22 Minutes and 10 Ways I’m Surviving Motherhood

It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 22 minutes. In 22 minutes, you can shower (no hair washing–that’s no longer a daily priority), get dressed and possibly even put on make-up. You can journal, read your Bible and contemplate the life and words of Jesus. You can clean the kitchen and maybe even sweep the dried up cheese and peas off the floor. You can (nearly) do a Jillian Michaels workout video. Or you can steep a cup of Bengal Spice tea, breathe in cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves  and sit down at your computer. Like I’m doing right now.

Why 22 minutes? You’ve probably already guessed. Only the best survival tool of motherhood: T.V.

With three children four and under, most days I feel like I’m operating in survival mode. Many days my husband and I grab each other by the shoulders in the kitchen, give those shoulders a shake, look one another square in the eye and proclaim: “You can do this. WE can do this.” Sometimes we even high-five. Lest I one day re-read this after gazing at pictures of my adorable children and wonder what the big deal was, let me explain.

My son never sleeps past 5:15 AM. Ever. (And YES, we bought the clock that turns green when it’s 6 AM–but we haven’t found a clock that forces your child back to sleep until they are supposed to wake up.) We wake up to variations of stomping down the hallway, our door squeaking, followed by, “Can I wake up now?” or yelling from down the hallway: “CAN SOMEBODY WIPE MY BOTTOM!?” Some mornings we have cuddles on the couch, but most days there is much shrieking, yelling, fighting and crying as my husband gets cheerios and raisins and situates the kids in front of the T.V. while he grinds the beans and makes us his home-roasted French press coffee (yes, we are coffee snobs–simple pleasures, my friends).

Every.single.event. is a battle. Who knew I would practically cry or throw my own tantrum every day over trying to get another human being to perform basic hygiene or reasonable habits? Brushing teeth, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, putting on shoes and socks and simply eating food are now events I need to mentally prepare for or else I will have a break down.

Mealtime with small children is the worst. Why do we bother giving them plates? The food spends more time on the table than on the plates and most days my son says “YUCK” after I’ve spent an hour cooking. And the crumbs. There are always–always–crumbs. Not to mention food smears, hidden “delights” and sticky railings. I smash cheerios into our cheerio-colored carpet on a daily basis. My son’s room has no pictures left on the walls (he pulled them all off and broke them), has crayon on the wall, a make-up stain on the carpet (from when they “borrowed” my foundation) and chunks out of the paint on the wall from when the glider chair became a carnival ride.

My children have very bad snot-management. It’s exactly as you imagine–and probably worse. I spend more time at the doctor’s office than I do with my closest friends.

Yes, they are cute and funny and say things like “tormado” for tornado, “nummy” for yummy and “bo-manna” for banana. There is love and laughter and hilarity in a way that I have never experienced before. Yes. But, mama who is in this boat with me–we know this is HARD. Here are some ways I am surviving–and even (in very small increments) thriving.

1. Monday Rituals.

My children take ONE bath a week (unless they are so visibly dirty that I’ll be embarrassed to take them anywhere). I am not usually a ritual-type of person, but this is saving me. On Mondays, we stay home. I put a load of laundry in, make an extra cup of coffee and herd the crew into the bathroom. I grab a book and attempt to read for as long as the baby stays happy flat on his back on the bathroom rug. Now that he’s five months old, I bathe him in the tub with other two. He splashes like it’s his job and the other two shriek and beg me to take him out. After this, we all put on “comfy clothes” and pull out their activity boxes and trays downstairs to do some simple non-pinteresty craft like gluing pasta or cotton balls onto construction paper.

 

2. The Children’s Museum.

We drive an hour to the Denver Children’s Museum nearly every week. It sounds crazy and like a waste of time, but I’ve discovered that this is the only way I can legally strap my children down for an hour while I listen to podcasts. At first I wondered about the morality of taking my children to a place where there were few rules and every part revolved around them. Then I discovered the freedom: Wait. A place I could take my children where I don’t have to tell them: “No!” “Don’t!” or “Stop that!” for an entire morning? Brilliant. This is the Christmas gift that keeps on giving–if you have a Children’s Museum anywhere within 60 miles of where you live, ASK FOR THIS FOR CHRISTMAS.

