Friday, February 27, 2009

Expectation vs. Reality
















Paige turned three today. I had romantic expectations of whimsical sunlight, kids sitting quietly in a circle while Paige delicately opened her presents, family breakfast with hugs and kisses, and no rushing to get to the bus stop before the bus.

Enter reality. I woke up 35 minutes earlier than normal which means I actually had to get out of bed before 7 a.m. Stumbled into the family, pre cup of coffee and was assaulted by four kids dying to unwrap a gift intended for one. Dusty, our puppy, was bouncing off the walls from being pent-up in her kennel all night and I couldn't find my glasses, let alone the camera to capture the excitement of the moment. The kids pushed and shoved and argued over who would "help" Paige open her toy kitchen, then proceeded to fight over pots, pans, oven mitts, and anything else that was new to Paige. Crying ensued, time outs were issued, and by the time things got sorted out, we had to rush to beat the bus.

Before the morning was over, Paige had thrown two fits, was crying for her nukie that we're trying to eliminate, and had pooped in her underwear twice in two hours. After the second "accident" she was relegated to "puffies" - old fashioned training pants covered in plastic that make her butt look abnormally large and when condensed by pants, puff up and over waistband. A very nice, classy look if I do say so myself.

She dressed herself in her favorite orange, striped, kitty shirt which we see at least 4 times a week. The matching striped pants were nowhere to be found, so she paired it with jeans with red cherries on them. It wasn't quite fancy enough, so for good measure she added a silver-sequined dress-up tank top, a purple High School Musical purse and her flowered, wedge, peek-a-boo shoes with no socks.

We went to McDonald's for birthday lunch with her best buddy Oliver and when I unloaded her from the van, I had to laugh. Her breath smelled like she hadn't brushed her teeth in at least two days and we had forgotten to comb her hair. She had red marker on her cheek and eye lid and dried donut caked on her lips and under her nose. Her aforementioned outfit was the icing on the cake, especially when she bent over and her puffies poofed for all the world to see.

And that's when it hit me. My expectations for life rarely match up to reality, but all in all, reality usually twists its way into being so much fuller than my air-brushed, dream world expectation. As un-put-together as Paige was in that moment, she was embracing who she is. A three-year-old with ideas about fashion and favorites and a confidence and innocence to pull it off that I often wish I had.

Our day was a blast. Paige, Alli and Oliver took the McDonald's playland by storm and even managed to add to the menagerie of flavors plastered to their faces with some good soft-serve ice cream and ranch dip. We stopped at the Dollar Store for a birthday balloon and some cherry lip gloss that left a nice pink ring from just under the nostrils to the ears and down the jaw line. A nice touch for sure.

We got home and all three of us crashed into two-hour naps, waking in time to get Grant and Katie from the bus. Next on the agenda was dinner at Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry's house. They decorated their condo with "Paigey Poo is 3" signs, hung Happy Birthday banners and made her a chocolate cake, with mint frosting in the layers and chocolate frosting and sprinkles on top. The same kind I requested every year when I was growing up. It had a #3 candle on it and was sitting in the middle of the dinner table. We kept busting Paige trying to sneak licks of the frosting while Grandpa finished grilling BBQ chicken for supper.

We did cake, ice cream and birthday song, and then Grandpa led the kids into the living room. He played the "Surprise Symphony" for the kids and they squealed and jumped when the music skipped from quiet to ultra loud in one second. We ballet danced and waltzed around the living room and waited for it to get dark.

When it got dark, Grandma gave each of us a leftover trinket from the bank she works at. They were designed to be book lights that clip onto the pages, but we pretended they were head lamps and used the clip to attach them to our hair. We walked to the park and played in the dark by the light of our head lamps. Grandpa Terry would swing Paige super high and every time she let out a delightful squeal of joy. When the tally of broken head lights topped more than half, we decided to head home. We said our goodbyes, drove home and put a tired crew of kids to bed.

Today's reality exceeded my expectation. Thanks for having a birthday Paigey Poo and sweet dreams.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Free




Today is the last day of my life that I will be the mom of a two-year-old. Our sweet Paige turns 3 tomorrow and I've been sentimental all day about the fact that our baby is moving out of toddlerhood and into the pre-school era.

