Friday, February 5, 2016

Baby #5 is a.... GIRL!

I always dreamed about having a daughter. After two miscarriages (one of them being a molar pregnancy), 4 boys (including a set of identical twin boys), and a rough start to our 6th pregnancy, I felt that our chances of having a girl were pretty low. I've heard throughout this pregnancy:

"Oh, my old neighbor growing up had seven boys! Then they had their girl."
"My mom's best friend has five girls."
"Our cousin is pregnant with her fourth boy. They are stopping after this one! No more boys for them!"


And then myself. I have two friends with four boys: one just had her 5th and it was a girl, the other just had her 5th and it was a boy. Ahh!

So I scheduled my 20 week anatomy scan at my last OB appointment. The earliest they could get me in was 4 weeks away, when I would be 22+ weeks. I really thought I could wait that long. It would be torture, but I figured I just needed to hunker down and wait. I called my mom and told her to mark her calendar for the end of February when I would be getting the scan. She called me back and said, "Hey! I was on Google and found some places for you to go get a gender ultrasound done..." I was instantly sold and called immediately to get an appointment; they could see me the following week when I was 19 weeks.

I decided to surprise my husband. I made the appointment for while he was at work. I called my girlfriend and asked if she would go with me to help keep the gender a secret from me as well. Then I ran a few errands. I went to a baby boutique and put a boy outfit and girl outfit on hold. I told them my girlfriend would be coming in to pick up the appropriate gender's outfit after my scan. Then I wrote on a notecard, "Congratulations! It's a ________!" I put the notecard in an envelope and set out to get my scan as soon as my husband left for work.

What a surprise this all was! My girlfriend did AMAZING. She never once let slip what the gender was. I have no idea how she kept that secret in. We got lunch together after the scan and while I babbled she kept her lips sealed, no slips of the tongue, no knowing glances, nothing. She told me later that she was worried she was smiling too much, but I never noticed anything. I think she did a fabulous job of keeping the secret and I was very caught up in the excitement of all of it.


After lunch, we drove by the baby boutique. She ran in and picked up the girl outfit. They triple wrapped the adorable set. My girlfriend told me she instructed them to do so, just in case I was tempted to peek before my husband came home from work. The put pink and blue tissue paper peeking out of the top of the bag. When she came to the car holding the package, my heart skipped a beat. I had tried preparing myself to wait for 4 weeks before the anatomy scan, but the couple hours before my husband came home from work now that we were so close to finding out were going to be impossible! When I dropped my girlfriend off at home she made me promise not to open the package. I reassured her I wouldn't, but, man, that package was quite tempting. I tucked it in a corner on the kitchen counter to keep it out of sight until my husband and I could open it together.

Thankfully I did not have long to wait. I immediately had to leave to pick our first grader up from school. While I was doing that, my husband called to say that he was on his way home for work-- early! Yay! I was ecstatic. I told the boys over and over again, "He's on his way home! When he gets home we get to find out if you are having a brother or a sister!" The boys were caught up in the excitement of all of it. Our 4-year olds kept saying they hope we have a sister to name "Batman Girl." Our oldest insisted he wanted a brother. One of our 4-year olds asked if he would name the baby "Batman" if it was a boy. I thought of how I would surprise my husband when he came home. I'm not very good at keeping secrets, so this was big for me. I wanted to play the whole thing out and act somewhat casual when he came inside, saying something like, "Oh, what's this? Maybe we should open it up together..." Instead, the moment his Jeep pulled in the driveway, our boys sprinted over yelling, "Dad! Mom found out what the baby is today! The baby in her tummy! It is a boy or a girl! Come inside and see!" My husband was still sitting in his vehicle looking very confused. He looks at me quizzically, "You found out today on your own? I didn't know you had anything scheduled." I couldn't help but laugh. I told him, "No, no, no. I went somewhere to have it done, but I didn't find out. We will find out all together when you come inside." It seems our boys have my ability to keep a secret.


He dutifully came inside and set his things down. Our boys swarmed him with the package and the envelope. We all went to the family room and quickly opened it up. They all leaned over his shoulder as he opened up the envelope. I took a video of him pulling the card out and holding it open for our first grader to read. Our oldest read, "It's a.... GIRL!" and that is when I stop filming. I asked my husband, "What? Let me see! Is it really?" He hands me the card and the ultrasound pictures tumble out. Two of the pictures are marked saying, "Girl," and the card clearly says, "Congratulations! It's a GIRL!" I started bawling. My husband then opens the package and hands the pink sleep and play with the delicate pink flowers and an adorable crotchet crown to me. I hold the little items and cry. He crouched down next to me and puts his arms around me, tears in his eyes as well, "We are having a girl! 4 amazing boys and a little girl!" I hugged all our boys and they danced around, "A girl! A sister!"




