I’m the one…

with the screaming toddler at the side of the pool who can’t stand watching his siblings do swim lessons for thirty long minutes and a  two year old darling who is crying for the candy she saw when she walked in

watching my other son who is in the pool, cry and yell and kick his tiny 17 year old instructor as she makes her best attempt at easing him into the freezing pool

who wonders if swim lessons are worth all this trauma

who fell asleep in clothes, with make-up on, teeth unbrushed and all the lights on in my room two nights ago

whose boys are hitting eachother at the chiropractors office with the rubber reflex mallet

who can’t seem to find shoes for their children that are free of chicken poop

with the glazed over look and complete lack of words sitting at Applebees last night with four hungry children seven and under while sipping lemonade and telling myself I will get through this day and this pile of french fries is my friend

whose son ripped the hair out of the kung fu lion at the doctor’s office yesterday

whose daughter ate part of the cover of a book at same chiropractor’s officer, yes, yesterday

whose children giggled uncontrollably when they saw a drawing of the human body, unclothed, at said office

whose son remarked loudly when seeing the doctor “HE’S HUGE!!!”

who tried not to cry when kind office worker lady at the office said, “I think you must be crazy, having all these children”

who raised her voice more than she has in a long, long time these past two days

who wasn’t patient and thoughtful and wisdom-filled with her troop this week

who thinks skipping naps for the sake of finding adventure, twice in one weekend, will not be repeated

who is clinging to this verse on this less than perfect day

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.   -Hebrews 4:16

What CAN I do?

This is something I’ve pondered for a while and wanted to share.  The idea that in the throws of raising young children it is easy to see the list of things you aren’t able to do.  Things like…

I have a newborn – I can’t fit my clothes or find a way to make dinner or take a shower or do laundry.

I have two wild toddlers – I can’t make it to the mall to pick something up or sit through a church service without meltdowns or survive the grocery store for even 6 items.

I can’t entertain dinner guests because my children act like farm animals at dinner some nights.

I can’t help my friend who has new baby because ‘helping’ involves me toting my four kids along which is entirely NOT helpful at all.

I can’t host a BBQ this weekend because my backyard looks like a goodwill store.

I can’t ask my mother-in-law to help me with laundry because I want her to think I’m perfectly capable of folding her son’s laundry.

I can’t run a zillion errands for my friend who is really sick this week.

I can’t get my hair to look decent or get the look I want with make up or find the right outfit to make my post-four-children-body to look ‘just right’.

I can’t find a way to get my house clean in it’s entirely all at one time.

While there are genuine things I truly ‘can’t’ do…I’m starting to realize there is a whole myriad of other things that I CAN do.  Looking for the can-do things has radically changed my perspective and the way I operate as a mother.

I may not be able to fit clothes or make dinner after a new baby arrives but I can head to the thrift store and find a couple things that will work so I don’t have to wear my pajamas for the next three eight months after delivering a baby.  I can get a Costco bag of chicken strips and meatballs and pre-cut veggies and make some super simple/easy meals for a few weeks months.

I may not make it to the mall to find the right gift for a friend or refill my make-up but I can plan ahead and find it online for less money (often) and free shipping (usually).  I can resolve to plan well and shop for the whole week’s groceries on the weekend or late at night when I can go without kids.

I can extend grace to myself when my children are the ones throwing a fit in the third row of the church service and when it’s my son who laughs when someone farts in the row behind us and when my daughter takes all her clothes off and runs away from me.

I can have dinner guests and politely give a disclaimer that my children are, well, children and they might be loud.  And I can rally my kids for a ten minute clear-the-grass-off pick-up in the yard so we can have room to have a BBQ.

I can ditch my pride and ask for help folding the ten loads of laundry piled in my family room.

I can always add a little more food to my dinner and bring a meal to a sick friend or one with a new baby or one who is hurting.  This one is the way that I very often find I can be a blessing to others and it truly delights me as much as whoever I am cooking it for.

I can choose to be glad that though my whole house can’t get clean the same day…getting a couple rooms in order will suffice until, maybe until my children are grown?

I can know that any hair/skin/makeup/clothing issues I may struggle with completely pale in comparison to the life I get to live every day.  It may be mundane or chaotic or exhausting or overwhelming or a far cry from ‘ideal’ in someone else’s book.  But it is mine.  And I’m the only one who gets to live it out.  For better or worse.

