Thursday, March 27, 2014

Butterflies

It's Spring Break.

Which in the life of a wife of a guy who works for Ocean Rescue can often be more stressful than enjoyable, but so far it hasn't been bad at all. For me. And now JT's weekend has begun.

Aquaman is reveling in his week off from school. It's been a break for me as well not to have to supervise homework (mainly trying to keep The Dude from scribbling all over it), pack lunch, and make sure he has had plenty of breakfast before he leaves.

Today we're planning to bring the whole family to my OB appointment (Aquaman has been begging to hear the baby's heartbeat) and then they will go do something fun while I get a little work done. After that, hopefully we can just relax and enjoy our day.

It probably won't involve the beach if JT has anything to say about it.

Health wise, despite my ever growing belly, I'm not feeling as "pregnant" lately. Tuesday he dropped just a little bit more, and my body is still definitely gearing up, but it doesn't feel quite so....terminal.

Last Sunday we hired someone to clean our home for 5 blissful hours in which the boys and I went to church, had a picnic at the school playground (which is where our church is now meeting), and then relaxed in the indoor "Play Plus" playground.

The floors, which have been bombarded with crumbs, dirt, sand, kid pee, dog pee, kid poop, dog poop, and dog vomit, and which I have felt were impossible to get really clean...are finally clean (or they were, for about 5 minutes after we got home. They've already been puked on again by the dog). In fact, the whole house felt so clean that when we came home and I realized I had forgotten to ask her to clean inside of the cabinets, I decided I would just go ahead and take care of it myself. I had plenty of energy, I had been enjoying quality time with the kids all day, surely I could tackle this myself.

I cleared out most of the cabinets, and then stepped on a bottom one to clean the very tip top shelf.

It broke.
I fell.

I bumped my protruding belly hard on the shelf below. Baby E, who had been blissfully sleeping, lulled by my scrubbing, jumped about a mile, then promptly fell back asleep. Two small scraped up bruises appeared above and below my belly button. And I panicked. Certain I had separated the placenta, or give my baby brain damage. He didn't move.

I walked into the living room and found the boys, having thrown all the clean laundry off the couch and onto the floor and removed all the couch cushions, bouncing around having a grand time.

I ate a Popsicle and lay down. The baby gave an obligatory bump.

I fussed at the boys for being wild, and they both slunk away. As they started to disappear up the stairs, I called them back and told them what happened, and that I was upset because I was scared I had hurt the baby and not because of anything that they did. I asked them to pray with me, and they joined hands enthusiastically. We prayed that God would protect the baby. We prayed that I would be more patient. When we said Amen, Aquaman looked me straight in the eye and said "Mom, God already answered your prayer. He told me."

I was dumbfounded and humbled. Through the mouths of the smallest of children, God speaks.

I ended up calling the doctor anyway, who eventually called back and said just to make sure he moves normally, and everything should be fine.

He was, and is.

When JT returned from work and I showed him my belly and the shelf, feeling careless and ridiculous, he responded with only grace (and the very slightest amusement).

I love that my husband never makes me feel stupid. That he always sees my heart, and only the best things in my heart, and not my clumsy attempts.

I love it because it always reminds me of the heart of God. There are things about God's love that I never fully understood until I met my husband. He is anything but perfect, but the mercy and grace I have found in him have been astonishing and life changing.

I am a perfectionist. I want to do things right and well. I want to suffer when I don't. But there is so much freedom in escaping that kind of illness. In accepting mercy, not in a self-deprecating way, but in a way that allows you to fly above your own limitations.

On Saturday, Aquaman's first official day of spring break, I asked the boys what they wanted to do. Not wanting to rush out of the house like he so often has to, Aquaman's only request was to make The Dude a butterfly out of coffee filters and clothespins like the one he had made at school. They were very enthusiastic, and though we didn't even get to it until the next day, it was the perfect start to Spring Break.

That Sunday night was somewhat chaotic, and in an effort to rush an overtired Dude to bed, we skipped story time. After The Dude had fallen asleep, I lay next to Aquaman for a while and asked if he wanted me to tell him a story since we didn't get to read the Bible story. I took out his butterfly. I asked him if he remembered how butterflies started out, and he recalled "The very hungry caterpillar". I told him that we were just like butterflies. That we were always meant to be butterflies, but because of sin we were born as caterpillars. So we slug around on the ground, held back by our awkward bodies until we ask Jesus to save us from our sins, and then we can become butterflies and be beautiful, and fly. I told him that I'm a butterfly, but sometimes I still act like a caterpillar.

