The struggle is real

This is a day that we got back to school work after having two sick days off. My toddler had a doctor’s appointment that involved numbing cream and a freezing cold cotton swab to continue to attack a wart on his ring finger that got bigger. We just couldn’t take him when his little sister was born – we were just trying to eat well and stay hydrated.

This was after we lugged all our heavy bags to the playground next door, because I planned on homeschooling my kids there. Except when I called my doctor about the numbing cream, come to find out it needs an hour to sit on the boy’s finger, which means we had to leave the playground and go to the pharmacy. At the pharmacy, we learn about how the Lord helped Jephthah and how Jephthah had to kill his daughter to fulfill his oath to the Lord.

Then at the pharmacy, the prescription hadn’t come over, and my toddler needed the toilet, so we had to leave with all our bags again to see the doctor’s office and use their toilet. By the time we got there, my toddler decided he didn’t need the toilet anymore.  Then I had to go back next door to fill the prescription. Then come back to the doctor’s office so my toddler to be seen by the doctor. This is the story of how 1 stop became 5 small stops, much to my chagrin. 

At the doctor’s office my children learned about Samson, his riddle, and his betraying wife; his revenge on the Philistine’s using foxes tied together, and how he became a judge. Then we learned about temperate forests, and how deciduous forests are different from coniferous forests. The toddler then gets called back for his appointment.

In the waiting room, I get my kindergartener started on his handwriting. He wrote 4 or 5 letters before the doctor arrived.

You would have thought the doctor was cutting my toddler’s finger off, all before anything even touched my toddler’s finger. And this is the most gentle doctor I’ve ever taken my children to, and believe me, we’ve had some good doctors! I had to hand my baby off to a front desk lady, because my toddler was such a mess. This was not easy!

The doctor gave my children peeps for good listening, even after my toddler was screaming bloody murder. Ewe. But they were both delighted.

We go to get in the car. Lo and behold, I had to withhold the peep from the toddler because he didn’t listen to me in the parking lot. This ensures more screaming.

Once home, my toddler refused to follow directions. That means, he wouldn’t carry his book-bag and walk into the house. I had to discipline him on the sidewalk four times before he decided he better listen to me.

After that, my children wouldn’t eat their lunch. Lunch was a delicious homemade chicken soup. Come on now.

I make chicken chili in the crock pot… which I’m thinking they are going to complain about later tonight, but I’m no short order cook.

The toddler goes for quiet time. He comes out 5 times in 40 minutes. During this, I nurse the baby, and finish school work with the kindergartener. Why are we doing school until 2pm in the afternoon?! Oh, that’s right, because it’s our first day back after two days off, and we lost our sense of discipline and concentration.

I lay down with grumpy toddler and the baby, and give grumpy toddler a bottle. He rejuvenates himself an is happy again. My kindergartener has quiet time now. He asked me no less than 5 times when his quiet time was over. I told him twice to stop asking me, and then the third time, I extended his quiet time. But I let him out early if he said some Bible verses with me about anger and self-control. I realized, though he’s learning to write cursive, he has a hard time reading it.

Today I started writing verses about disobedience and obedience. These verses will benefit the whole family.

I send the children outside to play. They play for 15 minutes or so. I let them see a show for a half hour.

The neighbor brings over a delicious Tres Leche treat. I change and nurse the baby. I discover my other neighbor has a birthday today. We will make her a card.

My kids are going to go back outside to play after they finish their treat.

I am wiped out.

This is homeschooling some days. This is reality. The struggle is real.

Tomorrow will be better.

Tiny hands

Tiny hands, dependent eyes, unsure feet. I love mothering these little ones. I love their messes, their cries, their hugs, their clumsy ways, their laughs, their pats, and their squeals. I wish I could put it in a bottle and open it 30 years from now when I am having a hard time remembering. But then, maybe they’ll fill my arms with grand babies that can help remind me.

Children are utterly dependent on us. Perhaps this is why mothers are anxious that they are doing their jobs the best way, in a way that could gain God’s nod of approval. You cannot rely on the day-to-day to measure how well you are doing in this kind of job. There’s no performance review, no checklist to follow. There’s only quarter after quarter, or year after year, or maybe even decade after decade that will help you see what kinds of seeds you sowed. But these results are muddled by the fact that children will one day choose to go their own way. 

All this, to point to the fact that we are utterly reliant on God, who is merciful to cover our faults and smooth over our gaps, and deliver our children from the ruthless results of our own sin.

Lord, help my children love you more than life itself, more than me, more than their father, and more than their children. Help us all abide in You, and find life in You. And keep us from harm, that we would not harm others, but instead, that we could be useful in introducing others to Your perfect love. Amen.

