Thursday, February 28, 2019

on speaking up

Yesterday morning I wrote e-mails to state and city representatives while the big kids played in the snow and Harper watched and smacked the sliding glass door.

There is a bill being fast tracked this week regarding vaccines and medical freedom so I wrote a strongly worded e-mail about that to the members of the house health committee.

There is a hearing today and I live in the capital city so I'm trying to get brave and go. I'll have to bring all three kids, which is so difficult, but the wording and purpose of this bill is extremely concerning and vocal opponents need to be present.

After sending off those e-mails I wrote to the city librarian about the changes being made at the library.

The reference desk has been eradicated. Books are being culled at an alarming rate. Shelves are emptying, cut down to half their content.

As an avid reader and educator I'm appalled by the drive to promote popular reading materials (like bestsellers) over a strong core collection and specialized librarians.

It's so easy to get mad and stay mad about issues like this, but I'm finding it healthier to say my piece and give it to God.

He is in control.

I don't have to attempt to control or influence outcomes to make myself feel happy or safe.

Even if this bill passes we will be protected by God and so will our children.

Even if the library collection is reduced I will find a way to get my children books and materials. (I understand this is a privileged statement and that's why I'm fighting for a strong core collection at our library. Everyone should have access to free books.)

I went through a protest all the things phase in high school and early college. My convictions weren't strong, but it was different enough from what the majority of my classmates were doing to capture my attention.

Now my convictions are strong, but my time is limited. I might not be able to attend the hearing, but I can carve out twenty minutes to draft and send an e-mail. And then I can enjoy the rest of my day with the kids knowing I've said something; I haven't stayed quiet.

It's been a process to learn how to trust and live life with open hands, but I'm so glad I don't have to worry or be fearful of the outcome of today's hearing or whatever news tomorrow brings. Praise God for His hand on our lives.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019


On Saturday I had a post to write about a bereavement training speaking event and watching Tangled with my family. The first time I watched the movie was after Charlotte died and it was really hard to watch because I wanted my daughter back. Saturday I watched it surrounded by my children and I couldn't believe how much has changed in nine years.

Sunday we attended a small remembrance service for my grandmother followed by a dinner. On Monday I was ready to catch up on housework and laundry and prep for the homeschool week and finally write that post when we got our first call for a Safe Families placement (a non-governmental organization that provides temporary respite care to overwhelmed parents).

There were three young kids who needed a place to stay. Jonathan was home, only one night was needed and my solo time with six kids would be minimal so we said yes.

Now my brain feels tangled.

Guys, it was so intense and overwhelming.

My emotions were at the tip- top after Saturday and Sunday's events and then we were hit with that placement and we were running our feet off with six kids 7 and under.

Last night I slept on a mattress in Harper's room with three young kids in cribs and on mattresses all around me. We couldn't settle them any other way so I rocked the youngest and began singing. The older two knew 'Jesus Loves the Little Children' and 'Jesus Loves Me.' We sang round after round as they tried to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings.

Eventually they all slept. I got up a couple times during the night for back pats and soothing words, but for most of the night they slept.

There is so much pain in this world, but there's so much joy too. There's the pain of Charlotte's death and the joy of my living children. There's the sorrow of my grandmother's death and the joy of knowing she's in heaven. There's the sadness of broken families and the joy that comes in the dark when everything feels scary but little voices still sing about the love of Jesus. My hope is that even if they don't know Him they know His love and felt it in our home.

This morning I prayed, out loud, Jesus be near! as I felt overwhelmed and under prepared. He was. He is. I'm so thankful He loves us.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

cookies, jeggings, dreams

When Jon called at 7:15 this morning I thought, "He's going to surprise me with a day away!!!!!" completely ignoring the fact that I have a baby who has never taken a bottle in her life on my hands.

I was quickly brought back to reality when he asked if I'd seen his prison access badge on the dresser.

Oh. Not a day away. Reality and more reality. I still had to feed the kids and take them to swimming lessons and stay awake all day. The bright spot in the mundane is that tomorrow Ainsleigh doesn't have preschool so we can stay home all day!

I have a commitment on Saturday and Sunday this weekend. I keep praying, "Lord, help me not be an introverted monster Sunday evening when I hit the being with people wall."

I've also taken up sugar again for a couple days because it's Valentine's Day, I wanted sugar cookies and my Saturday engagement involves speaking about Charlotte.

I haven't done that in a long time. I'm hoping I manage more than, "I'm so tired ..." I bought these high waisted jeggings at Target that should help see me through. I was so mad that I couldn't find the leggings I wanted in my size, but there were oodles of jeggings. I came home, pulled them on and up to my neck and bam! jeggings convert.

This winter I am continually trying to find clothes I can wear as pajamas and clothing. Jeggings to bed followed  by skirt over jeggings in the morning equals a semi-put together mama who has put forth minimal effort.

I hear you can wear jeggings or leggings as pants, but I'm not there yet. I'm cold all. the. time. I need layers between me and the world.

We put the kids to bed early so we can watch a movie. I made a Valentine's Day treasure hunt for the kids and we had a good dinner together followed by a board game, but when Jon suggested early to bed for the big kids I said, Yes! Go, children! I love you, but go!

