February 27, 2012

Happy 6-month Birthday, Asher!

Today is Asher's six month birthday. Craziness. Serious craziness. This post is mostly for my own sake, to look back and remember, because at this rate he will be 14 by tomorrow.

Sweet, chubby Asher. Your rolls and your lovey-doviness break my heart every single day. And speaking of rolls, not only do you have them, but you're a rolling machine. The floor is your oyster and you are its lobster. (Or something like that.) I know full well when you've rolled into an obstacle because lots of loud shrieking and high-pitched squeaking immediately commences. That's my cue to set you free yet again.

About 6 weeks ago you weighed 20 pounds, so if I had to guess, I'd say you weigh about 23 now. You are a solid piece of squishy goodness. You wear size 4 diapers, although you've almost outgrown those. I'd say another couple weeks and you and your big brother will be in the same size.

You sleep great at night. You go to bed at 7, wake up for a feed around 10, are right back to bed and most of the time sleep until morning. Occasionally you'll get up around 4 or 5 for a feed and then it's right back to bed again. You're a great napper. Your first nap is usually around 2 or so hours, and your second is around  1 1/2 to 2. Some days you'll take a catnap before dinner but you've mostly cut that out.

Daddy and I are convinced you're going to be a singer because you have the raspiest voice. When you laugh or talk you sound like you've had laryngitis. It's ridiculously cute. You love to nurse, and you still won't take a bottle. You've had solids about 5 or 6 times but are just simply not a fan. I keep waiting for that night when you're up all night because milk alone isn't cutting it, but so far it hasn't come. As long as you're content, I'm content. Nursing is a gajillion times easier than starting solids so I'm not complaining.



Your big brother loves you. He runs to get your "ups" (wipes/burp cloths) when you've spit up and will very carefully wipe your mouth. He also shows you how to play with the toys on your jumperoo. He'll sit in front of you and "read" his books, or lay down on the floor with you and chatter away. It's so sweet to watch. I didn't know that motherhood contained so much unexpected soul-marrow deep happiness.


I love you both to infinity and am so thankful the Lord gave us you.


February 24, 2012

So Sad

School has stolen the soul of my husband right out of this ear canals (or wherever souls get stolen from) and rushed away to the furthest regions of outer Earthlandia. I'm slowly trying to update my blog and was looking for some moral support, of which was not to be found.

Me: Babe, what do you think of this blog design?

Matt: I like it.

Me: *big sigh of relief*

Matt: Well, actually I'm not sure I'm liking the title.

*cue hurt feelings*

Me: WHAT?! What don't you like?!

Matt: The little "mc." It should all be capitalized.

Me: No, it's a play on words. You know, like "Nut House," but "mcNutt House."

Matt: I'm not liking it. It's not in APA format.

This, my friends, it a sad, true story. And if you can join with me in prayers for the return of my husband's soul from schooldoctrination, I would appreciate it.

(I still like the title.)

(Even though insecurity shall plague me from this day forth.)

February 22, 2012

Casting Stones

Having children will teach you about casting stones. Before I had children I would have an experience with a child that could go something like this - I would ask them to do something and they would disobey, either secretly or blatantly, and then I would think in not so many words, what a little kid jerk face. (I'm not proud of that, but I can only be real.)

Fast forward to two years ago (?) and now I have my own children. This morning I asked Micah to do something and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and attempted to disobey while keeping an eye on me to see if I would notice. Since I happened to be staring right at him, as I had just told him what I wanted him not to do, I did indeed notice.

But here's the thing. Oftentimes I am not doing what I should be doing, and I can probably be found doing what I shouldn't be doing. Make sense? How clearly do I know that it's completely unreasonable and wrong to lash out in anger at a blind because it fell on me for the five optillionth time when I opened it? But I do it anyways. The other day I told Micah that just because we don't get something we want does not mean we can get mad and throw a fit, and then I added in my mind, unless, of course, you're an adult. What double standards we're prone to, yes?

I want to extend the same grace that the Lord extends to me. But (and this, I believe, is where we've often become imbalanced in the American church), that does not mean I extend grace at the expense of discipline. In the same way that day after day I discipline and instruct my son, the Lord will discipline and instruct me. There are consequences to our sins, and the Lord's forgiveness, albeit lavishly and fully poured out, does not always keep us from those. As the late Elizabeth Edwards said, "You can choose your sin, but you can't choose your consequences."

Children are not being jerk-faces (ok, some are), they just often have not become as crafty as we are at hiding wrong-doing. I look back with such shame at some of the foolish things I said in the name of having-it-all-together. Here's an example: Matt and I knew a couple who lost their 7-week old daughter to SIDS. Understandably the wife was a mess, and had responded by hunkering down and completely internalizing. It was so painful to watch, but she would not allow anybody in, and so we felt like our hands were tied. Well, after awhile my compassion ran out and I started to make comments like, "There's a healthy way to grieve and she's not doing it. She needs to open up and let people in. She needs to hear the truth in love." Thank the Lord, I never said those things to her, but I sure wanted to.

Since then I've read many, many stories of women losing their children and here's the common theme among them: grief is messy and isolating; there are no formulas and no way around it. Bear with us in love and don't say anything at all if you don't know what to say.

Just a couple days ago I read this from Prairie Mama, who lost her 8 month old daughter, "Let me just say this, if you have not lost a child do not tell a grieving parent what they should and shouldn't do and what seems excessive to you. You have no idea. You don't know what it is like to have Mother's Day come and to know that you have only part of your family here with you. You don't know what it is like to have birthday's come only to go celebrate them in a cemetery. You don't know what it is like to watch other children your child's age grow and know that you will not get to see that. You just don't know. Heck, I have lost a child and I still wouldn't do that. Why? Because everyone grieves so differently. Grief is a strange animal and it manifests in so many different ways." 


