Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Redrawing the lines. What? I'm Monica.

Just when I think I have a good handle on the day to day, when it seems as though we are falling into a comfortable routine, when life gets, well, easier ... just then something turns this little family unit topsy- turvy and its mommy struggles to regain her footing and do her best to love, comfort, protect and return the other members back to rights.   I am learning that is not necessarily my job.  Something that makes my back itch even as I think it ... as Matt says "Maybe the lines need to be redrawn."

All my life continuing on through this very day, I have been attracted to friends who are less rigid than me.  My closest friends, my husband included, are less concerned with structure and more concerned with having a good time.  Being breezy is an attribute I aspire to, but let's face it.  As much as I'd rather be Rachel, I am Monica.  I function better when my little ducks are in a row and my house is spotless; with a wonderful meal cooking in the oven and the trash can is emptied; when baby and children wake up and sleep in a glorious rhythm.  But hey, this is life.  It's humorous watching a Monica on a t.v show.  I can only imagine that this real life version isn't easy to live with.

Over time, I have made small improvements and subtle adjustments.  I think it's a huge deal that I no longer vacuum several times a day.  That I can accept that the laundry will never be completely done is huge for me.  The fact that I am writing (because it is good for my soul) instead of straightening my home is a little victory.  Usually I get to the beginning of a new year and I have my list of resolutions, but this December I've decided to begin my year anew.  This season, instead of focusing on the "have-to's" I am redirecting my attention to the love-to's. 

What has spurred this on is multi-faceted.  First, the lines need to be redrawn for my children.  Just because I was a kid who accepted the rules and formulas for Math without explanation, doesn't mean that my children will.  Has God given me kids that need to know the whys to exasperate me?  Sometimes I think so, but if I redirect my attention to his heart for me, I realize that perhaps he is trying to teach me something.  Maybe ... just maybe ... he wants to slow me down.  Does he sigh in exhaustion when his plans for me take longer than planned?  No.  He has always allowed me to question why.

Second, I am inspired.  Inspired by friends who always let their kids be kids.  Inspired by those who get things done with a smile on their face.  Awed by my husband, who doesn't do things my way, is usually distracted and lost in thought, but who intentionally loves with abandon, goofs off with the kids, answers the whys and makes me laugh.  Blown away by friends who just live life without worrying about a list.  I want that, but the perfectionist in recovery in me needs to be told that I can't make this change instantaneously!

Third, my kiddos are in a difficult season.  Little Nicholas is teething and having sleep issues which I'm too exhausted to effectively deal with because I do too much during the day.  Sweet Bethany's sweetness sometimes (daily) fails her and she gives way to fits of frustration and impatience.  Lucas loves school, but can't seem to have two good days in a row and more frequently cries than is normal.  All this has caused me to reconsider my values and my goals for each day.  My heart cannot be fixated on straightening and falter into despair when I can't seem to get my kids.

So in this season of remembering what our Heavenly Father did for us, as I think on the great cost he paid, I refocus myself realizing that there is no good thing that I would withhold from my children, if my heart is in the right place.  Christmas is, after all, about love.

Each year I find a couple Christmas storybooks to give to our children.  It started when Lucas was rounding out my tummy seven Christmases ago, and I've been reading ever since.  I am excited about this years purchases.  The first is The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (if you haven't read it, please do) and the second is new and all about the Christmas Spirit.  I am excited to declare to my children in story and in truth demonstrated by my actions that just like Christmas began with the love of a child, so mine continues as I accept his love and extend it unconditionally to them through answering the questions of a childlike heart, comforting in the midst of frustration, sitting up at three in the morning, attempting to establish good sleep patterns, and constantly reassuring them that they are in a safe place, in our love and care and in the hands of a loving Father who wants the absolute best for them.  God help this Monica in this endeavor.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Belated Meal Plan

We had a wonderful time with my in-laws, but like all good things it had to end, yesterday.  The house is a little quieter, family seems a little dearer and the holidays are closer.  I miss them ... A LOT! But I have to get the family back into our routine, which for me means my daily workout, regular naps for the baby and a meal plan.  I'm keeping it easy this week.

Monday: Chicken and vodka sauce over spaghetti, freshly grated parmesan and sauteed spinach (I have a great recipe for vodka sauce, but for the sake of ease went with jarred last night.)

