Category Archives: Parenting

Freedom from fear, or life outside the bubble

What’s the purpose of living? Is it to wrap myself up in a little bubble, insulated from the dangers and troubles of the world? In college, we used to refer to the “Wheaton bubble”, the Christian college environment that seemed to protect us from some of the realities of life. I know we were naive, but there were some perks within that sheltered cocoon.

Sometimes I honestly wish I could be in that kind of bubble.

Comfortable.

Safe.

Secure.

But does that kind of security even exist?

Senseless death and unfathomable loss seem rampant these days…although it’s really nothing new. It just feels fresher lately, with the most recent crop of tragic news in our area. Police officers slain in cold blood. Bullied teens seeing no way out but suicide. Foolish driving leading to deadly crashes.

At times, it’s all I can do not to give in to fear.

Thoughts of “what if” plague my mind all too often. The worries over hundreds of things that could go wrong on any given day, changing my life and others’ permanently. Stories of real heartbreak and loss abound, giving me more reason to be afraid.

Sometimes it’s absolutely petrifying to get behind the wheel every morning. Driving the same roads I’ve taken a thousand times before, wondering if this may be the day when my vehicle meets one whose driver is texting rather than watching the road. Listening to my sweet babies prattling from the backseat, praying constantly for their safety and protection.

Pangs of fear struck me from time to time before I had children, but never as deeply as they do now. As a mother, every heartbreaking news story takes my mind to this land of terrible possibilities. I picture the most dreadful situations and while I thank God that none of them are true for me, I can’t help but remember that I am not impervious to the horrible events that can happen.

The thing is, I know that my current state of relative happiness and comfort is not necessarily likely to continue undisturbed. Being a Christian does not mean I won’t experience loss, heartache, or pain. In fact, one might argue that suffering is even more likely because of my faith. Everyone suffers, and believers are not exempt from that aspect of life.

But the Bible promises that God will meet us in our suffering and give unspeakable comfort and peace. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” -Romans 8:18

While I won’t venture so far as to hope for suffering in order to grow closer to God, I can hope and pray that when trials arise, I will find solace in Christ and not waver in my faith.

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

it is well…it is well with my soul.”

Those words, penned by Horatio G. Spafford following the deaths of his four daughters, grant me comfort and a sense of greater purpose. It’s strange, but somehow, something about my utter helplessness to predict or control the future actually gives…peace.

Living is dangerous. It’s risky. It’s filled with uncertainties. However, it’s also filled with immeasurable joy and beauty.

If I hide out in my cocoon, my bubble, afraid to seek adventure and really LIVE…then what’s the point?

I may not fully conquer the fear anytime soon. I know I’ll continue to worry about my husband, my kids, all of my loved ones. But I’ll seek to walk with God, trusting Him to lead me, even when I can’t see the path or the destination clearly.

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” –Isaiah 46:4

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:7

It is well with my soul.

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On the eve of maternity leave’s end

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There is deep sadness. Sadness over having to leave my babies with someone else to go to work. Sadness at the thought of not seeing their sweet faces all day long.

There is fear. Fear of failure at my job as a teacher. Fear of missing out on priceless moments of my children’s early years while trying to educate teenagers who could NOT care less.

There is anxiety. Anxiety over whether my littlest will take bottles at daycare. Anxiety over how the sitter will cope with his constant crying that is only soothed by walking him around. Anxiety because of the distinct  possibility of him crying ALL night long during our first week with both of us back at school (teething is no fun, people).

I wonder, have I adequately cherished these months of mothering? Was I wrong on the days I wanted nothing more than to get away from my kids for a few hours? Did those moments mean I’m undeserving of these sweet little kiddos?

Now that my time as a SAHM is ending, I find myself trying to hold my children even tighter and keep them up later, letting them read the dino book “one more time” (translation: three more times minimum).  I don’t want to let them go. When we finally put the baby to bed after seemingly endless rocking and nursing, I find myself still wanting to hold on longer, admiring the curves of his sweet chubby face, peaceful in sleep.

