Friday, July 8, 2016

An Open Letter to My Son

Sweet Boy,

I would be remiss if I gave you the impression that I have sufficient cultural competency to tread these waters safely. I don't. My few attempts at stepping out on this subject have been fraught with imperfections. If you want a treatise on racial, economic, and criminal statistics, I'm not your person. But I am your mother, and what's going on in the world you're growing up in, is important. I hate knowing that some of your friends are more likely to die of violent causes than others, on the basis of skin color alone. And as your mom, nothing puts me into an emotional tailspin more than thinking of me losing you, or of you losing me.

Right now, you are delighted when you see a police car with sirens on. You love all things with wheels and motors and flashing lights. How could you know that these first two years of your life have been fraught with media coverage regarding the deteriorating relationship between men of color and white officers wearing blue?

At weddings, they often say, "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder." I keep thinking of that line today. In the last week, two black men and one Latino man have been killed via situations and methods that could be classified as police brutality. Last night, unrelated snipers retaliated by killing 5 officers at an otherwise peaceful protest several states removed from the previous crimes. That's 8 men who will never take another breath on this earth.

Noah, never forget that every human being is an image-bearer of God, knit together by the creator of the world, body and soul. None of us can claim the right to tear the body from the soul on the basis of our fear of the "other."

In an interview with Maya Angelou, the interviewer said, "It's very hard to hate someone if you look them in the eye and recognize them as a human being." Angelou responded, "Ah! You must add that: 'And recognize them as a human being.' Because people have lynched people, and people threw people in gas ovens, and they were looking them in the eye. But in order to empathize, you have to accept that 'this person is as human as I.' Once you do that, it's very hard to impose cruelty on another human being."

Fear feeds fear. Anger fuels anger. Violence leads to more violence. But love? Love begets love. Do I think that world peace is literally attainable? Not really. Not on this side of salvation history, where earth is filled with imperfect people, each and every one of us.

But will I hope and pray and work toward a cultural revolution in this country, beginning in our home? I have to. I want you to grow up in a nation where black lives matter. I say this not to the exclusion of others. Of course all lives matter. But the violence in today's news has reached a fever pitch and my heart is so heavy.

Of COURSE all lives matter. Of COURSE I want to watch the news without actually witnessing another soul depart from this world. Of COURSE I want to feel safe at the playground, sending you to school, flying on an airplane. Of course.

And of course I mourn with our black friends, and police families, and moms who lose babies at the Happiest Place on Earth, and babies who lose moms to the ills of this world. I'm scared. I'm scared that somehow I will quite literally be caught in the crossfire of hatred. I'm also scared because my full-time job is with you, raising the next generation of white middle class male, and the stakes are high.

Noah, you can make a difference. Two thousand years ago, an apostle named Paul told us to gird ourselves with the belt of truth. Roman soldiers donned their belts before all else, to support their core, to aid in endurance, to prevent injury, and to bear the weight of their other tools for protection and defense. At the end of the day, you can and must filter the truths of this world through the sieve of the Gospel truth. And that truth is love.

Sweet boy, let your love stay genuine. "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."

Romans 12 goes on to say,
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty... Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil... If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Noah, I don't want you to have to grow up in this racial hotbed. But I don't want you growing up 'colorblind' either. I want your life to be filled with vibrant colors, lending you a life that's richer for the depth of its hues.

Hold fast to what's good.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Toddler Favorites

I'm trying to catch up on blogging, and I realized it's been a long time since I posted my favorite things. Of course, with toddlers,  you've entered the land of preferences, so things can vary enormously. But here are some essentials that we use daily, or at least weekly.

-Toddler carrier-- we have a Beco one, but there's no magic brand here. It depends on the size of your kiddo, and what's most comfortable for you. But I've used this more than I thought I would: at church, in the grocery store, and at home on really cranky afternoons when I just need to make dinner without "help".

