Thursday, December 31, 2009

looking forward

I caught a rerun of Oprah the other day where she interviewed Stephanie Nielson. A mom of four, she was in a horrible plane crash in 2008 that left her with third and fourth-degree burns on over 80% of her body. Her story is amazing and heartbreaking and so inspiring. I immediately sought out her blog and have spent every free minute reading it.

She has inspired me to be more present with my children. I realize how often I say the words, "In a minute" to Eli. He plays wonderfully by himself, so it's easy to sit nearby and work on the computer, clean the kitchen, fold the laundry, and pay the bills while he plays. I am ashamed of how often I treat moments with my kids as chores instead of privileges. After spending time in Stephanie's world, I realize what a blessing it is to be able to pick up my children and snuggle them, to bathe them, to prepare their lunches, to take them to Target, to read books with them. All of the mundane, repetitive tasks of the day take on new significance in the light of someone else's struggle. I am determined to be more "in the moment" with them - play trucks and bake cookies with Eli, play peek-a-boo and read board books with Lucas. In the blink of an eye, my babies will be gone. I want to hold on while I can.

Stephanie's blog has also challenged me to treat my homemaking as an act of service. I love being a stay-at-home-mom, and in theory, I love being a homemaker. I have grand ideas for organizing and cleaning and cooking and baking and sewing and crafting... and almost never have the follow through. I want to create a haven for my family, a home full of order and traditions and freshly baked bread. I want my children to look back and remember how mom made homemade pizza every Friday and gingerbread houses at Christmastime; how we tended to our family garden together and built forts in the living room; how she kept our home neat and organized and running efficiently; how she did everything with a special touch, just to show us how much she cared about us.

I encourage you to visit Stephanie's blog here: Be inspired.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

looking backward

I love the turn of a new year. No matter the circumstances on December 31, on January 1 I feel newly full of hope and promise for the months ahead. This being a milestone year (the end of the no-name decade), I have to take a moment to reflect on the journey of the Oh-Ohs. The single-digits? The "aughts?" Anyway, here are the highlights and lowlights of the past decade:

College graduation.
Never mind that I would never actually use the degree;
it was still a great achievement.

Married my bestest buddy and my first and only true love.
Ten years later, he's still the guy who makes my heart happy.

Idaho, Indiana, Oregon. All of them home.

What do you do when you realize
that the picture you had in your head five years ago
doesn't look anything like the reality you face?
To say that we have struggled is an understatement.
This I do know: God's grace is sufficient. God sustains. Always.

An embarrassingly short teaching career, but those two-and-a-half years
spent shaping the minds of first graders brought me so much joy and fulfillment.

I miss the classroom. I hope to go back there one day.

Ben and I both lost our last remaining grandparent in this decade.
So strange how an entire generation can disappear.
Then everything shifts, whether you're ready for it or not.

Suddenly, our parents are the elderly and we're the grownups.
We still feel like kids.

Oh, my babies. My precious little boys.
I'm constantly astonished by how much I love them.
Being a mother has brought me unspeakable joy.

What can I say about the goodness of the Lord?
I have been overwhelmed by His loving, merciful,
unshakeable presence on the brightest days and darkest nights.
I have learned how to long for and allow for
Him to rule and reign in my heart and in my home.
He is with me.
He is unchanging.
He wants me to dream big dreams.
He delights in me.

Oh... how He loves me so.

Monday, October 12, 2009

this is what happens when you aren't paying attention...

yep, i dressed luke in eli's pants. he didn't seem to mind.


Eli is two-and-a-half. It's an interesting age. Each day brings a new set of battles, and I am constantly learning how to win them. And how to lose them graciously. A few months ago, I thought I was going to lose my mind. My sweet, easy-tempered little boy was replaced almost overnight by a screaming, fit-throwing, impossibly stubborn demon child. I was mortified, exhausted and extremely humbled. I felt helpless and hopeless.

So I went to the source of all help and hope. I started getting on my knees every morning and asking God for wisdom, patience, and strength. When I was about to lose my temper, I would pray out loud for God to put a guard over my mouth. I cried out to the Lord - literally - and begged for more wisdom, more wisdom, more wisdom. Of course, He poured it out. "If any of you need wisdom, you should ask God, and it will be given to you. God is generous and won't correct you for asking (James 1:5)." Suddenly it seemed that everywhere I turned I found wisdom - good, Godly, practical advice.

Now when Eli starts to throw a fit or have a meltdown over something, I feel like I have many more "tools in my toolbox" with which I can respond. He still goes to time out - often - and I still spank - less often - but I find myself able to respond less out of anger and frustration, and with much greater thoughtfulness and patience. I also started praying over Eli more - sometimes, even in the middle of a meltdown, scooping him up and just praying out loud for God to calm his spirit - and I really believe that it's made a difference. He is having fewer behavior issues and the tension between us is so much less. This isn't to say that our days are problem-free. Or that the next challenging phase isn't right around the corner. But I'm thankful for good days right now.