3. Exercise.

Fortunately, my husband doesn’t need to be at work until 9 am, so this is more feasible for us, but running for thirty minutes every-other day at 7 AM keeps me sane. I’m alone, outside and moving my body. But on snowy days, work-out videos on YouTube have also been a saving grace. Though they often get in the way (and more often get into mischief), these can be done with the kids in the room and they often try to join in.

On a morning run.

4. Nights out.

My husband and I schedule date nights at least twice a month. At times when money is tight, we go to Starbucks. On better months, we go for sushi or a movie. Last month we went barn dancing, which was cheap and so fun! Why don’t people dance anymore? This month, we realized that we can still bring our baby to the movie, which means we can stay out without the stress of wondering when the baby will wake up and need to eat. I also try and meet friends for coffee or a drink (now that I have a few friends–hooray!).

5. Hobbies.

Okay, so I don’t have much time for hobbies unless they involve my children since I am the stay-at-home parent. One of my hobbies is traveling, which happens um,  never, now that I have children. So I’ve found a way to travel without traveling and have gotten involved in the International Women’s Club at the university near us.  It meets the SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) criteria: during the day, before naptime, has other kids, snacks AND toys. I also love being outdoors, so I drag us all outside as much as possible. What do you love? How could you involve your kids in that?

6. Inventive Spirituality.

Sounds nutty, but it’s simple. Apart from the 22 minutes (or 44 … let’s be honest) that my husband and I have for quiet time in the morning, there is not a lot of space in my day for meditation, prayer or reflection. I am a part of a weekly Bible study, that I quickly do the DAY OF, but it provides the accountability I need to be in the Bible on a regular basis.

And I have a few apps and podcasts that help me think about spiritual things throughout my day:

You Version app: this has the Bible in many translations, but also has reading plans, devotionals and even devos and videos for kids. And it’s mostly free!

Laudate app: though I’m not Catholic, I have still loved this app. Here you can find daily readings, the liturgy of the hours, daily prayer, and a daily Bible verse. It was perfect for those early days of nursing when I was up at all hours.

The Practice Podcast: Better than a podcast and more than just a sermon, this podast provides a whole worship experience with a message, music and questions for reflection.

Pray As You Go Podcast: This is a daily prayer, scripture and meditation guide. It has been perfect for mornings when my husband goes on a run and I am preparing breakfast for my kids because we can listen to Scripture (often read more than once) and start our day in the right headspace. Thanks to Megan Tietz of Sorta Awesome Podcast for this recommendation!

7. Using My Brain.

This is a hard one when you live in Daniel Tiger World, but it is so necessary. I listen to podcasts any time I can, am in a book club and am involved in online communities related to racial reconciliation and social justice. I write to think (which is why I haven’t written as much these days …. when my body is tired, my brain stops working).

8. Trying to Be Sweeter.

I don’t have a saccharin personality. There was a good reason I was a middle school teacher not a primary school teacher. But I’m trying to sweeten up and learn the love languages of gush and snuggles. I’m trying to tune the tone of my voice so that I don’t always sound so eager, angry or frustrated. I’m learning to pretend I’m peppy.

9. Noticing Small.

Some complain that people use Instagram as a way to make their life seem perfect. I’m using it to notice the beauty in mine. John Updike famously said that he wanted to “give the mundane its beautiful due.”  I’m striving to do this. I’m chasing beauty in my ordinary, mundane, boring life as a mom. And if Instagram helps me do that, then it is a worthy tool.

10. Permission to be Imperfect.

I can’t tell you how many times in the last five months I’ve had to rewash a load of clothes. And I think there is a direct correlation to how large your library fines are and how many children you have. My counters need wiping, the floors are strewn with toys, my bathroom looks like a science experiment and sometimes I strap my kids into their car seats in the garage long before I’m actually ready to leave the house. I let my children ride the toy horses at the grocery store five times as I check out (this is actually my most brilliant discovery yet–not only bribery, but one cent bribery!). BUT. They are clothed, fed, washed, and cared for. And even if I am sometimes merely surviving … they are thriving.