I told him that I hope he becomes a butterfly, like he was always meant to be, someday. For the 2nd time in a day, he looked at me with eyes that were so much older than his 5.5 year old impulsive little boy body, and said "I will, mom. You just keep reading these Bible stories to me every night so I can understand. But I will be a butterfly."

I fluttered out of the room.

And I thought about how I'm a butterfly, but lately I have so been struggling inside this body that I have seen myself as only a fat little clumsy caterpillar.

And I've been so free since that day.
I've been free to clean the house if I want to, but not feel enslaved to it.
Free to stay by the bedside of my children as they are drifting to sleep, and not feel guilty or rushed, but just touch them, and say a prayer for them.
Free to enjoy this small baby (who is more than likely my last baby)'s last month or so inside of me.

And free to give my children, and everyone around me, the same mercy and grace that I have gotten from my husband, and most of all from God.
Not to immediately assume the worst of their carelessness, but to look for the motivation of their hearts, and draw out the good there.

I think, truly, that some of my exhaustion spiritually has been struggling through these law filled Old Testament books of the Bible. The God of these books, though Holy and certainly powerful, feels harsh and distant and merciless.
I don't know if I can comprehend the meaning of all of it just yet. Why it had to be that way for so very long.
The only way I know to reconcile it is that, from the very beginning, that harshness, and distance, and lack of mercy, was never God's plan. And that He did everything He could to formulate a plan that would save us from that kind of relationship with Him. It had to be intricate. It had to be precise. It had to be very very painful. But He didn't like feeling distant from His people either.

So He made a way.

A way for us to be butterflies.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

34 weeks

Where do I begin today to describe the roller coaster of emotions that I have been cycling through the past week or so?

As usual, at the end of the pregnancy, work has been a main contributor. It would be an issue right now even if I wasn't huge and uncomfortable and tired and mentally incapacitated by pregnancy brain because of the many rapid changes and the final resignation of my supervisor. But it is what it is.

I think sometimes I get into this mode of rushing around breathlessly at work trying to keep up, and then I'm unable to turn it off when I get home. Some of it is me. Some of it is definitely hormones.

What started out as normal old nesting turned into something of a panic about a week ago Sunday. Every day I was waking up with a long list of things that needed to get done (including being the perfect, patient mother of course), and every day I was falling into bed with maybe ONE of them checked off and yet still completely and utterly exhausted.

(Maybe what I should do is make a to-do list that says: make breakfast, do the dishes, put dirty clothes in washer, move them to dryer, put more dirty clothes in washer, fold them, make lunch, do the dishes, take a shower, keep children from killing each other and the baby inside of you...)




Every dust bunny in the corner, every crumb and dog hair taunted me incessantly.


My sensitive 5 year old, who cries at the drop of a hat, is also sensitive enough to pick up on when I am most easily manipulated (i.e. when I am a crazy emotional pregnant woman who is trying to do way too much), and he turned it all up a notch for a few days, just to make life a little easier.


So, I started setting my alarm in the mornings. Waking up at 5:45 in order to try to beat the my soon-to-be-middle-child out of bed and have a few moments to collect my thoughts, pray, and start out the day in a little less of a sweaty panic.

Though I have emerged faithfully out of bed at alarm time for a week, I have only been successful in beating him down the stairs a few times.

Here is one entry from quiet time journal from last week:

"God, I tried to wake up before the boys and find a few moments of quiet, but within minutes: 2 doors opened. 4 feet. Now there is a 5 year old crunching cheerios in one ear and a 3 year old screaming for my coffee in another...I'll try the couch to see if I can escape....

Why do I feel like such a failure, God? First, The Dude hurt his head and Aquaman suggested that he dump cheerios over it to make it better. Since the cheerios made a mess, Aquaman thought maybe dropping a soccer ball on his head would be more funny. Then a football came sailing at me. Before I could tell them to stop, another one came: this time knocking the coffee out of my hand and onto nearby library books. Now, they're climbing all over me like I'm a jungle gym."


It's kind of funny now when I read it. But that was the day my mood changed from crippling anxiety to inexplicable depression.

I somehow made it to the OB, where everything looked great as it always does. But after that, I pretty much fell apart. I'm so grateful for JT right now. This is a hard time of year at work for him, with the many preparations required before the season starts. Every moment is crammed full, and he has taken on a lot of extra responsibilities that require more details to manage, and more time spent outside of work preparing. He is so tired, but he has been so amazing.

