Wednesday, December 31, 2014

I feel like I should ...


sit down and commemorate this year.

I can't believe I didn't write about this Christmas. I thought a lot about what to write, but I felt like I've said it all before (more than once) so I just didn't open the laptop. For at least two weeks I left it sitting on the floor upstairs and thought about all of the redundant things I could write when I passed it on my way to bed at night.

There was a fair amount of depression keeping me from writing this season as well. Depression has the ability to suck joy from every. single. thing you find joy in so I found myself avoiding writing, and dreading time with friends, and wishing I could be alone under the covers for two solid weeks.

This year I discovered that you can pour all your energy into enjoying and loving the holidays, and still yell at your kids - a lot - because you don't feel as happy as you think you should. This much effort = this much joy is not a real equation, but I thought I could force it into being. (As you know, I've never been very good at math).

There were good moments. The kids were fun to watch. I sat on the couch on Christmas night watching B play with his new toys. I looked around the house, and thought about the guests coming the next day, and then I pulled a blanket over my lap and just watched him get lost in new worlds.

And then somehow a week went by and now it's New Year's Eve, which has never felt like a holiday to me. Ringing in a new year is momentous, I suppose, but we never stay up to see midnight. I need sleep far too much for that right now.

2014 was a pretty good year. We became members at our church. I grew closer to a few friends, and connected with a few new people (one of the scariest things an introvert can do). 2014 was a year of community, and learning how to care for the people around me. My perspective on what is important really narrowed this year.

It was a year of spiritual growth and choosing to really own my faith. I began reading along with the She Reads Truth devotions in August and I haven't stopped, which may seem like a small achievement, but for me it's huge. I'm excited to start the 365 day plan tomorrow. I've been wanting to read the Bible cover to cover, but I've felt rather intimidated by it. It will be nice to do it in community.

I anticipate change in 2015. I don't know the plans God has for our family, but we are hoping to move house sometime this year. We would like a bigger kitchen and a second bathroom, but we like our location and community so leaving will be difficult. There are so many factors that must fall into place for us to move I feel a little uncertain it will actually happen, but we are beginning to fix up this house to sell so perhaps it will all come together!

Tonight at dinner we asked Bennett how he would feel about moving somewhere else. He listened to us chat for a bit about a house we are interested in before asking, "But what about our blue house? I like that one." So we'll see how he feels if we buy a new house!

I'm trying to keep perspective and have a grateful heart. Not only about moving house, but about all the small things going on in our lives. We have so much, but it's easy to get caught up in what's missing, or what could be improved. I feel completely overwhelmed about making the right decision about a house, but this last year I've learned to give all of the worry and anxiety I carry to God. It's a slow process, and I often forget to let go, but I feel much less stressed about everything when I rely on the Lord to guide us.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. This year I had a real sense of the space where Charlotte should be. I could see her spot by the tree and at the breakfast table, and when I saw the kids playing around her spot I felt proud of us for creating life around the space. This was our fifth Christmas without Charlotte, and while it doesn't get easier (the day to day does but the holidays don't) there is so much healing in the life and family we built after we lost her.

The song "Come As You Are" by Crowder was on repeat this year:

Come out of sadness
From wherever you've been
Come broken hearted
Let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There's hope for the hopeless
And all those who've strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace
There's rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't cure

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Fall in his arms
Come as you are

There's joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can't heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer come home
You're not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are
Come as you are
Come as you are

I feel like I really came home this year. I settled into my faith. I gave up on trying to figure out all the pieces of my life and let God have control. He's a better driver anyway.


Ainsleigh is asleep. Bennett is heading that way. The house is quieting, we'll be in bed by 10:00. Life is predictable, and small, and quiet, but I like it, and I can't wait to see what God has planned for us next year.

Enjoy your new year celebrations!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

a little update


I am a terrible record keeper. When I see those calendars where you fill in a square for every day of your child's first year I feel a lot of shame, because I don't keep track of anything. I write a lot down here, but I definitely recorded more of Bennett's life than Ainsleigh's. (When she confronts me with that particular truth I'm going to tell her I was far too busy keeping her safe/putting her hearing aid back in to do much else.)

I'm going to start posting regular kid and life updates here so I have a bit more of a record of how the kids are doing/what is going on in their lives. I am still planning on creating baby books, so I need to write down what I can remember from their babyhoods NOW (since it's so fresh and all - *sarcasm*)

****************

This afternoon my physical therapist said, "you're well on your way to being one of those hunched over old ladies, but this exercise will help prevent that. And it will ensure you don't get a double chin."