Tuesday: Avocado explosion salad

Wednesday: Italian slow cooked steak, asparagus and focaccia

Thursday: Chuckwagon Chili with cheese, sour cream and chips

Friday: Make your own pizza night and Caesar salad

Saturday: Grocery Shopping and a new plan

Monday, October 11, 2010

This Week's Meals

We are expecting company on Wednesday.  I am super-excited about seeing my mother and father-in-law, but I didn't want to be tied down to a plan so I've bought food to be flexible with but just planned meals through their first night.

Sunday: Braised Pork Loin in red wine and rosemary with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans oreganato
Monday: Grilled marinated steak with baked potatoes and caesar salad
Tuesday: Lemon skillet chicken with roasted asparagus and angel hair with pesto
Wednesday: Shrimp Victoria with rice and country greens

"First of all, we are making a compost"

I love the way my kids pick up on little words and phrases.  About a year ago, I was helping in kid's church and enjoying playing with my then two year old daughter in the little kitchen.  She brought me breakfast and always wanting to hear what's going on in her head I asked "What are we eating?' To which she replied "Pancakes.  Apparently, I yuv (love) pancakes."  Apparently was her word of choice for several months.

When Lucas was one, we got him his first set of Fisher Price Little People.  These were some of my favorite toys as a kid and I get really entertained watching the kids play with them.  The first building he got was the barn which plays Old Macdonald and I would sing and play alongside Lucas.  He began asking to play with yi-yos and it took us a short time to realize that he was saying "E-I-Os."  The name stuck and Little People (and animals) are still E-I-Os in our house.

Bethany's latest turn of phrase is "first of all" and it comes before anything she may be thinking about at the time.  Yesterday, I was nursing the baby and it got a little too quiet in the other room.  As soon as Nicholas was through, I went to discover what the kids were up to, but all I saw was a huge mess in my kitchen.  Now, the kids know that the kitchen is my space and that they are not to go in there without permission or an accompanying adult.  All I saw was wasted food and goop smeared on the counter and floor.  When I calmly (I was mild with them and later vented a bit on facebook) asked "What are you doing?"Bethany said "First of all, we are making a compost."

I love PBS ... if my kids are watching TV it is usually PBS, but right then I hated Curious George who had just learned how to make compost.  You'll recall that I love coupons because it is a simple way I can contribute to our savings while staying home with our kids ... I hate waste.  You will also remember that I do not like messes, few recovering perfectionists do.  I wish that I had thought to take a picture, but I was more concerned with cleaning the mess up before the baby awakened from the children pleading with me to save the "compost."  I am out of peanut butter, ketchup, brown mustard, salad dressing, and some yogurt.  I have fewer tea bags and less ground coffee, but what I do have is one more memory to add to all those that pepper my kid's childhood and my mommy-hood.  (I will be looking for coupons to replace the aforementioned products.)

I am so grateful for active children with wild imaginations.  It is a wonderful gift that my kids aren't content playing video games or watching television.  On days when I am tired and feeling a little selfish, I wish I could just turn the t.v on and leave the room to take a nap.  Truth be told, the only naps I've taken since having babies were in the days when my mother-in-law stayed with us immediately following their births.  I have been a hands on parent and so my children are what I've trained them to be, but parenting this type of child requires a great amount of attention and little "me" time, or so I've thought for a long time.  True, I can't leave my kids alone for too long or their imaginations will cause them to wander from obedience to making their thoughts come to life, but if I don't take time for me, that is not their fault, nor my husband's.

Every once in a while I will hear about what someone else has made of their life, and I don't get jealous or remorseful, but the romantic in me kicks into high gear and I think "Gee, I'd love to be a nurse or an interior designer or a personal chef."  What I realize when I pause to count my blessings is that my life is filled with variety, the kind that can throw a perfectionist planner into a tizzy, but none-the-less I will never feel like I do the exact same thing each day.  I do nurse sick children and my best friend, regularly.  I get to buy and place furniture, pictures and nic-nacs in my home.  I spend much of each day planning, preparing and serving food, on top of the many other things I am blessed to do.

As a new stay-at-home mom, I am learning that each day will mirror my own perspective.  If I am feeling like their world will fall apart without my constant involvement, then I will forgo my shower and further grooming, but will needlessly blame it on them.  I hope I'm raising children who will one day embrace their independence as capable beings and I trust I am always serving but never enabling laziness.  Sure if I take my shower and do my hair and make-up, I may find a painting of lotion and soap (that Bethany was very proud of by the way), a naked little boy with diaper cream war paint or a compost of food staples that will cost to replace, but I will feel better about myself and will be better able to care for them, because I have not been neglected.  Most of all, they will not feel resented for my lack of me time.

