Wednesday, 9/17/14

Happy Hump Day.

I posted the other day that Piper is doing a little better at night, sleeping until my wake up time of 5 am then going back to sleep for a few hours. Hahahahahaha!  I posted that and then true to every-kid-form, she changed her mind. For the past two days, she’s gotten up at 4 am. Which to my body signals it’s time to get up. But it’s not, I tell you, it’s NOT! My adrenaline says, “ooh, 6 hrs, time to get up,” and my brain says, “Nooooo, I want seven hrs.”

Anyway, let’s let that dead horse lie and move on to food. One of my favorite subjects.

When you’re up at 4 am by 9 you’re pretty much ready for lunch and a nap. It’s a shame McDonald’s doesn’t serve double cheeseburgers before 11. Between Insanity, nursing, and getting up before the sun, I’m ravenous. One can only eat so many eggs and trail mix (separately, not together, because eeewww).

Speaking of eggs and trail mix, I’m having so much fun dressing Piper. Girl’s hair and clothes are so much more fun than boys. Sorry. It’s a fact. She has the cutest little denim jeggins that I’m having fun pairing with adorable tops…. It’s a shame really. This child has no idea how cute she is.

Clothes brings me to the weirdest thing to happen to me today – - I came home from dropping the girls at school and hung up my jean jacket (just a second, my phone’s ringing. I think it’s the 1980s) I have a t-shirt on and was a little chilly without my jacket so I grabbed a grey sweater that was hanging in the closet. As I did so, I immediately, and I mean immediately, thought of Mr. Rogers hanging up his coat every day to put on his sweater. I felt like I should break out into song, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor….”  And it is a beautiful sunny day in the Burgh….. I then noticed there’s a hole in the elbow of my sweater, which explained everything about Mr. Rogers having elbow patches on his.

Welp, enough of this banter. I’ve got people to see and places to go. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, 9/16/14

There is no where I can go that is too far.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night.” Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee.”

Psalm 139:11-12

 

The other weekend we lost Ryan. We had some friends up and between the two couples we have 7 kids. Somehow in the transfer from playing at the park and walking across the parking lot to a restaurant, we forgot Ryan. (I actually thought he was with us the whole time and walked back to the park, but he informed me that we left him there. Poor boy!)

At some point while waiting for our table, I realized I hadn’t seen Ryan for quite some time. 10 minutes?  At least. I turned to my friend Katie and said, “Where’s Ryan?” We immediately began looking.

I walked to the edge of the patio and looked down at the older children who were studying the lily pads growing at the water’s edge. No Ryan. I called to them to ask if he’d been with them. Negative.

For a split second I looked at the five children playing by the pond, thinking about how I would have to leave them by the water’s edge without supervision to look for my son. A split second – and then I turned and walked very fast through the restaurant looking at every table for his sweet little face. Seeing if perhaps he was standing with elbow propped on a table, his chin in his hands watching his beloved Pirates on one of the tvs. He wasn’t there.

I made my way from the front of the place to the back. There was no sign of little boy blue. Henry and Kevin were at the bar watching the game. I asked if they’d see him. The look on Henry’s face told me “no.” His look of concern mirrored the seriousness in my own face as I searched every nook and cranny around the bar.

Bathrooms. We split up looking in each and met out front, my chest tightening with every minute. No little boy. Without many words, just phrases like, “Nothing.” We split again. I retraced my steps back through the restaurant to the back patio and by the water. I scanned the lake praying I wouldn’t see him in the water.  Back out to the front, to the parking lot, hoping to spot his little white shirt bobbing through the cars. I thought about calling the police.

“Leighann! Katie’s got him!” Kevin yelled. He was weaving through the cars coming from the park where we’d just been playing. Ryan was at the park and Katie had him. That’s all I had to know for my heart to find peace. He’d been found!

