Friday, December 23, 2016

Almost Christmas

It's 3 days before Christmas, but I am not listening to Christmas carols. I am listening to the soft whir of the ceiling fan, and the click of my keys. I am listening to a few minutes of silence, quiet. And hoping that quiet finds its way into my heart.

I just got home from an OB appointment, and before that I was working. This was the boys' first day off school, and they went to spend the day split between the grandparents. I was hoping to get an hour to sit down and blog because it has been forever. But after finally getting the million pictures sorted, I am down to half an hour before they get home. It's better than nothing.
I have a laptop now. One of those things I have been longing for to make work a little easier. To be able to get out of the house sometimes when I am doing computer work, away from the smells and crumbs and heat. I have taken it to the library and sat by a Christmas tree, and that was nice. One day I may go get a coffee at Starbucks or something. I asked for the laptop for Christmas, but Justin got it for me early, saying it was for work so it didn't count as a present.

But it also works well for writing on my blog when all I really want to do is lie down in silence. I have a heating pad on my already starting to ache back and pillows all around me, and I feel as close to comfortable as I will ever be for the next 4 months I suppose.
Life is moving along at a chaotic speed and I am grasping at it as it goes by. I am struggling a bit. I am so tired, more tired than I feel like I have ever been, though I have known tired. But it is not so much the physical tired....some of that has waned as the morning sickness has slowly lifted (more slowly than I would have liked....I am still taking medication every night, but as long as I take it I am actually enjoying food and eating normally now).

I know my physical energy is catching up because I have started to get more caught up on the housework throughout the week. I am able to do a load of dishes, mostly clean up breakfast, and get a load of laundry started in the mornings now, while also getting all 3 boys ready for school and me ready for work. I am actually keeping up with doing and sorting the 2 loads of laundry per day after work now, in addition to getting everyone from school, struggling through homework, making lunches for the next day, and making dinner.

But my soul is tired. All the way to the deepest part of me. I am weary. And I am getting a little desperate for change.

Some of it is hormones, I can tell. Of course I am extra emotional from pregnancy. And this has been a hard one. The morning sickness, the Braxton Hicks contractions that have already started. Lack of exercise has certainly contributed. I just don't feel like there is time even for walks anymore, unless I am perhaps accompanied by 3 little boys who are fighting the whole way around the block.
Most of it is just this feeling that I am living one of the best times of my life, I am raising 3 beautiful little boys, and growing a little girl whom I will adore. But I am missing it for the multi tasking. I am working only while they are in school which is a huge blessing, but that means all the other things that have to be done to keep our home functioning is piling up while I am at work, and then I am split between caring for 3 little souls who all need such different love and attention and are completely exhausted from their days at school, my own needs as not only a person, which sometimes I really don't feel like one anymore, but as a person who is growing another person. It is all just so much, and it all feels so neverending sometimes.

The fighting gets to me a lot too. I know it is normal and fine but the little boy fighting that is constantly happening in our home is exhausting for a peace making person like me. I like everyone to get along. I like everyone to be real, don't get me wrong. I like things to be open and honest, and sometimes painful, but I like things to get resolved. And around here, every time one thing gets resolved there is another thing to contend with. And all the books say you should let your kids work it out on their own, but in our house there would be blood. There would be bullying and fear. And that's not ok with me. So I spend most of my day teaching conflict resolution, and I am worn out from it.

I feel so on edge that the slightest change in plans can leave me reeling, feeling hopeless and panicky. Everything feels like it is spinning rapidly and if one thing gets dropped it will all come crashing down and I can feel myself grasping, trying so hard to control. And I hate it. That's not who I am. That's not the kind of person or mother I want to be. But I am struggling to find a way out of the cycle.
The worst thing about it is that it all makes me so self centered. I am so overwhelmed by the load I feel I am carrying that the idea of taking on someone else's burdens, even for a moment, feels crippling and unbearable. Supposedly in these sort of circumstances, helping someone who is in a more difficult position than you are can help change your perspective, but I am surrounded by many people, and work with many people daily who are in difficult situations, and it only makes me feel more helpless.