-Stroller-- we still use this daily in warm weather. In hindsight, I wish we had a model with hand brakes since we live in a hilly area. But at the very least, something with real tires (instead of plastic wheels), a tripod setup (instead of 4 wheels), and an easy folding mechanism will not be a waste of money if you like walks. We were generously gifted with a Baby Jogger City Mini GT that we use for our daily walks, and we scored an Uppa Baby umbrella stroller at a consignment sale, which is great for keeping in the car to use at the zoo and whatnot.

-Community center membership-- we used some Christmas money to join the community center near us, and it was essential for our winter blues. Their indoor pool is phenomenal, but Noah also tolerates their childcare because they have an indoor playground, so I was able to actually take 1-2 hours to workout, study, and/or relax 1-2 days a week in January, February, and March!

-Munchie Mug-- far and away the best snack container I've seen. Doesn't spill unless Noah is being very intentional about making a mess!

-WOW Sippy cups-- I wish we'd switched to these sooner. We LOVE them, they're better for Noah's suck pattern, AND they're completely dishwasher safe unlike most other sippys. Win/win/win. I got this 4-pack on Amazon, and it's the best price I've seen for these guys.

-Molar Muncher-- Noah never really took to a pacifier or other teethers, but he really likes this one now that his two-year molars are coming in!

-Sensory bin-- this is something that we're really just getting in to, and to be honest it's a learning curve as he learns not to make a mess, but a tupperware full of beans + a few measuring cups can really provide some good fun!

-Puddle Jumper-- Where were these when we were kids?! Less bulky than a lifejacket, but safer than inflatable water wings. They don't really start until 30 pounds, so Noah JUST fit into it, but we were surprised how much he loved it! He likes floating and swimming with it, and I like the added buoyancy when it's just the two of us in the water.

 -Hip Peas Shampoo and Body Wash-- This stuff is great. It makes Noah's hair and skin so clean and soft, and it smells so yummy. I've tried several natural and non-natural shampoos for him, and this is the only one that doesn't dry out his scalp.

-Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic-- Noah got hit with a decent illness every month this summer, and I finally bought some probiotics for him when he came down with a GI bug in March. I got these at Natural Grocer's, and LOVED them. They made a noticeable difference in his diapers... I'll just leave it at that. Runny poo is never fun, but it's especially frustrating when you're having to spray it out of cloth diapers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

This water

This water washed away my tears in 2011 and 2012 when I was totally unsure if my marriage was going to remain intact, and lap after lap, my anxiety turned to prayer turned to peace and exhaustion.

This water gave me a sense of purpose and achievement in 2013 when I was between jobs, and my last outdoor swim of the season that year was with a tiny little baby belly. A little piece of redemption in a place that had seen me through some of my darker times.

This water provided a welcome weightlessness for my postpartum body in all is cumbersome awkwardness in 2014. The silence and stillness was invaluable when I was able to get away from our still-under-construction house and reflux-y baby.

This water was the only place I found relief from lingering postpartum pelvic pain in 2015, and I also loved introducing Noah to my sweet summertime ritual here.

And it's happy to welcome me back again this summer. Always ready to refill my thirsty soul with water and light. I take Noah to another pool right now, due to nap times and whatnot, so this pool is all mine again. A reminder of who I am when I'm not answering to "Mama," and a way to refresh myself before going back to the job of mom that I dearly love.

Overly philosophical? Maybe. A little slice of heaven on earth? Absolutely.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Day in the Life with a 2 Year Old

Yesterday was kind of crummy. Noah and I had lots of meltdowns, so I intentionally set out to make today awesome! I'm learning that there are 3 ingredients to a good day, but it takes time and energy to make the effort:

1. Start with quiet time
2. Get out of the house
3. Get to bed early

This doesn't happen every day, but when it does... we have way more fun!

0615: Noah is awake, babbling in his crib. I turn the volume down on the monitor and roll over for a few more minutes.

0630: Time to get up! Ross gets Noah and gives him a sippy cup of hemp milk while I assemble breakfasts (banana + homemade muffin for Noah).

0645-0715: I retreat to the office/playroom to have some quiet time with the Bible and my Armor of God workbook for the Bible Study that started this week. Ross and Noah play and read books and eat breakfast in the kitchen and living room.