I need to remember that–and so do you.

You are doing good work, mama. You are loving the best way you know how with the time, energy and resources you have been given. And do you know what your kids are going to remember twenty years from now?

YOU.

They are going to remember that hike you took them on, the way you laughed at their jokes and tickled them until they couldn’t talk. They are going to remember the songs you hummed as you scrubbed pans and the way you smelled when you snuggled next to them in bed. They are going to remember the dance parties in the kitchen, how you let them help you make waffles and the way you prayed with them before bed. They will remember that you did the voices as you read, sat with them on the floor and chased bunnies together in the front yard. Mama, you are doing an amazing job. You do you. Keep up the good work. And don’t discount the value of a 22 minute reprieve (in fact, don’t feel guilty about that even for a second). Most likely, it is just the breather you need to make you an even better mama in the end.

xo

Leslie

22 Minutes and 10 Ways I'm Surviving Motherhood

When the Answer is “Not Now” {For SheLoves}

 

What about a driving school for Muslim women? My mind buzzes with the possibilities, spinning the details into a feasible plan. I just dropped our Saudi Arabian exchange student off at the international terminal and in the quiet hum of the hour-long interstate ride home, I plan, strategize and dream. Most of the Saudi international student girls I’ve met have a secret desire to learn how to drive since they are not permitted to drive in their country. Likewise, they all complain about the expensive driving schools in the U.S. or about taking private lessons where they have to be alone in a car with a man. We have a spare car, I think. And I could give private lessons and get to know the women at the same time. Perfect …

As I turn the minivan off the interstate at our exit, I hear stirring in the backseat, then arguing, then shrieking. I sigh, smoothing the bunched-up shirt over my ever-growing belly, remembering. Lost in Imaginary Land where I could chase every dream, I had forgotten my reality: two children under four and a baby on the way. I tuck the idea away in the attic of my heart, thinking, If only …

***

Several months later, scrubbing potatoes by the window at the kitchen sink, I watch my elderly neighbor shuffle around in his backyard, shoveling snow. In summer, he and his wife spend hours each day planting, watering, weeding and coaxing incredible beauty out of dry ground. It has always perplexed me, actually, because I’ve never seen anyone else in their yard. It seems like such a waste to sculpt beauty for no one to see.

Standing at the kitchen counter, I think about the notebook I carry around with me that probably has 200 titles of blog posts and ideas to write about. Some of those words will grow, blossom and die without a single other person ever reading them—just a secret thought between God and me. But some will be cut and handed out for others to enjoy (though, like freshly cut flowers, they will likely be forgotten with the next day’s round of blog posts, email newsletters and online journals).

What a waste, I think. But then I begin to wonder …

Is hidden beauty still beautiful?

Continue reading at SheLoves.

The Words Every Child Wants to Hear

I did something foolish last week. I took my children, aged 3 months, two and four to a museum–during Christmas break. Every other child, parent and grandparent apparently thought the museum sounded like an excellent idea as well.

Not good listeners even on a good day, my two littles sprinted in opposite directions, dodging through narrow spaces, behind strollers and slow walkers as if in a race to disappear the fastest. On high alert, I won the game even with a baby snuggled into my chest: not a single child was lost even for a second.

But each child at some point in the day looked up from playing, didn’t see me and began to panic, tears welling up in their eyes, little heads darting side to side, scanning the crowd for mommy. But as soon as they’d start to lose it, I’d creep through the crowd and touch them, “I’m here,” I’d say. “Don’t worry, I’ve been right here all along.” And back to playing they would go.

***

Can I be honest with you? 2016 was a difficult year for me. We moved from Chicago to Colorado early in 2015 and visited 12 churches in 18 months, unable to settle into the right community. I got pregnant with baby number three a year after moving and found myself buried in sadness, exhaustion and despair. Most people know about post-partum depression, but I had never heard of being depressed while pregnant.

