Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thankfuls 2014

"Gratitude flourishes in the sphere of grace."
- John Piper


It's the day before Thanksgiving. It's raining outside, as a Florida cold front blows through. All the doors and windows are open, and I'm sipping a cup of apple cider.

And feeling thankful.


Greystoke is dozing upstairs in warm football pajamas, and The Dude and Aquaman are probably playing turkey games, and hopefully JT isn't too wet and cold.


This year thanksgiving will be at our house, for the first time ever, and I'm not at all worried about it. It's just going to be our little family, and my parents this year.
My mom said she didn't care if we had a picnic on the floor, and I believe her. I'm pretty sure that if I burned the turkey, it would still be a wonderful day.


Life has been so busy lately.

 I've been working a lot, and JT has been working some overtime.

The laundry is definitely not caught up, and the floors need vacuuming and mopping and the kitchen needs scrubbing.

Since I finished reading the Bible through early, I've been floundering to find something to study. It's so hard, with so few quiet moments, and so much to do. I want and need that connection with God.

I pray without ceasing, but often I find myself talking AT God and not so much with Him.

My heart is always thankful, but my prayers are often hurried requests or breathed out thank yous, instead of the songs of an adoring heart.

I need to get back into writing in my prayer journal, probably. I find it easier to focus that way.


My time spent with God these days, is most often in the presence of my children, as we read, and study and talk together, and I am grateful for those times. Digging deep into my own heart and experiences as I teach them, especially Aquaman, who is now so hungry and full of questions, reminds me God's Truths and I bask in them for a few moments (before The Dude and Aquaman start wrestling over a body pillow and who gets to hold my hand).


Most recently, it was "Running Away" in the Jesus Storybook Bible.
We've read through this Bible so many times these past 2 years, since almost every night, both of Aquaman's requested stories are from it.
This time, before I started reading it, I told him how this is one of my favorite stories, because it is the story of my life.


"Now one day, the boy gets to thinking: 'Does my dad really want me to be happy? Does my dad really love me?' The son never thought of that before. But suddenly, he doesn't know anymore.'"


I was crying by the time I finished that sentence.
Crying because I remember wondering this about God. And crying because every now and then, when I just get busy, that little question slips into my mind again.


"the son takes his money and goes on a long, long journey to a far off country.
Sometimes he gets a strange, hungry, homesick feeling inside his heart, but then he just eats more, or drinks more, or buys more clothes, or goes to more parties until it goes away."


"All this time, what he doesn't know is that, day after day, his dad has been standing on his porch, straining his eyes looking into the distance, waiting for his son to come home. He just can't stop loving him. He longs for the sound of his boy's voice. He can't be happy until he gets him back."


"Jesus told them this story to show them what God is like. And to show people what they are like."

Aquaman worried about this story. He felt certain that he would never run away from God. I hope he doesn't.
I decided not to tell him the story about the older brother yet.


But this thanksgiving, I am most thankful that God is like that father.
That He can't stop loving me. That He looks upon me with merciful eyes.
That while I am still a long way off, He sees me.
I'm thankful that He will extend this same mercy to my sons.
This morning, unsure where to start in my Bible, I looked up verses about giving thanks. The first one I found was this:

"Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed Your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work.” 
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 
-Matthew 11:25,26,28-30


"Learn the unforced rhythms of Grace."

With my musical background, with my poetic heart, I savored those words.

I'm thankful today that I don't need to be sophisticated, because I'm not.
I'm thankful that God doesn't want me to be tired and worn down, and that He doesn't expect me to burn myself out trying to please Him.

Just jump right into the rhythm of His Grace.

Dance.


I'm thankful that I have been able to dance lately. That despite all the craziness of life, right in the middle of the busyness, and the feeling like I can't do it all, there's that musical cadence. There's those chords that just blend so deeply together.
There's dissonance, that always resolves into beauty.


I'm thankful for JT and his gentle and shepherding spirit.

Thankful for how he loves and takes care of me.