So what does this have to do with casting stones and children? Aren't we so quick to determine what's right and wrong for others and look down on them if they're not getting it right every single time? The In-My-Head-Me (IMHM) is amazing. The IMHM never says the wrong thing, she always acts graciously, she never gets angry or impatient. (I think she even irons her socks.) I'm sad at how often the IMHM doesn't match the Outside Me. But I want other people to believe the IMHM is still there even if the Outside Me is completely screwing up. I have a heart to know the Lord and walk with him but I can still choose to say something hurtful and stupid. We're sinners saved by God's lavish grace and before I get my chonies all scrunched up because Micah tried to secretly disobey me, or because I think somebody should be grieving "better," let me consider my ways and then remember God's ways. Kindness. Patience. Forbearance. Forgiveness. Love.

Before I decide somebody is grieving wrongly, let me remember God's ways. Before I decide somebody's wrong because their strengths are different than mine, let me remember God's ways. Before I open my fist and cast that first stone, let me remember my ways. And then remember God's ways.

February 21, 2012

Goodbye Delta

I was feeling very nostalgic as I walked into work today. After 4 1/2 years, it was my last day. I wrote about why here. I loved my job. So, in honor, some highlights:

The passenger who yelled at me that I cost him a TEN MILLION DOLLAR DEAL! because he got a drink(s) at the bar and missed his flight.

Flying to Seattle for the day.

The man in uniform saying goodbye to his wife, both crying. With tears in my eyes, I told them to take as much time as they needed, I would let him know when we were in the final minutes of boarding.

The parents going to their son's funeral.

The crazy Russian couple I had to remove from a flight and then call the police on because they were screaming and cussing at me and I was convinced I was thisclose to getting a Russian fist in my face.

The crying grandfather trying desperately to get home because of his four month old granddaughter's unexpected death. I cried with him.

The older couple who got an all-expense paid trip to Cancun because of his side hobby of entering online contests.

Chatting it up with Brandon Heath and Shawn McDonald.

Staring at the Departure screen in any airport and knowing we could get on any flight we wanted. For free.

The old lady/grandmotherly type who screamed obscenities at me and let me know I was lucky she didn't punch me in the face. While I was 5 months pregnant.

(#1 reason for getting yelled at: when the passenger misses their own flight. Does something seem off in that or is that just me?)

Sitting in the break room reading People with my co-workers and telling Crazy Passenger stories.

Getting to pray with the passenger headed to her brother's funeral, leaving his daughter, her niece, parentless.

Seeing Wayne Newton. (Umm, hello tall-unnaturally-dyed-black-hair-pasty-white, albeit nice guy.) 

Flying First class internationally. Pampered chef indeed.

Laying over in San Fran for the day and fitting in every culinary experience that it has to offer. In 5 hours.

Checking in Joe Montana and his wife, but having no idea who they were, thinking to myself, "Hmm, that's cool, they're IN Montana and their last name IS Montana."

Later flying with Joe Montana and his wife and still having no clue who they were.

The plane that returned immediately back to our gate because their windshield cracked right down the middle when they were taxiing.

The passenger who muttered that "airlines always use the excuse of weather," as a blizzard raged outside.

Thanks for the good times, Delta. I'll miss you. I'll miss looking up flight options, and I'll miss the Widget (that's the name of the Delta logo, fyi). I'll miss our planes and the smell of airports. I'll miss chatting it up with the passengers, and the camaraderie and understanding that exists between those inside the Airline World. I'll miss my co-workers (some of them). And I'll miss the adventures of traveling that Matt and I always had.

I won't miss the early mornings, late nights, grumpy co-workers, angry passengers, weather delays, mechanical issues, oversold flights, denied boarding, and the time away from my family.


Bonjour to our new journey.



February 20, 2012

A Day in the Life...

I got this idea from other bloggers and I decided to do my own so that I can look back and see what I did on an average day with two under two. You know, almost every single person who hears that my boys are 18 months apart immediately comment on how busy I must be and how full my hands are, and since I don't often feel too busy or full-handed, I wonder if I'm missing something here. Are you other mothers doing something that I missed the first day of class? I'm always curious as to what the average day looks like for other people, so besides for my own later enjoyment/curiosity, maybe it will shed some light on the potential missing factor.

I will say right off the bat that I shower and get ready every single day. I may put my sweats right back on after I shower, but getting ready is a simple way for me to not feel frumpy, even if I'm not going anywhere. I also like to look presentable when Matt gets home, and I'm sure he appreciates it when I brush my teeth and clean off yesterday's mascara. (Side note: I only wash my hair every 2-3 days so when I say I shower and get ready every day, it mostly only takes about 15 minutes-ish. We're not talking Grammy Awards here.)

The boys were getting up around 8:15 to 8:30, but lately Micah's internal clock changed to Crazyville Standard Time and he's been getting up at 7:30 almost on the dot every morning, which means that Asher is also getting up then. But a couple mornings this past week I've moved Micah into the office and Asher has either slept till 9 or I had to wake him up then, so I'm pretty sure he would sleep much later every day if he did not have a thoughtful brother to turn the light on for him every morning.

Once I hear Micah knocking on their door (thankfully he has not figured out how to open doors yet) and calling for "Mom?! Mama?! Mom!! Mom!!! MOM!!!" then I get up, get my robe on and get them up. Both boys get diaper changes, I get Micah breakfast, and while he eats I nurse Asher.

After breakfast I usually put a load of laundry in, make our bed, and clean the kitchen. (I just can't function when my kitchen is dirty. Anybody else?) Between interacting with the boys and getting those things done, it's then usually time for Asher's first nap, between 9 and 10. The morning nap is his longest. He usually sleeps between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.