Eli is quickly changing from a toddler to a preschooler (insert giant sob here). Cognitively, he's right on the cusp of understanding so much. I can see the wheels turning constantly, and it's hard to be patient and allow him to figure some things out for himself. I watch him make mistakes and get frustrated and have accidents and I think that he's just never going to get it. And then, he gets it. He figures out how to carry the bowl so that his snack doesn't spill. He figures out how to get Mickey in and out of the Mickey car by himself. It's amazing. When I was teaching, it was always so thrilling to witness the Aha! moments in my students - the moments when something clicked and the light bulb came on. It is a hundred times more rewarding to see them in my own child, especially when I am with him all day, every day, and I witness many, many "What the crap is wrong with my child?" moments.

The best part of this age (aside from all of the hugs and "I fuv you too, Mommy"s) is all of the funny things he says now. The other day I went to get him up from his nap. He was standing with his back turned to me, and I startled him when I walked in. He jumped, then turned around with his hand on his chest and exclaimed, "Oh! I scared you!" The same day, I went through the Starbucks drive-through and Eli was whining for his "Eli coffee?" I told him that he couldn't have any coffee, but that I would give him a special treat - and then handed him a nickel from my change. "This is a nickel," I said. "A pee-cole?" he replied in an awed voice. Then, after a beat: "A pee-cole, Mom? This is NOT a treat."

Oh yeah, and Lucas is six months old and growing at the speed of light and Mommy cannot handle how fast it's going this time and is having massive daily meltdowns over it. So, we'll save him for another day.

Monday, September 28, 2009

desire and power

God brought a verse to me recently: "Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and power to do what pleases Him (Phil 2:12-13)." In the past few years, God has changed my heart, radically transforming me into a woman who not only loves Him and pays Him lip service, but who earnestly desires the things of His heart and character. He is growing in me a heart that longs for His name to be glorified in my life. Changing me so that I long less for my dream house and more for my children to grow to love Him with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and strengths. He takes my eyes off of the Pottery Barn catalog and opens them to see the hurting people in my city - and, most amazingly, causing me to want to move.

I lived so selfishly for so many years, despite my outward professions of being His daughter. I spent my time thinking about myself - what I wanted, how I felt, what I had and didn't have and what I thought I needed to be happy. "If I only had..." or "If we could only get to this point..." were a constant refrain in my head. I loved God with a passion, but it ebbed and flowed. Even when I wasn't outright sinning, even when I went through a spiritual "high" period, my life was still about me more than anyone else. I was the picture of a lukewarm Christian. It breaks my heart to think of how many hurting people I've passed by over the years because I was too caught up in myself. But God - oh, our awesome God - He poured out His new mercies on me, again... and again.

What an awesome thing for my passion for Jesus to become steadfast; to want what He wants more than what I want. I am starting to get a grasp on His power - power that supplies me with the supernatural, unexplainable ability to move in obedience to His word. He speaks, and I want to listen. He directs, and I want to obey.

He gives me the desire and power to move towards the things of Him and away from things that grieves Him. In my spending and saving. In what I watch and listen to. In how I discipline my children. In how I discipline myself. It's the power to go for a run rather than re-watch Glee for the tenth time. It's the power to stop and pray, "Lord, place a guard over my mouth" before I yell at my screaming two-year-old having a screaming-two-year-old fit. It's the power to let go of my insatiable need to be visible and let someone else have the spotlight. It's the power to let go of my anger and my need to be right, and approach my husband with a gracious and forgiving spirit. It's the power - and this is the tough one - to make my actions live up to all my big talk.

Make no mistake. Not a moment of gracious, obedient, selfless behavior has anything to do with me. It is all by His grace, by His tender mercy that I can do anything good at all. But each time I drag myself out of bed early to have time before Him in the morning, each time I bury myself in studying His word, each time I pay attention to the Holy Spirit and move in obedience, I find deeper desire to know Him, to serve Him, to follow Him - and more and more power to do so.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

hope springs

Sunday was one of those quiet turning points in my life. There was no emotional breakdown, no blowout fight, no life crisis to precipitate the radical change in my heart. This time the only catalyst for change was a weary, broken heart crying out to God, met by a God who loves me enough to listen. A simple moment that opened my eyes, broke my heart, and changed my direction.

We've been in a desert place for a long time now, and for months I've felt like I was barely trudging through the hot sand, head down and just moving, moving, one exhausted step at a time. Even though I was walking with the Lord, searching his word and and listening for his voice, all I could see were circumstances and things to worry about.

On Sunday morning, I sat in church as we were introduced to some new leaders and naturally, my thoughts were on myself. I wished that I was visible as a servant. That when someone thought about a servant and leader in our church, they would think of me. Immediately, God spoke: "It's not about you." And then: "What good is your servant's heart if you never serve?

How like God to be right. In an instant, my hard heart was softened. My dry spirit was drenched in His. He heard my cry and he poured out His grace. How like God to be faithful, merciful, loving. To be there. To be here.

