Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 In Review: Surprise, Surprise

Today at the grocery store, the youngish guy who was checking out my groceries casually asked, "So are you ready for the New Year?"  My response was a slow, calm, "sure....?"  I am a person who likes to really reflect and prepare for transitions.  2013 has given me no chance for that.

I began this blog one year ago.  In the beginning, it was titled "Life Less Ordinary", in reference to a song I love by the band Carbon Leaf.  I wrote a little about our desire to live a life that was extraordinary in a mundane world.  And then this year happened...suffice it to say, I changed the title because I am actually ready for a little LESS excitement!!!

One thing I've come to realize about myself is that I both love and hate surprises.  I am generally a planner.  I don't like things sprung on me last minute.  However, if someone has a gift or a fun activity planned, it is all the more sweet when it is given as a surprise to me.  But since I am a planner (read: control freak), I am all that much harder to give even pleasant surprises to.

So after all our struggles with Mr. Boo, I said over and over that we wouldn't have any more children.  In 2012, I ate my words when I was made aware of my husband's deep desire for more kids.  I prayed it through and felt a peace about trusting God and moving forward.  We tried and tried to get pregnant. It just wasn't happening. At the end of 2012, we decided we'd give it one more month.  As January of 2013 hit, we were waiting to see if our last try worked.
The boys at the end of 2012

A few weeks in, the thing that happens to tell you that you aren't pregnant began to happen to me.  I broke the news to my hubby. That day, we sent an email to our adoption agency and inquired about beginning the process to adopt. We were a little sad, but both sort of ok with finally closing that door.

But a few days later, that *thing* wasn't really continuing.  I decided to take a pregnancy test just in case (I had several, why not waste one?).  I sneaked into the bathroom while my husband was getting ready for work, and took it to the other bathroom to take it.  I went to my bedroom to wait, with the test in hand.  I sat down alone on my bed, and glanced at the test.  Two lines.  TWO LINES.  Two lines means yes, I'm pregnant, right? I looked at it a hundred times and then I started laughing. Out loud.  Not just chuckling to myself- actually belly laughing.

God found a way to give me a good surprise.  Me, with my charts and dates and times and plans. I was reminded of Sarah in the Bible, laughing about getting pregnant with Isaac. I was tickled pink that God had not only blessed me with a baby, but had surprised me in the process.

So we made plans to announce our new addition, and we took this picture.  We delivered it to family and friends.
photos by the lovely and talented Dansare Marks

But then, the very next week, I had signs I was losing the pregnancy.  I had to wait one whole night to go to the doctor, by which time I was convinced I wasn't going to have a baby anymore.  My husband and Boo came too, and we went in for the sonogram. I was wondering why God would go to the trouble to give me this awesome surprise only for it not to work out.  But I was also resigned to whatever was supposed to happen.  I felt in my heart that there would not be a heartbeat on the screen when I got in there.

The technician put the sonogram thing on my belly and I was right.  There wasn't *A* heartbeat.  There were two.

I saw it right away. Two black circles.  Two embryonic sacs.  I shot a look up to the tech and she read my mind and confirmed it. "Yes, there's two."  I said, with tears starting, "Are they alive?"  She found two strong heartbeats right away. She explained the bleeding I was having was most likely from the "overcrowding" in my uterus.

Another HUGE surprise.  A huge shock.  Biggest surprise of my life.  I actually cussed  (sorry, babies).  I grew up in a family of four kids, and the thing I have said most in my life in reference to that is "I will never have 4 kids."  My mom thinks this is hilarious.

Two huge surprises, right off the bat. And our announcement picture had to be edited!

The final surprise was when we went to our 20 week sonogram. I had studied up and prepared so I would know what I was looking for.  The tech began the sonogram, and right away, I saw it-  two legs, and the classic look between them that meant one more desire of my heart was coming true. One that I really hadn't even had to courage to hope for. I said, "Oh! That's a GIRL!" And the tech confirmed it.  I asked if that was baby A or baby B.  She said it was B.  I also saw Baby A and knew he was a boy, which was exactly what I wanted..  So Baby B- my one and only girl- most likely wouldn't be here if God hadn't arranged for those two eggs- instead of one- to be released and to give us two babies at once.

Maternity photos by the also lovely and talented Ally Browning

So we began 2013 with two kids- now we have four.  We began with a house full of boys- and now we have, well, a house still full of boys, but I did get one girl for my team.  My husband says now it's close to even- with the girls still holding the advantage!

Many other changes happened this year- but they mostly revolved around a twin pregnancy, two babies being born, and all the other medical stuff I detailed in other posts. Son 1 is in First Grade now, Mr. Boo started preschool and is (*gasp*) riding the preschool bus there.  I quit my two part-time jobs to stay home with these babies.

34 weeks pregnant with twins.  Bigger than a house. 

I delivered the twins via C-Section at 37 weeks in September.  Thankfully, there were no medical surprises or complications.  It went well.

