>> Monday, July 27, 2009

My very pregnant sister-in-law came to hang out with us the other day. I love her cute pregnant belly. I love hearing how her daughter still has so much room to wiggle in there. I love all the tiny pink clothes and the anticipation of waiting for her arrival. I see her, waiting for her baby to be born. On the verge of her life changing in ways that are impossible to predict or prepare her for. Then I look at my baby, my almost one-year-old baby. I was exactly where she is a year ago. Pregnant and waiting.

I actually LOVE being pregnant even though it is full of drama for me. I love knowing that my child is growing inside my womb, safe and protected and nurtured. I love feeling him move and kick. I don't even mind all the other discomforts because the miracle of it all overshadows all the hassle. But even though all those things are true, I am fairly sure that I am done having babies. I might want another one down the road, FAR down the road. But even that is just a maybe.

I have often wondered what kind of mom I would be if I could focus all my time and attention on one kid. Would I be too smothering? Would I be more creative and attentive? Would I be able to homeschool like I ideally would want to? Having two kids right now stretches my emotional and physical energy. Although, that seems to be getting better the older Caden gets. And while the reality of having two right now does not always bring out the best in me, I ultimately think I may be better able to be the kind of mother that I want to be if I don't have anymore kids and can focus my time and energy on my two boys. On those days when I am rested and on my mommy-game, this feels manageable. More than that, it feels ideal and fulfilling and the way I want my life to be. Throw another newborn in the mix, the night feedings and all that having an infant brings, and I don't know how I would deal with it at this point.

That being said, it is sad to think of never being pregnant again or snuggling a newborn in my sling. I may have to use my newborn neice or my sisters' babies to take care of my need for sling-cuddles. Admitedly, I feel genuinely torn. So we have decided not to decide, at least for now. We went forward with a birth control option that gives us about 5years of worry-free family planning. Maye 4years from now, I will realize that I can handle one more and that our family would be able to stretch to make more room. OR.... it may be crystal clear that my baby days are through and I can put all my energy into my 5and 7 year old boys. I'm sure by that time, I will have a lot of energy, right?

Maybe I will want to try for a girl and maybe I will be so in the thick of little league and karate that tea parties and tutus won't seem to fit in my world.

And there is always the question of adoption. I have always wanted to adopt. Since my first trip to China when I was a senior in highschool, I know that my family would one day include a Chinese daughter. And that is still the basic plan... but you know how plans go sometimes. I have heard some horrow stories about adoption and some great successes. Regardless, it is something that has always been in my heart and in my life plan. But if losing Micah taught me anything, it is that what I plan and try to prepare for is ALWAYS second to and totally dependant on God's higher plan. I could get pregnant next month or never again- God knows and holds it all.

Life feels perfect right now. I mean, crazy busy and not enough sleep and kinda chaotic. But slowly I am getting back to level ground after years of a roller coaster life. And I think I want to keep these feet planted for awhile. For the sake of myself, my marriage, my boys. I am not saying forever. But for awhile at least.

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One Step Outside the Circle

>> Friday, July 24, 2009

It is almost midnight as I sit here to reflect on my BlogHer experience so far. I really should go to bed but I feel the need to process just a bit of the overwhelming day I had today.

The pre-parties were great! I partied with my fellow Chicagonistas on Wednesday and my fellow ChicagoMoms bloggers on Thursday. Both parties were super fun and not very intimidating at all. I'm doing pretty well so far, I told myself. Well, then came today.

It was just as I expected but not how I had hoped, if that makes any sense at all. My track record for things like this, social situations just outside my comfort zone, is for everything to seem SO complicated and take so much emotional effort and thick skin. The first hiccup was that they couldn't find my registration. It all got resolved but it was just a headache I didn't expect to start the day. I found some friendly faces and chilled with them off and on. I am not afraid to be alone at events like this. I just didn't want to be alone all day. And I wasn't. So that was good. I sat at lunch with bloggers I know, trying to not be shy. Trying to be a part of the conversation. I would like to think that it is just because I don't interact with these cool gals very often that I felt a bit like an outsider trying desperately to be part of the crowd. And that is probably it. But admittedly, I feel that way around people I know too so I think it is just me. See, complicated and lots of emotional effort. I just always feel one step behind, a few inches outside the circle. And today was no different. And as insignificant as the registration hiccup might seem to you, to me it felt like just one more example of how this is not really my scene. Do I really belong here? Where DO I really belong?