I committed myself then to walk in obedience to him. I have asked him to use me. Now I need to listen, and when I hear him speak, I need to obey. I want to obey.

"Trust in the Lord and go good, dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:3-4)."

I woke up this morning positively bursting with joy. Still in the deepest valley of my life, still facing mountains I can't climb and an enemy who refuses to quit. But I feel real hope and real peace. Still not able to see the way that God has made for us, but I know He has made it. He is waiting, listening, speaking, directing. How sweet to have his presence.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

one of these days...

I am actually going to visit this poor blog regularly again. I keep jotting down things on my "blog about this" list, but I never actually manage to blog about them. In lieu of real writing, here's a snapshot of things I want to share:
  • My first real fasting experience, during which God spoke some amazing things into my heart. In general, He is working in my life like never before... mostly because I am yielding to Him and walking in obedience like never before. Funny how that works.
  • The joy and struggle of life with my two-year-old, including his new penchant for screaming bloody murder in the car - a lot. When does that end??
  • My in-laws first visit to Portland, and our campaign to woo them this direction.
  • Beginning to think about preschool for Eli next fall - not sure how that is even possible - and wondering what other mommies look/looked for in a preschool.
  • My struggle with resolving the absolute truth of Jesus Christ and my desire to respect personal liberty and choice.
  • My new journey as a runner, which has been derailed (temporarily, I hope) by a hip injury, bad knees, and that pesky family visit. :)
Hopefully I'll get to writing about these things soon. Bet you can hardly wait. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

look what i made!

I'm discovering that I really love being a homemaker. I take enormous pleasure in keeping my home clean and organized. Just kidding. I don't actually keep my home clean or organized, but in my mind, the Proverbs 31 women has nothing on me. Anyway, I have been feeling very crafty lately. The other day I was at the park and saw a woman with an adorable little blanket that attached to her Baby Bjorn. When she pulled it up over her baby, it made a little hood for him. I always struggle to keep Lucas covered when we're out in the sun, and I thought it was so clever. I searched for it online and came up empty. So I thought, "I bet I could make that." Heh heh. Side note: I have very limited sewing skills. In fact, I am a pretty terrible sewer. Thank goodness for my can-do attitude. A couple of days later, I was talking to my friend Dara and mentioned what I wanted to make. She said, "Oh, that's a GO blanket." Of course. I found it online and thought, "Oh yeah. I could totally make that." (I should really say those thoughts out loud, so someone can stop me.) No offense to the GO Blanket people, but $70 is a lot for a blankie, no matter how versatile it is. I found possibly the most adorable fabric ever created, and decided to put my crappy sewing ability to the test. And guess what? I actually did it!! Considering that I had no pattern and can barely sew, I think it turned out pretty darned good. If you squint, the stitches look almost straight. The drawstring part at the top doesn't pull through as smoothly as the real version, and it's a little too long when it's tied to the Baby Bjorn, but overall I think it's going to do the job quite nicely. And it's just too cute for words. I tell you, I don't think I was this proud when I delivered my babies. What do you think of my craftiness?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

the baby blues and other adventures

It was only a matter of time before post-partum depression settled into my otherwise idyllic new life with two children. It's nothing major, but when I went from feeling happy and energetic one day to weepy and utterly exhausted the next, I knew what was up. Since I've experienced this before, I quickly called my doctor and started on some happy pills, and I am already feeling a little better after just a few days. But man, am I tired. More than tired, I am excessively, mind-numbingly weary. I feel like my blood is barely pumping and just getting out of bed and off the couch is a challenge. I am so thankful for Ben, who stepped way up and pitched in with baths and dishes and vaccuuming and hugs. I wish we were closer to my family, who I know want nothing more than to help out. I have struggled with mommy guilt and wife guilt and Christian guilt while being too exhausted to really care about all of the things that I feel guilty about. And to add insult to injury, I am having daily migraines again. Waking up with them this time, which is ridiculous. It doesn't even give me a chance to do anything right or wrong, just, "Good morning, you feel like crap already!" It sucks, because I was feeling so good... more energetic and ambitious than I ever felt while I was pregnant, and just... very up. But I've been here before, and I can already feel it getting better. Today I took Eli to the playground, and I worked out, and I'm cooking dinner. Little things that provide a sense of normalcy, that help me see the light at the end of the tunnel and feel like a slightly less inadequate wife and mother. It's comforting to know that I'll get there. But oh, I hate getting there.

