July 19, 2013

Domino

I remember before the kids were born, working in the corporate world.  Getting dressed in something other than jeans/shorts/capris and a t-shirt.  Wearing something other than the 2 hairstyles I generally sport (especially during summertime!!!) of ponytail or up-do-clippy-thing.  Having a purpose outside of laundry, cooking, cleaning, wiping noses, keeping children from mauling or killing one another, and feeling accomplished at the end of the week that the house was tidy, in need only of a vacuum, dust and mop once-over.  I remember having one-on-one meetings with my manager and supervisor and being lauded for my accomplishments and customer service...having access to training on things like "Time Management", "Customer Care", and my all-time favorite "Personal Growth & Development"...where you'd go to a conference room for a day or two, get paid to indulge in pastries and gourmet coffee, while taking notes on how to be a better you...all while your co-workers were handling your workload.

Then, Captain was born.  And he was a rolly, chubby, sparkling-blue-eyed smiling, contented, slept-for-6-daylight-hours-in-between-feedings kind of baby.  Easy as pie, as the saying goes...he'd awake, I'd change his diaper, snuggle him, lavish kisses on every chubby inch and each roll and fold (he really was a fat baby...) and sing him songs, tell him stories, feed him, and then he'd either go into his port-a-crib, swing, or back to his regular crib for another nap.  Two hours up and two hours down...it was his rhythm, not one contrived by me.  After I recuperated from the emergency C-section I'd had with him, as I started adjusting to his routine, and feeling human again, I realized, after hearing my friends, how blessed I was...and took full advantage of it.  I spent the in-between hours cleaning, scrubbing, polishing, weeding, sorting, purging, organizing, attending a Bible Study/Moms Group, cooking, baking, reading, knitting, writing...the first year of Captain's life was my dream come true!  I was a wife, a mom with the extreme privilege of staying home to rear my son, AND I got to do all sorts of "Me" things...it was bliss...

About the time of Captain's 1st birthday, I began to suffer symptoms of an early summer/late spring cold...and then I realized that I was also extremely exhausted...and a niggling began in the back of my mind...I felt the same as I had in late September 18 months earlier...which was a miracle, because we had medical intervention to have Capt in the first place...sure enough, that week I took a test at home, called my doctor and had my test verified, and spent Captain's first (very ridiculously large) birthday party trying to act normal, not wanting to take away from his special day (as though he'd remember it!)...

The next months were spent in excitement and joy as we prepared for our 2nd child while denying the idea of having 2 kids under 2 years of age (Princess is 19 1/2 mos younger than Capt)...knowing that it would be the dead of winter and in order to do a VBAC we'd have to risk driving to an unfamiliar hospital with a different doctor with no guarantee of success...we opted to stay with a "planned" C-section.  I'm grateful we did...being that my water broke at home at 3am on the coldest, most snowy night of that winter and it took us 28 minutes to drive the 2 miles from our house to the hospital in town...

We brought her home, and Capt was still napping twice a day, she was napping on the same schedule, I recovered much more quickly because it was "just" the C-section, not 40 hours of unproductive labor leading up to it...and the first year was still amazing!!!  We had a sweet family, with 2 amazing, incredible babies.  Just as Captain was beginning preschool, and we were starting to think about having a little extra money for "fun" each month, we bought our RV.  It was great!  We played with it, got the hang of how it sets up, where we'd store everything, began planning camping trips...and the week of our first solo trip (our first 2 had been with a good neighbor family) I began having those same physical symptoms - the sniffles, super tired, and I apprehensively took a test...I called the doctor but couldn't get in until the following Tuesday...we headed off on our trip, me nervous...in part because BB was not immediately thrilled about a third baby (he only wanted 2, that's what his family was, and it was "enough" in his mind, this was unplanned per se), and in part because we were camping in a new trailer, and in part because something just didn't feel right to me...

That night, as we were setting up camp, struggling with the unfamiliar, trying to find a rhythm and routine, we argued.  It was hot, I was not feeling well at all, we are NOT the best communicators under stress, and it was HOT...yes, I said that twice...we had our dinner, and I went to use the bathroom (more on that later) at the camp restroom and panicked...when one is expecting, one should NOT see blood...the end, period, do not cross GO, etc etc...I told BB what was happening and we both immediately changed.  He realized just how much he loved the idea of another baby, was sorry for our argument, and we ended up having a fairly good weekend, even though it was shadowed by my not being able to do much physically at his insistence...

