Wednesday, September 30, 2009
And it's only gotten worse since I've become a mom. You'd think I was in mourning or something but, my daily uniform usually consists of something black. Here's the reason behind the madness: I've discovered that black is the best color to wear because it shows the least amount of stains. Even if I want to wear a semi-cute shirt, I know it's just going to get spit-up on, pooped on, colored on or peed on within the first hour of being worn. And if A,B,C or D hasn't happened yet, then E. fill in the blank with something very messy, is bound to be headed my way at any time. Why struggle with the mess when I can just rub it right in and no one will have to know?
This dress was given to me by my fashionable and generous sister-in-law at least five years ago. I still wear it and love it so much!!
But seriously, one of the things that gets me about clothes is how much they cost and how little I want to spend on them. I usually just acquire clothes. I hardly ever buy them. I'm not sure how this started but I think people who are around me often, who love me and want what's best for me, usually see my fashion sense and decide I need some help. So I receive a lot of hand-me downs from others. And really, since I'm so behind the times anyway, it always seems like great stuff to me!! However, when I do go to buy clothes, I usually try to stick with what's classic and practical simply because they last longer.
Today though, I really tried. I had two $10 off coupons to Kohl's and they were having a grand opening sale. My mom, bless her dear heart, met me at the mall and watched my three boys (all 4 and under and one of them ended up puking on her watch) in the play area while I went to try and find some deals. I promised myself that I wouldn't just buy practical but would buy some fun, cute stuff too. The good news is that I spent only $16.31 on 7 long-sleeved tees (all different colors). The bad news is that I didn't find anything girly or cute. Just simple and plain. Utter failure!!
But I really, really tried. I put on several sweaters, cardigans, flowery shirts and the like and I did not care for any of them!! I either looked pregnant in the flowing shirts (which I have looked plenty in the last four years and don't care to look when I'm really not) or I looked like I was trying to be a teenager again. And some of the fashions just plain confused me. One sweater I tried on was cute but it didn't have sleeves!! What is the point of a sweater if it does not have sleeves?!! I felt stupid just putting it on let alone wearing it in public. And I was not about to spend $30 on looking stupid! Give me my jeans and my tees please and my Cal Poly sweatshirts!! Go Mustangs!
So I settled for the plain and practical. And you know, I'm just fine with it. I think plain and practical fit me. I don't have to feel bad about the money spent but can feel good that these pieces will get me through many more years to come (with various hand-me-downs here and there of course). If I had a lot more money I'd maybe care more about my wardrobe. But, I probably still wouldn't much. It's just not me. In this area, I'm downright simple and stubborn about it. Is that even possible?!!
But, here's the deal. If you see me on the street, wearing something from last decade, please don't call the fashion police. First of all, I probably don't know the major fashion faux pas I'm committing and secondly, even if I did know, I probably wouldn't care!!
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I was already planning to write his birth story since I love writing and doing so, helps me to literally spell out what is on my heart about things. But then this last week a friend of mine got me in touch with a small christian publication called, Thought Meadow, and the editor asked me to write an article about gratitude. It was perfect timing. I won't say much more. After reading, you'll understand.
Yet I'll say this, his birth story is a bit long so if you don't have much time, you'll want to come by later. And for those of you who just want to see pictures, here's a few from that special and difficult night. I'll forever be grateful to the nurse who thought to take pictures for us since I was knocked out and Steve wasn't able to be in the room. He/she really gave us an amazing gift by doing so.
I remember it was hot. While most of the country was experiencing the first signs of fall full of bursting colors, sweaters, soup and apples, I was living through what some Californians call an "Indian Summer". It was early and my two boys were sleeping soundly at home while their Dad snored. I, however, was out walking the hill behind our house, my taut skin stretching snugly over my belly. Up and down I trudged, determined to walk and walk that hill that I had climbed so often during my pregnancy, trying to urge my body over the edge and into labor. Deep inside, the miracle that God was nearly finished forming in my body, kicked and rolled making his presence known again. I reminded him firmly, in a motherly sort of way, that he was running out of room and that he needed to come out!! While I walked, my thoughts were on getting through another day without being discouraged. Every day that one goes overdue seems like a week and if that were really true, I was already three weeks over. I didn't want to make it to four.