In other news, we enjoyed a wonderful Memorial Day at the beach. We spent several hours at Hug Point, wading in the waves and watching Eli play in the sand. He is still skittish about the waves, but he adores running around and digging in the sand. I am an ocean junkie. There is no place I would rather be than sitting on the beach, any beach, watching waves crash. Put a fruity drink in my hand and I'm a happy, happy woman.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

squeaky mcgee

Lucas was born with a condition called laryngomalacia, which means that the cartilage on the back of his larynx is immature, so it is soft and floppy. It is a fairly common condition that in 99% of cases is resolved over time (usually by age 1), and it rarely poses any kind of risk to the baby's health. It does, however, cause him to squeak (and snort) loudly and incessantly. It's particularly bad when he's nursing or in distress, but even when he's deeply asleep he lets out intermittent little chirps. He is a one-man noise machine. So noisy that a woman on the phone with me while I was feeding Lucas asked, "Do you have a hamster there with you?" So noisy that when the music stopped in church on Sunday, twenty heads turned toward us to see whose child was suffocating to death. So noisy that when we asked Eli was Lucas was doing in a picture (he was sleeping), he opened his eyes wide and started mimicking Baby Brudder's squawking gasp... and then explained, "He seeping."

Lucas is so noisy, in fact, that it is impossible to sleep anywhere near him. We've spent the past three weeks trying to figure out a way to get
some sleep. The first two weeks weren't terrible, as we had family in town who took turns with Lucas so that we could take turns getting naps. Then my sister left and we were on our own, and for a few days and nights we simply did not sleep. Lucas was waking himself up constantly, squirming awake with what I assume were tummy pains. We tried sleeping on the couch with him in his bouncer, him in his swing, holding him on the couch, holding him in the recliner... you get the picture. But where as with Eli we could at least sleep while he was sleeping, Lucas kept us awake with his crazy noises. After getting just a few hours of sleep over three days' time, I was a complete wreck and sat sobbing on the kitchen floor, desperate for some rest. I was literally crying out to the Lord for help.

And then, as always, God answered. Two nights ago, as I considered the sleepless hours before me, I decided to just try putting him in his room. I knew he wouldn't stay asleep for long, but thought that I might at least get a twenty minutes catnap out of it. I swaddled him tight and put him in his bouncer, turned the monitor on low, and crawled in bed next to my husband for the first time in days. I was shocked and a little worried when I woke up an hour later and he was still sleeping! I hurried to check on him and found him peacefully snoring and chirping away. Hallelujah!

So for the past two days, Lucas has been sleeping for about two hours at a time in his room at night. Yesterday he actually took a two-hour nap
in his crib. Victory!! It is amazing what those little bits of sleep do for me. I know from experience that babies are sneaky and like to trick us poor parents with their sleep habits, but I don't care. This is one tired mama who is going to take whatever she can get.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the tale of baby reese

Oh Blog, how I have missed you. It's been two weeks since we welcomed our new son, Lucas Benjamin. I've wanted to sit down every day and write a little bit about his birth and how life has changed since he joined our family. But as those of you with children know, the first days of a newborn-hood are all about survival. The first days with two? Forget about it. If I get a shower, a latte, and an hour-long nap, I'm thrilled. I can't fathom what life will be like with three... so I won't think about that yet.

First, the baby. Lucas joined us on Wednesday, April 15 at 1:54 in the afternoon. Let me say that everything about his birth was the polar opposite of Eli's. With Eli, I went into labor naturally (just before his due date) and endured 36 hours of labor, of which at least 30 were drug-free. I am not bragging about that. Seriously, I was an idiot. Get the drugs. Always get the drugs. Anyway, I digress.

With Lucas, we scheduled an induction in March. After an unpleasant experience with the on-call doctor in the hospital, I decided that I really wanted to know that my own doctor would be there to deliver my baby, and thankfully, she was all for it. We were admitted at midnight to start the process. It was so odd to sit at home all day, twiddling my thumbs and knowing that in a few hours I would be having a baby. Or at least, trying to have a baby. I had my doubts about the whole process, but it went very smoothly and astonishingly fast. Around 7 am I was given Pitocin and had my water broken to start labor. "It's just the tiniest dose," the kindly nurse assured me. "You won't notice any crazy start to your contractions." Ha. Within twenty minutes I was contracting hard, having to breathe through each one and thinking, "Hell to the no. I did not sign up for this again." As luck would have it, the anesthesiologist was just beginning a C-section when my contractions hit, and I had to wait a couple of hours for my epidural. I know that doesn't sound like much, but I had determined that
this time I was not going to feel my labor, so I was a little impatient for the drugs. Ben was his usual awesome self, patiently riding the waves of my schizophrenic needs - "Rub my back! No stop! Rub my legs! Don't touch me! Hold me! Ice chips! Water! Leave me alone! HUG MEEEE!!"

Thankfully, Dr. Ford showed up just in time with my happy juice, and expertly and quickly administered my epidural. It helped that he had a wonderful sense of humor and kept a running banter with us to distract me from the pain. Within a few minutes I was blissfully unaware of both my contractions and my legs, and settled in for what I assumed would be many, many hours of labor. I was already beyond exhausted, having not slept for the past two nights. I decided to put in my earplugs, close the blinds, and take a nap. No sooner was I snuggled into my dozen pillows than the phone rang. It was my dear friend Dara, who had taken Eli for the day. She was at my house with both of our kids for nap time, and had gotten my obstinate house key stuck in the deadbolt. It wouldn't budge, so the door couldn't be unlocked and she couldn't wait outside with two toddlers for the next two days until we got home. In a lapse of judgment I told my dad and husband to scurry on home (we live a good 25 minutes from the hospital - barring traffic) and get the key out. In another lapse of judgment, they listened to me.