I felt like that off and on all day as I mingled with people who take blogging VERY seriously. I mean, I do too, I guess. But not like this. I sat in on a session where people discussed all the different strategies to getting more traffic on your blog. Google page ranks, tweeting your posts several times a day, managing your thousands of twitter followers, ... I just don't live in that world.
After pumping in the oh-so-glamorous "lactation lounge" (hear my sarcasm- the door didn't even stay closed!) with another bloggy friend, I walked around for a few minutes with a super-blogger friend. She knew everyone! And to her credit, she tried to introduce me but no one cared. I'm not even sure I did. She would say, "oh there is so-and-so, let's say hi... oh, you know such-and-such, right?" Um... not so much.
I left the conference around 3pm feeling a bit dazed with arms full of semi-cool swag. (I am making BlogHer sound sooo glamorous, huh?) It really was fun, mostly. A bit stressful, fairly tiring, and very thought-provoking. But an experience I am very glad to have had and wouldn't have wanted to miss. Even so, riding the train home all I wanted to do was see my babies. My heart was aching to see those little faces as if seeing them and hugging them would melt away all the insecurities that were flooding my head and heart. I was feeling a little bit like a second (or third or fourth)-tier mommy blogger (I am skipping all the cool parties after all- and that is why most people come to BlogHer) and needed to feel like a top tier mommy to affirm that I had chosen correctly in putting my family first.
Not even that worked out. I was home for almost 2hours before my kids came home from Grandma's. I was SO FRUSTRATED! And then to top it off, my little love, my Caden, very clearly wanted Grandma even after I was one of his options. Ouch. Not the way I had hoped to top off an already overwhelming day.

Tomorrow will be better. I will have day one under my belt and be more comfortable in the environment. Plus, I will have Caden with me so I have an instant conversation starter and distraction. And today wasn't as bad as I may be portraying. It was just intense and a lot to take in. Luckily, the day ended with nursing/rocking my sweet Caden to sleep and then sitting at the side of Lucas' bed, rubbing his legs as we both drifted off. I know my boys love me and I adore them. And even if my Google page rank is -57 (I'm just making that up- I have no idea even how to find out what your page rank is- that is how out of it I am), I am not upset about that. Maybe this is all just confirming that my priorities really do lie elsewhere. And rightly so.

I'll let you know how tomorrow goes. :)

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>> Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I am going to BlogHer this week! Hooray! The biggest, baddest mommy-blogger conference around and it is in my backyard. :) How could I not attend?

Except that it is SO FAR outside my comfort zone that I am scared to tears. I don't know too many bloggers IRL (see how I dropped that blogging lingo on ya'.... I am trying to gear myself up!). I am very shy in environments like this when I am alone and feel like everyone else seems to know each other. I am an introvert that tries to be an extrovert because those people are "more cool and hip" but the whole time I will be wishing I was in my yoga pants on the couch or playing trains with my boys. But, I am always really glad I stepped outside my comfort zone after I actually do. I am usually pleasantly surprised with myself and how well I interact with others even though I feel like I want to crawl into a hole. I almost always have a great time even though I am nervous as heck at the beginning. And I have no reason to believe that this time will be any different.

I want to go and am excited to go! I am excited to meet some people that I have "known" for awhile and maybe meet some new people too. BlogHer is all about connecting and networking, right? I am excited to go to the break-out sessions and hopefully learn some things to grow my blog and my latest project. I am excited for the parties that I am attending and the potential free swag! :) But that doesn't take away the nervous butterflies.

Hubby and I sat down and planned out the next few days- who has which kids and where we will all be at different times and how we are all getting there. At this point in my life when I am taking a hard look at where I am putting my priorites, thinking about how much or how little I could do with BlogHer was not an easy decision. I easily got 6-7 invites to private parties during BlogHer. Parties sponsored by fancy companies where they will serve fancy drinks and appetizers to fancy bloggers and give out fancy free stuff. Sounds like a no-brainer. And there are plenty of bloggers who are going all out and attending as many parties as they can fit onto a spreadsheet (yes, really!).

