Monday, February 6, 2017

a journal entry about balance.

I wrote this in my journal a few days ago, and decided to share.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

I go back and forth between okay and not. This morning, both kids were crying and I though, I absolutely just can't do this. I literally don't have the capacity. But then somehow they calmed down, and we had fun and were happy again. 

I hear women say, "Good thing I love this job," about motherhood. I think I love it -- I definitely want to love it. But I've lost sight of that lately. I've gotten caught up in minutiae and shoulds and forgotten about love and wonder. 

It's the trickiest balance, because the minutiae and shoulds are still important. They still need to happen. But I tend to let them become the most important things, and then everything feels meaningless, because the love and wonder are the entire point of all of it. 

I don't think I'll ever truly get it right. I'll always be standing on a see-saw trying to get things done on one side and surrendering to the present on the other. Some days there will be too much of one, other days it will be too heavy on the other. Even now I hear Nolan cry and I know I won't be meeting all of the goals i had for this nap-time. (illegible scribbles)

I know a lot of women have this "epiphany," if you can call it that, all the time -- there's nothing particularly original in my struggle to balance tasks with presence. But it's where I'm at right now, and the struggle feels particularly poignant these days. I'd love to hear what's worked for you, and how you've made peace with it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

muddlings on politics.

I used to proudly declare myself apolitical. I never read the news, never had a clue what was going on in the world. It just felt depressing to me, and I felt powerless against it.

Lately, that's changed. I've felt like it was important to be informed, that it was selfish of me to not want to be disturbed in my safe living room, surrounded by all my needs and comforts. I've been reading the news. I've been forming opinions. I've been posting haphazardly to Facebook. I've always been transparent; I couldn't hide the way I feel if I wanted to, and I usually don't want to. For a long time, I've preferred to be honest rather than cool. Sometimes that makes things awkward, but usually I feel like the exchange is worth it.

I'm not very good at this politics thing. A lot of my views are half-grown-- I spent so much time trying to avoid thinking about certain issues. I feel like I get on Facebook and start sharing things and then later wonder if it was a mistake. Did I read that thoroughly? Was that an accurate article?

One example is the recent Women's March. There are a lot of things that I identified with in the Women's March. Trump's scandal tapes hit a nerve with me. I've struggled with my weight and body image for my entire life. I've been told by boyfriends that they don't see a future with me because they think I'll be overweight when I'm older. I've been pressured to be more physically affectionate than I was comfortable with by ex-boyfriends. I've walked to my car with my hand on the pepper spray more nights than I can remember. I don't say this for pity -- I know that I'm lucky that those are all I've had to deal with. But it made me angry that people could justify this behavior in a man who is supposed to lead our nation -- a man who is coming into one of the most powerful positions in the world. I'm trying to raise sons who respect women, and I hope my voice is more important to them than those of the outside world, but I know that each time we justify this kind of talk as "just talk" or "boys being boys," we're occasioning more rape culture, more disrespect. I know it happens all the time, but that doesn't make it okay.

There are other elements of the March that I wasn't as on board with. I'm pro-life, and from what I understand the original March organizers didn't want pro-life supporters there. I still supported most of their platform, and as one of my favorite podcasters recently said, check all boxes politics doesn't work. There is no single politician or party that I agree with on every count. I don't support the pro-choice platform for reasons that would take far too long to enumerate here, but that doesn't mean I disagree with other statements made. I will also say that there are aspects of the march's platform that I simply haven't researched enough to form my own opinions yet. Suffice it to say, I thought it was worthy because it showed that we don't believe that hate speech is acceptable. I know there is more to it than that, but that's what it meant to me.

Now with the refugee ban, I am feeling sick at heart. This is one of the political issues I care most about. While I was in Los Angeles, I spent a lot of time with immigrants: making friends, taking care of patients and their families. I hate that people are so afraid, so judgmental, that they would assume everyone from a country or religion is going to commit horrific acts. From what I understand, it takes refugees years to be approved to live here. The immigration process is already difficult and complex. And now we are going to block more people, just tell them that their suffering isn't our problem? It sits like a stone on my heart.

I want to do something to help, but I don't know what. I've made donations in the past. I pray. And I share Facebook articles, because it feels like something, even though it probably only stirs up contention -- has anyone ever changed their mind based on a Facebook article?

I think I need to get off social media.