0730-0815: Noah and I take a morning walk. One of my favorite traditions, and I'm so excited it's walking season again!

0830: Drive to a coffee shop in Lenexa to sell some cloth diapers to a fellow mama. Noah starts pointing to the coffee shop and crying, "muppy!" I haven't been to this coffee shop since I was pregnant, but somehow he knows there are delicious things inside. I realize it's been way too long since our last muppy date, so we go inside to enjoy some wheat-free treats  (for both of us) and some iced coffee (for me).

0915: Pool time! We driving back to our part of town to go to Kiddie Pool Playtime at out local pool. I made the mistake of telling Noah we were going to walk, then sell diapers, then swim this morning, and he's been pretty insistent on "swimming" for the last two hours.

0930-1115: So much fun at the pool.

1130-1200: Home for lunch. Super proud of Noah for leaving the pool like a big kid without crying. We were hungry for lunch! He ate some roast beef, gluten-free toast, and carrots (with dairy-free Ranch to dip, because everything's better when you can dip it).

1210-1245: I nurse Noah for 15 minutes and he falls asleep in my arms, which is my fave. I snuggle with him, filled with gratitude for our adventures today and in the past two years. We've come a long way.

(picture: 2 weeks into out breastfeeding journey // 2 weeks before weaning)

1315: I put him in his crib and sit down to start this post, eat a snack, and catch up on older blog posts.

1415: Noah is awake and singing, "Rain, rain, go away" to himself. Not gonna lie, I was REALLY hoping for an epic nap after the busy morning we had!

1430: Noah eats some of his lunch leftovers while I try to brainstorm what the heck we are going to do for the next 4 hours until Ross gets home! I decide to head to the diaper store to get a few things I've been needing.

1525: Finally leave the house 1 handful of GF pretzels, 1 apple, 1 sippy cup of hemp milk, 1 dirty diaper, 1 tantrum, and 3 rounds of a Clifford board book later.

1600-1700: We socialize, play, and shop at the diaper store, enjoying the change of scenery.

1730: Leftovers for everyone for dinner! Dinners I don't have to make are the best :-)

1845: Bath, story, snuggles, and bed for Noah. A little early because we had such a busy day.

1900-2115: Small group with friends! Love this girl time.

2230: Read in bed for a bit, and then sleep!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Here I Raise my Ebenezer

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the Lord has helped us.' 1 Samuel 7:12

The date was supposed to be June 20 (2016)-- exactly one week after Noah's due date of June 13 (2014). I would've been 38.1 weeks pregnant today. I went into labor with Noah at 38.4 and had him at 38.5 weeks.


I'm really anxious for it to get here. So much life has happened in the last 9 months, but it's hard not to remember how much life hasn't happened. It's been, quite literally, a pregnant pause. I don't feel like I've dwelt unnecessarily on this day, but as Noah's birthday approached, I couldn't help but know that this day was approaching as well.

I think it's affected me more than I realized. I've always been the hurry up and wait type. Like, I get all worked up for this milestone or that birthday or these anniversaries, and find myself disappointed that life didn't turn into rainbows and butterflies once the obstacle was behind me. This week was no exception.

Ross has been working his butt off on a long to-do list, finishing the last 15% of a whole bunch of house projects for Noah's party this past weekend, and it's safe to say I've been in panic mode about it. Really nitpicky. Mean. Not fun to live with. But it HAD to get done. And it wasn't until I was in tears at midnight on Friday night that I realized... I need closure. I need to feel like we brought our first baby home to an eventually safe place, and to have that whole lost season of chaos behind me. And I need to feel like we did THIS baby justice. Even though we aren't bringing him or her home, I want to feel like WE COULD HAVE. Like the house is READY.

Last fall, I was so worried I wouldn't be able to bond with Noah, to study for my IBCLC exam, to finish the house, in time for this baby's due date. But we did!