Thankful for Aquaman and the really amazing stage he is going through right now. How he is kind to me, and how thoughtful he is. For how different he is from me, and yet how similar.
How he lays in bed talking about the things of God, and then abruptly switches to math, a subject I have never been fond of:
"Does 50+50= 100? I thought so. Because 5 10s is 50, so 10 10s must be 100.
I'm good at math, mom. When my teacher puts a problem on the board, and then starts showing us how to do it, I don't look and I cover my ears because I know I can figure it out myself."

He fascinates me.
I'm thankful for The Dude and how every day he grows and changes. And how he can go from being the most impossible kid throwing an enormous temper tantrum, hitting, screaming, and kicking his feet, to just as gentle and sweet and thoughtful as he can be,

How he is getting braver, but he still needs Mommy.
On Sunday, heading to our church football game, he told JT "Let's go on by ourselves. No, wait, let's wait for Mommy, because I might get scared."

And last night, staring at a picture of Jesus on the cross, with a concerned look on his face:

"Why didn't he just call his mommy?"
So thankful for Greystoke, and his sunshine. His friendliness. The fact that, for the first time when I go out somewhere everyone compliments me on my "good baby".
And for the wisdom of having raised 2 babies that others did not refer to as "good", to know that he is not any "better" of a baby than they were, just because he happens to be naturally laid back.
He is just Greystoke.
But I am so grateful for him.
For the fact that he nurses alllll night long, and I have to pump multiple times on my days off to keep up with his milk intake, which doesn't sound like a blessing except that it means I don't have to worry about my fertility returning at all.

Thankful for my fertility, in light of how many others struggle to get pregnant.

And most of all, thankful that God is in control of all of it, even when it doesn't look like He's coming through for us.

I'm thankful for this quiet morning to myself, and for the 4 day weekend of family celebration coming up.

I'm thankful for Christmas, and the fun of making our December calendar, with our daily Christmas activities, and checking out Christmas books, and getting out the decorations.

For family, always.

For friends who are like family.

And now, I must go because there's one hour left before time to pick up The Dude, and I know he's going to want to go on the swings somewhere, and I've been trying to take him places and spend special time with him when he gets out of preschool, because I know he is growing up so fast.

It occurred to me last week, as we walked on a windy cloudy day, and they rode their bikes, and we tried to chase down the ice cream truck, how it will only be a few more years that they'll want to spend hours at the park.

But I'm thankful for yesterday. Thankful for these few precious days. And thankful for tomorrow. The root canals, and the scary unknowns.

And the unforced rhythms of Grace.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chocolate Pretzels


"A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God." Ecclesiastes 2:24


This is where I find myself today. Midway through November. Almost to Thanksgiving. Christmas time just around the bend (though I turn my head from the already put up decorations in attempt to savor just a few more moments of fall).
We're well into the school year. Somehow, Greystoke is more than halfway through his first year of life, and here we are.


Every day we wake up- (sometimes early, though the older 2 seem to have finally adjusted to daylight savings, praise the Lord)- we eat a lot, and drink water and Carnation instant breakfast, and we toil, and lately the toil has been full of satisfaction.


Greystoke is napping better now. In my bed, on his side, just like the other 2 used to nap, and it works for us.
He's still smiling a crazy lot.
Sunday night I took him to an assisted living facility for a visit, and we were the show stoppers of the night.
I don't think I'll ever forget these precious days with him. The way he makes a point of looking each of the elderly ladies who surround his stroller in the eye and give them a smile meant just for them ("I actually just got chills" said one of those ladies that night, and I almost cried).
The way, when I tell him to "say hi", he mimics me in "haaaaa" to everyone's delight.
There is no greater pleasure then seeing your child, who so delights you, give others the same pleasure.

It occurred to me, as I watched him carefully surveying the audience he was destined to charm on Sunday night, that this gift of the happiest of happy babies wasn't just meant for me, or my family. He was meant for each of these ladies surrounding me.

With his round bald head, and his ears that stick out just a little, and the way he sucks on his lower lip in between those great big smiles.

I savor the beauty of it, even at the same time as I so look forward to watching who he becomes.

