, I also realized that I married the right person to help me raise my children this way. Because he is this kind of person.

The boys are hounding me to go vacuum and wash the car, which I promised them we would do before the days' end. The bathrooms are still haunting me, and Aquaman just asked if there would be any room for me to fit in a few minutes of playing trains.

Of course there is. The bathrooms will still be there in 30 years. My boys will be out in the world: restoring, healing, and loving.  I'll be a bit achier when I clean them, but I bet I won't need the radio on. I'll be playing memories of "WHAM-O" and train crashes, and "mama, I need a HUG", and wondering why these bathrooms ever felt so urgent anyway.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


This week the roller coaster of January days continued.

This morning, I am struggling through bleary eyes to make my words make sense, as The Dude breathes loudly behind me and watches Handy Manny.
Aquaman spent what I am sure was a magical night riding unicorns around his grandparent's house last night, and is now on his way to church with them. I talked to him a few moments ago, and asked how he was. His only answer, the typical: "DODO!" and then he was off again to play.

JT is currently in the ocean swimming with the recurrent seasonal lifeguards, whose tryouts were this weekend. It is probably the coldest morning of the year.

He didn't get to bed until after midnight, as that is when we were finally released from the ER with The Dude. His first ER visit, and hopefully the last for our family for a long time. But rather than being a nightmarish night there, all I felt was intense relief. After 4 nights of raging fever and loud rapid breathing, I was so glad to place the medical responsibility for my son into someone else's hands.

I had been alternating tylenol and motrin around the clock for 4 days, but I skipped the tylenol dose last night so they would believe how really sick he was. When we arrived at the ER, his temperature was 105.4. They got us back quickly. I've never seen him so pale. Just before his fever shot up again at home, I urged him to take a drink of his gatorade or water, as he hardly had anything to drink all day yesterday. When I did, he looked up at me with his sick, sad eyes and said: "I'm still pretty sick, Mama."
JT came home from a quick meeting with a friend after work and found me crying on the couch, holding our lethargic child and waiting for the on call doctor to call me back. Before I knew it, Grandma was there to pick up Aquaman and JT had both The Dude and me in the car and on our way.

Between both boys' ear infections, Aquaman's viral hives, and The Dude's recent illness, I haven't slept in almost 2 weeks. I am almost 26 weeks pregnant. Sometimes I feel like I'm dying myself. And then the energy of holding my little boys comes back. Then my husband hugs me, or makes a split decision, or brings me a smoothie, and I remember that everything is going to be ok.

It took 3 sticks, with The Dude bundled in a blanket and screaming before they got the IV. Our littlest son kicked wildly and vigorously inside of me while The Dude screamed. He was either afraid he was next, or he was jumping to his big brother's defense.

It took 2 boluses of fluid before The Dude finally peed. And they were about to let us go, with the diagnosis of viral illness when the medical director reviewed the xray and found left lower lobe pneumonia.
I had no idea you could get pneumonia and never cough. Now I know. And it is so nice to have an answer.

He was cooled down more than he's been in days when we left the hospital, pumped full of icy IV fluids and medications. He continued to snore and gasp all night, and 2 hours after getting home was burning with fever again.
There was something so hope-filled about the light coming through the windows this morning.

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
-Psalm 30:5

And this morning there is so much joy. That God has chosen to spare my son. Whose name means: "praise." The Bible character with his name's mother said, the day he was born: "This time I will praise the Lord."
And this morning I am praising the Lord. For his mercy and provision. For loving and caring for my son more than I ever could.

My reading through Genesis this week has taken me back through the story of Joseph. How he knew from a young teenager that he had been called to something big. But God couldn't make him who he was supposed to be by leaving him where he was. He needed to take him out of the home where he was pampered and praised and spoiled and bring him somewhere where he would be tested and disrespected and treated unfairly. God didn't just need to move Joseph to a different location to save his family. He needed to move him to a different environment to shape his heart into a man who could truly serve him.
Joseph responded with humility. He did not harden his heart from the pain or injustice. He let it humble and break him. And then God used him.

It changes the way I look at every circumstance. It helps me not to fight the process. He's taking us somewhere amazing this January.
Through the illnesses, the weariness and mentally overwhelming prospect of another baby, and the cold cold swims in the ocean after long late nights.
I can't wait to see what He has in store.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Faith in the January Days

I almost forgot about January.

I was so busy looking forward to getting back into the routine, using the last of my 2nd trimester energy (does that really exist?) to "nest" and get the house cleaned up, and enjoying the cooler weather that I forgot about illnesses.
Probably I've just been spoiled because before the past 2 weeks it had been 7 months since we all had so much as a cold. But this week has made up for it. First colds, then ear infections, and then a fever virus for the boys. JT and I both caught the cold too. He's definitely still under the weather as he finally has a day off after working 6 days in a row, and I was starting to think I wasn't going to make it through this cough without a visit to the doctor. I think I turned the corner last night, though I still feel unbelievably exhausted.
Oh January, now I remember.