The rest of the day was full of Sabbath Dinner preparations, a trip to Costco, making Challah bread, kissing owies, cleaning up messes, another walk and cuddling with my husband. It was a typical Saturday. Once dinner hit and the preparations were done, the contractions started. Clean and smooth they rolled like butter off of a knife. They were productive and strong. I didn't tell a soul. We sang, we laughed and we made it through another Sabbath Dinner full of mystery and delight and as I cleaned up, I started to time the waves rippling through my abdomen. Once I was sure they were regular and close, I pulled my husband aside and whispered that it may be time. Excitement hung in the air like perfume. The day was cooling off and the sun was setting. It was a perfect autumn evening. The boys watched a movie while we continued to time. Steady, steady they came like the beat of a drum. My last labor had been short so, before long, we knew it was time to call our doula.
Almost as soon as we got her on the phone, the bleeding started. At first I was elated. Bloody show most certainly meant that it was the real thing and not a false alarm. Nevertheless, almost as rhythmic as the contractions, the bleeding came, steady, steady, faster and faster until I began to get a bit nervous. When our doula showed up, we all decided to head into the hospital quickly. As we sped along the country roads, my body leaning into the curves and bends of the road while simultaneously moving through the waves, my thoughts slowly went back through my two other births.
My firstborn was born two weeks early right before a major move. He had flipped to footling breech right near the end and was taken via c-section. It was unexpected and shocking. However, we were elated he was born and happy to hold him in our arms. Our next son was our first attempt at a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after C-Section) and his birth went off without a hitch. My labor was fast, strong and productive. It was an amazing experience and I felt like I had a tiny glimpse of what God's glory looks like in our world. I got to have a piece, a very small piece of what it feels like to lay myself down in death to give life to another. I savored my experience like a little child with his first ice cream cone and the memories of his birth still remain for me an experience full of wonder and awe at our Creator. Once I was pregnant with my third son, I knew I wanted to try for another VBAC. I didn't expect any problems. I expected another birth that would be physically challenging but aesthetically beautiful at the same time. Yet once we arrived at the hospital and I made that familiar walk down the halls, I realized that things may not be going according to my plans.
Once I was checked in, the rest of the night sped away from me very quickly and began to get blurry. Nurses went in and out trying to figure out why I was bleeding so much. Was my placenta abrupting? Was it lying too low? The baby was fine and I was progressing great but, the bleeding was not stopping. It continued to worsen. As rhythmic as the contractions, the blood flowed and I steadily began to weaken. I held onto hope that I could labor fast enough that it wouldn't matter and the baby would be born without any problems. Nevertheless, once my doctor showed up, he plainly saw that I was hemorrhaging, quickly pulled the plug on the whole operation and then very decisively prepped for surgery. Everything was slipping away from me at that moment. I went back to the morning in my mind and remembered the bright, cheery sun as I climbed the trusty hill. I remembered the strength I felt that very morning and tried to muster it up from deep down inside myself. But as much as I tried, my body was failing. The body that I had carefully and diligently prepared, relied on and trusted for nine months to carry my little one to completion was failing. And I was falling into the darkness.
Within minutes my husband had signed the papers, cried with me and sent me off into a sea of white coats with prayers and kisses hoping to see me breathing on the other end. Due to the serious nature of the situation, he was not allowed in to the operating room and ended up a puddle on the floor outside the door praying, waiting and straining to hear a cry from our son and a word that we were both all right. I was dreaming of better days within no time, yet somewhere deep down I was subconsciously crying that I could not witness my son's first moments and neither could his Dad. No one but the white coats, who were working so hard and fast to save his life and mine, could document his first cries and movements. Sadly, they were the only ones there.
