Friday, August 28, 2015

Our Time Together

There is exactly one hour until I need to leave to pick up The Dude. Greystoke took longer than usual to fall asleep for his nap, so he should be out until then. I switched out yet another load of laundry, piled a few more dishes in the sink, but opted not to unload the dishwasher right now. I'm eating sugar snap peas, drinking a huge glass of water, and thanking God for this year. Asking Him to let it pass slowly, so I can savor it.
A couple of days ago, I packed up Greystoke's 12 month clothes and took out the 18 month ones. Like I have been doing for the older boys lately to encourage independence without total ridiculousness, I folded each outfit together. The onesies are gone, except a few I just got that work well as pajamas on a warm night.
I took out 2 garbage bags for the 12 month clothes...one to save for my sister K's baby...just a few of the cutest or more sentimental items...and one to give to pregnancy resources.
I saved way too many for K. Like the pair of cargo jean shorts that all 3 boys have worn. They have holes by the pockets, but all my little boys looked so cute in them. She will have to throw them away. I can't.
I have bags and bags more clothes to sort through in the coming weeks. The superstitious part of me is terrified at the thought of giving them away.

We're not exactly using 100% birth control.
But I guess you could say I am acting on faith. JT and I both feel relatively certain and content that 3 boys have completed our family.
And with a 2 bedroom townhouse we would like to make last another 4 years or so...you have to be very intentional about what you allow to take up space.

This is my last baby.
And he doesn't wear onesies anymore.
It's looking more and more likely that next year I will be finding a way to pick up some more work, Aquaman and The Dude will both be in Elementary school. Greystoke will be old enough to begin preschool. And though neither of my other 2 started preschool so young, I think I will be comfortable enough with it for Greystoke. For one thing, he is Greystoke. He takes it all in stride. He is definitely a Mama's boy...but he loves other children too.
For another...I am loving The Dude's experience so far at FBI preschool. He is having so much fun. And on top of that, every time I drop him off I see faces that I have known for years upon years taking my child's hand, and there is something so comforting in that.
I still don't plan to be at work all the time. If there is one thing I can see about children getting older it's that they don't need less from mom and dad....they just need different.
I love walking Aquaman to the door of his classroom every morning. I love that we are still in a small enough school to do that. And I love that he wants me to do so.
But I have already begun praying for a way to work either only while they are at school, or to be able to work from home. I had about 3 days of anxiety thinking about it, and I am sure there is much more to come as I get closer...but for now I have given it into the hands of the Lord. And this is one of the many many reasons why I take the time to sit down here when there is a dishwasher to empty and I could really use a little yoga or even a nap....
Because after 3 days of anxiety thinking about this, I read a blog post from 3 years ago...
I was wondering about whether I could continue working part time. I was worried about how God would provide for our family financially...and even more so emotionally and spiritually and physically. I was wondering if we would be able to have the third child I knew would make our family complete.
Because these are my only kids. This is my one shot with them. There are lots of great nurses in the world, but I am the only one who can be their mother.
I think of all the time I have wasted in the past seven years worrying about this same question. And each time, God has provided a splendid way to balance it all. He's got it. He cares. And He knows my heart....which is to please Him. To serve Him. He always provides a way to do it. So I am looking forward to seeing the path that opens up for us.
Oh, and I got my blood work back. And I am like, pretty much the healthiest person that ever walked the earth. The Dr. checked everything. All sorts of vitamin levels and thyroid function and inflammation markers, and they are all right down the middle of normal.
The only thing slightly out of whack was that I was dehydrated...which isn't surprising because Greystoke nurses all night and the labs were drawn in the morning. And that my LDL levels were slightly elevated. Which is mostly the result of the coconut oil fad....and I'm going to be cutting back on that since it was upsetting my stomach anyway.
So what it comes down to is, I am not dying or suffering a crippling disease.
There is a good chance I had fifths disease back in June when the swelling and stiffness began, and the rest since then is simply the diagnosis of MO3B again.
So, I need to drink some more water. Which is always tricky because every time I pour a glass someone sticks their fingers in it, or sucks some ice and spits it back in, or accidentally backwashes some cereal into it.
And every time I pee Greystoke follows me screaming at me to read him a book.
And I probably need to exercise more, but I am still trying to figure out when to squeeze that in.
And I definitely need to sleep more, but let's face it, that's not going to happen any time soon. Because Greystoke is still nursing all night, and my past mothering experiences have taught me that night weaning just makes things worse until about age 2, and especially when you live in such a small space.
And even when Greystoke isn't nursing, someone else is crawling in between us, and Aquaman, the biggest one of all, who is scared even to sleep on the crib mattress on the floor of our room when he is scared because...he can't see anything around him....stretches out on the foot of the bed, and when I tell him I might kick him, he says "that's ok!" and so we let him stay.
Because love can go without a little sleep sometimes.