Tonight she crawled into her tiny toddler sleigh bed and we performed our nightly bedtime ritual. Paige refusing to pray, even though she loves to pray any other time of day. Me trying to bribe her to pray by withholding the nukie that she's too old to have. Me giving in on the praying, but holding nukie ransom in exchange for kisses. Same order every night: Lips. Eskimo. Cheeks - at least one on each cheek. Hugs. And my favorite, Pat-Pat.

When Paige was a baby and needed comfort, she'd throw her arms around my neck and pat my back while I patted hers and shushed away her tears. Pat-Pat is my favorite part of bedtime.

Then more snuggles, cover-situating, a few more stolen kisses, some gentle swipes of the hair, a "Jesus bless you," and time to exit. In the morning, she'll trudge down the stairs, hair messy, sleepy eyes, sucking on that forbidden nukie, green blankie dragging behind her, and she'll be three.

Curt has been down in the garage for the last hour putting together the pink, retro kitchen we scored on Ebay for her birthday. Her very loved, very old and very broken Little Tikes (did you know it IS possible to break Little Tikes?) kitchen will be relegated to the outside fort and she'll have a fun brand-new kitchen to play in. A bonus for the youngest of 4 in a world of hand-me-downs.

She can count to 20, always skipping 14 and 15, but can't seem to figure out how old she'll be tomorrow. She guesses, "One?" Holds up five fingers, guesses, "Five?" Finally she guesses "free?" Oh yes. Free.

Free to take three hour naps and still go to bed at 7:30. Free to giggle. Boisterously and flail around on the floor trying to escape the tickle monster who happens to be your four-year-old sister. Free to maximize being the baby of the family and soak in all the doting that her big brother and sisters give her. Free to sing "My God is so BIG, so strong and so mighty, there's nothing my God can not do for you and you and you and you." Free to sing off-key and off-beat "Jesus Messiah. Name above all names. Blessed Endeemer. Enanuel." Free to wear a ballerina costume with My Little Pony undies poking out the sides. Free to fly in Daddy's arms and soar over the living room like Super Man. Free to cry when life hurts. Free to unabashedly wail, "UPPY! I want you to uppy me." Free to seek comfort in Mommy's arms. Free to sit on the sidewalk and pitch a fit if things don't go the way she wants. Free to grow taller. Chubbier. Free to never eat her veggies or a dessert-earning portion of dinner yet still worm her way into being included in the dessert that her older siblings legitimately earned. Free to embrace love. Free to love Jesus as much as her 3-year-old mind can grasp.

Yep. Our little Paige is most definitely "free."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Deja Vu

Anyone who went to Sunday School on a regular basis in a church in the era of the 70's and 80's learned the "My God is SOOO Big" song. I almost fell over when I heard Paige, who will be three in TWO days, singing it word for word and doing the motions. Talk about deja vu and Sunday School flashbacks.... I promise I won't do videos every day, but this one is precious.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Alli's Wobbly Woopsy

We're testing out a new feature on the blog. Can we upload a video?!?! I was "resting" with Paige at nap time (AKA - I fell asleep on her floor). I heard all this banging around and went to investigate. Alli had changed into a "fancy" outfit and put a CD in the CD player. She was spinning, dancing, jumping, and singing along. It was pretty cute, so I offered to video her doing the song. She chose "Wobbly Woopsy."

Oh, and I overheard Paige and Grant talking in the van. Grant was talking about a new friend he has, named Tyler, who has carrot-orange hair. Paige piped up, "Oh, I have a Tyler too. My Tyler is brown." (meaning he has brown hair). I thought it was funny. Enjoy.


Monday, February 23, 2009

More Funny Kid Stuff...


Paige, who will be 3 on Friday (SNIFF) was walking down the stairs and Dusty, our 35 pound labradoodle, rambunctiously came flying down past Paige and knocked her down. She fell one stair and was completely fine, but was really indignant and upset. Curt picked her up to comfort her while she bawled and dragged out the drama. Through her tears, she wailed, "Dusty runned into me. Dusty falled me."

Grant, who is 7 going on 40, spilled a drop of milk at supper. He watched it spread on the table and then announced, "The milk drop looks like Borneo." A blank look came over my face as I asked, "What exactly is Borneo?" Curt, thinking he could outsmart our 7-year-old piped up, "It's a country." Grant got this huge smile and confidently announced in his most authoritative voice, "NO. It's not a country. It's an island off the coast of India (or some country like that and I've already forgotten the country he named)." Grant triumphantly gazed at his idiotic family and Curt and I couldn't help but laugh. Then I remembered why I knew Borneo and it was not geographically related at all. They filmed a Survivor series there. Now aren't I smart?