So here we are.  I have no idea how it happened, but I have 4 kids.  I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this was the most crazy, surprising, amazing, change-filled year of my life. And to be honest- I am still totally overwhelmed with the idea of being a mom to four kids.  I know it's only by God's grace that any of us will survive.

So as 2014 starts, I am done with the idea of our life getting "Less Ordinary."  I am ready for some mundane.  I am ready to get into a routine and not have any major shocks.  I know that's not guaranteed and that's not how life works. I am just saying I am not particularly asking for it this year!

Holy moly, I love my Fantastic Four!!!
So Welcome, 2014.  Let's make this the most boring year yet!!! :-)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Virtual Motherhood Subculture: aka "That's not who you are"

There is this timewarp in our house- from the kitchen (the epicenter of activity) to the car in the garage.  No matter how much I've planned ahead and organized things, somehow it takes our family anywhere from 20-45 minutes to move between those places when we have to go somewhere.  Someone described it once as herding cats. Kids can't get coats, backpacks, lunchboxes, stuffed animals, blankets, snacks, drinks, WHATEVER together fast enough and they wander off on the way to the destination.  I know you know what I am talking about.

My 7 year-old is especially distracted.  I say to him a hundred times, "Go to the car. Go to the car. GO TO THE CAR."  Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.  He has real and challenging focus issues, and we spend a lot of time working through them.

So when I read this post about not hassling our kids to hurry up, I of course went into standard mommy guilt mode.  However, I immediately knew in my heart that this did not apply to us.  I did not feel frantic or like I was ignoring the beautiful way God made my son.  There are real timetables in life and no matter how much time I allow, there is distraction and dawdling. It also occurred to me that 75% of the places we are trying to go so quickly are FOR them, so I think it's reasonable to ask them to go there in a timely manner for the whole family.  So while I appreciated what the blog writer had to say, I did not plunge into a dark vat of guilt and vow to never say "hurry up" again.

That day, probably 25 of my Facebook friends re-posted that, plus I got it in email form from a few others. Again, I appreciate that it resonated with some people.  It still didn't stir me.

Over the next few months, other posts about motherhood emerged.  This one about bedtime taking a long time.  This one about "bullying" a child.  Again, great articles. Great writers. Women desiring to love their kids better.  All wonderful things.

The rate at which these things got reposted in all the social media platforms astounded me. Many of my friends comment things like, "This is me." Or "I am guilty of this." Or "Something for us all to think about." And it bothers me.  Here's why:

I know most of you.  I know how much you love your kids.  I know you spend most of your free time with them.  If you're not with them, you are thinking about them.  Or talking about them with your friends.  Asking deep, hard questions about how to love them better and how to help them.  You barely sleep.  You pray and pray. Your deepest heart's desire is that your kids would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them and you have done everything you can for them.

So here is what I want to say to you: Please, read these posts and take what you want from them.  And then put them away.  Don't label yourself as a "bully" or a bad mom because you "slip" and tell your kid to hurry up when you have given them every chance to get things done in a reasonable amount of time.  Or if you put your kids to bed sort of early to visit with your spouse.

Stop the guilt.  Don't put yourself in the box.  That isn't who you are.

Loving your kids looks different almost every day. Some days it looks like putting your 4 year-old in time out while they scream so you can teach them patience and to speak respectfully to people.  Some days it's taking all day to walk around the park with them.  Some days it's putting them to bed fast so you can connect with their father.

These women write these posts about themselves- their lives- their mistakes. And while they can send good messages and reminders to all of us, their conclusions for their kids and family are not and SHOULDN'T BE the exact same as yours. They certainly shouldn't weight us down with more guilt than we already have.

And here's the darker thing happening.  We read these things, take them as gospel truth, and then use them as yet another way to judge those around us.  We hear a mom in the store telling their kid to hurry up and we think, "Oh, she doesn't treasure her kid the way I do."  Or we observe a mom sternly disciplining her kid and think, "I bet she's a bully all the time to that child."  We pass things on and say, "You should read this."

We need to step back and see the whole picture. Of ourselves and each other.

So yes, I tell my kid to hurry, quite a bit. I could wake him up at 4 AM and he still wouldn't be ready for school by 8:00 without my prodding.  We are working on it. I don't scream in his face or think I'm tearing up his heart by saying it. One day he will hold a job and hopefully be on time because of the skills I am teaching him.

So please- read these posts and sure, repost them if you want. But don't tell yourself you need to feel more guilt or make arbitrary statements about your life based on them. Take whatever message speaks to you and appreciate it.  Don't worship it or tell yourself you are a bad mom.  Don't be pulled into the dark subculture we are creating that tells a part of the story online and ignores the reality of the big picture of our hearts.

Because I know you- and that's not who you are.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

You're Listening to the Wrong Christmas Music...

So, several years ago, I had heard a song on the local Christian radio station called "Nothing to Say" by a fellow named Andrew Peterson.  I liked it. A lot.  So, as we often did back then, I ordered the CD it was on.  I also liked that a lot.  So I ordered a few for Christmas and gave one to my sister #3, who we now call Aunt Kiki around here.  Anyway, she also liked it a lot.