And oh, the house. I feel petty talking about it, and I'm sure my bitterness comes through even when I'm trying to make jokes. Is it a first world problem? Heck yes. If I could do it differently, would I? Heck yes. Don't buy a fixer-upper at 28 weeks pregnant. It seemed like a grand adventure at the time, but after the wilderness we'd been through in the years prior to getting pregnant with Noah, I really should've used my third trimester to rest, to recover, to prepare. To draw inward and nest and connect. Not to work two jobs, sometimes both in the same 24 hour period without sleep. Not to come "home" to a suitcase in a relative's bedroom. Not to avoid the actual house we bought because the sights and sounds of a construction site instead of a home filled me with a deep sense of panic and loss of control.

There's still a lot of work to do, but we worked right up to the start of the party, and for the first time ever, our house has a DONE list! Every room except the laundry room has walls, paint, trim, no exposed wood putty... It's amazing. The sense of relief I felt after Noah's party was palpable and surprising, even to me. His party was a birthday party and a housewarming party and a "welcome back to the land of the living" party. I feel like it was a tangible chance to get some closure on his tumultuous newborn days. An Ebenezer stone for where we've been and where we're going. We can move forward into toddlerhood with one baby. We can graciously say goodbye to what could have been with the other.

I don't need rainbows and butterflies now. I just want to make it to Saturday, take a deep breath, and move into Sunday. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Fierce Flourishing

I joined MOPS* back in August and I was kind of stressed about the first meeting. It meant Noah was going to miss a nap. Let's just say that in general, I don't handle change well, and in the throes of postpartum anxiety and new motherhood, I REALLY didn't handle change well. But I went. And I haven't looked back once.

The MOPS theme this year was A Fierce Flourishing, and oh, how I needed to hear that was possible. Even though I'd had my child 15 months prior, I was really only just realizing the depths of my postpartum pain and anxiety. I've spent a lot of time and money since then, trying to make progress in both, and I've seen plenty of ups and downs there. But you know what gave me the most freedom this past year? The most relief? Being in a room full of other moms. Seeing that no two are alike but all of us love our children fiercely. All of us are horribly afraid of 'failing' as a mom, whatever that looks like. All of us have struggles. And never once did I feel judged when I shared heavy thoughts, or cried, or vented about having a strong-willed child.

When the leaders introduced the theme at the first meeting, they read this year's verse to us: "For you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

It took all my willpower not to start crying then and there. The relief was palpable. Like a weight had been lifted. These words were like a balm to my heart. When I heard this, I'd been waking up each morning with a feeling of dread. With a heavy heart and the assurance that I couldn't possibly do this day all over again. The racing thoughts, the heart palpitations, the frequent night wake-ups with insomnia in between, the baby nap strikes, and always, always, the pain.

To be reminded that God calls us to JOY, and that he promises PEACE was exactly what I needed to hear. It got me to come home and open up my Bible and look to all the places where God reassures us that his promises are TRUE**. That this word does not go out and come back empty. In fact, that same chapter in Isaiah says that!

"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord.
'As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.'"
Isaiah 55:8-13 (emphasis mine)

I notice the twin threads of peace and joy everywhere now. The words stand out on any page. It's been funny to see how they've played out in the last 9 months. I got pregnant shortly after that first meeting, and when the panic overwhelmed me, I cried out, "how is this joy?!" I had just emerged from the newborn haze, I had a plan that felt manageable, and I was seemingly on the road to recovery. I was deeply fearful of how a pregnancy would impact that. But several friends were able to whisper, "there is joy here." And when I let go of my fear and my plans (again) and started to get excited about another baby, literally a bundle of joy from a good, good Father, we lost it. Again I cried, "how is this joy?!" And God rushed in with peace beyond understanding.

And now, as MOPS wraps up for the year, that's where I sit. Alternating between peace beyond understanding, and fear that I will do something to somehow ruin this peace. So yeah, I still have a ways to go.

This year, we focused on embracing rest, noticing goodness, and celebrating lavishly. Our devotional for the year notes that, "we become more ourselves when we celebrate, rest, and notice... and that looks a lot like flourishing." I LOVE that I can claim it fiercely. That I can take all my pent up anxiety and direct that energy into flourishing instead of floudering. Into activities that refresh me instead of drain me. And MOPS has absolutely been an activity that refreshed me from the inside out.

