8.24.2017

Parenting Through the Failures and the French Dressing



Good God, parenting is hard.

(I mean that less as an expletive and more as an actual cry out to God. But both work here.)

At times it’s so difficult it sucks. Like, sucks the life out of you.

If you're new here, I have two children. And ya, ya, they're basically the meaning, joy and all that stuff in my life; blah, blah. Also, I am often convinced by their actions, non-actions, and words that I am an incompetent, haggard, imbecile. The latter of which has been more common of late.

These two darlings of mine are opposites in nearly everything. 

My first child came into the world after a grueling 2-full days of pain-filled, epidural-failing labor in an uncomfortable hospital with shared recovery rooms. There was no sleep - or recovery - to be had in that loud, hot room with someone else's screaming newborn and crass family members on the other side of a curtain. Twice a day the cafeteria delivered prison-quality food that consisted primarily of iceberg lettuce with French dressing. (Ugh. WHO eats French dressing?)


Regardless, I was enamored with the life entrusted to me. That long-awaited, tiny, beautiful baby was mine!


As our days together grew, along with the bonding and immeasurable love, he confounded me in ways I assumed were due to my parenting inexperience. It was only some seven years later, I started to see these traits as part of who he is. He has obsessive compulsions. He struggles with anxiety. He is complicated.

Conversely, a few years, a few states, and some major life changes later, my second child came into the world in a miraculous, perfectly-timed flurry of ease and joy. [More on that here.]

In a cool, beachy town, she arrived quickly and with forgettable pain. We laid together in a quiet, cushy room to ourselves with no French dressing in sight and the world felt easy and good with her in it.

The five years of her since then have been largely easy and good. Where our eldest often confounds and exhausts us, our youngest comes along with receptiveness and reason that restores our sanity.

I don’t know who these little people will become - which is the outcome that drives the very purpose of parenting - but in these early years with them, they certainly have already niched out distinct traits and qualities.



One of our offspring, my husband says, struck the genetic lottery. She is smart, good at everything she tries, and likable, as though the very tranquility she came into the world with still emanates from her. Our other offspring, not unlike the way he came into the world, is... complicated. Many of his good qualities are quieter, take more time to see and appreciate. And, his character requires much more correction. (This is in part due to his older age, to be fair.) Parenting him takes more patience, humility, and time.

It is easy to grow weary or frustrated parenting any child … to wonder what you’re doing wrong and gosh-darn-it what’s wrong with them?!

It's in this onslaught I've forgotten something.

In the struggle and the self-doubt, I forgot that I’m the one for both of my children. My husband and I are meant for these two specific children; we have what it takes to to raise them into moral, just, kind humans; to take these blessings and cultivate the good within them as they grow.

In the words of Lysa TerKeurst, a wiser woman than I:

...God gave me this specific child. God sees within me the ability to be the one He’s perfectly designed to raise this child.

Through the normal difficulties or the unique ones, the sunshine and rainbows or the arguing and dejection, may each parent among us be encouraged and reminded that we are perfectly designed to raise the child or children we have.

Whew. And may God help us in the process. (Especially when puberty hits.)




8.29.2016

Don't You Cry.




“Ding, ding,” goes her Hello Kitty bell as she peddles hard around the track. Her bike flops lopsidedly from one rickety training wheel to the other. She doesn’t want to take them off yet. The sun is hot on our backs and the air is painfully dry.

This is where we live now. It still doesn’t feel like it.

My phone is in the purple and white basket clipped onto the front of her bike; it’s playing Guns N' Roses' Don’t Cry as we circle the track, waiting for her brother's practice to be over. I’m humming along and pretending Axl is singing to console me, (and also pretending that the lyrics are not largely a bunch of relationship garbage – I mean genius – I mean garbage.)


She is excited to have the important job of carrying my phone, especially whilst it blares music. Happily, she dings her bell along like the 6th member of the band. We just need some tight American-flag biker shorts and a lot of pomp and then we'd be all set out here.


The months since moving to this place have been long and difficult; the changes have been a constant struggle, launching me into yet another "difficult phase" of my adult life. Has there been anything but a succession of difficult phases? 


Well, so, this is what I’ve come to... “bumping” a 1991 hit from a four-year-old’s bicycle when I really do feel like crying at 4:00 in the afternoon?  