After that came phone calls and pictures and posts and text messages and hugging and more crying. One of my girlfriends drove over that night with an adorable red dress coat and a sweet play set for our baby girl. I opened the door and she had a big box in one hand a huge bouquet of pink balloons in the other.

It was all so exciting. It ended up being a great surprise. I loved finding out together as a family at home. I was a little worried my husband would be a little caught off guard by my early surprise-- when we weren't expecting to go in for weeks-- but he was as excited about it all as I was. I don't know how many times we hugged each other that day (or since then... it is still a big shock!).

The other day a gal asked how many boys we have. I told her we have four boys. She nods to my round stomach and says, "Well, we know what that means! My girlfriend has five boys." I smiled and said, "This one is a girl!" I don't know when the novelty of having a girl will wear off. I think I'm going to start crossing off the days until this summer when I can finally hold our last baby-- our daughter-- in my arms!

The other great part about knowing now that we are having a daughter is that I can finally do some girl baby shopping! Omigoodness... it is so much fun!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Disenchanted


 
9 years now I’ve been married to my submariner. In a lot of ways, I thought that being married for 9 years would feel… different, maybe better. I thought we would have a lot more of life figured out. I thought that I would really grasp submarine life by now and feel like “an adult.” When I think back to when we first got married and how green I was then—yes, I am an adult and we have grown and, dang, submarine life has a lot of twists and turns, you know? But really this year has left me feeling blah. Returning to life on an active submarine after his break with the STA-21 program was a lot like I thought it would be. However, I thought it would be “crazy, shocking, and a real eye opener.” In all of those ways, it has been. His schedule on the boat is different than what they told us it would be when he got his orders before we moved from South Carolina. I will say that the schedule changes have all been in our favor—more time home, less time at sea—but these changes weren’t all handed to us in a neat little folder that I could mark on my calendar. They’ve slowly unraveled over weeks and months, always uncertain and always unsure of what was coming next, never sure what to tell the children or what to set my hopes on. I’ve now put his boat schedule in a bubble that I let float over my head, never letting it rest too long on the forefront of my mind or else I start stressing about “what it might be,” “what it could be,” “what it will mean,” and “how it will unfold.”
The children in turn have dealt with a return to boat life how you would expect a first grader, preschoolers, and a baby to handle it. They feed off of their parents’ nervous energy and all of the changes that have come their way in the past several months. They have regressed in areas that are normally in their control and have accelerated in areas that have surprised us. They have been resilient and exhausting and full of excitement and worry. “Knowing” or “anticipating” how children will behave in these sort of situations is very different than walking it day in and day out with 4 little faces making demands of you.
Living so far away from family has, again, been close to what I expected it would be. We knew we were putting west coast choices down for our top 4 when our family is on the east coast. We have a strong desire to make the most of his military career, to live in places we wouldn’t live otherwise, to venture out of our comfort zones and really live life to the fullest. But, dang, living life to the fullest is exhausting sometimes. I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near enjoying myself to the fullest here. I love the northwest and feel a peace in it. Our home is beautiful. The area is beyond beautiful. It has been family friendly and I’m met a handful of good friends. Yet, I feel so far away from my family and some of my best friends. I wish that I could compress all the best things from all the places we’ve lived and move all my favorite people there. While I think longingly of North Carolina, when I have that wild fantasy of getting out of the Navy life and moving all of us there, it still doesn’t have all my favorite people there or some of the elements from various states we’ve lived in. I feel like a wanderer, trying to figure out where it is we belong and all the time wishing that the people we loved could take every step of this journey with us.
The military life has left me feeling restless lately. There are so many elements of boat life that are exactly the same as the last time we were on a boat. They were hard then and now we are walking through them all over again. It makes me think, “Really? Again? Will I be facing those exact same things on his next boat tour too??” It is like Groundhog’s Day but in real life. We keep growing and our family is growing yet the boat life is always the same—different boat, different duty station, same old Navy. It hasn’t seemed to phase my hubby much. He’s glad to be back on a boat after so much time spent at school. I have to say, his enthusiasm for his job often leaves me feeling guilty. I am so glad that he has a passion for what he does—obviously—or else this Navy life would be exceptionally pointless and exhausting, but it is hard when he seems to be finding a level of satisfaction right now and I am focused so much on the hard points. He can’t share with me all the “cool” things he does at work and they take so much time—14 hour days, 3 day duty sections. And after hearing all these amazing stories of what “off crew” would be like, I’m left disappointed. I don’t know if we are dealing with a strange schedule or if having 4 children makes it feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day, but we haven’t yet had the experience where off crew is this smooth sailing period where he is home before our son’s school lets out.
I know I’m not the only one who has had periods of time where they are disenchanted with the Navy. When we first got married, it was a rough transition from being single and dating to being married to a submariner (all the way across the country from my family). It was rough. I’m not struggling to the same degree as I was then, but I do struggle to find the joy in the midst of all these changes and the new patterns being imposed on our life. I’ve struggled hard with duty days, which surprised me because I didn’t struggle with them so much the first time we were on the boat. They didn’t bother me as much then. We only had one baby then and so I’m not sure if being pregnant with our fifth and having four bouncing boys is what is making it such a struggle, but I miss him. The children and I rely on him. He makes me laugh and makes the bedtime routine fun. The boys miss their dad. I miss his company and clearly his help. With a tight duty rotation it feels like he works, works, works and then is sleeping on the boat only to start work, work, work again.
And there are so many people that I just miss living here. I wish I lived next door to my best friend again. I miss my family and my sisters. I miss the warm beach. I miss his schedule in North Carolina. It was a beast then, but I knew even then that when we left it would be something I looked fondly back on (and here I am! Looking fondly back on it…). I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned being a submarine wife is that I need to be able to find my joy and my heart even if places where it isn’t easily found. It is hard to be upbeat and look at the bright side when you feel lonely and isolated. It is hard to feel involved and supportive when you are left on the sidelines, especially after so much time where it felt like a team effort. One of the hardest things has been that the list of “goals” I made for myself have to materialize since we’ve been here. My time has been stretched and things I planned on doing aren’t going to be possible for the time being. I have to trust God and find the patience to wait (but, God! All I do is wait!). There have been more than a few moments here where I’ve wondered what my place will be over the next couple years we are stationed here. I’m still not sure. I don’t know. Maybe I won’t be sure at all and then when we move from here it will click what I’ve been doing all this time. For now I’m plugging away in all the ways that God has brought to my attention. My family keeps me busy and I’m not sure that there is anything else that God has revealed to me at the moment. I just have to trust.
Have you ever felt disenchanted with the Navy? How did you get through that period in time?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Happy New Year!