But that's worldly wisdom anyway, and I know none of it will work in the end. Throwing some money at those less fortunate, or buying everything in sight...that's not the answer, that's not the Christmas miracle I am needing. But I do feel that I am getting closer to grasping it.
My sister got me a book for Christmas called "Present over Perfect" and I knew just from the title that it was what I needed. I have struggled with even feeling like I had the time to read it, but today at my appointment I opened it up for the first time and found some relief. I was crying before the introduction was even over:

"We hugged for a minute and then she looked me straight in the eye and asked, 'how are you?'. I could tell she really wanted to know. I got teary eyed and said: 'I'm tired. Confused. A little lonely. But holding on.' She smiled as her eyes welled up. 'Me too, pal. Me too. It's so hard sometimes.'"

I don't think I have had that kind of vulnerable conversation with anyone for a long time.
The thing is, I know how good I have got it. I think particularly watching my sister struggle through her ongoing issues with infertility has made me ashamed for being tired and overwhelmed while living what really is my dream come true.
I look around and I see so many hurting people in difficult situations, and I have been given so many blessings...relationally, materially, physically, spiritually, it goes on and on. That I just put on a smile and keep going. I say I am tired,  even overwhelmed, and everyone nods because of course. But I don't say that I am also a little sad. That sometimes I get really worried and I can't even define what I am worried about. Because it feels too selfish.

I know I need to find a way to lay it all down, and I feel like I am inching ever closer. I feel like the breathrough is coming.
"Richard Rohr says that the skills that take you through the first half of your life are entirely unhelpful for the second half. The skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, didn't actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable, and really, really, tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be....and I missed her."
-Shauna Niequist
I can't say for certain that I was ever warm and whimsical, but I do miss the person I used to be before I let life crowd her out. I know I need to find her again. I feel it even more significantly as I reflect on the idea that I will soon be raising a daughter. Someone who will someday probably find herself in this very situation. Drowning in her multi tasking and looking for more. Trying to remember what lit up her insides when she was young and not quite so surrounded by responsibilities.
No one ever changes until the pain level gets high enough.
Christmas is almost here. Peace on earth. Hope for the weary world.
God was "silent" for 400 years before Jesus was born.

With each of my pregnancies, I have felt God's silence supremely. I have never heard anyone else speak of feeling this way, so maybe it is just my own experience, my own preparation.

Before my first pregnancy I imagined that carrying a child would be some sort of holy experience, and for some I think it is. But not for me. Before I conceived this precious child, I was enjoying daily rich communion with God. I know He led us to conceive her because I didn't want to. I mostly didn't want to be pregnant again and feel that silence. I also felt that I was already plenty busy with 3. But I trusted God's plans for us, and I still do. I know she was meant to be.

I believe in the sanctity of life. That life starts at conception and that the life inside of me, growing right now, is an incredible miracle, with her whole life written out already in God's book. That's why I think I thought, before I was pregnant, that pregnancy would be such an incredibly spiritual experience.

But I suppose, when it comes down to it, spiritual experiences are not necessarily feelings. Faith is, after all, things that are hoped for, but aren't yet seen. And that pretty much describes what it is like to be pregnant.
There is the hope and the beauty of that moment they place that baby on your chest and you can see and feel and know that everything was worth it: all the sickness, all the tears, all the tired.

Life in general can be like that. Sometimes there's just silence and emptiness in your soul, but the answer is not to fill it up with more movement, even if it feels like you can't stop moving. I'm trying to remember that.
It's morning now, the day before the day before Christmas. I took the day off and am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, somehow, Aquaman's occupational therapist, who won't give me a break, convinced me to bring him in this morning, so we have to get that over with first. After that, I promised all the kids I would take them to the mall to ride the Christmas train.
Everyone has been awake since before 6. Everyone has been talking nonstop. There has already been a fight or two.

But I'm holding on.

Christmas is coming.

The silence of heaven is breaking.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