God Passed By

The weekend wasn't our best from a parenting standpoint. Paige, who has been completely potty trained for almost 3 weeks, started pooping in her underwear and trying to hide it by "cleaning" it up herself. Our older three kids were just plain naughty. They fought with each other, were disrespectful, argued about everything, and obeyed only after they'd been asked 50 times. I came home from a photo shoot with the kids promising to NEVER go anywhere with them again and Curt wisely urged me to put on my running shoes and escape the madness for some solitude.

I originally had no intentions of going for a long run but I wanted to be gone as long as possible, so I mapped out a 10 mile run on the mountain behind our house. I grabbed my iPod, my running belt, some GU, a Gatorade, and my cell phone and took off.

The first six miles were one continuous climb, some switchbacks, some super steep hills, but the elevation on my Garmin kept climbing, climbing, climbing. I had the iPod cranked, sweat was dripping, and the steeper the climb, the quicker the irritation melted away. I crested the first peak about three miles in, then the road turned to gravel and descended slightly into this serene mountain valley. The forest closed in on me and as I soaked in the scenery, I turned my music off and reveled in the virtual aloneness I felt.

My labored breathing created a rhythmic cadence as my feet crunched the gravel below. I inhaled the smell of leaves burning and listened to a mountain creek babble through the trees. A dog barked in the distance. Birds sang in the trees. Saws squealed and hammers rang from a home improvement project.

The higher I climbed, the colder it got. I felt the temperature drop and thanked God that I grabbed a long-sleeved T-shirt at the last minute. I came out of the woods and gasped at majestic Mt. Hood, cloaked in clouds, fog, and the last rays of sunlight. She towered in the distance, grandly keeping watch over the piddly foothill (that I was climbing) below. The wind whispered then increased in intensity as it whistled, then whipped through the trees. The branches danced to its melody and I could see and feel the storm rolling in as I crested the final peak. I stopped for a drink and took in the panoramic view - valleys, vineyards, snow-capped peaks, forest, and mother Mt. Hood, presiding over it all.

The descent was steep. The bottoms of my feet started to heat up, wind-induced tears rolled down my face then dried before I could wipe them away, and the trees sang as I raced down, down, down the mountain. I kept hearing Jim, from The Man From Snowy River, say in his Australian accent, "Well Sir, you can no sooner hold back the tide than you could tame the mountain."

As our neighborhood came into view, I felt the first drop of rain on my face. The muscles in my legs were tight, new blisters were forming on my toes and my fingers were freezing cold, but my soul was refreshed. I couldn't help but think of I Kings 19 when Elijah felt abandoned, scared and alone. God told him, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."

God "passed by" me on my run. He sang a love song to me with the trees. He reminded me I am not alone in the thick forest. He dried my tears with the wind. He reminded me of His power in my life with His majestic Mt. Hood. He was my strength when I wanted to quit climbing and sit on the side of the road. He whispered "I love you" with every crunch of the gravel. He restored my soul.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Practice What You Preach




I was recently asked to write an article on living healthy for our local MOPS group. Not that I'm an expert in any way, but it was fun to write about our experience in this area. One of the tips I offered was embracing our self-worth as God's daughters and living to fulfill His God-given purpose for our lives instead of struggling to fit a Hollywood mold. It's something I've wasted years of angst and self-defeating thoughts on, but somehow it's easier to preach about embracing my self-worth when my Body Mass Index falls within the "healthy" range again.

Two days after I submitted the article, I stumbled upon a workout synopsis in the Oregonian highlighting a woman I had a lot in common with. She was the exact height as I was. Three years older. Four kids. Running was her exercise drug of choice. I was totally jiving with her and checking off the boxes of our similarities until they listed her weight. Oops. She's 25 pounds lighter than me. The familiar dark thoughts instantly started attacking as read on to see what I needed to do to look like "that."

The woman gets up at 4:30 every morning to work out for two hours before her kids get up. She does this SIX days a week. She's on a regimented diet that I'm guessing doesn't include chocolate, coffee or a glass of wine with her husband. And she looks FABULOUS with no sign of a spare tire as she posed in her skin-tight running bra.

