Category Archives: Patience

Pause Button

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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

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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?

Kobe

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My brother’s dog provided the inspiration for this post.  He’s everything you want in a dog–fun, playfulness, friendship.  Mike takes him out on his ultra-marathon training runs in the mountains and parks near Denver, where he lives these days.

This dog has no shortage of energy.  He loves to run.  He loves to play and get dirty.  He especially looooooovvvveesss  fetch, but there’s one catch. (Ha, ha…get it?)

Kobe, like many other dogs (so I hear), absolutely despises letting go of his frisbee for his master to pick up and throw for him.  He will run like the wind when his frisbee or other toy is tossed into the distance, dutifully bring it back to his master, but then…does he simply drop the toy so his master can throw it again and keep the game going?

Of course not!  Kobe has to hang on, clutching that frisbee between his big, sharp teeth so tightly, I don’t know who other than my brother can dare try to wrench it away.  (Although I’ve been fairly impressed at my parents’ audacity and courage–even at their age, with four replaced limbs between the two of them, they play wholeheartedly with Kobe).

I guess it is all part of the game, to a dog.  Part of their excitement is directly tied to the epic battle between dog and human.  Who will emerge the victor, holding the frisbee?  It’s clearly not all about the throwing and retrieving.

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Kobe in action

Unfortunately for the dog, many humans will grow frustrated/nervous/tired of the battle to get the frisbee away from him to throw again.  Thus the game ends all too soon.

I wonder if  Kobe realizes in his little doggie brain that he’s shooting himself in the foot.  Does he inwardly understand that the more he struggles, the less likely he is to get what he wants–another toss of the frisbee and another chance to run and fetch it?

I feel like the answer must be no…otherwise, why wouldn’t he catch on and realize he has to play by human rules (and their pesky need to keep all limbs intact)?  Then again, perhaps it’s more an issue of wanting two things at once.  Kobe wants to run and fetch the toy.  Kobe wants to hold on to the toy, triumphantly.  Both of these goals are singularly important to a dog.  Thus, he refuses to back down.  He is tough.  He is strong.  He is playing with his master.

The only problem is, Kobe can’t run and fetch the frisbee if he continues refusing to drop it.

You are probably wondering, why am I rambling on and on about someone else’s dog?  Cute as he is, Kobe is not the point of this blog post.

No, Kobe is a creature that shows me something God may have been wanting to teach me for some time now.

Kobe is much like me.  I, too, want what I want, when I want it.  I, too, find it hard to focus on anything else at the moment I want something.  And I, too, stubbornly cling to MY way of doing things, even when it doesn’t lead to what I wanted in the first place.  Even when what I thought I wanted turns out to be unsatisfying.

Sound familiar to you, perhaps? No? Please, don’t tell me I’m the only one who hovers in the land of selfishness.

I hold on to my Frisbee, whether it may be a relationship, a sense of security, a financial gift, whatever, thinking that eventually, I will get everything I want.  Perhaps, while I’m waiting, so utterly frustrated that God isn’t acting to bring me something else I desperately desire, He is simply waiting for me to drop whatever it is I’ve been clinging to.  Perhaps he just needs me to let go, so he can be free to give me the other blessings that have been available all along.

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Mike and Kobe

 

Beyond comfortable

So I’m on currently on a “put myself in uncomfortable situations” kick.  Not sure what brought this on, but twice now in a week I’ve willingly done something that makes me feel…awkward.  Anxious.  Out of place.

First was the staff dance that teachers and other adults in my school perform every year at the Homecoming assembly.  Yeah, I’m not big on dancing-at least not in that situation.  I’m all for shakin’ it on the dance floor at a wedding, but the teacher dance has always been an activity I avoid like the plague.  Making a fool of myself in front of the whole student body is not my thing.  I figure, I probably embarrass myself unintentionally during class at least once a day anyway, so why add to the humiliation by doing so on purpose?

It was so sweet being on maternity leave last year at Homecoming time, so I didn’t have to deal with it at all.  Almost every other year of my career, I was in charge of Student Council, which meant I was basically in charge of ALL of Homecoming.  I figured that, plus fall cross-country coaching, should excuse me from pressure to participate in anything else.

Anyway…back to the point.  I’m attempting to do the teacher dance this year.  I still, admittedly, have zero desire to do it, but here are a few reasons that override what I want.

