May 30, 2012

Medals of Valor

I've been out of commission the last week or so. Only because I had to be in Denver for some recurrent training for my job. Simply put, being away from my boys for that long was akin to The Black Plague upon my soul. It was a double whammy too because it's not like I was on a tropical beach somewhere sipping a tropical drink with an umbrella in it, but rather cooped up in a classroom learning about DG/HM and all sorts of other fun.

After training I met Matt, the boys, and my mom in Albuquerque for some much-needed R&R at my favorite mother-in-law's house. I love my MIL. I have never, not even one time, had the Scary MIL Experiences that everyone talks about. We get along very well and I've always loved spending time with her, so spending a long weekend there is always a true vacation.

Missoula - cold and rainy. Albuquerque - warm and sunny. End of story.

I have to pause and interject some Medals of Valor.

First. My mom so kindly and graciously volunteered to watch the boys while I was away at training since Matt would of course also be working. Really, if not for her, it couldn't've happened. I was never for one moment worried or fearful that they wouldn't be as loved if I myself were there with them. She did a fantastic job being Mom while I was away.

But second. (And this deserves The Purple Heart.) She traveled completely by herself by plane with two connections with my boys. Seriously. By herself. Two connections. On a plane. 2 year old. 8 month old. By herself. Matt and I haven't even been brave enough to do that.

Alas, she's still with us today and she still loves them both, so I'd consider it a success. I told her that I'd like to at least give her one of my livers to make myself feel a tiny bit better about the amount of sacrifice that was had last week.

But I'm back and we're back in the swing of our routine. And, for lack of substance, maybe these will pacify.
Seriously. If you say you've seen anything cuter, you're lying. 

See above, it applies here too.

We had to fly into Great Falls and the drive back was beautiful.

How you doing?

This was an  unexpected condiment. Micah's always looking out for Lar.

Airport Rule #1: if it's entertaining, leave it alone.

Fro-yo! Just when I think I can't love him more or he can't get more fun, I do and he does.

May 18, 2012

To Hades and Back Again

I once did a 6-week internship in a foreign country that is located in the center of the earth. Otherwise known as Hades. Otherwise known as The Hottest Place On Heaven and On Earth. Otherwise know as A Place to Experience Daily Temperatures of 157 Degrees and 459% Humidity.

I will leave the location of this place unnamed, as I would hate to deter anyone from going there, because the people are enough to make you fall in love for a lifetime. This country is a 3rd world country and we thankfully got to experience the fullness of it. One example, we washed our clothes by hand on the roof for 6 weeks. That meant hauling water up and down several times, and then hanging them out to dry. We ate their food, drank their coffee, used their toilets (a lot I might add), walked their streets, visited their houses, became their friends.

Our "ministry" consisted of visiting our neighbors and simply doing their life with them. We talked about Jesus and school and kids and cats and cheating in cards. We drank coffee in their living rooms with cement floors. (Because if there's anything that tops off a day in Hades, it's coffee). We played cards and baseball, took walks and one run (and never again after that as it took my body temperature approximately one year to stabilize to a non-heart attack range), did each other's hair and makeup, danced, celebrated a wedding and new marriage, visited a water park Third World style, and laughed and laughed and laughed. We always laughed.

There were three other interns beside myself and I don't think any of us have ever laughed so much in our lives. We truly experienced the fullness of life. And all without modern "amenities" and "comfort." Sure, we had them to some extent. We had suicide showers (water heated by electrical currents) and places to sleep and food to eat. But better than that, we had relationship. Authentic friendship.

We shared everything. Sickness, clothes, secrets, prayers, burdens, fears, laughter, beds, motorcycle rides, dreams.

"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common." Acts 2:44

We literally got to experience this.

We were completely welcome into the homes and lives of those who call this country their own.We were loved and we loved back. They loved us well. They showed us a living picture of true joy, contentment, sharing all things, fellowship, faith, prayer. Every morning we got up at 5am to have our quiet times and then to pray with and for one another.