As I pondered her life choices, a beautiful realization sunk in. I don't want her life. I abhor getting up early. It's all I can do to roll out of bed at 7 a.m., sip my coffee for an hour while I wake up, and stumble through the morning routine of getting the kids out the door. Running twice a week at the wonderful time of 9 a.m., fully fed and caffeinated is worth the extra effort of pushing my daughter in the stroller, and makes my stroller-free weekend runs even more inviting. I think dieting would be torture and can't imagine life without carbs and daily doses of chocolate. Plus my husband thinks I'm sexy just the way I am.

The sacrifice to meet a standard isn't worth it to me. And I actually mean that - I'm not just giving myself a pep talk. God is enabling me to practice what I preach and this daughter of The King is stoked. (And yes, I am sucking it in and using Spanx in the dress-up picture - still have some growing to do).

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Living Healthy
















I was asked to write an article for our local MOPS group on Living Healthy. Here's what I came up with.


Who can forget receiving the much-anticipated news that it’s time to bring your first-born home from the hospital? As the doctor signed my release forms, I bounced out of bed and headed straight for the new outfit beckoning from my suitcase. As I bent over to retrieve it, my protruding belly (that no one told me would remain post-partum) unceremoniously slapped the top of my suitcase and I recoiled in horror. However, I was determined to leave the hospital in non-maternity garb and an ugly game of Twister between me, the bulge and my new pants ensued. Sweat beaded and seams popped, but five minutes later I stood. Victorious, but suspiciously resembling an over-filled water balloon seconds before it bursts.

Twelve weeks later, I squeezed myself into a pre-pregnancy dress for a family wedding, only to have the zipper surrender the fight and split down the back. A cousin I barely knew discreetly met me on the dance floor, pashmina in hand, to hide my fashion disaster.

Baby number two and three came in rapid-fire succession and the lack of time to eat coupled with nursing and being in constant motion melted off the extra weight with zero effort on my part. By the time our fourth baby arrived, my seam-splitting days seemed far removed. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, scoffed at squeezing regular exercise into my over-packed schedule, and waited for the weight to drop.

Fourteen months later I stared dismally into the mirror. For the first time in my life, I was overweight and out of shape. I felt my self-esteem plummeting and ran sobbing to my husband, seeking emotional support and those oh-so-comforting words, “You’re not fat.”

My husband, who had been kind enough to gain some sympathy weight during my pregnancy, surprised me with his response. He reassured me of my beauty to him and gave me a Kleenex to mop up my drippy nose and red eyes. Then he gently suggested that we start living healthy.

We mapped out a course of action that included consistent exercise, healthier food choices and smaller food portions. We set attainable goals, celebrated when we achieved them, and functioned as drill sergeants if one of us was slacking. Our kids got in on the excitement and started training for a kids’ triathlon. As a family, we attended a weekend sports festival and I cried as I watched our oldest three kids splash, pedal and dash themselves across the finish line of their first race. My husband ran a 10K and I ran a half-marathon and managed to stay upright and alive. It was the motivation I needed to pursue a life-long goal of running a marathon. Three months later I ran the Chicago marathon and my husband, my mom, and my aunt and uncle chased me around the race route, encouraging me all the way to the finish line.

Our transition to healthy living didn’t happen overnight, but the positive effects on the scale, in our energy level and general health, and the trickle-down effect to our kids make it all worth the extra effort. If you’re ready to start living a healthier life, here are some tips to try.

1. Set attainable goals. Don’t expect to go from zero workouts in a month to seven in a week without quickly burning out. We settled on twice-weekly workouts with one, more-intense, weekend workout. There is no one-size-fits-all plan, so start slow and choose a plan that you can stick to.
2. Find a partner. In my case, my partner happened to be my husband, but it could easily have been my mom or a friend. A partner provides the much needed encouragement and accountability that you will need to be successful.
3. Choose a form of exercise that excites you, not one you dread. Join a gym. Start running. Hit the pool. Buy a yoga or Pilates video, open it and actually do it. Go for hikes in the woods. Ride your bike.
4. Give yourself grace when you fail and celebrate your victories.
5. Pay attention to what and how much you eat. Switch out processed foods for fresh food and make portion adjustments as needed.
6. Include your family in your lifestyle change. Get a jogging stroller. Teach your child to ride a bike. Go to the park. Take an after-dinner walk as a family.
7. Don’t be a slave to the scale. I have a cheap scale in my bathroom, but I never get it on it because it could become a depressing obsession for me. If weighing yourself will be motivational, weigh yourself once a week and not daily.
8. Remember that your worth as a woman does not come from an unattainable Hollywood standard, but from who you are in Christ. You are a precious daughter of the King and you bear His name. You were created to live out a God-given purpose that I’m pretty sure has nothing to do with your pant size.
9. Remember that kids copy behavior not words. If you want your kids to be healthy, you need to model healthy living for them.
10. Don’t quit if you get discouraged. You can do it.