Once I was awake and I knew my son was all right, the bitterness set in. Why had this happened? What had gone wrong? I felt the familiar pain from the surgery and winced in agony and in anger. My husband strongly held my hand, helped me nurse my little one and filled me in on the precious hours I had missed- his first moments. I lamented, I cried, I mourned and I seethed. Yet I tried to enjoy the first few hours of his birth. Because my husband loves me, he quickly set me to right, showing me the sovereignty of God and reminding me of God's mercy in the situation. "Look at all that could have gone wrong," he reminded me. "Look at what God saved us from. He didn't have to. He just did. We need to be grateful." I knew he was right but could not get my heart to meet him there. I should have been grateful. I should have seen the mercy. But I was blinded by selfishness, pride and my own feelings of injustice. I felt I had worked hard, prepared well and done everything I was supposed to do so I shouldn't have had any problems. Instead of rejoicing in our rescue, I just kept slipping back into the darkness.
As the weeks wore on, we talked about the birth constantly. My husband continued to remind me of God's mercy and I continued to remind him of the nightmare. But as time trudged on and turned itself slowly into months, God showed me glimpses of what could have been. There was an unexpected talk with a lady who had lost her son in childbirth. Her heart and amazing attitude moved me so much and I was humbled immediately. As I spoke with her, I cradled my infant safely in my arms and afterwards, I never looked at him the same. In that instant, I saw how close I was to losing him and how thankful I needed to be. It became less about me getting the birth I wanted and more about me holding tight the little life I was still given. I was also reminded that I could still have children, though not the natural way, and this joy and hope for the future, started to chisel away at my ingratitude. Slowly, slowly, with much prayer on my part and my husband's, my anger began to turn into thanksgiving. It was more about my perspective. Joshua's birth wasn't a nightmare. It was a rescue. It was mercy. And it wasn't because of anything I had done or deserved, it was simply because God had chosen it to be that way.
Job, who suffered tremendously, asked God what the reasons were for his sufferings since he was a righteous man who followed the rules and tried to do what was right. God simply responded, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding." Job 38:4 And then God gave a beautiful accounting of His creation story all done by His mighty hand. When I think about why God does what He does, I get all tangled up in questions, feelings and particulars and then am quickly reminded that I was not around when God formed the world and cannot wrap my tiny arms around the wisdom of the Almighty. God moves, spins, creates and loves and I simply get to be a small part of it. Sometimes His actions go my way and sometimes they don't but they are always for my good, whether painful, trying, or joyful. It's simply about my perspective. And my perspective dictates whether or not I will be able to be grateful.
Joshua's laughter ripples through our house daily and reminds me of God's grace. The smell of him, the way he curls his hair with his fingers and sucks quietly on his hand are all reminders of mercy. His very name means "Saved by the Lord" and is an eternal reminder that I serve a God who rescues. My own salvation rests upon this fact and more than anything in this world, I am grateful for life. Christ went down into death and conquered it so that I could live. This is mercy. This is grace. This is the foundation of my life. This is the very essence of my gratitude.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
First of all, I have the perfect carpool car--a Honda Pilot. Thank God for that car because really, it's His provision that we even have it. But anyway, it seats 8 comfortably and has shoulder straps for every seat. These are things to consider since all of the boys are small and car seats, booster seats and the like are all part of the equation. So in my Pilot, at least once a week, I was transporting five boys all under the age of five. And boy has it been a ride....literally. This makes for very good material. Take today for instance. We listen to a cd of kids' music that is a compilation of hymns. I want our children to know hymns because the theology in them is so rock solid so, we listen to them in the car and sing them at home too. Anyhow, right in the middle of Crown Him with Many Crowns, all of the boys were belting out "Brownie" instead of "Crown Him!" My oldest is very studious and particular and he had been corrected by his Dad earlier in the week and so he proceeded to try and correct everyone in the car about the wording, including his little brother. However, since the car is loud and large, nobody could hear him and his meticulous corrections were falling on deaf ears. Brownie it was!