I want to do great things and be amazing for my family, but I can't be someone I am not.  I love clothes (I wish I could fit into my favorites right now), so staying in my postpartum jammies all day will just depress me.  For me, experimenting with make-up is fun.  While the ponytail can be a godsend, it often encourages me in my own laziness ... taking ten minutes to dry my hair with a round brush can have a positive effect on my day.  It is easier to count my blessings when I am not giving in to feeling bad about myself because I haven't taken the time to eat healthily, get ready for the day, exercise, or have much needed quiet time. 

Even as I write this, Bethany is prancing through the living room, blanket around her waist and another on her head, pretending to get married.  How can I help but smile?  My princess is dreaming.  Sure she can't fold the blankets, so it is one more thing for me to clean up, but having taken 30 minutes to get myself ready for the day has enabled me to not think of her dream as taking away a couple more minutes of me time.  Instead, I am engaging her in the moment.  "What a beautiful bride you are Beth," and hoping that before the blanket becomes a real dress and the other a veil, that I embrace her imagination now.  She will only be my little girl for a short while ... I know it will pass all too quickly. 

So I will smile and redirect when Lucas is using Matt's belt to hang from the beams in the laundry room as Indiana Jones.  I will stop what I'm doing to dance when Bethany wants to "get murried."  With pleasure will I laugh when Nicholas thinks it is the coolest thing that he can pump his legs hard enough to make his seat bang on the kitchen floor.  What higher calling, greater job or better entertainment could I be given than that which involves loving my sweet-pea, princess or precious monkey?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I am not the woman I was, nor the one I will be

I am realizing every day that I am in a season of becoming.  We really all spend most of our lives becoming, but for someone who likes to check things off her list and see tangible accomplishment, the becoming is daunting. I am hopeful that I never settle for less than I was intended to be, just so I can achieve something. 

Confession: I was walking to the school to pick up my little boy yesterday.  It was a nice crisp Fall afternoon, the kind that are rare in Southern California.  I had the baby and my three year old bundled up, several umbrellas in case it happened to rain and a nice homemade latte in my travel mug.  Enjoyable? Yes.  About three minutes into my walk, I got a call from the school.  Oh no, I thought, Lucas is either hurt or in trouble.  It turns out, he was neither, but I had completely forgotten that school gets out an hour early on Tuesdays.  In one moment, all my confidence in motherhood, loving, and care-taking in general evaporated.  I became the crummiest of mothers.  I forgot my son at school.  Forget that I was on my way, and that it is only the second week of early dismissal.  Throw aside the fact that my thyroid has been off, which just makes me off.  Completely devoid of any good excuse, I was paralyzed with the realization that my journey of becoming is still in its earliest stages.  

I am still embarrassed, shaken, downright frustrated with myself.  I had gotten so wrapped up in my other responsibilities that I forgot one of my greatest.  How relieved am I that my son did not seem the least bit traumatized by this incident?  How humbled I am that children are often more full of grace than we are as adults.  I doubt, twenty-four hours after the fact, that he has even given it a second thought, and yet here I am still fussing at myself over this most horrifying moment of motherhood.

Today of course is a new day, full of new possibilities and little victories and its own mistakes.  I am inspired by its newness.  I am searching for revived passion, throwing unwarranted responsibility to the wind.  Whoever said that if you made a meal plan you have to stick to it?  What dictated that the house has to be spotless?  Who cares if the laundry is put away or the mopped floors stay clean for more than an hour?  See I live in a box whose walls I constructed.  I'm breaking down its confines.  Will I mess up again?  Definitely.  I'm a human, but will I mess up because I'm trying to be responsible?  I hope never again.   

I always imagined myself being over-the-top successful in a career.  I never got around to the career I foresaw.  I never dreamed that my days would be filled with wiping countless bottoms, magically erasing sharpie from walls and furniture, preparing meals, picking up dirty roos (what my kids call underware) and rolling in and out of bed with often nary a thought of my own fulfillment.  It is easy to get discouraged when days pass and that's all I've noticed myself doing.   Doubtless, if I focus on all that, rather than the boo boos I've kissed, hearts I've reassured, lullabies I've sung, hugs given, or love imparted I will be downtrodden.  