So go dig out those seam-splitting, non-maternity pants and those zipper-breaking dresses. Hang them in plain view and get to work! Won’t you feel great when your change to healthy living allows you to wear them confidently?

Friday, February 13, 2009

What If?


What if Barak Obama, who let's face it - is new to the political scene but has taken the world by storm, started laying hands on people and healing them? What if he started fraternizing with outcast social groups and began integrating them into the social norm? What if he, in passing, told the concierge at the White House to fill several vats with water and then served them at the Inauguration ball as the finest wine in the country? What if he utilized every chance in front of a podium to tell people that he was the light of the world that would lead them to peace? What if he got even crazier and started telling people he has always existed, will live forever, and was sent by a mysterious entity to deliver his message? What if he promised access to a fountain of youth, water that will eternally quench thirst and bread that will eternally satisfy hunger, but to obtain them you had to eat his flesh and drink his blood? What if he started attacking the current religious systems and called out the leaders as false and hypocritical? What if he said he was God Himself? We would write him off as crazy, impeach him and lock him up in an insane asylum.


I'm reading the book of John right now and in all honesty, have been bugged by John's presentation of Jesus. His writing can be confusing and the stories he chooses to tell about Jesus seem less than flattering. In John's account, Jesus throws a royal temper tantrum, tipping over tables, yelling at people and throwing them out of the temple. Jesus meets secretly at night with a prominent religious leader and then proceeds to present confusing information, telling him that if he wants to follow Jesus he has to be "born again." Jesus interacts with social outcasts and stops to hang out one-on-one (a social taboo) with a woman living in sin. Jesus talks frequently and in great depth about "the Father who sent him." This unseen Father tells Jesus what to do, when to do it, acts as judge, and is the second witness Jesus uses to validate His claim to be God. Jesus tells his followers that if they want the ever-elusive eternal life, they have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus claims to be the light of the world, the water that quenches all thirst, the bread that satisfies all hunger, the Word, the Son of God, and He even has the audacity to call himself I AM (the Old Testament name for God).

John's portrayal of Jesus isn't one I'm very comfortable with. The Jesus John describes comes across as quick-tempered, passionate, willing to stir up dissension, a little socially awkward and one who intentionally speaks over the heads of his audiences.

I couldn't help but ask myself, "What if, instead of Barak Obama, Jesus was my contemporary? Would I believe He was God?" I've been sitting uncomfortably for the past two weeks with the truth that I most likely would run the opposite direction. To me, Jesus would get lumped in with David Karesh and all the other wackos who claim to be god in an attempt to get press time and manipulate people.

Today I read how Jesus saw a blind man (let's call him Ed, just for fun), had compassion for him, and decided to heal him. It was the Sabbath, a day of no work. Jesus could have healed Ed with a simple word, but instead he purposely incorporated a form of work into the healing process to get under the skin of the Pharisees. Jesus made clay from dirt, smeared it on Ed's eyes, and told him to go wash it off in a specific pool. Ed obeyed, and as the water and dirt poured off his face, he opened his eyes to view a world he had never seen before. The act of healing created quite a ruckus and the Pharisees immediately launched an impromptu investigation. I can just picture Jesus hiding in the corner, doubled over in laughter, as he watched his arch rivals spinning themselves into a tizzy, grilling any witnesses who could possibly incriminate Jesus.

When things calmed down a bit, Jesus tracked Ed down and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" Ed quickly replied, "Tell me so I may believe in him." Jesus' answer was profound. He said, "You have now SEEN him; in fact he is the one speaking with you." In that one sentence, Jesus opened Ed's eyes to see the spiritual blindness in his life and Ed immediately knew that Jesus was the only one who could heal him both physically and spiritually. Ed immediately cried out, "Lord, I believe," and worshiped Jesus.