"We are pulling up one more chair to the table... Baby #5 due June 2016!"

The last time I wrote a blog post was on November 1st, 2015.... so Happy New Year!

What's been going on over here with me?! Well, first of all, we are expecting again! Baby #5 is due June 2016. We are thrilled. Of course we are hoping that this one is a girl. A friend of mine with four boys recently gave birth to her fifth and it was a girl. I feel like there is *hope* but I also feel that after delivering 4 boys, it is a bit of a long shot. Who knows. Fingers crossed, right? I'm 16 weeks right now so we should find out in the next 2-4 weeks what the gender is of baby #5.

I think the biggest reason I haven't blogged in so long is that this pregnancy was off to a really rocky start and it sent me into a bit of a depression. Initially the pregnancy didn't look viable. The ultrasounds didn't look good and we weren't given much hope. In fact, they ran bloodwork to rule out another molar pregnancy. We've already had two miscarriages and the thought of a third-- and possibly another molar-- really laid me low. I basically laid on my couch, prayed a lot, and watched NCIS on Netflix.

On top of that, I was having major "morning sickness." I'm putting it in quotes because I couldn't keep hardly anything down at all times of the day. Eventually I got on Zofran, which helped a lot, but I was still having difficulties with nausea and occasional vomiting, even on Zofran. I didn't feel well and I was really stressed about the outcome of this pregnancy, which is pregnancy #6 for us. Some people tried reassuring me that "pregnancy symptoms" were a good sign and so I should feel encouraged, but I had pregnancy symptoms with all my miscarriages as well. The vomiting didn't make me feel reassured that my pregnancy was progressing-- well, save for the day that I didn't throw up. Then I spent the evening sobbing that I had lost the baby... It was an emotional time and one that I lost a bunch of weight.

Thankfully the pregnancy is progressing well. They aren't really sure why the ultrasounds showed what they did because now everything is looking good. The baby is measuring well. I'm so thankful. I went into this pregnancy hoping for the best and expecting the worst. The possibility of another molar always looms in the back of my mind, as does a miscarriage. However, when facing it, I was surprised at how hard I took it this time. I don't think this is something that ever gets easier and quite possibly only gets harder. My prayers go out to everyone who has had a single miscarriage or multiple miscarriages. It is such a hard loss.