Oftentimes when you go to a place that is poorer, it's easy to develop a Savior complex. (I didn't make up that term but I don't know where I first read it, so I can't credit it. Again, let's pretend I'm brilliant.)

I'm going to go there and help them. Change them. Teach them how things are really done. But often, most of the time, all the time, we are the ones changed. Suddenly that one time we said, I don't know what I'd do without my two-car garage/children's play room/4-bedroom house, seems so silly. Instead we start to think such crazy thoughts like, How could I live with less so that I could help more? Give more? 

Where do I see others with prejudice and judgment? When was the last time I looked at a person and saw a dirty face with unwashed clothes, and not the infinitely valuable creation that God knit together so carefully in their mother's womb?

Lord, help us to love well. Help me to love like You do.

May 15, 2012

Mother's Day Recap

I had a great Mother's Day. Our church meets on Saturday night, so we had all day Sunday as a family. It was wonderful. I didn't want to cook on Mother's Day (I don't want to cook most days), so it was a quick decision to go out for breakfast. It was completely up to me. After making clear that I wanted to go someplace new, and not somewhere we always go, we talked about all our options. With resolve firmly in place to try someplace new, I settled on Food for Thought. Why reinvent the wheel, y'all? If it's good, it's good. No need to try something new.

After breakfast we drove around looking for a park that a friend had posted about that had looked amazing. While the drive was beautiful it didn't take long to realize we were not on the same page. Unbeknownst to us, Matt had one park in mind and I had another (this friend had posted about several). Ultimately we were both right. Hear that, babe? I was right too. Eventually we found the park and had a great time.

After the park we headed home for naptime.

While the boys were napping, I reviewed Matt's paper for school that was due that day. Dream come true. Check that off my Mother's Day Bucket List. I did get to sit out in the sun for part of it though. So that kind of made up for it. Except for when the Apocalypse occurred. Otherwise known as The Attack of the Wasps. That quickly brought me back inside with lots of Evil Thoughts and Yells thrown at them for good measure.

Once the boys got up, we met my parents at U-Swirl. Free fro-yo for mamas! Holla'. For that I do not have Photo Documentation, but it happened, trust me.

After that we made a quick trip to the mall and then headed home. It was a great day. I love just getting to hang out with my family with no agenda. Nowhere to be, nothing scheduled.

We live very near a major river and we've found this park that's about a 10 minute bike ride from our house that leads to lots of trails along the river. Micah's very favorite thing is throwing rocks into the river, so yesterday when Matt got home from work we made it a family trip. We had planned to take him Sunday but didn't get the chance, so we made it happen yesterday.

Please don't email me and tell me how awful I look in this picture. I know, okay. Focus on Asher. Asher. Focus. 

Can you believe this is a bike ride from our house?? There's Micah doing his thing - throwing rocks to his heart's content.

Me and my buddy. 

We've been having perfect weather and we've tried to make the most of it everyday. I love having this kind of outdoor activity so close. It's a great way to end the day as a family. Bike ride, hiking, river, maybe or maybe not some ice cream.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

May 11, 2012

A Mother's Day

In light of this Pre-Mother's Day Friday, some thoughts on motherhood.

Being a mom is complex. There are so many different facets and emotions, ranging from the intensely happy to the intensely not-happy. I've found it's possible to feel opposing emotions at the exact same time. Wanting a moment to myself, but being happiest when they're with me.

Last night I drove to town expecting to meet up with friends for a women's group I'm in. I left the house early, wanting to squeeze in a couple of errands and have a little alone time. Turns out, the group was cancelled and I found myself in town with nothing but scarlet horizons and free and easy on the radar. I picked up a burrito and happily indulged in one of my favorite past times of years and years past. Eating by myself while reading a book. Oh, the quiet bliss.

Afterwards I debated heading to my favorite bookstore for another of my favorite past times. Picking through dozens of books and choosing one after another to sit down and read as much as I can before I have to leave. I decided against that and considered yet another of my favorite past times. Heading to the mall for a leisurely stroll and a healthy dose of people watching. Alas, no.