Well that's one way to make sure I do my exercises at home.

Healing is slow. Progress is back and forth and frustrating. But at this very moment I am not in pain and that is a vast improvement.

I was in fantastic shape before I had Ainsleigh. How can one little pregnancy set me back so far?!

Speaking of Ainsleigh, she learned how to growl this week. It's the cutest thing, but it's also a little scary. She's completely enamored with the new sounds she can make, so we get to hear them all the time. Ainsleigh has this deep growl that absolutely cracks me up. If you con her into putting her hands up (where's your head? usually does the trick) while she is growling you can tickle her underarms and make her go from a low down growl to a high pitched shriek. It's pretty entertaining.

The Bennett battles are fairly epic right now - I need a lot of time outs - but he's much more than a boundary pushing bundle of attitude. He's clever, and funny, and everything is AWESOME right now.

He sat really still for a haircut today, which I thought was really impressive.

The Polar Express scared him, "a little bit." Kiddo jumped in the air and threw his popped sorghum grains (corn allergy) everywhere and then he had the shakes until we turned the movie off, but he still insists "it only scared me a little bit."

Bennett's favorite Christmas movie of the ones we've watched so far: Charlie Brown. I haven't watched it in years, but I related to Charlie Brown and his feelings of depression; that's basically Christmas for me - "I should be happy!"

We don't pray before every meal. Dinner is constant. Lunch is hit and miss. Breakfast never happens. Bennett is the reason we sometimes pray at lunch, and he always prays over our evening meal. Here's an example of one of his prayers:

"Thank you for our love. And our food. And tacos. And cheese. And tortillas."

He often starts with thank you for our love, or Jesus, followed by naming every item on the table. After he prays he sometimes asks, "Was that a long one?"

Bennett and Ainsleigh are now old enough to go off and play semi-nicely with each other for a while. They like to climb on Bennett's bed, or into the play kitchen, or chase each other around the house. There is some pushing and shoving, but most of the time if they're off by themselves while I'm cooking or cleaning I let them be. They're developing a relationship and it's the sweetest thing to watch. My heart just about explodes when Bennett says, "Hi girly!" with a laugh when he sees Ainsleigh after she naps.



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

on yoga and deseeding pomegranates


Going to physical therapy twice a week makes me want to get back in shape. I've lost the baby weight - YEAH! - but now I need to get in fighting shape. In Hawaii I hiked a mountain with B on my back in the Ergo and I didn't feel a thing but lightness (and a fair amount of sweat). My goal is to get back to feeling that strong and able.

All the chiropractors and physical therapists I see say the following, or a version of it: you're so tight, so tense, you carry so much in your shoulders, can you drop your shoulders, can you breathe a little more, can you feel how stiff you are?

It's like grief moved into my bones, great wisps of it like fog settling over a valley and wending its way into every hidden crevice. My tendons and bones are all knotted up from years of tense living, of failing to have faith, of believing that all the good is just temporary and there's another shoe hovering just off the page where I can't quite see it and at any moment it will drop so I hold myself tightly day and night in worried anticipation.

It's no way to live, folks, but it's the way I've been living because all the bright, sparkly words - faith, hope, believing - didn't come around for a good long while. And they're still new enough that I don't quite trust them, so I step tentatively out, one toe tapping the idea of living with the bravery that can only come from Jesus, but I'm not quite ready for all in yet; there's still too much tension in my spine.

After Charlotte died I ventured into the exclusive world of aqua fitness for a while. It was really healing, surprisingly so, and no one seemed to mind that my friends and I were years younger than everyone else in the class. I think it would be nice to do that again, but I can't figure out the kids, the time, the logistics, the swim suit ...

I keep talking about doing yoga because I loved the few yoga stretches that we did at the end of the aqua fitness class, but every time I look up classes online I just feel intimidated and like I might be too Baptist to participate. I also think I might benefit from a little yoga because I have so much anger and could really use some calm down breathing time a couple times a week.

This afternoon I was deseeding a pomegrante, which can either be a meditative experience, or a futile, frustrating endeavor. I was strictly in the meditative mindset at first. I was feeling very calm and working through all sorts of things while I immersed the deep red pomegranate sections in cold, biting water and pulled the seeds out.