As soon as everything with the baby started looking good, we got unexpected news that my grandmother had a stroke. The children and I quickly got our affairs in order and flew to the east coast to be with her and my family. We spent a month there. It was wonderful being there for her recovery and to see my family. The children thrive surrounded by their grandparents and great-grandmother. Of course that trip didn't go quite as expected either. Our 4-year old asthmatic ended up in the ER with croup. Our 1.5 year old with reactive airways ended up in the ER with RSV. All four boys came down with a stomach bug and then shared a major cold with all the adults. My mom lost her voice. I was using my inhaler at night. It was a whirlwind of hospitals for both my grandmother and the children. The last week we were there was refreshing though. We were all feeling better and my grandmother was home, pretty much back on her feet. The boys were over the moon Granny was "feeling better," as they kept saying. One night our 1st grader told Granny that he flew all the way across country just to give her a hug. It brought her to tears. She is so loved and it was so good to help her recover and to spend time with her.

This past week we've been adjusting to the change in time zones. Man, who knew that could be such a chore! Our 1.5 year old has come down with every sort of rash under the sun plus a cold. He's having a hard time sleeping at all, let alone with the time change. Our preschoolers have been wide awake around 3:30-4:00 am. Our oldest is finally back in school, now that we are home. He's apparently doing well at school, but when he gets home he is starving and very tired. He fell asleep on the couch his first day back right before 6 pm.

So basically, the children have been keeping us busy. We've been dealing with life and winter ailments and pregnancy. It sounds like a lot (and sometimes feels like a lot), but we've pretty much been indoors tending to the kids' colds and using inhalers. I do feel like somewhere during the past couple weeks I set my brain down somewhere and I'm still looking for where I set it. If I sit down for too long, I fall asleep and I haven't been this hungry since I grew 5" during my freshman year of high school.

Now we are home and settled (er, settling... I have unpacked like two of the eight suitcases we flew home with). I am ready to open up again, blog again. The pregnancy is going well. My grandmother is doing well. The boys are doing well. My hubby is doing well. We are back to the day to day of life with four children and a husband on submarines.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Project Parenting



Bear with me...

I love Project Runway. I love watching people pursue their dreams and have an opportunity to let their creativity run wild, to focus solely on their passion. (When, as adults, do we have a chance to be thrown in neck deep to forget about the rest and just do what we love?) As I was watching Project Runway this season, I started thinking about a common theme through all the seasons of Project Runway, creating that moment. Runway fashion is about that moment when the model turns the corner on the runway and the audience gasps at the design and innovation of the created piece. It isn't about practicality or what went in to the outfit or the budget or any of that; it is that elusive moment of excitement and intrigue over what you are witnessing for that brief period of time. The model walks down the runway, pauses, let's you take it in, and then turns-- vanishes-- poof! She has gone back stage and the moment is gone. You are left thinking about what you saw. You only have your impression, what you remember, nothing in your hands, nothing tangible. How did you feel about it?

Recently Project Runway shows when the judges have the models come down to their judging area after the show, while the contestants wait to hear what was decided and who will go home. One by one the models come before the judges to have the pieces they are wearing inspected. Sometimes a piece that was mediocre on the runway suddenly blossoms in front of the judges eyes-- "Can you believe the amount of work and technique that went into this? It looks so simple and, yet, look! The fine detail..." Sometimes wow pieces are exposed for what they are-- prototypes. It walked down the runway amazing and was beautiful, but under their prying eyes they can see the stitches coming unraveled, seams that weren't finished, details glued on haphazardly right before the show. It was never real-- never a finished piece, just an illusion.

I have been mulling this idea over in my mind. Parenting has been a challenge for me lately. I feel stretched and empty. I feel like I simplify and still I have twelve hundred things to do at one time. I try to go back to the basics, the things I must complete each day and allow the space and time to get those things done yet the children, through no fault of their own, keep finding ways to stretch me. And this is where I tie in Project Runway. I have times where I feel like those designers. They are working with this limited budget to create something in a short time, to get it done, to make it work, to put on a show. The workroom is a mess. Everyone is at their table doing the best that they can, cutting, sewing, dreaming, believing, doubting. "Is this good enough? Is this right? This is what I'm trying to showcase." Last week a designer hovered over his material, doubting if he was ready to commit to the cuts he was about to make. Once he cut the fabric, there was no going back, no changing his mind for a different design; he would be committed to that path. Was he ready to make that choice? As a parent, I relate to those feelings of doubt. That desire to do the best that I can, to make it work. While I do not have a panel of judges watching my parenting and critiquing me, but I do have times where I feel judged, whether I actually am or whether I perceive to be. I relate to taking all of these busy aspects of life and tying them together to make a cohesive look, a finished product, a child that has all of these different elements of myself, my husband, and our life together working inside of him.

