The Big Move

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So we made an announcement a few weeks ago to our friends and family that we are moving from Southern California to North Carolina.  (Just in time for the hottest month of the year!)  While we waited until about a month before our move to make an “official” announcement on Facebook (because we all know that nothing is official until it’s on Facebook), we had told our parents and siblings back at the end of May.  There were so many unknowns back in May that we just knew there was no way we could answer the influx of questions we were bound to receive upon making our announcement.

Well, it’s funny because even though we have everything mostly planned with the big move only a couple weeks away, we still lack answers to many questions that people have asked.  Now, I have to clarify that neither Josh nor I believe we “owe” anyone an “explanation” as to why we are moving, but we feel that we can provide some information to avoid any speculation as to why we are leaving.

“Why?” is such a difficult question for me.  I am more the, “why not?” type of person, myself.  I should say that it was never my intention to spend the rest of my life in Southern California.  If you wonder why, just read this post that I wrote back in April of 2012.  I think that will answer a lot of the “why” questions about leaving Southern California.  Ultimately, I think it is most simple to say that Southern California is not for me.  Josh and I even had a conversation once that included something along the lines of, “Even if we had unlimited funds and could afford to buy our own home here and do all of the things we would want to do, I still wouldn’t want to live here.  The things that make me not like Southern California are things that money cannot change.”  Southern California makes about as much sense for me as a hairless dog living in Alaska.  We don’t fit.

That being said, I LOVE our friends and family here (And Disneyland).  Our choice to move has only been delayed because of our friends and family.  Nothing happened.  There was no falling out.  There isn’t a big fight or argument or underlying issue going on here.  We LOVE our friends and family.  We are so thankful for all of the support, encouragement, and love that they’ve given us over the last 5 years of living here.  It took me a long time to make the friends whom I have here and I am going to miss them all desperately.  We love our church family…I just pray that we find one where we can fit and feel as welcome as we do here.  We have shed many tears as we anticipate our last days with our friends and family here, but take comfort knowing that, without a doubt, we will be back to visit.  It also makes us more thankful than ever for social media so we can stay connected on Facebook and Instagram.

So, why North Carolina?  Well, we spent a lot of time (probably a good part of the last 4 years) talking about moving and WHERE to move was by far the most simple and most complicated question of them all.  It was simple because we had already determined in our minds that we didn’t want to be somewhere without one of our sets of parents within an hour of wherever we would live.  That left us with 3 options: California, Wisconsin, or North Carolina.  That was the simple part.  Of all the places in the country where we would have maybe wanted to live, they were all narrowed down to just 3 options.  Now, we have already made it clear that California wasn’t at the top of my list.  Wisconsin, while it is a state I love and feel attached to, isn’t really at the top of Josh’s list.  While his reasons are his own and I don’t necessarily share his feelings, I can completely understand them and would never want him to live somewhere where he would be unhappy.  I know that he has nothing against my friends and family there and I know that he recognizes the pros and cons and, for him, the cons just outweigh the pros.  It makes sense to me and I am on board!  So, that left North Carolina.  We had been, for a while, a bit hesitant to move to North Carolina because neither of us have any roots there.  We were concerned that, after the novelty of our closeness wore off, my dad & step-mom would become weighed down with being the sole people we could depend on for tangible help and support as we raise our 3 children.  We would hate to destroy a relationship with our parents because they feel used and abused.  We realized, though, that while Josh’s parents are the only two family members who have been very close and capable of babysitting or sharing in meals with us, we have made friends here in Southern California who have become like family to us.  They have given us an infinite amount of love and support, babysitting, listening ears, hugs, encouragement, advice, truth, grace…the list goes on.  Our friends have turned into an amazing support system and there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be able to find some amazing friends who will be dear to us in North Carolina as well.

Now that we had all of our logistics cleared up (the “where” we would move and “why”) we wanted, ultimately, to be sure that we would be within the will of God.  Regardless of the logistics we didn’t want to go if God wasn’t at the forefront of everything.  Was God blessing the idea or closing the door?  So we began to pray for wisdom and clarity about if and when we actually took the plunge.  The best counsel we remember receiving was, “Is God using you here?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Will He use you in North Carolina?  Yes!  Absolutely!”  I think God cares a lot less about where live than how we live and who we are living for.  We can live anywhere and live with love, compassion, grace, truth, and serve God and our community wherever we are!

So when we started to look at our options God opened doors.  We went through them and here we are: 2 weeks away from our move to North Carolina. We are so excited and so overwhelmed all at the same time.  So much is yet to be done, and yet so much cannot be done right at this moment.  So many dates and appointments with friends and family, and yet none would be enough to prepare us to say, “see you soon,” to any of them.  I don’t know that I will ever be ready to say “goodbye” so I am glad that I won’t have to.  I’m glad to know that we will be back for visits.

What it boils down to is that we feel that this is the best decision for our family.  We know that some friends and family are very excited for us and have been really encouraging and supportive with comments of how beautiful it is in North Carolina and how some of their favorite cities and restaurants are there.  We also know that others are left feeling lonely, hurt, and just plain don’t understand.  We respect that.  I can see, I suppose, how it may seem like the move is coming out of left field even though we have talked about moving someday in our home and with our closest friends for a long time.  No amount of “talk” can really prepare one for the day when the “talk” becomes the “walk.”

What we really want everyone to know, though, is that it isn’t personal.  This was a decision that Josh and I made together for our family because we believe it is the absolute best thing.  We believe that North Carolina offers both of us what we are seeking: clear seasons that aren’t extreme, affordability, friendly atmosphere, plenty of green space, lots of variations in the weather, big cities nearby, recreational activities, proximity to family, small towns, career opportunities, family friendly…etc.  We would appreciate your prayers, love, and encouragement.  We pray that you would keep in touch with us on Facebook and Instagram and let us hang out with you when we come back to visit!  We love you all! :-)

Today’s In-Flight Entertainment:

About four years go I hopped on a plane from Wisconsin, visiting my family, to California, back to my husband.  Actually, I hopped on a couple planes.  My oldest son was 18 months old.  I was traveling alone with him because my husband had to work.  The first flight went pretty well and was really short.  Our second flight would be about 3 hours long.  I brought food and toys and games and anything else I could to occupy my son on the plane.  He just wasn’t having it.  He was tired, his ears hurt, we were crammed in a window seat on a completely booked flight.  My poor little guy cried for a solid 2 1/2 hours of this 3 hour flight.  The flight attendants would not let me get up to walk him up and down the aisles to help him get rid of some excess energy because it isn’t considered safe and they had to deliver beverages to other passengers.  So we were stuck.  

 

As he sat their crying, I kept looking up, tears in my eyes, apologizing to my neighbors.  They simply smiled and said, “We know how this goes.  Our 2-year old is at home.”  They were so patient and gracious to me.  They understood how hard it can be to travel with children.  They understood that it was embarrassing, difficult, painful…Traveling with children is not for the faint of heart.

 

After about 2 hours of his crying, which is, I understand, a long time, a woman a few rows ahead of me had had enough.  She pushed the button for the flight attendant and very loudly asked him to have “that crying baby move” because his crying was just “ridiculous” and I needed to “get him under control.”  What she didn’t realize is that I had also had enough after 2 hours of painstakingly trying to appease him with everything I could possibly do to get him to quiet down.  What she didn’t know is that my exhausted, embarrassed, burned-out self really did not need to hear her words in that moment.  I didn’t need her opinion.  I quickly, and probably to the surprise of my gracious neighbors, tossed my son into the lap of the woman next to me, jumped up and marched the couple rows up to that woman and gave her a piece of my mind.  I don’t remember exactly what I said but it included something like, “Either you’ve never traveled with children or you’re too old to remember what it’s like” and “you know what?  I’ve gotten to listen to his crying for 2 hours too!  Now I have to deal with people like you on top of it” and it definitely ended with, “It is a full flight!  I have nowhere to go.  If you don’t like his crying then go jump off the plane!”  Seriously, I’m so thankful that I didn’t get arrested or something after getting off the plane…

I burst into tears and went back to my seat.  The nasty lady huffed and puffed in disbelief and the neighbors around me gave me looks of pity and told me that it was OK and she had no right to do that.  I’m sure she wasn’t the only one on the plane thinking that, though. I’m sure that she had silent supporters who just didn’t want to be chewed out by the tired, young mom on the plane.  I had more support than I knew, though, as I received apologies from people on my flight all the way back to the parking garage at LAX.  Random people would keep stopping me to tell me how sorry they were and that I was doing the best I could and that his ears probably hurt or that he was tired…etc.  They had all kinds of reasons for why he was in such a bad mood.  And, while it wasn’t fun, they knew I was doing what I could and I didn’t like it anymore than they did.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this story.  The short answer is that I’ve had just about enough of people and their comments about children and their behavior in public places, but especially planes.  I recently saw someone on Facebook post something to the effect of, “Dear people in the seats next to me, thanks for not letting your kids be complete a$$holes on the plane!”  I had a friend come to visit me with her 15 month old son about a week ago and she had some incredibly rude people on the plane next to her…even though her son was being a perfect angel and slept most of the flight!  She seriously looked at his sweet, smiling face when he offered her a toy and said, “I’m not taking that from you.”  What the heck is wrong with people?!  