It was around noon when they left, and I was dilated to 6 cm. The nurse assured me that I had at least a couple of hours before I would even think about pushing, but to let her know if I felt any pressure. With the room almost empty (my mom stayed behind, thankfully), I replaced my earplugs and made another attempt at a nap. Not ten minutes later, I felt incredibly strong contractions and an unmistakable feeling that
this baby is coming now. I rang the nurse, who checked me again and, much to everyone's surprise, announced that I was "complete." As in, completely dilated. As in, holy crap my husband is not here he is not anywhere near here now is the time to freak out. And freak out, I did. I sobbed uncontrollably into my oxygen mask as my mother, nurse, and doctor all tried to reassure me that they would make it in time, that we could definitely delay the birth long enough for them, all while my new son swam ever-more-determinedly toward the light. I called Ben in an utter panic and choked out the words, "The... baby... is... coming... and... you... are... not... here!!" In typical can-do spirit, Ben told my dad to hang on tight, gunned the engine and drove approximately 100 miles an hour, weaving through traffic on the freeway to get to the hospital in record time.

As I waited, watching the seconds tick by and unable to catch my breath through the sobs, I decided that I just simply had to calm down. I put on the most soothing worship song I know ("All Praises to the King" by Hillsong - love, love, love it!) and determined that I would not open my eyes until it had played three times. Sure enough, halfway through the second repeat my husband and daddy came rushing through the door. Ben's face was ghostly-pale as he breathlessly raced into the room. He stopped short when he saw his wife, delivery "imminent," lying peacefully on the bed, headphones on, serene expression pasted onto face. After several people assured him that yes, the baby really was coming now, I think he forgave my panicked call. I think.

We got to pushing, and I will spare the details of that endeavor on the off-chance that an unrelated man might be reading this post. Suffice it to say that this baby was
ready. In approximately seven minutes, Lucas Benjamin was in my arms, and I was trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened SO FAST. My first impressions of Lucas were that he had a dent in his head and did not appear to be breathing, but all of that was forgotten when Ben laid my precious baby boy on my chest and he snuggled in like it was right where he belonged.

I have to take a moment to say that I had the most amazing birth team, for which I am incredibly grateful. Every nurse I had during my stay was excellent, but Kyleen, who was there from induction to delivery, was absolutely amazing. She was the epitome of what you want in a labor and delivery nurse - attentive, patient, kind, and competent, by turns bubbly and enthusiastic or calm and soothing. My OB was equally wonderful, and of course it was awesome to have my parents with us again to welcome their grandson into the world. And my husband? He simply rocks.

So that was the beginning of my darling baby boy. Lucas has so far been a very "easy" newborn, and many things about new mommyhood are much easier this time around. Nursing, which was a nightmare with Eli, has gone beautifully from the beginning. Aside from a couple of completely sleepless nights which threaten to send me to the asylum, Lucas is sleeping well. Eli, who turned two just a few days after Lucas was born, is completely in love with his baby brother. He calls him, quite practically, "Baby Brudder," and loves to touch his head, tickle his toes and fingers, and give him air-kisses. He checks in on him frequently - "Brudder seeping," or "Brudder eating," and then goes happily about his business again.

I think I am adjusting well to the brave new world of having plural children. I hit a wall of fatigue from time to time that sends me slightly over the edge, but after a good cry and a power nap, I am able to regain perspective and keep going. I am having to re-learn how to soothe a crying baby (I am definitely not the gifted one in that regard - Daddy is the real Baby Whisperer of the family) and constantly having to remind myself to stop doing "just one more thing" and rest. The hardest thing for me was re-establishing my bond with Eli when I came home. I could not believe how grown-up and how
huge my baby boy was the first time I saw him. Even though he didn't seem to be too affected by the new arrival, it was really hard for me to feel like I was neglecting him in order to tend to the baby, and then to deal with him turning two at the same time... it's definitely been an even greater emotional roller coaster than my first post-partum experience. I miss being able to sit around and hold Lucas for hours on end like I could with Eli. But I am also overwhelmed by how incredibly blessed I am. It is an awesome privilege to have children, and I am so thankful for it. Finally, I am reminded, over and over and over again, how completely sufficient God's grace is for every moment and every need. I have cried out to him (literally!) so many times since bringing Lucas home, and each time I am met with His awesome peace and strength for another moment.

So now we begin our new lives as a family of four, and I can't wait to share the moments with you. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

tales of domestic bliss

Our vaccuum cleaner bit the dust (heh heh) awhile ago, and we finally broke down last week and bought a Dyson. HOLY CRAP. How did I ever live without this thing? Yes, they're expensive, but oh my, so worth it. Ben vaccuumed a four-foot by four-foot section of our living room carpet just to demonstrate its awesome power for me, and the pictures here show what he picked up in just that section. Ewwww... He also had to show me how incredibly dirty our vents were. Please don't send these pictures to social services.