Parenting has those moments. The moments where you don't see what's going on backstage or the craziness in the audience-- the cameras, the crew, the people, the noise-- and all you see is the model coming down the runway. Yesterday my husband and I felt like having a movie night. We blew up the air mattress in the family room and snuggled on the couch all day watching Tim Burton movies with the children. We made "mummies" out of hot dogs and crescent rolls. We had popcorn and candy. It was great doing nothing. I wasn't thinking about the laundry that had to be finished before the week started or the sink full of dishes that would need to be done before breakfast the next day. I wasn't thinking about the sour sugar all over our floor or the ketchup stains the baby made on the blankets. We had our moment. It was sublime. Of course it didn't last. The baby got bored and dedicated his time to climbing on the table and knocking over our drinks and popcorn. The older boys started wrestling on the air mattress. My husband fell asleep. I was pinned in a corner of the couch with a baby hitting me with a remote control. We finally pried ourselves off the couch to put an end to the wrestling and finish the dishes, start the laundry, get the boys to clean their toys in the loft. We did pajamas, medicine, dinner, and got the house ready for school and work the next day. The boys ended up having an early bedtime due to meltdowns. Our oldest desperately finished up his Boy Scout project. It was chaos. But when we got in bed that night, my husband and I remembered that moment when we were all on the air mattress watching movies, when our four boys were snuggled up under one blanket, eyes glued to the silly songs, and we had this whole lazy afternoon stretched before us, nowhere to be but here, now.

Lately I feel like I've been focusing on the chaos. Not the good chaos of parenting, but the bad chaos. The meltdowns, the repeated battles, the same old story day in and day out. I have been letting little things get to me in a big way and I have forgotten about the beauty and magic of parenting. How children can get so much joy from a rainy day (even if they throw a massive fit when it is time to go inside). How fun an air mattress is (even if it ends with a bloody lip and a crying baby). How long weekends are (even if it flies by in a whirlwind and you never make it to the trains, the pumpkin patch, the movies, wherever you wanted to take them that weekend). How sweet sick days can be (even if you still have three other children to take care of plus all the house responsibilities you always have to accomplish). I've turned away from the moments and been caught up in what's going on backstage. I feel like that lately I've been trying to make this wow piece-- getting our house on schedule, figuring out how to transition activities without meltdowns, organizing our spaces, working on manners-- but that it is all an illusion because upon closer inspection it is all falling apart. I'm stressed doing it. I'm not taking the time to enjoy the finished product. I'm still thinking about what the garment should look like, what I didn't accomplish, what I intended to do. And parenting is much more about the simple look, the one that upon closer inspection you see those fine details. It may not be a wow piece to anyone else, but you see the effort and you know what went into that moment. When I dropped our 4-year olds off at daycare and they didn't throw a fit-- that was huge for them. When my husband went to work and they trusted that he was coming home that night instead of going underway-- they have been so worried about Daddy leaving again. When the children play quietly in their rooms in the morning instead of running wild-- I have been working so hard with them on that and they are finally getting it. When our oldest packs his lunch each morning for school all by himself, without my help. When one of our boys takes it upon himself to clean his space and tidy up their shared bathroom-- on his own-- because he wants to help. When our boys find a game that includes all of them, even the toddler, and play together upstairs. When our oldest picks a book at school specifically to read to his brothers when he gets home that afternoon, "I really thought they would love this one." These are small but beautiful things. These are the moments of parenting to look at and focus on. Not the times where I dragged them out for an entire day at the doctors office and ended with us all crying in the car on the way home because it was so exhausting. Or the times when strangers felt the need to tell me what a bad job I'm doing. The moments I need to focus on are the ones where I see these small and beautiful blessings in our day to day life, when hard moments become slightly easier moments, or when new skills are developed and eventually perfected. When new interests take root and when family moments happen in the middle of normally busy times of day.

I need to focus on the moments of parenting where it all comes together harmoniously, to reflect on them and the feelings I had during them. I need to stop judging myself so harshly on what went into creating those moments and let them stand on their own, because when it all comes together, even briefly, it is beautiful.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Counting the miles


I've never considered myself an insecure person. I would say that, in general, I feel confident in who I am and who God made me to be. I believe in the full body of Christ, how each of us have individual and unique gifts that we bring to the table. What I am good at may not be what you are good at and vice versa. I also believe that the root of finding your own confidence and inner strength is identifying what you are good at, what your passion is, what your skill set is. For myself, when I am practicing my skill, I get that sense of purpose. Sure, I occasionally see somebody doing something that I think, "Wow, I wish I could do that!" or something coming naturally to someone, where I have to work very hard at the same thing. Those times it is easy to doubt myself-- should I be doing that the same way? But having my inner compass-- my confidence in my own skills, my own sense of purpose-- I am quickly grounded again in who I am and being the best me.