OK.  I get it.  You’re on a plane.  Traveling is stressful…or can be.  You want to take this time to relax and talk to your traveling companions, listen to your iPod, watch a movie, read a book…and BAM!  You see you’re stuck next to a snot-nosed brat on the plane! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  The next 5 hours of your life are officially ruined!  Your whole entire vacation/business trip/flight home is completely ruined!  Ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic.  But that’s what you look like to us moms/dads who had to get up 5 hours before our early morning flight, were up late last night packing up our children’s things, had to somehow manage to get through security by breaking down our strollers, carseats, emptying our luggage and diaper bags onto a conveyer belt, and somehow get it all put back together only to get to the plane and have to disassemble everything again…all while holding the baby!  Then we get seated next to baby-hating people like you and get to enjoy your dirty looks, sassy remarks, super fun Facebook statuses and Tweets about the #crabbybaby #ruiningyourflight #horriblemom #neverhavingkids #mykidswillbeamazing #nextalberteinstien #imseriouslythesonofgodhimself.  Not helpful.

You have no clue what that family is going through.  You don’t know why they’re on that plane.  They may be traveling to the funeral of a loved one.  They may be making a painful move across the country.  They may be a military family who has been flying across the world for 2 days straight without any breaks or sleep.  They may have had cancelled flights, long delays, sick children, or just a string of bad luck.  My son had always been an awesome little traveler.  This was the one time he went ballistic.  It came out of nowhere and I didn’t like it anymore than the people sitting next to me…probably less since I was the one getting the blame for the noise.  

So, the next time you’re on a flight and see a mom who is beaming up at you, eyes full of hope and a child full of energy, know that we understand that this isn’t how you planned your flight.  We want to listen to our iPods, watch movies, and read books and the in-flight Sky Mall magazine too.  We would love nothing more than a relaxing, quiet flight.  Our odds of having that happen are much higher if you can cooperate with us.  We didn’t have babies to ruin your lives.  If you didn’t want to fly with babies then you should have paid for a 1st Class ticket or early boarding so you could select your seat.  Hey, I’m all for adult-only flights!  I support that completely!  Maybe you’re not a “kid person” but if we can endure you politely for the next few hours of our lives, then you can politely endure our children for the next few hours of your life.  I promise you that it won’t make you pregnant just by looking at them or by entertaining their desire to give you their toy phone.  It isn’t going to kill you and baby drool is not made of acid, promise!  I promise that my child won’t poop, pee or puke all over you…but if he happens to do that, I will pay for you to get new clothes.  To add, our children aren’t “a$$holes.”  They’re tired.  They’re CHILDREN.  We are on a plane with little space to move and run, which is what children do.  Deal with it and keep your feelings to yourself.

To moms who travel with kids–I get it.  It can be so hard.  Even when your child(ren) is a perfect angel you still get dirty looks.  It is tough.  You can do this, though!  Try not to let those other negative people get you down!  Just take a deep breath and get through the next few hours.  For the families who travel around the world and go for 48 hours without sleep with your kids, I am so sorry.  I have no clue what that is like.  I imagine it is so hard.  Of course your babies are tired!  You’re exhausted too!  You’re doing your best!  

And, finally, to all the people who are so awesome with our kids: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!  You bring your puppies on board and let our kids pet them.  You share your little snacks.  You offer to hold them so we can take naps (yes! I HAVE HAD THAT HAPPEN–sweet angel in the first row you are so precious to me!).  The middle-aged men who always seem to be the ones to offer to help carry my luggage, fold up my stroller, get me to my seat: I don’t care if you do it just so you can board early with the families…it is beyond helpful!  There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to express our gratitude for your willingness to inconvenience yourself to help when you see that it is tough.  We need people like you.  You lift our spirits and make our day just that much easier!

 

No B’s

I’ve been debating whether or not is should write this post. I’ve gone back and forth with all the reasons I should or shouldn’t. I’ve been worried partly because I don’t want to offend anyone, and partly because writing this will automatically put me under a microscope just begging for people to call me out.

I should probably start off by saying that I don’t think I am better than anyone else. I don’t think I am stronger, smarter, more mature, or wiser. I am beyond normal and exceedingly flawed. I long to be loved and beautiful just as much as, if not more than, the next person. Looking in the mirror is a daily struggle to be content with, or even love, my body. I can’t remember a day in my life when I looked in the mirror and thought, “I’ve got a rockin’ bod! Woot! Go me!” I can think of pictures I have stashed away in the garage and I’ve thought, “wow! I thought I looked so horrible. I wish I looked like that again!” It is moments like those that remind me that my brain is so messed up and vision is totally flawed.

It could be those insecurities that lead me to this very post.

Women, what you wear matters. It matters to men. It matters to women. It matters to your children. You may say, “my children!? You pervert!” Hear me out. Just this week I was laughing with a friend about our boys. She was changing in her room and her 9 year old son walked in. He could not stop staring at her boobs. Yep. A 9 year old boy was enamored with the female body…it just happened to be his mom. It sounds funny! It is funny! We joked about it and I said, “guess he has hit the age when he isn’t allowed around when you’re changing anymore huh?” Boobs weren’t always a distraction. He…well…grew into it. So, just keep that in mind when you’re dressing. Will a 9-year old boy not be able to take his eyes off of your chest?

What you wear matters. During this last t-ball season a woman kept coming to the games and practices wearing really revealing clothing. She would come wearing crop tops without a bra, super tight and low skinny jeans, maxi dresses with a deep v neck and plenty of side-boob, and super short shorts…It was so distracting. I am a girl…who is attracted to men…and I found it horribly distracting. I kept thinking, “if I can complete the picture, so can my husband…and every other person here.” Now, the practices were held at an elementary school, and the games at a church. So before you go defending the clothing, just think about how you’d feel walking into church and seeing boobs and bellies in your face. Super distracting.

Here’s the most tragic thing, though: I don’t know if she was a parent or sister or who she was for the little boy who played on the team. I never was able to get enough courage to talk to her. I was so immobilized by my own insecurity that I couldn’t even talk to this woman. I don’t know if anyone did the entire season! Wow. It is embarrassing. I am totally ashamed of myself. I let my preconceived ideas of what someone should wear at church or other childrens’ events get me so wound up that I couldn’t even walk over to her and introduce myself. And my husband and father in law were the coaches. I, of all people, should have been the most friendly, outgoing, welcoming person there, right? Wrong. I was not who I should have been. I wish I had a do-over.

Do I take back what I said about wearing immodest clothing? No. I really think it is distracting and inappropriate. But should that strike fear and insecurity so deeply in my heart that lose all courage to say, “hello”?

When I was working on campus in college we had a “No B’s” rule. It was great. “No boobs, no butts, no bellies.” I loved that rule! Could it be any clearer? I would venture to say that would be a great rule continuing on through life…not just in my campus bookstore. Why do we need to walk around showing off our boobs, butts, and bellies for everyone to see? It is not necessary. You don’t need to show that much to get attention.

When I was in high school a speaker said that if we thought of ourselves as cars, and clothing as advertisement, it would say a lot about how we can portray ourselves…without even realizing it! She said that Lamborghinis are cars that everyone wants. They don’t have to advertise. Fords and Chevys have more advertisements than you can imagine. She said we should see ourselves as valuable, high-quality, important, wanted…even without advertising our goods.