I am grateful. Grateful for nearly six full months immersed in mothering my two-year-old and his new baby brother. Grateful for the countless afternoon naps with a baby in my arms. Grateful for the wakeful nights when sleep eluded us. Grateful for the deepened bond I’ve gained with my firstborn son. Grateful for the way his relationship with his brother is blossoming. Grateful for the trips to the playground, the visits with family, the lazy afternoons splashing in the kiddie pool. Grateful for my husband having the summer off as well, so we could all be together.

Yes, I am grateful, but I will shed more than a few tears tonight, tomorrow, and in the days to come. How could anyone not, when saying goodbye to these precious little guys?

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-one of my little dudes

I love, love, love being a mom. Wouldn’t trade it for anything else in this world.

But man, sometimes parenting feels just plain relentless.

It never ends. From morning till night (and throughout the night, getting up with the baby), minute by minute, it never feels like there’s any true break. Sure, there is the occasional kids’ nap, when I theoretically can get things done, but really that doesn’t happen. The younger one doesn’t nap nearly as long as the older, nor at the same time.

There’s always somebody around. Touching you, asking for food, asking you to play cars or race or animals, asking to play with the I-pad, following you around all over the place.

There’s always somebody needing you. There is no escape. And you love them to pieces, so of course you can’t say no when they look at you with those big doe-eyes and beg you to spin them around again, again, again!

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“Will you fly with me?”

And if you have pets, forget about it. Your lap is never free. Man, our three cats are needy. Begging for attention. The instant the children are laid down or occupied somewhere else, the cats are all over you. Their purr and snuggles used to provide comfort and stress relief. Now they’re just three additional energy-suckers. Even at bedtime, when the boys sleep reasonably well, the kitties take over noise duty–meowing, fighting, growling, puking, grooming.

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~one child with one of the frustrating cats

I miss sleeping in my bed, all night long. I miss getting in the car to run to Target and not having it be a big deal. I miss leaving the house without sixteen different snack and toy options. I miss spontaneous hangouts with my friends. I miss eating slowly, with utensils, with both arms free. I miss the luxury of focusing on one task for as long as it takes to complete it, rather than in fifteen- or five- or one-minute increments. I miss being able to do ANYTHING, no matter how simple, without thinking of what to do with the kids.

I don’t need a week in Paris. (Although I would not turn it down!) I just need a day to recuperate from life as a parent. One day when I can just be me, without worrying about my kids nonstop.

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~sweet baby smile!

I know, I’m lucky. I have awesome kids and an awesome husband to partner with. But I just sometimes could use a break from it all. Parenting is really hard. I signed up for it, and I don’t regret it one bit. But yeah, sometimes a pause button for life would be dreamy.

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~a peaceful moment

Easter (a little late)

I found this Easter to be filled with disappointments.  I hate to say this because of course Easter is not about me.  It’s about the resurrection of Jesus, and I do rejoice in that.  But I found myself today, Easter Sunday, feeling really down about the whole thing.

To begin with, our plans to visit my husband’s family fell through when the kids and I were not feeling well on Good Friday, and we weren’t sure if it was the kind of thing that would get worse or better throughout the weekend.  The kids were super crabby all morning as we finished packing and prepping to leave. It was one of those days when both kids are fussing at the same times, and it’s like they’re competing to be heard, so they cry extra loudly.  The older one was whining and crying about the silliest, littlest things, so we knew something was up.

I decided I could handle the trip by early afternoon and the hubs figured we should at least give the trip a real shot before giving up.  After changing both kids’ diapers about seventeen times in the hour before leaving, a bath became necessary for the older child (don’t ask).  Thank the Lord we hadn’t left our house yet–dealing with that in a dingy gas-station bathroom would have been awful.

