Thursday, February 27, 2014

What's for Dinner?

I have a confession.  Lately, there are three simple words that can make me go from Mary Poppins to Mommy Dearest in two seconds flat...

"What's for dinner?"

Three innocent words...when used on their own, or used in a number of sentences, or when put in a different sequence, or when the question is addressed to someone other than myself...they don't hold the same power as when my husband or children speak them to me.  I don't know what it is.  I don't know exactly why it makes me feel like I could kill my family with my bare hands.  I really don't.  But, for the males in my family, here are some possible explanations, including, but not limited to just one of these answers, it could be a number of combinations, really.

1)  Maybe it could be because I get asked this question at 7:30 in the morning.

2)  Maybe it's because I'm asked this question at least three times a day.

3)  Possibly, it annoys me because I don't want to be responsible for the dinner decision... Every. Single. Night.

4)  Or...because I'm tired of someone ALWAYS complaining that they don't like that particular meal.  I mean, I can't please five people all the time.

5)  Perhaps, it's because I would have to first make a meal plan, and a trip to the grocery store, then unload and put away all the groceries, then cook dinner, then unload the dishwasher, so I could reload the dirty dinner dishes, and clean up the counters...the stove top...the table...the highchair...and sweep the floor.

6)  It might be that you are sitting on your rear with a remote in your hand when you ask the question.

7)  It could be that I've had a long, exhausting, stress-filled day, and I can't possibly do one more thing.

8)  Sometimes it grates my nerves that I have prepared 3 meals a day for the last 9 days and you just assume that I'll be doing the next one as well.

9)  It's almost certainly because I can't think of one more stinking way to cook chicken.

Or, maybe...just maybe...I don't want to.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Motherhood Changes You

Today I was talking with a new friend I'd met in Bible study.  She's young and beautiful, and a newlywed.  Her and her husband have only been married about nine months, so she's still settling into her role as a new bride.  As we were getting to know each other, we were asking questions back and forth about our families.  She asked what it was like to be a mom of three boys.  While most of my answer involved words along the lines of..."crazy", "loud", "exhausting", I also told her that it was the best thing to ever happen to me, but part of me misses the 'Stephanie' that was before motherhood, because being a mother changes you.  I had to make sure I wasn't scaring her off...after all, she is a doe-eyed, bride.  She's eager for the future family that her and her husband will eventually have, and I don't want to smudge the rose colored glasses from which she gazes out of.  Let's be honest...isn't that how we all were before we had our children?  I went home this afternoon and put Benji down for a nap and I thought about how exactly having children has changed me.  If I could go back to 21 year-old Steph, the new bride, anxious to start our family, and prepare her for what was to come, I would tell her this:

the minute you become a mother, your life revolves completely around something other than start practicing selflessness, now.

Motherhood has completely shaped who this 31 year-old Steph, is.  No other event or change in my life has made me see the best in myself, or...the absolute worst.  Motherhood changes you.  It gave me a reason to live.  It strengthened my faith in my creator and his love for me.  It made me appreciate the small a lazy morning in my jammies, drinking coffee and watching my baby's drool-y "coos".  It made me see the world as a beautiful place surrounded with good people, but also a world that was full of dark, evil, scary things.  It made me value more the importance of a good girlfriend, one that you don't have to pretend to be perfect with.  Raising kids had made me more open-minded and helped me realize that there's more than one way to raise healthy, happy children.  It's made me see just how "mean girl" females can be, even after they're adults.  I never loved my husband more...ever...or hated him more...ever.  I've learned that some things are just not worth a fight.  My own comfort, desires, vanity, my feelings...are not important.  My sacrifices, prayers, dreams, my attitude...are crucially important.  When you become a mother, you understand what it means to love someone so much it hurts...literally, it's painful to your soul.  You begin to worry about things you never thought of, catastrophic life-changing accidents that are beyond your control...but also, things like, what if he wakes up in the night and he's cold?  You'll wake up in the middle of the night for no other reason than to watch your sleeping baby...and put a finger under his nose to make sure he's breathing...and your heart will absolutely break when you touch his feet and feel that he's cold.  You'll be thankful that your children finally fall asleep, but when they do, you'll miss them.  "Sexy" used to mean chiseled abs, now it's seeing your husband reading The Berenstain Bears, to a bed full of sleepy boys.