Sometimes, as teachers, it’s good to let students see our goofy side.  It opens up conversation and builds connections.  Plus, I’m no longer a coach or club sponsor, so I do feel I ought to be involved in something in the Homecoming festivities.  And the biggest reason for making a fool of myself  in a dance routine?  It’s important to step outside of our “comfort zone” once in awhile.  Students are required to do stuff they hate, stuff that doesn’t interest them, stuff that terrifies them, on a regular basis.  Some are uncomfortable with reading, or group work, or tests, or speeches, or artwork, but they have to try all of these at one point or another.  Everybody has to go along with something they dislike from time to time, whether for work or relationships or general life-sustenance.

Doing this dance is my feeble attempt to show students that they shouldn’t be content just doing what comes easily or naturally to them.  There’s value and purpose in venturing beyond those things.  You never know where that first step into uncharted territory may lead.  You might discover a hidden talent or passion.  You might create a new friendship.  You might gain opportunities you never even knew existed.

For me, this is just one brief dance routine with coworkers, which I don’t expect to enjoy, but it’s yet another tiny step towards a braver me.  Heck, I was petrified of public speaking when I began teaching, but I did it anyway.  I found that once I got to know the kids, it wasn’t public speaking at all.  It was simply sharing subjects I love with others.  It still scares me an awful lot, but that’s nothing compared to the fear I had thirteen years ago.  There have been some rather amazing experiences and moments with my students.  Having the courage to face my fears is what brought me into those magical moments.

So, even if I look like Elaine from Seinfeld when we perform in a few weeks, it’ll be okay.  I’ll know why I’m doing it, and I’ll attempt to hold on to a shred of dignity (but I confess, I plan to be well-disguised the second we step onto that gym floor!).

Here’s to trying what isn’t easy!  After all, how many worthwhile things in life ever are?

First night in Haiti

After over a year of serious planning (plus a number of years before that during which the dream took root in my heart), I was actually there.

In Haiti.

The real Haiti, the one that conjures images of dirt and orphanages and voodoo and poverty and primitive living.  Images that are, sadly, all too accurate.

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It was absolutely surreal.  I couldn’t believe I was really there, seeing the thatched-roof huts and middle-aged women peddling bananas and paintings and trinkets on the roadside.  Orphans swarming around my legs like puppies clamoring for attention.

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And yet, despite the crazy knowledge that I was fulfilling a lifelong dream, in a way, it all felt rather…mundane.

I had such romanticized notions of how Haiti would be, how inspirational and heartbreaking and life-altering the experience would be for me.  I had raised support from my church family in order to go, labeling it a “mission trip” and feeling rather noble.

But then I arrived in Port-au-Prince.  My friend and I maneuvered our way through the hectic airport, met up with the orphanage staff that had picked us up, traversed bumpy dirt roads for an hour and a half in a hot, dusty Jeep, and at last arrived.  This orphanage would be our home for two and a half weeks.  Just a blip in our lives, really, but at this moment, it felt like it would be a lo-o-o-ong stay. Suddenly I no longer felt equipped to handle the physical demands or the emotional aspects of volunteering with orphans.

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The kids were soooooooo freaking adorable.  When we first stepped into the nursery, dozens of babies and toddlers met us, faces streaked with snot and dirt, reaching up grubby hands to  be held.  Heart-wrenching.  Precious.  Also kind of terrifying, truth be told.

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Who was I to do anything for these children?  Yes, I could spend a few weeks with them, playing and singing and snuggling, but then I would return to my comfortable life and they would be left here awaiting adoption.  This particular orphanage is run in a very efficient and loving manner, and every effort is made to care for the children as well as get them adopted by loving families as soon as possible.  But given the nature of international adoption and the mountains of paperwork and money required to accomplish this, it takes time.   So my purpose there was to love the kids for a short period of time as a way of bridging the gap between their arrival at the orphanage and their eventual placement with an adoptive family.

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I’m ashamed to admit this next part.

That first night in Haiti, I regretted ever coming there.  I wanted my own bed, my own hot shower, my own home, and everything familiar and comfortable.  I didn’t want to be in Haiti, sharing bunk beds and showering only every other day for ninety seconds, living with a bunch of other volunteers who were undoubtedly better with children than I was.

I was a fraud.