We finally got going three hours after we’d hoped to leave our house.  The longest car ride we had taken the newborn on was an hour long each way, and on that return trip, he’d cried a LOT.  So we weren’t too optimistic about a four-hour drive (which we knew could easily become six or more with two children).  Sure enough, less than half an hour in, the little one burst out wailing.  Since our first child was a remarkably good traveler, usually sleeping soundly until hungry, this second kid’s fussiness in the car is uncharted territory.  After the stress of the morning, dealing with crying kids at home and packing our tiny car to bursting at the seams, we already felt as though we’d been traveling all day.

We turned around right away.  Nope, not gonna attempt that long of a trip yet.  Imagining dealing with sickness and crying and crabbiness in a tiny Vibe and then being a guest in someone else’s house on top of that was too much. (Illness is always a bit easier in your own home and your own bed.)

Anyway, some more disappointments: I feel like a lame-o mom with holidays so far.  Case in point: Liam’s first birthday, we decided on a simple cookout with a few neighbor friends instead of a big themed party with all our relatives (no way all sides of the family could fit in our house for a party anyway, and no one lives locally).  We ended up having to cancel even that casual gathering when Liam turned up sick that day.  Score -1 in the mommy game.  Other holidays–well, we have managed to get Liam’s picture with Santa both Christmases, so that’s a win.  However, we didn’t even have a Christmas tree this year because he kept pulling the lights off.  I never decorate for Valentine’s Day or Easter or St. Patrick’s or 4th of July.  About all I do is maybe bake some cookies.

This Easter, I have not done a whole lot with creating traditions for our kids to cherish.  We missed out on all the fun we could have had with Nate’s sisters and their families (they always do tons of cute crafts and treats and activities).  We then found out about all the local Easter egg hunts about an hour too late.  I didn’t buy presents or make up cutesy Easter baskets for the boys, nor did I dress them in matching pastel outfits.  I didn’t hide plastic eggs with candy all over the house and yard for Liam to find first thing this morning.

The worst part was missing out on Easter worship services.  The past few years, we’ve been absent for this Sunday anyway, since we’re usually visiting with relatives we rarely see.  We don’t feel like missing out on the limited time we have to spend with loved ones just for the sake of visiting some random church.  This year, for once, we were home, but now we have a six-week-old who is extremely fussy at times, usually including church times.  So we couldn’t make services on Good Friday or Easter morning.  I don’t see the point of going through all the hassle of getting all of us dressed and out the door only to spend the whole service hiding out in the foyer because the baby is crying.  (Kudos to you parents who deal with the hassle anyway! I salute you.)

I was very grieved to not be present with the body of believers for worship today.  I longed to sing along with the congregation my old familiar hymns, like “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”.

However, I learned a lesson today.  The resurrection is not about me.  Easter is not about the perfect Pinterest-y holiday filled with dozens of cutely-posed photo ops.  I felt jealous as I scrolled my facebook news feed, seeing the parade of adorable children in coordinated ensembles, hunting for eggs, visiting the Easter bunny, and whatnot.  But you know what?  All the trappings of this holiday, as sweet and fun as they may be, do not make Easter what it is meant to be.  If I can rejoice today in the fact that I am a sinner, filled with sinful thoughts, guilty of sinful actions, yet Christ died to bring me back to God, then that’s ALL that matters.  I’m alive in Christ.  He has risen, and one day I will rise with him.

Leap Frog Lyrics…or Musical Torture

When it’s quiet around here, it’s never really silent.  My son’s favorite television shows are replete with songs, and since I’ve heard them all approximately 7,497 times, I’ve got them memorized and burned into my brain.

Naturally, being the model mom that I am, I am well aware that screens are bad.  Children under two years of age should not have any screen time at all.  I totally agree with that recommendation–in theory. I hate what technology is doing to our ability to interact with each other.  I hate looking around everywhere I go and seeing people’s faces buried in their smartphones and tablets, ignoring one another.  I hate that it seems more of my conversations are centered around things I read on social media or see on a TV and movies than on actual, real-life experiences.

