Thursday, July 26, 2012

I'm a Big Girl Now

(This is from last week.  Someday I'll share today's failures with you; but, for now, would you celebrate last week's successes with me?)

Today was a day I had to put on my big girl flip-flops.  I was taking the kids by myself to a place I had never driven to in a city I’m not too familiar with so that we could explore a living history settlement that I haven’t been to in years…since college actually.  Huge unknowns, like how I would wield a double jogging stroller in and out of multiple restrooms, how I would keep two kids from falling apart in record-high heat, and how I would keep my pregnant body hydrated while also chasing after two very active boys, were swirling around in my mind. 

I felt like such an adult (cause maybe I am) going to Starbucks in the hotel with my double stroller and ordering the caramel macchiato that would sustain me through the first two hours of our adventure.  Then I almost outdid myself by going to the concierge desk to ask for directions to the settlement. 

There I was with my picnic, purse, and diaper backpack loaded into my stroller, coffee in one hand and directions in the other. I can do this.  I can do two kids by myself.  Right?  With almost no hassle, I pushed the kids to the parking garage, loaded them up, and started off. 

Then we hit the road-closing construction on the main road we were to take.  Umm… thanks, Concierge Lady, for mentioning that.  What amazed me was that I had acquired enough big-girl directional skills over the last five years of marriage to a directional genius that I managed to maneuver around the construction and make it to the settlement without too much of a headache or excessive turning around…even without detour signs!  Woohoo!

We arrived before the settlement even opened and had time to look at the maps to see all the changes that have taken place since 2003.  Yes, there have been a few, including a preschoolers’ history discovery center AND a big Civil War-themed playroom and water play area.  Thank goodness both the discovery center and the playroom were air-conditioned.  The kids had a blast; and when we weren’t playing trains or climbing around the Union soldiers’ bunks inside, we were meeting the animals on the farm, watering the garden, and learning what school was like 180 years ago.

I’m not gonna lie.  We got baked.  As much as we tried to stay in the shade, it was incredibly hot, and there was an EMT driving around giving out free water bottles to prove it.  About the time we were leaving, the rain clouds started rolling in, bringing life-giving shade and water to a scorched land. 

I’m also not going to pretend my children were perfect.  We walked in, and one of my children (I’ll let you guess which one.) explained to me that he wanted to do what he wanted to do and I needed to listen to him.  Excuse ME?  I don’t think so.  I was within about 30 seconds of leaving behind all our fun day plans when his little heart broke, and he decided obedience and fun would win over disobedience and a day sitting in a corner at the hotel. 

Now having handled public disobedience, a heat wave, and a giant sheep that decided it didn’t like Ben in the petting zoo; I wasn’t even worried about getting back to the hotel through the construction.  The boys were exhausted, but Caleb was even excited when I had to run an errand along the way.

One might ask why a mom would put herself through this or why she would expect her children to have respectable behavior in the midst of a heat wave.  I guess I just want my children to know that every obstacle does not need to be avoided, that we can still make right choices in less-than-perfect circumstances, that we can learn and grow together, and that the world is too exciting of a place to hide in your room and just watch television because it’s easy.  That pep talk there was as much for me as for anyone. 

So despite the ugly, I’m calling this vacation day a success because right now I’m eating leftover cheesecake from a certain factory and sipping decaf Starbucks I made in our room and remembering all the things we accomplished today, all the situations we navigated together as a team, and all of the smiles that my children wore as they discovered a little more about this world that God has made for us.  For us right now, that is enough.  Glad I suited up and took on the challenge of this day, armed with my Starbucks, of course.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Facing My Unprofessional Life

Teacher Man had a dinner with colleagues last night at the Factory of Cheesecake… YUM!  There was no way he was going alone so we suited up the boys for a dinner out and prayed for a children’s menu as we hauled our giant stroller into the restaurant.

Good news!  They had a place to park the stroller, they had a children’s menu that included macaroni ‘n cheese, and several of Teacher Man’s fellow teachers had small children.  Yes!  They got it.  You know?  And the new assistant principal even laughed when Ben tried to steal his take-home box of cheesecake. 

What struck me most about the dinner was that in between keeping my children from stabbing themselves with dinner knives and having hunger meltdowns, I so desperately wanted to be one of the professionals.  It helped with the conversation that I used to be a teacher, but part of me just wanted to make Teacher Man feed the kids so I could talk curriculum, continuing education, and community involvement with the others at the table.  Just to bring me back to reality, Caleb was wiggling like there were insects in his britches, and Ben was eating everything within arms reach. 

Then the first warning shot went off as we were loading the boys to leave.  Teacher Man said that Ben needed to be changed.  We were only a few minutes walk from our hotel so I pleaded to just change him back at the room.  Way easier than on a restaurant’s restroom changing table, right? 

We tried to politely excuse ourselves from the group early, but it takes us so long to get anywhere that we ended up riding the elevator to the hotel with Teacher Man’s principal and assistant principal.  You know anything about confined space and poop?  Oh my word. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when we got in the door to our room, but as I unloaded Ben from the stroller in the room, I noticed a huge glob of brown sitting in his seat.  The diaper had leaked, and Ben clearly had diarrhea.  Teacher Man was supposed to rush off to a meeting, but he immediately sensed that his place was here, keeping me from having a nervous breakdown or vomiting.  I cleaned Ben (and then the bathroom floor) while Teacher Man went after the stroller.  Bless that man.  And thus ended the drama.