Have I been perfect in my dress? No. Is clothing the only way you can choose to be modest or immodest? No. Does being immodest mean you have to look matronly? No way! (Although I don’t suggest taking fashion advice from me…I don’t even take fashion advice from me). But I never want to be the woman who walks into church, the grocery store, the school, or the playground and every man has to turn and walk in the opposite direction because what I’m wearing is too much (or too little) for them.

I am trying to say these things because I love women and I want them to be cherished for who they are. I want the clothing on the outside to reveal the beautiful, loving, kind, energetic person on the inside. I also love men…my father, husband, brother, uncles, cousins, grandfather, and my sons. I want their eyes to be guarded. I don’t want to walk into church, or to t-ball games and see beach-appropriate clothing. It’s awkward. It’s distracting.

I don’t think that women are responsible for all the thoughts of men. That is ridiculous. But I think we do what we can, as much as it is up to us, out of love and respect. Think of it this way: if I suddenly became allergic to chocolate, I would hope that my husband would not eat it around me. I wouldn’t want it in the house. Would it be his fault if I ate it? No. But it sure would be a lot less tempting if it wasn’t in my cupboard calling my name.

Am I ever going to go out and start a little modesty crusade expecting to win battles here and there? No. My hope is that maybe a few hearts will be changed, and maybe I will have the courage to look past my own insecurities and discomfort and reach out and befriend people who maybe don’t fit the mold I want them to. I bet I will be surprised at what I might learn and the new friends I can make.

You Can Never Go Back

When I was a little girl I loved the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven. I laughed. I cried. I watched it over and over and over again. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching this glorious children’s movie, I’ll give a little recap:

Marie is an orphan. She wants nothing more than a family who will love her. She is, however, held captive by an evil bulldog named Scarface. Scarface appears to run a really happinin’ casino for dogs. Dogs pay in meat and hope to get a really good jackpot of dog bones. Scarface is cruel and brutal. He tries to get Marie to steal from unsuspecting passersby while promising her a home. Eventually Itchy, a high-strung dachshund, and Charlie, a manipulative and cunning German shepherd, escape from prison (the dog pound) and come back to take over the casino. Scarface isn’t too happy about the return of his old friend, so he stages a fun little party, gets Charlie smashed, and then runs him off of the dock on some large body of water…probably a river…and Charlie dies. Charlie goes to heaven and meets a sexy pink whippet angel. She sings songs to the bad boy who really doesn’t want to be in heaven. He finds his life-watch and rewinds it, much to the dismay of said angel whippet, and flashes back to life. As he is going through all the light and craziness making his return to earth you hear the angel’s voice, “you can never come baaaack. You can never come…baaaaaaaack…”

The rest of the movie is history and really doesn’t pertain to my post at all. The whole point is: Charlie can never go back to heaven. He left to get revenge on Scarface and live his miserable life. He is willing to throw away his one shot at heaven for payback.

“You can never come back” is such a daunting phrase. It’s true, though. Once you leave, you can’t go back, not in the way you would hope, anyway.

Five years ago the hubster got a job and we hastily moved from Wisconsin to California. We didn’t spend much time thinking about the cost. I didn’t spend much time thinking about the cost. My life was already changing so much in every other way that I welcomed this change in scenery. Five years later I still hear the whippet angel saying, “you can never come back!”

I have spent five years longing to go home. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. I’ve probably spent more like the last four-and-a-half years wanting to go back home. Some days are better than others, but I generally have missed my friends and family. Recently, however, I’ve discovered that the whippet’s words aren’t just for dogs and heaven. It’s for people and their homes too.

If I ever go home, it won’t be the same. My friends and families have all been living lives that don’t include me. Aside from the periodic phone call, text message, email, Facebook shout out, or visit, our lives have become so separated that I wonder what would be different if I moved home. Would we hang out often? Could we really pick up where we left off? Could we really return to our old church family? Would I like the schools? Would I be bored?

For the longest time I thought moving back home would be the solution to the loneliness I felt here. More recently, however, I’ve wondered if moving back home wouldn’t be more lonely…a special kind of lonely…the kind of loneliness you feel when you’re surrounded by people you know and love…but still have no one to talk to. At least you expect that when you’re a stranger. Well, I didn’t expect that when I first moved here, but I did learn very quickly that it’s what you get.

A few weeks ago Josh and I were talking about what I’d do if something happened to him. I’ve always said I’d move back home. Where else would I go, right? I would want to go to a place where I’m loved and have a strong support system. Now I don’t know what I would do. I can’t imagine staying in California without him. It sounds too painful…and he is, after all, the reason we are here. I do have friends here, though, and I can’t imagine going through a tragedy like that without them. I can’t imagine picking up and changing everything, for my kids too, to go back home. It would be like running away to a place that isn’t the same. You can never go back and expect it to be the same. You can’t just pick up where you left off. You can’t just expect everyone else to just drop their lives and help you pick up the pieces of yours.

In this place, though, I feel like I’m neither here nor there. “Home” isn’t home…but this isn’t home either. Maybe this is God’s way of reminding me that this earth is not my home. Maybe this is God’s way of teaching me to “store up [my] treasures in heaven.” Maybe God is going to split the waters and show me a clear path to wherever home is. Maybe I’m like the Israelites after leaving Egypt and hanging out in Succoth (tent town). Maybe God is teaching me that I need to be ready to move at any moment. Maybe my whining and wondering and discontentment is just making the 40 years in the wilderness more miserable. God promised the Israelites that he would lead them to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” I’m just worried that he is going to leave me out in the wilderness forever. Am I destined to wander? As of this moment I have no idea what my future holds. I do know, though, that God has it all in his hands. I know he has it worked out. And I know that I can’t go back.

I don’t regret it…

I had just turned 22 when Big Man was born. Josh and I were not quite to our first anniversary. I didn’t have close friends with kids and certainly didn’t spend a lot of time online looking up baby information. I just bathed in the joy of having him with me. He was so beautiful, so sweet, and I was absolutely in love. Instantly.

I delivered him, exhausted, at 10:30 at night. I let him go and allowed others to hold him because I was weak, hungry, and felt completely out of it. After I got my brain together, I held him and didn’t ever want to let him go. I held onto him all night long and almost the entire time we were in the hospital. I hated putting him down for any reason. I just wanted to hold him all the time.

It didn’t change when I went home. I didn’t want help with Big Man. I wanted help around the house so I could just sit there and hold him all day long. I enjoyed looking at his face, watching his mouth move, holding his little fingers and toes, touching his lips, ears, nose…I was just enamored with this tiny person who had come in and stolen my heart. I knew that I would do anything for this boy. He would have my heart forever.

It didn’t change when people left us. Once the visitors were gone, I still wanted to hold him all the time. Whether he was eating, sleeping, talking, playing…I wanted to hold him. I didn’t ever want to put him down. I loved nursing him until he fell asleep and I would just keep holding him during his entire nap. I would give up my entire day just to hold him.

It didn’t change when he turned one. I would cuddle him during nap time. He would fall asleep next to me on the couch, and I would brush his hair with my fingers. I would stroke his cheeks. I would kiss his forehead. He slept so soundly. So sweetly. So perfectly. I never wanted to let him go.

It changed when he got older. He stopped taking naps when he was 2. I quickly missed those moments when he would sleep in my arms. I missed that time that just he and I shared. Every once in a while he would get really tired and fall asleep on his little fire engine couch in the living room. Sometimes I would lay down next to him on the floor…or pick him up and hold him for the rest of his nap. I still had something, though. We would cuddle every morning in my bed even after Middle Man was born. Big Man would go to bed at night and I would say, “See you in the morning for…,” and he would say, “cuddles!” Oh, how I loved those moments!

Now those moments are gone. Big Man is 5 1/2 and doesn’t need his mommy to hold him at night. I have to wake up early to get ready to take him to school. So I am out of bed before he makes it to my room. He doesn’t take naps. He is growing up. He has traded in his stuffed animals and boppy (his blanket) for action figures and light sabers. Every once-in-a-while we get to cuddle on the couch while Middle Man and Little Man nap. I miss those moments.