The Dude is in preschool now 5 days a week, and it's going really well. It hasn't seemed to slow down the busyness of life whatsoever, but it has taken a little of the pressure off for those few hours. He loves school. Last Friday, I picked him up, and he said his favorite part of the day was when I picked him up (every now and then, he forgets to be ornery), and then when I told him happy weekend, he saw "Aww! You know why I said aww? Because I LIKE school!" And I loved to hear that because I didn't think I'd ever hear that from any of my boys.


Though I am slightly worried that he's going to be my A.D.D boy, but that's a worry for another day.


Right now, he's only 3, and standardized testing and traditional schooling do not have to be on my worry radar.
Right now, there's just mud puddles.
And breaking free from mom.


I remembered anew the other day how I encouraged myself when Aquaman was 3  with the knowledge that our tumultuous relationship stemmed from a very secure attachment. A strong mom and son attachment, must, at its very nature, be violently broken by a 3 year old boy who is just learning to be his own person. And so, I take it as a compliment. And I learn to let them grow up, just a little, without it hurting my feelings.

"I wish you would DIE so that Daddy could come home from work and take me on an adventure"

Yes, I used that moment to tell him that it's not a good idea to tell anyone that you wish they would die, AND that I didn't actually believe that he wished that. But no, it did not hurt my feelings in the slightest. It is just the Dude trying desperately to grow up and separate in the only immature way he knows how.

In a weird way, it's kind of sweet.

As he heads out on an adventure Saturday with Daddy, and suddenly realizes I'm not coming, and comes back for one more reassuring hug.


The push and pull of growing up has begun.

But at least not yet for this one, who has just entered separation anxiety phase.
He wouldn't let me leave him at the nursery this week, for the first time.
When he sees me walk away now, he puts his head down and starts sobbing, like his little heart is broken.
Then again, my mom told me that he did the same thing when the oxygen guy left the other day, so maybe I shouldn't be so flattered.

And Aquaman. Aquaman is all boy right now. All wild and barely able to contain himself, and yet very very agreeable. I really enjoy his company.
I really love talking to him about almost everything.
Especially since, unlike a lot of other boys, he mostly doesn't like to talk about gross things like poop.


He is, as his teacher put it last year, an old soul.
Profoundly interested in hearing me read the Bible every night. So much so, that somehow or other, though I thought I would never finish on time, I finished reading the Bible through 6 weeks earlier than planned.
That night, he asked if we could start over from the beginning, and so we did.

We had a fun Veteran's Day. JT even said it was the best holiday we've had as a family in a long time, and I agree.
He was actually off, and there was zero pressure.
We ate dinner at Dakines.
Then went to the playground, and stopped an ice cream truck for a sno-cone.




Then the boys were going to take their kayak out for a spin at Grandma's, but they were way too cold.



And, before our attention turns to the fun of Christmas, we're savoring the spirit of Thanksgiving time.
We made a thankful tree, and ironically, one of the things we were thankful for- was Christmas. :)
I couldn't get a good picture to save my life.
The light wasn't very good, and my camera is pretty sensitive to that.

And they would not stop moving.

So I alternated being yelling at them to just "hold still for FIVE SECONDS!"

Ezra liked that.

To bribing them with chocolate pretzels.

Ezra wasn't sure what a chocolate pretzel was, but I'm pretty sure he knew he wasn't getting one.

Thank you, God. For the many many hours of toil we've been putting in lately.

And for chocolate pretzels.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stages


The time change seems to have stolen what remained of my sanity.


I used to be able to get up at least 20 minutes before everyone else. Those few minutes of quiet, even if they were doing work, helped prepare me for the craziness to come.


But we're now almost one week out from the time change, and a new routine has set in for the boys. One that involves them waking up long before 6. Which not only makes it very difficult for me to wake up earlier than they do since I'm holding their baby brother most of the night, but also means that The Dude is losing what little sense he has by mid-day.


This was his first week attending preschool 5 days a week, and all the lofty ideals I had about the things I would be able to accomplish, and then be available to give him face to face attention for the 2 hours before we pick up his brother at school...crumbled.


Monday and Tuesday I worked.
Wednesday I dropped both boys off at school, dropped Greystoke off at Grandma's, and then spent the next 2 hours in the dentist chair.
Ahhhh dental work. The spa of the lower middle class mom. One of the few times I have to force myself to farm off the kids, sit down in a chair and let someone do something for me.
It was delightful.
Not.
But since I doubt I'll ever be getting my nails done, and I haven't had a haircut in 6 months, I'll take what I can get.