That day, like half the days lately, I didn't know which direction I was even going. All I knew was that I did not feel well. That I felt awful, in fact. And that was enough for him to tell me to go to bed and he would take care of The Dude while Aquaman was at school.

I lay in bed almost the whole day. I cried a little. I felt the tiny little boy growing inside of me, and I wondered how I was going to ruin his life too. I contemplated what I was doing wrong. I didn't turn on the tv once. I didn't pick up a book. I couldn't sleep a wink. I just lay there feeling numb and uncertain. At one point I tried to get up, but physically could not. So I just got back in bed.

After that, things were better.

I drank some hot tea. I didn't even look at the crumbs or the dust bunnies. I agreed with JT that we should hire someone to come scrub the house down a little bit.
I hugged my sensitive little manipulator, and realized that sometimes I take things way too seriously.
That's where he gets it from.

In hindsight, I'm glad all my nesting instincts kicked in early. The baby clothes are sorted in their appropriate boxes. Our new dressers are organized. I even cleaned out the junk drawers and arranged the computer desk. I cannot even imagine finding the energy or desire to do all of that now.

I was thinking to myself that I could just work in a flurry until our littlest man arrived because that is when the true chaos will begin. But the fact is that physically, it's just not possible. And there's probably a reason for that. It's time now to look around, to accept what's done, and to let go of what's not. I bet I can keep up with the 15 loads of laundry a week, even though it will be challenging hauling them up and down the stairs. We'll keep eating, but it probably won't be all from scratch, or even very interesting. I'll stock up our freezer and cabinets with basic essentials for post-baby, but I won't be making any elaborate freezer meals. I'll probably spend the extra money on Lysol wipes because, well, it's just an easier way to clean.

It was the next morning, when I actually DID have a few quiet moments with my Bible before the boys discovered me, that I realized what was wrong all of this time.

I just finished my 2nd Gospel as I continue to read through the Bible. For the 2nd time in the past couple of months I read the story of the woman who broke her Alabaster jar of expensive perfume, her most treasured and valuable possession, on the feet of Jesus to annoint Him. And for the 2nd time it stopped me in my tracks.

Because I so want to be her.
In the deepest part of me, I AM her. I've always moved slower. I've always known there was more than just the surface. I've always connected strongly with the story of Mary and Martha, and I have always known that my heart was Mary's.

She could have been "wiser". She could have sold that jar of perfume and given it to the poor. But she "wasted" it in an outpouring of Love for her Savior.

I want to be her. To be unashamed in my worship. To be untainted by logic, and instead filled with Love.
I have been so distracted by the logistics of life, that I have neglected to be in Love.

By Saturday, I was feeling worlds better. The baby felt like he dropped significantly. I could breathe and eat a little more.
 It was time for the Walk for Life. The Waddle for Life.
We had an awesome time. We brought the wagon, and Aquaman pulled The Dude. They had donuts and popcorn before 10 am. We made it one lap around the park, and then stopped at the swings. And then the bounce house.

When I came home I started spotting. I've never spotted before during pregnancy, and I hope to never again.
I tried my own version of bedrest for a couple hours. This involved 2 boys trying very hard to be still but failing utterly and almost head-butting and kicking me about a thousand times before I finally gave up and got up. The spotting stopped. But I have been thoroughly warned this time.

Slow. Down.

This work week has been better.
I've been tired, and I've definitely cried. But I've caught up a bit. And I've let go of a lot.
I still don't know how our littlest baby is going to fit into this wild mix.
In the evening, as I listen to the endless chatter of the other 2 as they try to wind down for bed, I try to picture nursing a newborn through the chaos. Or pacing with him in the sling as he cries at the colicky hours.
When The Dude, who is sick again, wakes up calling and coughing in the middle of the night, I wonder what I will do if they both wake up at the same time.

I take a deep breath, in and out through my mouth and remember the Bradley breathing and relaxation techniques of labor. And for some reason, this always makes me laugh (when I am NOT in labor, that is).
Because as I look around, all I can see is love. And all I can wonder is why I ever got so overwhelmed in the first place. Sure there will be more details, more routines, and more messes when our family turns into 5.

Sure, time is not exponential. Neither is energy.


But Love is.


And right now, THIS is my Alabaster jar. And it may not smell that great to the world (what little boys ever do). But I know it is a pleasing aroma to My God.


I know He sees, not the broken bits of clay and all that waste. But a heart that loves. That gives. Not because the world will stop turning, and life will fall apart if it doesn't, but because it can't help it. Because it knows the darkness from which it has emerged, and has only overwhelming gratitude for every opportunity it has to beat and bleed and soften from its stony state.