After I lay him down, Micah goes in the bath (I also bathe and get Micah ready every day), and while he plays I sit in the hall, just outside the door where I can see him and check my email and facebook, read some blogs or a good article on the gospelcoalition.org. Just random puttering on the internet. Sometimes I'll read my Bible instead. Or an online devotional. It varies. After his bath, which can be like 45 minutes to an hour, I get him out, brush his teeth, and get him dressed. He usually gets a snack around this time, I put the laundry in the dryer, and straighten up the bathroom and their room.

This is usually when I take my shower. I'll close Micah in with me in our bedroom and one of his Veggie Tales DVDs and he's content to watch it while I shower and get ready. After this I make us lunch, and then depending on if I want them to sleep at the same time (usually on days I've worked so I can sleep too) or if I don't care, I'll lay Micah down after lunch, or I'll wait to lay Micah down until Asher's next naptime and let them both nap at the same time. Again, it varies. This isn't a formula for World Peace, people.

Usually during their naptime (if I'm not also napping) is when I have my quiet time. It doesn't always happen during this time but now that I'm about to be finished working it will most likely be my usual time for awhile. My preferable time for it is first thing in the morning before everyone else is awake, but at this season of my life, the realistic truth is that's not going to happen. So I can put unrealistic pressure on myself and fail miserably and not have one at all, or I can be flexible and work with what I've got. (No fakey-fake here.) Occasionally if I don't get to have one during the day I'll have it after the boys are down for the night, which I've also learned to enjoy (even though I'm much more a morning person than a night).

So (are you guys seriously still reading?), once the boys are up, Micah gets a snack, I nurse Asher (I might've missed a previous nursing in my monologue because he usually nurses between 5 and 7 times a day), take the clothes out, fold them, put them away, and do a little straightening (have you guys caught on to the fact that I'm a Serial Cleaner?). I normally start thinking about dinner around this time, if I haven't already put something in the crockpot before. A couple days a week when I'm going stir crazy and need additional human interaction, I'll get us out the door and we'll meet up with Matt after he gets off work and we'll eat out (we're working on it, people), walk around the mall, let Micah play on the slide, go to Costco or U-Swirl, any number of things just to get out and get some fresh air.

Matt gets home around 4:30, we usually eat dinner around 5, Matt gives Micah his undivided attention while I clean up and they play like madmen around the house, and then we hang out as a family until the boys' bedtime at 7. We do not have TV (as in we don't even have an actual physical TV) so it's one huge factor that we don't have to wrestle back our attention from, know what I mean?

The boys go to bed at 7, and since I've straightened and done chores throughout the day, this is our refreshing time. Matt and I will catch up, often over bowls of ice cream or cereal, and then he usually starts working on schoolwork. 99.9% of the time I read. I've been an obsessive reader my entire life and it's how I fill my free time most of the time. And then, unless I have to work, I usually go to bed between 10 and 11.

And that, my dear friends, is a wrap.

Seriously, if you lasted this long, I commend you. So, for those of you still reading, if you happened to notice that I in fact, am missing a crucial element that should indeed make me full-handed, speak up now or forever hold your peace. Because I'm pretty dang happy.

P.S. Of course this is an average day and does not take into account days I have Bible study or am meeting up with my mom or friends or have appointments, etcetera, etcetera.

P.P.S. I hope that clears up the confusion I'm sure you didn't have.

February 17, 2012

Toddlerlandia

Having a toddler is a whole new way of life. It makes all the my-child-will-never-do-thats make you laugh hysterically on your therapist's couch.

(Kidding about the therapist.) I don't really laugh hysterically on their couch per se, it's more akin to sobbing hysterically in their chair.

(Kidding!) I don't really sob hysterically... (OK, I don't really have a therapist.)

In fact, I'm learning very, very quickly that my child will indeed do x, y, and z. The better question is what will I do?

I thought since I have such years and years of experience you'd be well served to glean from my wisdom. Let's start at the beginning. The year is 2010. It's a ways back, stick with me here. This is what I thought motherhood would look like. My child would be born pain medicine-free into a cocoon of warmy-dovey loviness in which we would bond skin-to-skin, our beings so interwinably intertwined that our intestines together would form a heart. I would prove every naysayer wrong (wrong I tell you!) who dared suggest otherwise to my plan of Motherhood Utopia.

Actually, the truth is that once I got over my postpartum blues, finished moving and being unpacked into our new home (Micah was four weeks old), had my ridiculous pain-inducing gallbladder removed (when Micah was six weeks old), got the hang of his routine and finally (mostly) sleeping through the night I truly was in Motherhood Utopia. One of the happiest seasons of my life was when Micah was about 4 months old to about his first birthday. I remember thinking almost every day (literally), Please let this moment/day never end. I was completely head over heels in love and could not get enough of him. I used to wait impatiently for his naps to end so we could be reunited. It's not that I ceased being happy after that, but by then I was pregnant again and sick all the time and once I got over that I was flung headfirst, floatie-free into the swirling abyss of Toddlerlandia.

Somewhere over the hills and in the plains McNuttMobile has four flat tires smack dab in the middle of Toddlerville. I wonder if God makes toddlers funny so that when you're saying No for the 175th time that hour you would have a reprieve in the form of their sweet voice telling you what a  "fwog" sounds like.

In all seriousness, I am learning that consistency in discipline, grace in instruction, and lavish amounts of affection and laughter are much-needed. This verse continually helps me stay on course, "Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart" (Prov. 29:17). If we're faithful to discipline (which I'm also learning doesn't always mean correction of wrong behavior, it also just as often means instruction in right behavior), then this proverb tells me that he will be a delight. I want my child to be a delight (and I think he is).