Thursday was Greystoke's 6 month checkup. The flu and RSV are apparently everywhere per my pediatrician, and for that reason I was grateful that The Dude was at least at the mild germ factory of preschool, and not at the doctor's office with us.
When the doctor walked in he checked behind all the doors and inside the cupboards for the other 2, then laughed and said this must be like a vacation.


Greystoke is as healthy as a horse. On the small side of average (HOW? That child never stops eating. Apparently I make skim milk).
He sits alone, rolls both ways, and babbles MAMA and BABA.
He has mild hypotonia in his shoulders. When the doctor picked him up under the arms he just slipped right through. I laughed.

He's my squishy.

The doctor said it's very common, just give him more tummy time.
For about 30 seconds, I felt guilty.
For 30 more seconds, I felt a little concerned,
Then I went home and switched out his 3-6 month clothes for 6-9 and lay him on his tummy, and he did a big pushup once, then lay his head happily and contentedly down on the blanket and watched me.


And I realized that if my 3rd little boy doesn't crawl early like other 2, it will be just fine, and I will count my blessings!

At 10:53, I remembered that I had told Aquaman that I'd come have lunch with him at school- at 11.
So I threw a bag of cheerios and a bag of pineapple into a Publix bag and got to school just as his class was filing out. He pretended not to be excited, but I could tell he felt very important.

I need to do that more often.

Then there was just enough time to make a list for the store before time to pick up The Dude.

No housework done. No moment to collect my thoughts.
We went grocery shopping and then it was time to pick up Aquaman.


We spent the whole afternoon cleaning the ridiculously messy house.
I'm not trying to make things beautiful. Just safe and sanitary.
The Dude and I had a lot of power struggles. It is very easy for him to dump a box of matchbox cars, and dash madly all over the house, but he becomes suddenly weak and tired when it's time to pick them up.
The thing about The Dude is that if you don't make it a power struggle and a competition that he has to win- if you stay upbeat and positive and convince him to work with you, then he can be manageable.
But when you have 30 other things to get done and you are completely worn out, sometimes that's just too complicated.
It gives me an appreciation for the school age years.
Aquaman can be reasoned with, he can be talked to like a person without all the exhausting mind games.

He mopped the entire house for me, and it looked amazing.

Dinner was couscous and sweet peppers and bike riding and sunsets at the park across the street.
I love this time of year.

Greystoke woke up at 10:30 pm burning with fever from his shots.
It was 103 under his arm, meaning it was more like 104. He spit out the motrin and tylenol I gave him. I finally felt ok to put him back in bed 2 hours later when it was down to 102.

Thinking about the upcoming sick season, and how we're bound to have colds soon, not to mention the busyness of upcoming holidays, I decided despite his not feeling great from shots, that we would try to see some patients yesterday.
It didn't go well.
He screamed the whole 40 minute drive. Then, though I knew he was exhausted, he wouldn't go to sleep.
I nursed him in the car for a total of an hour. I played with him to see if he'd perk up. I took him for a walk in the stroller. But he was miserable, and I couldn't take him to work like that. So we broke up the drive home with a trip to Target. He finally fell asleep nursing in the Target parking lot, but woke up when I shut the car door, He howled all the way back to preschool, and I cried a little too.
Because I wished I had stayed home in bed all morning just nursing and cuddling my baby.


But life isn't like that.
Sometimes, every now and then, you get a morning to just snuggle up in bed, but most of the time you have to go out into the world and remember that life isn't all about you or even all about your kids. There's a lot more,


This is my littlest baby, my youngest son.
And maybe I don't have as much time just to sit and snuggle. Maybe there isn't as much time to sit at home and make crafts.
With every child and with every year that passes, I become a little different of a mother.
But I am the mother that he needs me to be, not by my own strength, but by the grace and the intricate planning of God.

He gave him to me at just the right time.