More than ill equipped I am to raise three children and be a good wife, but it is the task I've been given.  I want to find pleasure in all things so that I don't come to die and find that all my epitaph says is "She tried to keep her house clean."  I owe more grace and life to myself and to my family than that.  In this new day, in this season, it is my one responsibility to breathe love, grace, and life into my husband and children.  All else is secondary.  My house may always look lived in, but I will fill my days with loving irrationally.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Things I've Learned

These are the things I've learned in the past week.

1. I have a love/hate relationship with ponytails.  I hate that their ease makes it easy for me to be lazy.  I love that when it's hot and I don't want to dry my hair or when I really am just too busy to do anything else with it, I can pull my hair back and move on with my day.

2. My husband isn't as strong as God.  Yes, I knew this before this morning, but the following was so humorous to me, that it had to be included on this list.  On the way to school this morning, Lucas informed Matt that he's not as strong as God.  Uncle Josh and Uncle Joey, are almost as strong as God (hmmm ...), because when Uncle Joey showed Lucas his muscle, it made a bubble.  When Lucas showed Bethany his muscle it made a line.  Therefore, Luke also is not as strong as God.

3. God knows when I really need a break.  I would never rejoice that it is so hot outside that the church office is too hot to work in, but Matt came home shortly after he left this morning, and decided to work in our back room because of the heat.  I haven't seen him any more than normal, but he needed the computer and that keeps me from doing unnecessary researching, couponing, procrastinating on facebook, playing games, and forces me to take a break.  It has been nice.  Just knowing that the love of your life is in the house with you, even if you can't really spend time with him is comforting too.

4.  I now have 24 pounds to lose (19 to get back to my pre-Nicholas-pregnancy weight).  For whatever reason, that feels more doable than the 50 I had to lose after Nicholas was born or even the 25 it was last week.  The end is in sight.  The baby is only 4 1/2 months old so I still need to allow myself four-eight months to lose the weight, but I am happy with my progress.

5. When I was a teacher, I would sometimes take a mental health day because I felt I needed a break.  You can't do that as a stay-at-home mom, but one probably needs it as much if not more than when one works outside of the home.  I think that's because as a mother, I am emotionally invested in the outcome of each day.  I am grateful that I am sick today.  Thankful because I feel okay about being showered, but not made up ... dressed, but in comfy clothes ... blessed with an excuse for maintaining, not accomplishing.  To top off my day of rest like the icing on a cake, my friend (and former child care provider) Jessica came and took Bethany for a "date."  I have a quiet house in which to let my stomach settle and my head stop spinning; Quiet for now that is.

In a couple of minutes, Lucas will come home from school and Bethany will finish her date and my arms will be quite literally full ... in the best way.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New every morning

As much as I do not want to admit this, I have only experienced spontaneous unconditional love toward three people in my life; I have chosen love more frequently, but as far as loving because I just can't help it? I think that only happens when you exude love for your children.  It is no wonder that we are born as infants.  When my babies were moments old, Lucas and Nicholas were both blue from the cord being wrapped around their precious necks and bruised from traumatic entries into the world, and Bethany had a very distinct nose and looked nothing like me, as funny looking as newborns are, my love for them couldn't help but overflow and ever since that day I find myself telling everyone how amazing my children are.  Like I said, it is no accident that we do not enter the world as 13 year olds who "know" everything.

I've been thinking about this a lot today, because I'm exhausted.  No one but my children could keep me up for hours in the middle of the night and suffer no ill will from me the next day.  Little Nicholas, I am almost positive, has allergies.  He was so congested in the night that sleep was next to impossible ... for both of us.  I appreciate how sweet and happy he was.  The only time he complained was when the aspirator had to be used (multiple times) to clear his tiny airways.  And so, like I did with both Lucas and Bethany, I sat up for nearly three hours comforting, clearing and cajoling him back to sleep whilst watching episodes of Friends. (I collected the series during my first pregnancy so I would have something to keep me awake during middle of the night feedings.)