And the fact is, that just knowing that my body is still working so splendidly under these ocasionally adverse conditions, is enough to give me energy to keep going. I suddenly feel like a million bucks. When my wrists start to ache I just shake them out and smile instead of wondering if there is something sinister going on with them.
I am getting old. Time is marching on.
I will age with grace.
And in the meantime, I am going to soak up this year, even in it's chaos.
After the initial craziness of school starting, things are settling down and I am remembering why I enjoy the school year so much. There is time for individual attention with my kids, and being that I am an introvert, I really really need that time with them.
And so do they.
Greystoke and I usually run errands in the mornings. We take walks, and we snuggle in our bed reading books before his nap.
Sometimes I save his nap until later so that I can have some uninterruped time with The Dude. He loves for me to sit at the table and eat lunch just with him. He tells me about the letter of the day, and he absolutely loves doing the suggested homework that comes home with him each week.
I love to watch Aquaman grow. He is so into his miniature Legos, and is quite the engineer, which incidentally is what he says he wants to be when he grows up.
He can spend hours with little pieces spread all over the table building some new and important invention. He talks a mile a minute about them. I try to pay attention.
He hates to read, and I make him read out loud to be for 15 minutes every day, and some days, well most days, tears pour down his face the entire time.
Yet the class mom, who I know well from last year, tells me that he had her daughter are at the top of their class for reading. So I don't exactly understand. But it is just another mystery of Aquaman, and it's ok. I think someday he will probably love to read. He just doesn't like anything challenging or boring.
Some days he cries because the class mom's twins are "perfect". They do everything right, he says, like it's easy. They never forget the rules, they are great readers, and they always know the math answers too. And don't even get him started about their art skills.
I tell him that their mom is "perfect" too. She always looks like she's slept 10 hours, had a workout, a shower, a hair appointment, and brand new clothes when she arrived to school at 8 am. She always has a smile. She is the CLASS MOM and she is always at every field trip.
But nobody's perfect. And when he feels like it, he acknowledges it. And what's funny is, one of the benefits of being a parent for a while, and of finding my security in who I am and not in who anyone else is....is that I don't really mind her perfect. It doesn't say anything about who I am. I'm not perfect. But I am Loved and Accepted and...filled with joy. Because my happiness doesn't depend on Perfect.
I am trying to pass that on to Aquaman, and sometimes I worry about his perfectionistic tendencies, but mostly I don't. Because he is a wise boy. A wise boy who loves God, and seeks Him. And he has parents who don't try to hide their flaws or insecurities, and we will show him that it's ok to be real. That best is good. But real is better.
The Dude's school sent home a suggestion to hang a "life verse" by his bed and pray it for him every night. I've decided to take it a couple steps further. I picked a whole passage for each boy, and have begun to pray it for them at night. And in the morning...those 10 minutes I have been able to sneak out of bed before them most mornings.

For Aquaman, it is Psalm 23


For Greystoke it is Colossians 1:9-12

And for The Dude, Colossians 3:12-17

What an amazing feeling to put them into the hands of God.
Greystoke is up. He pooped, and also has the hiccups. It's time to pick up The Dude and make some lunch.
Every night lately, Aquaman has been asking me to read "Let me hold you longer" while he sits in my lap. Maybe it's because he knows his birthday is coming up, and he knows how big he's getting in my lap, and how there's really no room for him at the foot of our bed.
Or maybe it's just because I can never get through it without crying at this part:
"I'll watch you go and think how fast our time together passed."
And he thinks it is absolutely hilarious when I start crying.

But this is it. The dot at the beginning of the line, and it is going so fast. I'm going to live it today. I'm going to drink a big glass of water, and a small cup of coffee and gird up the energy to live fully today.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Endurance

