I Belong Where I Am (And So Do You): Five Minute Friday

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Photo Credit: RStonejr Flickr via Compfight cc

 

It’s another one of those days. The ones where I was up in the night with a child who is old enough not to be up. So I drag myself out of bed much later than intended and already the world seems a wreck and I wonder if it’s even worth trying.

 

I’ve been asking a lot of questions lately about where I fit. Motherhood has this ability to make you feel both indispensable (as in, would anyone in this house be able to find their shoes without me) and useless. (They don’t listen, they constantly complain, and they tell me straight out they wish they were orphans). When the budget numbers won’t add up at the end of the month and the needs outstrip the resources, not even accounting for the wants; sometimes I wonder if this isn’t where I belong.

 

I gave up a job, rather than a career, because it seemed the easiest and best thing to do. In fact it was the dream. To be that stay at home mom. But now when there is more month than money I sometimes question my choice. She screams in my face about how she wishes she didn’t even have a mommy, when he flails and kicks and says I don’t love him and even the toddler gets in on the action. I wonder whether all these hours a day are worth it.

 

I could be being paid and potentially appreciated somewhere. Even if I didn’t love the work at least I’d have something to show for my days besides puffy eyes and weary shoulders.  But I always come back to the same thing: I am needed. I realize needed isn’t the same as valued. I also know that children rarely value their parents but I’ve seen the pain it is to be without them, so I choose to believe that this is my place.

 

I would like to offer some kind of pithy encouragement that makes it all better for those mamas in the trenches like me, wondering if this has all been a terrible mistake.  But all I have to offer is this.

 

This isn’t a mistake. Your life isn’t a mistake. Being mom to this kids, in this place at this time is what you were meant for.

 

It is paradoxical. We have these little creatures that we would die for but at the same time won’t share out secret dessert stash with. We want to give them the moon and yet, if I step on one more pile of toys I’ve asked them to clean up I may sell them to the zoo.

 

This is where I am. It is where I belong, even when I wish I didn’t. When I want to run, I can’t even comprehend where to go.  Because for better or for worse, and mostly some of both; I’m their mother. At least for now, I’m the educator, dishwasher, laundress, house cleaner, sibling fight referee boo boo kisser, and sometimes emotional punching bag.  But it’s my place and I move forward in the belief that somehow all if this is preparing me for what is ahead, both the beautiful and the difficult.

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The Lesson in the Blessing: Five Minute Friday

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They don’t always feel like a blessing. I know they are, these wonderful, amazing creatures who carry my DNA. But some days, I doubt whether this was the best life for me. Usually I see the fault as my own, not theirs. They are children and all the wonderful and terrible things that come with that. I am supposed to be the grown up, the one who keeps it together. But lately I’ve been so tired that I don’t want to be the adult. I want someone else to clean up the messes and make the hard decisions.

I think sometimes they make me angry not because they make my life difficult, but rather because they show me what I lack. I am jealous of their freedom to play and run, unencumbered by worry or pretense.

Then I remember, I am supposed to be a child too. My father has everything under control and I am free; if I would allow myself to release the anxiety and stop worrying about tomorrow. Instead of envying my children, I should join them.

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Closing the Door and Calling It Done

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Just like the that, the baby phase is over. It’s been a difficult decision for my husband and me, as we figure out what we think our family will look like. You can dream and plan but there are variables that can’t be anticipated. We came by our decision with a great deal of thought, prayer and soul searching. There was also logic. Our three bedroom house that we just moved to; our ages; my increasingly difficult pregnancies and deliveries. We talked about it a lot and the biggest thing holding us back from making the final call was that something about our family felt incomplete.

 

Yet, we had to remind ourselves that we lost a child to miscarriage. I suspect this feeling of incompleteness will always be there, regardless of how many children we add to our family. Because we are incomplete, at least for now. Just as this world will never feel totally comfortable since it was never intended to be our permanent home (at least not in its broken state), so will we carry a certain level of emptiness for the child we are missing. There is great and beautiful hope, but we still feel the lack.

