Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recent Realizations

Have you ever been surprised to find yourself changed? When some aspect of yourself is somehow different than you remembered it? How can this happen? Don't we live with ourselves every single moment of every single day? How can we just wake up one day and feel strange in our own skin?

I have always felt that I know who I am. What I believe. What I like. What I don't like. But if these undetected changes can occur, who's to say I would even recognize myself twenty years in the future?

Part of this is that I am just now coming out of the fog. The post-baby fog, that is. Veronica turned seven months old a couple of days ago. And I feel as though I am taking an inventory of where my life is. For instance, it suddenly became very apparent that we need to be working with Joshua in some more creative ways to help him along in his emotional maturity. And by emotional maturity, I mean not throwing a frickin' fit or having a complete meltdown every single time he's disappointed. And it's not like I'm talking about huge disappointments either. He recently had a tantrum because the DVD we watched didn't have any bonus features other than "Watch with Commentary." Of course, he was tired at the time. But still. Kind of eye opening.

And we have also discovered that we need to be working with Noah on his apt to be living in his own little world. It's something that I love about him very much. But it can also be aggravating, such as when I give him an instruction and he completely forgets it within ten seconds. On a particularly bad day, it was frightening. I had my worst scare thus far (and hopefully ever) when putting Veronica into a grocery cart on a shopping trip this past week. After the ninety seconds or so of buckling Veronica, I looked up and Noah was gone.

Immediately, I was yelling his name, searching frantically and praying. I realized that if anyone was going to grab a child, the entrance of a grocery store would be the perfect spot because of all of the people coming and going. But after a few minutes, my prayers were answered and Noah was looking up at me with his enormous, unblinking eyes. Angry and scared, I reprimanded him. He bust into tears. I still lectured him, but was then able to hold him in my arms and comfort him. Of course, he was scared too. He had simply walked into the store and continued on, believing we were all still beside him.

And that's the problem that we need to work on. I'm all for imaginative play. But Noah can be completely unaware of the world around him. He's the kid that walks into large objects. Such as trees. How do we work on this? I'm not sure yet and am very open to any suggestions you may have.

Anyway, back to the fog lifting. It seems that now I am getting regular sleep, I am becoming more aware of the areas of my life other than Veronica that need some attention.

And I am also becoming more aware that I am not the same woman I was before our third child.

I am even more protective and particular with how I spend my time, probably because I have less of it. TV watching is at an all time low in our house.

I am becoming more of a homebody.

I still love to entertain and love a big crowd, but am realizing that I work too hard. Or at least too hard for this new, unfamiliar me. We had our 5th Annual Halloween Party last night, which was awesome. But I think for next year, I will definitely be searching for ways to make things simpler and easier. First of all, I made way too much food. Big surprise :)

I have become more comfortable with the phase of life I am in. Many people ask how my book is coming. And while it is still very close to my heart and I think about it a lot, I just don't have time to write a novel right now. But I will. Possibly when I don't have little ones who are quite dependent on me. 

Also, for my sanity, I absolutely need time in my house by myself occasionally. I know all moms need this, but with homeschooling I find that it is crucial to the health of our family life. I mean, I love my children, but I am pretty much with them all of the time, every day. Thankfully, my amazing husband has no fear of taking all three children away so that I can have this. He loves to take care of me. But it has its benefits for him too, such as giving our intimate life a boost. And it also probably helps me to be a more interesting person for him to be married to. I would guess he gets a little bored of conversing about nap times, feeding schedules and spit-up. When I have time at home by myself, I can write, read and catch up a little on the news. It's kind of like I return to being part of normal, adult society.

I guess it's not surprising that having a baby would cause some changes other than to my hips. I mean, there's a whole other life in our house. A whole other person. A whole other human being. A whole other personality developing that didn't used to be there. She is more attached to me than either of our boys ever were. The other night she was crying because Jason was feeding her dinner in her high chair. The audacity. The nerve. As soon as I took over, she was fine.