The whole episode got me to thinking though.  Professionalism, in my opinion, is based on a series of illusions that we create to show that we have control over ourselves and our immediate surroundings.  If I dressed in a sharp, clean suit; had my hair perfectly styled; and walked with confidence; you would assume that I was one in-control lady.  What’s more, I would make every effort to surround myself with people who also reflected my standards of control.  No sloppy shmucks around me.  Remember, I’m in control, and it’s all about my image.

Let’s fast-forward to my actual reality.  I have crumbs on my pants that my children left when they sat on my lap, my hair desperately needs a cut and some gray coverage, and I’m carrying a Thomas backpack filled with diapers.  Clearly, I am not in control.  I’m also surrounding myself with children.  Normal children.  I’m not saying they shouldn’t learn proper table manners.  We’re definitely working on that, but it’s a work in progress.  And as with most works in progress, it gets a little messy.  We make mistakes, very visible mistakes.  There’s no way for me to create any illusion.  You have to look at my reality.  Seriously.  Who can help at least glancing at those loud kids having a meltdown? 

I am officially unprofessional.  I’m a mom.  I’m not even a professional mom because that might mean that I needed to give you the impression that I have this mothering thing down, and I. just. don’t.  I’m a work in progress.  I’m messy.  But maybe, just maybe, seeing my reality will break down a few of those walls between me and the woman next to me. And perhaps when I look at my Savior, I can remember that He lived a transparent, messy life among harlots and lepers in this broken world, taking every opportunity to remind us that all power belongs to His Father.  Control belongs to God.  Everything else is just an illusion.  So in light of eternity, today I’m choosing to love transparently and wholly, trusting the Father in Whose sovereign Hands I rest.  Blessings to all of you who are facing a similarly unprofessional day.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Picnicking at the Radisson

(A post written on Tuesday)

For the sake of perspective, I need to start this post by saying that I am the daughter of a chemist who served in the business world for many years. On occasion, he would have a business trip to an interesting location so my mom, sister, and I would tag along.  The hotel room was then a business expense, and his meals and airfare were covered.  We traveled from the East Coast to Disneyland for a fraction of the cost by touring while my dad was in meetings and then enjoying the best of the city’s fare with him and his colleagues at night.

One of the ways we would also cut costs was by taking breakfast foods with us.  A couple bags of bagels and a jar of peanut butter, and I’m a happy woman.  That may seem incredibly cheap to some of you; but when a glass of orange juice is $4, I don’t even want to know how much a bowl of corn flakes would be.  It’s not even that my dad didn’t make a good living (or that we don’t have plenty to meet our needs), it’s just that they (and we) have other places we’d rather invest our money.

Imagine my delight when Teacher Man told me that he had not one but two conferences at our state’s capital!  So here we are in the hotel, getting settled in for our first day of vacation.  At first, I felt crazy bringing my Coleman cooler into the Radisson; but then I remembered that I’m a mom with small children.  If I can meet their food needs and likes with a quick breakfast in the room and a yummy picnic lunch wherever we are, then we all can splurge a little bit for dinner.  Plus, we also won’t be waiting in lines trying to order lunches while have a low-sugar meltdown.

Because we arrived at the hotel at 11 a.m. the children’s stomachs were already starting to growl by the time we got settled in the room. No problem!  I pulled out a lunch picnic in two minutes, and thanks to PBS Kids, my children are convinced this is the coolest hotel ever. 

Tonight, we’ll check out the mega mall that is attached to this hotel and find one of the city’s finest, kid-friendly restaurants.  Tomorrow we’ll be going to a living history village and farm, and then next day it looks like we’re meeting a friend who lives here for a walk on the local trails.  I’m super excited about all of this, and I love seeing the world through my children’s eyes.  Everything is new and exciting.  Around every corner, a surprise is hiding.  Vacationing with a 3 year old and a 1 year old definitely limits where we go, but I feel like I’m seeing so much more because I get to enjoy seeing it through their eyes.  And to them, everything’s magical.

So just in case you hear about a crazy family who brought a cooler to the Radisson, it’s us.  I would spend more time worrying about what people are thinking of our nuttiness, but I have a book that is calling my name, and two children who are finally napping.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A World That Doesn't Like Children

Friends and family who know our little corner of the world have been incredibly encouraging as we look forward to the birth of our third child, but yesterday was an eye opener.  We got the children up early so they could watch the ultrasound of their little baby brother or sister.  When the technician came out to get us, she looked horrified.  If the boys had been pretending to be superheroes in the lobby by jumping off the furniture, I might have understood.  However, my boys were quietly sitting with me reading a magazine.  Teacher Man and I walked them to the back while she walked quickly ahead of us before realizing that little legs go at about half the speed.  This was my next clue that she wasn't a big fan of little people.  When we got to the room, everything unraveled.