Still, the warm sun and the cooler breeze at the park helped me snap just a little bit out of the funk. Yesterday our only outing was a trip to the park across the street. The boys moved slowly on their Big Wheel and Little Tykes car down the grassy ramp they're usually zipping down. Going through the motions and trying to enjoy it, but crying through half of it. I dragged myself off the bench a couple times to push a swing or give a hug.

Do some children actually get sleepier and less busy when they're sick? Because mine don't. Mine continue their usual activities but cry and fight during them. If allowed to nap, they're up all night. Scratch that, The Dude is up all night anyway when he doesn't feel well.

My friend C once said that she just lets them watch tv when they're sick, to "keep them from sinning." I like that policy and have adopted it myself. Yesterday it was the current favorite: Handy Manny, and a lot of grape juice. When I started to feel so sick that I couldn't go on myself, we all got in the bed together and watched "I love toy trains." It was a shockingly bonding experience.

Other than illnesses though, life is going along quite smoothly. The baby inside of me continues to grow, and his wiggles are now visible through my clothes when I take the time to look. We haven't talked about names in a couple weeks, though there are a few we both pretty much like. Eventually this little one will have a name. I think I was 34 weeks with the Dude before we finally made a decision. Names feel like a lot of pressure to me. My feeling is that God has named him already, we need only to find which one it is.

Aquaman got his 2nd report card. His fine motor went up to grade level this period, and his reading skills continue to be above grade level. His teacher feels that he is doing great. I hope they're not going to give us a hard time about holding him back at the end of the year. His teacher noted that he has to be frequently encouraged to interact with his peers, as he prefers to remain beside her. I wasn't surprised at this. He tells me every day that he sits by her at recess and during free center time rather than engaging. He does not seem upset or feel left out, he simply prefers adult company. Adults are predictable and stable, and with his sensitive nature, other children's emotions overwhelm him often. She noted that he is very inquisitive, and questions her constantly, with "deep" questions for that of a kindergarten student.

His confidence remains quite strongly intact, but this is really only his first year in the "real world", and I worry about its erosion. He's different. I respect and admire those differences, and as we grow we realize the value of it. But it's hard to be different when you're school age. Differences are far less tolerated. I pray for God's sustenance of his sensitive and deep soul. That it will not be calloused or buried through his experiences. I pray for wisdom to know when to gently nudge him out of his comfort zone, and when to give him a little more shelter. He is still so small.

The busy season of JT's work is about to begin, and the fatigue at the thought of it comes and goes. Soon the season will be starting: tryouts and trainings on top of his regular schedule. It is an exciting time and a much-too-busy time. And this year he is exploring a new idea, if he ever has time to launch it. I am excited to see what God is going to do through him this year. I only hope I can muster up the energy and find the time to help him follow through.

The through the Bible reading has deepened my New Year, and I look greatly forward to spending a few minutes reading every morning. The story of Abraham, and how he and Sarah did not believe God that He would give them a son, even after He directly came and told them is one of the stories that has most spoken to me so far. At first I thought to myself: how could you not believe God, when He came and told you several times that something was going to happen?
Then I had to look deep within myself and realize that Abraham was not the only one with this struggle. And so my question these past couple of days to God has been this: "what promise have You made to me that I have laughed at?" There are some He has shown me immediately. There are others that He is still yet to reveal. The theme of this year, I feel quite sure is unfolding is: faith. Will I believe? More than what my eyes can see?
Will I realize that as it was (I love the Jesus Storybook Bible's wording on these things) "as easy for God to give Sarah a baby boy as it was for Him to make all the stars in the sky."? And will I follow and not fret when He leads me out, not knowing where I am going?

One of the most beautiful things I have seen through my Genesis reading has been how God chooses people not because of who they are today, but because He knows they have a heart to follow Him, and He knows who He can make them tomorrow, through His grace and mercy.
God chose a man Abraham, who laughed at His promises, and then later praised his faith in the book of Hebrews. He chose a chronic liar and cheater, whose name, Jacob, even meant "deceiver". He uses the desperately fallen, in spite of ourselves. That gives me so much hope.

It's Sunday now, and health wise we seemed to have turned the corner. The boys stayed fever free overnight, and my cough has loosened enough to make me feel that the end is near. Today, perhaps we will have energy for the first time this weekend to set off on some sort of adventure. Maybe later this week, now that the dust of first trimester, Christmas, and illness has settled, I will finally be able to go into nesting mode and get the house better prepared for our latest addition before the awkwardness of 3rd trimester comes along.

I'm praying for deeper faith as we move along. Faith that goes beyond what my eyes can see, that sees hearts and not earthly details.

Faith that is not bound by gravity, but loosed by His Promises.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Another New Year

Another year has slipped in, barely announced, in the chaos of Christmas and visiting family and everyday life that just keeps marching on.

This year January somehow seems less gloomy than usual. The cooler weather is a welcome relief. 2014 stretches ahead full of promise and uncertainty and newness.