There's a lot of talk about which stage of parenting is the hardest, and I take it all with a grain of salt, because the fact is, it's all hard. And even though you think you do, you don't REALLY remember the last stage of parenting very clearly.

I know because every now and then Greystoke will have a moment of fussiness and I will flash back to the sweaty nightmare that was The Dude's infancy, and dealing with the strong willed Aquaman all while JT was gone all the time at work and fire academy.


Or I will see a new mother and remember how I struggled with making mom friendships, and how I always wondered if I was doing the right thing with my baby, and if I was going to ruin him forever.


And in some ways, those were simpler times. With less running around from here to there, with less laundry, and less dishes. We had more time for just playing at home or taking long walks exploring the neighborhood.

Right now, things feel really crazy. There's school and preschool and all the different dynamics of having 3 totally different ages in the house. The older two are always fighting. And though Greystoke is, as the pediatrician put it when he gagged him with the tongue depressor, and Greystoke proceeded to reward him with a slightly furrowed brow and then a big grin, "extraordinarily good natured", he is still an infant. He is an infant who sometimes only sleeps for 5 minutes, and never sleeps longer than 30, and only takes those 5-30 minute naps 3 times a day, and the rest of that time I have to be in hypervigilant mom-of-baby mode, especially with 2 other big boys around.
And most nights he ends up sleeping in bed with me for at least 50% of the night, though at least he doesn't nurse all night like the other two did.

But while I technically do have 3 boys, and the first two are not just any boys, kind of extreme boys...the kind that never stop moving or talking, Greystoke hardly counts as a boy yet, considering that he can't really get around yet.

So the chaos of 3 boys hasn't really hit yet.

But in the end, there's no "hardest" stage of parenting, and no "best" stage either. It's all hard, and it's all the best. And with each stage we grow and mature, so for me, I 've found that, really, today is the easiest stage yet, and harder than those to come.

But there'll always be bad days, and bad weeks. And this might have been one of them for me. And that's ok. There's grace for that too.

Yesterday I picked up The Dude while he was still eating lunch, because Greystoke just needed to go home, and the guilt of having him go to preschool 2 more days a week faded, as I realized that he had a much better morning than I did.

We showed up 15 minutes early to pick up Aquaman because one of the other little brothers of a boy in his class always brings an extra truck for The Dude and they play, and their mom and I share laughter about what our boys did that day, and we sit our 6 month olds on the picnic table, one in blue and the other who is always in a dress, and I smile at her, and then smile down at my bald little man, and don't feel even a trace jealous.

And Aquaman came racing out of his classroom with his Jog a thon t-shirt on, and told me that he ran, at full speed, 14 laps, which was 3 more than any other kid in his class.

He went to bed in that tshirt last night.

And as they fall asleep each night, I've been sitting in my rocking chair, reading from my "big Bible" to Aquaman. And he asks lots of questions. Good questions. And sometimes I ask him if I'm boring him, and he says "no. If you were reading about airplanes or something, I might start to get bored, but this is God's Word."

One night, he told me, "I believe in all of this. But I don't understand it all. Why does Jesus's blood make us clean? Why were Joseph's brothers so mean to him?"

And we pray together that God would open his eyes and reveal Himself to Aquaman. And I tell him that it's ok and good to ask questions, and that God will answer many of them. But that part of faith is believing even when you don't get all of it in your mind. And he's ok with that.

We're studying missionaries this week in his Awana. Up until this week, Aquaman wasn't sure what he wanted to be when he grew up, but this week he knows. A missionary. But maybe not too far away. "And could you be there too, mom?"

JT is working all weekend because his parents are out of town and he's watching the boys next week while I work. Of course he got mandatory overtime on Monday, which always happens when he's supposed to watch the kids and I have clinic, so he's working a half day while the big boys are at school.

So I guess we're doing pretty well really. Even after a bad week.

And now it's Saturday. And maybe I'll get the bathrooms clean, and maybe the laundry will get caught up, and definitely we'll get Aquaman's turkey disguised for school.

And this year, we're going to have thanksgiving right here in our little house for the first time ever. We'll have to find some chairs, I think. And I doubt the fare will be gourmet.

But I also doubt there'll be a mother who is much more thankful this year.