Right now, I just want to curl up and cry. I know that my day to day life isn't affected by this, and I don't want to make it about me -- oh, I'm so sad, I'm so affected by the state of the world, admire me. It probably partially is about me, this desire to do something. I want to feel better -- I want the sadness of this to dissipate.

I don't want to imagine my children or my friends fleeing bombs. I don't want to picture my siblings or my parents huddled in tents, hoping that they have enough sleeping bags to keep everyone warm.

I don't want a world where people do this to each other.

I know there are arguments for Trump's order, even though I disagree with it and think it does infinitely more harm than good. There are those that say we must protect our own at any cost.

But when we wall up our safe havens, I think we wall up our souls, too.

I don't know a lot. I'm sure lots of you could argue circles around me, and I wouldn't have counter-arguments that held up to your satisfaction. I'm sure there are people that would say, who cares if our world is a little colder? We need to protect ourselves, even if the risk is small. I don't have proof that nothing bad would happen.

All I have is a conscience, and a heart that is hurting from far away and wishing to help. All I have is a belief in One who loved all of God's children, One who spent the early years of his childhood as a refugee in Egypt. He chose to love us all, regardless of the hurts he suffered on our behalf in the Garden. He chose compassion over safety, and they crucified Him.

I can't wash my hands of it. Willful avoidance is complicity.

I don't know what to do, and I'm sure these thoughts don't make much sense. I should have gone to bed an hour ago. I don't know if adding my voice to the chorus will do any good, or if it will only do harm. But for tonight at least, my voice is what I have to work with. So I'll use it to pray for justice and safety for those in danger, and to add my small pleadings on their behalf as a little drop in the ocean of the internet.

And tomorrow, I'll wake up and try to do good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

a breath of peace.

Today, I had a lot of people in my house.

It was fun. I like having parties, as long as they have an expiration time, and this one did. I've been feeling isolated lately (one of the negatives of living in a colder climate instead of a warm one, as well as living in a house instead of an apartment complex). So when our church was out of commission for the weekly playdate, I volunteered my house. We have the space, we have a ridiculous amount of toys, and I am always happy to give Cal opportunities to socialize. (He spent the entire playdate looking at books in his room. But I can't really fault him for that, as that is my preferred activity, too).

A couple of kids stayed over a little longer because their mom had a meeting. I felt very proud of myself as I whipped up four lunches and mediated toy disputes (in a house full of toys, everyone wants the stupid plastic thing from the McDonald's Happy Meal). Nolan had refused his morning nap, probably because of the excitement of so many friends, so as soon as he'd eaten a respectable amount, I whisked him upstairs to bed. He continued to resist, so I instructed the kids to be nice to each other (they were), and I spent ten minutes rocking him to sleep.

I don't usually rock Nolan to sleep in the daytime. (Nighttime is another matter -- typically he wakes up between the hours of midnight and two, I stumble into his room, pick him up, and wake up 45 minutes later with a crick in my neck and Nolan's drool on my arm). But as I sat with him, watching his eyelids drop lower and lower, feeling his breathing slow and steady, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for that space to be slow and present.

I complain a lot about the inconvenient parts of motherhood. It's hard. It's hard to make meals that nobody eats, to clean up messes that simply reappear when my back is turned, to try every moment to do what's right for my children only to have them hit me and scream at me. It's not always like that. It's not even mostly like that. But sometimes those loud moments overpower the sweeter, quieter ones.

I returned downstairs to see three little kids, ages 3, 4, and 5, sitting on our little bench, singing songs together. I wanted to squeeze them all, even the ones that aren't mine. It was a hectic day, but I was given the gift of seeing the beauty in the cracks. It's all I can ask for.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Last Chance to Lose Your Keys

If you got that reference, you get a cookie and a hug.

I locked myself out of the house twice in a seven day span recently. This happened fairly frequently when we lived in University Village, because all I had to do was walk five minutes to the office and grab a spare key. Now, with my husband on base twenty-five minutes away, it's a little trickier to get inside.

The first time, I was trying to go to Winco. We'd just returned home from our Christmas travels to California, and we had no milk and hardly any food in the house. We'd driven for twelve hours the day before, and we were all pretty sleep deprived. I made sure the front door was locked, that I had everyone's coat and the reusable grocery bags -- and then, when I checked my purse, I had no keys. I'd been so focused on getting everything else that we needed, that I left the most important component of our trip to the store -- the keys to get there.

