Things I’ve Learned

These are the things I’ve learned in the past week.

1. I have a love/hate relationship with ponytails.  I hate that their ease makes it easy for me to be lazy.  I love that when it’s hot and I don’t want to dry my hair or when I really am just too busy to do anything else with it, I can pull my hair back and move on with my day.

2. My husband isn’t as strong as God.  Yes, I knew this before this morning, but the following was so humorous to me, that it had to be included on this list.  On the way to school this morning, Lucas informed Matt that he’s not as strong as God.  Uncle Josh and Uncle Joey, are almost as strong as God (hmmm …), because when Uncle Joey showed Lucas his muscle, it made a bubble.  When Lucas showed Bethany his muscle it made a line.  Therefore, Luke also is not as strong as God.

3. God knows when I really need a break.  I would never rejoice that it is so hot outside that the church office is too hot to work in, but Matt came home shortly after he left this morning, and decided to work in our back room because of the heat.  I haven’t seen him any more than normal, but he needed the computer and that keeps me from doing unnecessary researching, couponing, procrastinating on facebook, playing games, and forces me to take a break.  It has been nice.  Just knowing that the love of your life is in the house with you, even if you can’t really spend time with him is comforting too.

4.  I now have 24 pounds to lose (19 to get back to my pre-Nicholas-pregnancy weight).  For whatever reason, that feels more doable than the 50 I had to lose after Nicholas was born or even the 25 it was last week.  The end is in sight.  The baby is only 4 1/2 months old so I still need to allow myself four-eight months to lose the weight, but I am happy with my progress.

5. When I was a teacher, I would sometimes take a mental health day because I felt I needed a break.  You can’t do that as a stay-at-home mom, but one probably needs it as much if not more than when one works outside of the home.  I think that’s because as a mother, I am emotionally invested in the outcome of each day.  I am grateful that I am sick today.  Thankful because I feel okay about being showered, but not made up … dressed, but in comfy clothes … blessed with an excuse for maintaining, not accomplishing.  To top off my day of rest like the icing on a cake, my friend (and former child care provider) Jessica came and took Bethany for a “date.”  I have a quiet house in which to let my stomach settle and my head stop spinning; Quiet for now that is.

In a couple of minutes, Lucas will come home from school and Bethany will finish her date and my arms will be quite literally full … in the best way.

New every morning

As much as I do not want to admit this, I have only experienced spontaneous unconditional love toward three people in my life; I have chosen love more frequently, but as far as loving because I just can’t help it? I think that only happens when you exude love for your children.  It is no wonder that we are born as infants.  When my babies were moments old, Lucas and Nicholas were both blue from the cord being wrapped around their precious necks and bruised from traumatic entries into the world, and Bethany had a very distinct nose and looked nothing like me, as funny looking as newborns are, my love for them couldn’t help but overflow and ever since that day I find myself telling everyone how amazing my children are.  Like I said, it is no accident that we do not enter the world as 13 year olds who “know” everything.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today, because I’m exhausted.  No one but my children could keep me up for hours in the middle of the night and suffer no ill will from me the next day.  Little Nicholas, I am almost positive, has allergies.  He was so congested in the night that sleep was next to impossible … for both of us.  I appreciate how sweet and happy he was.  The only time he complained was when the aspirator had to be used (multiple times) to clear his tiny airways.  And so, like I did with both Lucas and Bethany, I sat up for nearly three hours comforting, clearing and cajoling him back to sleep whilst watching episodes of Friends. (I collected the series during my first pregnancy so I would have something to keep me awake during middle of the night feedings.)

You know you’re tired when you start wishing for the next morning’s cup of coffee before you’ve even had dinner.  Even when the mom has been up for half of her sleeping hours, she still must be awake first and other than during my pregnancy with Nicholas, I have never been a good napper,  so I have been less than patient today.  How grateful am I that when the day is over, it is over.  That no matter how many times I’ve been short fused today, “Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it” (Montgomery).  God knew what he was doing when he made day and evening.  Somewhere in eternity, he knew that we would need a fresh start, and it’s more than thrilled I am that His mercies are new every morning.

Meal Planning

When I plan my family’s meals there are a few things I like to take into account.  First of all, I love cooking, but I cannot be overly ambitious because I have three kids aged five and younger.  Second, I like to keep meals healthy.  Third, we will eat leftovers once a week for dinner and often for lunch.  And fourth, no matter how much I’m craving steak, if it’s not a good price we will not eat it! 