When Big Man was a baby I would have been criticized for holding him too much…not letting him go. “He will never learn to nap on his own!” “He will never learn to sleep without you.” (He was, and is, a great sleeper). “He is going to be spoiled!” “You need to take that time to sleep/work/clean/cook…”

You know what? I don’t regret it. I don’t regret holding him all the time. I don’t regret all the dirty laundry piles that could have been washed. I don’t regret the meals I didn’t make and the lunches I didn’t eat. I don’t regret the naps I missed. Sure…those things can be important…even essential. But I don’t regret it because now I have 3 baby men in my house. I didn’t get those same luxuries with Middle Man and Little Man. Instead of getting to hold them during naps, I had to put them down to meet the needs of the other child(ren) in my home.

I mourn not being able to hold Little Man all afternoon as he sleeps. It is so sweet when he begins to fall asleep while nursing. This situation is rare since I specifically trained him to not associate nursing with sleeping. But it happens every now and again…and I want to just hold him and watch him sleep. I want to watch him suck his little thumb. I want to watch him dream and get sweaty, baby ear marks on my arms. And I can’t.

I had one shot. I took it. I loved it. I don’t regret it.

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When We Become Lazy…

“I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.”
Proverbs 24:30-34

I adore the book of Proverbs. It is one of the most practical books in the entire Bible. Even if you don’t believe in God, in which case Proverbs would call you out as a fool, there is much practical, everyday wisdom and instruction to be had in its pages. I believe I have a particular affinity for Proverbs because Solomon chooses to throw out any sugar coating and gets straight to the problem. Take Proverbs 12:1 “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” There are no fluffy words. He says it plainly and simply. If you love discipline, then you love knowledge. If you don’t, then you’re stupid.

Proverbs 24:30-34 is another one of these types of passages. Solomon tells a story of how he was walking down the road and stumbled upon an overgrown vineyard that belonged to a lazy man. The vineyard was clearly no longer producing fruit. It was overgrown with weeds and thorns. Even the stone wall that surrounded and protected the vineyard was broken. Solomon took this as a teachable moment. Clearly laziness doesn’t get you far…but it does get you deep into poverty.

Now, I by no means believe that every person who finds him/herself wanting is lazy. In fact, Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” Clearly we are to be generous to the poor, giving all that we are able as unto The Lord himself. Jesus drives home the point in Matthew 25:31-46 when he compares those who were generous in life with their time, talents, and resources with those who were not. He says they will be thanked for feeding, clothing, visiting, and helping him when he was in need. The righteous person will be confused, not remembering when they did these good deeds “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

I believe that this Proverb, though, is speaking directly to the person who is in poverty because of his own laziness. There are many who are in poverty because they don’t feel like working 40 hours or more a week. They don’t want to go through the hard work of developing a stellar portfolio or resume. They go hungry and find themselves wanting. I think the implications of this problem are clear. Hard work => good return. Laziness => poverty. But I think there is more we can glean from this warning of the perils of laziness.

At the risk of over-spiritualizing the passage, I think we can learn much more than the obvious here. Of course Solomon is talking about physical laziness, physical weeds and thorns, and physical poverty. But there are many passages in the Bible that use agricultural laws to illustrate a spiritual reality.

The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13 is a story about a farmer who goes to plant seeds on his land. The seed lands in many different places and, therefore, some of the seeds grow better than other seeds. Some of the seeds land among thorns and weeds and are choked out. Now the parable is not really about seeds and soil, but about the telling of the word of God. Some of the seeds have landed among the thorns. Verse 22 clarifies that the thorns and weeds are “the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches.”

It is important to remember that each seed that the farmer tossed out was the same. Each seed had the same potential to grow, but not all of the soil was the same. I believe we can relate this back to our vineyard from Proverbs. Notice that Solomon didn’t say he passed by a vineyard that had horrible soil compared to the neighboring vineyards and farms. Not at all. It was good soil with the same potential as any other vineyard. The man simply chose not to till the ground and pull out the weeds.

Spiritually speaking, we can get lazy and allow weeds and thorns to choke out our fruit from growing. “The cares of the world, and deceitfulness of riches” can cause us to neglect the people and responsibilities that truly matter in this world. We can get lazy and stop reading our Bibles. We can get lazy and stop going to church. We can get lazy and stop praying to God. We can get lazy and stop telling other people about the joy we have found in a relationship with God. We get lazy.

Who knows? Maybe this farmer had worked so hard during the last growing season that he had so much excess and decided to take a vacation. But the season(s) of neglect resulted in an overgrown vineyard that no longer produces fruit and lacks the walls to defend it from robbers and wild animals…not to mention a hungry and needy farmer.

This vineyard had three identifying factors.
1. The thorns and weeds. When we get lazy, thorns and weeds, the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, start to overgrow our lives. This starts slowly with a little bit of greed here and a little bit of vanity there until they are the only things you will see. Anyone who has done any farming or gardening will tell you that you don’t need to try to plant weeds. They just show up. Every day you may walk out to your garden and find a new weed or two and they need to be pulled. Humans don’t need to work hard to become “worldly.” We don’t have to try to be selfish or greedy. It comes naturally to us.  It takes hard work and prayer to keep those things from taking over in our lives.
2. The lack of fruit. Once the weeds and thorns have taken over, they begin to choke out the fruit. Maybe there was still some fruit when the weeds first started to come in, but left alone long enough, the weeds overtook the whole vineyard and there were no longer any fruitful plants. Galatians 5 tell us that “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.” When we become lazy, the weeds, or cares of this world, choke out all of the wonderful fruit that should be growing in our lives.  It only takes a small amount of observation of a person to determine if there is much good fruit being produced in his/her life.  We all know someone who me we admire who is full of love, joy, peace…etc.  Chances are they are not lazy and are constantly weeding out the thorns from their lives.
3. The lack of protection. Have you ever seen an old, abandoned farm with fences falling over? An active, attentive farmer rebuilds broken fences and works to keep plants from overgrowing and destroying the fences. Our back yard has a thick block wall between us and the trail in town. We have an enormous tree that is not far from the wall. Now, I’m sure when the city first built the wall, it was in great shape and the tree was a little smaller. We currently have a huge crack in the wall where the roots of the tree have started to break the wall in two. The tree, left to its own devices, is beginning to destroy the barrier that protects our yard from invaders. Likewise, the stone wall that had been built to divide and protect this vineyard from robbers or wild animals is destroyed due to neglect. When we become lazy we destroy the barriers between ourselves and the things that would steal our fruit…our love, joy, peace…etc. We allow thieves to come in and take what they want. Whether that thief be an affair, pornography, or some other obvious sin, or something less obvious that takes little by little like too much tv, spending too much money, or gossip, they begin to take anything of value left.  The greatest defense we have against these weeds is the Word of God. Hebrews  4 tells us that the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, exposing our heart, thoughts, and attitude.  The word of God makes the enemies of our hearts clear to us so we can properly defend ourselves and built up walls to keep them out.  I used to spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I discovered that the time I spent on Pinterest gave me a horrible case of, what my step mom likes to call, “I-Want-itis.” I became discontented, greedy, and frustrated. I was discontented to see all of these beautiful projects that will never realistically be within my reach. It would take ten mansions to be able to store all of the wonderful bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchens, backyards, and other objects of my desire. I still pop on Pinterest every now and then when I’m looking for ideas for specific projects or parties. But I constantly have to remind myself to not get carried away. God’s word calls us to flee from temptation, to not become greedy, and to store our treasures in heaven. If it takes getting rid of my Pinterest app to keep those undesirable thorns out of my life, so be it. I’d rather see good fruit.

Now, if we are honest, we will all say that we have most certainly gone through seasons of clear spiritual laziness. We’ve neglected that which is most important to living this life to the fullest. If we were to inspect our own lives during those seasons we would see a clear correlation between our choice of spending time with God, reading his word, and serving his people, with the health of our spiritual lives.

This vineyard was, no doubt, a sad sight to see. Solomon saw the potential in what could be and thought, “what a pity. What a sad waste of a wonderful vineyard with great potential to grow and provide for a family.” Take this wonderful passage as a warning against laziness both in your physical life as well as your spiritual life. I only pray that my heart will ponder and heed this warning for the rest of my life as I attempt to live a life that is continuously connected to Christ.