The absolute, most important thing that I can do however is pray. In the same way I can't change anybody else's heart, I most certainly cannot change my own children's heart. So I pray continually for them that God would soften their hearts, draw them irresistibly to himself, give them his wisdom and a heart for him; that they would respond to discipline and instruction, and a myriad of other things. This parenting gig is another real time example of the collision between his sovereign action and our humble obedience.

How about you? What are some valuable lessons you've learned from Toddlerlandia?

February 16, 2012

Word Swords

Today Micah started calling me "mom." No big deal you're thinking. Yeah, except for it's just one more reminder that time marches on with me kicking and screaming in its wake. Where did my chubby monkey from yesteryear go? I think we're going to end up having approximately 14 kids because I am so addicted to the baby stage. Asher kills me all day, every day. I wonder at least 4,098 times a day how it's possible to be so cute and chubby. I literally can't take him all in. It's like I have to look away because he's too much, only to look back and have my heart slayed all over again.

We love Micah's age too. He makes us laugh hysterically at least once a day. I'm not sure if you knew this but horses in fact eat peas and eggs and "toas" (toast). Yes, Micah informed us. All this time I thought they ate wheat. Or hay? Actually I'm not sure I've ever really known what horses eat. See? That's what I mean. What would I do without Micah's knowledge of these things?

I've been thinking lately about the power of words. I listened to a sermon by Francis Chan from James 3, which talks quite a bit about it. But I've also been thinking about it from an experiential view. I think of this proverb on a regular basis: "There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." - Prov. 12:18

Have you ever noticed that often in the Bible when it speaks of words it personifies them? Rashly spoken words are like a person wielding a sword and thrusting them through you. Um, ouch. I know we live in a tell-it-like-it-is society, but I think I can say pretty confidently that rashly, harshly spoken words are just as painful today as they were a thousand years ago (or whenever this proverb was written). Why do we do that to one another? What if we used our words to bring healing? I'm talking to myself mostly. One of the quickest indicators for me of walking in the flesh and not in the spirit is that I have an edge to my words. I look for those places just unguarded enough for a sword to fit through. And the scary thing about walking in the flesh is that I'm quickly dulled to the Spirit (Hebrews 3:13 tells us that a hardened heart only takes a day) and so often, it's after the fact, after the damage has been done, that I realize what I've done. I hate when that happens. I've been trying to learn much of my adult life that silence is often better, especially if I've been operating in the flesh.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. Seriously. Somebody needed to put me in a time out from approximately 7:30 this morning until Matt came home. I kept snapping at Micah and being impatient and irritable. But even in the midst of that I thought to myself that I didn't want to speak things that tore him down or could lodge in his tender heart. My problem on days like today is more how I say things (not that that's much better). I'll say with lots of frustration, Micah, stop opening the cupboard! (Which, incidentally, who cares? Am I really going to look back and think, If he only hadn't opened and closed the cupboard 753 times that day...)

So, I'm still in process. Obviously. And oftentimes it's just easier to progress when we do it together, no?

February 14, 2012

Ruminating

About a month or so ago it suddenly hit me how much I missed quality time with my big little boy. So since then we've become very intentional about taking Micah out for one-on-one dates. These have seriously become some of my favorite times. Most of the time we'll go get U-Swirl (don't judge) and then head to the mall so he can play on the slide. I can't wait for summer so we can go to real parks, but I'll take what I can get. Micah loves these times and thrives in that environment of focused attention (as all kids do, I'm sure). I often find that the things we struggle with when we're all together completely disappear when it's just him and I. (Matt has said the same.)

It's so neat to see his and Matt's relationship. I've seriously never seen anything like it. I often wonder if it's normal and I've just never been privy to something like it or if they really do have something special and different. I'm thinking they really do have something special and different. One night after they came home from their "man-time" Micah came strutting in like he was the coolest guy on the block. It was so sweet and funny to see. I'm pretty much chopped liver when Matt's around, which is ok with me. I wouldn't change their relationship for the world.

Micah loves to be big like us. He loves to be able to copy what we do and we try to let him as much as realistically possible. He loves being helpful and always looks so pleased when we show appreciation for him helping, like when he throws things in the "twash" or fills the kitty's food bowl up (including replacing the lid) or runs hurriedly to get a burp rag to wipe his brother's mouth after he spit up.

We try to give him independence while also teaching him that we still have the final word (as much as he'd like it to be different). I often pray for wisdom and that the Lord would help me to see now the things that I would regret in 5, 10, 15 years. And I also pray for wisdom as we discipline him and raise him in the way he should go according to his uniqueness. Sometimes it could go one of two ways - for example, he could go to time out until he stops crying and being upset or, at that moment God gives me a moment of insight into his tender heart and as I stare into his tear-stained face I realize it's not a moment that needs discipline but one in which he needs to be scooped close and held tight and affirmed again how much he's loved. I love when God opens my eyes at the right time to what he needs right at that moment. It doesn't always happen but I'm thankful for when it does.

I've often thought since having kids how much I appreciate the depth of relationship and authenticity that Matt brings into our family. As people-y as I am, when it comes to difficult things, 99.8% of the time I internalize (I hate that about myself). I want a family that's close and open and can talk about anything, and so I so appreciate how easy that is for Matt and that I can lean on him and take his lead when I'm not naturally good at it. I love how that works.

I can't believe Asher is almost six months old. I really feel like we lost a few months in there. Somewhere between November and January we experienced a time warp. Something. He's officially a blondie. I trimmed his hair today and most of the dark came off (not intentionally). I was so hoping he would have Matt's dark hair but it looks like for the time being he's following in his big brother's footsteps. Last night was his first time trying solids. I smashed up part of a banana but we only managed to get down a few bites. Tonight I mixed it with breastmilk and warmed it some and he devoured it. I think we're getting somewehere. I'd like to try pears, avocados, and sweet potatoes next.