Sunday, March 9, 2014

Birthday, School Production, and a Banquet

It's been an eventful week.

3 important things happened this week:

1) The Dude officially turned 3. So far, I like 3 on him. I'm sure 3.5 will be a different story.

2) Aquaman had his first school performance. I knew he was going to find a way to stand out\, but I have to admit, as always, I was impressed with his creativity in accomplishing it.

3) USLA put on their yearly awards banquet, which was in Brevard County this year, since Brevard was voted Beach Patrol of the Year for 2013.

Let's start with 3, which is actually #1. 3 is scared of monsters. It has vivid dreams about white monsters with big human teeth and no eyes, and scary little girls with pink shirts who growl at you.
But 3 is pretty easily convinced that dogs, like Cozy, like to eat monsters.
3 is surprisingly agreeable and easy to reason with. Except when it's not. And then it has to be removed from the situation quickly.
3 uses the potty, most of the time. Except when it decides to pee on top of a dresser or some other weird place.
It loves big brothers almost as much as it loves Mommys. And Daddys. It loves broadly and liberally. Except when it doesn't.

And then there are first kindergarten performances. Which are supposed to be full of charm and photogenic moments. But when you have a clever and unique little boy like ours, he finds a way to outsmart the whole system. He says he's shy, but I don't know if that really defines it entirely.

He finds a way to look different. And rather than being ashamed of his differences, he basks in them.
I love his teacher. She is not in the slightest annoyed by his lack of conformity. On the contrary, she appears to find it adorable. She is just the kind of teacher that he needed this year. How amazing God is.

The awards banquet was a true pleasure. Good food and awesome company. The retired pro football quarterback who enjoys surfing in JT's zone and has befriended him came to the banquet with signed footballs and raffled them off to raise money for the charity the lifeguards support. He provided much of the entertainment for the night.
JT got to accept the award for the lifeguards' placing 2nd in this year's competition, and they all went up to claim the "Beach Patrol of the Year."

"Up until now, you have been looking to the other agencies, but from now on, they will look to you."

It's been a long and often difficult road for JT, even as much as he loves his job. But being a part of the grassroots of the year-round program has been so meaningful. Watching him last night, even despite all of the struggles of it, was knowing that he is exactly where he is supposed to be. It feels really good.

It was also pretty fun to have an excuse to dress up and go out together.

And today. Today I'm tired. Daylight savings time occurred on the night that we didn't get to bed until almost midnight. The boys spent the night at the grandparents since we were out so late, so it was uninterrupted sleep, but still too short.

JT went back to work, no doubt truly exhausted. The boys and I went to church, with them crying all the way as they always do. But smiling when I picked them up.

And now there is a pile of dirty lunch dishes in the sink, and the boys are watching Daniel Tiger, because it was time for a few minutes of *me* time. The week preparations need to begin, and work is going to be a doozy this week. I love that I haven't even thought about it the past 4 days.

Today we made homemade laundry detergent for the first time, and a loaf of banana bread. And had a lunch picnic, and read all of our library books until we were too hot to stay outside anymore.


My head hurts, and my to do list is only about 25% checked off. (why do I continue to bother with those things?)

But the important things in life are spinning around just fine. 2 of them are sitting on the couch. One is naked. Both are dirtier than I'd like them to be.
One is sitting on a tower at the beach under an umbrella, trying to avoid the sun. Or maybe on a paddle board patrolling the ocean.
One is surprisingly quiet inside of me right now. He's probably tired from kicking me in the ribs after last night's chocolate raspberry cake.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

3 years old


Today my baby boy, who won't be the baby of the family much longer, but will always be my baby: is 3 years old.


We had a low key birthday party on Saturday night at Panera after JT got off of work. We had a construction truck cake, dump truck plates and napkins, Planes movie party hats, and Lightning McQueen party horns. It was eclectic to say the least.
The cake wasn't pretty, but it WAS pretty chocolatety, which was just what the birthday boy ordered.
The mac n cheese was as good as always, and we were fortunate enough to have cousin C and Aunt M in town to celebrate with us.
Nobody seemed to mind, least of all the birthday boy, that there wasn't a theme or even a pinata.

This is before the party started. The Dude wanted to skip the whole dinner part and right to presents and cake...