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I’ve tried to write this multiple times. But I couldn’t quite find the way to express it. To talk about how it feels to know that there won’t be anymore babies. To mourn what could have been but to be excited about what is coming. I am someone who loves the baby phase. Despite the not sleeping, I just love that first year and a half as this new person is growing and discovering the world. Their needs are relatively simple and they take joy in the little things. While I love my older kids, I haven’t found the same enjoyment in their more complicated issues, strong opinions and the general chaos of the days.

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But I have learned to cultivate excitement for this next season of life. A friend recently talked about how she feels like she is transitioning to the Renaissance of her life. She refers to the time when her kids were tiny as the Dark Ages. Of course she enjoyed her children, but life was hard. There wasn’t much money, time or energy to be had. It was survival mode. But now that her kids are a bit older and she is done with night time feedings, diapers and potty training, there are so many new things available to her. There is time for art, culture and travel. She is learning a new instrument and she has picked up a new career. Her point was that there is beauty and happiness coming. I found this hugely encouraging.

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That is what I’ve chosen to focus on. I am likely less than two years away from being diaper free. As much as I have loved cloth diapering, I’m ready to be done. My kids generally sleep at night. Soon my kids will be able to do more for themselves. There will be time for me to be creative; both by myself and with them. I am looking forward to this.

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With any time of transition, it hurts a bit and it’s easy to have doubts. I’m allowing myself to experience the sadness and remember fondly the things I know I will be giving up. But I’m also keeping my focus firmly in today, as I watch this last little one getting bigger by the day. I try to pause to soak him in. Then I turn my eyes forward toward what is to come; all the difficulties but also the beauty and wonder that comes with it.

 

 

What An Orange Giraffe Cup Taught Me About Contentment and Trust

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I’m in one of those crazy seasons where God is teaching me so much about myself through my children, especially through my one year old. Some of it isn’t necessarily for sharing. (I’ll spare you insight on the parallels between redemption from sin and a diaper blow out.) But yesterday during the church service God did speak to me through a sippy cup.

I was on my own with three kids during opening worship as my husband was serving. My mom provided a helping hand, but soon my sister and her three boys arrived as well, so she quickly had her hands and lap full. I had the baby on one hip and was trying to keep an eye on the other two as they colored and visited with their cousins. I try to encourage them to sing and read the words to the songs, but thus far I’m just happy we actually get through the service each week without me completely losing my mind.

Suddenly my usually happy one year old began to thrash and squawk. He had spotted the sippy cup belonging to his cousin sitting in the row in front of us. As chance would have it, today my sister and I had selected identical cups for our youngest children; an orange Nalgene with a giraffe on it.

I tried to explain to my son that it was not his cup. I kept saying “If you are thirsty, I have one for you.” But he, being 18 months old, naturally didn’t listen to reason. So I finally handed him his own cup that I had stowed out of sight in the diaper bag. He immediately began to calm down but still stared suspiciously at his cousin’s cup even as he guzzled from his own. At that moment, I felt God speak to my heart.

 

“Why are you so quick to complain about what others have? Can you not see that I am providing all that you need and that I am even anticipating your future needs?”

 

My son could not understand why his cousin had something that he was convinced was his. Except it wasn’t his. But he was unable comprehend that I had anticipated his need and had already taken care of it. How often do I lack the faith and understanding to realize that God knows my needs, even before I do?
He has gone before me to prepare the way. He will supply all that I need. It is so very easy to see what others have, and respond in envy or even entitlement. I cry out that it isn’t fair, especially when it’s something that feels so very necessary or is an long held desire. But in those moments, I lose sight of who God is. He is a loving Father, who wants good and wonderful things for me, but also what is best. I may squawk for my neighbor’s cup, when in fact God is preparing for me exactly what I need at the right time.
He has provided for your needs, don’t look at what others have, look at what He has already given and trust that He will provide whatever else you might need.

He Sings Too: Five Minute Friday

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He likes to sing along, this last baby of mine. He doesn’t have many words (except shoe, which is his favorite thing to say), but he likes to add his voice to the chorus of little people in my house. The son and daughter are always singing. Silly songs, Star Wars songs, anything they come up with. The baby just adds his own flair to their creations.