I fear I keep repeating myself, but gosh life is hard. It’s hard with really, truly big problems at a lot of times, and a lot of other times we take our small problems and inflate them into bigness.

Today, I am tired of this sadness so biting. And while I’m at it, I’m tired of limping for the last six years and ending every day in pain. I’m tired of nerve damage and hot flashes and treatment side effects and…  and parenting failures, and... I’m tired.

We all grow weary of our own burdens at times, don't we? I know so many of you, dear friends, struggle with your disappointment, your loneliness, your heartache, your stress, your pain. Maybe you also need someone to tell you today, “don’t you cry,” or hey, “go ahead and cry” - whichever it may be that you need.

So while I ironically seek some console from infamously self-destructive, hedonistic 90's rock-stars, I know it's actually humility, realistic expectations, and outward focus that will push me through.

I hope it will for you too.

I hope you still walk; peddle; ding your bell; play your music.



And of course, even though sometimes it doesn't feel like anything, would that we remember “There’s a heaven above you baby.”

Sometimes that's all there is.





Guns N'Roses: Don't Cry. Written by Duff Rose Mckagan, Izzy Stradlin, Matt Sorum, Saul Hudson, W. Axl Rose • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

5.21.2016

Like a Weaned Child




I’m a few paces behind my lanky 8 yr old as the office lady leads him around the unfamiliar school. His thin shoulders are hunched forward and he’s not making eye contact. Each time she speaks to him, he nods his head with an only-slightly-perceptible movement.

His face is brave though - so brave. I don’t understand how he is not crying. I am.

Visions of the beautiful, familiar elementary school we said goodbye to just last week are haunting me. I want that back for him. I want it all back. I want to have not had to say goodbye to such a place as was our home that I loved. I don’t want to be standing in this loud, hot hallway right now, outside a second grade classroom I’ve never seen before and discretely wiping tears into my cheeks.

How will he remember where to go tomorrow morning on his own? Will anyone sit with him at lunch? What will recess be like? ...Why are we making him do this?

My throat keeps tightening into sadness in the coming days as I try to push through the newness of so many life changes I wasn’t looking for. And when the tears do come for my brave 8 year old who misses his old friends, his old teacher, his old everything, I can’t choke back from joining in with him. "I just watch the kids play. I don’t know how to play with them. I want to go home," he tells me.

So do I. Even though we chose to make this move to be with family, I feel a bit lost and lonely amidst them right now. Oh, I know it will get better. But with 7 moves already under my belt since marriage, I am ill-prepared for how awesomely difficult #8 is proving to be. There wasn’t supposed to be a #8. And I really, really liked #7.




By week two, my son has gained the confidence to join in the games at his new school, to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play that?” He doesn’t fight going to school in the morning, (well, not any more than he normally would anyway.) He goes several days in between pulling out his goodbye letters from his old friends and hungrily re-reading them. He seems happy again.

For such incompetent, dependent beings, children can be remarkably resilient, can’t they?

There’s a Bible passage that says:  Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. (Psalm 131:2)

Sometimes is takes a lot of courage to say, “Hey, can you teach me how to play?” And nearly always, it's a challenge to have the reason to see that joy can be chosen, independent of circumstances. 

As for me, I'm still fighting the weaning process; I'm pretty much screaming inside, "Give me back my milk! I want my old joy back." I'm apparently trailing behind that lanky 8 year old of mine in more ways than one. I am working on putting my banging fists down and resting against what I have given up; I know it is only then my hands will be free to embrace what I have now.

So every day I try again at managing without that which I had become excessively fond of, (the definition of wean.) I reach for the composure to quiet my soul. I try to let go of #7 and draw into the goodness of #8.

It will be good here. I will live with joy through this, as I have fought to through the challenges that came before it. So can you... through your struggle.

May God help us draw upon our child-like spirits of resilience.
May we have peace even without the sweet milk of our desires.

3.10.2016

The Transformative Power of Sweat Equity... AKA My Before And After House Pictures




Don't you love a good transformation?


My favorite is when a lost soul finds peace in God and therein transforms from selfish ambitions to focus on others.


I also like when the sun transforms nuclear energy into ultraviolet, infrared, and gamma energy. Just kidding. I don't even understand energy transformation. Plus, I live in the Northwest and haven't seen much of this thing called the sun in like 6 months.