Embracing that last truth and really the whole general perspective that choosing to see what I CAN do instead of what I can’t is in the process of changing my life.  For good.

On adding zest

So my husband has convinced me that I should share with you a website that has encouraged me and challenged me in good ways….and even though ‘you’ involves my Grandma and my husband’s precious mother – I decided to oblige.

Adding Zest to Your Nest is a website whose purpose is to create a safe place for women to discuss their sexuality as Christians.  They believe (and I do too) that sex should be a delight, a treasure, and a gift wives get to share with their husbands.

In my opinion, reading and writing about this subject shouldn’t be taboo in Christian circles, it just needs to be done in an honoring, respectful way.  Which granted, in our culture of totally distorted sexual ideals, is easier said than done.   But I firmly believe that not addressing issues of sexuality is not the answer at all.

While I would prefer to chronicle our family life and ‘scrapbook’ through my blog, I prefer even more to be obedient when I feel God is asking me to do something.  Writing is that thing.  So that is why if you click here, you can find the article I wrote this past week as a guest on Adding Zest.

Heather Lake Trail

Up towards the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, there are many hikes on our list for this summer.  Today we enjoyed the Heather Lake Trail.  Five hours, 4 miles, 1000 foot elevation gain and 4 really tired hikers.  It was beautiful, worth the effort for sure.  Lots of old growth trees that were super impressive.

Why Daddy is our oak tree

Tuesday was Father’s Dad here since I was so sick this weekend…I think it was worth waiting for.  We spent the day working on it and we had a lot of fun.  In the morning we went to the huge flower store and found an oak tree.  That was the heart of our gift.  The only ones they carried were about 10 feet tall.  Uncle Buzz came with his truck and brought it home for us.  Then we set to work making a wall sized mural of an oak tree.  I cut out a bunch of little acorns and after the kids finished drawing the tree and bark and deep roots that are characteristic of oaks, they decorated acorns and glued them to the paper tree.  We all wrote cards too.  Each acorn on the tree had different traits of Daddy that each of us loves….like “Daddy is mighty”  or “Daddy does good work”.

The painting was Kyler’s favorite part

The watching was Audrey’s favorite part

Daddy reading his tree

Showing dad the tree

Our little oak!

Daddy reading cards

Surviving the newborn phase

I laid in bed last night thinking about all the things we do as new parents to survive the bleary-eyed, exhausting stage of having a newborn.  I found myself making a mental list for each baby and thinking now how funny some of it sounds.  At the time though, not funny at all.  Serious business indeed this keeping a so-very-tiny-and-utterly-dependent-on-me baby alive on a daily basis.  Here is my mental list that kept me awake last night while texting a friend who just had her first baby and wondered “How does anyone do this every single day?” and while waiting for ‘the call’ from my sister who is a week from her due date with her second babe…

Rylee had bad acid reflux, mainly from being a preemie, so added to several doses of blood pressure meds she also took 2 kinds of prescriptions to help her digest food and not spit up.

We kept her upright, almost without fail, for at least 30 minutes after EVERY feeding day and night.  Imagine that fun.  But it helped her.

White noise machines.  We burned through 4 of them in two years.

Binkies.  Of course.  Only one of our four actually was soothed by it.  But we tried it for all.

The exercise ball.  We bounced on that giant blue ball for HOURS on end.  There were nights I wanted to stick a knife in it I was so tired of the gentle bounce, but for two of our kids they were super calmed by that movement.  We learned to watch entire movies on the ball, brought the ball on camping trips…again, it may sound crazy but it brought calm and sleep for us and sometimes that’s all you need.

The Baby Bjorn.  It is one of very few things we’ve kept and used without ceasing for each baby.  We learned to walk the house till tiny baby was asleep then mastered leaning back on the couch to ‘sleep’ while they snoozed in the Bjorn.

Then there was Caleb.  He cried basically for the first 6 months of his life.  So did I.

We spent, honestly, hours a night driving up and down I-405 with him so the other parent could sleep a bit.  We lived off of the 24-hour Starbucks near our house.