You know you're tired when you start wishing for the next morning's cup of coffee before you've even had dinner.  Even when the mom has been up for half of her sleeping hours, she still must be awake first and other than during my pregnancy with Nicholas, I have never been a good napper,  so I have been less than patient today.  How grateful am I that when the day is over, it is over.  That no matter how many times I've been short fused today, "Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it" (Montgomery).  God knew what he was doing when he made day and evening.  Somewhere in eternity, he knew that we would need a fresh start, and it's more than thrilled I am that His mercies are new every morning.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Meal Planning

When I plan my family's meals there are a few things I like to take into account.  First of all, I love cooking, but I cannot be overly ambitious because I have three kids aged five and younger.  Second, I like to keep meals healthy.  Third, we will eat leftovers once a week for dinner and often for lunch.  And fourth, no matter how much I'm craving steak, if it's not a good price we will not eat it! 

At least once a week I like to plan a meal that the kids can help with.  If we are home on a Friday night that is generally when such a meal is prepared.  Keeping these things in mind, here is our meal plan for the next two weeks.

Saturday: red beans (with sausage) and rice with cornbread
Sunday: Artichoke and Mushroom Chicken with sauteed spinach
Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, focaccia and caesar salad
Tuesday: Skillet Chicken with Lemon, broccoli
Wednesday: Jerk Chicken and Caribbean Slaw
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Fajitas and Beans
Saturday: Balsamic Braised Chicken with pasta and salad
Sunday: Baked BBQ chicken, homemade mac and cheese and a veggie (yet to be determined)
Monday: Italian Meatloaf and sauteed veggies
Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp skewers and veggies on the grill
Wednesday: Chuck wagon Chili with chips and cheese
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza and Sensation Salad

Bethany and I will also bake some pumpkin muffins this week, because even though it's 96 degrees outside, it is fall!

Unmerited Favor

This has been quite the day.  First of all, my kids and my husband graciously allowed me to sleep in until 8!  I had decided last night that since I've been using coupons, I wanted to get to the store early to do 2 weeks worth of grocery shopping.  If I beat the rush, I don't feel as bad about the time it takes for me to check out with my cart full of food and my hand full of coupons.  Feeling ambitious and wanting to give Matt a bit of a break (and a real opportunity to put some laundry away), I took the two youngest kids along with me.
Sparing you the whole narrative of an extra trip to and from Vons before I ever started shopping, let's just say that I finished about two hours after I began (believe me that's quick when you have a 4 month old harnessed to the front of you and a 3 year old, clad in a leotard dancing around you all while trying to make the best purchases) and had an entire trunk load of groceries when I left. 

Can I just say that I love coupons?  I love the money they save me and the possibilities they provide.  I wouldn't call myself cheap, but I am practical and so we often go without convenience food such as yogurt cups and cereal because they are so very expensive.  I love that since I started shopping with coupons, I spend less than I did before, but also have some foods that I don't have to prepare from scratch.  If a kid wants a snack they can grab a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt.  I love that I got four boxes of cereal for $2.31 as opposed to the $16 it costs before coupons.  I love that I got $28 worth of yogurt for $6 the other day. 

Anyhow, today wasn't my biggest of savings, but I am way under budget and I have healthy and convenient food and meals planned for my sweet family for the next two weeks.  More about that later ... when I came home I was shocked that all of the laundry was put away, another load started, dirty dishes in the sink (alas we do not have a dishwasher, unless I change my name), floors swept and vacuumed.  There was my sweet husband loving me in a very real way.  This would mean a great deal if Matt's love language was acts of service, but it's not and it means all the more because of this.  I love to clean (I just wish it stayed clean once I do it); Matt does not.  My husband did the very things he he hates to do on his day off, because he loves me more than I ever give him credit for.

I feel loved.  I am sitting in an almost clean home, feeding the baby and writing, while my husband plays with the kids in the front yard.  I feel loved not because of his accomplishment, but because of the sacrifice.  Today I am thankful that I have received unmerited favor in the gift of Matt.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kids Will Be Kids

I spent the first 8 years of my real adult life teaching in one way or another.  Sometimes I was teaching and tutoring and doing in-home teaching, just to keep from going into debt while Matt pursued his graduate degree.  In that time I ran across many kids who were taking zero period, playing a school sport and a club sport, highly involved in student government, playing the lead in the school play, taking vocal or instrumental lessons, trying to have a social life and be involved in church and let's not forget maintaining their GPA with the hopes of graduating at the top of their class. 