I'm one week away from my last day at work and now that the decision has been made, I can't wait for it to get here. Well, that's that. Keepin' it real.

February 12, 2012

The Rug

I'm feeling the temptation to turbear. Or burtle. I'm not sure which.

Has this ever happened to you?

You're sitting in the near-dark, nursing your son, and your eyes catch the corner of his rug that's been kicked up, and you take in the brown and blue polka dots and suddenly you want to be in that rug.

Anyone?

Well. It has to me. I was sitting in the near-dark, nursing my son, and my eyes caught the corner of his rug that had been kicked up, and I took in the brown and blue polka dots and suddenly I wanted to be in the rug.

I wanted to turbear and be in the rug.

Just so we're clear, a turbear is a rare breed of animal that's a cross between a turtle and a bear. In times of crisis or difficulty this animal pulls inside of itself and finds an isolated place and hibernates (i.e. stays away from others) for as long as it can.

Get my drift?

The last few months have been a tumultuous season for us within our church family. We've experienced every range of major and minor emotion. Disbelief. Anger. Frustration. Confusion. Unsettlement. Distrust. And sometimes in the seasons of big change, the small normal things suddenly mean so much more.

The rug did it for me the other night. The rug suddenly represented to me a world that was not full of those emotions that I mentioned before. The rug was evidence of my kids and their world, and their world as it connects to me, and it's a world that's happy and insulated, where people aren't mean and don't hurt my heart.

It wasn't really the rug. It was what it represented. Isn't that just like us?

People can be mean and do mean things. And because God has put his law on our hearts, everything in us cries "Foul!" and we set off searching for that one thing that takes us to a safe place. It's not just rugs for me. It's that recent book I read. It's that one chocolate shop on the corner in Chambery, France that had the most amazing truffles. It's that time we had dinner outside on cobbled streets in Athens as we gazed on the Parthenon and listened to live music. It's that night Matt and I sat on Baker's Bridge in the dark with a full moon and everything was so right. It's that time that Annie and I stayed up so late talking, telling secrets, until we couldn't keep our eyes open for one more second.

It's those times when everything is as it should be.

But here's the thing.

"I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies but have set me in a safe place."


You, Lord, have set me in a safe place. You, Lord, have hidden me under the shadow of your wings. You, Lord, see every tear that falls and daily bear my burdens. You, Lord know exactly what I mean when I cry that things aren't as they should be and for some reason the image that springs to mind is a rug. You know it's really not the rug. You know it's so much deeper than that, but there just aren't words. You read the pictures that cross my mind and paint that story of longing. I know all of creation groans and waits for your return. When we no longer desire the rug because golden streets and paradise unspeakable replace it.

I know. Just sometimes I forget that I know.

 I will be glad. I will rejoice. Your love never fails. You care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies. You have set me in a safe place. A safe place. You, Lord, are my safe place. And you, Lord, are always with me.

February 09, 2012

Sacrifice

Sacrifice is giving up something you love for something you love even more.

(That's not an original, by the way, but I don't know who said it first, so let's pretend I'm really deep and that it came to me in a moment of intense internal reflection.)

I'm not very good at sacrifice. I prefer for it to be easy before I give it up. Kind of like the Law of Diminishing Returns. Economics 101? Anyone? At some point you hit a tipping point, at which time the thing you enjoyed before no longer becomes enjoyable. I vividly remember sitting in my college class as my professor from China taught this principle, using the example of beer. Enjoyable, enjoyable, enjoyable, BAM! Hangover. No longer enjoyable. 

(Except for if you don't like beer, then this illustration fails to drive the point home. That's ok, do what I do. Substitute DQ blizzards. Totally get it now.)

What's my point? My point is that I prefer to be on the side of No Longer Enjoyable, and then I'll happily sacrifice. And then I feel good about myself and I willingly give things up for something I love more. And then I tie it up in a pretty spiritual bow, and wow, do I look amazing

There's been a perfect storm brewing in my life the last few months, and I suddenly found myself in the eye of it. I work Sunday afternoons to very late Sunday night. I get a little bit of sleep, am tired all day Monday, try to go to bed early in order to be up for work at 3:20 in the morning on Tuesday, am tired all day, drop into bed exhausted Tuesday night in order to wake up at 3:20 in the morning for work on Wednesday, and by the time Wednesday comes around, I am a mess

This week I laid Asher down for a nap, put a Veggie Tales in Micah's DVD player, told him Mommy needed a nap, and laid down on the couch desperately hoping to squeeze in a power nap to tide me over until bedtime. A few minutes into this Micah was on his belly, feet up in the air, happily watching Bob and Larry. He was swinging his feet and hitting the ground (as any happy, normal toddler would do), and it startled me awake. I snapped. I yelled at him to stop hitting his feet! This happened two more times. 

All day I dragged along, as I do every week for 4 days out of the week. That night I was taking a shower and I suddenly remembered yelling at him and it literally brought me to my knees in shame. I was so ashamed that I had acted that way. In a single moment, the decision was made. 

I was quitting my job. 

For months I've felt like it was the right thing to do, but could not bear to give up my flight benefits. They're my Precious. My dearly beloved, tightly-held, adventure-giving, tenderly regarded flight benefits. I cannot explain how dearly I hold them. I have a degree in International Studies. Traveling is in my life-blood. I know this all sounds rather melodramatic, but you need to understand. I am not on the other side. Law of Diminishing Returns, my backside. This is something I love. Like love love. 