Lately, I've struggled a lot with that. I've been pulling more things on to my calendar, some of them deliberately to challenge me and others to give back to my community. I've been challenged. I've been shown my limitations. Beyond that, I've felt life is challenging me lately. Our 4-year old twins are at an age and stage that tests me on the regular. Different aspects of their personality challenge me in ways that I do not find enjoyable, but exhausting. My marriage is being challenged by the shipyard schedule and our return to life with my husband on a submarine. It is all life. It is all normal. It is all stretching me.

Because I like re-reading classics and because I have felt searching, I picked up On the Road by Jack Kerouac the other day. It felt like the book my soul needed at the moment.
They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there--and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see. But they need to worry and betray time with urgencies false and otherwise, purely anxious and whiny, their souls really won't be at peace unless they can latch on to an established and proven worry and having once found it they assume facial expressions to fit and go with it, which is, you see, unhappiness, and all the time it all flies by them and they know it and that too worries them to no end.
Unhappiness. Worrying over our worrying. And it is true-- in the end, we get there anyway. Why am I focusing so much on all these things that get me down?

It brought to mind these verses in Matthew. (Is it possible to jump from Kerouac to the Bible?) Matthew 6:31-34:
So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Lately I feel like my days move from one trouble to the next. My face is pulled into a facial expression to go with it and I spend so much time worrying about my life. I've been consumed. And it has made me insecure. I doubt my abilities. I doubt my decisions. I doubt what I'm capable of.

While getting ready this morning, I was listening to the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need."

Mulling this over in my head as I went about our morning, dropping our 1st grader off at school, I seized the moment once we got home and called my best friend back; she called me yesterday. She wants to visit. As if my spirit couldn't get any higher from those words, when I told her what I've been dealing with, she gave me encouragement.

This morning what I needed was the encouraging words of my best friend. What I needed last night was the encouraging text messages from my mom and the understanding ear of my husband. When he got home from work yesterday, he fed the children dinner while I left to go find a quiet corner in a restaurant to write. These people in my life surround me and lift me up. When I feel like I "can't" they show me that I can. (And, as my mom always encourages me, I can and I will.)

Yesterday morning at school drop off, I went home in tears, exasperated by the shenanigans of our 4-year olds, overwhelmed and in my head. I canceled my plans and cleaned the house from top to bottom-- cabinets, baseboards, laundry, and dusting included. I've felt lost staring at the screen to blog. What should I write about that isn't yet another complaint? Sitting down this morning to write, I briefly doubted if I should publish this post.

But here is what I think is important: admitting your shortcomings. If I don't have the strength to admit when I'm struggling, how will my friends find the strength to admit they are struggling to me? Wouldn't I happily bake a meal, baby-sit, or lend an ear to any of my friends when they need to feel the love? I've got that love for them; I know they've got that love for me. It is hard when we feel insecure. It is hard when we feel like the things we are good at fail, when we feel like nothing is succeeding, when we feel it is all for naught and we are running in circles. It is hard when we get in our own heads and feel alone. Yesterday taught me that while a lot of the day to day activities fall on my shoulders, I am not alone. My mommy texted and called me all day. My best friend is going to fly across country just to see me. My husband supports me. When I walked in the door from my solitary dinner last night, the children bustled down the stairs, "Mommy! Mommy! Where did you go? I love you."

Because I checked off my to-do list in a tear soaked binge yesterday, I can focus today on building my inner strength. I carved out that time to pray and listen to God. I am publishing this blog post when internally I wonder if I have anything to say. I am going to do some preschool with our 4-year olds and let them dabble in their passions; I swear one of them is ready to start reading. (How can I decline a desire to read?) The baby has a cold and needs me-- my care, my love, my patience. Today I have a chance to get what I need: the support of those that love me, opportunities to love those around me, and time to practice my skills. I've let myself fall down a rabbit hole of insecurities, second guessing my every move. While I find it scary right now, I know that the only way to get past this is to put one foot in front of the other, to get on the road and stop counting the miles.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Good enough

 
As a blogger, I tend to try to read blogs posted by sites I follow.

As a mother and Navy wife, ah! This can be exhausting.

Why?

It seems a lot of blogs tear people down. One of the ones I just read talked about how life as a military spouse really isn't that difficult. Another talked about moms make their own lives difficult. These two blog posts really struck a nerve with me. I know that lately I've been over sensitive and taking things personally, but, man. Come on now, mommas. Can we build each other up?

What bothers me about these posts?

Immediately after reading them I felt defensive. I wanted to explain so much-- why I agree on some level and why I disagree on another. They felt like attacks on me. Because I've been struggling so much lately with all the different responsibilities in my life and then throwing my husband's return to submarine life-- going underway and now a shipyard schedule. The whirlwind of reasons why it all feels like a lot to me right now left me feeling deflated and lost reading these posts, these posts that are telling me that I am the one failing right now. Me. I already feel like I'm failing and now these posts are basically proof that I'm failing.