Me and my Bestie-girls night is a little different these days

Time to yourself becomes almost non-existent, so much so that a trip the grocery store alone, or a solo bathroom experience seems a luxury.  What you used to think as an early hour, now is considered mid-morning.  There are many times of loneliness, yet you're never alone.  You have a new love and compassion for children everywhere, and you find yourself wiping a child's nose, who doesn't belong to you, or watching closely a little girl at the mall who looks lost.  Politics now becomes something you care about because it affects your babies and their future.  You become 100% stronger than the woman you used to be: what I used to consider a hard day, is now a piece of cake.  You research everything until you become a pro, yet you still worry maybe you're not making the most informed decision.  As a newlywed, you couldn't imagine women who thought sex with their husbands was just another task at the end of the, you get it.  You find out that the minute you judge another mother, God usually teaches you empathy through a similar circumstance.  You'll never again feel carefree, because you'll never again know the reality of not being responsible for another human life.  You will think a lot about family traditions, your childhood, about your parents' rules...and you'll now understand what exactly your mom meant when she said, "You didn't come with an instruction manual."  Your definitions of words like, "rich" and "successful" no longer have anything to do with money.  Every decision that you will ever make from this day forward, has very little to do with just you, ever again.  

So...yeah, being a mother changes who you once were...but it becomes who you are.  For the better, for the worse, for the benefit and detriment to you children, for the decreasing bank account and increasing blessings, for your future, but mostly theirs.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writer's Block

It always happens like this, just when I feel the desire to start writing again, a friend will mention to me that they haven't read any new blogs from me lately.  Which, is a blessing, I guess.  It confirms to me that I need to sit down and journal my feelings again.  Not because I think the world waits with baited breath to hear what I have to say...just the opposite, actually.  But, it's a confirmation to me from God that this is something that he has blessed me with to enjoy, while hopefully bringing glory to Him through my weaknesses.

I haven't blogged in quite a while, and the reason for that is...writer's block.  The truth is that I've struggled with a lot of thoughts about my blog.  Thoughts that I know are not from God, but they still mess with my head.  I felt like I had nothing to say.  Nothing to be inspired by.  I've been in a a lot of areas, probably all areas of my life, lately.  For the last six months, I haven't been the wife, mother, friend that I know I should be.  The reasons behind this are many.  Jon started a new job late this summer, and it was a big change for our family and the schedule that he's had for the last ten years. His carefree days of being able to take us to lunch, or pick boys up from school, or just work from home, are over.  I kept telling myself, "Stephanie, this is normal to most stay-at-home moms.  You need to suck it up." But, it still didn't make the transition easier.  Jon's new job is great and we know it was the right move for us, but I'm still getting used to the fact that now, majority of raising the boys during the week falls on me.  There were months that Jon left when the boys went to school and got home in enough time to eat a late dinner and put them in bed.  After the boys' bedtime, he either continued to do some work, or went to bed himself out of complete exhaustion, and it took a toll on our marriage.  I've been lucky to be married to my best friend.  We have had a really easy relationship for almost 15 years, it just came natural to us.  When people would mention how much hard work is involved in marriage, I really couldn't sympathize.  We communicated easily and often, we scheduled time for date nights and romantic evenings, and we made a great team in raising our kids.  But, when I had to step up and fulfill this new absence of Jon, we began to struggle.  Don't get me wrong, we weren't fighting or on the verge of divorce, but it was just...harder.  We went to bed at different times, there were weeks or even months without date nights, and we started to make decisions for our family separately, instead of together.  I became resentful and lonely, and Jon become obsessed with success in his new job.
My kids were adjusting to the new routine, too.  So, most times, their behavior reflected mine.  When I was tired and short tempered, they seemed to fight more.  When I was stressed with my list of things to do, that's when they seemed to really disobey and push my buttons.  When I was feeling defeated, they seemed to prove to me that I was failing at my job of being a good mother.   I love to blog about the orneriness of my boys and the funny mischief they get into.  Sometimes, a person would come up and ask me if I had any funny stories about the boys recently, and all I could think was, "Nope.  It's not funny these days."  I'd lost my joy in the everyday moments of life.  Let me tell you, when you're exhausted, and feeling down, "ornery" isn't funny, it's an annoyance.  It's another mess I had to clean up, another brotherly battle I had to settle, another discipline I had to take care of...alone.  I was uninspired in my marriage, in motherhood, and just in life, in general.