His voice is changing now, less baby, more toddler and I know that soon he will be filled with words rather than the tender vocalizations that melt my heart. A part of me is sad as I see the baby years begin to fade in the rear view mirror of my life. The sleepy night time cuddles and snuggles. He’s always been such a trooper, contented to go along wherever we had to be. Now he has stronger opinions and he vocalizes them loudly (if often wordlessly).

I know that I will blink and the diaper years will be gone and all the rest will follow close behind. (We’re already making plans for the crib to take it’s well deserved retirement from service.) Everyone said it would go fast, and I tried so hard to slow it down. As I tuck him in at night and hold him close and whisper “Please don’t grow up too fast. You’re the last one.”

(We call the picture, the Simon selfie. The only way to get a decent picture of him these days).

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Our First Family Amusement Park Trip: Edaville

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My children have never been to an amusement park. Due to the combination of high cost of tickets and difficulty going much of anywhere with my now four year old, we’ve never attempted this sort of outing. But at the end of September, we were going to be just outside Boston for my cousin’s wedding. When Edaville railroad first opened their Thomas Land exhibit two years ago, I was dying to take the kids. My older two have been huge train and Thomas the Train fans for the last three to four years. We took them to a Day Out with Thomas event about two hours from us as a Christmas gift two years ago and they both had a great time. This was going to be even more expensive and a bigger deal. Would they even ride the rides, would my four year old have a meltdown? Would it be worth it?

We ended up having a fantastic time. We decided to go to the park on a Friday during the day. We arrived very close to opening (around 10:30 AM). There were only a handful of cars in the parking lot. I kept expecting it to fill up as the day went along, but mostly it was like having the park half to ourselves.

Edaville is divided into a couple different areas. There is the original Edaville section. This has the feel of an old fashioned amusement park. Then there is Thomas Land, which was obviously of the biggest draw for us. There is also a Dinoland section with both stationary and animatronic dinosaurs.

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My kids loved Edaville proper. Their favorite rides were the simple old fashioned ones, like a ferris wheel, balloons that go up and down, things that go round and round. At the end of the day when we said they could have one last ride each, this is where they wanted to go.

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The Thomas train ride goes all the way around the Edaville property. It was a perfect day weather wise, not too hot and not too cold, so the open cars were wonderful. Even the baby loved this part.

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(There weren’t many rides I could take him on, but fortunately he was a trooper and mostly just happy to watch the spectacle from his stroller and even took a nap while we walked around for a while. But he did enjoy the indoor play area for a while.)

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While the weather wasn’t too hot, it was still nice to stop in the indoor play area, to get a break during the hottest part of the day. I can’t imagine this place (or any other amusement park for that matter) in the heat of summer. I think if we do this kind of thing again, it will always be in the fall.

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Thomas Land is wonderful. I loved to see so many different engines and other characters incorporated into the rides. Bertie, Toby, several of the Diesels (Mavis, Salty, Diesel and possibly others), Cranky the Crane, Bulstrode and so many others.

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Fiery Flynn had his own unique ride where the children get to ride up and down on a lift and use stationary water nozzles to put out pretend fires. Very innovative and a big hit with my kids.

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I also loved the Cranberry Express ride featuring a bunch of the narrow gauge engines. (I really appreciated the inclusion of Millie to better incorporate the female engines). Winston’s Skyride was also great because we were able to bring the baby with us.

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The big moment was meeting the engines and Sir Topham Hatt. My kids, being as observant as they are realized of course that Sir Topham Hatt was a man in a costume. I personally think it would have been better to hire an actor who looks and is built like Sir Topham Hatt. Instead he looked more like a cartoon character.

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The engines were great, it was nice to see some besides Thomas for a change. I do wish more than just Percy was very three dimensional. (You could climb up on and in Percy, but the other engines were just facades. ) Also, the kids were hoping the trains would talk, but they didn’t. But it was still fun.

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Again, I appreciated the inclusion of Emily as one of the few girl engines. I think that the Thomas franchise has yet to fully realize the untapped interest of little girls and trains. Not that they have to have to have girl trains to interest girls, I’ve just found that my daughter creates more long term interest when she becomes invested in the characters. Having more female trains has helped her to maintain interest in the Thomas franchise and trains in general, when she might have given it up in favor of something else.