When a different thought hit me: I do not think I have it worse than other people. I just think that-- for me-- this has been a lot of changes all at once. I don't think we have a bad life. I think I am struggling right now.

There are other things I know:

This is a season in my life.

It will get better.

The children are going through a phase.

I need to be present.

The biggest thing for me to remember:

I need to bring this all to God.

Our twins are 4-years old, an age I have come to realize is not my favorite age; I did not enjoy 4-years old with our oldest son either. I feel stressed when dealing with them, when managing the day to day life with two 4-year olds in tow. I understand that they are in a phase and that it will pass-- I loved 5-years old with our oldest-- but, man, right now... Right now I am tired of the arguing, the meltdowns, the drama, the bedwetting, the tantrums, the tears, the whining, the moping, the constant conflict over each and every aspect of our lives. The sass. Even worse, I have a really hard time handling the input from strangers when it comes to our children's behavior. They seem to have completely dropped any semblance of manners and when strangers jump in to inform me they should use manners, I feel instantly judged. I feel 5 inches high. I don't understand why all these things that I have spent the last 4 years teaching them have flown out the window. I am trying my best. I am praying all the time. I am struggling.

And when people pat me on the head and say, "It is just a phase. Enjoy it before they..." or something equally dismissive, I feel alone. Like I am failing as a mother for not loving the small things, the in-between moments. I feel horrible for dreading the day before it even starts. I love them to pieces and I love being their mother. I love staying at home with them and I love being the one to teach them new things. I just need a break.

The mommy martyr blog definitely hit me like a ton of bricks. Is that what people think about me? We just moved to a new area. We have four children. We have two children with breathing issues, one with anxiety issues. Baby-sitters are hard to find and not inexpensive. I know in my bones that so many of the behaviors that we are struggling with right now are due to our recent changes: moving, Daddy going underway, starting at a new school, missing their old friends and their old favorite places to go, Daddy coming home and working long hours. It is all a lot for such little people who don't really understand it all. When you are just meeting people and just making friends, it is hard to find people willing to take on four children who are adjusting to a new place. I don't feel comfortable imposing on new people. I don't feel comfortable leaving children I'm concerned about with people I don't know or who I've barely met just so I can go to coffee and take a break by myself-- in a town I don't know. It feels selfish. And imposing.

What I would love is to be living next door to my best friend again. What I would love is to drag all my kids to her house and let them destroy it while she makes me tea and lets me cry on her shoulder. I would love to give her children some love. I would love to feel at home. Connected. Like I'm not a burden or intruding or annoying or all over the place. That my mess is welcome. That I'm not being judged. That struggling for now is okay.

Of course I call and write to my friends. And of course I reach out to the new and old friends that I have here locally. But everything here is different. As a military spouse-- a submarine spouse-- we move and adapt. I am in that hard phase of adjusting to a new place. The coping mechanisms that I had at our last duty station don't work here. I don't have a long list of easy places to take the kids or know where to grab a quick cheap meal when dinner fails and my husband is working late. My relationship with my husband is also under strain from an entirely new schedule because, as a military spouse, a PCS means a new job.

No, I don't think we are alone in those pressures. No, I don't blame my spouse for these struggles. No, I'm not angry at him for moving us or any of that. But there is so much comfort in finding support within a community that understands what you are going through. Just like the support networks we have made through our entire lives: peer friends as I went through high school and college, making friends with other young married couples after I got married, making friends with babies after we had our first son, making friends with fellow parents of multiples after we had our twins, reaching out to other families that have had miscarriages and loss after our second miscarriage, joining homeschool support groups when homeschooling our oldest in preschool and kindergarten and now our twins in preschool, finding other large family friends after we had our fourth son... It isn't strange to me to desire to find support within the military community when dealing with all these changes.

So, for me, this past underway when our oldest was struggling, I gave his teacher a head's up that his dad was away, not so that he could have a free pass, but so that she knew where he was coming from. When I had a hard time from comments I received while my hubby was gone, I would say prayers and seek a local support network. I do not believe that if my husband had a different job our life would suddenly be worry free. I feel that this is the job he has and this is the community we were given. There are unique challenges with this job-- just like any job has its own unique challenges-- and some of these are easy to identify and some of them are hard to explain to people who don't live it. I may fail as a mother in the eyes of the world everyday. I may be judged by strangers for how my children are behaving and I may struggle to find the enjoyment in certain ages and stages with our children. I may struggle with certain aspects of my husband's career right now. I feel all of this makes me exactly what I am: human. I don't have all of the answers and I don't know what I'm doing. This is exactly why I depend on God, why I pray, and why I spend time in his word. I fail-- constantly. I feel weak and vulnerable lately. I feel judged. I feel burdened. I feel weighed down by the smallest aspects of our day.