Ultimately I headed to Wal-mart (kill me a slow torturous death) to pick up a few items we needed. As I was walking in, it hit me.

I was thrilled when I found out that I was going to have an unexpected evening to myself. I couldn't wait to do what I wanted to do with no concern for schedules and nap times and Spousal Boredom.

But after less than an hour, I realized that what I really wanted was to get home to my three favorite people in the whole world. My time alone was good for a dinner hour's worth, but really that's all I needed. What I really wanted was to be with my husband and sons.

Wanting to be alone but really wanting to be with them. Sometimes, they're both true.

One of my favorite things about being a mother is the sweet secretness of it. Like those nights of cuddling them close and whispering into their ears every truth about them that I can think of. You are the apple of mommy's eye. You make mommy so happy. I love who you are. I love everything about you. You are loved more than you will ever know. You are so wanted. You were always wanted.

The tears as I've held them close and wept for every child abused and unloved and alone.

The prayers that I've spoken aloud over them, about them, for them. The conversations between me and the Lord as I've snuggled them before naptime and bedtime.

The way that I know them. Know know them. I know what that cry means and what this cry means. I know exactly what he's saying when he's frantically asking for bur and he keeps hearing, I'm sorry buddy, I don't know what you wantButter, he's asking for butter! I yell down the hall. Obviously. How can you make it any clearer, right?

Motherhood is sweet and refining. It reminds me that I'm a sinner in desperate need of the Cross every single day. It shows me that love is deep and rich and profound and it only takes a single moment to break your heart. Like when he says so sweetly, Yove YOU, Mommy! 

I love you, buddy. More than you will ever know.

*Linked up with and*

May 08, 2012

Math and Gratitude

I'd like to present a mathematical equation.

Two newly popped through teeth + terrified nursing mother torture that should be reserved for only The Dark Ages

I'd like to present another mathematical equation.

Bugs are evil. Butterflies are bugs. Butterflies are evil.

My brain hasn't done this much math in years.

On a related note, I've been praying lately that I would have a thankful heart. A grateful heart. I've tried to always be mindful and thankful for the good things in my life. You know, the big things. An amazing husband. Two sons that have stolen my heart. Food to eat. Not just any shelter over our head, but nice, comfy-cozy, spacious shelter. More than enough in the bank to meet our needs. You know, those kinds of things.

But I wanted to be more intentional and thankful for the other things too. So-called little things. But I was driving home one day recently and I realized that my problem isn't being thankful for thankable things. My problem is I don't give thanks for the things that I am not thankful for. The hard things. The unwanted things.

"In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1st Thessalonians 5:18

So I tried it out. Asher went through a spell of getting up in the middle of the night and I decided to be thankful. So I dragged myself out of bed and thanked the Lord for my son and for his life and for being able to get up with him. And that's about all I remember from 3 in the morning.

But it totally changed my attitude. And I know this is so circa 1998, and we all already learned these Gratefulness Changes Attitudes pep talks, but I didn't. Because sometimes I think certain things don't apply to me. And sometimes I think that if it's verifiably upsetting, then I don't have to choose a different path for my thoughts to wander down.

Upsetting situation + I get upset = usually lots of complaining and I-feel-so-sorry-for-myselfs

But that's the very nature of this new life I've been given. I'm not the same. I don't have to do the things I've always done. By God's grace I can choose differently.

So, as my good friend once said, if this is a 10-mile journey, I've just taken 3 steps. All praise be to God.

May 06, 2012

A Myriad of Things

I've been a little bothered by a couple of things in my last wisdom post.

First, I think I may have inadvertently made it sound as if age and experience have nothing to do with wisdom. What I really mean is that ultimately wisdom comes from God, but much of it can also happen through age and experience as we walk with him. I just meant to say that simply getting old doesn't guarantee wisdom. I've long said that I can't wait to get old and be wiser. I just know that I don't have to wait for only that to have wisdom in my life. I've long prayed that God would give me godly wisdom (which is first pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy - James 3:17) that's beyond my years and own personal experience. I desperately want to be wise and not foolish.