Ok, to be truthful, we were sorta obsessed.  

See, we are English/words/grammar/phrasing people.  We love the way you can put words together and create amazing pictures.  And since I am also a vocal music person, I loved the way Andrew's smooth, lyrical style of singing went perfectly with the way he crafted words together into stories.  Kiki and I would email (not text- again, this was the dark ages, people) lyrics to each other through the day.  So for Kiki's birthday in March of 2008, I made her a certificate promising her tickets to an upcoming live Andrew Peterson concert.  

Kiki and me back in the day (ok, she looks just the same)
Unfortunately (or so it seemed at the time), the spring concert I wanted to take her to did not work out for her schedule.  The next one listed on his website was in December, about 3 hours away from us.  So I bought the tickets as soon as they came available and put it on the calendar.  When I got the tickets in the mail, I was disappointed because it said, "Behold the Lamb of God tour, with Andrew Peterson and friends."  I thought I had mistakenly bought some sort of Christmas Pageant tickets where maybe they'd play Andrew Peterson songs or something.  But anyway, when the time rolled around, we trekked up to Nebraska in the dead of winter, ate at Valentino's (yum) and drove to a church to see whatever this was going to be.

Kiki pointing out our favorite Valentino's in Omaha

You know that feeling when you suddenly realize you are in the middle of something totally amazing, and you didn't even plan it?  That happened to me that night. I was instantly glad we hadn't been able to go in the spring because I doubt we would've tried so hard to get to this concert. 

The Behold the Lamb of God tour involves Andrew Peterson asking some of his closest friends, who also happen to be amazing musicians, to join him on stage.  The concert is in two parts.  The first part is called The Round and each musician takes turns sharing some of their personal music.  This is how I first heard of Andy Gullahorn, Jill Phillips, Andrew Osenga and Ben Shive.  These Nashville-based musicians brought so much heart to what they were doing, and I felt so privileged to "meet" them.  I've since tried to keep up with everything these guys put out, and they are awesome.  Checkout  their music (and other really cool stuff) here. And actually, Jill and Andy (who are husband and wife) have a beautiful Christmas album themselves.  (And to be truthful again, if my voice could sound like anyone's in the world, it would be Jill's.  Love her.  As someone else once said, she could sing the phone book and I'd listen to it). 
The whole group starting the Behold the Lamb part of the show

When the second half started, the actual "Behold the Lamb of God" part, I really thought I was going to just burst.  It was amazing.  Behold the Lamb of God is set up as a sequence of songs that tells the story, beginning in the Old Testament, of the coming of Christ. There are many people on stage, and all kinds of instruments.  They all work together to create this sort of sermon in song. It is full of imagery, and it invites you into the magic of the Christmas story in a way I'd never heard before in song.  Words are failing me even now as I try to explain it to you.  It is simultaneously simple, complex, funny, sincere, deep and sweet.  

Suffice it to say, we were totally in shock and awe of the amazing honor we felt to have "discovered" this group of people, this musical work, and really the new way we could experience the Christmas story.  

So like dorks, we stuck around after the show to meet Andrew and a few of the other guys. Andrew was totally gracious and kind as we fumbled through trying to tell him how we ended up at the show and how much we loved it.  We even met him again a year or so later at a different venue, and he at least pretended to sorta remember us.  He's a super nice guy, really.  
Us with our new friend, Andrew

Here's the point of this long story.  For us, it isn't Christmastime until we've either attended a Behold the Lamb of God show (they do them every year in a variety of places), or pulled the album out and given it several listens.  (one more confession- we listen to it year round, really, but we do text each other lyrics when Christmas rolls around).  It sets up our hearts for the season. 

You have to get this album.  I'm serious. I would never steer you wrong.  Please go and  buy it if you don't have it, and support these people who are some of the good guys, making truly good music from their hearts and making our world a more beautiful place.  (how many times in this post have I said beautiful? See, I'm not as good with words as I claim).  If the Behold the Lamb tour comes near you, go.  For the last several years, either new babies have kept us from going, or the tour just didn't come close enough.  But you can bet we'll be there as often as we can.  

Here's a link to one of the songs to get you started. But seriously, buy it. Then you can come back here and tell others about it.  I cannot say enough how much it will enrich your season.

One last funny story.  My kids have gotten so used to listening to Andrew Peterson in the car that once, I got a new Burlap to Cashmere CD (also very good), and my two boys argued back and forth that it HAD to be Andrew Peterson.  Because usually the "good" music was him or his friends.  They always knew if I just had the radio on or whatever, because it wasn't good.  I can't wait to take them to a concert soon! 

Have a great Christmas season.

***ONE MORE IMPORTANT THING! The title of this blog is a total rip-off of a song I heard Andy Gullahorn do at one of the Behold the Lamb shows I attended during The Round.  It's called "Someone to You."  Listen to it here and then buy it here. ****