I'm so grateful to the MOPS ministry for reminding me of God's sovereign rule even as I adjust to this new role of motherhood. I looked forward to every single meeting, when I knew I would be able to rest in the presence of other adults and feel cared for. It has meant the world to me, and I'm so excited for next year!

*MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, but is actually available to anyone with children under the age of 5. I wish I'd joined when Noah was a baby!

**See Hebrews 10, 1 Thessalonians 5, Deuteronomy 7, 1 Corinthians 1

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mother's Day

What a funny holiday. I feel like I'm still in the new mom trenches enough to be learning the weight this job carries, and I'm hardly able to vocalize my gratitude to my mom, who did this x 4!

As for my own little family, it's been fun to start new traditions. Ross has been really good about utilizing my favorite love language (words of affirmation) to cheer me on and refuel my mothering tank. I love that. I love learning to accept compliments and grace, even though I have plenty more failures than successes in this parenting gig. I love that it's a new holiday for us, and not fraught with the pitfalls and failures and dashed hopes that have come with past birthdays and anniversaries.

I love the HILARIOUSLY excited face Noah made when he got to help me eat gluten-free donuts in bed this morning. I love the equally excited face he made when I opened the gift he made for me in Parent's Day Out. (And I really love the sweet photo album his teachers put together.)

I will say, though, one emotion caught me by surprise this year: sadness. Our pastor at church prayed for "all the moms who lost babies this year," and I found myself fighting tears for the rest of the day. Everyone's story is deeply personal, but the more time passes, the more comfortable I am sharing mine.

We miscarried a baby in the winter of 2009 and it took me a long time to grieve that loss. I finally started to process it a year before we got pregnant with Noah, and I spent the majority of the first trimester with him so anxious about every little thing going wrong.

Carrying and delivering Noah was a delight, and life with him is a grand adventure, to say the least! We got pregnant again last fall, and experienced a lot of highs and lows in the short 3 weeks between the first positive pregnancy test and the subsequent abrupt loss.

Among all my worries about having two kids under two, postpartum depression, pelvic pain... the one that didn't really cross my mind was fear of losing this baby. I was bigger and sicker than I ever was with Noah, and I guess I took his eventual full-term pregnancy for granted because I was genuinely shocked when I woke up one morning in October to signs of a miscarriage.

But even there, I found love. I was surprised and humbled by the support and care I received for a life that was so short. It meant the world to me. I grieved a lot of the milestones that come with the first 20 weeks. Since this baby's due date was so close to Noah's, I would be caught unaware with memories of announcing our pregnancy at Thanksgiving, feeling him kick for the first time on Christmas, and finding out we were having a boy during Restaurant Week and celebrating with a steak dinner.

But as the holidays ebbed away, so too, it seemed, did my grief. I noticed a quiet stillness in my heart. Welcome after months of panic attacks and sleepless nights and prolonged postpartum pain.

As spring comes, again catching me unaware is the memories of the burgeoning belly, the baby showers, the anticipation, the Braxton-Hicks. And I find myself mourning the loss of the baby even as I see God's lovingkindness woven throughout this baby's whole story. In wisdom and hindsight and what can only be Divine Intervention, I'm often filled with gratitude for a good, good Father.  Most days I'm well aware that God is a better parent than I will ever be, and that two of our babies are living in the presence of Goodness and Light and that's okay. I'm even happy about that, actually! But as we approach this little one's due date, the sorrow is creeping back in. Noah has legit baby FEVER and points them out everywhere. He asks for his friends all day long and I know he would love the company of an impending arrival.

But even here, on the days I'm frankly quite overwhelmed with Noah's sheer TODDLER-ness, I find comfort in knowing that maybe God knew I wasn't ready for two just yet. And yeah, there's a lot of guilt that comes with that comfort. It's not that I'm glad we miscarried. Not at all. But I'm glad God cares for me and knows what I need.

And I'm so very grateful that he made me a mother.