The endless 90 degree days of summer beat me down so most afternoons I was grateful for TV to entertain my children. Usually a healthy person and an optimist, I didn’t recognize this woman sprawled out on the bathroom floor next to the pile of tissues or the woman who would jump into a car on a Saturday afternoon just to speed through the canyon alone in an effort to stop the numbness.

So this week as I moved on from my December tradition of mulling over the Christmas story, I wandered with John the Baptist and Jesus back into the wilderness again. In the pre-dawn light of a dried-up Christmas tree, top-loaded with ornaments because my children picked them off one by one (whose great idea was it to put untouchable toys on a tree, anyway?), I pulled the baby close and opened to the book of Luke.

Jesus pushes through the crowds and steps into the water. As he prays, heaven cracks open and an ordinary snow white dove, the Holy Spirit in bodily form, lands on Jesus. A Voice booms from heaven. The words I read next slam into my soul.

At this point in the story, I glance up at my children who have just come in with their bedhead, footy PJ’s, sippy cups of milk and glistening noses. Their 24-minute show has ended and they are shrieking, wanting breakfast. My infant son has finally drifted off to sleep again at my breast as I precariously balance Bible, journal, pen and coffee mug on the edge of the couch. My husband herds the hungry ones into the kitchen and I wink at him, grateful for another five minutes to read. I reread the words.

“You are my beloved Son, in you I am well-pleased.”

I remember my children at the museum, terrified they were lost. And I think about myself four months ago, wandering in the fog. Like a small child playing hide-and-seek, I thought that in closing my eyes I couldn’t be seen. I imagine God speaking now, his fire igniting my deadened soul. “You are my beloved daughter, Leslie. In you I am well-pleased.”

God did not say to Jesus, “I am pleased with you because you have a high calling, are perfect or are destined for greatness.” He did not point to His miraculous powers, authoritative words or usefulness to Him. Instead, God tapped His shoulder, saying, “I’m here—the Holy Spirit in the form of a plain old dove. I won’t leave. You are my beloved and I am pleased with you.”

Are there any other words a child would rather hear from her parent?

You are beloved.

I am pleased with you.

God is with me—loving me–even when I feel alone and undeserving. I had a dream once where I was lost in a crowded building. Suddenly a strong hand grasped mine, leading me out and away to safety. Single at the time, I knew I wasn’t just yearning for a lover or companion, I knew that hand belonged to God Himself. Every time I try to run away from God, I find I can’t. He is magnetic, drawing me back, compelling me to face Him once again.

Even when I lose my way, He never loses sight of me. Even as I put my head down, absorbed in menial tasks, hobbies or even guilty pleasures, He sees me. He waits for me to look up and notice His adoring gaze, just as we watch our earthly children at play. And sometimes we don’t look up at all. That’s when he comes to us, and gently gives our shoulder a tap.

As we begin 2017, know these words spoken over Jesus are meant for you, too. If we are children of God, then we are clothed with Christ, gifted with fire and Spirit

You are beloved. You are cherished. You are adored.

As a mama who is often frustrated, ungrateful and annoyed by my role, I also pray these words will set me ablaze with greater love for my children. I pray my kids won’t remember harsh words, minutes squandered hiding behind my phone or less-than-attentive responses, but that one day they’ll be able to say:

“My mom? Oh, she adored me. And she sparkled with life because she belonged to Jesus.”

***

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Words for me, you and our children.

When you’ve lost your wings {a poem}


Severed by scissors,

angled and severe.

Holy hearts, diamonds, circles emerge

as corners are snipped,

possibilities removed.

Paper flutters to the floor;

wings litter the ground like waste.

We gingerly unfold,

creases and bumps smoothed,

loose edges freed.

A snowflake stretched wide. 

This is nursery artistry. 

Taped to the icy window pane;

winter light 

beams through empty spaces. 