But not me. Not this year.

So, yes, I am going to BlogHer this year. But I am really doing BlogHer Lite. I will attend most of the sessions and I will do the famous expo hall. I am attending a couple parties, most with Caden in tow. But, I will not be staying at the hotel or attending any parties on "the big night" or any after-parties. I will instead be coming home to sleep in my own bed with my baby beside me. I will eat dinner with my family while most conference attenders are sitting in swanky lounges sipping their cocktails. I am choosing it to be this way because I know it is what is best for my boys and thus best for me. I know they would be fine away from me. They would be fine with Grandma or Hubby or even a babysitter if it came to that. But I am not shooting for "fine."
It is all about the balance. I am "doing" BlogHer but also making my family a priority too. At least I am trying. I'll let you know how it really goes. And maybe I'll even have some swag to share so stay tuned!

Oh, and a special thanks to the people at Tyndale Kids... thanks for helping make it possible for me to step out of my comfort zone and practice keeping my priorities in line. Thanks for supporting my trip to BlogHer '09.

P.S~ If you are reading this and going to be at BlogHer, please let me know. I would love to have someone to hang out with. :)

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What if We...

>> Monday, July 20, 2009

As I Caden turns one and life moves into the next phase (aka- the I don't have a baby and should hopefully start to get more sleep phase), I've been thinking a lot lately about the shape of my life. What fills my days? What rules my thoughts and attitude? I am not always content with my answers to those questions. Am I the person/mother/wife/etc. that I want to be? Sometimes. Too often my lack of sleep or rushing to get somewhere or do something brings out this side of me that I am not proud of. I know I tend to let my priorities get out of whack. I put others' opinions of me WAY too high on my motivation list. I put the needs of my family on the backburner to things I think will bring me more approval or favor or... whatever else from other people. I know that I frequently go into self-protection mode, not having faith that anyone else will care about my needs.

This is not how I want my life to be.

In a meager first attempt to stop this cycle, to get on a better path, I have been asking myself what I am afraid of? What is driving me and my decisions? What things are really,truly important? What would happen if I took an emotional risk and....

What if I... took the time to listen to those I love? I mean really listen. What would I hear that I have so far been missing?
What if I... took more time to talk with Lucas and really listen to what he has to say? I do this a lot, I really do. But I talk at him a lot too. I raise my voice to get my point across or bring a swift end to whatever he's doing that I want him to stop. I squelch the back-talking and the "But Mommy!" But if I want him to grow up feeling heard and genuinely valued, I need to step back and close my mouth more.

What if I... stopped protecting my heart and started loving with abandon?
What if I... stopped worrying about making sure I was taken care of and recklessly threw myself into the care of the boys entrusted to me? I am often so afraid that my needs won't be met, that my opinions won't be heard, that my hurts won't be attended to. What if I just let it go?
What if I stopped depending on Hubby and others to make me feel wanted/needed? What if I stopped looking outward for my self-worth?
What if I... learned to find joy in the mundane?
What if I.. started accepting my Hubby and my sons for who/what they are and stopped try to make them something they are not?
What if I... did the same for myself?

What if I... could truly say that "God is enough?" How would that change how I live?

What if I... said yes more than I said no? Yes to my boys, I mean, not the million of things I say yes to that force me to say no to them and myself.

What if I...did nothing else for the rest of my life but pour myself into my family and friends? Would I feel successful? Would I feel important?
What if I...let go of this need to feel important and successful?

Life is a journey, a process. I just feel like mine may have gotten a little off path. But I am working on that. Or rather, I am asking God to do that and teach me how to be receptive to His answers to all my "What Ifs."

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Budding Friendship

>> Wednesday, July 15, 2009

While I am not super excited about my baby getting so big (ok- maybe I am a little excited about the perks of that), I am thrilled to see my boys starting to play so well together. We still have what we call "over zealous affection" from Lucas to his little brother, but I love seeing how they simply adore each other. The other day we broke out the baby pool and the two of them just played together. I mean, they entertained each other for a good 10-15min. while mommy sat in the grass near by and watching, my heart bursting with pride and love for my boys! It was precious to watch. That is until Lucas got a little over zealous and splashed Caden in the face, bringing tears of drama from the little brother. It is a start though, and makes me smile. Who doesn't smile when they see those cute faces?! :)

For more wordful wednesday, visit Angie at Seven Clown Circus.