But it took 4 seconds to make the decision. I will not be 39 years old looking back wishing that I had used my flight benefits more. I will be 39 years old looking back ashamed and regret-filled because I could only give my kids my crappy leftovers four days out of seven. Not because I had to. But because I wasn't willing to give up what I love because I love them more.

I'm not saying I'll never work again. And this may only be for a season. But man does it feel great to do the right thing. 

February 07, 2012

How I Stay Me

You hear a lot about how easy it is for women to forget who they are when they become mothers. Their worlds become so wrapped up in their little ones that they forget what made them, them. I think I can safely say this has not happened to me. I don't make a big deal of it in my everyday life, I just practice simple things everyday that keep me connected to other things in addition to mamahood.

I am so happily Micah and Asher's mom, but I am also happily me. Some of the things that make me tick are a love of reading, traveling, adventure, playing games, time with friends, shopping (more like browsing since I rarely buy anything), walking around the mall, savoring a cup of white chocolate mocha, listening to sermons. These are the big ones. So these are some of the ways I keep these a part of my life:

The boys go to bed at 7pm and I rarely, rarely, rarely do any housework, or anything remotely resembling it, after. I do housework throughout the day so that when they go down for the night, I'll simply straighten up (mostly just Micah's books) and then settle in and relax. I'll read blogs or a book on my Kindle, check facebook, take a bath, or just lately, I've tested having my quiet time during this time (I'm still seeing about that, it's not my favorite time of day for it).

Often I'll put on sermons during the day while we go about our day. I like it for two reasons: a) you just simply can't hear enough of good, solid Biblical teaching, and b) neither can your kids, no matter how young they are.

Traveling and adventure are huge for me, always have been. Thankfully my job at the airlines makes this possible. When Micah was between the ages of about 12 and 18 months, staying overnight with him at other places was a nightmare. For some reason he totally fought sleeping in new places and it was such a struggle to get him to settle down. But something we value is mobility and flexibility, so rather than hermitize for 6 months, we simply stayed with it, and even though we always came back exhausted, being where we were, as a family, making memories, having adventures was worth it. And now he's completely over it. Even just going to Minneapolis and Mall of America for 24 hours totally refreshes me and meets my traveling needs.

Oftentimes I'll meet Matt in town after he gets off work and we'll walk around the mall, get dinner, let Micah play on the slide. I'm such a people person that oftentimes after being home alone with the boys during the day I just simply need to be around people. I also go to a women's Bible study on Thursdays which gives me the chance to connect with other women and moms.

Speaking of other moms, have you ever known a mom that seemed to use her children as a shield? Sometimes even literally? It seems like they don't know how to be without their children, or talking about their children. I love talking about my boys but I also love talking about other things. This is also the fun of having different friends because different parts of your personality come out, depending on who you're with. When I'm with my friend, Jami, we happily talk about kids much of our time together. We compare naptimes, eating, sleeping, fears, funny stories, anything to do with our boys. And it's fun. When I'm around other friends, different conversations take place; I just think we need to make sure that we remember how to relate with others, outside of just our kids.

If I've had a particularly rough day, my absolute favorite getaway is to head to a bookstore, and settle myself in for as long as I possibly can. Matt is so great about this. I'll text him while he's at work to see if it'll work, and then as soon as he gets home, I head out. Often I'll grab a coffee or a quick dinner, and then I could stay there for hours.
(Quick kind-of-related story... my parents always had a cleaning route when I was growing up, and when I was about 12 or 13, they would drop me off at the bookstore by our house at the beginning of their route and pick me up after, usually about 3 or so hours later.)

We love our friends and spending time with them. We just had to tweak things once we had kids. From the very beginning we made sure our boys were used to noise, so often (more before Matt started school) we have friends over after the boys' bedtime and we'll play games, hang out, eat dessert, just have some good quality time. We love this time and since Matt is as people-y as I am, this works well for us.

So these are some of the ways that I still stay me through this journey of motherhood. I don't feel like I've lost me or been diminished, I feel like mamahood has added to me. And, like any mama will tell you, it'll definitely grow you.

February 04, 2012

Asher's Birth Story

It's time I recount the story of Asher's arrival. For posterity's sake. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but if it means for my sake so I don't forget, than for posterity's sake.

Asher's arrival was a lot less drama-filled than Micah's, as recounted here and here, but still ever so amazing and awe-inspiring at the miracle of birth. Of his birth.

My due date for Asher was September 7th, 2011. I told people early on in my pregnancy (read: when I was still in my right mind and before I was 478 pounds and engaged in battle with stretch marks and fat deposits) that I hoped he came on September 10th. Hello. 9-10-11. Coolest birthdate ever. And now that I'm no longer battling fat deposits and stretch marks, I wish I were still pregnant then and delivered him on that date. Tough luck.

Matt was scheduled to be in Kentucky for orientation for his FNP program from August 20th-26th. We had debated quite a bit about him going or postponing it because it was so close to my due date, but in the end I was the one who said I thought it would be fine and that he should go. (What do I know anyways?) (Spoiler alert: Asher was born August 27th.)

The week before he left I went in for my weekly check-up to find that I was already dilating and that he was sitting very, very low. As in I was already progressed further than I was with Micah when I went into labor. Emergency meetings amongst the spouses were commenced and ruling was such that Matt needed to reschedule his orientation, effective immediately. Thankfully the program director was very understanding and rescheduled him for November's orientation, thus allowing a girl on the waiting list to be in that class (double yay!).

Once we knew that Matt wasn't going anywhere, Operation Labor 2011 was signed into law by Executive Order. Bouncy ball? Best friends. Walking? I hate you when I'm 38 weeks pregnant. Castor oil? Hi, old friend. From Tuesday to Friday, I bounced and I bounced and I bounced and I bounced (and I also watched a River Runs Through It ((while I bounced)) and could not believe that Brad Pitt was killed by Lololans - crazy!). (Anybody else know that?)