As I had raced through the restaurant I couldn’t help but think of how Jesus leaves the 99 sheep safely grazing to search out the one who is lost (Matthew 18:12). I wonder if he has a split-second thought as he scans the safe ones, wondering as He turns to search if one of these will find themselves in trouble. If He does, I’m sure like me He only hesitates for second as His concern for the lost one drives His every action.  He is compelled to find the one who is wandering. Compelled by love.

And then this morning I read this and it brought it all together for me, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night.’ Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee.”   And the verse before these: “And thy right hand will lay hold of me.”

It hit me afresh. Even in the darkest places, whether they be the depths of sin or the depths of despair, God is not afraid to go there to rescue me. Darkness doesn’t cause him anxiety like it does us. There’s nowhere I can sink to that the right hand of God can’t reach to pull me out. Hallelujah. Praise the King. He will sit with me in the darkness and lead me out when I’m ready to grasp His hand. Waiting ever so patiently, the Father is always there.  For you and for me.

Monday, 9/15/14

Searching for balance

Yeah. So remember the first two relaxing days of school?

I’m glad I took some time to relax.

To give you perspective, I’ve been involved with 10 healthcare (from therapists to doctors) appointments in the last 10 business days. This doesn’t count the 2 eye doctor checkups the girls had on Saturday. I sent my husband out of utter fear of me curling up into the fetal position and rocking back in forth at being asked to sign one more HIPA form.

I also attended two back-to-school nights at the elementary school.

It’s been a little crazy. Not gonna lie.

My goal has been to steal a few minutes for myself each day to gain a little perspective and create some balance in my stress levels. This hasn’t happened much in these second two weeks of school and I feel it.  Many days while the kids are at school (or even in summer time) I spend very little time breathing and more time doing childcare and running a household – something that is so difficult to explain to someone who’s never done it before. Honestly, it’s hard to explain to me AND I’M DOING IT!  It takes time to get everything done. Consider that if I’ve spent time at 10 appointments, I’ve made phone calls to set each of these appointments up. And I’ve loaded the car with at least 2 kids if not 4 to travel to and from these appointments. This does not include anything else.

I’m going to try to get back in balance this week. Starting today. There are only 2 appointments on the calendar so far this week. Yay!

 

Friday, 9/12/14

Lost ….

Ryan lost his first tooth. I’m pretty sure it was August 21. A Thursday. He came to me that morning with an open mouth and said, “Look.”  I had no frame of reference so I peered into his open mouth and said, “What?”

That’s when he took his little finger and wiggled his little tooth. Not just a little back and forth…it was very, very lose. I was aghast!  Did you hit your mouth on something? Did someone hit you? What in the world caused this little five-and-a-half-year-old who has completed every milestone behind his older siblings lose a tooth at least 6 months before any of my other children?

As we were eating dinner that night he gave a little “Oh!” and spit his tooth into his hand. Then held it up for all to see…. “my tooth!!”

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So yeah, it’s gone. And his adult one is already growing in. The kids realized all our kids are missing teeth in one way or another!

Thursday, 9/11/14

Stop the Insanity

No really. Stop. I wish I could yet at the same time know I won’t because down deep I really don’t want to. Let me explain.

Henry and I started Insanity last Monday. It seemed like a good day. For starters, it was a Monday. We all know that good habits start on Mondays. Mondays are clean slate day. The Year of Jubilee day (at least in my book). The day to begin all things new.

It was also Labor Day so we cheated a little bit by not having to get up early on our first day. Probably a good thing in terms of going from doing absolutely no form of exercise to doing a workout regimen called INSANITY. That in and of itself qualifies us as insane.

By the end of the warm up I was pretty sure I was going to die. My life flashed before my eyes as I fought the black closing in on my peripheral vision. And then Sean T. (the instructor) said it was time to stretch.

Thank the living Lord in heaven.

Except the stretching was yoga in disguise. So my legs were shaking by the second stretch. And instead of knowing I was going to die, I knew for quite sure I was going to vomit.