Really that's the only thing that bothered me. I feel better already.

I have this weird obsession with Attachment Parenting. And I know, I know, all you BabyWisers are removing me from your subscriptions. I can handle it. I've lived through worse. Like 6 days without Dairy Queen. I can survive this.

I don't know what it is. The whole natural birth, baby-wearing, co-sleeping (ok, not the co-sleeping) way of doing things is really fascinating. Obviously there's so much more to it than that but of what little I know, those stand out.

I was once a staunch BWer, but after seeing the legalistic fruit it bore in my life and the little joys it robbed me of, like *gasp* rocking my precious babe to sleep every once in a while, I was done with it. I've found a happy medium through BabyWhisperer. Similar concept as BW but erring on the side of Life and Freedom and Happiness.

Really that's about all I have to say about that. Not too much Deep happening in these parts.

I should probably do a Child Update, since it's been a while.

Micah, you are now 2 years and 3 months old. You are talking up a storm and repeat everything we say, which is so hilarious. You are super tall for your age, which makes you look older than you really are. You are a huge Daddy's boy which brings great delight to my heart. I love the special relationship you and your daddy have. Your favorite thing in the entire world is to go on a "bak wide" to see the ducks and "bearwes" and throw "wocks" with Daddy. You both come back so happy and full of stories, which are always hilarious to hear.

You've been a great sleeper forever, except for this recent thing of getting up between 7 and 7:30. Not cool.

You've never been a picky eater, but we've found if we want you to eat mostly everything on your plate, we have to wait to put other things on the table until you're done, like fruits and "ups" and "salda" (chips and salsa).

You're still very attached to us when we're out and about and have occasional meltdowns if we leave you with others, but I think we're slowly but surely getting past that.

We love you so much it's ridiculous. Oftentimes after we've put you to bed, one or both of us will mention how much we miss you and go over the stories from that day that made us laugh. We delight deeply in you and find great joy in getting to do things that serve no other purpose than simply making you happy. Sometimes Daddy and I passive aggressively battle over who gets to be the one to make you happy. Like who got to give you the chocolate cupcake today. I let Daddy win, mostly because I love seeing him love you.

Asher, you are now 8 1/2 months old. You are still a roly-poly ball of jiggly goodness. Just thinking about you makes me smile. You are one happy, contented baby. Except for when you're not. And then you are one back-arching, arm and leg-thrashing, screaming ball of happiness. Except for the happiness part. 98% of the time, you're happy and easy-going. 2% of the time your Dr. Jekyll escapes his confines and makes his way to the Outerworld. Yikes. But it's usually easily solvable with some milk and/or bedtime.

You are still breast-feeding full time, and as of only 3 days ago, started taking a bottle. I'm kind of lazy on giving you solids, so you usually only eat solids 1-2 times a day, lunch and/or dinner. You are a great sleeper. You've mostly dropped your 10:30ish feeding, so you often sleep from 7 to 8.

*and all the angels broke out in the Hallelujah Chorus*

You take two naps a day, anywhere from 1-3 hours. Sometimes you get up after 45 minutes and I terrify myself that this is our new normal, and then your next nap you sleep for 2 hours and all is well again. But my Type A likes to tie myself up in freakish knots of anxiety until Reality proves me wrong again.

You and your brother get along great. Micah is very lovey towards you, although we do have times of having to intervene and remind him to be nice, gentle, kind, etc. Typical kid things, I'm sure.

Whew, I think that's the gist of it. All caught up we are. I leave you now with proof of the Cutest Kids in the World.

May 01, 2012

How to Travel On a Plane with Children

What? It makes me so sad that it's been over a week since I've posted. I have all these thoughts but I haven't had the time to get them out.

(Except for all that time after the boys go to bed and I sit down with ice cream and something to read. Except for that time.)

I thought I'd write about something near and dear to my heart, of which is also fresh on my mind. 