I'd pulled away from God, also.  It was harder to find time to do my Bible study or have a quiet place to pray, and so I didn't.  When I'm not spending time with God, I find it hard to do my job, and do it well. My source of strength, hope, perseverance, comes from Him and without spending time with Him, I was relying on my own strength to make it through.  At the end of the day, we all survived...dinner got cooked, laundry eventually got done, bills paid, groceries bought...but, it was done begrudgingly.  It was accomplished while yelling at my kids, and hurting feelings, and not meeting the emotional needs of my family.

So, all this to say, that I haven't felt joy or fulfillment, or growth in my relationships and therefore, I was uninspired to blog about them.  Since then, things have gotten better.  Jon's settled into his new job more comfortably and we've set boundaries on him bringing work home.  We been better about having "in-house" date nights after the kids go to bed for us to catch up on each other's lives.  We're working on goals for our family spiritually, and trying to make more time without distractions.  I've learned that meeting the emotional needs of my children is way more important than making sure the project list is done for the day.  And, God has given me inspiration again, through my friends, through my kids, through my marriage.  He's still working with me and changing me all the time, but during certain seasons,  the process is just slower than others.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Great Loss

About eight weeks ago, I had my second miscarriage.  It happened nearly identical like the least, the details of losing the baby.  This baby, like the other we lost, came as a surprise.  But, unlike the last baby that I desperately wanted...this one, I wasn't exactly happy about.  I've felt complete as a family of five.  My soul is fulfilled in my three boys, and I feel like I have more than I can say grace over.  I'm completely maxed out on how much of myself I can make go around to everyone who needs me.  My reaction in finding out I was pregnant was less than enthusiastic.  It was devastation, actually.  All I could think of was, how in the world I was going to be able to manage another one.  How would Jon and I ever make time for each other now?  How would this affect us financially?  How would this affect me mentally?  Could my body go through another pregnancy and birth after the repairs that had to be done the last time?  I sobbed in the shower that morning and asked God what he was doing.

I kept the news to myself for a couple days.  I felt like I had to process the information before I told Jon.   His reaction wasn't much better than mine.  I know this was a total lack of faith in God and his plans, but it didn't change our feelings.  I told Jon at that moment, that I felt like something wasn't right.  I wasn't feeling sick, I just didn't feel pregnant.  I called the doctor the next day to make an appointment.  Because of my history, she scheduled some blood work to make sure my hormone levels were within normal range and climbing.

I got the call later that afternoon that things were looking a little low for how far along I should've been.  My estimations could've been a little off.  I wasn't exactly sure when I'd conceived, so the doctor scheduled an ultrasound and repeat blood work for a couple days later.  The ultrasound showed 6 weeks, but no heartbeat could be heard at this point, so I had a repeat ultrasound scheduled for 10 days later with new blood labs scheduled for every three days until the next ultrasound.  Waiting is a cruel sentence sometimes...especially in situations like this.  I've never prayed so much in my life...for God to intervene.  I went from devastation in learning the news of my pregnancy to begging God for a miracle.  Each lab appointment showed lower hormone levels and I knew it was only a matter of time.  I was waiting to hear confirmation that my baby was gone.  I've never felt so helpless.  I told Jon that it felt like standing on the shore and watching my child drown, and knowing there was nothing I could do to save this baby.

As a woman, pregnancy means a baby.  When you see the plus sign on the test, you don't think of cells, and science.  You think of a beating heart, and little fingers and toes, giving birth and holding that child for the first time.  Especially being a mother already.  I don't think of a fetus...I think of Jack...of Cole...of Benji.  Your mind instantly goes into mothering mode of making sure you're taking vitamins, drinking plenty of water, getting enough rest.  You try to eat the right things, stay away from the foods you shouldn't eat, no drinking, no tanning beds, no x-rays.  It's ingrained in being a mother and it's immediate.  The word "mommy" is parallel to putting someone else's needs above your own.  It's protection.  It's sacrifice and complete commitment to seeing your child thrive. was out of my control.  My child's life rested in God's hands only, and to be honest, that didn't feel secure enough.  I know God is capable and is in control...but, I also have mother's intuition, and I already knew the fate that was awaiting me.