But then I didn’t.

And 30 minutes or 40 minutes or 28 gosh-darn minutes later (it really doesn’t matter because I could hardly function anyway) we were cooling down and doing yoga disguised as stretching again. Inhale up… exhale down.

For the record, I didn’t pass out or vomit (not that first day any way. I did vomit the second day). But I did lay face down on our bed for about 20 minutes before recovering completely. And by recovering I mean being able to walk around, get a shower, and make lunches. I do not mean moving without sore muscles.

The good news is that we’re into week two and while I’m pretty much over getting out of bed at 5 am to torture myself every morning, I kindof like being up before the kids and getting a few quiet minutes before “starting work.” (although truth be told, I nurse Piper before we work out and sometimes Ryan’s sitting in the room watching us… but it’s all good). The bad news is my writing is taking a hit. I used to do it once the kids were asleep but I’m pretty much mush by then…. so much to tell you guys. But for now, I’m working on being insane.

Wednesday, 9/10/14

Piper – 9 Months

I blinked and she aged another 4 weeks. Just like that. August turned into September and Piper entered a new month of her first year.

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She’s still chewing on everything she finds…. and a tooth finally popped through her gums (Aug. 28), but not before she started saying “mama” (Aug. 4).  She’s so funny with her words. She figured out she could make syllables so instead of just crying, she forms her mouth different ways and makes actual phonetic sounds. The kids love guessing what she’s saying.

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Henry and I went to the Silopanna music festival in Annapolis in mid-August. Guess who came along because she’s still not taking nutrients through a bottle? Everyone loved her hot pink ear plugs.

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Ooooh! She’s also eating some solids. Lots and lots and lots of Cheerios and some little bites of easy foods. She LOVES spaghetti.

Crawling is child’s play to her now. She gets across the floor faster than I can say “Boo!” and is pulling herself up. Her cruising is limited, but she’s getting there.

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She’s constantly on the move so it’s getting more difficult to get clear pictures, so here’s a blurry one.

She continues to be awfully sweet. We’re finally down to 1 feeding in the night, sometimes none…. I’ve been working on being more consistent with her schedule – bedtime anywhere between 7-8… she occasionally wakes up for a midnight feeding, but for the last week or so, she’s slept until 5 or 5:30 am when I feed her and get ready for my day, while she goes back to sleep until 7-8 am. Yeah!

We had her well-baby check up at the end of last week. She’s up to 15 lbs and is 24 inches long. She’s in the 55 percentile for height and the 5th percentile for weight. Our only action item is her left eye – the tear duct continues to be blocked so we’re headed off to the ophthalmologist for a consult tomorrow. We’ll probably have to probe it to open it up effectively.

Happy 9 months, little one.

Friday, 8/29/14

2 days down, 178 to go

This is where I’m supposed to tell you how the kids went back to school and I was busy making it one of the BEST DAYS EVAH because, hello?, it’s a new school year.

First day of fifth grade (aka last first day of elementary school)

First day of fifth grade (aka last first day of elementary school)

I want to make an announcement right now that I don’t remember one thing my mom did for us on the first day of school when I was growing up. I’m sure she did plenty of things to help us get ready – like buy us school supplies, do laundry so our new clothes were ready, pack our lunches and throw some cereal in a bowl with a splash of milk. But there were no celebrations and certainly no treats for surviving six hours in a classroom of 20 others students expounding on what they did with their summer vacations. When we left to walk up the road to our bus stop, she probably spent the next 20 minutes cleaning the kitchen while my younger sister ate the rest of our cereal that we didn’t have time to finish (yes, she frequently went around the table eating the leftover soggy cereal. I give you permission to throw up in your mouth.).