I have an entirely new relationship. I have a daughter now. That rocks my world.

I look forward to seeing what other changes in myself may have also developed. It's nice to know that my personality is not stagnant. Who knows? Maybe all of the sudden I'll become a stand-up comedian. The new Jerry Seinfeld. It could happen . . .





Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The "Dirty Thirty"

Well, I was recently informed by my twenty-six year old brother, Brendan (who is much cooler, hipper and more with-it than I am), that not only am I entering my thirties next week, but I will be celebrating my "dirty thirty." What does this mean? I have no idea what this means. I take my lack of knowledge in this area as an indication of how far away my life is from a typical thirty-year-old's.

So, how do I feel about entering my thirties?

Well, at thirty years old, I have been a wife for eight years. At thirty years old, I am a mother of three. Sometimes I can't believe it myself. And yet, at about the age of ten, this is exactly what I pictured for my life. And I do feel so blessed to be able to say that. 

But lately I have found myself a little self-conscious about the domesticity of my lifestyle, especially when certain people visit our home--something that I feel paints such a vivid picture of who I am. Meeting someone for the first time in our house can feel a little too personal, as if they are forming their first impression of me by reading my thoughts.

First of all, our house looks and feels very lived in. Which makes sense, because we live in it. But this is no Pottery Barn catalog picture here. It's not that it's dirty really. I feel like I keep a reasonably clean house. Or at least I'm comfortable with it. But the last time someone new was going to come to our house, I scanned our rooms with different eyes. The baby swing in the corner. The dozens of cookbooks on the shelf. The eighty or so library books piled in the living room. The small fingerprints on the windows. The coffeepot with brown splashes covering its white surface, because it is wiped down too seldom and greatly depended on every single morning.The wine rack holding a couple of half drunk bottles. The stone cross hung on the wall with palms fixed behind it.

Furthermore, I feel that our home gives great indication of our financial position, something I may not always be comfortable sharing with all who enter. But there's the deck that needs to be replaced. The hardwood floors that need to be refinished. The dated, single-pane, aluminum windows. The trim that needs to be repainted. The driveway that needs to be repaved. The missing baseboards that need to be replaced. The lawn that needs to be re-landscaped. We slowly pick away at the projects our house presents to us, all of which require extra money and extra time, two rarities in our home.

Am I embarrassed of these things? Not really. In fact, in the depth of my heart, I am proud of them. The baby swing represents the new life that is growing here. The cookbooks, my love of cooking. The library books, our choice to homeschool. The fingerprints, my curious two sons. The dirty coffeepot, my life as a stay-at-home mom in which I believe there are more important things than just cleaning. The wine bottles, time with friends. The cross, my relationship with Jesus.

Even the undone projects can be a source of pride if I think about them the right way. They are an indication that we are living within our means, that we are making mature and wise choices with our money and that in the past year and a half, we have not put one single transaction on a credit card, but rather, cut our credit card debt nearly in half.

But although in my heart I am sincerely proud and feel truly blessed, at times I feel self conscious of the way my life may look from the outside. I fear that it may appear that I am a brainless woman with no ambition except to fold laundry and have babies. I also sometimes fear that I will always be somewhat of an oddity with people my own age, because I began building my family so young in life. And even at thirty, the desire to belong is definitely present.

So, again, how do I feel about entering my thirties? Honestly, I feel great. My life is just what I dreamed it would be and I cannot believe how lucky I am that I can say that with great honesty. My only reservations about my age come into being when I consider what everyone else may think about my life. And what good does that ever get anyone?

I will be spending my birthday with my loving husband, my three children and other family while on a week long camping trip at Sun Lakes. I have recently decided that I am a Yes Mom, something which I may write about soon.

So, yes, I am taking a four-month-old baby camping. Yes, I am a stay-at-home, Catholic, homeschooling, middle class mom.

And yes to entering my thirties :)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Quote of the Day

"I actually don't think I'm going to get a job when I grow up. I'm just going to live here." 
-Joshua Burdullis, age 6

Should I be worried???