We had an ultrasound the next week, by that time I'd already started bleeding and ended up in the ER the day before.  The ultrasound showed a heartbeat in the 70' baby was dying.  The bleeding was getting heavier and heavier and the doctor scheduled a D&C for the next day.  I came home that afternoon and sat in my chair in the den and stared out the window for two hours.  Tears spilled out of my eyes, but my face was emotionless.  It was tears of anger and a sorrow that washed over my soul.  I was grieving a baby that I didn't want to begin with...but now, I wanted more than ever.  The guilt of my selfishness ate me alive.  I felt like God was punishing me for being unhappy about the gift of an unexpected pregnancy.  I know in my heart this isn't true.  God doesn't punish...he isn't angry with me.  But, I was angry with myself, and I felt like I deserved this.  I've battled with these emotions since then.  And though I'm making progress in dealing with this, if I let my mind run away with one little, nagging voice, it can come creeping back and distort my view of reality once again.  

I don't know what to make of it...why God let this happen.  Is He trying to teach me something?  Is He showing this perfectionist once again, that really nothing am I in control of?  Is he leading me towards a calling I don't have, yet?  Is He wanting me to use this experience to minister to somebody going through the same thing?  I haven't figured it out...and...I guess I don't need to.  He's calling me out onto the waters to trust in Him in every situation.  All I can do is keep my eyes above the waves.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Unexpected Wake Up Calls

This morning, I'm thankful for unexpected wake up calls.  I was abruptly woken up this morning by a five year old boy who chose 6am to be the perfect time to poop.  Of course, this had to be done in my bathroom.  He sat and swung his legs and sang a couple songs.  He made all sorts of sound effects with his mouth as only little boys can do:  I heard trains, race cars, rockets, explosions, etc.  He came up with a story line and characters and played out the scenario of a "bad guy" trying to outrun a police man in his fast sports car.  This went on for nearly half an hour before he hollered, "MOM-MYYYYY, I'm done!" This really means, "Mommy, come walk into this bathroom that smells like death to find all the toilet paper rolled out on the floor, and wipe my bottom."  While holding my breath and rushing out to breathe again and wash my hands, I realized that this moment is precious.  You may think I'm crazy, but these kind of moments make me smile.  I mean, how long will I be able to catch moments like this when he thinks I'm not listening...when he sings like he's totally forgotten that anyone else in the world exists...when he can make all the little sound effects.  These moments don't last forever.  These little boys grow up...

and stop needing you to wipe their bottoms.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

She's Finally Home

Mimi finally got to go home and be with Jesus early this morning.  It's been a long time coming, and something she's yearned for asked about often.  Today, we're celebrating her life and what a pillar of strength, faith, and beauty she's been to our family.  I keep imagining what she must've been seeing as she met her King face-to-face.  I read this old blog entry over today and remembered a couple summers ago when we stayed with her over the weekend.  I remembered her asking over and over, "When can I go home?" Today...she's home...and I couldn't be happier for her.    

This weekend, my in-laws went out of town. Gary's mother has Alzheimer's and has been living with them for the last six months. Yesterday was my Mother-in-law's birthday and Gary wanted to take her away for a couple days to go fishing and relax. We have had the joy of spending the last two days caring for Mimi. I say joy because in these last twelve hours I've reflected on what's really important in life. I've been watching her: sit in her favorite chair and pick at her nails, and drift into and out of her own little world. Every now and then she comes back to us and carries on a conversation. Even though she repeats the same things over and over, I never grow tired of hearing stories of her childhood. Stories of living on a farm in Calvin, Oklahoma. She is a hard worker and has led quite a life. The wrinkles in her face seem to tell her story. She's a stubborn woman...stubborn in a good way. She's having a hard time letting go of her independence even though she seems to know she's not quite capable of keeping it up anymore. One thing seems to make her happy and that's the boys. Whenever they are around, she smiles and laughs and tells them what good boys they are. She doesn't seem bothered by their orneriness. She'll smile and say, "That's what little boys are supposed to do."

I worked in an Alzheimer's unit at a nursing home in college. I was a Nurses Assistant and the Activities Director. This disease has baffled me for quite some time. It's heart-wrenching to see someone revert back to child-like tendencies, to wander around aimlessly wondering what to do with themselves. Last night, she must've asked us where Gary and Gloria were four times. She seemed to get a glimmer in her eye when she asked, "So, I'm here alone this evening?" I had to explain to her that Jon and I were spending the night here too so she wasn't quite alone. Her face dropped and she closed her eyes. "I can stay by myself. I'll be just fine. So, you now have the burden of babysitting me, do you?"