On another note of domestic triumph, I overcame my crippling fear of baking this week and baked my first ever loaf of homemade bread. I love to cook, but somehow my baked goods have never turned out well. My dear mom found a very simple recipe for me (actually titled "Simple Bread Recipe" - I appreciate truth in advertising), and I tried it out. It didn't quite rise enough, but it turned out pretty darned tasty. I also took a cue from some friends and tried my hand at making strawberry freezer jam. It didn't set up all the way (see a pattern here - just off the mark), but the flavor was delicious. Unfortunately, my clumsy pregnant fingers managed to drop one of the jars as I was putting the lid on, and strawberry jam coated my cupboards, floor, pants, everything. Man, that stuff is sticky. This picture is the final aftermath and does not do justice to the carnage of the spill. Thank goodness I had two other jars, or I would have been sooo mad. So I can't potty train and or get my dog to stop peeing in the house, but I made bread and jam. Suck it, Martha Stewart.

Monday, April 6, 2009

the countdown

The countdown is on, friends! I am being induced in ten short days. Several people have commented to me that they feel like this pregnancy has flown by. I think they're all smoking crack. I didn't much enjoy my first pregnancy, but this one has been pretty miserable. I don't take for granted the awesome privilege of carrying my children and I am so thankful that God has blessed me with this experience twice. But I can't wait to get this baby out!

Of course, I have some mixed feelings about Lucas coming.

Things I'm excited about:

  • Holding my precious little boy. I miss having a tiny bundle to cuddle with.
  • Bending over!
  • Being able to do normal things around the house without feeling like I'm going to pass out - picking up toys, unloading dishes, doing laundry, vaccuuming, you name it. Because the truth is, just because I can barely manage these tasks now, they don't go away. My overactive guilt complex keeps me from asking for help as much as I probably should, and my inner control freak wants to do it myself anyway.
  • Being able to keep up with Eli! I can't wait until I can chase him around the playground again!
  • My toes!
  • Wearing real person clothes again. I haven't gained as much weight with this baby (and I will have two built in calorie-burners in my boys), so I'm optimistic about getting back into my old clothes a little faster than last time.
  • Actually being able to sleep when I have the chance to sleep. Right now, so many forces conspire to keep me from sleeping now - achy hips, achy back, uncomfortably huge belly, overactive internal furnace, crazy pregnancy dreams. It is such a cruel trick of nature that I can't get enough sleep now when I need it the most.
  • Seeing Eli interact with the baby, and seeing my family grow.
Things I'm anxious about or not looking forward to:
  • Giving birth. My first labor lasted 36 hours and I spent 30 of them stubbornly refusing drugs. I learned my lesson and I'll get an epidural right away this time, but this time I also know how much it hurts. And of course, I have the usual fears of delivery. The other night I dreamed that I hemorrhaged to death while I was having the baby. Not a happy thought.
  • Breastfeeding. It didn't go well the first time around, so I'm really praying it goes more smoothly this time.
  • The physical aftermath of giving birth. A good friend of mine who recently had her first child called me to say, "Why didn't you tell me about all the crap that comes out after the baby's born?!" No kidding. Reading about locchia was nothing like experiencing it firsthand. Then there's the gelatinous mass that used to be my tight-as-a-drum baby belly, the overnight Anna Nicole boobs, the pain/burning/itching of said boobs, and the long, tough road back to a body that will never quite resemble the one I had before kids.
  • Sleep. I think about the mind-numbing exhaustion of having a newborn, and how this time I won't be able to lay around on the couch all day and sleep in between feedings... which is pretty much what I did the first two months of Eli's life.
  • Post-partum depression, which I had after Eli.
  • Adjusting to another person in our family. I know this will be a challenge for all of us, as excited as we are to have this baby. Eli has been our whole world for two years and it's hard to imagine loving another child as much as we love this one.
  • What will Lucas look like, and what will his temperment be? Shallow as it may be, we have one stinking cute little boy with a personality to match. Eli has always been a happy, easy going baby. What if Luke gets all of our recessive genes, or is a "high need" baby? Will I still love him as much?
So much to think about as I count off the hours until D-Day. I can't imagine how I would feel if I didn't know God's peace and hope, if I didn't know without a doubt that he is fully in control of all of this family-raising madness. Can't wait to have pictures for you all soon!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