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The First Month

Well, here I am over two months since writing last. And now I'm working on two entries in the same day. Tomorrow will be one month since the birth of our new daughter, Veronica Margaret Burdullis. Time is so strange; moving slowly in some moments and then faster than I can fathom.

Veronica was 8 pounds 14 ounces when she was born. Four days later she had lost a little weight as most babies do their first week. She was 8 pounds 9 ounces. Ten days later she weighed 10 pounds 8 ounces. And this morning I got on the scale with her and she is over 13 pounds! I've already had to begin putting away some of the clothes she has outgrown. A little bittersweet. Happy to see that my milk is doing its job and that she's healthy. Sad to see that it is already going by so quick.

Needless to say, she is growing very quickly and thriving. She is already smiling at me occasionally and has become much more alert in the past week. She enjoys hearing me sing and will stare up at my face with wide, doe eyes and a look of such intensity and love. One night, I was rocking her to sleep and she was gazing at me in this way. I thought that I might be distracting her and keeping her awake, so I hid my face from her. She immediately began crying. When I was in view again, she quieted and stared once more. I did this a few times and each time she would begin crying. I am totally in love with her and apparently, the feeling is mutual.

Our first week was spent with non-stop nursing. Hence all the growing.  When I was telling this to Jenny, she wondered aloud why God designed women so that their milk doesn't come in for a few days. I thought about it and although it was frustrating at the time, I saw the beauty in it. It means that for the first several days, mother and baby spend almost all of their time bonding. And it forces mom to sit and rest so that she can begin recovering from the birth.

The past weeks have been unpredictable. I am usually a schedule kind of girl and of course there just isn't one right now. And there are times when I am eager for a schedule, when I am anxious for the days when Veronica will sleep through the night, when she will be able to communicate with me in other ways than crying, when she won't need to be settled back down when she spits up for the millionth time, when my clothes and her clothes won't be perpetually damp, when I feel like I can make plans with a bit of certainty, when I can give a more equal amount of time to Joshua, Noah and Jason, when my body looks back to normal, etc, etc, etc.

But there is a beauty in having several children that makes it easier to put these anxieties aside. I've been through it before. I know what to expect. I have more confidence. And hopefully without sounding arrogant, I am a better mom than I used to be. It's a natural process that occurs. The longer you practice something, the better you become. This doesn't mean that I think I am Supermom or anything. I believe this happens with all mothers. For the past six years, I have worked on skills that help immensely when adapting to life with a newborn: flexibility, patience, time management, staying calm in the midst of chaos and being more comfortable with lowering my standards when needed.

People have asked me how I am doing many times over the past month. Why is it that I want to make life sound harder than it is? I feel self conscious admitting just how happy I am. I find myself giving answers that focus on my tiredness because I feel like people's assumption is that life is really hard right now. But really, it's not. Life is great. I have never felt so much joy as I have the past month. I'm really not that sleep deprived. Veronica wakes two or three times each night, but I am usually back to bed within thirty minutes. And I am better at dealing with my tiredness. My body has recovered quickly. I have continued to have a parade of friends and family bringing us meals and gifts. The parade is ending this week, but after such a long break from cooking, I am excited to begin again. It's one of my favorite things.

Life is so good. For the past six years, I have also continued to work on living in the moment. It's a lifelong journey, but I have definitely gotten better. And just as I did not want to wish away the last five weeks of pregnancy, I am making that conscious effort once again. Sure, I'm tired. Sure, I can get overwhelmed. And most definitely sure, I can get hormonal. Just ask Jason. But that's all part of it.

And most of the time, I am really enjoying it.

When Veronica Was Born . . .

The birth was wonderful. It sounds odd, doesn't it? Of course there was pain. A lot of it. And it was long; beginning on Saturday evening and Veronica being born on Monday morning at 6:10 am. I was hoping that this one would be shorter than Noah's 30 hour labor, as subsequent births are often shorter. Not so much. We went for longer.