Fortunately, for whatever reason the car was left unlocked, so I buckled the kids in, tried to remove the screen off the window, called my mom crying, and texted my friend that lived nearby. Also fortunately, we were close enough to get a WiFi signal and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on YouTube, so we hunkered down in the car with coats on (it was 30 degrees outside) and watched the show. By the time the show was over, my friend had texted me back, and we went and hung out at her house for a couple of hours until Scott returned home from work. It wasn't ideal, and it threw me off a bit. But we'd survived.

The second time, though, left me feeling like the universe was out to get me. I'd been feeling stressed out after all our traveling, and Nolan had been waking up quite a bit at night, so when Scott and his sister's family went to Seattle for a day trip, I stayed home, with strict orders to take a nap. I decided I would, after I went for a run. I tucked my house key into an inner pocket of my jacket, had a great run, and went home... only to find that my key had somehow fallen out. I spent the next two hours combing the trail, asking others if they'd seen a key, and getting colder and colder. I didn't know when Scott would be back from Seattle, and I was embarrassed to tell him I'd been locked out again. Only when it became dark (at 4:30...) did I return home, keyless, freezing, and starting to panic.

Fortunately, when I called Scott, he was only 15 minutes away. I took a hot bath, and went to Lowe's the next day to make several copies of my house key (as well as grab a wristband to keep it with me when I run). Everything turned out well, but in the moment, I was so furious and stressed.

It had me wondering, what am I supposed to learn from this?

Obviously, to always have my keys in hand before I leave the house. But also, I think, it was meant to show me that sometimes things happen out of my control, and flipping out doesn't make it any better. I live under the illusion that I can plan out my days. You'd think I'd have learned after having two children and working in pediatrics that the unexpected can descend at any moment, and that it's important to think on your feet. Most important of all, I realized that crying and panicking just impedes my ability to come up with a new plan. It stagnates me instead of helping me to move forward.

Hopefully I've learned my lesson and won't have to get locked out again. But I'm definitely never locking the door again unless my key is in my hand!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Small-scale gratitude.

This morning, I found myself standing stark naked in the bathroom, fixing a Lego fire truck. How did I get here?

I'm frazzled these days. My kids seem to need more than usual -- Cal shouts for me if I'm not in the room, and Nolan is either clamoring to be held or systematically destroying everything in his path. I keep hearing the message to "fill my bucket," but there are only so many things that I can do while the kids are asleep, and so few that seem to be working while they are awake. And then I while away the time by checking Facebook incessantly and obsessing about the Presidential election, which further frazzles me and accomplishes nothing.

This is meant to be the month of gratitude, and I am grateful on the large scale. I'm grateful to have a husband who works so I can stay home with my kids, to have healthy kids, to be able to have kids at all. I'm grateful to live in a nice house in a nice town in a country that, despite its flaws, is pretty safe and offers much more freedom than most. I'm grateful that I can go to the grocery store and buy food without counting every penny I spend, that my body is essentially healthy. I'm grateful to have faith in God and a belief that everything will be okay in the end.

But I'm struggling with gratitude on the small scale. I struggle to remind myself of these great, grand blessings when I'm standing dripping wet, trying to get impossibly small Lego bricks to go in the right spot. I struggle when I tell Cal no and it turns into the third all out scream fest of the day. I struggle with this niggling cold that has been peripherally taking up residence in my veins for the last few weeks, never developing into something that could excuse me from daily life for a few hours, but never going away, either.

I've been studying gratitude in the mornings, and I'm hoping it comes. I want to be a stay at home mom and have these moments with my kids. Yesterday, I was listening to the Coffee + Crumbs podcast, where they interviewed Christian writer Ann Voskamp (who I've never read but intend to some day). She said that she thinks of these drudging tasks of cleaning and changing diapers and preparing meals only to wipe them off the floor as her way of loving her family, and says she tries to have gratitude for being able to love her family that way.

I would like to feel that way, but right now I'm faking it til I make it.

I think my auto-pilot answer when my bucket is empty is to fill it. Go to bed early, read a book, take a bubble bath, exercise. Makes sense, right? But sometimes my bucket is draining faster than I can refill, and doing all of those self-care activities just feels like another chore, a Sisyphean task of trying to do everything I have to do in a day and be enlightened and self-actualized on top of it.