Traveling on an airplane and through airports with a child and/or children. 

Micah just completed his 19th plane trip and Asher his 4th, so I consider myself a tiny bit of an expert. But only sometimes, because I'm also apt to make the same mistakes again and again. Like overpacking. 

(Hi, my name is Sara and I'm a Chronic Overpacker.

(Even though I so judge other families, only in my mind of course, who travel with too much stuff.) 

But first, some important things to tuck in your back pocket.

You will get off schedule. There's no getting around it. I try my best to stick with it to an extent but it's just completely unrealistic to keep such things as naptimes at their regular time or for them to nap as long as they may normally nap, or anything else schedule-related. If you can tell yourself that beforehand, it lowers the Anxious Level an eighth of a notch. 

You will most likely have at least one episode of a crying/screaming child on the airplane. Yes, the inner sanctum of your nerves will light on fire. But you will also survive, and so will everyone around you. Nobody has yet died from listening to a screaming child on the airplane. Stay calm, keep a sense of humor, and put those Foxhole Prayers to some good use. 

Okay, Traveling With Infants and Toddlers. 
  • Consolidate your carry-ons. I use a simple school-like backpack and make it my purse and diaper bag. That way I only have one bag to keep track of and I can have both hands free. This is especially helpful through TSA screening. Also, if you have any liquids (baby food, tylenol, etc.), keep it all together in a ziplock bag so you can quickly get it out for screening.
  • Pack one change of clothes (I usually do pajamas) for each child and about 3-4 diapers per child. Trust me, Madame Pack-Too-Much, statistically speaking they do not need any more than that.
  • A small, umbrella stroller is your best bet. Anything bigger is usually completely unnecessary and a bigger hassle. Jogging strollers in the airport should be outlawed. (They actually are on some airlines, like everyone's beloved Southwest Airlines.) Coming from someone who has to load those things, I have a deep-seated dislike (read: hatred) for jogging strollers in the airport. Unless the airport that you're going to requires 4-wheel tread, leave it at home. 
  • Pack snacks and try to choose ones that aren't messy. I've learned this the hard way. Apple slices are much less messy than bananas. The same with ham and cheese sandwiches over PB and J. 
  • Secure a DVD player. Seriously, this has been the biggest help for us on the airplane. It's so hard (impossible) to explain to a toddler why they can't get out of their seat and run up and down the aisles, so having something like a DVD player is great for when all your red-faced explanations break down. 
  • Between planes on your layovers, let them out of the stroller and run around like a crazy person. They need to get out their energy and it makes the next leg a little easier if they're worn out. 
  • Search the maps and find where the kids' play area is. Most major airports have them and some of them are pretty snazzy. 
  • Be kind and amiable to the people sitting around you. On our last flight today, as soon as we were sitting down Micah started kicking the seat in front of him. Of course I was stern with him about it but I knew that it was probably not going to stop anytime soon because it was mostly subconscious kicking, so I tapped the guy's shoulder and told him I was so sorry and that I didn't want it to drive him crazy, and I asked him if he'd like to change seats. I also told the flight attendant the same thing on his behalf when she came by. The passenger had a great attitude about it and behold, before we knew it Micah was passed out anyway. But it helps to go out of your way to be thoughtful of the people around you, especially the flight attendants.
  • Lastly, try as hard as you can to keep a good attitude. Your experience will largely depend on your attitude. I've seen some parents so stressed out, for no apparent reason other than that they were in an airport and they had kids, that I was tempted to take medication myself. Stay relaxed, calm, easy-going. Have fun and make the best of it. 
Also remember that this too will pass. We've been in every situation imaginable. We've been stuck in an airport for 12 hours with a 9 month old, we've had 4-hour layovers with both kids, we've sat on the tarmac for an hour and a half with a cranky, impatient toddler, we've had poopy blow-outs mid-flight, and everything in between. We made the best of it and lived to tell about it. And I'd do it again tomorrow. And the next day. 

If there's anything else I didn't hit on, feel free to leave a question in the comments. Hopefully this helps!