After the weekend was over, we saw the doctor, found out all was well, and that I just needed a little hormonal boost, we made it through the third round of "we're having a baby" with no other issues.  Littlest One arrived at the scheduled date, healthy and whole, and joined our family.

By that time 3 years ago, we had a 2 year old, an almost-4-year-old and had just lost our beloved dog, were in the throes of working our fannies off to cut our spending and pay off our consumer debt.

My idyllic life of kids napping at the same time while I bustled around my kingdom blew up about 6 weeks after we came home with Littlest One.  It wasn't anything that happened outside the house...it wasn't anything anyone did...it just blew up...Captain began fighting naps in the afternoon, he was in Preschool a few mornings a week so our morning naps were less organic and more scheduled, I was trying to balance a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn while still keeping up with all the other stuff...reading went by the wayside unless it was a children's book for the kid, knitting went next, replaced by "one more load" of laundry...our garden expanded meaning more time maintaining, harvesting and preserving...

The first three years of Littlest One's life were spent in a pretty constant motion of dropping kid(s) off, rushing home to do housework, or rushing through errands (not a big deal when 1 kid was in an infant seat and the other strapped to the seat of the cart), picking kid(s) up, zipping home to make and eat lunch so I could feed the baby (Littlest was 100% breastfed until she began drinking fruit juice at 8mos) and then get everyone down for a nap, dash like a madwoman through domestic chores, including making dinner...with the onset of Kindergarten 2 years ago I think I sort of snapped...I just kind of hit a wall mentally and things began to slide...

Housework got shoddy and was much less frequently completed (seriously...I'm NOT a fantastic housekeeper right now!), we fell into a routine of the "What's for dinner" game, and the reason we wore the same clothing on a 2-week rotation is because I'd do laundry and ironing and it would just go on the top of our drawers and to the front of our closets...it's what I'd grab...things would get done in fits and spurts...Princess fought afternoon naps, and Littlest One had abandoned morning naps at around 18 months old...

The biggest issue was within me.  I was chafing over not having a way to refuel myself.  I was waking up earlier than everyone else, but that was so I could have uninterrupted time to do a quick Bible read and pray, then get myself physically ready for my day.  I was then getting everyone else up and ready for their days, making breakfasts and lunch, loading up diaper bags and backpacks with supplies for our day and then we'd be off and running.  BB's hours at work were crazy, and we were living on a very tight budget as we aggressively paid off debts and began saving money for emergencies, college and retirement...

I reacted badly, justifying spending a "little extra" on a DVD for the kids, or a new t-shirt for myself, or an extra couple bags of frozen fruit for "healthy eating in my smoothies"...and it spiraled...out of control.  I undid in the course of 6 months what we'd taken 18 months to achieve...and then I compounded it by hiding it from BB, shuffling funds here and there, playing a shell game with our money...

Now that I look back and see what was going on, I see clearly what spurred it - I was feeling restricted and bound and resentful.  I allowed myself to become a victim and instead of being content I was feeling covetous.

The only way I can describe it is this:  I fell victim to the Evil One, and became addicted to "more" at any cost...

I have a new appreciation for those overcoming addictions to far more damaging things like alcohol, drugs, or sex...I used to sit there and see commercials for shows like Intervention or Hoarders, and think "what is wrong with those people!  Just STOP DOING IT!!!!!" and had no understanding of how they could just keep on making the same choice to do the same damaging behavior or activity...

Now I get it...And while I do believe there is a physical/chemical/biological reaction to whatever you're addicted to (I sure felt good putting things in my cart/basket at the store!) I also know that it's a LOT mental/emotional...

I had stopped filling myself with God - we were lax in our service attendance, I was attending Bible Study but doing the classwork the night before and just filling in blanks as I sped through the materials, we weren't praying at meals, on our own, or as a couple as we had in the early years of our marriage...I was turning on the TV as soon as BB left for work, and was bombarded with commercials for STUFF all. Day. Long.  Buy this, you need that, get this, this makes things better/easier/stronger/faster/more fun...Instead of filling up on Scripture and pouring out praise, I was filling up on undermining advertising and pouring out complaints...

I remember an old song from my Kids' Choir days..."Input, Output, what goes in is what comes out" and I am living proof of that!!!