the potty chronicles

This past week, I began and ended potty training with Eli. I never worried about getting him potty trained by the age of two, but when I got pregnant again I was determined to have only one child in diapers at a time. I have a group of girlfriends here who have all used the same "method" of potty training and have successfully had accident-free kids by or before they turned two. So I had pretty high hopes that it would happen. I bought all of the "big boy" underpants, the plastic pants, the potty seats, the travel potty seat, the wipes, the handwashing step stools... you need a serious arsenal for this kind of warfare. I started on Wednesday, and as soon as Eli woke up in the morning, I put him on the potty. The timer beeped every thirty minutes, and we went to the potty. Each trip was a good ten to fifteen-minute ordeal: pants off (he refused to have them just down around his ankles), underwear off, on the potty, read a book, sing a song, read another book, ignore fifty-seven requests for "treat?", get off the potty, flush the potty, new underwear on, pants on, get on the stepstool, wash hands, dry hands, and back to play. It was beyond exhausting. Leaving the house was suddenly like having a newborn again, as was one or two full pajama-and-sheet changings in the middle of the night. Cleaning up poopy underwear is a HAZMAT nightmare compared to tossing a poopy diaper. After four days we had two very tired and cranky parents, one tired and cranky toddler, and absolutely no pee or poop in the potty. I had committed to one week, but at the end of day four, I called Ben and said, "Please, please stop by the store and bring home a package of diapers." To which he basically replied, "Hallelujah."

Now, I've never been known for my stick-to-it-iveness. I have quit sports, clubs, jobs, books, and craft projects with barely a smidge of guilt. But this wasn't a normal quitting, this was
mommy quitting. And good mommies aren't supposed to quit things, so my mom guilt was working overtime last night. But then I woke up this morning and changed my son's wet diaper in 10.5 seconds, and felt extremely satisfied with my decision. My little guy is simply not ready, and I simply too uncomfortably pregnant, and the combination simply doesn't work. So, we may try again in six months, or we may try when he goes off to kindergarten. At any rate, it feels really, really good to just let it go.

Monday, January 26, 2009

under pressure

I am completely defeated this evening by unmet expectations. It doesn't seem to matter what I get right or do well - how many times I get a nutritious, edible meal on the table, how many times I successfully get my toddler in and out of a series of stores without a meltdown, how many appointments I manage to remember. There is always something waiting around the corner for me to fail at. A bad haircut, a bump on the forehead, a bill unpaid, a paper we can't find. I try to tell myself that this is just life, that mistakes happen, that nobody's perfect. But sometimes, like tonight, the weight of all of the little mistakes and disappointments add up to a crushing sense of failure and futility. I wish I was brighter, more careful, more competent... just... better.

true story

It is a common misconception that my child is nearly perfect. To his credit, he is a remarkably happy, cheerful, even-tempered little boy. But today was proof that beneath that sweet, cherubic exterior lurks a pint-sized tyrant.

Today began with Eli crying for an hour straight in the car, while riding home from taking Ben to work. After a nap and lunch, I decided, much against my better judgment, to take him for a long overdue haircut. After two perfectly peaceful minutes in the airplane chair, he, without warning or provocation, began one of the most impressive meltdowns I've ever witnessed. The poor hairdresser did her best to snip while I pinned him down in my lap and he wailed at the top of his lungs. Mortified and desperate to get out of there as quickly as possible, I paid for the semi-retarded haircut and tried to get him into his coat and away from the train table. As he began to throw himself to the floor in protest, I scooped him up as deftly as my very pregnant body would allow and held him down in my lap while I forced his little arms into the coat, all the while trying to speak in my very best "Mommy is secretly fuming but doesn't want to alarm these strangers to the possibility of child abuse" voice. As I struggled, an older woman who was sitting on the other couch - and seriously, why the hell was she even there? - ever so helpfully said, "Oh, the poor dear. Did he even get to play with the train?" I gave her my best "Are you f-ing kidding me right now?" look and through clenched teeth replied, "No, we really don't have time for that right now." Meaning, "Clearly this demon child has used up every last ounce of my patience and I am going to completely lose it if we don't leave this instant, so mind your own damn business." Not taking the hint, she said, "Oh, but that's the only good part about getting a haircut!" I shot her a "I will kill you with my bare hands if you don't shut the hell up woman" look and hightailed it out of there.

As Eli wailed on in the backseat, I decided to cut my errand running short and head straight home. I manuevered him inside and set him free to play, then stepped outside to take the dog out and take a few deep breaths in the fresh air. As I prayed, "Lord, please give me an extra measure of peace and patience today," I heard the door shut behind me and an unmistakable "click" of the deadbolt. No. Surely, my son would not choose this moment to learn how to lock the door. With me on the wrong side of it. With a nervous chuckle, I warily stepped toward the door and tried the knob. Holy crap. My child has locked me out of the house. I hurried around to the front of the house and tried the front door, the car, and the garage, knowing full well that they were all securely locked. I returned to the back door to negotiate with my toddler. With tears of frustration spilling down my cheeks I knocked on the door. "Eli? Eli, honey, can you please undo the thing you just did?" I called through the door. I rattled the door harder. "Elijah Daniel. Turn the lock back. Turn it back now." Nothing. Trying not to panic, I remembered that a friend and her husband had broken into my house a few months ago through the front window in order to retrieve something when we were out of town (with full permission - not to rat you out, D). Flooded with relief, I managed to pry the screen loose (with minor damage) and push the window open enough to reach around and unlock the front door from the inside. I marched into the living room to find my son contentedly playing with his truck. I hauled him off to bed with a reminder to never, EVER touch anything in this house again, called my husband to report his malfeasance, and wished that I could have a very large, very stiff drink. Thank goodness we are going to the grandparents tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the greatest superbowl ever