In my teaching years, I made a few decisions about me and my kids.  First, I decided that as soon as we could afford to do so, I would need to invest far more time into my kids lives.  Why?  So that I can do everything in my power to ensure that my kids don't become like some of the kids I taught.  It's not worth working just to put my kids in private school, if I can't be super-involved in their daily life.  I am the parent regardless of where my children are schooled.  Second, I decided that even though I am an overachiever, I will only push my kids to do their personal best.  That means that they may not get an A in every class.  I will internally learn to be okay with this.  Third, I will let my children have a childhood that so many kids do not get now-a-days.  I want them to do the things they are good at and the things they want to do, once they have done the things they have to do. 

As a child, I spent hours riding my bicycle, rollerskating (sometimes in our basement), playing with dolls well beyond the years that kids do now, gathering flowers to make (and sell) perfume.  I made mud pies that once included packages left behind by my grandparents' dog (I ashamedly allowed a willing neighbor to eat said pie).  I fed ducks and caught minnows, frogs and caterpillars, which subsequently took over my mom's family room.  I tobogganed, skated, and sled until my cheeks were red and my hands and toes numb with cold.  We played until we had to come in because the sun was setting, we were just about as dirty as we could get or the snow had melted through our layers of clothing.  I want that for my children.

I have amazing memories from my childhood, and I've grown into this sometimes uptight adult that would stifle her own kids' exploration and fun if I didn't do a lot of self talk.  When Lucas and Bethany were a little younger they got into mud for the first time and I freaked out.  I realized they were having a brilliant time and decided then that I would not stop their fun, but would from then on come supplied with an abundance of wipes, extra clothes and sometimes pajamas so that they could have as much fun as they want, within the boundaries of safety of course.

All of these ideals and decisions do not stop me from occasionally having a Lindsey moment.  The other night when the kids were playing outside, Bethany fell.  There is something in a mother, that escapes a father, I think.  That is, I feel the pain that they feel.  I cry when they are sick, get shots, get hurt.  I found myself saying in this particular situation "Now, we shouldn't run."  As the words escaped my lips I looked at my husband and we both just started laughing.  What a ridiculous thing to tell children who are outside playing in their yard.  Even as I sit here, I've fought the temptation to place unneeded rules on their fun this afternoon.  They are blowing bubbles, playing in the the garden and running through the sprinkler.  Inevitably on these afternoons they make several trips inside, dripping dirty water on the floor and leaving wet footprints throughout the house.  There is some self-talk going on and it sounds like this "Lindsey, your floor is dirty anyhow.  What is a little extra dirt and some water?  Let them get their water guns and bubble refills.  What does the mess matter in the light of eternity?"

I will let my kids be kids for the little while that precious existence can remain.  What a blessing childhood is.  How profound that God knows we need  a little humor and the ability to relive some of our own first years with our kids.  We needn't take life so seriously and I am reminded of that as I look at their drenched bodies, grassy feet and muddy faces.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You Are Not Alone

A few years back, before I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid and way more craziness ensued than my present reality (hard to believe, I know), I would have more bad days than good days.  There were times when my dear, sweet husband would feel the need to leave work and come check on me and the kids because of frantic phone calls received with kids crying in the background and me sobbing in the foreground.  Hey, I said before that motherhood has been an adventure for me ... and like all journeys there have been highs and lows.  Anyhow, I digress.  Upon arriving at our tiny town home, Matt would find me completely distraught, and sometimes sitting in the dark, crying (if the kids were napping).  That was a season I never saw coming, and I recall as I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid several months into this darkness, I was relieved to know that some of what I experienced was medically explainable and thus correctable.

For anyone who has had a chemical or hormonal imbalance, you know that correcting with medication can take time.  It is not a quick fix, and through the months of blood work, adjusting meds, coping and healing that followed, when we as a family or a couple would get into the car to go somewhere, my husband would often have this song playing:

Can't believe it's over I watched the whole thing fall
And I never saw the writing that was on the wall
If I only knew the days were slipping past
That the good things never last, that you were crying

Summer turned to winter and the snow it turned to rain
And the rain turned into tears upon your face
I hardly recognize the girl you are today
And God I hope it's not too late
It's not too late

Cause you are not alone
I'm always there with you
And we'll get lost together

til the light comes pouring through
It\'s when you feel like you're done
And the darkness has won
Babe, you're not lost
When your world's crashing down
And you can't bear the cross
I said, babe, you're not lost

Life can show no mercy and it can tear your soul apart
It can make you feel like you've gone crazy but you're not
When things have seemed to change, there's one thing that's still the same
In my heart you have remained
And we can fly fly fly away