At least once a week I like to plan a meal that the kids can help with.  If we are home on a Friday night that is generally when such a meal is prepared.  Keeping these things in mind, here is our meal plan for the next two weeks.

Saturday: red beans (with sausage) and rice with cornbread
Sunday: Artichoke and Mushroom Chicken with sauteed spinach
Monday: Spaghetti and Meatballs, focaccia and caesar salad
Tuesday: Skillet Chicken with Lemon, broccoli
Wednesday: Jerk Chicken and Caribbean Slaw
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Fajitas and Beans
Saturday: Balsamic Braised Chicken with pasta and salad
Sunday: Baked BBQ chicken, homemade mac and cheese and a veggie (yet to be determined)
Monday: Italian Meatloaf and sauteed veggies
Tuesday: Grilled Shrimp skewers and veggies on the grill
Wednesday: Chuck wagon Chili with chips and cheese
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Homemade pizza and Sensation Salad

Bethany and I will also bake some pumpkin muffins this week, because even though it’s 96 degrees outside, it is fall!

Unmerited Favor

This has been quite the day.  First of all, my kids and my husband graciously allowed me to sleep in until 8!  I had decided last night that since I’ve been using coupons, I wanted to get to the store early to do 2 weeks worth of grocery shopping.  If I beat the rush, I don’t feel as bad about the time it takes for me to check out with my cart full of food and my hand full of coupons.  Feeling ambitious and wanting to give Matt a bit of a break (and a real opportunity to put some laundry away), I took the two youngest kids along with me.
Sparing you the whole narrative of an extra trip to and from Vons before I ever started shopping, let’s just say that I finished about two hours after I began (believe me that’s quick when you have a 4 month old harnessed to the front of you and a 3 year old, clad in a leotard dancing around you all while trying to make the best purchases) and had an entire trunk load of groceries when I left. 

Can I just say that I love coupons?  I love the money they save me and the possibilities they provide.  I wouldn’t call myself cheap, but I am practical and so we often go without convenience food such as yogurt cups and cereal because they are so very expensive.  I love that since I started shopping with coupons, I spend less than I did before, but also have some foods that I don’t have to prepare from scratch.  If a kid wants a snack they can grab a piece of fruit or a cup of yogurt.  I love that I got four boxes of cereal for $2.31 as opposed to the $16 it costs before coupons.  I love that I got $28 worth of yogurt for $6 the other day. 

Anyhow, today wasn’t my biggest of savings, but I am way under budget and I have healthy and convenient food and meals planned for my sweet family for the next two weeks.  More about that later … when I came home I was shocked that all of the laundry was put away, another load started, dirty dishes in the sink (alas we do not have a dishwasher, unless I change my name), floors swept and vacuumed.  There was my sweet husband loving me in a very real way.  This would mean a great deal if Matt’s love language was acts of service, but it’s not and it means all the more because of this.  I love to clean (I just wish it stayed clean once I do it); Matt does not.  My husband did the very things he he hates to do on his day off, because he loves me more than I ever give him credit for.

I feel loved.  I am sitting in an almost clean home, feeding the baby and writing, while my husband plays with the kids in the front yard.  I feel loved not because of his accomplishment, but because of the sacrifice.  Today I am thankful that I have received unmerited favor in the gift of Matt.

Kids Will Be Kids

I spent the first 8 years of my real adult life teaching in one way or another.  Sometimes I was teaching and tutoring and doing in-home teaching, just to keep from going into debt while Matt pursued his graduate degree.  In that time I ran across many kids who were taking zero period, playing a school sport and a club sport, highly involved in student government, playing the lead in the school play, taking vocal or instrumental lessons, trying to have a social life and be involved in church and let’s not forget maintaining their GPA with the hopes of graduating at the top of their class. 

In my teaching years, I made a few decisions about me and my kids.  First, I decided that as soon as we could afford to do so, I would need to invest far more time into my kids lives.  Why?  So that I can do everything in my power to ensure that my kids don’t become like some of the kids I taught.  It’s not worth working just to put my kids in private school, if I can’t be super-involved in their daily life.  I am the parent regardless of where my children are schooled.  Second, I decided that even though I am an overachiever, I will only push my kids to do their personal best.  That means that they may not get an A in every class.  I will internally learn to be okay with this.  Third, I will let my children have a childhood that so many kids do not get now-a-days.  I want them to do the things they are good at and the things they want to do, once they have done the things they have to do. 