All to no avail. I was so done being pregnant. Missoula's heat index was equivalent to the gates of Hades, and getting up to go to the bathroom 29 times a night just gets really old after a while. So by the time Friday came (which we'd been hoping was the day because it's Matt's birthday), I was willing to take drastic measures. I took the Castor Oil Plunge. (FYI...with Micah it caused no "runs" but labor did start the next day, so I was hoping for the same with Asher.) That night, I had regular contractions from about 4 in the morning to 10 in the morning but by the time we got up and ready to go and hit the Farmer's market to keep them going, they had almost completely stopped. I was so discouraged.

That day at the market we walked and walked but I still only had the occasional contraction. Micah had gotten sick at the market so we ended up going to my parent's apartment, laying him down for a nap, and then Matt and I went to run a couple of errands. At that point I started to feel like I just wanted to at least be checked and see how far along I was. I felt like I was really close but just needed to hear it. (I'd do great at a Motivational Speaker's Conference. I'd be their star student. You are pregnant! You are awesome! You dilate awesomely! Yes, I am pregnant! I am awesome! I dilate awesomely! (If anybody is still reading, I'd like to take a moment of silence to commemorate your incredible loyalty and friendship.)

*moment*

Let's get back on track here. Matt absolutely did not want to go in (which he later repented of in sackcloth and ashes). He didn't want to go in and "have to just sit there for no reason, only to have them tell us to go home." Well, this was one case where I was going to push my way.

Regardless, I insisted and so we went. I didn't even tell my parents because I didn't want to get anyone's hopes up if it turned out not to be anything after all. Once I was checked in and changed into my gown, the nurse checked me and said I was a 4, almost a 5, completely effaced, and the baby was rightthere with a bulging bag of waters. She tried to get in touch with my doctor to see if he would come in and break my water but wasn't able to reach him. The doctor on call came in to check me, and during the one hour that I was there waiting, I went from an almost 5 to a 6.

Surprisingly the contractions were not that painful. They had become regular at that point, probably about every five minutes or so, and I was having to stop and breathe through them, but nothing unbearable by any means. I feel really tough just writing that. Somebody validate me here, and tell me that I have a really high pain tolerance or something. (Because I really don't think I do.)

So Doctor On Call agreed to break my water, and after that I spent the next little while walking the halls and the next time he checked me I was still at a 6. He informed me that he was going into a cesarean, which meant that the anesthesiologist was going to be unavailable for awhile, and in his opinion I was going to birth very fast, so if I wanted an epidural I should get it now. I hemmed and hawed because I really was not feeling like I needed it, but after further consultation with the hubby (who, after my last experience was definitely Team Epidural), agreed to get one.

After I got it, I rested, watched TV, got to see Micah, rested some more and then out of nowhere the urge to push came on me so strongly I immediately knew things were about to happen. I definitely felt labor during the pushing stage, and felt my body pushing him down and out. Literally 8 minutes passed from the time I said I feel like I need to push to the time when Asher entered the world. He was born completely healthy and whole and screaming at 10:13pm on August 27th, one day after his daddy's birthday. From the moment they put him on my chest I felt such a love and connection with him. I was instantly completely in love with him.

(Now I have to do a disclaimer.) It took me several weeks to develop an attachment with Micah. I don't know why. Maybe a combination of postpartum baby blues, a huge loss of blood that took me weeks to recover from, the shock of adjusting to life with a newborn. I don't know why. But it did. I wrote a little more about it here. Once I did, however, there was no turning back. My heart and affections were completely swept away with him. So for some reason it took time with Micah but it didn't with Asher. Same all-consuming love, just different stories.

We spent less than 24 hours in the hospital, from birth to discharge. We came home and set up camp as a new family of four, and it was honestly the easiest adjustment. Up to that point I had been terrified of life with two kids, wondering how I would do it, but I know I experienced the effects of many people praying for a different postpartum experience than I had with Micah, and lot's of God's sufficient grace. From the beginning Asher has been a very happy, contented baby. He fits into our family like he was always here.

Asher - "blessed, happy"

Matthew - "gift of God"

Asher Matthew - our happy gift from God

February 03, 2012

It's a Small World After All

I read recently on another blog that having children makes the world a smaller place. Her example was that suffering in other children is suddenly much more real when you  have your own. (I would link to it but I have no idea where I even found it, or who it was.)

Not long after that I was reading a fiction book that highlighted the realities of meth addiction and what it can cause people to do. Things like baby trafficking.

I stayed up late one night finishing the book because I could not put it down. And somewhere in the late night, reading my book, Asher woke up crying. I immediately put my book down and went in to feed him. And while I sat there in the dark, nursing him, staring at the sweet, trusting innocence on his face, the tears began to fall. I cried and cried. My sweet baby, who asks for nothing except for milk in his belly, and care and love from the only people he knows. Suddenly that was my baby whose cries went unanswered. Who was handled cruelly and dispassionately by selfish, evil, depraved people whose addictions drive them to acts that should be punishable by death.

I couldn't take it. I simply couldn't take it. But I let myself feel it. For years I've shut my ears to the suffering that children experience because their stories crush my heart and keep me up at night. For years I've literally said the moment people begin to recount another story of child abuse or victimization, "STOP. Don't tell me, I don't want to hear it. It's too much for me." And for some reason, that never struck me as wrong. It was just who I was and how I did things. Other people can hear those stories, just not me.