Another habit we have gotten into is telling stories on the way to school, which means I'm the principal storyteller. This started last year because many times I had to nurse Joshua in the car and keep all of them contained at the same time. I pondered how to pull this off not just decently, but well since a loud car of little boys could easily take me over if they tried, so I had to have a plan. They all love trains so I started telling stories about Thomas the Train. Most of the stories had morals to them like obeying parents, being kind, loving God, sharing and being humble. Poor James (the train) he most often was the proud train. But the stories seemed to work beautifully. And of course, I got to remind them again that they needed to listen to their parents in a sly, sneaky kind of way. Ha! Anyhow, Joshua got fed, they were all happy in their seats and then I was able to send them off to school without any major catastrophes.
It never ceases to amaze me how I am able to pile all of them into the car and make it all the way home in one piece. But it works every time. And then I wonder to myself, where did the time go? How am I a carpool mom already? I swear I still feel 18 at times wearing cute skirts and adorning my hair with ribbons to get that handsome guy's attention in English class at Cal Poly. That's how I really snagged my husband you know. He asks me sometimes what happened to the skirts and ribbons. And then he laughs and says that they got replaced by an apron and bobby pins, and that he'd take me the way I am now any day. Phew...good thing. I'm not really a skirt type girl (I wish I was but I'm just not) so, that brief period of dressing up was really, well brief and strategic. But seriously, time has flown and continues to fly. And I better cherish it. Even though it's a bit insane, carpool reminds me that I better soak up all of the chattering voices, the laughs and stories floating through my car as the miles fly by. The next time I turn around to notice, they'll be grown, and I'll be wishing I could go back to Thomas the Train, nursing my baby in the front seat and hearing about their day at school. Someday they won't want to talk about it much. They'll have few words...which just means that they'll have turned into little men and that I will have grown even older. So I'll take the craziness, brownie and all. What a blessing it is!!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Well, I have to admit it to the world. In my spare time during the day, which isn't much lately, one thing I love to do is read cookbooks. I have an absolute addiction to reading cookbooks. Now let me explain what I mean. I don't mean perusing cookbooks. I don't mean glancing through cookbooks or even scouring the index to find a recipe and then looking it up. I mean, from start to finish reading cookbooks. And I don't just read them once, I go over them time and time again. To be honest, I mostly learned to cook and bake from reading cookbooks over and over again. It isn't even what I'd call a hobby but more of an obsession. I know, I'm strange. I'm sure there are more people out there like me-- they just might not want to admit it!!
But yesterday, yesterday...I got a much anticipated and desired addition to my cookbook collection: The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Oh how I love thee! I have wanted to buy this cookbook for probably a year and really it's not that expensive. It's only $35 but I just couldn't justify spending the money for awhile, especially since they have all of their recipes online. However, there is just something about cracking open that cookbook, your own cookbook, and getting to know the pages like getting acquainted with a new friend. Before much time has passed, the recipes become dusted with flour, painted with oil and sprinkled with love and notes are all over the place!! You can't replace that with online recipes. Give me the old fashioned way please!
So I knew I had to buy the cookbook sometime but I did wait and bide my time. After many months of spending my extra precious cash on other essentials, I finally came up with enough money to purchase the cookbook with no guilt attached. And now, I get to savor every little page and boy am I loving it! If you haven't checked out King Arthur Flour and you love to bake, you must do so now!! And thanks Brittany for turning me on to their website in the first place. Well, I better go. I have much reading to do. When my husband gets home, I'm sure he will find me tonight just like I was last night, asleep with the King Arthur Flour catalog on one side (another weakness) and the cookbook laying snugly on my chest. And in my dreams, I'll be fantasizing about new ideas for yeast doughs, cinnamon rolls and bread puddings.
Friday, September 11, 2009
So this is our second born son...Caleb, Caleby or as we lovingly call him sometimes The Sinister Minister. I won't go into all the details as to where the nickname came from, however, you must trust me-- it fits this child to a tee. He is as sinister as they come and he's only two and a half. I don't even want to know what kind of tricks this kid is going to pull when he's older. Our only prayer is to reign him in now before it's too late!! We always talk about how we can adequately shape his will and teach him boundaries and to obey, without breaking his spirit. It's going to be a tough task. He's just got such a lively little personality. In so many ways it's wonderful. He's so fun and playful. He's always doing something. And he's got a fight in him that you just can't train or teach. He's also very passionate, mostly about weapons at this stage of the game, and his passion is always in high gear whether it's good or bad. If he's happy, you'll know it because he'll be loud about it. If he's upset, you'll definitely know. He just lives large. Now we love all of that about him but, at times, his exuberance can be a bit trying.