First day of third grade

First day of third grade

She most certainly did not wake up and make us a special breakfast. Nor did she snap one “first day of XX grade” picture complete with homemade sign and coordinating outfits. Nor did she go to breakfast with friends. She most likely continued her regularly scheduled housework, happy that for the first time in 11 weeks, she could throw in a load of laundry, clean a bathroom, and vacuum the living room without having to yell at us to shut the door and put our shoes away. And it would only be 9 o’clock in the morning.

Bus stop gang

Bus stop gang

So instead of telling you that Natalie and Ainsley LOVED their first two days, I’m going to tell you what I did.

Day one: I walked back from the bus stop (where I did take a few pictures), got into my car, and drove directly to a bistro where I enjoyed a third(?) annual back-to-school breakfast with 2 friends (and my two children still at home with me).  I then proceeded to do a quick grocery shop to get spaghetti sauce and grapes before heading home to play a game with Ryan. I then talked to a friend for the rest of the day while Ryan moved on to watching videos and my daughter napped or played at my feet, because quite frankly I can’t remember a day in the last 2 months where I was able to finish a conversation or have one without shooing kids out of the room or wiping someone  else’s snot. I had some catching up to do.

She's teething, can you tell?

She’s teething, can you tell?

Day two: I cleaned the kitchen, played Sequence Jr with Ryan, did some laundry, went shopping at HomeGoods and took the kids to the park. When I got back from playing, I made lunch for me and the two babes at home. We ate. Piper fell asleep for her afternoon nap and Ryan wanted to watch videos. I remembered how nice it was outside.

I decided to read a book in the sunshine… in a bikini. It occurred to me that sunbathing in September is a little unorthodox, but I justified it by reminding myself September is still three days away, which means it’s still August. And sunbathing in August is totally normal.

I don’t usually wear a bikini because a) I haven’t been able to get comfortable with people I know seeing me in essentially my underclothing and b) I don’t want my teenage girls wearing a bikini so I must model a one-piece all while they’re growing up and c) who really wants to see a 37-year old mom-of-four in a bikini. However, I OWN a bikini in the off chance that my husband and I might find ourselves on a vacation by ourselves in a remote area without other swimmers. Don’t laugh. It’s happened. It just hasn’t happened in a loooong time. Like since Ainsley was 18 months. So, yes, my bikini harkens back to 2008. But that’s okay with me since I’m not showing it to anyone anytime soon! But I digress.

I sat in a sunny part of my yard, in a spot that conveniently cannot be seen by any neighbors or from the road so my bikini body was safe from peering eyes. I thought I’d spent the next hour or so relaxing without a care in the world. I was half right. I did spend a quiet hour relaxing but I also spent an exorbitant amount of time brushing large black ants off my legs and back. Contrary to popular belief ants show up whether there’s a picnic or not.

So it was me, my book, and a bunch of black ants. And for a few minutes Ryan who ventured out to see what I was doing. I was concerned he might wonder why my bathing suit was missing a few sections…. but it didn’t seem to faze him much. He was too distracted by the fact I was wearing a bathing suit at all without water in the nearby vicinity. He has three sisters so I’m guessing he’ll figure it out one of these days.

At the park.

At the park.

Looks like this school year is shaping up to be a good one for me. Can’t wait to see what I do with the second week of school.

Saturday, 8/23/14

Two steps forward

I remain silent in this space due to time not commitment. Although one would be hardpressed to convince me they are committed to something if they can’t find the time to do it. So I eat my words. I long to journal here, to converse, to process, but the days are long with four kids in tow. I take two steps forward and one back each day it seems. My anger is less, but I can’t tell if that’s because these hobbits of mine make me forget or if it really is dissipating.

I’m speaking with trusted friend – a mentor of sorts who has walked with me the last five or more years, and have had more conversations with myself than ever – so many arguments in my head… so many things never spoken – but somehow even allowing myself the freedom to think things I normally set aside brings freedom. I feel lighter in some ways and am unsure if it’s the talking to a friend who is ever so wise, or those private conversations with myself (including prayers to God – since my private conversations somehow always end up in a conversation with the Almighty), but something, something is moving.