Falling ever so slightly short of the transformative power of Jesus Christ, or electromagetnic energy, house make-overs are pretty cool too.


Mine has keep me from writing to you fine people for the last two years. We've been working A LOT on the deferred maintenance, late 80's home we purchased as first-time home-buyers.


The brass was a-shinin and the honey-oak was a-plenty when we arrived in 2014. 





But I loved it right from the beginning.



People say, "You'll know The One when you see it" about wedding dresses and houses. I could have worn any of the half dozen wedding dresses I liked best, but I literally walked in the front door of this house and knew it was right. 




We bought it via long-distance. I had seen it once; my husband saw it for the first time two months later when we moved in. So... it's a pretty good thing it worked out for us as well as it has.




The number of hours we spent sanding, painting, digging, trimming, sanding and painting more, spakling and skim coating, cutting and building, and sanding and painting some more is almost painful to recall. My hands are aching at the mere memory.


There were many, many weekends and late nights of work, and probably just as many trips to Home Depot. 


Some of it was fun.



Master bedroom


Master bathroom



Tile and electrical work was hired out, as was the composite deck in the backyard. We did everything else, sometimes with help from handy family members.


A pretty careful budget was maintained over all. Hard work and creativity are excellent money-savers.


Guest Room                                                                                         Office


Kids' Bedrooms

I could easily write a post on each room. 

...But that sounds like a lot of work. And I'm not a home blogger.


Finished basement: from dark man-cave to kid-friendly game space


I'm super bias but I think it's a pretty great house in a really great city. I have felt overwhelmingly privileged to live here the last 23 months.





Oh, but now we're moving. 




It's a story for another day, but in short, we're moving to a new state to be with family. 


I guess you could say: we're making a transformation from a truly lovely place to live -- to a life with truly lovely people.


Maybe in 2 years I'll have another house of photos to share. But I kind of hope not.



12.08.2015

O Christmas Tree

Oh, wouldn't it be great to head out to one of the many local Christmas tree farms and cut down our own tree this year? We could come home and decorate it together. What a great Saturday! I can hear the Christmas carols in the background and smell the apple cider on the stove. The laughter. The memories.


{Scritchy-scratchy noise as we cut to reality.}
My children are complaining about turning off the cartoons and my husband won't get off his phone. I try to cheery-disposition my way through it. The kids are excruciatingly cranky and tired from our Thanksgiving travels and will not stop bickering over EVERYTHING. My 7 year old asks if he haaaas to go. I'm mouth-breathing. I trip over the Legos that never get picked up from the dingy "white" living room carpet I keep meaning to shampoo, and I am suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I will have 16 out-of-state house-guests this Christmas - which is only a couple of weeks away. Amidst my face-in-the-carpet epiphany, my boss texts and asks if I can log-into work right away to handle an urgent request. I'm googling nervous breakdown symptoms.

An hour later and a 15-mile drive through some of the most beautiful Oregon countryside you will ever see (while I try to tune-out my children and silently curse myself for skipping morning coffee) and we're at a glorious tree farm amidst the rolling forests. 
Patches of white fog sweep through the acres of green jutting up to the misty, gray skies. For the 5th time I explain to my son that the fog is not "controlled burns." Why do I keep trying?We tromp through the sloppy mud and pick a tree from hundreds of beautiful ones that all look the same.

There's fighting over hot chocolate, over who can help carry the saws, over who gets to walk in front. Neither child wants a picture with Santa, or even to talk to him. My husband exudes impatience. 

Wait now, we still have a tree nearly sliding off the top of the car, so very much mud and pine needles on that "white" carpet, too small of a tree stand, too big of a tree for the room, broken Christmas lights, me decorating the tree solo, and of course, endless more bickering to endure before this Saturday will come to a close. {Sigh}


Instead of simply sharing the lovely green photos, one of which 2 out of 3 people even managed a smile in, I feel apt to admit that real-life is sometimes less than picturesque. 

If there's no cocoa or carols for you, if your favorite ornaments get broken or you're decorating alone this year... if there's just a lot of mud, take heart friend. May the hope of Christmas seep in to calm our stress and comfort our hearts.

Merry Christmas.