The kicker for me is that while all this was going on, I was working hard physically to be healthy and fit - cutting out junk, less processed foods, more made from scratch with good ingredients things, no soda, no coffee, no wheat, eating whole grains, lean protein, lots of fresh produce (much of which was from our garden or local farm stands), running on my treadmill, lifting weights, doing exercises while I washed dishes, or lunges while I vacuumed...

While I was working on my body, I forgot all about my spirit and my mind...

It has been a tough last 8 months.  BB and I are still not "over" all that occurred.  We may never get back to where we were 3 years ago.  I know we'll be together, committed, working through our situations, whatever may arise, we'll be stronger, but the scar will be there...

Since last October, we've been at Church 85% of the weekends (some due to illness, some to just not "feeling like it" - no more of that for me at least), I've been setting aside time each day to work on Bible Study homework and pray.  I work with the kids daily on their AWANA verses (even over summer break, we review!!!), and we read at least one Bible Story each week and talk about what it means, why it's important.  We pray together as a family, I pray alone.

In June, we were challenged to read the entire New Testament in the second half of the calendar year.  6 months to read from Matthew through Revelation.  Daily reading.  Daily reflection on what we were reading - questions, comments, inspiration, just journaling what was in our mind as we read.  We took the challenge.  We also took a class on Prayer Life...learning why we should, how the Bible models praying, when to pray, ways to make us get out of our "pray like this because it's what I know" box...it was refreshing, and I find myself more and more having actual conversations with God.

It sounds funny when I say it that way, but that's what it is...I think somewhere along the line, I got this notion that I could only go to God in prayer when I was ready to confess and repent of my sins, and ask for something in return...I had this idea that God would only listen if I said the right words in the right order at the right phase of the moon and stood on one leg with a chicken feather behind my left ear...

I will say it this way:  I have been freed of the notion that God expects a certain pattern and vocabulary when we talk to Him.  Yes, he's the King of the Universe, and desires appropriate adoration for that, but He also wants to be our Father...our Abba, our Daddy, the One to whom we can turn with anything we need to share...He wants to know that I'm struggling with being truly sympathetic to my children, that I'm feeling burdened by my wifely/motherly duties, that I'm just having a blah sort of day, or that I'm LOVING what I'm doing...

Case in point: It has been DRY here in Colorado.  I've been hoping it would rain.  Yesterday, the forecast said a 50% chance of rain.  The clouds were there...I could feel the storm coming in.  I had to mow the grass...I got started mowing and the clouds got closer and closer...I started thinking "man, I hope it doesn't rain before I'm through"...about 3 stripes later, I switched to "God, you know we need the moisture from a good, long, heavy rain.  I will welcome it when it comes.  I'd like if it didn't come until I'm finished out here, but Your time, not mine"...about 5 minutes after praying that way, the rain began. Big, fat drops with no clouds in sight.  I started thinking "rats!", and realized a few steps later that I had just told God I'd be good with HIS plan, not mine...and I was already taking back my words?!?! I shook my head (literally, the rain was in my eyes) and instead, deliberately, and consciously said "Thanks for the rain God!.  I hustled and was about halfway done when the skies opened up and the rain grew heavier and more steady.  I plugged away at mowing my grass, and kept saying "thank you for the rain!  This is much needed - thank you!!"  By the time I was done, it was raining hard enough I could barely see, I was drenched, but my heart was light!

I know I know...I sound like a kook, but seriously - since committing to reading the Bible daily, praying in these new ways (new to me anyway), I can feel the difference...BB and are communicating better, the kids are still crazy with summer insanity, but I'm changed...I'm content to breathe prayers, shoot arrow prayers, be in communion with God throughout the day, with dedicated time just one on one with Him every morning, and things are so much better.

I still get frustrated and I still yell.  I still feel victimized by other people's actions.  I still forget things, and do things wrong and make wrong choices...but how I handle those things is vastly different than it was 6 weeks ago.  I know I'm not entirely completed - God's got a lot of rocks and sticks to pick out of the lump of clay - but I know that HE'S removing them in His time, in His way, and I'll be the vessel HE has designed...

This is really long, I know...but I've had a lot on my heart lately.

In other areas, as I'm changing my heart and mind, the other things are following - I'm physically rested and relaxed, which means more energy to put into things at home.  I'm committed to finishing and following through on tasks, which means things aren't in various stages of done-ness around my home.  Things are getting put where they belong and the kids are beginning to follow suit...just like the Domino set we got Captain for Christmas last year, you knock down the first one and the rest start falling into their pattern

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