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Train up Your Child- reprise

>> Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I am going to BlogHer!!! I am super excited for the mommy-blogger conference in Chicago next week! But, I must pause to say a thank you to Tyndale House Kids who has generously sponsored me and made it possible for me to attend. The Bibles and books they have sent us are some of the daily staples in our house. Here are a couple of our favs:

We are constantly on the look out for tools to help us parent Lucas. He is my highly-verbal, ultra-smart, very inquisitive boy who always has a million questions about everything. When he was just shy of two, we would be driving in the car and he would demand that I "talk about" whatever we saw... "mommy, talk about about grass... talk about cranes... talk about gas stations." He just wanted to know the facts, the scientific truth about the things he was experiencing and learning about. While his desire to know everything has not changed, his questions have gotten much more complex. At nearly 3 years old, he now wants to know about how a space shuttle launches and how it gets to the moon. Tonight he asked me "How did God talk to Noah? Did Noah hear God with he ears?"
When I was offered the chance to get advanced copies of two new books for kids by Tyndale House Publishers, I was pumped. We always love new books, and anything that helps me teach my little sponge is gladly accepted. To say we love these new books is a huge understatement. We adore them... and I would love to share them with you.

When I heard the title of the first book, I was immediately sold! Questions from Little Hearts... sounds perfect for us. And it is. The book is divided into four sections: What is God Like? What is Prayer? What about Heaven? and Are Angels Real? I have written before about Lucas and I's conversations about Heaven. He knows there are people there that he loves- Micah, my grandmother - and he has very real questions about what it is like there. I love that this book poses the questions that a toddler would really ask and then gives the answers in a way that keeps their attention and satisfies their curiosity.

"Is heaven a place that is near or that's far? can I get to heaven by boat or by car?
How will I find it? Who'll show me the way? Does heaven have nighttime? And what about day? ...
Though heaven's a place that you can't see from here, It says in the Bible that heaven is near. You don't have to know how to fly or to swim. The way is with Jesus, believing in him."

At the end of each section, the author lists the scripture references for the answers they suggest. Lucas loves it. We read at least one section a day and he often asks for the one he wants. "Mommy, let's read about prayer today." And we always read the scriptures at the end and he has started asking me to show him where to find "those words" in the Bible. So we pull out the Bible and flip to a couple of the verses and read them there too. It is precious, teachable moments like these that make me feel like maybe I am capable of training my child the way God has called me to. I highly recommend this book for anyone whose little one has questions, lots of questions, like mine. It is easy to read and has sparked many really great conversations with me and my curious toddler.

When I was pregnant with Lucas, we received many Bibles geared toward babies and toddlers as gifts. We have one that we have read cover to cover many times (not in one sitting) that tells all the great stories and has been a good tool for introducing him to the Bible. But several months ago, Hubby commented that we needed to find a Bible for Lucas that was the "next step up." Still meant for kids, but one where the words read a little more like Scripture and a little less like a board book. Kenneth Taylor's Classic Bible Storybook is just that. This Bible has less pictures, more text. But my favorite thing about it is the 4-5 questions it lists at the end of each story. Tonight we read story 5 (we skip around)- "Noah is Safe in a Boat." The questions at the end of the story really help reinforce what we just read (How long did it rain? Why did God send the Flood?) and sparks even deeper questions (like how did Noah hear God talking to him?). I also love that because it is a little more like a regular Bible, it includes stories that most children's Bibles leave out. We are studying Elijah and Elisha in the Bible study we go to and I love that we can open "his Bible" and read about these prophets (stories 51-54) that he is learning about. It makes it seem more like we are reading the Bible, if that make sense. Lucas asks to bring "his Bible" to church and that warms my heart.