Yesterday, to end his 2nd year with a bang, he threw up all over Noni and Papa's floor right as I was getting ready to walk out the door to work. 
I was surprisingly unpanicked, considering the horrendous round of stomach flu we just went through last March, and considering I also had to call out to work, which means falling ever behind during a time when it's hard enough to keep up as it is, and having a smaller paycheck in a couple of weeks.
I decided to take it as a gift from God. An extra day to rest during a time when I have every good reason to rest whether my mind allows it or not, and most of all: an opportunity to spend The Dude's last day as a 2 yr old with him.


With the laundry mostly caught up, the bathrooms semi-clean and the refrigerator full from a busy weekend, as well as a slightly subdued little boy who couldn't tell me for sure if he was sick or not, ("I feel willy weird, Mommy." I think in hindsight he was just caught off guard by the fact that he threw up and that his schedule then changed dramatically) I had an excuse to sit and read to him for over an hour. To give him the many hugs that he's always asking for. To memorize 2 as it fades into 3.


As excited as I am about the birth of his baby brother, and as much of a gift as I know it will be to him, I still find myself mourning a bit how my relationship with him will change.
I'm reminded of the last couple of months with Aquaman as my only child. Back when he still seemed so small at two and a half.
He WAS small.
But the instant he walked into the hospital, climbed into the bed and proudly held his little brother for the first time, he turned into someone Big.
And there are different expectations of him now. Expectations that aren't even always fair, and that I constantly have to question.


There's no doubt that he's stepped up to the plate. That he loves to help, and will enjoy helping this next little one as well. ("I'll take care of the baby Mommy, you won't be doing it alone. And you can take care of The Dude. The Dude is kind of a handful for me.")
He jumps to lift anything heavy that he can to save me the trouble, and to show off his 5 year old muscles. He tells me, "before long, you won't have to do much at all around here, with 3 boys AND Daddy. That's a lot of muscles."


The Dude will find his place as well.


But there's no doubt that there'll be less opportunity just to sit and hold him. I ache sometimes for the days when I had endless opportunity and time to devote to Aquaman. I had much more patience. I had much more room in my arms. Now there'll be less time and less room.
I am praying that God will multiply the patience endlessly.


These two will probably become even more united, as they seek to gain in each other what they have temporarily and permanently lost in me.
And I'm coming to terms with all of it.


Maybe having another baby is just another way we let go.
I often think that Aquaman's slowly pulling away and not being as cuddly and affectionate as he once was is a direct result of my not having as much time to nurture him.

But maybe it's just because he's growing up.


Because there will come a day when, no matter what I do, he won't need or even want to be pulled up into my bed early in the morning when he's had a bad dream.
One day, those wrinkly newborn knees that turned into banged up boy knees will turn into hairy man knees and they will need freedom to go their own way.


So for today, while they're most interested, all I have to do is let the Spirit lead me to lead them, in whatever moments that I can.
And then, already, even at the tender age of barely 3, I have to let go, and let Him lead them the rest of the way.


For The Dude's birthday, we bought him a $9 used trike.
He loves it.
I wanted to get him the $70 John Deere Big Wheel in the window of Once Upon a Child. I stared at it for a long time. I justified it in my mind ("we DO have the money right now").
I stared at it some more, and then God told me to keep going and we found this bike, and I asked if there was anything else in the whole store that The Dude would like, and he said no, and rode the bike to the front desk.
I handed the girl $9, with one last backward glance at the tractor, and then walked him out.


I thanked God that today he is 3 and doesn't know any better, and I also thanked God for showing me that the only way to teach him as he grows that he doesn't need all the shiniest and coolest stuff is to teach him to be content right now. And that doesn't take much.

All it really takes is a $9 bike, and a few pieces of computer paper and blue crayon and old Christmas stickers to make a birthday special for a 3 year old.
I can't believe it's been 3 years since we checked into the hospital at 7 am. Since I walked the hallways contracting. Since I pushed him out in 5 minutes, and since I held him that first time. I'll never forget how he stopped crying to listen the moment I said his name.

3 will hold new challenges, as we revisit the "Friend or Enemy" stage we struggled through with Aquaman, and as The Dude adjusts to his role as Big Brother.

Yesterday, with a knot in my stomach, I signed him up for both fall preschool and summer swim lessons. A rite of passage somehow, a start of something new.

I look so forward to seeing how he will mature into his new roles. How he will spin it all into a big joke like he does with everything.
How just when I think I'm going to explode with not knowing what to do, he'll squeeze me and tell me, all on his own: "you're a good girl mommy, you're my FAVORITE girl." Or just when I am getting too serious, he will strip down to his birthday suit with nothing but his birthday crown on and tear through the backyard grass on an unknown mission.

Happy 3rd Birthday, Dude.