My Romance Rant

This past Friday was Valentine’s Day so it seems only fitting that I write my thoughts about romance. I am not a romantic in the traditional sense. I don’t like mushy, cliche, traditional displays of affection. I don’t like romantic movies, books, songs… Ok. That’s not 100% true. There are some really funny chick flicks and some really beautiful love songs (Just the Way You Are, Longer Than just to name a couple…). I don’t mind romance in someone else’s life. If traditional romance is your thing, then good for you. And I mean that seriously. I’m glad for you. If you like red roses, chocolate, and a candlelit dinner on Valentine’s Day, your birthday, and anniversary, then awesome! I’m glad that you have that and/or want that in your life. Someone has to, right? Or we wouldn’t have all of that in the movies. But I don’t want traditional romance in mine. Let me tell you why.

**disclaimer** this post is meant to be lighthearted…so don’t take offense if any of these describe something that sounds like something you’d love… We are all different and that’s a good thing. I just get tired of people assuming that all women love roses, chocolate, sappy movies…you know…like Beauty and the Beast…”flowers, chocolates…promises you don’t intend to keep…”

1. Traditional romance makes me feel indebted. I have always felt this way. One-on-one dates always made me uncomfortable and I always insisted on paying for my own meal, movie ticket, coffee..etc. Is this a fair thought? Probably not. But it is most certainly how I feel. I don’t like feeling like I owe anyone anything. I remember going on a date with a guy whom I worked with in early high school. We went mini-golfing. We made a bet at the beginning of the date that the loser owed the winner $10. It was fun and lighthearted and made the date a little bit less awkward by adding in a bit of competition. I was doing great until the last few holes and, of course, he wouldn’t accept my $10 when I lost. I thought that was the gentlemanly thing to do even though I was completely prepared to fork over the cash. It was a bet, after all, and I lost fair and square. When he dropped me off he walked me to the door and asked for a kiss in exchange for the $10 I owed him. Seriously? Gag me. Dude. I was 16 years old and prepared to give you my money. That was it. I owed you 10 bucks. Not a kiss. Weirdo. Now, you may say that it wasn’t a traditionally romantic date…but it’s all the same to me. You buy me roses…I owe you a kiss. You buy me lobster? Gosh…what might I owe you after that? I never wanted anyone to come asking for what I “owed” them…so I liked to keep it simple. I pay my way. You pay your way. No one feels required to make this work, go on a second date, or give anything in return. Plain and simple. (To answer Josh’s question, no…I’m not friends with this guy on Facebook or otherwise. He was fired and I never heard from him again…only further proving my point.)

2. Traditional romance clouds your judgement. When I watch chick flicks with romantic scenes with two people on a first or second date I can’t help but think, “ugh! You’re so being manipulated right now.” Romantic gestures can get you caught up in the moment. You feel so connected, so appreciated, so loved…and you stop thinking clearly. Suddenly you toss aside logic and let yourself just go with the flow. Giving into romance makes me feel foolish. Again…this may not be true for everyone. I know a lot of women who love romance and have romantic husbands and they love getting into the whole romantic thing together. I’m glad for them. That’s how they connect. But I cannot get myself into it. I cannot get past feeling so stupid. It’s funny because I can totally appreciate when my friends express joy over a romantic date with their husbands and I genuinely think it is sweet that they share that…it just isn’t for me. I wish I had some personal story worth telling to demonstrate my point…but let me just say that I am sure many lives have been changed forever due to one really romantic date with a guy who never calls you back. I haven’t had that happen personally…but I’ve heard plenty of stories on both sides of that and have never wanted to take part… Consider the Twilight movies, for example. The two main characters have lots of really strange encounters. He takes her running through the forest and shows is shiny body to her in the woods. They look into each other’s eyes and he talks about how she is made for him blah blah blah…and she totally just throws away logic and reasoning, gives up her entire life (literally) to be with and become a vampire? Come. On. While I don’t anticipate this exact situation occurring in real life, there are plenty of similarities to actual situations. The guy may be dangerous, but he says loves me and buys me flowers…so I’m ok. No thanks. I’ll keep to my boring, pessimistic, head-on-straight ways of thinking…

3. Traditional romance seems like a formula. I think the movies provide guys at an early age with all the right things to say and do to get in good with a girl. Buy her flowers. Write notes to her. Slow dance and look her in the eyes and say some sappy little phrase and she will kiss you (yuck)…and you’re set. Seriously, any kind of sweet or romantic thing a guy has ever done for me usually results in laughter. I find it so awkward. I want to ask, “now…which movie gave you that idea?” Saying it out loud (or typing it out loud…??) makes it sound way meaner than I intend. I’m not saying a guy doesn’t have to go out on a limb to offer a girl a dozen roses on Valentine’s Day or something. Sure. Some guys do. And some girls love it. But it isn’t really that creative. It isn’t always personal. Again..some girls love it and if you’re one of those girls, then good. But we don’t all fit into that mold. I have to laugh because I have a dad who warned me about teenage boys when I was young. I was warned that they’d say or do anything to get what they want. So when a guy in high school romantically told me he had a dream that he had proposed to me (in many more words) I literally laughed and shook my head. I was pretty adamant about abstinence so when the same guy asked, “so when do you think God thinks you’re married?” I laughed. (And he had many more fun phrases and questions…persistent little fella…and if you went to school with me, before you think you know who it was, you probably don’t…). I didn’t find it cute. I didn’t find it romantic. I saw it just as my dad had warned me about…they’ll say anything to get what they want. Sorry… Sweet look + sincere voice + sappy words = eye roll from this gal… I’m not a performing monkey. I don’t do tricks because you gave me a treat. And every kiss totally does not begin with Kay… (but really, whoever thought of that little jingle was a genius…they’ve gotten great mileage out of that phrase! Now the “he totally went to Jared” commercials…yeah…you need to think of something else… )

In conclusion, I’m so glad I married Josh. Josh is a romantic thru and thru. He would love nothing more than a romantic candlelit dinner, holding hands, kissing…(I’m feeling nauseated just typing that…) He has definitely said and done some things that have made me laugh and shake my head. He has given me a glimpse into the heart of a sincere and romantic man. And he has learned and accepted that romance isn’t a formula. For me, romance is totally different. When we were dating he took a spontaneous trip across the country over Valentine’s Day weekend to visit me. It was not like him to skip class and spend hundreds of dollars on a whim. We spent the weekend watching movies, hanging out with friends, and sledding. Playing games, hanging out with friends, helping with the kids so I can get some rest, take a shower or be with my friends, getting Chick-Fil-A and watching Harry Potter, X-Men, or The Hunger Games, going to a baseball or hockey game, or doing something completely unexpected…And asking for nothing in return makes me feel loved. Unfortunately, my kind of romance comes with a bit of a learning curve. It has probably been 6 years of learning for Josh but I appreciate that he takes the time to figure me out.

So, I have to give a shout out to all the ladies out there who don’t fit into the typical style of romance. If you’re not married, then don’t settle. Be yourself. If the flowers, chocolate…etc isn’t your thing, that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be. If you’re married to a romantic, help him figure you out. Give him some pointers. If you’re as lucky as I am to be married to someone who genuinely wants to make you happy, he will gladly hear you out! There are definitely times when I have to sacrifice my “comfort” and allow Josh to be romantic in his own way…a great compromise has been flowers on any day other than my birthday, anniversary, or Valentines Day…I love flowers! Just not on predictable days…letting me know you were thinking about me so you bought me flowers is sweet. It’s a win-win! Happy non-traditional-Valentine’s Day lovin’ friends!