As a child, I spent hours riding my bicycle, rollerskating (sometimes in our basement), playing with dolls well beyond the years that kids do now, gathering flowers to make (and sell) perfume.  I made mud pies that once included packages left behind by my grandparents’ dog (I ashamedly allowed a willing neighbor to eat said pie).  I fed ducks and caught minnows, frogs and caterpillars, which subsequently took over my mom’s family room.  I tobogganed, skated, and sled until my cheeks were red and my hands and toes numb with cold.  We played until we had to come in because the sun was setting, we were just about as dirty as we could get or the snow had melted through our layers of clothing.  I want that for my children.

I have amazing memories from my childhood, and I’ve grown into this sometimes uptight adult that would stifle her own kids’ exploration and fun if I didn’t do a lot of self talk.  When Lucas and Bethany were a little younger they got into mud for the first time and I freaked out.  I realized they were having a brilliant time and decided then that I would not stop their fun, but would from then on come supplied with an abundance of wipes, extra clothes and sometimes pajamas so that they could have as much fun as they want, within the boundaries of safety of course.

All of these ideals and decisions do not stop me from occasionally having a Lindsey moment.  The other night when the kids were playing outside, Bethany fell.  There is something in a mother, that escapes a father, I think.  That is, I feel the pain that they feel.  I cry when they are sick, get shots, get hurt.  I found myself saying in this particular situation “Now, we shouldn’t run.”  As the words escaped my lips I looked at my husband and we both just started laughing.  What a ridiculous thing to tell children who are outside playing in their yard.  Even as I sit here, I’ve fought the temptation to place unneeded rules on their fun this afternoon.  They are blowing bubbles, playing in the the garden and running through the sprinkler.  Inevitably on these afternoons they make several trips inside, dripping dirty water on the floor and leaving wet footprints throughout the house.  There is some self-talk going on and it sounds like this “Lindsey, your floor is dirty anyhow.  What is a little extra dirt and some water?  Let them get their water guns and bubble refills.  What does the mess matter in the light of eternity?”

I will let my kids be kids for the little while that precious existence can remain.  What a blessing childhood is.  How profound that God knows we need  a little humor and the ability to relive some of our own first years with our kids.  We needn’t take life so seriously and I am reminded of that as I look at their drenched bodies, grassy feet and muddy faces.

You Are Not Alone

A few years back, before I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid and way more craziness ensued than my present reality (hard to believe, I know), I would have more bad days than good days.  There were times when my dear, sweet husband would feel the need to leave work and come check on me and the kids because of frantic phone calls received with kids crying in the background and me sobbing in the foreground.  Hey, I said before that motherhood has been an adventure for me … and like all journeys there have been highs and lows.  Anyhow, I digress.  Upon arriving at our tiny town home, Matt would find me completely distraught, and sometimes sitting in the dark, crying (if the kids were napping).  That was a season I never saw coming, and I recall as I was diagnosed with hypo-thyroid several months into this darkness, I was relieved to know that some of what I experienced was medically explainable and thus correctable.

For anyone who has had a chemical or hormonal imbalance, you know that correcting with medication can take time.  It is not a quick fix, and through the months of blood work, adjusting meds, coping and healing that followed, when we as a family or a couple would get into the car to go somewhere, my husband would often have this song playing:

Can’t believe it’s over I watched the whole thing fall
And I never saw the writing that was on the wall
If I only knew the days were slipping past
That the good things never last, that you were crying

Summer turned to winter and the snow it turned to rain
And the rain turned into tears upon your face
I hardly recognize the girl you are today
And God I hope it’s not too late
It’s not too late

Cause you are not alone
I’m always there with you
And we’ll get lost together

til the light comes pouring through
It’s when you feel like you’re done
And the darkness has won
Babe, you’re not lost
When your world’s crashing down
And you can’t bear the cross
I said, babe, you’re not lost

Life can show no mercy and it can tear your soul apart
It can make you feel like you’ve gone crazy but you’re not
When things have seemed to change, there’s one thing that’s still the same
In my heart you have remained
And we can fly fly fly away