And then I was lying awake in bed one night this summer, praying for my friends who were in Cambodia at the time ministering to children who are (or were) most likely sold into child prostitution, and the Lord completely opened my eyes to the wrongness of my go-to avoidance tactics. He doesn't close his eyes to their suffering because it's "too much." True compassion is felt and borne. We suffer with those who suffer and weep with those who weep, just like Jesus.

So since then I've made myself feel. Instead of simply saying, "I just can't imagine. Hey, what's for dinner," I intentionally allow myself to feel it. And it's produced in me a truly praying heart. Instead of praying some generic, "Oh Lord, comfort them. Okay let's move on to something less gut-wrenching," the Lord has been producing in me genuine feeling and care that pushes me to pray.

I read in the news some time back about a woman who lost all three of her children and her parents to a fire, and I made myself be her and imagine (as much as I could without it really being true for me) that it was me, and it crushed me with the impossible suffering she was enduring. I couldn't (and still can't) stop thinking about her, and so I've truly prayed for her. Not just thought sad thoughts about her, but lifted her up to the Holy One who enters our pain and binds up our wounds.

And then I had a friend over who shared with me her story. Two kids under two. Being a single mom because her husband left her for other men. How hard it is for her to do it by herself all day and not have a husband to look forward to coming home and giving her a break and being a family. So that night as we started the bedtime wind-down, I made myself be her. I was alone. Matt was not there to help me meet the needs of two little boys. After bedtime I was alone. When I made dinner I was not waiting for Matt to get home from work because he wasn't coming home. I was by myself day in and day out, night in and night out. And it hurt. I ached for her. And I prayed for her.

You see, true compassion compels us to act. Thinking sad thoughts about someone isn't compassion. And so it's painful and I'd like to close my eyes to the suffering, but then I wouldn't pray with such passion, "Lord, come back! Rescue every single child abused by evil people. Raise up men and women who will act on their behalf. Show us what we can do."

Because that's my baby Asher whose desperate cries for food and help go unanswered. That's my happy, trusting Micah in the hands of evil people. It's not a nameless, faceless child somewhere else. They're my children.

I've got a long way to go to love others like Jesus does, but the Lord is at work in me. It hurts. But it should.

February 02, 2012

Judge Me Not for My Sabbatical

So. You know that really annoying blogger that blogs regularly only to stop blogging regularly and then only intermittently and then not at all?

Yeah, hi. 

Not sure what my problem is but I'm back on the wagon. Obviously I have to get my blog back up to date and work on the aesthetics (I just spelled that without spellcheck) (only to have just spelled spell ((space in between)) check wrong). 

We're at such an interesting place in life. Matt is full steam ahead in the Family Nurse Practitioner program. We've only got approximately 1,095 days to go and then (yay!) he's done! He's doing great though staying on top of everything, even though he drops into bed exhausted every night. 

Micah is now TWO (as of yesterday). He could be a whole book in itself. He is Mr. Independent, that's for sure. Anything we do, he wants to do. High chairs, cribs, being carried - all a thing of the past. He's been driving the Jetta to work everyday and I could be wrong, but I think he learned potty training basics on his commute. He is a total social butterfly. I think it's safe to say he's an extrovert. He's officially in a toddler bed and does great, including during nap times now. It took him ONE night to get used to his bed, but he's always been a very fast learner. It also took ONE night to wean him from the paci, and that was actually more like 15 minutes. 

He can be trying at times as he likes to assert his will and makes it VERY clear that he wants what he wants. One thing that I've been working on with him is to be thankful and content. Instead of working my way through 78 articles of food, drink, toys, clothing, furniture, and Veggie Tales paraphernalia to find what he wants, I'll simply give him what I think it is and tell him that I want him to be thankful and content with what he has, and if he throws a fit still, then he gets in trouble. But I think he's catching on. Except for when he'll keep signing "please" because he knows it's the right way to ask for things, so I think he thinks it's his get-out-of-jail-free-card to get what he wants. I'm on to you, buddy.  

He's talking like crazy. He repeats EVERYTHING, even the not good things we say, like "dang." (Matt, watch your language, please. Obviously he learns such colorful phrases from you and NOT from that time I reacted in hysterics to who-knows-what-goes-on-around-here-sometimes.) He is a very happy boy, and we continue to learn more effective ways of raising him, according to what works best for him and not just what the parenting books say. One thing I regularly tell him is that the reason he got in trouble is because there's right and there's wrong, and when he chooses wrong, there are consequences. I pray all the time that the Lord makes him receptive to discipline and instruction, and that He (the Lord) will draw Micah and Asher irresistibly to Himself and that He will open the eyes of their hearts to Him, and to understand their need for Him.

Speaking of Asher. What a ball of butter, chunky-monkey, roly-poly, akin-to-a-Sharpei, scrumdittilyumptious bowl of cuddly goodness. Seriously, this kid could not be any cuter or happier. He just turned 5 months and already weighs 20 pounds. Are you catching my ball of butter drift now? Yeah. I have to restrain myself every day from eating his chubbies. He is also officially sleeping through the night. As in like TWELVE hours through the night. Hate me now. Do it. On the occasional night he gets up, it's a quick feed and then right back to bed. He and Micah share a room (which I LOVE), and they both get up around 8:15.  

He will not take a bottle, which is much different than Micah at this age. It also makes my time away for such things as um, work, a little more interesting at times. But so far things have worked out, and for that I'm grateful. He's almost rolling over from back to stomach. Wouldn't be surprised if it's any day now. And that's about it for the Chunkster. His existence is eating, smiling, laughing, eating his fingers, sleeping, eating some more, screeching at the top of his lungs because he's so happy to see you, eating his fingers, sleeping some more, and so on and so forth. 

Ok, so there we go. We're updated (except for the blog aestheticism (shut UP, I just totally spelled that right again without spell check), and we're back on target. May the Blogginess be with me.