He liked a tight swaddle in the amazing Miracle Blanket.  I wouldn’t say it was miraculous for him.  But it helped.  Some.

After determining that maybe, possibly he slept better without us in the room, we slept downstairs on our couch….for several months.  We were completely desperate for sleep.  People thought we were nuts.  Some definitely judged us that we were letting our baby rule.  But we just needed to survive.  And far more than needing judgment, parents new to raising little ones just need a lot of grace.

Once they were strong enough to lift their heads, they all quickly became tummy sleepers.  They slept much (okay, maybe just sort of) better that way.

Our third born, Kyler, was as easy going as they come.  He loved the binkie and sleeping and nursing.

Getting rid of the binkie was rough but it’s done now.

Audrey was born quickly and in the water.  Calm at first then she was pretty sensitive in her early days.  She cried almost every time, the whole time, we were in the car.  It was not fun for anyone.

My midwife recommended a Cranial Sacral Therapist.  We went.  She worked some kinks out of Audrey’s little body and she was a different baby by the following day.  She also taught me baby massage for Audrey’s belly which helped her new digestive system work better.  We had no money and it seemed crazy but wow, so glad we did it.

Anyone else willing to share your craziest or favoritest strategy for making it through those first weeks with a new baby?

Thankful

#90 – grocery lists and weekly menus written in green crayon on hot pink paper

#91 – respite from ‘food poisoning’? just in time to celebrate the father of my children

#92 – homemade burgers

#93 – a neighbor willing to come pray over me

#94 – survival

#95 – a perfectly timed diaper deposit from the tiny one that provided me a quiet run to the lab after much too long a day

#96 – wrapping up homeschool for the summer!

#97 – being reminded how simple life can be and still be good

#98 – the prospect of camping

#99 – the joy observing a life lived out fully with purpose

#100 – a chance to start fresh with the younger middle who is driving me c-r-a-z-y this week

#101 – a list of hikes to do this summer

#102 – jeans that fit (a little!) loose

#103 – being able to take strange advice in stride

#104 – new recipes to try

#105 – the fun of sharing meals

#106 – the way family puts up with family

#107 – the way sisters did all they could to come to my rescue

#108 – the way God’s done something monumental in my life that I truly didn’t think He could

A great father…

…lives here.

He works hard.
He maintains balance.
He holds to his priorities.
He puts family before fun.
He lets family BE the fun.
He is responsible.
He wrestles and tickles for hours.
He gives the best bedtime snuggles.
He is self-sacrificing.
He has integrity.
He loves well the mother of his children.
He has the best smile.
He is flexible and spontaneous.
He is strong.
He perseveres.
He is teachable.
He is quick to forgive.
He loves Jesus.

He is the hero in this place…..not just to all our  littles, but to me too.

The power of the tongue

I’ve been enjoying reading Ann Voskamp’s series on marriage these past few weeks.  They’ve prompted a good amount of pondering and reflection.

While I realize eleven years doesn’t make me an expert, I also realize that in an era that has largely lost sight of the covenant promise that marriage was meant to be…many people don’t make it to their eleventh anniversary.

A lot has changed in our marriage these past two years.

As with any marriage, there have been many factors, countless immeasurable variables that played into our ability (or lack of) to maintain our union.  The words have been one of the biggest pieces.

I love words.  I love talking.  I love reading.  I love writing.

My word-love has given me an ability to argue in a cunning and bold way over the years.  For many years in fact, I was proud to have the upper hand when we disagreed or argued.  How twisted is that?  I know.

The yucky thing about pride is that it gets ripped down.  In my “I’m-better-than-you-at-fighting” state, I was actually the one losing.  I began to see the fruit of my ‘work’.

And it was ugly.  It was pain and wounds and a deflated heart.

I had always carefully crafted my own words.  And while listening, I was constantly thinking about what witty thing I could respond with….which is not really listening at all.

I would dissect what I heard and take it out of context and make it something it wasn’t.  I thought I was smart.

But I was actually just mean.  And one piece at a time, I was making my husband feel like less of a man.

You can imagine how well this worked out for us.  Add in a baby every year or two.  The loss of a long-term job.  Financial instability.

Of course my words weren’t responsible for all of that.  But they had left their mark.  They couldn’t be taken back.  As my heart softened and I realized what was taking place – I would have given anything to make them disappear.