***

Next Post: Book Discussion Questions for Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson


Breastfeeding and the Liturgy of the Hours {for SheLoves}

I’ve grown to recognize that pausing, waiting and stillness is, in fact, a gift of lavish love from a patient father.

I am a doer, goer and to-do list extraordinaire. I buy post-it notes in 12 packs. Freshman year of college was the first time I met anyone who actually enjoyed sitting around doing nothing. Bursting into our dorm room to change clothes for an intramural soccer game before my study group and the floor party later that night, I was shocked to find my roommate perched on her bed, staring at the wall.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Fine,” she answered.

“But what are you doing?” I asked, puzzled.

“Just sitting here,” she responded. I’m sure I gave her a quizzical look before darting off to my game, inwardly judging her for wasting time.

That was the beginning of nearly twenty years of living with introverts (including my husband), a true gift of tough grace for an extroverted over-achiever like me.

Through the years, God has used various people and circumstances to wrestle me to the ground, sometimes finding it necessary to dislocate a limb of pride, power or privilege along the way as He holds me to a forced stop. But though sitting still can sometimes feel more like being punished in time-out, I’ve grown to recognize that pausing, waiting and stillness is, in fact, a gift of lavish love from a patient father.

***

Now is one of those times—and I am fighting it. I am breastfeeding my newborn several hours a day, leaving my other two children, age four and two, wild and free to execute devious plots and create elaborate messes. Though I thought pregnancy was the worst sort of slowness, I had forgotten the demands of having an infant.

I now spend hours on my couch, holding a tiny, dependent human, in the midst of a house that looks like someone picked it up, shook it snow-globe-style and then put it back down again…

…continue reading at SheLoves. 

***

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In this season (of motherhood)

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
(Eccl. 3:1-2 KJV).

In this season (of motherhood)~~Am I blooming here, or just biding my time, hoping that this season will pass quickly?
*** 



Colorado is yellow in the fall.  Aspen strike the treeline of the Rockies with such a brilliant yellow, that you nearly have to squint your eyes to take them in without being blinded.





My husband and I passed these flowers blooming in a neighbor’s garden on an evening walk a few weeks ago.  “Have these always been here?” my husband asked.  

“I don’t think so,” I said.  “I’m pretty sure they only bloom in the fall.”

Though it’s a bit cliche, those perfect yellow blooms got me thinking about this season of motherhood, asking myself, Am I blooming here, or just biding my time, hoping that this season will pass quickly?

A week and a half ago, I took the one-month old baby and fled to my parent’s house over the highest road in the nation.  I just needed a nap.  My parents took care of me, fed me, held the baby and allowed me to rest for nearly 48 hours. On the majestic drive home in the early hours of the morning, I forced myself to spend the two hours in silence.  I attempted to clear my head and just listen.


In the silence, I began to formulate a list of priorities.  Watching the center line kept me from careening over the edge, much like keeping my eyes on Jesus is holding me from sailing right into the tired mama’s tendency towards postpartum depression. My list right now is simply this:

Sleep when I can
Exercise daily
Get outdoors daily
Eat healthy food
Seek God
Talk to another adult

But I also felt like I needed to remember my husband.  For the past few months, we’ve been high-fiving one another and passing on the baton in the relay-race of parenthood.  We are partners and team-players, but are we lovers, friends and companions?  This newborn’s needs must come first right now, but is my husband a close second?  So we are instituting weekly one to two hour date nights for a couple months and getting better about being intentional with one another.  I’m trying to remember to make eye contact and really see him even when I can barely see straight because of sleeplessness.

It’s been a week and a half since my assessment and I am feeling more emotionally healthy.  On the days I don’t walk alone, I strap on the baby and push us out of the house for a walk.  The exercise and fall are ministering to my weary soul. 

I will be the first to tell anyone that I am not a pinteresty mom.  I don’t do crafts or cutesy activities.  But in a moment of weakness last week, I drew up a simple scavenger hunt for my kids to do during the “hike” part of our walk. 