All this being said, I am human and I do own a TV, I-Pad, and laptop, and yes, my 22-month-old son knows how to use all of them.  He can do things with them that leave my husband and I befuddled, wondering how on earth to change the settings back to what they were.  Let’s just admit that it can be really hard to keep kids from screens.  It doesn’t help that we adults are so attached to our devices.  Heck, I’m typing this very sentence as my toddler watches George the monkey teach his friend Bill how to dance .  Might as well multi-task a little, right?

Now that I’m on maternity leave, I get to be a stay-at-home mom for several months, which is awesome.  I love having so much time off to bond with my new baby as well as my older child.   However, it’s really hard to leave the television off ALL day.  Especially when it’s the end of March and snowing.  Of course I would prefer my toddler to spend all his time playing interactively, reading books, learning new skills.  But he does watch TV.  He sometimes gets a couple of hours straight, in fact.  My justification for that is that I have a newborn to care for as well, so I obviously can’t devote every single minute to my older son.  Plus, many of the more “educational” activities, he simply can’t do on his own.  So there are times when I let Curious George and Mickey Mouse entertain my kid.  Judge if you want.  I do my best.

Every parent knows that what really sucks about kids’ shows is that kids will watch the same thing over and over and over.  They don’t mind seeing the same episode of Wild Kratts 12 days in a row.  And it sounds like every little girl has watched Frozen eleven jillion times (“Let It Go” is one of the reasons I’m so thankful to have boys!).  And parents, you know that the worst part about watching the same kids’ show repeatedly is the songs. Even ones that are not that bad are still horrible when you hear them playing in your dreams and in your waking hours too.  It didn’t take long for LeapFrog’s Numberland and Phonics Farm songs to become permanently lodged in my mind.  I could recite and sing every line from those shows, because I’ve heard them so. Many. Times.  “Letter sound hoedown…” “Ten is the biggest number from one to ten…” “You can count things faster if you go by twos…”  Riveting lyrics, I tell ya.

At least if it’s an educational show, I don’t feel so guilty about parking my kid in front of a screen for awhile.  He’s become so much better at the numbers and alphabet in the past few weeks.  I just wish I could get some other music to take hold in my mind.  It’s like my brain has only sufficient room for inane children’s music and has pushed out every other band and soundtrack I’ve ever heard.  My husband let the Mickey short videos keep playing even after our son had fallen asleep yesterday, and I thought I was going to lose it.  Somehow he was able to tune it out.  Not so for me. I thought teaching the same class three times was bad enough–repeating the same instructions, the same activities, the same songs ad nauseum.  Nope, this is way worse–I get to watch the same shows ten, twenty, fifty-plus times.

“Everything is so glorious, everything is so wondrous..when you’re curious, like curious George.” These lines just keep repeating.  I even woke up this morning with a song Curious George’s friend Marco sings with his family band in my head :”Hurray for George!”  Why am I writing about this?  To try and somehow cement these songs even more firmly in my brain?  Why, oh why?

When we fear good news…

I made a big announcement on Facebook last week.  We’ve all seen them done in a variety of ways, some silly, some cute, some serious.  It’s the pregnancy announcement.

Hubby and I are expecting our second little one in February!  I took a photo of a little onesie we bought that said “lil cheese curd” ( my husband is a Wisconsinite) and posted it the other day.

While we are certainly very excited–we love our boy to bits and we always knew we’d want him to have a sibling–it’s also a bit of an anxiety-producer.

For those of us who have lost a child to miscarriage, this happy news can be tinged with doubt. Anxiety.  The fear of the unthinkable happening again.  Will this pregnancy end with a healthy child, or with heart-wrenching loss and emptiness?

Opening yourself up to the risks of carrying a child again can be frightening.  We were really fortunate in that after our second miscarriage, we saw an endocrinologist who ran just about every kind of test possible to narrow down the problem, and it was an easy fix.  No major interventions or surgeries needed; I just had low hormone levels and took supplements.  Knowing so many couples who have gone through much worse to try and have children, sometimes ending with empty arms after years of struggles, I felt so lucky that in our case, we were likely to have no more early-pregnancy losses.