Being a SAHM

When I was a young college student I had my life all planned out. I was going to get married, work hard for several years to pay off my student loans, buy a house, and a car and then, when I was totally ready because I had money, I’d start a family. It all made perfect sense to me. My plans all blew up, though, the moment I found out that I was pregnant with Emery. Josh and I had been married for just a month and a half and that little smiley face on the pregnancy test really should have looked more worried with maybe a touch of sweat dripping down its face. Because that’s how I felt. I was so scared. I mean, I was happy because I love children and believe that all children are a gift from God. They’re all beautiful and precious (even when they’re not) and should be rejoiced over. I quickly ran to Walmart, while on the phone with my best friend, to get another pregnancy test and make sure that it wasn’t a false positive. I took the test in the Walmart bathroom and got another smiley face (without sweat drops…). I remember laughing. I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, some people cry when they’re overwhelmed. I laugh. That nervous laugh when you’re not actually smiling. I decided I’d be excited. We would figure this out! We could do this! So I ran to the baby department and bought a cute little gender neutral, koala bear baby bathrobe and a pregnancy book, checked out, and put it in a gift bag for Josh. I wasn’t planning to get pregnant (and don’t ask how it happened or I’ll give you all the raunchy details to put shame to that ridiculous question that has plagued unexpected pregnancies from the beginning of time…) so I didn’t have a lot of time to plan a fun and exciting pregnancy announcement to my husband or parents.

When Josh opened the bag and saw the ridiculous grin on my face he said, “are you serious?” And not the oh-my-gosh-I’m-so-happy-and-filled-with-joy-at-the-thought-of-our-impending-parenthood “are you serious?” It was more the I-don’t-have-a-job-and-am-so-scared-I-could-puke-and-have-never-held-a-baby-and-feel-so-unprepared-are-my-eyes-watering-with-fear-filled-tears “are you serious?”. I’m pretty sure my response was, “Hey. I wasn’t planning this either and I don’t need this right now.” And there we stood. Totally terrified.

I still had a year left of school, including my final semester of student teaching. Josh didn’t have a job and was violently shoved into a full-time job of job hunting and applying at employment agencies. I started filling out paperwork for Badger Care (Wisconsin’s version of Medicaid) as Josh’s lack of employment and my full-time student status granted us zero maternity benefits. And, soon, I felt very excited for the arrival of our son. I couldn’t wait to meet his face. I was no longer afraid. I was prepared, so I thought. I knew that we could do this. I knew that we could figure it out. I knew that God would provide somehow. And He did. Josh got a job with benefits. We got a great 3 bedroom apartment for super super cheap. We received a lot of wonderful gifts and hand me downs for Emery. And my school allowed me to work extra hard with my student teaching so I could be done once Emery was born and still graduate. It was all falling into place.

During my entire pregnancy I planned to go back to work when Emery was six weeks old. There was no other option in my mind. I only had one friend, that I know of, who had a stay at home mom growing up. It was totally unfamiliar to me. We also didn’t have the best finances for me to be staying at home. I think Josh was making something like $12 an hour and we were spending around $400 a month for health insurance. It just couldn’t add up. The moment Emery was born, though, math didn’t matter. Logic and reasoning were sucked away. There was no room for that in my heart any longer. I took one look at him and determined that there was not a single person on this planet that could possibly love him as much as I do and, therefore, could not care for him as well as I could. My fears of not paying bills on time were replaced with fears of child abuse, neglect, and accidents. I spent six weeks dreading going back to work until I was set that I wouldn’t do it. I would be a stay at home mom (SAHM).

I had no clue what I was in for. I had no idea what kind of effect those words would have on other people and how many emotions they would bring up. I’ve received so many reactions from others that it is astounding. Some examples of responses I’ve received include: “good for you!”, “Oh, I did all that AND worked 40 hours a week.”, “I wish I could afford to do that!”, “I could never do that. I’d get bored.”, “I could never do that. I don’t have the patience.”, “oh I wish I had done that.”, “we couldn’t afford to have done that.” The list goes on and on. And these responses are what has incited this entire post.

First off, let me just get any ideas that I think “working moms” (as if I do no work as a SAHM) are bad parents out of the way. This is 100% not true! So before I get some nasty hate mail about how I’m insensitive to the parent who needs or wants to have a full time job, let me just tell you to take a 24 hour breather, vent to your spouse or other friend about it, and then don’t email me about it. Because that is definitely not my sentiment and I will not defend myself against something I did not say or mean. I think that “working moms” have challenges and experiences that I don’t understand and moms who stay at home have a whole different set of experience and challenges that “working moms” don’t. We all have something to bring to the table.

So…on with the show…

To you who are a stay at home mom let me say that I am there with you! Every night as I lay in bed awake with one of my kids I am praying for you. I know that you’re working hard and days of rest don’t exist. I know how precious each minute of sleep is when you have little ones. I know how it can feel like it is never going to get easier….and at the same time pains you to watch your children grow older and older and need you less and less. You aren’t alone. I’m totally with you when your child says, “ugh!! Could you just knock it off?!” to his little brother or sister in the most irritated and frustrated tone and you don’t have to wonder where he got that from. You know he got it from you. I’m there with you when you watch your baby take his first steps, and there with you when you’re crying on the first day of school. I’m there with you when you’re curled up on the bedroom floor crying because you lost it and yelled at your kids in a manner that no child should hear and you believe they’ll never forgive you…and you’ll never forgive yourself. I’m there when you’re desperate for a break. You just want to eat one meal that has been cooked in the last hour in peace and quiet. I’m there with you when the kids have taken every single thing out of you today and you are on empty…and they’re somehow still asking for more. I’m there when your little one does something sweet like holding the door open for you or wrapping his arms around your neck in love and affection…making it all worth it! I’m so there. I so get it! I often feel like being a SAHM is like running a marathon. It’s expensive. Often feels like torture. You have to give more when you have nothing left. But you have an incredible amount of joy when you’ve met your goal. Oh…and you get paid in stickers for your car.

To those who have had gracious and supportive conversations with me or another SAHM, let me say, “THANK YOU!” We are infinitely grateful to you for your kindness and support. You probably already know how much we need to hear that. I think the most kind words I’ve ever heard from someone came from an ex-teacher of mine. At the time I had two boys. I went to visit her at my old high school when I happened to be in town. She said, “wow! I stayed at home with my first son. Once my second was born I decided to go back to work. Being a stay at home mom was too hard and I found working full time to be easier.” Now, again, I’m not saying that this would be every working mother’s sentiment. What I appreciated was her recognition that my job is hard. I appreciated her telling me that I am strong! At the time I was really struggling through some parenting challenges and desperately needed someone to validate how difficult my job was rather than brushing it away. I’ve shared this same feeling with moms who homeschool their children. Holy cow! That is such a tough job. I could never be a homeschooling mom because it is so much work! Some of the most intelligent and wise people I know were homeschooled and I often feel they received a much more practical education than I did. It takes a whole gamut of skills that I just simply don’t possess. Your time, dedication, organization…all is way beyond me and I applaud you for it! I wish that I has those same qualities that you have.

Now, I realize there are some women who cannot afford to be a stay at home mom. Technically I can’t either. I have an amazing support system, though, which has allowed us to do this for such a short time in my childrens’ lives. I want to encourage those moms who cannot stay home and wish they could. You are a great mom! You are not doing a disservice to your children. You are working with what you’ve got and I’m sure you’re making every moment of it count!

For the moms who don’t stay at home and don’t want to: kudos to you too! It is better for you to do what you feel led to do than to feel bullied or pressured into staying home. If that isn’t what you want to do, then don’t do it! You’re no less of a mom for it. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids or that your priorities aren’t straight. It is you and what is best for you and your family. This isn’t 1898. You can work if you want to and don’t need to provide a reason or excuse. You want to work. Good! Do that!

Now, that I’m pretty sure I’ve covered my bases and genuinely shown that I support any mother (or father) regardless of their status as a working or “not working” (a phrase I loathe but will use for simplicity’s sake) parent, I can start a little bit of myth busting.

First on my list is the “I did all of that AND worked 40 hours a week” comment. Now, at the risk of being superfluous, I will say again that I completely support moms who have full time jobs. I sincerely do. Just don’t ever ever EVER tell a SAHM that you did her job plus yours. Would you tell that to your daycare provider? “Hey! I did everything you did today and I worked at the office as well!” I doubt it, because she probably wouldn’t ask you back as a customer. Also, please tell me how you managed to be like Hermione Granger and be in two places at once to be more productive because that is, truly, a useful trick! If you didn’t manage to be in two places at once and break all laws of time and space, then don’t ever say that again. You did not change every diaper, administer every bit of medicine, do every nap, referee every fight, pee with someone staring you in the face asking what you were doing while holding a crying baby, have your children throw a temper tantrum in your office because you didn’t do exactly what they wanted you to do at that moment… You did not do everything I do each day AND work a full time job. Maybe you did those things for a few hours in the evening or on the weekends when you were at home. But you didn’t do it all day every day. Promise. You simply didn’t. This isn’t to undermine you and your job and make mine sound better or more difficult than yours. It is to simply tell the truth and call out those who undermine SAHMs as if our job really doesn’t exist. I don’t say, “oh, I worked 40 hours a week outside of the home AND was a stay at home mom,” because it isn’t true.