Perfect design

God knows exactly what He’s doing. Again and again I’m astonished by His handiwork.

I’m snuggling my third baby who is five and a half days old right now. We’ve had a day of snuggling in, and that’s what we are doing the rest of the day.

Yesterday, at four days old, we went for her newborn and family pictures so it was a busy day for all of us, but especially her and I. The day earlier she had a tongue and lip tie repaired. She was three days old. That meant for our busy day yesterday, she was in the throes of recovery. And the stress of her procedure Tuesday and her grueling heart-breaking post-surgery care, on top of recovery from childbirth, lack of sleep, and stress from getting ready and out for pictures, lowered my immune system again, and my throat started worsening… again. This is on top of my head-ache-inducing cough which has been with me since mid-January. My post-birth body is suffering from separated abs, a pinched nerve in my mid-low back, a hip that threatens popping out, a hemmoroid, and soreness from nursing a tongue-tied infant, and the tail end of pink eye. That’s TMI, for sure, but this is real life. Almost laughable. Except it’s painful. So instead, sometimes I’m laughing and sometimes I’m crying. Thank God for family and generous friends who are bringing us meals!!

You shouldn’t plan anything that soon after birth. But I wanted my mom in our pictures. That’s the choice I made. And I’m grateful.

I’m glad that with sleep and rest this morning my throat feels better today. Except my mom left for Atlanta this morning, so I’m weepy and emotional. Love her!

I’m so glad my sister flew in Tuesday night! 

So lil’ bit and I went for the shortest walk. And are laying around again nursing my body back to health and bonding with this precious baby of mine.

I wondered how a relationship with a daughter might be different than a son. It’s so different. And wonderous. And both kinds of relationships are revelational and precious and one of a kind. I’m not sure if the difference has to do with gender or just the chemistry God gives you with each little spirit. So special though.

And it just struck me how God designed babies so perfectly, to garner instantaneous love at a capacity greater than you ever thought possible before you had kids. And compassion, mercy, gentleness, tolerance, and the determination to endure pain. I praise Him! Thank you Lord for giving us this love.

My birth plan

There’s the hospital birth plan and the thing I really want to happen.

What I really envision happening is for my water to break at some point, hopefully st home, though many women don’t have waters break before labor, and to labor for many hours (Micah was 30 hours, and Kade was 19 hours) during a calm day, and then have the baby in the middle of the night while the children are sleeping. 

And I want to be listening to praise music, smelling essential oils, and praying. I want to have a quiet labor in low lighting and end with deep low long breaths and a loose relaxed jaw.

I envision baby breathing just fine with great color and muscle tone and lots of hair like her brothers had at birth.

This is how I prepare for labor. I play it out in my head. I conceive what could be, in many scenarios. And I pray.

If it turns out differently – quicker, requiring surgery, requiring help, being late, baby struggling etc – I’ve imagined those scenarios too and how I might deal with them. 

God is in control, not me. Thank the Lord for that!

Birth story

My new baby’s birth story is already written. 

Psalm 139:14-16 says 

Certainly you made my mind and heart; you wove me together in my mother’s womb. I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.

Thus, the Lord has already written my baby’s birth plan.

I wrote up this baby’s birth plan a few days ago. But I know We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps (Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬). And the Lord’s plan is the best plan, so I lean in Him. He is the Rock of my Salvation, even in delivering my babies! 

As I come to the end of this pregnancy, I’ve been consuming lots of birth stories as my reminder of what’s to come. I started anticipating this time with some fear, but I’ve acknowledged it out loud to my husband, and to the Lord, as a sort of (cathartic) confession of sorts, and now I’m feeling ready. The fear is mostly just a remembrance of the reality of pain in childbirth. I now can acknowledge that if I have pain, it’s because God blessed my uterus to know exactly how to birth a baby – what a total blessing! Habakkuk (3:19) says The sovereign Lord is my source of strength. He gives me the agility of a deer; He enables me to negotiate the rugged terrain. Childbirth is rugged terrain… I have the ability to move however I want, but it’s mainly the kind of situation that you accept and embrace as God takes you on a ride. You can move and breathe, and you must, but you must also fix your thoughts.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

It gives me great comfort to know that whenever I remember (Jesus) on my bed, and think about (Him) during the nighttime hours… (He) is my Deliverer; under (His) wings I rejoice. My soul pursues (Him), (His) right hand upholds me. PSALM 63:6-8

My message to my baby Hope is Look, the Lord’s hand is not too weak to deliver you; his ear is not too deaf to hear you. Isaiah 59:1. I believe that babies can communicate with God and their mothers even before birth. Thus, her spirit draws strength.