Even so, the first trimester with our son was terrifying.  We told no one of the pregnancy, wanting to spare them the pain of a possible loss (and ourselves the pain of having to tell everyone sad news again).  We went to my specialist once a week for blood tests to check the hormone levels and for ultrasounds.  Let me tell you, those weekly visits were an enormous comfort, but at the same time, the scariest part of our lives at that time.  Every week, the night before the appointment, I would begin to worry.  I had gone through ultrasounds before when the doctor was silent, and I knew that terrible silence meant there was no heartbeat.  We were hopeful that everything would be fine with this baby due to the supplements, but no longer able to take a happy-go-lucky attitude about it.  Every week I was preparing myself  for another silent ultrasound, another surgery, another case of dashed hopes.

I suppose I could say that each week, the stress was alleviated slightly.  As we passed the seven-and-a-half week mark, when I had lost both of our other babies, our hopes grew.  The fears grew as well, but the closer we got to trimester two, the calmer our hearts became.  The endocrinologist empathized well with us, having experienced such losses himself with his wife.  He always told me, “You won’t truly relax until there’s a baby keeping you up at night.”  How right he was.  Our worries lessened after the first thirteen weeks, but we were still plagued by uncertainty.  We didn’t tell any family or friends until safely into the second trimester, and I think even then we still lacked some of the sheer joy and excitement we had exuded when we’d announced our first pregnancy.  We had learned caution.  Sadly, the miscarriages had robbed us of some of the happiness we should have enjoyed throughout the whole process.

Praise God, our son was born full-term, perfectly healthy, fifteen months ago today, and is the ultimate joy of our lives.  I won’t say that we love or appreciate him any more because of the losses we suffered before him–I think that’s unfair to parents who had so-called “easy” pregnancies and births.  Those parents don’t love their children any less than we do.  But we are mindful of the road we took to bringing him home, and when we think of that, we are so grateful.

Just over a year later, we learned there was to be a sibling.  Now, you’d think that after my pregnancy with Liam was so successful, we would have been totally relaxed this time around.  After all, we had pinpointed the issue and everything was fine with him, so why wouldn’t this baby be fine?  I don’t know; I just know that I panicked a little and called my doctors immediately and pushed them to get me supplemented right away.  I couldn’t fully enjoy the great news until I felt we were out of danger.  My husband was more rational and calm, thankfully, and helped me to trust God and what we knew to be true.

Still, we waited a few more weeks before telling anyone the news.  We have been much more confident this time, telling some family at seven weeks and others over the next several weeks.  We know there are always some risks, and things don’t always go the way we plan, but we’ve been able to enjoy sharing our good news with our loved ones as we visited them this summer.

The next big step was to tell the Facebook world.  While it’s not as important as our families, of course, the scary part is how public it is.  Many people will know once you post it on social media, and many more will find out from those people.  There is no stopping the news/ gossip once you’ve shared it online.  Nate was fine with it, but I hesitated for days before making my announcement.  In my mind, there was always that tiny voice of doubt taunting, “This might not work out the way you want it to.”  Whether that’s the evil one or just common sense, I don’t want to listen to it anymore.  I finally decided it was time to take a step of faith and share our good news.

Now, everyone in our lives knows there is a baby on the way.  The only people I haven’t told are my students, but we just started school and I’m sure they’ll figure it out pretty quickly, anyway.  I still experience little moments of weakness, worrying that something may go wrong.  Most of the time, though, I’m able to trust that God knows what He’s doing and He is always doing good.

I don’t know if everyone experiences this kind of fear when good news strikes them.  I feel like it must be fairly common, though.  We don’t want too much good in our lives for fear of it being taken away, just as it happened to Job.  I hope that you and I will keep learning to hold on to Jesus, knowing that yes, all our earthly joys are ultimately temporary, but that doesn’t mean we don’t embrace each piece of good news with sheer joy and thankfulness.