One area that we have continually hit our heads against the wall with him on has been food. I think a lot of parents struggle in this area especially in our country where we have so much wealth which leads to an abundance of food and choices. I swore I'd never let my kids be picky eaters but, it's so hard to train in this area when they have a bent toward pickiness and a good dose of stubbornness does not help either. Isaac was a bit picky but soon outgrew it as we forced him to try different things. Forcing one bite worked for him and he would obey and just get the food down. Now he eats most things just fine.
In comes second child. Parent tries first tactic with second child that worked with first child. Utter failure. Isn't it always? Parent tries second tactic that he/she heard from a friend. Utter failure. Surprise. Surprise. Parent tries third tactic that he/she read about. Utter failure. Why are we trying? Oh yeah because we care about his soul and he must learn to obey. And on and on it went with this poor child. I really should say poor us because we had to deal with the screaming at dinner. It got to the point that we could get a bite of whatever it was he had to "try" into his mouth but once that bite was in there, he.would.not.chew.it! He'd just scream, drool and scream some more. Pretty much anything he had to try was the main dish at dinner. Nearly every night for awhile he didn't like any of it and sometimes it was even kid friendly stuff like mac n cheese. And vegetables, you can forget about it. No amount of anything, and I mean anything could get him to eat that bite. It'd just sit there collecting dust as the rest of us waited for him to eat it. Then we got smart and just let him sit there for forever, and ever, and he still wouldn't eat it. Sometimes it would take an hour for it to finally break down and dissolve. And then he'd triumphantly get down and go play as if to say, "See, I didn't really eat it! It just dissolved!!"
Now this left us scratching our heads like you wouldn't believe. We NEVER dealt with this much stubborn perseverance with our oldest child. And the logic of it...well there was no logic. Usually when you don't like something, you don't want to keep it in your mouth for an hour. You want to just wolf it down and get it over with. Well, not our little sinister minister. Remember, he's a fighter. In an effort to come alongside of him and show him that we were for him, I'd try to make sure there was something he'd like at dinner. He's pretty good at fruit, bread, and most meats. It's just vegetables and prepared food like casseroles, spaghetti (I know! He finally eats that now) and other dinner stuff he simply didn't like. We'd remind him constantly that once he ate his obligatory bite, he'd get to have something else offered at dinner that he likes, like a roll for instance, with butter, or sweet potato fries or something like that.
Then over time it slowly, slowly, slowly got better. But it was never, EVER good. Not even close. The better is just relative to how it was before--really, really bad. Then this last week, all of the sudden, a light bulb has switched on in his head. All of us have noticed that our little sinister minister has decided on his own terms that it's just not worth fighting about anymore. I'm hoping it's not just a phase but that it sticks around. He's been eating his food, chewing his obligatory bite of vegetable and only taking five minutes or so to get that bite down (I know, pathetic but much better than before) and he's been getting blessed with bread and butter, or cornbread, or whatever else is good like fruit at the end of eating the rest of his dinner. And we've been going over the same thing again that is repeated endlessly in our house...When we obey, we get blessings! Not that we obey to get blessings but a lot of times, blessings are a byproduct of our obedience. For example some blessings could be praise from parents, an actual physical reward (we try not to do that too much) or an extra activity or something when it's applicable. But he really has turned a corner. And believe me, my husband and I are wondering what happened in his little brain that it finally all made sense to him. We're not sure but we'll take it. I think we saw too that sticking it out with him has finally produced our desired results- a child who will cheerfully eat at dinner...when we obey we get blessings. I'm sure we'll have many more run-ins with all of our children in the future. However, for now in this area, we've finally seen the fruit of our labor and there is a bit of peace. Thank God!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
We went to visit my grandma in Pleasanton before she was moved to Assisted Living this last labor day. It's hard for me to see her now because she doesn't know who I am. She has Alzheimer's and has recently really gone down-hill. However, I need to remember that it's not about me. I just need to see her to honor her.