After finishing half the pomegranate I rinsed the seeds in a colander then reached to put them on the stove while talking to B. I dropped it, all of it, all over, and all my meditative goodness went wooosh and I lost my ever loving mind. And then B said, "Mama, it was just an accident. It's okay." And I sat on the kitchen floor a moment and held him on my lap and thanked the Lord for his sweet self.

Then I pulled the rest of the seeds out with bitter, angry hands while a just woken up Ainsleigh pulled at my leg and begged for seeds with a newly discovered, "mmmmm" that means "feed me, feed me now or I'll scream." I really wanted to throw the entire mess out. I swept up the ones that fell on the floor (beyond rescue, my floors a mess, the seeds covered in kitchen detritus and dog hair) and was so tempted to throw everything away, but there were edible seeds and the kids love them so I continued on.

And this is progress for me because I tend to be one who gives up. I tend to be someone who doesn't like to do the hard work, who would rather buy just the seeds next time I go to the store even though I told J it's ridiculous to pay so much money for seeds when one can buy a whole pomegranate for much less and do the work oneself, I mean, really, it's not that hard!

So that was humbling, and somewhere in there, I'm sure, is a lesson about Jesus and how He doesn't throw us out even when we're a broken mess and can't figure out how to be brave enough to try a yoga class.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

advent with a three and one year old


This is our first year trying Advent with the kids. I'm so up and down this year, every time I feel happy I see Christmas lights and feel like crying. This year Charlotte would have been really into all things Christmas so there is another layer of grief to contend with that feels overwhelming and significant.

I've always felt like I don't do holidays, or seasons, well. Like I'm not very good at decorating and merry making. It's just not my skill set. But then I was scrolling through Instagram and someone I was following had this reminder: Jesus is the prize.

Yes. That's right. That's what Christmas is all about. Jesus. His birth. Because He was born I am saved. Wow, that's amazing!

As I decorated a bit this week and thought about it some more I realized what I remember from my childhood Christmases is not decorations, but traditions. We had about a thousand of them, and I remember every single one, whereas all I remember about the decorations is that we always had stockings and a tree. There might have been other decorations, but I can't recall them now.

So I put a few things up - and I made the Advent area nice with a few scripture prints from She Reads Truth - and then I let it go. It's a little messy, but hey, that's life with littles, right?



I found a great set of Advent readings for young ones online. I printed it out and put a reading in each box along with a little dairy free chocolate. On some days I added an activity, or "task for the week." I wanted to keep it really simple. I wanted to have a couple gifts for the kids to open. And I wanted the main focus to be on Jesus, not getting or achieving something.

I'm trying really hard not to get controlling about it. I'm trying to breathe when Bennett doesn't sit completely still while we read from the Bible and Advent reading. I give him the Little People Nativity set or something else to do with his hands while he listens because I know he is only three and it's hard to sit still.

Last night I was getting a little frustrated with him when we transitioned from the Bible to the Advent reading. Then I asked a question from our daily reading:

"Do you remember what Advent means?"

"No," B replied.

"We talked about it on the first day, B ..."

He interrupted, "coming! It means coming!"

"That's right!!" J and I said as we smiled at each other. "We celebrate Advent because it means coming and Christmas is all about Jesus coming into this world to save us."

Yay!!! I thought. He is learning!!

As for the activities and tasks we're keeping them simple. We're making cards for grandparents, and donating gifts for kids in need in memory of big sister Charlotte, and making treats for the neighbors and coloring nativity scenes and working on being kind and loving and focusing on caring for others during this season.

Our Advent is simple and basic, but oh so vital, and even if all B gets this year is that Christmas is about anticipation of the birth of a King that is enough for a three year old to think about.

In other - completely unrelated - news, Ainsleigh said "hot" very clearly last night along with a gesture and I am so proud of her I don't know what to do with myself. She signed 'up' this morning and signs 'more' and 'all done' consistently during meal and play time now. She is communicating, and doing so well, and with every word and sound the worry I feel about how she will fare eases a bit.

Last night J and I were talking about Ainsleigh's language development and hearing loss. He said, "I'm not worried." to which I said, "Why, why aren't you worried? I worry all the time!"

"Because you're her mom," he replied.

Very sweet, and very lovely, and he also said he would buy me something with his Christmas bonus because I deserve a bonus as well. So he's just racking up the points right now, and we're all doing quite well all things considered.

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