I don’t mind gushing about the newest baby, because it hasn’t always been this easy. I try hard to be transparent when I write, but that must include the good stuff too. I’ve never been this at peace with a newborn. I’ve never felt so alive as a mother. We’re nearly five months in and still pinching ourselves daily. Is this real life? Hadassah Lee is a game-changer. This girl is absolutely unbelievable, and her entire world is in love with her.
I can’t tell if she’s sleeping through the night yet because she spends a good chunk of it in my arms. I crave her warmth and scent tucked under my chin at night. When she’s not sleeping or eating, she’s smiling. It feels good to hear people compliment those cheeks. Never in my life have I had a baby on the growth chart. It’s also strange to have a baby who’s hitting milestones on-track, and even early. This week, Haddie started pushing up on all fours and rolling to her tummy from her back. Slow down, baby! She’s a dead ringer for Chris’ baby pictures, so I have a baby girl who looks just like her daddy. I love that.
Recently, I overheard one of the big boys talking to Hadassah Lee as he held her, “Look at those pretty blue eyes! There’s so much world to see!” She tracks her brothers like a hawk when they’re in the room, and her face lights up when anyone smiles at her. The little ones ask to see “Baby Dassah” as soon as they wake up. Nobody minds her squawking through our meals. She’s already fitting into some of the girls’ old outfits, and I can catch little glimpses of the memories they’ll all make in their bedroom someday.
The days and weeks are flying, and there’s nothing I can do to slow them down. I finally understand what it means to live those bittersweet moments with a new baby. I’m sad to watch them pass, but oh so grateful that I get to experience them.
The twins might have taken awhile to gain weight and walk, but they sure hit their “terrible twos” nail right on the head… wielding a heavy, ugly hammer. It feels like it came out of nowhere; to be honest, Chris and I were a bit shocked. We’ve been through some junk with our kids, but this season with the sisters has been brutal at times. The flailing, the sassing, the fighting, and the ear-splitting shrieking makes the sweet moments seem few and far between. I’m very intentional about refraining from sharing details on here that could one day shame my kids, but dang. Sometimes I put the girls to bed at night and wonder where the day went. They are amazing little creatures, but they exhaust me.
During one particularly rough evening, one twin did not want to get ready for bed. She’d not napped well and was quite obviously tired, but she’d convinced herself she’d rather go back downstairs and play with her big brothers. Things got pretty ugly when she saw her pajamas come out of their drawer, and it was a long time before she was calm enough to get them on. I wasn’t going to man-handle her into her pajamas, but I refused to let her leave her room. We moved through a few different positions and scenarios during the ordeal. I eventually retreated to her bed with her sister to wait it all out. As I watched her carry on with that little sinful nature racket, I grew weary. There are so many things I want to teach this child, I thought, and yet she and I both might not make it to tomorrow morning.
Just as I felt my frustration welling up into anger, I felt a small hand on my hair. My other daughter was stroking my face and whispering in my ear. Don’t be scared, Momma. Don’t be scared.
From the mouths of babes, y’all. We can do the hard things. It’s as simple as that. Don’t be scared.
Courtney (the one with the drool-worthy nursery) was sweet enough to ask me to interview for her #showyourreal series. She was patient enough to wait for my response after Hadassah was born, and then brave enough to post my answers just as they were. Her questions were so, so good and I found myself surprised at how honest I wanted to be. I was honored to do it! Check it out here.
Recently, I’ve been struck with the importance of attitude, especially as it relates to my unit at work. With the way surgical patients come and go, a nurse can easily turn over his or her entire assignment in a twelve-hour shift. We walk for miles and miles, and we consider it a good day if we pee before lunch. Assessments, medications, doctors, tests, blood transfusions, education, therapy, hourly rounding… a normal day is enough to frazzle even the most experienced nurse. Add to that the idea that med-surg is merely a stepping stone for most nurses, and it’s easy to see why one might see a pretty high turnover on most units like mine.
Medical-surgical nursing is a special kind of work. Fast and furious. Hard and heavy. It’s certainly not for everyone, and I totally understand why. In nursing school, I barely passed my adult health classes. I never volunteered to perform skills in front of my peers, instead keeping myself busy “taking notes” in the back. I applied to every specialty job I could find when I graduated, so as to avoid med-surg at all costs. Eventually, though, I decided I needed some real, medical experience. I transfered into a med-surg job at a hospital, and I haven’t left since. I cannot imagine myself anywhere else. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fun. But it’s where I belong right now, and I’m grateful for the calling. On the days that I feel like calling out sick, on the days that I wish I was a stay-at-home mom, I just put my head down. I grit my teeth and get through the day. Sometimes I find myself coaching the girls at work through this idea. When I’m in charge and find a nurse stressing, I try to make a point to pull him or her aside. I ask them to say it all out loud. Get it out, vent, process, brainstorm… and then get to work.