Another pet peeve of mine is the, “I’d be so bored” comment or anything to that effect (other thoughts may include “not challenging enough for me” or “too mundane” or “not enough excitement and change”). It is usually followed by a “no offense” so as to make any response other than “none taken” null and void and you immediately turn into a dramatic, hyper sensitive overreactor. I get it. Being a stay at home mom isn’t for everyone and it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science (or any degree for that matter…). I get that I’m not sitting at a desk solving the world’s problems. I know that my vocabulary has exponentially decreased and it takes me much longer to form a thought than it did when I was in college, but I am far from bored. I am not stupid or uneducated. My job as a stay at home mom may not be the most intellectually challenging job, but I’d be hard-pressed to find many other jobs that are as challenging in character. Every day I am screamed at, hit/bit/or kicked, and trying my hardest to raise loving, responsible, intelligent, and sensitive children all with no pay, little thanks, and little to show for it at the end of each day with the hopes that it will pay off in the long run. (Not to mention that it is my responsibility to do the majority of the cleaning and housework, grocery shopping, bill paying, and budgeting for our home…). And, just to take it a step further, would you say this to your daycare provider (who likely has a degree in early childhood education)? Can you imagine her response when you tell her that her job doesn’t require much as far as brains and energy? Can you imagine how you’d feel if she said, “Wow. I’d be so bored sitting at a desk all day” (not to say that all working moms sit at desks…). How might an accountant feel if I said something like, “oh, I could never be an accountant. Numbers are so boring and, seriously have no long term impact. No offense.”?? (I couldn’t be an accountant, though…but because I’m terrible at math beyond basic algebra…). And, before I get a bunch of emails about this one from angry (or sorry) people who have expressed this sentiment to me or another SAHM in the past…let me kindly ask you to save it. I don’t need to hear an apology or an angry email…and neither do your other SAHM friends. I’d ask the same of you as I mentioned previously. Take a breather for a day. Think about it. Share your feelings with someone else. And I’d ask you to consider changing your thought process on the subject…and next time the words feel like they’re going to slip from your mouth, just say, “I’m not a SAHM because I don’t want to be.” You don’t have to list out the reasons as to why my job doesn’t meet your needs. Your not wanting to is just fine. It is OK to not want to be a SAHM. I don’t want to be a lot of things. That’s why I don’t do them. It isn’t because they’re beneath me or above me. I just don’t want to do them. End of story.

I love being a stay at home mom. Each day, while the same in many ways, presents itself with new challenges. Every day I need to keep my wits about myself. I need to remember that I’m doing this for the long term. I’ve given up a lot to stay home. I know that these years are short. This is what I feel called to do. Not everyone feels this way. And that is OK. I look forward to the day when I can go back to a full time job outside of the home. For now, I will appreciate my status as a stay at home mom. If you meet a SAHM today, give her a hug and tell her how she’s a hard worker and doing a great job! She probably doesn’t hear it often enough.

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Thoughts on Parenting

I have a love-hate relationship with Miriam Webster’s definition of parenting:
Parenting: the process of taking care of children until they are old enough to take care of themselves : the things that parents do to raise a child
“The process…” Parenting is definitely a process…an ever changing process. One day you’re doing a great job and feel like super-mom. The kids are all dressed, clean, fed, well-behaved, and reading books about shapes and colors like the little geniuses they are. You feel like they’re God’s gift to the world. The next day the kids are running rampant. They’re throwing tantrums, kicking random people in the grocery store (ask my dad about that one…), coloring on your walls, pooping on your carpet, and you feel like aliens have invaded and clearly have taken over your home. You find yourself curled up on the shower floor crying and repeating “I just want to go to bed” over and over and over again because you’re totally and completely depleted physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually…there’s just nothing left but a good cry. And your kids are standing there naked in the shower with you because they’d likely kill each other if you took your eyes off of them. Congrats, mom. You just successfully demonstrated a meltdown to your kids. Fail. And you do all of this so that they can hate you when they’re teenagers and tell you how unfair you are and how much you’ve ruined their lives…yah. *eyeroll*

Becoming a parent is a process. You don’t just wake up one day and become a parent. I mean…you could argue that the day your child is born or conceived is the day you become a parent. But “parenting” isn’t just the act of having a baby. It is the act of taking care of that child until they can do it on their own.

Here’s where the “hate” part of this definition comes in: “until….” So you are parenting “until…” I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m 28 years old and my parent still are parenting. It may be different than it was 20 years ago, but they’re still parenting. And “until..” “Until they are old enough to take care of themselves…” But when the heck is that?? Human babies are some of the most helpless creatures on Earth. And I’ve met some adults who are pretty helpless too. And who decides? What qualifies as taking care of oneself? And what if they have kids and choose not to take care of them? Then your grandPARENTING.

Really, it comes down to a lifelong commitment. When you decide you’re going to be a parent, you take the highs, lows, and maybe even the highs and lows of your grand kids. It doesn’t end. You’ve decided that, for the rest of your life, the first person you’re going to consider in the morning is no longer yourself…it is your kid and his/her well being. You’ve committed to countless sleepless nights when they’re young because they need you…and when they’re old because they don’t. You’ve chosen to forgo all that makes you comfortable that someone else might be comfortable instead.

Yesterday I was talking to someone and he said, “Man, I’m so tired. When I get home I’m going to crash. I’m going straight to bed. I’ve been up since 4:30 this morning.” I totally get it. It is so hard to function when you’re tired. I remember when I’d put in an 8 hour day, then work a night shift as a waitress, get home, sleep, and get up at 4am for another day’s work. It was exhausting. I also remember when I could look forward to bedtime…look forward to the weekend or the next major holiday and get a day off. I laughed and said, “oh. I’d love to say that too”, as I gestured toward Miles, “I sleep when he says I can sleep.” He laughed and said, “and THAT is why we do not have kids yet. I still want [me] time.”

He went on to tell how a friend of his said something like, “you know those parents that have a few kids and they just seem to hate their lives…???” This may sound awful, but I get it! I totally get it! 90% of the time you’re watching those parents out in public. They’re walking around WalMart with a cart full of kids who are screaming because they want to walk, grabbing things off the shelves when you’re not looking, hitting each other, hitting you, and there’s not much you can do about it because you’re in public. Yeah. I hate my life in those moments. I HATE when my kids don’t listen to me. I HATE having to discipline them. I hate not getting to sleep, shower, eat, or even pee by myself. I hate those things. I also hate how I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be ten years ago. I was not planning on being a 28 year old of 3 boys who hasn’t had a “real job”…well, ever! (I hardly think part-time and seasonal jobs through high school and college count). I hate how under appreciated parents are. I hate the nasty looks I get when my newborn is crying in the store. I hate how people whine when I get on an airplane…how I’m suddenly avoided like a leper. I hate how I always smell like spit up and dirt. I hate that I can’t just shut it all off for a day. Even if I was to get away, I’d still be thinking about my kids and feeling guilty for even having the desire to take a break. I hate that I don’t get a coffee break, lunch break, potty break…

I LOVE getting kisses, though. I love the hugs. I love kissing away tears. I love hearing “I love you, mommy.” I love morning (afternoon and evening…) cuddles. I love when my kids suddenly do something I’ve been trying to teach them forever! I love hearing stories about how Emery reached out to a little boy at school who didn’t seem to have anyone to play with, “my name is Emery. What’s your name?” I love when Levi says, “I missed you, Emmy!” I love when they ask to hold Miles. I love watching them grow and celebrating their birthdays and all they teach me about life and love. I love being a mommy. It isn’t easy. It isn’t glamorous. The pay sucks. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I have a love-hate relationship with parenting. But I wouldn’t give it up for the world. My kids mean so much more to me than I could ever express and I am so grateful for this gift.