JT whisked the boys off for a beach adventure after returning home from his swim practice this morning. I was left with a quiet house. Whenever this happens, I waste at least half of the time he is gone trying to decide what to do with myself. The possibilities are endless. During the first trimester of this pregnancy, the only choice I had was to lay down. That is still a temptation. Especially because, with the excitement of the holidays and a recent new snoring habit (not sure if it's a persistent cold, though his nose never runs, or his adenoids, or a night-time allergy), The Dude has been waking often and having difficulty returning to sleep at night.

Then there's all the clothes that need to be folded and freshly washed sheets to be put on the beds, and the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and bathrooms that have been neglected over the holidays. The baby clothes to sort and toys to go through and purge.

I dream sometimes about going for a walk by myself on the beach. The way the ocean would smell, and the sand between my toes, the cool water just barely touching, and nothing but silence around me. The way I did so many times when Aquaman was still inside of me. Praying for him, dreaming about his future.
I might even break into a jog and feel the sweet release of momentary lack of oxygen and freedom in my muscles, and strength returning.

But what I've been needing more than anything is quiet and solitude with God, and that is what I chose this morning. A cup of coffee on the porch, and the list of chapters to read. A notebook and a pen.
A few moments to write about my morning and process it all. How Aquaman is growing up. And while his growing up, in so many ways has been easier than his tumultuous infancy and toddlerhood, there are also so many hard things about it. How he needs me less, and I want to be ok with it, and I am ok with it, but how I still know he needs me so much.

Trying to divide my time between all of those demands of life and make room in it for him, the one who needs less, but still needs.
Trying to understand and relate to little boy ways, and where my role is in all of it. How he follows me around wanting to play, but when I try to play with him he's bossy and sensitive and constantly frustrated.
How he wants me close to him at night before he goes to bed, but I never snuggle him quite right, or enough.

I can sense his confusion, and I know it will only grow as he gets older. I want to be the mother he needs me to be. I need so much help from God to do it right.

I can see every day how amazing it is that God gives children two parents. Two very different parents. Sometimes I see my parenting through JT's eyes and it changes everything. I see where I am being unfair or inconsistent.

I want so much for our boys to know how they are equally loved and respected by us. Without labels and generalizations. So many times in the Bible we see how parents fail in this way. I want to be different. I want to get out of the way and leave plenty of room for God to mold my children into who they are supposed to be.

2014 will be an exciting year. We will welcome our last son into the world. We'll move things over in our lives and in our rooms and most of all in our hearts. There will be much rearranging, but it's rearranging with which we have now become quite familiar. There will be times when we'll feel crowded. In our home- possibly, in our schedules- definitely.

But in some ways 2014 feels comfortable, like an old worn in shoe. We have done this before. While each child is different, and that certainly breaks up the monotony, there are less of the fearful unknowns.
We'll get on each other's nerves, especially when we don't get enough sleep, and we'll get over it. We'll laugh a lot, and cry a lot too. But the tears won't be as scary.

I was reading back through some of my 2013 blog entries and reliving so much of the uncertainty and pain of last year. There were so many truths discovered and wrestled through, and while I'm glad some of the acute painfulness of it is over, I am grateful for all that we learned.

Life can change quickly, and does. And we learned a lot about that in 2013.

It can change through an injury, it can change when a job (or jobs) falls through, when childcare doesn't work out, when a pill makes you feel crazy, and it can change when 2 lines show up on a test when you least expect it.

Some of the changes were really hard adjustments. Some of them have been shockingly easy.
And all of them have led us to right where we are today, this 4th day of 2014.

Looking back at my resolutions last year, I met them, though it wasn't in ways I expected. Though I didn't exactly join a gym or start swimming again, The Dude and I took far more long winding walks and between that, spontaneous games of tackle football, and the short sprints after him when he got a little crazy, I got my exercise.

I joined 2 different ladies' Bible Studies and loved them both for a season.

This year my resolutions are a little different. I'm hoping to read through the Bible again. I do it every few years, and always find it grueling at some points, but it always makes me grow. And really, this is one of the best years to do it. I have no time to plan what I will read, and will likely not have much opportunity for small groups (though I hope to enjoy a morning one during my 8 week maternity leave), so this will take some of the thought out of it.

I know things are going to get crazy this year. I don't want it to cause me to lose my focus in being intentional about life. One of my resolutions is that when I feel the most urgency to do, the most overwhelmed, that I will instead...slow down. Even if it means I have to set a crying baby somewhere safe, ask the boys not to do anything too dangerous, and lock myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes to get perspective again. I want my life to matter, even this year, and even when everything can't possibly get done. Everything can't. The important things can.

I want to support my husband more. I want to help him accomplish whatever he dreams about, and whatever he was meant to be. I want to step up when he needs me to do something, even if all he really needs is for me just to dream with him. I want to step back from my own "career" and be more supportive of his, and I want to measure his successes in the relationships he forms and the goals he accomplishes, and not in paychecks.

I want to be more concerned about my sin than I am about my suffering.

2014 will be a beautiful year. Less fire, less torrential downpours, less fog. Probably more chaos, probably even more tiring. But likely a lot more fun.

We will grow more, and older, and we will laugh more and longer.

Here goes nothing.