I’ve said this time and time again, but I’m still not sure how to respond when people ask me how I do it all. When it comes to my nursing job, I just do it. It’s the same with my family, my job at Influence, and all of the other parts of my life. I put my head down and go to work. I know so much of my life is about looking up and looking out. So much of my life must be about community and vulnerability, but it can’t always be that way. Sometimes, it’s about me choosing joy even when I don’t feel like it. Sometimes, it’s about reminding myself that I’m blessed to have a job in this economy, especially a rewarding job that I actually enjoy. Or it’s about reminding myself that I’m blessed to have a house full of children, even when they’re hard.
Ladies, I feel like getting through the hard stuff with grace is absolutely vital to our femininity as women. I also feel like this might be something our generation is in danger of missing. For this life to be fulfilling, we must get our hands dirty. As far as I can tell, the gospel demands it. At home or at our jobs, the story is the same. We’re tempted to complain or avoid or quit when things get tough or uncomfortable. I know because I’ve been there, but I don’t want to be about that anymore. I don’t want to raise children under this idea, either. I want to be a wife, a mother, a writer, a nurse, and a friend who leads by example. I want to be the kind of woman who isn’t afraid to put my head down and get the job done.
You’ve seen it. You’ve read it. You’ve lived it yourself. This is the month when people all over the Internet reflect back on the year past and anticipate the year to come. There are apps and photos and collages and quotes, all about the things we’ve done and the places we’ll go. I get it. I don’t have a problem with looking back and looking forward. My blog was built on the idea. But I also think it’s important to live right now, right where we are. I’m preaching to myself, too.
So let’s give December its due diligence. It’s not too late to set some goals for 2013 and actually meet them. You have thirty-one days to change the way things are. Read a book. Paint a room. Sit down and drink your coffee hot. Spring clean your house. Learn a new recipe. Have a date night. Memorize a piece of Scripture. Let’s send this year out with a bang, shall we? Let’s make this month count.
Rather quiet here, right? I had to give up my writing day this week, due to the holiday and my work schedule and the fact that my family discovered Extreme Cheapskates on Netflix. I long for a day when writing is part of my daily routine, but we’re not there yet. I did jot down thoughts all over the place, though. They’ll find their way into this space next week. I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! We sure did.
I had hoped Hadassah would nap while I fed the pigs breakfast, but it appeared to be a no-go on this particular monring. So instead of pushing the issue, I scooped her up and pulled her into my lap after I made my oatmeal. I enjoyed a few bites while the rest of the kids finished their dry cereal and played on the kitchen floor. Suddenly, the baby pooped on me. Like, straight through her onesie and onto my lap, missing her pants entirely. I looked up at Isaiah Jane in shock and tried to laugh, but she had a surprise of her own. IJ had apparently swallowed too much water in one gulp, and proceeded to spew it all over me, Hadassah Lee, and the carpet. I set aside my breakfast and jumped up to get everyone dry and changed.
By the time I was actually ready to leave the house, the oatmeal had grown cold and the ice had melted in my coffee. Tempted to throw it out and leave without eating, I set the dishes by the sink. On the way out a few minutes later, though, I stopped myself. I took my breakfast with me, dishes and all, photographing them on the tailgate of the Suburban before I took off. I later enjoyed my freezing-cold oatmeal in the driver’s seat after I’d arrived at my destination. I needed to remind myself of a few things.
First of all, I’m lucky to have food to put in my stomach. My church just finished collecting snacks for a local elementary school where kids often arrive hungry. It’s in our own backyard, and it isn’t a joke. I am rich because I get to eat breakfast every day. Second of all, I am not owned by interruptions. I am not a victim of my surroundings, of the tiny moments that threaten to drag me down throughout the day. Gratefulness is one of the easiest ways to reset my mood, but I must work for it. I must fight to take back my day, sometimes over and over again. It isn’t enough to talk about the things that make us thankful. It’s the sometimes-painful, daily practice of gratitude that shapes us. These days, I’m choosing to work.
Today I’m over on the Influence Network blog, sharing about the give and take of our ministry. God made this concept very real and tangible to us, during our conference in September. Click on over to check out the worship night set list and view some beautiful photos of the way the Lord closed our time together.
For those of you who did not attend, we released the sessions on audio this week! So, so good. I can’t wait to listen. After the stomach virus I had that week, I actually have quite a bit of listening to do myself!
Naturally, I care a lot about what my big boys think – of me, our family, and pretty much everything that goes along with it. They didn’t ask to have a stepmom or half-siblings, and I never want them to look back on these years with regret or bitterness. I know that family is family regardless, but I’m super tender when it comes to my bonus boys. I’m sensitive about the little kids annoying them. I want to cook the meals they like. I look for ways to honor and empower them. I include them in most of our decision-making conversations.