I let my heart warm with that beautiful story of healing and redemption. And then I realized that I had been complicating things. Jesus is multi-faceted. He can be hard to understand. If it was easy to unwrap who He is it would be less exciting to get to know Him. I don't need to have all the answers or understand every verse I read. I just have to see Jesus and believe.

See Him for who He is. See the mess I've made of my life. See what He can do to heal me. The more I believe, the clearer my vision, and the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I will understand who He is.

Jesus asked His contemporaries and He asks us still today, "Do you believe in the Son of Man? Have you seen Him?" There is no "if" in my answer - "You are the Son of God."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Perspective


Our son Grant is almost 8. He is naturally gifted athletically and ironically, has very little interest in playing sports. He would much rather spend his time reading books, building complex Lego structures, riding his bike, or playing some imaginary game in the empty lot next door.

All across Newberg signs are popping up in business windows and front yards that baseball is around the corners and sign-ups for little league are this week. Curt and I are very anti-rat-race as parents, but we also know that Grant could be really good at baseball. The longer he waits to start, the broader the learning curve will be for him to catch up. With that in mind, I printed off the registration form, dug out the checkbook, and hunted down Grant, who was engrossed in constructing a space station out of Legos.

I told him about little league, how fun it would be and asked him if he wanted to play. He indifferently shrugged his shoulders, sighed "Maybe," and asked, "When are the practices and the games?" I didn't have the answer, so I went to look and got distracted.

Later that night as I was clearing the clutter off the kitchen counter, I found the registration form. I asked Grant again if he wanted to play baseball, and again, he asked about games and practices. The schedule wasn't posted since teams aren't even drafted, so I told him that the times would be determined, but games would most likely be on Saturdays.

Without missing a beat, he said, "Then I don't want to do it." I was surprised by how quick his answer was and asked him to explain why Saturday games were a deal-breaker. He casually replied, "Cause Saturday is family day. We sleep in, eat a big breakfast and do something together as a family. I don't want to go to baseball if it interrupts family day."

Curt and I stared at each other dumbfounded. The competitor in me wanted to force him to play so he could develop the skills I know he has. The protector in me wanted to make him try so when he finally does want to play, he doesn't get teased or feel sad if he's not as good as the other kids. But the philosopher in me couldn't argue with his reasoning or his clarity of perspective that was wise beyond his years. My heart warmed with love as I tossed the blank registration form in the garbage and my mind started planning a spring full of Saturdays that are wide-open for family fun.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Life from Paige's Perspective
















Our youngest daughter, Paige, will be 3 at the end of this month. She has hit the phase of toddlerhood where every day she says something hilarious and I'm constantly looking for a sheet of paper to write down the goofy stuff she says.


Yesterday, we were having a mid-morning snack and she kept inhaling everything in sight then asking for more. At one point I said, "Girl - you must be hungry." And she said very emphatically, "I'm a WOT of hungry!"

I took her up Bald Peak Road and perched her at the edge of a fairly steep drop off to take her 3 year old pictures with a breath-taking view of the valley below. She was nervous about standing so close to the edge and said, "But Mom - I fall down." You can tell from the pictures that she was apprehensive about showing too much flair.

Today we were brain-storming when we could have her birthday party and who we could invite. Since we only moved here 7 months ago, the list of friends is abnormally short. She named off four boys who she plays with then looked at me and said, "Mom - I need more girl friends."

She overheard me saying that her friend Oliver is sick. When I got off the phone she said, "Mom, we should pray for he." And then she prayed the sweetest prayer that he would feel better. Oh to have that kind of faith!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Where Did I Go?











When I was a little girl, I dreamed only of being a mommy and shamelessly played dolls well into my early teens. When I reached the magical babysitting age, I swapped my dolls for live kids and babysat every chance I could get. College was something I did, not because I dreamed of an illustrious career, but because it was expected and because it was a great way to find a potential daddy for the children I knew were in my future.

I met and married my husband, secured a great job, and started counting the months before we could start trying for a baby. I became obsessed with pregnancy, all things pertaining to babies, and looked forward to 9 months of not having to suck in my stomach. Without a doubt, I knew who I was and where I was going.

When I finally received the long-awaited news, I embraced every aspect of being pregnant from the first flutter in my womb, to my ever-changing shape and my new shiny hair. I poured over baby name books, devoured parenting how-to books, and was certain we would be the proud owners of a scheduled baby who slept on command and was easily transportable.