On Saturday, Joanna and Alicia had come by to give Joshua a birthday present. We ended up renting some movies and they were going to stay for dinner. Well, at about 4:30 pm, the contractions began. First at about fifteen minutes apart and by about 8:30 pm, they were about every three to four minutes. The pain was manageable. But because they had gotten so close together, we went to the hospital which is thankfully only about ten minutes away. I was only two centimeters dilated, so they had me walk around for an hour to see if I would dilate further. As I walked around, the contractions continued to be just as frequent and the pain grew more intense. After an hour, the nurse checked again and I was just sure that all of this pain must have done something. Nope. Two centimeters.

They gave me some morphine and sent me home. The hope was that I would sleep all night due to the morphine and let my body do the work, waking up in the morning with much progress made. Like maybe I would even give birth in my sleep! Well, none of that happened. The morphine helped me to sleep for the ten minute car ride home. But that was it. For the rest of the night, I moaned in bed with each contraction. By the morning, I had made no progress and the contractions had slowed down to every ten to fifteen minutes apart. Erg.

By about 4:00 pm on Sunday, we were back to every three to five minutes. We called the hospital and the nurse instructed me to drink a lot of water and lay down on my side for an hour. If the contractions let up some, this was not real labor. Well I did as I was told and the contractions did not slow down. Jason called and we were told to come to the hospital again.

When I stood up after lying in bed for that hour, the contractions immediately became much worse. Tenfold. These were not really manageable anymore and I was a little worried that we had waited too long before going back to the hospital. I tried to breathe through them, but it was nearly impossible. Jason helped me to the car and on our way, I noisily threw up in the yard, giving our neighbors quite a show. The car ride seemed like an eternity, each bump in the road causing more pain. The walk from the parking lot to the maternity suite also seemed to take forever, as I had to stop and hold onto Jason with each contraction and could only walk at slug pace. When the elevator door finally opened, the charge nurse took one look at me and said, "Yep, she's in labor."

I was immediately admitted and was thrilled when the same nurse from the night prior, Rachel, was quick to ask what my plans were for pain medication. My plans? Umm, yes please. At some point since Noah was born, I had it in my head that I might try for a natural birth. But I was honestly very relieved at the beginning of this pregnancy when my doctor let me know that because this would be a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), they would really prefer me to have an epidural. This way, if I needed to have an emergency c-section, the line would already be in for the anesthesia. So I had an epidural purely for safety's sake. Oh, and also so that I wouldn't strangle anyone.

At this point, I was only at three centimeters. 

So, why wonderful? Well, for many, many reasons.

While we waited for the epidural, Jason made some phone calls and my mother and my dearest friend, Jenny, were on their way. This may need some clarification. Yes, my mom and Jenny were in the room during the birth. And I don't want to sound defensive or anything, but most people's reaction when they hear this is, "Why?" Well, for support. And in no way does this mean that Jason does not provide enough support all by himself. He has always been a complete rock star during our children's birth. But can you have too much support? It's like saying you have too much love or too many friends. Jason and I made the decision together to ask Mom and Jenny if they would be there. And afterward, Jason and I both agreed that it was wonderful to have them there.

This is not as uncommon as many seem to think. Did you know that women started giving birth in hospitals at the beginning of the 20th century? That's only about the past 150 years. Well, in the history of mankind, that's not really very long at all. And before hospitals, women would give birth at home, often in the presence of other women in their family or community. In many cultures today, it is still very common for women to have other women present at the births of their babies. And while Jason's presence and support is vital and irreplaceable, the presence and support of women who've experienced labor before is wonderful in a different kind of way. It's icing on the cake.

I like the comfort and security of a hospital, which is even more necessary because I have had a cesarean. Also, it's like a mini vacation. It is wonderful to be taken care of by the nursing staff not only during labor, but for a day or two afterward too. So for me, the perfect environment is to give birth in a hospital with not one, not two, but three loved ones supporting me. I am one lucky girl.