The kids looked for animal tracks in the hardened path, picked up sticks and were delighted when we discovered three apple trees along the way.  I tried not to smack the baby as I hoisted a stick up to dislodge the apples, yelling at my kids to get out of the way so they didn’t get hit in the head. Our mouths full of sweet apples, we laughed at one another and delighted over the special unexpected treat.  



It was one of the first times I have felt fully present with my kids in a really long time. 

Over the past few months, an image has come to mind as I’ve thought about my life as a mother.  So many times, I feel like I am sitting in the stands while my kids are out on the field playing. But I am the type of disengaged spectator who is scrolling through social media on her phone, wishing she were anywhere but here.  

I see my kids as an interruption.

Instead, I hope to be not only paying attention to them, but their greatest fan.  In his book, Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson said that he always knew that his mother adored him.  I hope the my kids will be able to say the same of me.   

A friend sent me a verse several weeks ago that had spoken to her as she prepared to have a baby of her own.  It has also come to mind over the past days and weeks as I’ve struggled to be content in this season of life that can feel so restrictive and confining.

“Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness” (Ps. 37:3 NASB).


The word that stands out to me is “cultivate.”  Cultivating requires staying in one place and tending to my garden.  Patience, persistence and attention are needed if I am going to see my seeds grow.  This is the season of staying put and doing the back-breaking, repetitive work of watering, weed-pulling and guarding from both frost and heat.

This is the season of loving when I see very little return for my love.  It is the season of tilling hard soil and wondering if my words will ever sink down deep. And the verse that follows is one that ironically, I clung hard to in my many years of longing for a husband and children: 

“Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4 NASB).

It is not just in delighting in nature, my “me time,” my husband, or my children that I will find the soul rest that I seek.  It is in delighting in my God.    

Nevertheless, my prayer in this season is this:

“Lord, Help me to listen more than I speak, read more than I write, 
laugh more than I cry, praise more than I criticize and be more than I do.”

~~~

Previous Post: Having Three Kid Looks Like…

Having three kids looks like…

Many friends have texted me over the past few weeks asking how the transition to three kids is going.  The fact that I haven’t had a chance to write a blog post (and am now typing this standing up while my infant is strapped to my body) should tell you something.  But for what it’s worth, here is a quick list of what having three kids looks like up to this point.


So far, having three kids looks like…


going to the grocery store at the end of your “date night” (in which you held the baby the entire sushi dinner, ignoring the looks the server gave you as you drank a glass of wine WHILE nursing.)

always saying yes to the coffee.

nursing your baby in the Moby wrap at the pumpkin patch (that’s a 301 skill, people).

feeling guilty for sending goldfish as your son’s birthday treat at school.

accepting ALL the help anyone is willing to offer. 

doing three loads of laundry a day.

not sweeping the floor.

wiping three tiny bums all day long.

nursing with or without a nursing cover in public.

lowering the standards for personal hygiene for everyone in the family.

adding 15 minutes per kid to get out of the house.

being told every.single.time you leave the house with all three children, “You have your hands full, don’t you?”  Yes, yes I do.

wondering how to answer when your mom asks if you got any sleep last night.

praying that the screaming in the other room while you’re nursing doesn’t mean your other two kids are murdering each other (there have been bite marks…).

someone is always, always touching you.

congratulating yourself on brushing your own teeth and hair (bonus points for make-up).

feeling lousy for not spending time with your other children or husband.

not feeling sexy.  Ever. 

thanking God that someone invented a way for you to wear your baby so you could cook dinner, eat, write, give your son a haircut, and go anywhere “hands free” (ahem, holding the hands of your other two tinies, that is).

wanting to high-five everyone in the preschool drop-off line because not only were you on time, but you managed to get everyone inside without injuring themselves.

asking for three extra weeks of meals on your meal plan so that your mom says, “You’re STILL getting meals?”  Yes, mom.  

accepting that showering is a luxury.

someone is always, always crying (and sometimes it’s you).

your husband majorly picks up your slack and though you mostly want to yell at him for no good reason (hello, hormones), you know he is the one holding the house together and you love him for it.

eating the proverbial crumbs under God’s table because you are just too tired to be a spiritual “success.”

LOVING my minivan.  Seriously.

wanting to kiss the friend who spontaneously stops by to take your two-year-old for the morning.

letting go of all illusion of control.

loving my mother even more than I already did.

marveling that you operate on so little sleep.

trusting that this is a short season in the scheme of things and that one day you will actually miss this.


***


Some have told me that three is the hardest transition, though I hoped it wouldn’t be true.  I’ll let you know what I really think when I emerge from the fog!  For now, I wouldn’t say we are thriving, though we are surviving, so keep the meals coming!