Through those conversations I have found my voice. MY voice. Not the voice of another telling me my feelings are invalid or unimportant or worthless. I am validating myself. Sounds so new-agey, so mystic, but the truth is, it’s necessary and empowers me to believe in myself, not in a confident way – - I’ve always known I could do anything I set my mind to – more in a “I have value” way. That I am WORTHY of a reaction to that which was done to me. That the little girl who was swept aside and under-prioritized is WORTHY of prioritization. That things that were done are not okay. That it’s okay to rock the boat… okay to rock it so hard that it may tip over on its head.. that capsized is the healthiest place for this particular boat to be.

My voice matters.  Not for recompense, but for acknowledgment.

Some say it’s healing to go back and speak with those who have wronged you… just to have a voice. I’m finding it healing to allow myself a voice within myself. I feel like I’m talking in circles and not making sense. What I’m trying to say is that because others didn’t value me enough to react to my experiences in the past I think I actually believed them… believed there was no reason to stand up for myself or make my voice be heard with those who so easily dismiss(ed) me. Just the act of acknowledging myself has been healing. I’m not even sure if I need anyone else to hear me at this point. I’m happy with hearing myself (maybe later I will deal with others).

There’s a learning curve to finding your voice – a difference with being loud and being heard. I hear myself being harsh with the kids and my husband longing to just stick up for who I am…. I hope my kids don’t remember this part of the process. Hopefully some day soon I’ll come out on the other side of the curve with more grace, yet still believing I am important enough to sit at the table, to join the discussion, not for the sake of others but for my own. Until then, I’m leaning in to the curve.

Monday, 8/18/14

A tale of two summers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us… Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

This summer has been such a complex contradiction. In some ways so laid back… less traveling, less visitors, fewer expectations, more help (thanks to a local college girl!). In others ways… so difficult. I turn 37 at the end of this week. I’ve learned more about myself in the last 6 months than I ever have. Things that caught me off guard and have me reeling a little. You can only spend so much time sweeping things (in my case, emotions – and even more specifically, anger) under the rug before one day you simply trip on them.

I’m flat on my face.

I’m dealing with things – big things – things that should’ve been dealt with long ago. Long before children, long before marriage. And because I haven’t, they affect both. I’m starting there and working my way forward. Not sure how pretty this is going to be.

I’m also not sure how much is appropriate for this space, but it started in the spring when the Lord graciously showed me the fear I was living with. I thought only my daughter dealt with fear and anxiety. Ha! Nothing like having a human mirror to finally show you your reflection. While our fears are different, we both live with it.

With the realization of fear and the determination to cast it off, I uncovered a mess – one that needs cleaned up. After recovering from my post-partum Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde personality, I had about a month of bliss, before having split personalities again. Happiness and practicalness floating on the surface, with depths of grief and anger lying just underneath.

Some of that is because the distraction of four children will put a damper on any emotion other than the will to survive… I get that. The three oldest spent some time at their grandparents’ a few weeks ago and I had plans for cleaning, organizing, writing and reading. Instead I spent several days staring at the walls. But they are back and the minutiae of every day has taken over. I’m a little afraid of the return of school – it will be quieter and I’ll have more time to think. I’m also looking forward to it a little though – as I have swept things under the rug for far to long. It is time. My hope is this time next year I’ll be in completely better spot – a healthier place – where I can stop being happy for everyone else and be happy for me. Until then, I ask for your grace, your understanding, and your friendship.

Saturday, 8/16/14

RIP Bubbles

Another one bites the dust.

It was a deadly winter for the hamster (who was replaced on Ainsley’s birthday), and a deadly summer for the fish (who may or may not be replaced). Bubbles was with us almost three years, about the lifespan of a Beta in captivity. He was Natalie’s… can you tell?

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They buried him beside Chubby under the big oak tree.