But Lord knows I am grateful. I am grateful for this family, for my husband and our four beautiful boys. For the friends that I have-- near and far. I am grateful for my family, that is so supportive. I am grateful for God's mercies and grace. I am grateful for my story and testimony.

I don't know where those two blog posts I read fall in my story (the Military Spouse blog and BluntMoms blog), if they are supposed to be convicting or if I should just move on past them. I won't forget how they made me feel reading them though, that someone out there thinks that people like me aren't good enough. What I think is important to remember is that God says you are good enough. God is enough. I am not called to have my act together. I am called to depend on Christ. 2 Corinthians 12:9:
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest in me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I am not at the point of feeling strong yet. I am sure that looking back on this time I will be able to see how strong we were in Christ. Right now I feel like I'm hanging on by a thread. His grace is sufficient.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why I have 4 children...

I'm super tired and working on my second latte of the day. Fairly certain the plans I had today (i.e. get dressed) are going to go out the window, so why not just throw in the towel now, curl up on the couch, and write a blog post?

I wrote a post awhile ago called, "Why do I feed our toddlers?" Since we recently moved and I'm introducing myself to new people in a desperate attempt to make friends, I have been hearing a lot of comments like, "4 boys! Wow!" and "I don't know how you do it with 4." If you read my last blog post, I don't know how we are doing life right now either, so here's my response:

Why I have 4 children

10. I enjoy mess.

Unless I'm picking Play-Doh, Legos, sand, or small rocks off my feet when I walk on our hard floors, I'm not happy. Thankfully our children provide me with that lovely experience daily.

9. I enjoy mess.

Let's not leave off the carpeted upstairs. Who likes walking in the dark unless it is a challenge? When I head to bed at night I prefer to trip over action figures, toy bins, and unexpected booby traps.

8. I enjoy mess.

Guests coming over? I only enjoy company when I have that sinking embarrassed feeling when they sheepishly come back out of our hall bathroom moments after entering to tell me, "Um, I think someone may have had an accident on the floor...?"

7. I enjoy mess.

And let's not forget the diaper blow outs. If our potty training preschoolers aren't having accidents, I can always count on the baby to blow out his diaper during a dinner party with my spouse's co-workers.

6. I enjoy mess.

Detailed vehicles are boring. Who wants to look at beige car carpet? No, life is more adventurous if you are curious if that is barbecue sauce or diaper blow out on the WeatherTech floor mats. When your girlfriend casually says, "How about I ride with you?" I love muttering, "Derp, I promise my Honda Odyssey is usually cleaner than this..." because you know she believes me...

5. I enjoy mess.

Anyone can put an outfit together, but it takes a certain finesse to head out the house wearing a shirt that has a diaper blow out imprint on the hip, oatmeal caked on the front, and someone else's snot dried around the neck.

4. I enjoy mess.

Speaking of heading out of the house, dining out is a much more enjoyable and relaxing experience when at the end of the meal I get to scoop up infinite amounts of mushy food with tiny, thin napkins, flung by children who spent the meal pelting me with silverware while whining that they weren't hungry.

(I also like herding said children out of the restaurant as I apologize to fellow patrons to load them up in the mini van as they whine they are now hungry...)

3. I enjoy mess.

But let's not forget the joys of eating in. Who doesn't like cooking a meal with 4 children underfoot, whining they are hungry, hitting each other over who's turn it is to help, and struggling through putting a meal on the table as you finish cooking with one hand/a baby in the carrier on your back? And then no one eats because they don't like whatever it is you cooked... despite the fact that they devoured that exact meal at your friend's house the other day.

2. I enjoy mess.

Which brings me to friends... those people that you try to have conversations with as your children pull out every toy bin in their playroom, hit each other on their couch, or divulge how you inadvertently ate baby vomit the other day while you were only wearing underwear. Yes, we would love to do this again sometime.

(Please invite us back, please invite us back, please invite us back...)

1. I enjoy mess.

Nothing says joy of parenthood quite like naked children 10 minutes past when you were supposed to leave the house ("But you were all dressed 2 minutes ago!") or a complete lack of privacy ("I'm showering!") or crawling in bed only to find Matchbox cars and plastic spiders (and those same things in your washer and dryer). And the pleasure of these encounters is only multiplied by the uplifting comments you receive when you finally do leave the house for caffeine/adult company ("Back in my day, we disciplined our children/didn't have electronics/respected our elders").