So I'm trying to get on board with the whole 4th folder, 4th picture thing (which is really clever, by the way), and in the process came across some great old pictures. I found a set of pictures from a Superbowl party we threw a few years ago, when we lived in Indianapolis and our beloved Colts went all the way. These pictures make me nostalgic for so many things: having a home football team to root for, my wonderful friend Cary (who is about to "pop" with her own first baby), our friends Bin and Christy who had the nerve to move to Houston and not Portland, the days when my whiny toddler was just a cute bump under my jersey, my husband in braces (come on, how cute was he?), and most of all, my phenomenal hair. Oh long, luxurious hair, how I miss you. I'll probably watch the Superbowl this year out of force of habit, but in my mind, nothing will top Superbowl '07. Go Colts!

maybe he'll be a model?

Today I had a "is my child a little slow?" moment. I met up with a friend and her two kids for a coffee and play date. I had been feeling awfully proud of my boy lately with all of his new words, and impressed when he occasionally strings two words together - "cookie juice," "cookie snack," "snack juice"... you get the idea. My bubble was seriously burst today when my friend's little boy, who is barely two months older than Eli, looked straight at me and proclaimed, "I throw a football like Peyton Manning!"


Did I just have a seizure, or did a child my son's age just say a complicated, sports-related, well-articulated sentence to me? I really don't see Katie as the pushy, flashcards-at-6-months kind of mom, so when she told me that he just has naturally off-the-charts verbal ability, I guess I have to believe her.

I tried to shake it off and force myself back into my usual non-competitive mother mode. I was quite pleased when Eli picked up a book about baby animals and said, "animal." "Okay," I thought. "My kid's just fine. He'll still get into college." Then he pointed to a picture of my husband and said, "Daddy!" "Oh!" I marveled, "My little genius! Rhodes Scholar, here we come."

Then he pointed to me and said, "Daddy!" Hm.

Then he pointed to himself and said, you guessed it, "Daddy." Damn.

It's a good thing you're so cute, kid.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

random rainy day thoughts

Things I'm thinking about today:

I don't mind the Portland weather, the long weeks of cloudy skies and rain. It doesn't rain as much as I thought it would, and the sun shines more than I thought it would, and when it does shine, the brilliant beauty of this place is worth all the wet. This is surprising to me, since I could hardly stand to live a year in Seattle, long ago. I guess I'm just happier now.

I hate ridiculously loud commercials - Bowflex, DirectBuy, Proactiv. I should just turn off the t.v., but then, I would really feel like I'd lost a friend.

I feel like I haven't spent time with friends in ages, with the holidays and the crazy weather and traveling and family in town. I'm craving some serious girl time and anxious to build deeper friendships here. Any takers?

We have tossed around the idea - albeit not seriously - of moving to Dubai for a year or two, where Ben could make enough money to get us out of debt much more quickly than our current economy will allow. At first I completely dismissed the idea, but now it's got me thinking. It would be an adventure...

I've read some wonderful books lately. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman, A Live Coal in the Sea by Madeline L'Engle, and yes, Twilight - which was a surprisingly well-written page turner. The first two, however, were really excellent - the kind of story-telling that I wish I could produce. They both have some disturbing elements, but so many great books do. I think I need to start my own book club so I can discuss books like these.

I am incredibly, unspeakably thankful for my husband. This pregnancy has been hard on both of us, and he has stepped up and stepped in so selflessly. I know that if I were working long hours, the last thing I would want to do when I come home is feed and bathe and play with a tired, cranky toddler, but he does it without complaining or making me feel even more guilty than I do on my own. And he makes me laugh. And lets me eat more chocolate than the food pyramid allows.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

is it too early to count down?

I am twenty-five weeks pregnant, past the halfway point but not far enough to begin the count down... although I am. I am overwhelmed today with mixed feelings about this baby's arrival. On one hand, I can hardly wait to meet my little boy. I'm dying to see how he'll look... will he have Eli's fair hair and brilliant blue eyes, or will I see more of myself in his tiny features? I think about having a newborn again, cradling a tiny, warm body against mine for hours and hours, stroking his miniature fingers and toes, napping on the couch with my precious little bundle snuggled up into the curve on my body. I am beyond thankful for this baby, the gift of getting to start a new life over again. But at the same time, when I look at my little Eli, how devastatingly fast the changes come, I feel a mix of joy and pride and grief that I can hardly bear. I think about my baby boy becoming a big boy, a teenager, an adult, and I have to struggle to choke back my tears. I'm glad that we are planning on at least one more, so that even when this little guy arrives, I'll know that (God willing) it isn't the last time.