It is a daunting task, at least for me, to feel responsible for my child's spiritual up-bringing. I don't want to miss this stage of his life where he is soaking in his world and starting to form his world-view. I am trying to build things into our days that help me teach him about God and prayer and the Bible, etc... We are working on memory verses, talking about spiritual things, and reading books that help guide our conversations and our lives. And these two books have become a big part of that. I can't recommend either one enough. These are books we will read for many years and will hopefully become cherished parts of our boys' early spiritual development.

This post was originally published Feb 11, 2009.

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In the Blink of an Eye

>> Monday, July 13, 2009

...we went from this...

How is my baby almost one?!?! When Lucas was almost one, I thought he was starting to look like such a big boy. But I see Caden at 11months and I still see my little baby. He is very mommy-attached, has a killer-cute smile, and cheeks and eyes that make everyone melt. He knows 5-6 signs and 3-4 words (does "uh-oh" count as a word?) And although he needs to learn to be content away from mommy and sleep through the night, I am cherishing the snuggles while I have them. Just tonight, I sat with him snuggled on my chest and wrapped my arms around him. Squeezing tight, I pushed out the flood of thoughts of all the things I must complete before I sleep tonight and just drank in the sweet baby-ness.
Soon he will be one and not really a baby. But yet, always my baby!

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Fish Face- Wordful Wednesday

>> Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A few weeks ago, the boys and I visited my family in Ft. Lauderdale for my sister's law school graduation (hooray!!). While there, we visited the Miami Seaquarium. Lucas got to feed the sea lions and see the dolphins and sharks and whales. But one of the things he still talks about is this ginormous fish we saw. It is a grouper and they really do get that big in their natural environment. I love these pictures because Lucas is trying to kiss the fish (above) and then is making almost the exact same face as the fish (below). Plus I love the personality of my little man that comes shining through in these shots. He is such a cool kid. I know all parents say that. But really, he is so great!! Just look at that face! :)

P.S.~ Kinda a random post for wordful wednesday but great pictures none-the-less. We were out of town for the weekend and I have been up to my eyeballs in sewing and other things. I am really trying to keep my priorities in check these days and put my boys and my sleep higher on the list of important tasks for the day. For now, this means a little less blogging at times. I am not going away, just slowing down a bit. At least until I figure out the right balance and flow for my weeks. :)

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie at Seven Clown Circus.

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Quiet Strength- Wordful Wednesday

>> Wednesday, July 1, 2009

This is not my grandmother. Both mine are with Jesus. I am actually not related to this lady at all. She is a very close friend of my husband's family and one of the coolest people I have ever known. She is 89 and still single but has had the richest of lives. She graduated from my alma mater (Wheaton College) in 1942. She started a nursing school in South Africa where she lived for years. She co-founded a nation-wide club for kids that encourages bible learning and teaching the next generation how to follow in Christ's footsteps. She is open-minded, inspiring, stays up to date on the happenings of the world, in amazing health. She speaks with the voice of experience and wisdom that makes me want to sit and listen. And that is just what I do. Anytime I am near her, I just want to sit. She has a quiet strength. She is not pushy or attention-seeking. She is confident in who God created her to be and the plan He has for her life. Even now, she weekly tutors immigrants in English and pours herself into the lives of others because that is what she knows God wants her to do at this moment.
Her strength very clearly comes from a source outside her. She doesn't pretend to know it all or be able to do it all. And yet, she knows so much and has touched so many lives. Including mine. I think she is just amazing.

I spend so much of my life trying to order things and figure out how to make my life fit or make sense. What should I do to give my life purpose, meaning, worth? How can I make my mark on the world and be seen as successful and important? It only takes 2minutes of talking with Louise to make all of that seem so temporary. She tells me my boys are beautiful, all 3. She tells me how great it is that God has given me the skills and knowledge to work as a nurse and help people in that way. She tells me I am strong to have lived through what I have and that my life is such a witness of God's grace and love.

Yes. Thank you, Louise. Thank you for your example of the quiet strength that God gives. Thank you for helping me see things in proper perspective. Thank you for giving your life in service to God and inspiring me to see my life as the same.
I don't get my worth from external things. My boys are the most important way I will leave my mark on this world. I get my worth from being a child of the King and no where else.

She is so strong and makes me feel strong.

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie at Seven Clown Circus.

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