I had traveled all this way, planned for all these months, and now all I wanted was for it to be over.  I wasn’t cut out for this type of service.  I felt like more of a baby than the kids I was assigned to love.

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See her bewildered expression?  That’s pretty much how I felt that first night.

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I’ll return to this story in upcoming posts, but for today, I want to leave you with this thought:  When have you struggled with unmet expectations, particularly when you’ve disappointed yourself?  How do you deal with that kick in the gut, the realization that you may not be all you thought you were?  Do you back away in fear, never to face those situations again?

Or do you persevere, allowing Christ to be the strength you lack?

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.

 

 

The Long Winter

The long winter.

Besides being a beloved, dog-eared title from my childhood (yay for Laura Ingalls Wilder’s romanticized accounts of prairie life!), this is what many of us in the U.S. are experiencing this year.

The cold and snow and drifting snow and wind chills and ice and all that fun stuff we associate with winter have been relentless.  Groundhog Day, I’m pretty sure Punxsutawney Phil just laughed when citizens hopefully awaited his prediction for the end of winter.  “Are you kidding? You think this mess is actually going to be over soon?”  No way.

More than any other year, I’ve been so thankful that my husband doesn’t really trust me to use the snowblower, so he gets to clear our driveway and the neighbor’s every time we get blasted by yet more of the stuff.

No matter where you live, it seems like all of us have toughened up this winter.  Whatever we were used to before, this has been so much worse.  It’s all relative, of course.  I remember chuckling in college when my roommate thought we would get out of school due to an inch of snow.  After all, that’s how it was for her in Chattanooga.  She said they even used to share one snowplow with a neighboring town, so roads were never cleared very promptly.  What a disappointment Wheaton must have been weather-wise for her…

Where I live in northern Illinois, we experienced wind chills as low as -40 to -50 several times this year.  After those days, a temp of ten degrees Fahrenheit seemed like a heat wave.  You find yourself adjusting what you consider to be “normal”.  Even -10 didn’t feel so terrible compared to those frigid and lonely days.

Many of us have been saying for weeks now, enough is enough!  Give it a rest, winter!  We can hardly wait for spring’s arrival, with its warm sunshine and the ability to go outdoors without a hat and gloves again.  Parents of young children are dying to just send the kids out to play in the yard to burn off some of their endless supply of energy.

It isn’t the only time in our lives we’ve anxiously awaited a season’s end.  We’ve all been through seasons that seem interminable. It’s not the good times that ever feel like they last forever, though.  No, it’s the trials, the illnesses, the times of unemployment and fear and grief and loneliness that always hang on so much longer than we ever imagined they could.

We think, it isn’t fair.  I’ve been through enough heartache already, so I deserve a break by now.

Maybe you’ve been single for so many years despite fervent prayers and efforts to “find the right person” and to “be the right person”.

Maybe the cancer treatments just aren’t working.  The pain, exhaustion, fear, and financial strain are pushing you far beyond your limits.

Maybe you’ve been out of a job for months and still can’t find anything.  Regardless of your valuable skills, the job hunt is leading you nowhere.

Every one of us could name dozens of times in our lives when the difficulties felt as though they might never end.  I think of friends with multi-year engagements.  Friends wading through years of bureaucratic red tape before the adoption can be finalized.  Friends having no luck in the job market.  Friends waiting to meet the person they’ll marry.  Friends beaten down by discouragement, frustration, and heartache.

I think the hardest part of any waiting season is not knowing exactly when it’ll be over.  I remember being single all through college and most of my twenties and thinking it would be so much easier to enjoy singlehood if I knew how long it would last.  Sure, there were tons of benefits to being single, but at the time, it was hard to appreciate them because I was too worried about if and when I would ever get married.

In terms of our literal winter, obviously we know that spring is eventually coming.  It just might seem a bit later than usual because of the unusually ferocious nature of this winter.

Perhaps not all of our trials and waiting periods are destined to have a wonderful ending.  Some of us will never see our hoped-for outcome.  Perhaps that’s okay.

The writer of Hebrews put it so eloquently:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1.  We have to trust that God knows what he is doing, and that he loves us through it all.

“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3. Winter has wearied us, that’s for sure.

Don’t give up.  Persevere through whatever difficult season you’re facing today.  Know that there is hope.  Spring will come again.