I want her to be able to say I have leaned on You since birth; You pulled me from my mother’s womb. I praise You continually. Psalm 71:6

And I want this to be true for us as parents: May your father and your mother have joy; may she who bore you rejoice. Proverbs 23:25

I believe we will be full of joy in this labor! The Lord said He would help me. What a delight I have in that assurance! I need no other help than His! We are ready, Lord!

Childbirth… 10 things.

I, like many women, am part of a birth forum for pregnant women. I’m mainly involved as a silent observer, however, I have a few things to say about pregnancy and labor and afterwards.

  1. Wait till your baby signals he or she is ready to come out. Many girls are having their membranes swept, taking castor oil, or trying other methods to kick start labor, and some are just 38 weeks. Why the hurry? It’s uncomfortable at the end, but these last few weeks are critical for the baby’s healthy development. If you’re healthy and your baby is healthy, take a deep breath and relax! Enjoy these last moments when you and your baby are connected so intimately and your life is status quo (whatever that means for you). For me, I relish the times I get to snuggle by boys without juggling this bundle of joy at the same time. Soon they will have to contend with, and accommodate for baby sister too.
  2. Hormones are normal. Ups and downs and emotions are normal. If you cry excessively please get help. If you are sensitive that’s okay.
  3. Know what you need and hold to your boundaries. Relatives and even spouses of all kinds of pressure on pregnant women. Maintain a hold of what you and your baby need. You both come first right now.
  4. Take help when it’s offered. It’s humbling, but so wonderful to accept help.
  5. Try and stay home. If you have to work, take as long as you can to be with your baby before going back. If you must work but want to stay home, get creative and start working on a plan to transition home. This value is disrespected and unpopular in some circles nowadays. Motherhood is the highest calling in life. But again, if you have to work, then make sure you’re totally comfortable with the arrangements you make for your baby’s care while you’re at work. I know many families who flex time with their husbands or extended family so the baby can stay out of daycare. If you need to use daycare, research, research, research.
  6. Allow yourself a full recovery. People may want you to get up and move too quickly. Please recover. When you’ve had a baby you have two jobs, and two jobs alone. Take care of your baby and take care of yourself. Others can wait. 
  7. Breastfeeding can be difficult to establish, but is totally worth the work. Find a Le Leche League group near you for help and support.
  8. Don’t judge other moms. There’s enough people inserting unwanted opinions everywhere without you piping in. Try to be the voice of support to other moms.
  9. Our satisfaction after baby is born is tied to the expectation we build beforehand. Have grace for yourself and grow into this new aspect of your life.
  10. If you were disappointed by your labor and delivery, please wrestle with this and take it to the Lord. Don’t ignore it… birth is the most intimate thing you can ever do. Honor the place it has in your life.

4 days

It’s taken 4 days to give our home an internal makeover. If a house were a person, this means we left her skeleton (bones), flesh and hair color (walls and finishes) alone, but she’s had a serious wardrobe change. 

Though our furniture is the same, we’ve redone all the spaces. Every item in every single cabinet, shelf, storage area, pantry, medicine cabinet, closet, and drawer has met a scrupulous eye. And every area was chaos before correction. That’s the way life is, isn’t it?

I even overhauled the back patio, and raked and mowed our front lawn. My lower right hip is paying for it though. I did too much the first day.

We ended up filling our trunk to the brim with giveaways, our recycling bin with recyclables, and our big outdoor trashcan with garbage.

All this work made room for our new baby, and I will finally have a prayer closet again after 3 years of missing it. I will say with confidence, one does not need a prayer closet. You need simply to pray. But DO anything that helps your prayer life, please.

We also met our goal of 50% free closet space. I have an entire rack free… about 4 feet of space once the baby is born. And the boys now share space in their closet with Hope’s hanging items too.

I’m now enjoying a hot meal in bed, covered in new soft blankets, which replaced our old broken feather comforter (which I had sewn five times and was still leaking feathers). Oh, and I had three 20% off coupons to boot. My mother would be proud. She’s the coupon queen. Can you imagine how cushy I feel right now?

When I made the bed with the new blankets my boys rolled around in it like little happy puppies, before initiating a cannon ball / pencil / jumping party on it. They are so cute. (Don’t worry, the bed is on the floor again). 

I close by saying this: appreciate your life, your people, your health, and your things. My little family tries not to exist in a consumer mentality… which means when we do make purchases we really appreciate them. 
Happy New Year!