‘Cause you are not alone
And I am there with you
And we’ll get lost together
’til the light comes pouring through
When you feel like you’re done
And the darkness has won
Babe, you’re not lost
When the world’s crashing down
And you cannot bear the cross
I said, baby, you’re not lost

I woke up this morning and I could tell right away that this day had the grim potential of being “a day.”  I just wanted to climb back into bed (what mom of a newborn doesn’t desire that) and let the cleaning fairy come and set things right in my world (meaning my little house).  Like I said yesterday, I get overwhelmed with not being able to get everything on my list done, and let me just tell you, I knew from 6:30 this morning that my list was far too long to conquer today.  Nevertheless, I threw on clothes, had several cups of coffee and got both kids off to school.  While driving my middle child to school I called Matt and let him know, in case he hadn’t realized, that I’m having a bad day.  He knew.  And was quick to remind me that when I sit in a group of moms and they offer help or encouragement, it’s because they to have been here.  I am not alone.

I never thought I’d find comfort in a Michael Buble song, and yet even as I read the lyrics I find myself reassured.  Reassured that when I’m not getting it quite right, when I don’t feel beautiful because I’ve still got an extra 25 pounds of baby weight hugging my tummy and lower half, knowing when if I walk on my own floor in white socks those socks will need to be laundered, when my son goes to school without socks on because he’s run out, when we have to use our handy restaurant.com certificates because said meat (from yesterday’s post) never thawed, that I am not alone because of four things. 

1. I have been gifted with an incredible husband who lived on love and oatmeal with me for at least the first two years of our marriage, and even though I think he cares about the mess or my disheveled appearance, his love for me is unconditional.

2. There are these three amazing children who offer me smiles, hugs, kisses and life’s unanswerable questions at every turn because they think I’m great and that I know everything.  (That won’t last forever)

3. Because there are countless mothers who have gone before me, walk beside me, who get it.  Their houses sometimes look like mine and they struggle with similar issues.

4. Because the Creator did not design us to go it alone.  Community was invented and destined to be part of my reality by him.

I am not alone … I may sometimes be lost, but we’re lost together.

With this in mind I am giving myself grace today.  Here is my humble to do list.

1. vent a little — check
2. drop off and pick up kids from school
3. quiet time
4. watch a chick flick (maybe fold some laundry at the same time)
5. shower
6. cuddle each child and help with homework
7. make dinner
8. in-home date night

Rustic Reality

There are few things more calming than holding a sleeping baby and sipping a cup of tea.  As I’ve progressed through this day I’ve found myself wondering countless times when life is going to slow down.  It’s when that question remains unanswered that I find myself going against the pediatrician’s instructions and my own better intuition and I feed the baby to sleep, not before getting a nice hot drink and a book, magazine or the computer.

I don’t know if it’s because I live in Los Angeles or if it is my innate inability to relax or if it is just the season of life I am in; most likely it is a combination of these factors, but I always seem to be busy.  And while I am running around, my house is never as clean as it ought to be, I’ve not made myself look presentable, the meat for dinner is not thawed … it’s 2:15 and I’m speed walking to the elementary school to pick up my son, while fretting about the load of laundry sitting on my sofa getting wrinkled.  And I wonder, where has my day gone?

By nature, I am an overachiever.  It is not enough to accomplish some of the things on my list (and yes, even as a stay-at-home mom, I have a list), I want to get it all finished every day of the week.  When I don’t, I get nervous.  When I’m nervous I get overwhelmed.  When I’m overwhelmed, I want everyone around me to shift into high gear and accomplish.

My husband walked into such a home last night — an atmosphere I had created.  I tried to change … to settle myself down.  Trying was not enough to change my mood nor my mode of operation.  I really want to create a peace filled home.  I pray daily that I will be an instrument of peace and that patience will emanate from me.  I am not and it does not.  Granted on my best days I can be that which I long for, but yesterday it escaped me.

When the kids were still awake at 8:30 and I walked through the house picking up after the three little people (and one not so little person) who, despite my pleas and attempts at training, drop their belonging all over the house; realizing there was still a lunch and a snack to be made, dishes to be finished, laundry to be folded, and a much deserved shower to be taken, I became overwhelmed and all I wanted to do was head to a blockbuster kiosk, retrieve a chick flick and shut my brain off.  What I needed to do was settle a baby down to sleep and listen to my husband … to be what he needed me to be; kind, patient, empathetic, and safe.  Sure I got around to being all those things I unwittingly vowed to be eight years ago, but why does it take such effort?