As a parting gift, here are some funny videos about kids and parenting…
Mr. Universe 4 Kids

Tim Hawkins Parenthood

Welcome Baby Miles!

I’m not sure I’m completely ready to write out my birth story just yet.  I’m too close to it to really be able to look back and reflect on the day.  However, I figured I would write the basics about what happened and how it went.

It is more common for first time moms to head to the hospital or birth center only to be sent home with the news that they’re not in labor or that they’re not far enough and need to come back later.  Things are always a little more muddy with mommies who have already done this before.  New mommies aren’t always sure what to expect, so they often go in during false labor or Braxton Hicks contractions.  I had been having contractions on and off for a long time as my body geared up for the real deal.  But when the real deal started I wondered if this could really be it.  I kinda thought it might be false labor.

I woke up with some pretty nasty back pain in the morning and had contractions on and off throughout the day.  We had several plans for the day including taking our van in to the shop for the AC, grocery shopping (thank God we did this when we did), plans for Josh to see a movie with a friend while his wife & I hung out with the boys, and cookout and games afterward.  The guys left for their movie at about 2:15.  Around 4:00 or so my contractions started to get so intense that I decided to download a contraction tracker on my iPad to help me calculate if they were really coming as often and sticking around as long as I thought they were.  I tried not to let Cece on to what was going on.  I didn’t want to startle her if it was nothing.  However, they were getting painful enough that I couldn’t really talk through them.  The guys got back to the house after the movie around 6:00 or so and we fired up the grill.  I told Josh that I had been keeping track of my contractions but wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  They were a little irregular, but very intense.

At about 6:20 I decided to call Cherish and Lori, my midwives, to see what they thought.  To my surprise, there was another mommy who was having a baby at the Birth Center, so they couldn’t leave to come to my birth at home.  So they asked if I would be willing to pack up my stuff and head to the Birth Center and, potentially, forego my plans for a home birth (which would have turned into an unassisted birth).  I was fine with that.  I mean, of course I wanted to be in my own home, but the Birth Center is comfortable and quiet and a really great alternative…and certainly better than an unassisted birth.

We arrived at Ancient Paths in Chino at 7:15pm.  Everything was so quiet.  A mommy had just given birth to her little boy in another room.  My contractions were definitely getting closer and feeling more intense.  Cherish sat down and asked me some questions.  They prepared a room for me to get comfortable (seriously…better than a hotel), and decided to check me out and see if we were dilated.  Sure enough, I was at 4-5cm and Lori said, “you’re not going anywhere.”

I was pretty uncomfortable so I climbed in the big, beautiful, white, claw foot soaker to take some of the pressure off.  My friend, Christian, arrived not long after to assist me as a doula for the birth.  I soaked in the tub and dreaded each contraction, but Christian, my midwives, and Josh were all very encouraging.  There was a CD of instrumental hymns that was playing in the background.  Some of my favorites helped me to concentrate through the contractions.  Softly and Tenderly, The Old Rugged Cross, He Walks With Me…humming them or thinking the words along to the songs and remembering specific people that I associate with each song.  The Old Rugged Cross was a favorite of my grandpa Huisheere, so it made me think about how excited he would be to see the two great grandsons that he didn’t get to meet…and how I am so thankful that I will see him again someday.  He Walks With Me was sung at the funeral of the friend whom I posted about in a previous post.  It is such a beautiful song and every time I hear it I think of Stephanie and what a beautiful life she lived.  It made me remember to truly cherish this birth and my children.  Softly and Tenderly is not a well-known hymn, but I have a favorite A’Capella group that sings it and it reminded me of all the times that it has brought me peace knowing that Jesus is waiting for us and calling for us to come to Him.  Not everyone loves hymns…but I do.  Each one brought me peace in some way…or at least gave me something to focus on.

Probably around 8:15 or so I had a contraction and told Christian that I felt like I needed to push on that one.  She calmly said, “Let’s try not to do that just yet.  Just breathe through it for now,” and told Lori what I had said.  Just a few moments later Lori and Cherish were there.  I realized I was still in the tub and a big part of me wanted to get out.  I had no desire to deliver in a tub before, but standing wasn’t going to be an option at this point either.  So, out went that plan.  But I really didn’t care.  Each contraction grew more and more painful and I thought to myself, “I totally get why people want epidurals.”  As I pushed I could tell that we were getting closer to being done…but as most women can attest, every moment feels like an eternity.  So I was also feeling a little bit of frustration and wanted so badly to cry…but I couldn’t.  Lori reassured me that we were almost there, his head was coming, and asked if I wanted to touch it.  “No,” I responded  quickly.  In my mind I was thinking, “I just want to get him out.  I don’t want to touch…it will hurt to touch.”  I probably pushed through 4 contractions or so and he was out!  8:32 pm…just over an hour after we arrived at the birth center.

It wasn’t over, though.  He had come out still in the sack.  My water had broken, but it never came away from him.  Also, his umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around his neck.  I didn’t see that part because they’re so quick to remove it, but I heard about it later.  All I knew was that he was out, he was cold, blue, and not breathing…but I also saw that he was kicking, which gave me hope.  They quickly placed him on my chest and started rubbing his back.  They grabbed a little oxygen bag and mask to help get him going.  I just kept whispering, “Please breathe.  Please breathe. Please breathe.”  It was probably only seconds, but felt like forever.  His first cry was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.  “Thank God.”  I could breathe now that he was breathing.

Cherish and Lori grabbed some warm blankets and covered him up as he lay there on me still attached to the umbilical cord.  Now, I’ve read articles about the importance of delayed cord clamping, but now I got to experience it firsthand.  I was able to watch as his little blue body quickly turned more pink.  His body filling up with oxygenated blood.  The lack of chaos in the room when he wasn’t breathing…all because he was still receiving oxygen from me.  It bought him some time and it really helped him to gain his color quickly.  He even latched on right away–within minutes of being born.  Lori noticed that he had a little blister on his hand, probably from sucking it so much in the womb.  Sure enough…he was sucking on that little fist later.

My friend, Jen, had been waiting outside the door while labor came to a close.  I was sad that she missed it, but she got to hear what was happening.  :-). It was nice to see her and get some support and encouragement from her.  She wasn’t able to stay long as she had her husband and daughter waiting outside for her.  But I know that she would have been there the whole time if she had the chance.

We decided the water was a little chilly (I generally don’t like baths and I get overheated easily…so the water was not very hot) for Miles so it was time to pull him out, wrap him in warm towels, and get cleaned up.  After that, it was just warming up and cuddling…periodic temp checks and blood pressure checks, the newborn screening…etc.  So peaceful to get to lay in a comfy bed and hold my precious little Miles.

The only thing that was sad was that I had really wanted Emery and Levi to be able to see their baby brother sooner after he was born.  I missed them and wanted to hold them and tell them how much I love them.  So a little after 10pm I was able to talk on the phone with Emery before he went to bed.  I told him that he would meet Miles in the morning and that I couldn’t wait to see him.

At about 12:15pm we left the birth center…a happy, and even more complete family.  We got home a little before 1am and climbed into bed and all got some rest.

So far, I am doing a lot better emotionally than I was after Levi was born.  I fully believe that having the ability to be home with my family in a peaceful environment shortly after delivery is a key for me.  I love my kids and being away from them breaks my heart.  No, not everything went as planned.  But so far that really doesn’t bother me.  Two weeks ago Cherish and I were going over my birth plan.  One of the questions was “What is the worst thing you can think of happening during labor & delivery” or something to that effect.  My answer was “die.”  Beyond that, nothing else really mattered.  My notes said that I wanted it to be a calm, supportive environment without chaos, bright crazy lights and panicking nurses or doctors.  I just wanted it to be as peaceful as possible.  And, all things considered, it was.  I am beyond pleased with my choice to home birth…and ultimately deliver in a birth center.  The tub didn’t kill me…and was pretty comfy for a while.  I got to go home to see my boys and sleep in my own bed.  I felt the kind of love, support, and care from the women who were there for Miles’ birth that I didn’t get at the hospitals with my other two boys.

Now…to talk Josh into getting a vasectomy… :-)