'Cause you are not alone
And I am there with you
And we'll get lost together
'til the light comes pouring through
When you feel like you're done
And the darkness has won
Babe, you're not lost
When the world's crashing down
And you cannot bear the cross
I said, baby, you're not lost

I woke up this morning and I could tell right away that this day had the grim potential of being "a day."  I just wanted to climb back into bed (what mom of a newborn doesn't desire that) and let the cleaning fairy come and set things right in my world (meaning my little house).  Like I said yesterday, I get overwhelmed with not being able to get everything on my list done, and let me just tell you, I knew from 6:30 this morning that my list was far too long to conquer today.  Nevertheless, I threw on clothes, had several cups of coffee and got both kids off to school.  While driving my middle child to school I called Matt and let him know, in case he hadn't realized, that I'm having a bad day.  He knew.  And was quick to remind me that when I sit in a group of moms and they offer help or encouragement, it's because they to have been here.  I am not alone.

I never thought I'd find comfort in a Michael Buble song, and yet even as I read the lyrics I find myself reassured.  Reassured that when I'm not getting it quite right, when I don't feel beautiful because I've still got an extra 25 pounds of baby weight hugging my tummy and lower half, knowing when if I walk on my own floor in white socks those socks will need to be laundered, when my son goes to school without socks on because he's run out, when we have to use our handy certificates because said meat (from yesterday's post) never thawed, that I am not alone because of four things. 

1. I have been gifted with an incredible husband who lived on love and oatmeal with me for at least the first two years of our marriage, and even though I think he cares about the mess or my disheveled appearance, his love for me is unconditional.

2. There are these three amazing children who offer me smiles, hugs, kisses and life's unanswerable questions at every turn because they think I'm great and that I know everything.  (That won't last forever)

3. Because there are countless mothers who have gone before me, walk beside me, who get it.  Their houses sometimes look like mine and they struggle with similar issues.

4. Because the Creator did not design us to go it alone.  Community was invented and destined to be part of my reality by him.

I am not alone ... I may sometimes be lost, but we're lost together.

With this in mind I am giving myself grace today.  Here is my humble to do list.

1. vent a little -- check
2. drop off and pick up kids from school
3. quiet time
4. watch a chick flick (maybe fold some laundry at the same time)
5. shower
6. cuddle each child and help with homework
7. make dinner
8. in-home date night

Rustic Reality

There are few things more calming than holding a sleeping baby and sipping a cup of tea.  As I've progressed through this day I've found myself wondering countless times when life is going to slow down.  It's when that question remains unanswered that I find myself going against the pediatrician's instructions and my own better intuition and I feed the baby to sleep, not before getting a nice hot drink and a book, magazine or the computer.

I don't know if it's because I live in Los Angeles or if it is my innate inability to relax or if it is just the season of life I am in; most likely it is a combination of these factors, but I always seem to be busy.  And while I am running around, my house is never as clean as it ought to be, I've not made myself look presentable, the meat for dinner is not thawed ... it's 2:15 and I'm speed walking to the elementary school to pick up my son, while fretting about the load of laundry sitting on my sofa getting wrinkled.  And I wonder, where has my day gone?

By nature, I am an overachiever.  It is not enough to accomplish some of the things on my list (and yes, even as a stay-at-home mom, I have a list), I want to get it all finished every day of the week.  When I don't, I get nervous.  When I'm nervous I get overwhelmed.  When I'm overwhelmed, I want everyone around me to shift into high gear and accomplish.

My husband walked into such a home last night -- an atmosphere I had created.  I tried to change ... to settle myself down.  Trying was not enough to change my mood nor my mode of operation.  I really want to create a peace filled home.  I pray daily that I will be an instrument of peace and that patience will emanate from me.  I am not and it does not.  Granted on my best days I can be that which I long for, but yesterday it escaped me.

When the kids were still awake at 8:30 and I walked through the house picking up after the three little people (and one not so little person) who, despite my pleas and attempts at training, drop their belonging all over the house; realizing there was still a lunch and a snack to be made, dishes to be finished, laundry to be folded, and a much deserved shower to be taken, I became overwhelmed and all I wanted to do was head to a blockbuster kiosk, retrieve a chick flick and shut my brain off.  What I needed to do was settle a baby down to sleep and listen to my husband ... to be what he needed me to be; kind, patient, empathetic, and safe.  Sure I got around to being all those things I unwittingly vowed to be eight years ago, but why does it take such effort?