This woman works ultrasound in the OB-GYN ward.  Her job all day is to take pictures of babies, precious little lives so clearly formed by a masterful Creator; but when Ben started to unravel because he didn't like watching Mommy lie down on a doctor's table, so did the technician.  While Caleb watched in wonder as she pointed out our sweet baby's hands, feet, head, and movements; she barely noticed.  What she did notice was Ben completely losing it in my husband's arms.

She told me, point blank, that for my next ultrasound it would be better if the boys did not come.  Sigh.  I understand her frustration.  Listening to a baby cry unnerves me, and I'm with him 24 hours a day; but she threw out the baby with the bathwater.  What she didn't notice was my big boy listening with awe to his little sibling's heartbeat.  She missed his smile as the baby was clearly moving all around, which in his mind is a sibling who will want to play!  And as she looked revolted, I just thought how sad it was that she takes pictures of these sweet babes for a living and can't take having one of them in her office for 6 minutes.

We won't be taking Ben back.  He clearly thought the technician was going to hurt me or hurt him.  It's just not his scene although we had no way of knowing he would respond in that way until we were there and I was lying on the table.  I feel terrible that we started off her day at 8 a.m. with a sad baby.  Goodness knows that's not how I want to wake up either, but I think her facial expressions and responses just reminded me that we live in a world that doesn't really like or know what to do with children.

Where the world demands order, children will be messy.  Where the world craves quiet, children will express their opinions unabashedly.  Where the world desires control, children will remind you that control is an illusion.  Where the world wants perfection, children will clearly demonstrate that we are all still "under construction."

My children are the ones who most often remind me that this world is not my home and that meeting all the world's standards is not important or even possible.  We strive to meet God's standards through God's strength while waiting on God's timing as He continues His plan with our imperfect selves.  And we pray the same for our children: that God will work in their hearts to drive them to depend on Him, that they will talk to Him first about all things, that they will act by faith to accomplish the impossible things that God will do through them.  This is what is truly important, truly eternal.

I know some places are inappropriate for children, and I have no intention of dragging my children with me to every OB appointment.  There is a level of maturity necessary to experience different situations.  I just wanted them to meet their sibling, to have a rare glimpse into how precious and real life is.  We didn't make a very good impression at the office yesterday, but those pictures made a huge impression on Caleb.  It's real now for him in a way that would not be possible had he not seen that baby swimming around in Mommy's tummy.  Though some of the world didn't really like my family yesterday; my eternal, oldest child was changed forever.  He glimpsed the impossible that is only possible through God.  That's where it's at.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What We've Been Up To

I feel like a terrible blogger.  It's almost hard to write this first post.  It feels foreign.  Blogging is one of many ways I want to live my life intentionally, reflectively; and while the last few weeks of my life have been incredibly intentional, there has been little/no time for reflection.  In fact, at this moment I'm ignoring a dirty kitchen and a messy table so I can write in the silence that can only be created by Teacher Man taking the boys to the park.  Thank you, God, for that man!

Truly, every day is better for this family when he is home.  Caleb's prayer every night goes something like this: "Thank you, God, that Daddy got to stay home today."  Then his next question is: "How many more days will Daddy stay home with me?"  I know how he feels.  Summer together with my whole family could not last long enough.  Today my kitchen sink even got fixed because Teacher Man was home.  Hurray!

Because we've just been intentionally living each day together, there just isn't a lot of time to sit down and write.  Plus, when I do sit down, I fall asleep. That happens a lot.  Pretty much once a day.  Ah, pregnancy.

Besides massive amounts of sleep and a couple small projects, we've had the opportunity to celebrate our 5th anniversary.  How did five years go by so fast?  I am so blessed.

We've found all sorts of crazy things to do around the house to avoid the heat and humidity outside, including several rodeos.  Yeehaw!

We hosted a 5 Day Club during the last week of CYIA training.  What a blessing to see teens clearly sharing the Gospel and children from our neighborhood responding with tender hearts!

And then every once and a while, we brave the heat and go outside to dig in the sand or water the garden.

We've also enjoyed a couple of visits from Grandma Pam (Teacher Man's mom).  Ben is showing her all the planes since we live close to the local airport.

Oh, and no week at our home would be complete without some construction stalking.  Thankfully the boys could watch the giant crane across the street from the comfort of Caleb's top bunk.  

What I do not have a picture of is Teacher Man making phone calls to local churches as we seek to partner with them in evangelizing and discipling the children of our community.  This is his "summer job" as our goal is to be in full-time ministry with Child Evangelism Fellowship in the near future.

These weeks have been exactly what we have needed, and I feel better each day as I'm figuring out how to keep this pregnant body happy.  Speaking of pregnancy, Baby #3 had his/her first pictures taken today via ultrasound.  Everything looks healthy and normal, and we heard a good heartbeat.  What a blessing!

So there you have it, life in a nutshell for us.  Life will be ever busy balancing work, ministry, and family; but we are blessed beyond measure. And if you wonder why I'm not posting, it's probably because I'm sleeping.  For real.  I'm probably lying on my couch in a coma.  Perhaps second trimester will be kinder to blogging, but until then...  Have a blessed July!