This morning I was struck with the realization that although I think to myself often of how selfish those around me are, I am just that.   That it is because it is impossible to separate myself from my humanity I am selfish.  Yes, I definitely spend the majority of my time doing for others to the point that when I get into bed each night, I feel I’ve earned my sleep, but when something doesn’t go my way I become infantile.  I may not cry like my baby (well, let’s face it, sometimes I do), but I throw the adult version of a hissy fit.  How dare my husband need me when I’ve been caring for his children all day, picking up his dirty clothes, cooking his food, doing his dishes.

I left my tantrum unfinished and took my shower hours after I wanted to.  As the water streamed over my head, I allowed it to symbolically wash away all the things I loathe about myself, yet often won’t claim as mine.  How much slower would life be if I didn’t waste time feeling sorry for myself or complaining about the gift of having four incredible people to care for?  Aren’t I thankful that Matt (my husband) is not all the things that I am, that he never makes me feel as though he’s done enough for me already.  God forgive me for the times when I fail him and in doing so fail Him.

As I start a new adventure this morning (all days seem to be such lately), I have great aspirations for the day.  I have visions of my house becoming pristine, of working out to get the pre-baby body back, of cuddling my sweet Nicholas, of warm cookies coming out of the oven as my children arrive home, an amazing meal prepared, of me helping Lucas and Bethany with their homework with an immense amount of patience, followed by them peacefully drifting off to sleep and spending quality time with my husband.  All this is a dream.  I am messy … and those that I call my own are too.  We are people and while life can be harmonious, it will never match my imagined perfection, and so I must set aside my lofty ideas and accept rustic reality, knowing that I will go through this day loving and that must be enough.

The Return of the Blog

I started this blog over a year ago as more of an online personal journal, but with working, child rearing and having a 9 month pregnancy induced nausea and exhaustion, I was forced to set it aside. It was a journey of loss, self-exploration and child awareness that caused me to seriously reconsider the path I was on a year ago, and now here I find myself with no more time but much more of a need of outlet than I did before I became a stay-at-home mom. Sure I have great conversations with my kids, but often by the time my husband comes home from work and dinner is made, family fed, dishes done, children bathed, cuddled, read to, and finally asleep, my own exhaustion sets in and many a day passes without my having expressed myself meaningfully. And so … the return of the blog.

Motherhood has been an adventure to say the least. When I first held one of my own babies I experienced the giving of unconditional love, but that love was quickly overshadowed with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and often fear. The second time I held a precious gift, I loved again; and this love caused me to reduce my work load, because I had an all too familiar knowledge that time speeds by and the moments of firsts, exhaustion, crying, nursing, fears, and slobbery baby kisses pass like the blink of those precious infant eyes. The third time I anticipated love lasted only weeks and when my hope was lost, I had to rediscover the treasures that had been placed in my care. This too was a journey, one that I do not regret, but every once in a while when I am out or just checking on the kiddos, I feel like a little someone is missing … the child that only my heart knows. When I first held our fourth baby, my world stopped, and simultaneously I relived the first years with my first two blessings, the loss of my third, and the miracle of my fourth and I knew what I was placed on this earth for.

I never thought I would fall in love again, yet I have and I find myself on a new quest. It is one of creating a safe place both in my arms and in our home for our three children and my husband and I have no clue what I’m doing! Being a perfectionist and a mother don’t really go together. I get it desperately wrong far more often than right, but as I learn I must trust that the One who created me loves me too much to leave me the way I am and will grow me. I’m just a caterpillar now and must be content yet striving onward at the same time. Sure there are days when it feels like the sky is falling and others when I’m on top of the world. Life with three young children is not easy; indeed, my arms are often quite literally full and yet my hands must always remain open, knowing that while I want to protect, nurture — control (really), these gifts are not my own and I am just a willing vessel entrusted with the weighty task of raising them and releasing them.

I may some days get sidetracked with my shadow mission of being supermom or struggle with my Martha Stewart complex, but in the end what will matter is that I loved and that even when I lose it, I’ve loved in such a way that my children and my husband never have to wonder about it. Even now, my arms are full but my hands and my heart are open. I am honored to be on this journey with so many mommy-friends that do it better than me, those who without knowing it are teaching me. Here’s to the journey …