 

 

Traverse City update

Yesterday was pretty low-key.  We took the kiddo for a stroll along the shore and let him play on the playground there.  In the afternoon, a leisurely drive to see the Mission Point lighthouse was lovely.  After a swim, dinner was at Red Lobster.  I know, it’s lame to eat at chain places when you’re on a trip, but in our defense, we have four nights here, and we had a gift card to use.  It had been too long since I had Cheddar Bay biscuits!  Liam charmed our waitress and all of the others, dancing to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”.

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Wednesday–what a fun day!  We decided to venture out of town a bit and check out the Sleeping Bear Dunes, just about a half-hour drive away from us. The morning began overcast and cool, and only got colder as the day continued (down to around 55 at one point, and very windy).  Thank goodness we wore our jeans and brought extra warm clothes for Liam!  He snoozed a little on the way to the dunes, but woke up when we stopped at the Visitors’ Center.  He oohed and aahed at the little museum display inside, showcasing various wildlife of the area including a cougar, owl, and beaver.  (Fake ones, but he still gets super excited to see them!).  Since he loved looking around there so much, we ended up getting him a small stuffed bear as a souvenir of his first family vacation.  He hugged it tight and loved holding it as we drove the few miles further to get to the actual dunes.

I had heard the story of the Sleeping Bear dunes years ago.  I believe my nieces and nephews received a picture book telling about a mama bear and her two cubs who didn’t quite survive the journey with her.  We opted to go directly to the dune climbing area rather than do the scenic drive.  We took turns carrying our own little cub as we climbed this steep wall of sand.  It was just beautiful, both while climbing and at the top.  We foolishly looked at the backpack we’d brought before going up the dune, but decided to leave it in the car.  After all, why would one want bottled water or an extra sweatshirt or a snack after making an arduous sandy climb?  Yeah, we regretted that decision…oh well!  Nate was the tough guy and carried Liam the majority of the ascension.  I kept offering to take him, but he kept declining my help.  So I ran a little bit of the dune…yikes, that was a tough workout!  I wish I had been close to something like this back when I was coaching cross-country!  This place would be such an awesome hill workout for me and the kids!

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So, we reached the top of the dune…and lo and behold, we could now see the next level of dunes!  So of course, being a bit competitive with myself, I insisted we push ahead and get to the next height.  The views from the top were breathtaking!  We couldn’t see more water from the second level, but a rugged, hilly, woodsy area.  It was great watching other visitors making the trek up the dunes, lots of small children running and racing each other, even an elderly woman hiking up with a cane and a helper.  She made it the whole way…we saw a man waiting at the bottom who said she was his extremely determined mother-in-law.

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We thought Liam would be more interested in playing in the sand, but as soon as Nate tried to let him sit down, he pulled his feet up and his hands started shaking.  Maybe he just needs a bit more time to get used to this new stuff…he used to have the same reaction to grass, and now he’s fine with it.  Anyway, he was carried the whole way up and the whole way down the dunes.  By the time we reached the bottom again, it was getting awfully cold, so we put some more layers on the baby and grabbed our snacks from the car.  He loved the gulls as well.

After the dune climb, we drove a few miles down the road to a maritime museum and viewed some old boats and learned about Coast Guard history.  Lots of neat artifacts to see.

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Little dude was worn out and slept on the trip back to the hotel.  Traffic getting back was awful-construction was blocking a lane right in front of the hotel, so it took awhile to get there from half a mile away.  Once there, though,  Liam slept another hour, so we all got some rest.

We chose a very casual diner-type place for dinner called The Cottage, and the food was delicious.  We rounded out the evening with a walk around the restaurant’s neighborhood, a short drive out of town, and ice cream at Sweet Treats, located where we got our pizza the first night.  Liam was so sleepy by the time we got to the ice cream shop, but perked up quickly at his first taste of ice cream.  Wow, he loved that and kept begging for more!

Seeing our son’s excited expressions every time he discovers something new is a joy.  He loves the simple things, evidenced by the way he coos every time the hotel elevator door opens.  He crawls around and gets into everything.  He loves to go after the hotel room drawers (some child locks would have been helpful, that’s for sure)!  Traveling with a toddler is definitely more of a challenge than without one, but it’s totally worth it.