All I have control over now is my choice today and in the days to come.  In these last couple healing years, I’ve watched my words become balm to a hurting heart.  I’ve seen the incredible power when I hold my tongue and don’t let harsh words fall.  Sometimes even just the absence of an angry tongue brings restoration.

I am still learning and still marveling at the power in it.  I grew up knowing all the verses about the tongue and how it was a double-edged sword and all that.  But it’s taken me a long time for it to really mean something to me.

I have abundant hope that though the next eleven years won’t be perfect, they will continue to refine my ability to be silent when needed and to breathe life to my husband.

A Tale of Two Mothers

Yesterday:

Chris was gone to a meeting and I was home with sleeping ones.  As they awoke and scattered around the house and yard, I played with Audrey in the family room.  Boys were outside, where boys are happiest.

But they had found where their Daddy set the fishing poles from the mornings’ inaugural fishing trip.  Silently they took them where I could not see them and played “going fishing” from the top of the playset.  They knew better.  But they were having a grand time I’m sure.

When I came out to peek on them, I flipped a lid completely.  They had tangled and undone the fishing reel and made a mess in their illicit fun.

I yelled “Get your butts inside right now!”  May not seem like much but using that term for the behind is like a swear word in this house.  I was red-faced mad.

So mad that I sent them to bed.  At 6:00.  They’d just finished dinner.  They should have had hours of play ahead of them.

My reaction had little to do with fishing pole lines and everything to do with who last wound the reel.  These were Grampy’s fishing rods.  And he’s gone.

I did not speak to them the rest of the night but to say “Stay in bed.  Go to sleep.”  I did not address what they’d done except for my irrational spew of words as I saw them out the window.  I did not forgive them.  They were more bummed they got busted than remorseful at their poor choice.  They did not grasp the emotions that lay under the surface.  They simply saw crazy-mom totally lose it.  It was not a high moment.

Today:

We were getting ready for the day, putting away jammies, finishing breakfast, letting chickens out…when Caleb thought it would be a great idea to tie Maggie (35 lb dog) to the wooden play kitchen that my Grandma bought for the girls for Christmas.  Then he spooked her and she ran.  Pulling the 30 pound kitchen over with her.  Dishes flew everywhere.  Part of the door cracked as it hit the floor.

I run into the room, see the dog, the kitchen, the mess, the boy whose face instantly tells me he is broken too.  He is saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry Mama” over and over.  I am overcome and kneel to assess the damage, I start to cry and whisper “Great-Grandma got this for the girls….Papa put it all together…”.  He knows.  And he runs to his room weeping.

I walk to my own room, weeping too.  I shut the door and sink to the floor.  The fishing poles are sitting next to me.  Just looking at them literally makes my heart hurt.

It isn’t about the cracked kitchen or unwound fishing line.  It is all about the sacred things that mean family.  It is about how my heart broke watching my husband unpack his dad’s tackle boxes.  It’s about the fact that Great-Grandma is old and her making it to one more Christmas to pick out something for my girls is not something I have control of.  No matter how I cling, life is out of my control.

I force myself to get up and open his door.  I’ve seen him this sad maybe a few times ever in his 6 years.  He looks at me and I see him wonder Is she mad?  What’s she going to do? I open my arms and he melts in.  We sit and cry together for a long while.  I try to explain that it’s not about ‘stuff’ but that some things are meaningful and that especially after someone dies, their things that we have are a way we cherish them and remember.

After at least ten minutes of silence and two soaked cheeks touching each other, he looks up and says “I think you are going to not forgive me.”  I hadn’t remembered to actually say it even though as soon as I walked into his room, my heart did it.

I say it out loud.  I tell him I mean it.  That forgiving means starting over fresh.  That no bad choice he could ever make will change the fact that I love him.

We open the door after at least a half an hour.  Rylee, ever intuitive seven year old, had kept the other kids busy and they had all been coloring pictures for me while they waited.  They somberly each handed me a stack of pictures and I wept again.

So we start over.  And I’m so struck by the fact that I could get it so wrong yesterday and so much closer to right today.  I’ve said it before but today is a good reminder:  being a mother is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Thank goodness for second chances…