~~~

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The Best Years of Our Lives {for The Mudroom}

I had the privilege of writing over at The Mudroom a week (or two) ago and with all the life shifts, I am just now getting around to sharing it here (quickly…all three children are sleeping!).  

Legs curled under my body, I stole a few minutes from studying to sit on the floral couch in the chapel hidden in the attic of Williston Hall, scribbling in my journal. I’d sometimes sneak in here for an hour of quiet between classes since it was in the middle of campus and my dorm was a much farther walk away. Suddenly, the door burst open and a woman in her early 40’s entered with her two school-aged daughters. She peered around the room, eyes wide. “I spent so much time here,” she whispered. “And it hasn’t changed at all…”

In her, I saw my future self.
What will life be like when I’m 40? Where will I have gone? What will I have done? I thought.
Later in the day as I crossed Blanchard lawn on my way to class, I passed some alumni visiting for their twenty year reunion and one of them stopped me to ask for directions. Before turning away, though, he said, “Enjoy this. These are the best years of your life.”
The “best”? So it’s all downhill after college? I thought. Sad.
Now that I am nearing 40, I understand more of what that man meant. From his life of mortgages, insurance, bills, retirement savings, car payments and parenting, what my dad’s description of college as “living with your friends and studying a bit on the side” sounds pretty amazing.

****

I now have two teeny children who I avoid taking to the grocery store at all costs. But when I do, I catch some grandmother fondly admiring my two blondies and I know what she is about to say. “It goes so fast. These are just the best years!” she’ll call over from the other aisle. And if she’s especially anointed that day, she’ll add, “Enjoy them!”
Another woman left much the same message on one of my blog posts about motherhood recently. In fact, I think she actually used the words, “Those years with little ones were the best years of my life.”