It's the day before Thanksgiving. The kids were off from school today so they went to have adventures with grandparents while I worked this morning.
 Aquaman and The Dude went to Gatorland with JT's parents.
 And Greystoke went to Noni and Papa's house to "do puzzles and read books". Two of his favorite things.
 I once again find myself sitting here more out of duty than desire.
 It's hard to write when you have barely slowed down to think for a while.
 There is laundry piled up in the walk in closet that serves as our laundry room. The floor needs vacuuming from this morning's cereal run. I need to find a better (higher) hiding place for the Christmas presents The Dude has been discovering. Which is one of the few things I have found hard about living in a small(ish) space.
 Life has been even busier than usual this past week as I prepare for December. December is a sacred time for me, I try to plan something fun and meaningful and Christmassy to do with the boys every day, even if it is very small. I like to have all the presents bought beforehand so I can put those out of my mind. I would really even like to get them wrapped before December this year because I always think that will be fun but with 3 little boys, wrapping presents is just another chore. I ordered a new activity called "Shepherd on the Search" to do with the boys this year and am looking forward to starting that up.
 I am planning my annual Facebook fast in December too.
 So, all in all, I am really really looking forward to December and hopefully deliberately slowing the pace of life for a little while, but preparing for December....well it has made me kind of even more tired.
 Which has made it hard to get into the Thankful mood that tomorrow is supposed to bring.
 But gratitude is the root of joy, I really believe it. And I am thankful for so many things this season.
 For one thing, I am thankful for the rhythms of life.
 I am in a necessary season of craziness. I am preparing for the small rest of December, but right now what I am really preparing for is the new "rest" of bringing a 4th child into the world.
 One of the best things about a baby is the necessary slowing down of its arrival. And I am looking forward to that family bonding period even in its upheavels.
 I am so so thankful for these three boys and this one girl that God has given me.
 Thankful for the moments when they just can't get along with each other. Thankful for the moments when I hear them all taking a shower after a romp in the sandbox, rotating in and out to give each other a turn, learning the give and take that is best learned with siblings. It is in those moments that I am grateful God has given them each other. They learn so much from each other that I could never teach them on my own.
 I am thankful for the moments, 10 minutes after a fist fight, when The Dude says "Aquaman? You're my best friend". And Aquaman says "You're mine, Dude." And The Dude, my huggiest little hugger says to the somewhat more prickly Aquaman: "hug??" And Aquaman says "ok" and they awkwardly hug each other.
 I am so thankful for the better year Aquaman is having in school this year. For the amazing teacher God has given him, for the friends he has placed in his life and that he has gotten his confidence back. Last night Aquaman told me that when he was making his thanksgiving card for me last year, his teacher told the whole class that if they didn't do a great job their parents wouldn't want to take care of them anymore. Now, to be fair, Aquaman felt so bullied by his teacher last year that he may have misinterpreted, but based on my encounters with the man I think the comment was entirely possible.
And I am thankful he doesn't have that teacher anymore. And that for every difficult one there is an amazing one. And that I am not terrified of public school anymore and wondering what I am going to do. And that I am wiser and will better know how to handle it next time.
 I am so thankful for Aquaman's growth, for his uniqueness that challenges me and exhausts me and shows me parts of myself that need to grow. So thankful for the incredible ways that his mind works and the way that a boy who has struggled so much with social and emotional delays can be so incredibly insightful into the hearts of others. Thankful for nightly story time when I read out loud and am constantly interrupted by his interpretation of the events, or his asking questions about them. That used to drive me crazy that he wouldn't just listen, but now I have come to really appreciate the window into his mind and heart at these times (as long as I have not taken my anti nausea medication, which makes me want to pass out, too soon), and it makes choosing new books for him interesting and fun.
 I am so thankful for his relationship with Greystoke. He is so gentle and so kind and so patient most of the time with him. He is so responsible and relishes the opportunities that I necessarily give him to entertain Greystoke and protect him and give him attention. Their friendship is absolutely beautiful. And it makes me look forward even more to seeing the kindness he shows to his baby sister...whom he is, on the outside, still wishing was a boy, but I know he will be absolutely adorable with her.
I am still so thankful for my happy Greystoke. He wakes up in the morning with the biggest smile on his face, and it rarely leaves him. He gives me hundreds and hundreds of hugs every morning, and has so enjoyed being a "big boy" who doesn't nurse anymore and (occasionally) uses the potty, but in the same moment he is always checking in to make sure he is also still my baby.
He is so easy going and flexible. I heard a radio show recently from a psychologist about helping angry kids with replace their "angry thoughts" with "flexible thoughts", with several key phrases to memorize and have been working on them with Aquaman who is so much more open to this stuff this year now that he is not so anxious and depressed. But this child, Greystoke, is just the king of naturally thinking flexibly. Aquaman always looks at him with envy and says "how does he DO that? How does he just say "ok, no big deal, when he really wants something?"
It's a happy life being happy.
He is two and a half now, so he certainly has his moments, but being that he is the third child and he doesn't ask for that much to begin with, I don't fight him nearly as much as I fought the other two. He wants to change clothes for the 3rd time because he got a miniscule amount of water on his shirt? Ok. Go for it. Whatever. Life is short.
His happiness makes him brave too. There is not much he is afraid of. And I often wonder what kind of adventures are in store for that guy. I'm just so glad that today I get to know him and to see him. It's pretty impossible to have a bad day with him around.
And I am so thankful for the Dude. He is all fire and strong will and extremes. He is the classic middle child, fighting all day with both brothers, and often finding himself left out and then longing to be let in. I am most looking forward to watching The Dude with his little sister. I feel that she is my biggest gift to him. The Dude and Greystoke are his best friends and worst enemies. But I really feel that this little girl will be his sweetheart.
He is such a wiry and affectionate, explosive and gracious little boy. He has settled down at school, getting three stars every day since the teacher started her new reward system. He is still struggling with his writing but he works away at it patiently, sometimes tapping his forehead and saying to himself "ohhhh focus. Why won't you focus??" Or "Oh I hope this M doesn't turn into a W!!" He was evaluated by the OT at school who felt that his fine motor skills were fine and that he was simply immature. Big shocker. I am dying, at this point, to let him repeat kindergarten and go at his own older boys at least just seem to be late bloomers like their Dad and I am totally ok with that. He will grow up and be ready to write soon enough. I don't want a discouraging 1st grade. But we'll see. It's still early in the year.
He loves playing games, especially Candyland. He doesn't play much with toys, preferring strange things like rubber tubing, or bits of string, nails stuck into crayons, or hammering a coquina rock. I love his creativity and so far at least I am relatively sure he is the only extrovert in our family, and I love to watch him bubble up inside and bloom among people.
I am so so thankful for the flexibility of my job. That I can pick the boys up from school every day if I want to, and thankful that I don't because the grandparents love spending time with them. I am thankful that I can make The Dude cream of wheat with strawberries in the middle of the afternoon, and break up all their fights and watch them play in the sandbox even though there are a million other things to do. Thankful for the extra income right now so that we can save for the new air conditioner and the maternity leave and the additions we are going to need to make on our home eventually and retirement and everything else we need to be saving for.
And thankful for the opportunity to see the other side of life, the elderly, who have been there done that and are looking back.
I am mostly thankful that JT does not have to work two jobs anymore. That he comes home at nights now and we can make campfires on the grill, or play Candyland together, or take a walk, or play trains. And especially thankful for this month and the next when he has weekends off and we can have a vacation every single week just being together.
I am so thankful for JT and who he is and for 9.5 years of marriage. Thankful for how much I love to be near him, for how he understands me, for how gently and adeptly he loves me throughout these crazy days in our lives, even when we are both tired and the work is never done.
I am thankful for the returning energy of my pregnancy though it hasn't come back as quickly as I had hoped. Thankful that even though I am still nauseous and resigning myself to the fact that it may remain the rest of the pregnancy, that at least I seem to have stopped getting sick.
It still hasn't really fully registered that I am going to have a little girl in the spring, but I am so thankful for surprises like that. For moments of realizing that you are being given a most special gift that you didn't even know you wanted. I know she is going to really be something. I can't wait, can't wait, to meet her.
I am thankful for cooler weather, and holidays, and family, and friends.