This morning I was struck with the realization that although I think to myself often of how selfish those around me are, I am just that.   That it is because it is impossible to separate myself from my humanity I am selfish.  Yes, I definitely spend the majority of my time doing for others to the point that when I get into bed each night, I feel I've earned my sleep, but when something doesn't go my way I become infantile.  I may not cry like my baby (well, let's face it, sometimes I do), but I throw the adult version of a hissy fit.  How dare my husband need me when I've been caring for his children all day, picking up his dirty clothes, cooking his food, doing his dishes.

I left my tantrum unfinished and took my shower hours after I wanted to.  As the water streamed over my head, I allowed it to symbolically wash away all the things I loathe about myself, yet often won't claim as mine.  How much slower would life be if I didn't waste time feeling sorry for myself or complaining about the gift of having four incredible people to care for?  Aren't I thankful that Matt (my husband) is not all the things that I am, that he never makes me feel as though he's done enough for me already.  God forgive me for the times when I fail him and in doing so fail Him.

As I start a new adventure this morning (all days seem to be such lately), I have great aspirations for the day.  I have visions of my house becoming pristine, of working out to get the pre-baby body back, of cuddling my sweet Nicholas, of warm cookies coming out of the oven as my children arrive home, an amazing meal prepared, of me helping Lucas and Bethany with their homework with an immense amount of patience, followed by them peacefully drifting off to sleep and spending quality time with my husband.  All this is a dream.  I am messy ... and those that I call my own are too.  We are people and while life can be harmonious, it will never match my imagined perfection, and so I must set aside my lofty ideas and accept rustic reality, knowing that I will go through this day loving and that must be enough.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Return of the Blog

I started this blog over a year ago as more of an online personal journal, but with working, child rearing and having a 9 month pregnancy induced nausea and exhaustion, I was forced to set it aside. It was a journey of loss, self-exploration and child awareness that caused me to seriously reconsider the path I was on a year ago, and now here I find myself with no more time but much more of a need of outlet than I did before I became a stay-at-home mom. Sure I have great conversations with my kids, but often by the time my husband comes home from work and dinner is made, family fed, dishes done, children bathed, cuddled, read to, and finally asleep, my own exhaustion sets in and many a day passes without my having expressed myself meaningfully. And so ... the return of the blog.

Motherhood has been an adventure to say the least. When I first held one of my own babies I experienced the giving of unconditional love, but that love was quickly overshadowed with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and often fear. The second time I held a precious gift, I loved again; and this love caused me to reduce my work load, because I had an all too familiar knowledge that time speeds by and the moments of firsts, exhaustion, crying, nursing, fears, and slobbery baby kisses pass like the blink of those precious infant eyes. The third time I anticipated love lasted only weeks and when my hope was lost, I had to rediscover the treasures that had been placed in my care. This too was a journey, one that I do not regret, but every once in a while when I am out or just checking on the kiddos, I feel like a little someone is missing ... the child that only my heart knows. When I first held our fourth baby, my world stopped, and simultaneously I relived the first years with my first two blessings, the loss of my third, and the miracle of my fourth and I knew what I was placed on this earth for.

I never thought I would fall in love again, yet I have and I find myself on a new quest. It is one of creating a safe place both in my arms and in our home for our three children and my husband and I have no clue what I'm doing! Being a perfectionist and a mother don't really go together. I get it desperately wrong far more often than right, but as I learn I must trust that the One who created me loves me too much to leave me the way I am and will grow me. I'm just a caterpillar now and must be content yet striving onward at the same time. Sure there are days when it feels like the sky is falling and others when I'm on top of the world. Life with three young children is not easy; indeed, my arms are often quite literally full and yet my hands must always remain open, knowing that while I want to protect, nurture -- control (really), these gifts are not my own and I am just a willing vessel entrusted with the weighty task of raising them and releasing them.

I may some days get sidetracked with my shadow mission of being supermom or struggle with my Martha Stewart complex, but in the end what will matter is that I loved and that even when I lose it, I've loved in such a way that my children and my husband never have to wonder about it. Even now, my arms are full but my hands and my heart are open. I am honored to be on this journey with so many mommy-friends that do it better than me, those who without knowing it are teaching me. Here's to the journey ...