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There were a few things I would have liked to see improved about Edaville. The restrooms weren’t marked on the map! There were several of them, but it would have been helpful to see at a glance so we could decide when or if we needed to stop and avoid unnecessary backtracking.

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My major issues were with Dinoland. It’s premise is cool. The displays were interesting, quite realistic and educational. The problem was that we came at the end of September and they had heavily decorated Dinoland for Halloween. By decorated I don’t mean cute smiling pumpkins and scarecrows. We are talking gruesome skeletons and bleeding corpses. My kids are 4 and 7, and admittedly a little sensitive. (We actually don’t celebrate Halloween at all for religious reasons.) They were rather terrified of the spooky atmosphere. The mist surrounding the dinosaurs seemed far more creepy than primal when you added all the other Halloween gore. If we came again this time of year, I think I’d give Dinoland a miss.

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Our other minor disappointment was the size of clothing offered in the gift shop. I realize that Thomas is typically a favorite of the younger crowd. But my kids are still young. My daughter is 7 but the Thomas shirts featuring the girl engines (which is what she wanted most) didn’t come in her size. Even the boys clothes only go up to 6x/7, so she selected one of those. I think since this is a Thomas theme park after all, it would be nice if there was more availability of Thomas themed apparel rather than less. But that is a minor complaint.

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So, yes it is expensive, as all amusement parks are these days. But there were a few things to make it easier. Parking is free. (I kind of think this should be  given, but not so at many amusement parks now). If you purchase your tickets online in advance, that will save you a little bit of money. I also liked the Edaville Facebook page to keep an eye out for the latest deals. They ended up offering a coupon to purchase tickets just days before we left which ended up saving us $10 a ticket.

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We appreciated the ability to pack our own food. With a picky child, a child with food allergies and a baby, this was essential to making this work. Plus, again, it helped to save a bit of money. The picnic tables were in a shady area of trees just off the path between the rides. Nearby were water misters (though it wasn’t so hot that we needed them) and a bubble machine which the baby loved.

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If you can manage to go on a non-peak day, (not a weekend or school holiday) Edaville is totally worth it. Not sure if I would have the felt the same way if the park had been very crowded. This was by far one of the best days we’ve ever had as a family of five and I’m glad that Edaville was such a hit with our little kids.

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When the Baby is Finally Healthy Again

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My son is six months old. We’ve been fighting low weight gain and feeding issues almost since his first week of life. We’ve nursed, pumped and bottle fed with my milk and milk from generous mamas including my sister. (Some of you may remember, that we’ve been here before). For a while I pumped after every nursing around the clock, every three hours during the day and every four at night. He’s had his tongue and lip frenulem lasered by a pediatric dentist in Philadelphia who specializes in working with breastfed babies and mamas. (Who knew such amazing professionals existed? We drove over an hour to see him, but there were patients there who came even further. He saw us on his lunch break. That says a lot). I cater to this little one’s strange whims, like giving some milk by bottle, to prime the pump as it were, before nursing, guessing when he’s hungry because once he starts crying, it’s too late and so many more.

I take thrice daily herbal supplements. My hospital grade breast pump has been a constant presence in my living room since then and I rarely leave for an all day outing without my Medela backup pump. At least until recently.

Because he is six months olds now. He is finally on the charts at the 10th percentile. He rolls, vocalizes and, Lord have mercy, is trying to maneuver around and get ready to crawl. He eats solid food three times a day and loves it. He still wakes in the night to nurse sometimes, but when I do sleep, I don’t feel like I’m choosing my sleep (and in most cases, sanity) over his health. I only pump three times a day now, sometimes less if I really need the break. The hospital grade pump is going back this month. I don’t fear every stuffy nose and cold will result in lack of weight gain.

I know there is a still a long way and many sleepless nights to go. But I feel like I may be starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Where I can enjoy my son, this most likely to be final baby, and wonder at the way his little hand holds mine while we nurse. To let him nap in my arms, even when I know there is so much work to do. I’m really enjoying him.

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