For two sets of grandparents that just pour into my kids, that love them and give to them because they want to, not because they have to. My children are so lucky to have that kind of village around them, I know so many do not.
I am thankful for our little house. The house that I really hated early in my pregnancy because every time I walked into it I would smell something and throw up.
It felt small and hot and cramped and claustrophobic.
But now that I am feeling better again it just feels like home. It feels like peace. It feels cozy.
The more time goes by the more we talk about staying here, which I know so many will think is crazy, but I guess we are minimalists at heart.
I don't want to deprive my kids or make them feel claustrophobic, but there is a no trend toward smaller houses, and I think it is a good trend.
We're family, we don't need to hide from each other.
We've realized we can enclose our porch, our balcony, and even knock out the wall between the walk in closets and make them a bedroom. So we can still have some small private spaces.
We love our neighborhood, love our schools, and most of all love the financial freedom of not being slaves to a mortgage. I don't want a huge house that I have to work and miss my kids' childhoods to pay for. In the end, I think the best gift I can give them is to show them that people matter more than stuff. That time is more important than money.
But I digress. I guess what I am saying is, I am thankful for options.
A year ago I never would have guessed we'd have a baby girl on the way. Life is full of surprises like that.
I am thankful for surprises.

I am thankful that God endlessly pursues me. That every time I open His word He comforts me with something new. Thankful that when I get "too busy" to search for Him and make time for Him and make space for Him, He waits patiently for me and doesn't condemn me, only loves me.
Just looks at me and loves me.