Somewhere between planning baby showers and painting our gender-neutral nursery, the unthinkable happened. I realized I had fallen in love with my career. I was appalled at how this did not fit my well-orchestrated plan course for my life, but I soon found out that nothing about motherhood was well-orchestrated.

Our son was born 6 ½ weeks early, attended all his pre-planned baby showers, and ate every 2 ½ hours for the first 12 weeks of his life. I stumbled around in a sleep-deprived trance, dark circles under my eyes, wondering if I would ever feel rested again. I glared at the big belly bulge that no one told me would remain post-partum, resented my husband for expecting me to take up cooking now that I was a “homemaker,” and marveled that a 5 pound, bread-loaf-sized baby could be so draining physically and emotionally. I felt lost in my own life and couldn’t seem to find a compass that would point me back to something familiar.

Somehow I survived the initial learning curve and jumped at the opportunity to continue my career with an at-home, part-time position. I suddenly had daily goals, a guaranteed adult conversation with my boss, and a To Do list that included more than nurse, change diapers, and wipe up baby puke. Working was the compass that magnetically pulled me back to normalcy and I began to recognize myself again in my altered world that was finally feeling comfortable.

Fourteen months later, the familiarity ended when we held a surprise bundle in our arms. Caring for two babies proved to be quite challenging and all structure flew right out the window. Once again, I could find no semblance of myself in my world.

Sleep was sparse, needs were multiple, and I was expected to resume my work load six weeks after our daughter was born. The belly bulge shrank quickly this time because I had no time to eat and was constantly nursing, tripping over toys, and lugging around both a toddler and those ridiculously heavy car seats. I adopted the “whoever is crying loudest gets my attention” rule, made pasta almost every night for dinner, neglected my husband and started making errors in my job. Work, which had been a salve after our son arrived, became a burden weighting me down to yet one more thing I did at a mediocre level.

I floundered, alternating between being blissfully happy with my amazing husband and two chubby babies to major meltdowns that included sobbing on the phone about my intentions to quit being a mom starting NOW! For someone who thrives on structure and measurable accomplishments, the unpredictability of motherhood drove me crazy. I caught glimpses of my former confident self through the fog, but then the clouds would envelope me in an unrecognizable life. What happened to the self-confident woman I used to be? Where did I go?

One month before I gave birth to our third baby in under three years, I blissfully resigned from my job and resolved to become the super-mom and wife I longed to be. Motherhood the third time around seemed easier. I was accustomed to never sleeping, could more easily manage multiple needs, and had mastered the art of simultaneously nursing a baby and making dinner. I scheduled play dates, schlepped all three kids to story time, played at the park, and made meals that didn’t involve pasta.

Then the boredom set in. Each day was a groundhog day repeat of the day before and the tediousness began to wear on me. Play dough was too messy, crafts with glue and little pieces made me cringe, and even my dreams were overrun with cows jumping over moons in great, green rooms. I could finally recognize myself as a mom, but felt one-dimensional, with a life that revolved exclusively around my kids. I yearned to have a hobby, a creative outlet and some intellectual stimulation.

This yearning spawned a quest to grow and develop in areas that interested me outside of being a mom. I auditioned for the worship team at church. I toyed with running. I scrapbooked like a fiend. I found intellectual stimulation through a challenging Bible study. As I became more dimensional, my confidence as a mom grew too.

By the time our fourth and final child was born, I was comfortable in my skin, stretched out and saggy as it was, and I felt more settled in my identity as a wife, a mom, and a friend. I embraced motherhood the way I originally dreamed I would, relishing every moment and marveling at the miracle of a wrinkly, scrawny newborn daily transforming into a healthy, roly-poly baby. I managed to work consistent exercise into my schedule and finally melted off that stubborn fourth baby weight by fulfilling a life-long dream of running a marathon. For the first time since my journey of motherhood began, I maintained a tentative balance of being mom to our kids, lover to my husband and friend to the wonderful women in my life. I even saw myself reflected in the frazzled eyes of new moms who came to ME for advice!

Looking back, I realize that I didn’t go anywhere. I was still me beneath the insecurities, sleeplessness and mid-day meltdowns. God gently took me, a self-focused, career-driven woman, and through the process of a mothering metamorphosis, transformed me into a well-rounded mom embracing my God-given purpose. I can hardly wait to see where I go next.