It's not a day away, but it is a small window of hopefully uninterrupted time. I'm going to enjoy it - and my cookies too. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

when you can't fix it

Ainsleigh had a field trip today. My attitude was not great. It hasn't been great for a few days. We're reading the Little House series right now and I'm realizing I would've died. I hate the cold. I don't have the wherewithal to make it through a long winter.

Why is February so hard? Every year I'm like, oh yeah, I hate you. You are a terrible month.

I had to do shuffling and hustling to make the morning work because Ainsleigh was determined to have me go with her on the field trip, which was to a pizza place.

We toured the kitchens, stood in the walk-in refrigerator, toured the blacklight mini-golf course, which was dark and full of skeletons - super fun with a group of preschoolers- and then ate pizza, which Ainsleigh doesn't eat. And then Ainsleigh cried (more on that in a minute) and we left early. 

It was the lamest field trip. I can usually get into things and make them educational and find the fun, but this was just silly.

When I first saw the field trip slip I said, "Oh great, a food one. "

The teacher overheard and said, "But we did it with Bennett!"

Yes, we sent a pizza he could eat, and it was all fine, but the work of doing that and figuring out how to keep it warm is so difficult and annoying.

Lately the kids haven't wanted pizza. When Jon and I get it for things like the Super Bowl the kids have us make something for them that they love like chips and cheese with a smoothie.

Days before the field trip I asked Ainsleigh if she wanted Jon to make her a pizza to try. It's been a long time since we've attempted one and I thought she might like it. She said no, we agreed on the special foods she would take, all was well.

Until she sat down with all of her friends and didn't have pizza.

I felt horrible.

She cried.

We left.

Truth is, she could probably have pizza, but she's been wheat and cow dairy free her whole life. We also don't let her have sugar because it gives her unpleasant symptoms and most commercial pizza sauces have sugar.

Much of our current diet was forced on us by Bennett's food allergies, but we do make some of our decisions based on health. 

That's why Jon and I cut cane sugar out. That's why we don't eat pasta. That's why we eat grass fed cheese and butter. That's why we don't drink cow milk.

If we want something like pizza we have it, but we don't let the kids because we're pretty sure it would make Bennett sick and we want them to have the best nutritional start in life possible. Most of the time we make sure they have something they really enjoy eating if we're treating ourselves to pizza or something like that. I didn't eat pizza today because I didn't want Ainsleigh to feel left out and we had a cheat day Sunday.

It didn't work. She still felt left out.

As we were driving home all I wanted to do was stop somewhere and buy her something. I didn't want to get her a food treat, but I wanted to erase her tears with a small trinket or a coloring book or a new shirt.

I clearly heard a voice telling me to keep driving, to resist the urge to use money to ease her pain.

As we drove over the bridge I asked Ainsleigh, "Do you want to see Grandad and Sasa?" (My in-laws were at the house watching the other kids.)

She smiled and nodded and I again heard the voice, "Let people be her comfort."

Not food.

Not material goods.

People who love her and will hug her and chase the tears away.

When Jon got home and asked Ainsleigh how the field trip was she said it was wonderful!

As the kids danced to music in the living room after dinner I unloaded the full story, including my feelings of sadness and frustration. He reminded me that I gave her the opportunity to have what everyone else was having- well a modified version - but she refused.

I said she obviously didn't know how it would feel until she was sitting there, but I don't know if that's true.

We're the family with snacks in our bags. We're the ones who say no thank you when cake is passed at parties. We're the ones who have treats for the kids in our pockets.

I have no idea what life will look like for them in five or ten years. I can't imagine them leaving the house and following our food rules. Probably they won't. Hopefully they don't have to. (We're entering another healing phase with Bennett. It's hard, but we've seen a lot of progress so we're all willing to keep going.)

I don't know what they'll eat when they leave our home, but I hope they'll have enough experience to know what fixes the hard days: prayer, love, hugs, people who know you and want the best for you. There's nothing wrong with buying something when you feel sad, or eating a cookie because you had a bad day, but I don't want that to be their first response. Find a friend, then get a cookie together.

Yesterday I lost my mind at the library with the kids and wanted to buy cookies at the store afterwards. I passed the section twice, but went home without them because the kids were watching. They knew I was frustrated and I didn't want them to see me put something I told them I'm only eating on special occasions in the cart because I was having a bad day. Plus they can't have them and they probably really wanted a cookie because mama was cranky. Again.

I have no idea if we're doing the right thing, but we are trying so hard. I hope the kids know how much we love them.

Monday, January 28, 2019

anxiety: what it's like

Yesterday I woke up thirty minutes late. Usually I can wake up when I want to without an alarm clock, but yesterday that didn't work out for me.

As I was rallying the troops to get ready for our big day in Portland (we were going to a play) Jon said, "The dog was in and out all night. I don't know what's going on with her."

My first - unvoiced - thought? The dog senses that the big earthquake is coming. We're all going to die.

You can't live in Oregon and not know about "the big one." A big earthquake off the coast will happen someday. We are woefully under prepared. Our houses, even this far inland, may collapse. We will be isolated and unable to access food for weeks. Etc. Etc. It's doomsday stuff.