I think my task today, right now, is to just try and be happy in those moments. To laugh at the spectacle of trying to get ready while two babies literally pull my skin (Did I mention that while I was fixing the Lego, Nolan pinched my inner thigh with his little razor talons!?). To be grateful I have a big house to clean instead of bemoaning the fact that there's alway something else to do. To remember my friends who have hoped and prayed and cried for babies when I would rather hide from mine.

It's cliche to say that I will miss this some day, and it's also cliche to say that I hate when people say I will miss this some day. But I know I will. I look at the way my mom craves holding my babies and misses her kids scattered across the United States. Even though the newborn stage is usually horrible for me at the time, riddled with postpartum depression and unsuccessful breastfeeding and the kind of exhaustion that will truly make you insane, when I see someone cuddling a velvety newborn into their chest, or watch those sweet, new mouths moving in their sleep, I want to be there again.

So I am going to try again to recognize the small blessings in the madness. I will try again, and again, and again.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

NaNoWriMo Dropout

You guys, I have a confession.

I can't finish my novel by the end of November.

It's so easy to get caught up in the fun of NaNoWriMo, to vow to myself that I will finish a novel in just thirty days, that my house and my children and my sanity can wait.

But guess what? They can't.

I am not happy in a messy house. I'm not happy when I don't sleep or exercise. My children are not happy when I tell them, "Just a few more words!" And I am SO not happy when I'm not reading for fun.

Not to mention, I have a birthday party to plan, a trip out of state for Thanksgiving, and tons of other responsibilities that I don't want to ignore .

But here's the thing. I am going to finish my novel. It's just going to take longer than thirty days.

The whole principle of NaNoWriMo is that you need a deadline to really get into something. And I don't deny that. I have never finished a novel, and writing is always what gets pushed to the back of the line for me. I mean, hello, it's been two months since I've written on this blog.

But I am going to finish this rough draft. I have my own deadline imposed -- at least 500 words a day on the novel. That gives me time to work on other writing projects, read a book, exercise, pay attention to my family, and not live in a dirt heap.

Those of you continuing on, I am so impressed! I am sure you are doing great things! I'm okay with not being just like you.

It's going to take me a little longer, but one of these days I am going to have a novel under my belt.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Goodnight Gorilla Simply Learning Curriculum Recap

This fall, I have been following the (free!) Simply Learning Tiny Tot and Preschool curriculums. I originally heard about Simply Learning from my friend Lorna, who was following yet another free curriculum (Tot School) last year. Basically, this mother of two came up with some great homeschool early learning curriculums for her kids. She first came up with Tot School, which is geared toward 18 months-3 years or so, and has weekly themes with various learning activities. This year, she is premiering her Preschool curriculum, which is made up of two week units based on books. Alongside the preschool curriculum, she has a "tiny tot school" curriculum for 1-2 year olds because she now has a younger daughter. This lined up perfectly for my kids' ages. Cal does go to preschool twice a week for a couple of hours, but I have been wanting to do some more structured activities at home, especially since (I hear) it's going to be raining a lot for the next six months.

We haven't done every activity on her list and are still finding our rhythm, but the first unit, based on Goodnight Gorilla, was a success! Cal looked forward to his "home preschool" activities, and I spent less time breaking up fights in the toy room. Nolan is still a bit young to appreciate the Tiny Tot activities (still only 11 months) but I figure it's a start-- and Cal seems to really enjoy them, too.

Favorite activities this unit:
:: Animal tracks -- we put toy animals' feet in paint and had them make tracks, and then gave them a bubble bath the next day.
:: We put Cal's handprint over a gorilla's handprint and measured the sizes
:: Stamp it, poke it, write it -- The creator of this curriculum provides printable learning activities (also for free! can't get over it!) and Cal really loved one where you stamp the letter of focus (G this week), poke it with a thumbtack, and then trace it.

We also did some additional activities. We went to the zoo to see some of the animals. We also incorporated some other books about zoo animals. Cal read A Sick Day for Amos McGee, The Mixed Up Chameleon, and My Heart is Like a Zoo, and I read Nolan Peek-a-Zoo, Dear Zoo, and an Eric Carle noise-making book called Animal Babies that he is obsessed with.

Today we are starting The Very Hungry Caterpillar and I am looking forward to it!
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