…continue reading at The Mudroom.

~~~

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The New Normal

He’s finally here!

Our sweet son was born last Saturday, 9/10/16, at 11:52 am, just an hour and a half after we arrived at the hospital (though after many more hours of labor at home).  The midwife nearly missed the affair, arriving at the second push.

My parents took the other two kids for the week, so my husband and I have been home alone with this new one.  We have been drinking in his soft soft newskin, curled leg cuddles and succession of suspicious looks he directs at us.  I am relieved to have him out of my body and in my arms.

The house has been quiet.  I never noticed how peaceful our neighborhood is before.  

Like childbirth, this homecoming and postpartum week has been surreal.  I remember feeling this way when we brought my other two home–like you are living outside of time, in an alternate reality.  You gaze in wonder at those around you doing normal things like having garage sales and mowing their lawn and marvel at their ignorance.  Have they not felt the cosmic shift of a new soul breaking into our atmosphere?  

Life will never be the same.

Our windows have been open all week, early fall breezes sashaying into the living room as my husband and I share the responsibility of feeding for the first time.  Our son hasn’t figured this breastfeeding thing out yet, so this particular dance of life looks like nursing a short time, then pumping as my husband bottle feeds our little one.  

I’m trying to not let it break my heart. I nurse, then watch him greedily feast on the bottle.  My offering feels inadequate.  My pride in not being his sole provider is pricked.

But my husband gently reminded me that this dance is not about me.  It’s about our son.  And he is growing and thriving under this rhythm my husband and I are waltzing together.

Our son wakes every two and a half to three hours, rolling and gnawing his fists.  For the night vigil,  I groggily scoop him up and head downstairs.  When it’s time for the bottle, I call my husband and he takes our babe to feed him while I pump.  We’ve already binge-watched the entire last season of Downtown Abbey, laughing and crying together in the wee hours of the morning.

Though this is not what I hoped for, there is goodness in it.  Unexpected gifts and new connections with this man I am privileged to love first. We are bonding in and through our exhaustion, new solidarity rising up between us.  “We” are tired, now.  “We” need to feed the baby.  “We” are his primary caregivers.  Not just me.

My other children arrive home in just an hour and our new normal will begin.

I miss them as if a piece of myself has been absent all week, not quite knowing who I am apart from them.  But I’m also bracing myself for the challenges, noise and stress.  Yet I’m thrilled for them to fall in love with their brother as we have.

I’m trusting that though God does not promise rest right now, He does guarantee strength measured out in its perfect portion.  Just as my son looks to us on an hourly basis, so we are looking to our Father to fill us, only to be emptied again…and again…and again.

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength…” 
Isaiah 40:29-31a

***

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Previous Post: 39 Weeks~These Strange Days

39 Weeks ~ These Strange Days



Sitting here typing, the weight of my belly now rests on my thighs even without leaning forward.  My two and four-year-old get wedged between my girth and the wooden arms of the glider chair and so they now prefer to stand, or have us sit on the bed to read books before naps.  My son, waist-high, often gets belly-bumped in his forehead as I can no longer see his curly head when he’s right below me.  When he hugs me, his spine curls backward to accommodate the contour of my convex body.

Simple tasks have become comical as I can no longer bend over to pick up toys or tie shoe laces.  Hands immersed in sudsy water, I jump backward as I realize my belly has crept up against the wet sink, absorbing the water run-off.  I usually have a stain of some sort on the belly shelf and catch a draft in shirts that no longer stretch over the entirety of my new mass. I have to do acrobatics just to get out of public bathroom stalls. 
To some women, I am a good luck charm, a picture of miraculous life.  To others, I am a curse; a physical reminder of their loss or disappointment.  And to others I am a sign of their fear and dread, as they long for children, but fear having their bodies transform and never return to the thin, fit bodies they fight so hard to maintain.  Wherever I go, I am noticed.
***
And so I am trying to see and be grateful for the beauty and mystery of this experience.  It could be my last chance for my body to provide shelter, food and home to a new life; this soul that is being knit together.
The heel of my son pushes against my insides and I reach out to feel the curve of it.  It’s his way of communicating with me here on the outside.  He wakes me in the night with his turning, shifting and stretching.  Sometimes my insides pulse with the rhythm of his hiccups.
We are attached to one another.  Soon we will become two, divided and growing farther and farther apart as he learns to be a man.
I wonder what he will look like; what his personality will be.
Will he have curly hair and green eyes like his brother or straight hair and blue eyes like his sister?  How will he fit into our family and which parent will he be more like?
***
As I wait for labor, it is like waiting in the basement for the immanent tornado of intense pain, loss of control, joy, hope and love all swirling together in a powerful tunnel.  I both fear it and long for it at once.

I am acting strangely these days. One moment I am laughing with my children, the next I am crying on the bathroom floor, explaining to my son, “Mommy is praying.”  I am exhausted, but wake up five times a night and often can’t go back to sleep.  I go from wanting to lie on the couch for hours to painting the coffee table, sorting all the teeny clothes again and cleaning out every junk area in the house.
It is these mood swings that remind me that I am in good company even with wild animals who search for a safe place to have their young.  I am both special and ordinary at the same time.
I’m not sure what the next few days or weeks will look like, but I am trying to maintain a stance of surrender, attempting to trust that the One who is forming this little one’s bones, muscles, heart and soul within me knows what He is doing.  It is a minute-by-minute struggle to remember that peace is mine for the taking in these strange days of waiting.
I cling to this promise of Jesus even as I know He is holding me now, giving me life and knitting me together day by day in an on-going act of creativity:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14:27 ESV). 

~~~


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" It is a minute-by-minute struggle to remember that peace is mine for the taking in these strange days of waiting."