"No, Mimi...we have the joy of spending time with you. You are NOT a burden." I put my hand on top of hers and her chin started to quiver. "I don't want to be a burden." My heart breaks for her. I'm holding back tears as we discuss how she just wants to go home. She tells me that she wants to go to her house and sit in her spot on her couch and be alone with her things. There's something comforting to us about "home". We learn this early in our lives that it's a place of solace, peace, a place where you feel at ease. I want her to be at ease.

We continue to talk a while and finally around 7:30, she tells me she's headed to bed. This morning she seems refreshed and ready to start over again. I know the same questions will happen today just as they did yesterday.

It made me think how this earth is not our home. Our home is with our Heavenly Father. It makes me long for Heaven. So, today I'm thankful for simple things. I'm thankful for health, for my independence, for a roof over my head. I'm thankful for my children and the innocence and joy that only children can bring. I'm thankful for being able to pick veggies out of the garden this morning and the sun that beats down on my back. I'm thankful for the cool relief from the swimming pool. I'm thankful for my mid-afternoon nap that I'll take. I'm thankful for my dog to keep me company. I'm thankful for good memories I have. I'm thankful for Mimi. I'm thankful for what joy she has brought to our family and lessons that she still teaches me today...whether she realizes it or not. Her worth is invaluable to me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's Been A Long Time

It's been a long time, been a long time, been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, time...since my last blog post, I mean.
I've been thinking about it for months now.  I've been wishing I had more time, telling myself that I'll do it tonight instead of watching TV, or doing laundry.  Having that third child has rocked my world.  Rocked. My. World.  Bravo, to all you moms who juggle four, five, six, etc.  I bow before you, like Wayne and Garth, and say..."We're not worthy, We're not worthy, We're not worthy, We suck!" (Only us kids who grew up in the 80's/90's will get that one).
Anyway, about 11 months ago, I "grounded" myself from blogging.  I did this because I simply cannot do everything.  CAN-NOT.  I am NOT every woman.  It's NOT all in me.  Anything, you want done, baby.  I do NOT do it, naturally. (Again, I'm dating myself).  Anyway, it's been a struggle for me.  I can't juggle it all-kids, laundry, carpooling, cleaning house, grocery shopping, meal-planning, breast-feeding, cooking, organizer, home-renovator,....there's summer Pinterest activities with the kids during the day, 'sex-kitten' to my husband at night (Sorry, dad), bible study, working the church nursery every Sunday morning, making a meal for the person who recently had a baby...or a surgery...or moved.  At the end of the day, I felt like a failure.  I had good intentions, but I'm only one person, and at some point, I've got to make myself believe that Martha Stewart has an entire entourage of staff who clean her house, and create that amazing garden, and label everything with a label-maker, get the permanent marker stain off her favorite shirt using only "green and organic" solutions that she makes herself, polish silverware, do yoga and "juice",  cooks the best roasted leg of lamb, and hand makes origami place cards for the Thanksgiving table.
I couldn't keep up with it all, and something had to naturally, I punished myself and took away the two things I enjoy most: working out, and writing. Okay, maybe not the the working out.  I mean, I didn't take it in,...I don't...workout, that is.  I haven't since 2011, maybe 2010, I can't remember, and that's the honest truth.  But, I sacrificed the thing I did for me.  Blogging became something that I told myself I could make time for again, when I got the swing of balancing things better.
But...over these last few months, you know what?  I haven't really made any drastic improvements in managing it well.  It's still a struggle for me...and, that feels like death to a "Type-A" personality, but I really don't see things getting easier any time soon.  My life is not going to slow down in the near future.  Actually, until the boys go off to college, it's only going to get crazier, and more stressful, and more balls will be thrown at me to juggle (That sounds dirty... sorry, I live with four guys, and a male dog.  Naturally, there's a lot of "ball" humor at my house.)
So, I've decided, that once again, my idea of a "good" mother/wife, will have to change.  It will have to include something for me.  I don't want my children to one day leave my nest, and find myself wondering, "Who am I? Who are you, Steph? What are you about? What are your dreams and ambitions? What do you enjoy?"
So, since I've added blogging back onto my list of what's important, I guess something I'll have to sacrifice something perfection.