 What a week it has been. And its climax was this morning when I woke up with what I thought was a bad case of reflux, which I tend to get when I eat more than a couple bites of chicken, but turned out to be quite a bit more miserable and dramatic. I am thinking maybe I mishandled last night's chicken in the cooking process, since everyone else seems fine.
But the long and short of it is, after just 2 days trying out the "autoimmune diet" to see if this would help with my recurrent episodes of joint pain...I am throwing in the towel. The diet consists of relying mainly on fruits and vegetables, which I have really already been doing. But I have always leaned more toward the Mediterranean diet myself and felt good on it. The autoimmune diet eliminates dairy, legumes, and whole grains, and is heavy on meat, eggs, and oils. My stomach has never handled meat, eggs, or oils well, and I have felt sick for 2 days. Apparently it is not for me.
 Oh well.
I have been putting off calling the doctor to add the rheum labs to my coming up routine bloodwork, as we discussed when I went in for this symptom a couple months ago. But I'm not putting it off because of why you would think. It's not because I am scared of bad results. Honestly, I'm a person who would rather know if there really is something wrong.
It's because I am kind of afraid it's actually something like fibromyalgia, and if that's the case and it's just going to be an annoying pain disorder that causes no damage, then I am perfectly content to ignore it. It's not that bad. There is always that niggling feeling in the back of my mind like...I don't want to be the crippled mom of 3 boys in 10 years, which is why I will eventually give up and get the bloodwork done. But it goes to show that you really have no idea about anything until you experience it yourself, and that you should really explore the judgments of your own heart because dude....I have secretly kind of always thought that fibromyalgia was some disorder that women got in their middle age who were unloved and lonely and unhappy and stuffed their feelings so that they manifested themselves physically.
 But now that I have woken up a couple times and struggled to straighten my fingers and had a couple days where I had to take the stairs one foot at a time while grasping the hand rail....I am finding myself a bit more humbled.
I am dearly loved. I seriously have the best husband ever. He hugs and kisses me, and tells me he loves me every day. He holds my hand. He smiles at me over our childrens' heads even when he is totally worn out. My kids love me too. They follow me around constantly talking to me, they fight over whose turn it is to get in my lap, they make elaborate Lego creations for me that take an hour to build when I tell them that I will play with them for 20 minutes.
My parents and brothers and sisters, and JT's parents and brothers and sisters love me. And I have a few really good friends, though I haven't been a great friend since my kids were born because...just....when?
 But way more than that, I am secure in God's love for me. Most of the time. This week I have actually gotten a few minutes of quiet time. I have been able to sneak out of my bed earlier than the kids on a couple different occasions and managed to pen a few simple prayers and read a Psalm before those feet came banging on the floor. It was inconsistent, but amazing.
 I am not stressed, at least most of the time. This week was perhaps more stressful than average. School started, which is exciting but exhausting. There was always just one more supply to race to the store for. The bill for Greystoke's ER visit came in the mail...the same day that our water heater broke.
I waited outside of Aquaman's first grade classroom the first day next to the class mom from his class last year. Her twins are in his class again. She told me how they spent most of their summer out of town and out of the state. How they had season passes to Sea World, and how they celebrated the twins' birthday. Another classmate's father joined us and invited us to his son's birthday. He said he and his wife live on Lansing Island and are planning a big party. He said they spent their summer driving all the way up the northeast coast and visiting all kinds of interesting places.

 Contentment is not usually something that I struggle with. I always knew I didn't want much. I always pictured a house full of boys and broken water heaters, and holding hands, and living on love.

But beachside schools and parents can take some of the wind out of your sails.
Aquaman is becoming more aware of the effects of money. I was sitting there hoping that these parents wouldn't notice that, apart from the fancy new outfit I treated him to the first day of school, most of his clothes are used, and that I am still trying to figure out how we are going to afford to take him to Legoland for one day for his birthday...because I told him we would months ago before the bills for CT scans and soccer and school supplies.
 But the thing is, the thing that I sometimes forget....is that my kids have school supplies, we are able to pay our medical bills, and for all those groceries that pile up in our cart, and it is pretty amazing that The Dude, and maybe even Aquaman have the option of playing soccer, and that we will probably find a way to take them to Legoland too.

Sometimes I feel almost...ashamed that we struggle. Like it is our fault...we are lazy...
I could make a decent income if I worked full time.
But what about our kids? Devoting my time to them is amazing...but it's not exactly always easy.
And JT is already working full-time, sometimes overtime, and just applied for a second job.
So I don't think laziness is exactly the right word.
Besides, I can see how what JT does really matters, and how he is meant to be where he is. How his love emanates from him, comforts and encourages those around him.

You can't put a price on that.
 The night that our water heater broke, after a cold bath and the screaming that results from this sort of thing, at story time, The Dude brought me a little white New Testament that he found in the bookcase. He knew this would please me, and he so loves to please.
 He got squirmy after 1 chapter of James, but I knew that it was orchestrated by our loving Father in heaven because by the time I finished that one chapter, my perspective had changed.

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
James 1:2
 He doesn't hold back material, or even physical blessing from us because we are unworthy or unacceptable....He does it because He is perfecting us. He is making us holy. And for whatever reason, this is the road we must walk down to get there.