And we still haven't gotten the dryer fixed so....the clothesline has been working like a champ. I've had a few snafus like it falling down with a whole load of laundry attached. By the way, it's not that easy to hang it back up when it's full...it's extremely heavy. That time I had to unload it and then re-hang everything. No wonder our grandmothers were in such great shape! They did everything by hand! However, I was determined not to let that clothesline get the best of me!! Anyway though, I also discovered that if the clothes are left on the line a bit too long (like overnight...I accidentally fell asleep) then the color of the rope I used for the line (ummm...red) can come off on the clothes. Luckily the stains came out. However, other than these little set-backs, it's still been churning out the dry clothes right and left. In the next couple of weeks, we'll go pick up my grandma's washer and dryer since she no longer needs them. But until then, it's me and the clothesline.
I just couldn't resist either. I'm saving this one for the wedding slide show. I know I said no bras and no underwear but....what're the little ones to know huh?! Saving the best for last!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
So I started out my week like any other, with many, many piles of laundry. It never ceases to amaze me how many dirty clothes get racked up during the week and I still run the washing machine a few times over the weekend after my initial laundry overhaul is done on Monday and Tuesday. Nevertheless, I haven't quite gotten to the point where I have to wash every day so I can be thankful. However, back to the story, I got halfway through my laundry mania and noticed that a load didn't get dry. I thought I'd forgotten to turn the dryer on. I hate it when I do that because then the clothes in the washer sit and have to wait for the dryer and I lose precious time. So, inwardly, I chastised myself for forgetting to turn on the dryer and turned the dryer on. Done. On to the next thing. I checked it later, and it still wasn't dry--at all! Oh no! I quickly came to the conclusion that the dryer must be broken.
When Steve came home, he took a look at it. He's pretty savvy with fixing things but dryers are a bit out of his league. By the way, you can ask his mom about a hair dryer he tried to fix when he was younger and how all of that turned out. But I'm digressing. He checked a few basic things and the dryer still didn't work so he told me to call the repair man. Meanwhile, I'm dreaming of getting a new washer and dryer. We always said that once these old ones gave out we'd buy front loaders. I was picking out the colors in my mind and everything when I suddenly realized that new washer and dryer or not, I still had two very wet loads that needed to get dried and they needed to get dried now before they got all moldy. What to do?
That's when I had a blast from the past and remembered something that most woman used to use all of the time to get their clothes dry before the conventional dryer--the clothesline. With fierce determination, I searched through my husband's tools and found some sturdy rope and his trusty hammer. When the hammer came out, my boys instinctively ran for their tools and then looked at me quizzically like "Mom, you're going to fix something?" I assured them that this fix-it job was very feminine and that mom was going to make herself a clothesline. Reassured, off to the backyard they trekked to help find the perfect spot to hang it. The clothesline was up in a flash and my clothes were hung up before I knew it. And you know what, it felt good. The sun beat down on me as I hung them up, and it really, truly felt good, comfy and homey. I wondered if this was how my grandmother felt when she hung out her family's clothes to dry--just plain simple but in a cleansing sort of way! (I know, I know, I'm really a romantic) And not only did it feel good but it worked great as well. Within twenty minutes, they were all dry (although a bit crunchy) and I thought, I really could get used to this.
Since we're the cheapest people ever, frugal is a nice euphemism to describe us, we'll probably just get our old dryer fixed, especially since the washer still works. Although someday I'm sure to get those amazing front loaders. Good thing the repair man said it wouldn't cost too much. But until it's fixed, I think I'll be just fine. I've got my clothesline, the hot sun, some clothespins and a dose of good old fashioned invention to get me through. The only thing I have to remember is that our house is located right next to the senior parking lot....so that means, if I love my husband and don't want to make him the talk of the school, I must remember...no bras, and no underwear!