And one article I read said pets will likely sense it first - like a three minute warning - so if your dog is restless maybe pay attention.

So the dog is restless means ...


We left the house on time somehow and drove to my parents to drop off Harper. As Jonathan drove North on I-5 I could sense my anxiety was trying to wrest control of my brain. I was starting to get spacey and having a hard time focusing.

I looked out the window and asked myself: what is the core? Is there a root? Can you find the source?

Tracing the anxiety to its start point is one of the most valuable things I learned in therapy.

Within seconds I thought, it's scary to leave Harper.

Ah. There it is.

That's why a restless dog had me fearing the end of days. Even though I read that article I don't think about it every time the dog acts a little odd. That would be exhausting. 

Then I prayed: Lord, we gave the older kids these season tickets so we could spend quality time with them. I miss them. This year has been full of new baby hustle and I want to enjoy the big kids today. Please be with me. Please don't let the fear win.

We dropped off Harper, went to the play, and had a great time. My mind was clear and I loved our time together. Harper was absolutely fine with my parents and sister.

There wasn't an earthquake. Nobody died.

Thank you, Jesus.

Sometimes getting to the core is only the first step. If doing that isn't enough to calm my anxiety I use breathing techniques. And if that's not enough I use a guided meditation, but I haven't needed step three in a long time.

Using these techniques I haven't had a panic attack in .... a long time. I'm not even sure how long it's been. I'm not suggesting this will work for you or someone you know who has anxiety. This is how I live with an anxiety disorder. This is what's working for me.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

deep end

The kids are taking swimming lessons right now. Their class is them- B and Ains - and a 3-year-old girl. The girl is bananas. Pull B off the side of the pool, yank Ainsleigh's hair, splash water in their eyes bananas.

We've had a lot of conversations about how little kids don't always know how to make friends appropriately. We've also talked about not hitting or splashing back and saying, I don't like that, when she starts in.

The lessons are an exercise in fortitude for all of us. I have stepped in a couple times when the teacher was busy in the water. The mom will sometimes say something, but is usually on her phone and distracted. It's a good opportunity for all us to show grace and bite our tongues. It's so hard to learn how to do that isn't it?

The kids have two lessons left, but I think we're going to sign up for another session because B's beloved parkour gym closed. Two things B loved, but only got to do for a short time- parkour and choir - have ended and we're trying to figure out what to do now. I told him he's learning a hard lesson right now, but he's had a remarkably good attitude.

7-year-old boy energy is a lot to have around the house day in and day out so I'm trying to find outlets without spending a lot of money. It's hard since it's winter right now and really hard to get out with the baby - who is almost walking! I also struggle with getting outside with the kids. It's a goal, always, but rarely happens.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

koalas at 3 am

I've learned so much about koalas this week my brain is oozing koala facts. Jonathan comes home from work and I'm like, "Did you know ...!!"

(I'm trying to decide if this is better or worse than the days when my big end of the day news was how many diapers I changed, and of that number how many were blowouts.)

In the last few days I've also learned the origins of the word agony and the lineage of the Greek gods and goddesses. And as if that wasn't enough I'm mastering the two-fives and eights trick in math as well as trying to remember what a vertex is.

All on 2.5 hours of sleep.

Over the last 5 days.

Okay, that's an exaggeration. 

But I haven't slept much lately thanks to Miss Harper. And then last night when I finally got her settled I heard Ainsleigh "reading" a book in the living room.

At 3 am.

What's up with this girl and her random 3 am parties? There's no consistency, or pattern, she just gets up at 3 am sometimes.

I once found her doing a craft at the table. Like a serious one. There were supplies everywhere! When I asked her what was happening she of course said she was making me something.

(Yes, we have an okay to wake up light. No, we are not using it right now. Yes, I need to do something about that.)

Last night - well, early this morning - I wanted to cry and ask how I'm supposed to teach about koalas and symmetry and the Greeks when I'm hardly sleeping enough to string together basic sentences, but I opted for snapping, Go. to. bed. now.

Every time I get frustrated about how hard it is to do the school thing and the baby thing and the life thing Jonathan reminds me this was not my plan. I didn't expect to have a new baby when I checked the I'll homeschool box. (He also said when I got pregnant with Harper it broke my brain because all of my plans were ruined and I'm just now recovering, but that's another post for a different day.)

But here's the thing: if we scoot the baby aside for a moment, aren't there still challenges? The baby is not the only hard thing, she's just the loudest and most draining right now. 

Last night - before the baby waking and the 3 am Ainsleigh in the living room surprise - I was praying about what I'm supposed to be learning from the current whirlwind I'm standing in.

What are you trying to teach me, Lord? I asked.

And He answered, dependence.

Oh. Well. That was super clear.

I'll work on that.

I'll try to be less frantic.

I'll strive to remember what's important.

Thank you for answering. That was very direct and obvious and I know I've been given that answer a handful - or twenty - times, but I might need to ask again.

Thank you for this family and that I get to teach my kids. And thank you for koalas. They really are fascinating creatures. 



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