When we fell in love with this house, I couldn’t help but think about the sacrifices it would include for the big boys. They would give up the walking distance they had to friends. They would no longer have a cement driveway or neighborhood street on which to ride bikes and skateboard. It would be awhile before we could fix the plumbing and offer them a working shower. It would be awhile before we could expand the wiring and offer them convenient outlets in every room. Would they even have any interest in a historic home? Would they be able to get past the musty smell and the crooked walls? They toured the place a few times and said they loved it, and so we moved forward. But every now and then, I look around and see all of the improvements still to be made. We’ve only been here a few months, but I fear that this house will never be “just right” for them until years after they’ve left.
One of the boys unknowingly spoke into this recently, as we drove past a still-in-progress neighborhood on our way home from church. The sign at the front advertised homes at more than double the price of ours. He had no idea of this, of course, but he began to ask me questions about the neighborhood and why he continues to see areas like this popping up all over. We talked about people’s desires to own their own home and have their own space, and we reminisced about building our previous home on a similar lot just a few years back. He was quiet for a second, and then he asked, ”What would you rather have – an expensive house or room to breathe? I’d rather have room to breathe.”
I smiled and asked him if that meant that he likes where we live now. He said yes,* and I smiled again. That nagging voice of doubt seemed quieter now. As if I needed any more confirmation, we arrived home just in time to join some friends outside. We spent the entire afternoon in our front yard with two neighboring families, throwing football and climbing trees and sweeping up leaf piles for jumping. We sat on blankets and shared snacks and stories about the things we’d like to do together on this land.
*Full disclosure: The boy followed his affirmation with an ever-present reminder that we still have work to do… something about the upstairs (non-working) bathroom being “kinda ehhhh” and that he’s seen roaches in it. But hey, I agree! Let’s get that bathroom working ASAP, shall we?
I can’t give my kids the world in an instant, and I can’t afford to give them unrealistic expectations. All I can do is be honest and open, and encourage them to find joy in every season. It sounds like in this case, though, they might not need as much encouraging as I thought.
I recently arrived at a rather scary conclusion. I was in fact born to be a mother to many.
As I tiptoe past exasperated eyerolls from a tweenager and a teenager and a threenager, as I valiantly attempt to potty-train twins and not stress about my newborn’s sleep habits, I realize that I’ve been divided and conquered. My kids have absolutely obliterated my perception of motherhood. Their very presence exposes the lies I believed about the kind of mother I swore I’d be, and the lifestyle I planned to lead when I reached this season. Their sweet, sticky faces have stared at mine and spoken to those lies. This is real life. Stepsons, twins, a surprise pregnancy. It all happened and I couldn’t press pause to regroup. I couldn’t pretend this was two kids and a dog and a white picket fence. It wasn’t, so why use that filter? I had to throw away the playbook and start over.
I’m so outnumbered, I don’t have time or energy to spend fussing over my kids the way my flesh would like to. It only hit me recently how much of a blessing this is. It is such a good thing, for my personality to be spread between multiple children. My kids would probably tell you they get enough of me as it is. I feel like they have strength in numbers, in a way. The large family dynamic acts as a buffer to my inclinations towards unrealistic expectations. It’s simply not possible for me to keep up with all of the things, all of the time. Dirt and leaves track in on my carpets, especially just after I get around to vacuuming. Sometimes, we’re late to events because the getting-out-of-the-house process is not unlike herding cats. Also, hair bows get lost easily, and it’s even more frustrating when there’s a twin still wearing hers. My world literally stops for a few minutes when I lose a hair bow.
I’ve been divided and conquered, and yet what’s left of me is so much better. I’m softer. I’m sweeter. I’m a better listener, and I’m a better snuggler. Mothering kids in so many different forms, ages, and seasons has made the important things stand out and the trivial things fade to the background. I’m learning to bargain without compromising my values. I’ve begun to actually use the whole “count to ten” thing before I respond to tense situations, and it actually works. I’m figuring out when to push and when to wait. I know how to laugh and let live, when interesting music selections are made and shoes go onto the wrong feet.
When my children see me choose to stop struggling and let something go, they learn to do it too. When they see me adapt and grow and stay vulnerable, they learn to do it too. When they see me ask for forgiveness and give grace and mercy freely, they learn to do it too. When they see me laugh at myself, they learn to do it too. When they see me speak life, they learn to do it too. And where do they start? Where do they get all of their practice? On each other. They’re so young, and they’re already getting it. They’re loving each other so well, and it’s mesmerizing to watch. I’m happy to be in this place, divided and conquered.