"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."
James 1:12

What an amazing promise. What love He has for us.
 The first week of school went amazingly well, despite all the other setbacks.
 Aquaman got a male teacher whom I have been hearing about since before he even started elementary school. "You want your boy to get this teacher" everyone said. One of Aquaman's friends who went on to first grade when he stayed back in TK1 also ran into him on the playground once last year and informed Aquaman that this teacher had the best class ever.
 Their class pet is a snake. Enough said. There has been no anxiety, no frowning at all this year. He walked right in the first day and didn't even glance over his shoulder. The teacher is his "favorite teacher ever". Of course, he also announced that 1st grade was the easiest grade ever too, so I don't think it has occurred to him yet that the first few days are just review. Hopefully his bubble is not about to burst.
 The Dude is loving school too. Taking a cue from his brother, as usual, bur also true to his happy go lucky and much more confident self, his class is also "the best class ever".
 He also walked in to school without a backward glance. I hope he is behaving. When I asked the first day if he was he said yes, and not to ever ask that silly question again. Hmmm....
 But then again, I think I believe it. Because over the summer, he was so sweet most of the time. He had his moments, but he was able to hold himself together much of the time. He always has just a little too much....swagger...and he can throw a doozy of a tantrum. But I almost thought he was outgrowing some of his drama until the first day of school came and went....
Under the pressure of holding it together so so completely for 3 hours in a row....he totally melted as soon as I picked him up. Became completely unreasonable. Didn't want to buckle in, didn't want to even sit right side up in his seat. At pickup for Aquaman on Friday, he snatched toys out of Greystoke's hands and made him cry. And when I stopped him from doing that, he tried to knock over another unsuspecting wobbly legged 11 month old. And when I stopped him from doing that, he began to scream and flail around in usual Dude fashion. Then the bell rang. Aquaman emerged from his classroom and rolled his eyes at the teacher, saying something about little brothers. He once told me that he worried people would think he was "from a bad family" when they saw The Dude's outlandish behavior.
 He ended up earning himself a 19 minute timeout from that whole escapade, and by the time the 19 minutes were up, he was back to his Dr. Jekyll self, such a pleasant and sweet and terrifying little package you never did see.

So yeah, Post School Dude is going to take some getting used to.
 But there were still afternoon swims, and more and more Lego creations, and watching Arthur on my bed while I finally put away the mountain of laundry that had built up since Sunday, because I squeezed almost all of my 2nd job's monthly work into this first week of school, and as a result got nothing else done, and completely wore myself out.
 But, as much as I was dreading back-to-school, and as much as a little piece of me is always a little ambivalent about sending my kid off to public school, I can tell it is going to be a great year. This was the first summer that seemed short. And the first summer where I thought to myself...if I was at home full time I probably could home school these boys.
But I am not at home full time. I need to work, it is God's plan for me and I have accepted that. And my work matters. And not only that, but abundantly beyond what I can imagine, God has blessed my children so far in school. So far, Aquaman has gotten the perfect teacher for each particular stage in his life....kindergarten she was gentle and laid back and let him sit beside her and did not push him. Tk1, she pushed him a little more. But gently, and respectfully. And first grade...so far, his teacher is exciting and kind and makes learning fun. But insists on solid work.
 My first born has long been an enigma to me. He is very much like me and very much different and his initial social struggles worried me. But like the bud of a flower, he is slowly opening up, with the support of respectful adults, and it is a beauty unmatched to watch him blossom.
 He is even thinking very seriously about playing soccer this fall, my little perfectionist for whom I wrote off team sports long ago. As we kicked the ball around the other day, he told me "as I grow things are getting easier for me. I realize that I am not as bad at things as I thought. Sometimes I kick the ball well. And adults show you the right way to do things so that you can do things better, not because they're mean."
Sweet, sensitive, growing boy.

Even though this week was crazy with work, the rest of the month, I can tell we are going to hit a stride again, and that is a great feeling.
Greystoke and I will have time together. Time to be quiet with each other. I love that time with him. My older two are hoarse one day and fine the next. The struggle over the years has been to determine how much is reflux and how much is pure vocal cord abuse. They never stop talking. Aquaman's first GI doctor commented on it when he was just 2.5...."I have never really heard a 2 year old never stop talking like that..."
I love their words, and am proud of their verbal prowess...
but perhaps, like me, Greystoke's words will come easier in the click of the keyboard, or pen on paper.

 He still loves to read. Clutching the stuffed dog he picked out himself when I was not planning to let him pick anything.
I did want him to find some sort of lovey though, since he needs an extra lot of snuggles, to ease the weaning transition in the future, and apparently he found it himself. As laid back as he is, there are a few things he does want with certainty.
 So all in all, things are looking up. My stomach is getting better, I even just managed to choke down a cup of coffee. Greystoke is snoozing peacefully upstairs, and though I am tired and achey, this is my chance to pick up a few things. But I'll do it with a song in my heart.
 "You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound."
Psalm 4:7
 "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever,"
Psalm 73:26