Mom and Jenny arrived and shortly after, the anesthesiologist arrived and I received the fabulous epidural. They both had to leave the room while it was administered and I am sure that I looked like a completely different woman when they returned. With the epidural, I began progressing more and dilating further. Then I reached 9 centimeters and stopped. We waited and waited and waited. Hours went by. Still 9 centimeters. At 9 1/2 centimeters, the line for my epidural began slipping out. The contractions were once again becoming unbearable and I had a lot of fun convincing the anesthesiologist that yes, the epidural was no longer working and yes, she needed to readminister it. Once she finally did, I dilated to 10. Thirty-seven hours after we'd begun.

The pushing was a piece of cake. Ten or fifteen minutes later, Veronica was born. I could not believe that it was a girl. I definitely did a double take. In fact, I'm still not used to it. I often still think "he" and "him." It's just what I'm used to calling my children. We were all so ecstatic, with Mom, Jenny and I sobbing, and Jason proudly cutting the cord and later handing her to me; the doctor and nurse both said it was one of the happiest births they've ever experienced.

Veronica let out the initial cry of a baby entering the world. But then for a long time, she was quiet. Not in a way that was concerning or worrisome. She was perfectly healthy and received an 8 on her APGAR. But in a peaceful, serene way. Believe me, she's made up for it at home.

When they weighed her and announced that she was 8 pounds 14 ounces, I replied, "She's tiny!" The doctor and nurses were surprised, but I explained that our first boy was 9 lb 14 oz and our second was 9 lb 6 oz. We all laughed.

We stayed at the hospital until Tuesday afternoon. During that time, Veronica proved to be a pro at nursing. On Monday afternoon, much of my family came to visit. My brother Jeremy drove over from Pullman and Kristen came down from Bellingham. My sister-in-law, Kristal, brought Joshua and Noah to the hospital to meet their sister. They all then went to my parents' house for a birthday party for Veronica, complete with an ice cream cake and a "0" candle. Tuesday was spent seeing doctors and nurses and waiting to be discharged, after which we met my parents at our home where they brought us dinner.

I would like to finish reiterating that it was a wonderful birth. Sure, there was pain. It hurt like hell. Sure, it was long. It seemed like it would never end. But it did. And the birth of a child is one of the most beautiful and amazing and Spirit-filled moments you will ever experience. For nine months, you wait for it. Honestly, at times I am sad that it's done. It's like the end of your wedding. You're so happy to be married, but your big day is gone. There is such anticipation in the arrival of a new baby, I think that was even more enhanced because we didn't know the gender. It's sad to know that you have lived one of the most special times that you ever will and that it's no longer ahead of you, but behind you. Nothing will bring back that moment. Not that I want to be pregnant again. And I'm obviously thrilled that Veronica has arrived. But there is just nothing like having a baby. I don't want to forget anything. And I'm glad, that as long as this entry is, it will help me remember. And that Veronica will be able to read how joyfully she entered the world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cherishing Now

Me with my darling men.
I'm at 35 weeks this week. Five more weeks. It's an amount of time that can be perceived two ways. On the one hand, it is a pretty short amount of time. You know, in the grand scheme of things or whatever. But when what seems like a fifteen pound baby is lodged up beneath your ribs; when it seems like absolutely no clothes fit; when your mind, body, emotions and husband are all under the attack of the hormones raging through you; well, in that case, five weeks is an eternity.

But about a week ago, I made a crucial, difficult decision: I will not wish away the next five weeks. That doesn't mean that I will never complain. Just ask Jason or see the above paragraph. But I am going to do my darnedest to enjoy and cherish the end of this pregnancy. I decided this for two main reasons. First of all, what else can I do? I mean, there is a choice involved here, as there always is in our attitudes. But having a 24 hour pity party won't make the baby be born any sooner. And of course, if I try to appreciate this time, not only will I feel happier, but so will Jason, Joshua and Noah.

The second reason for this decision is due to past experience. After having two babies, I know that the real work comes after the baby has arrived. It won't be so easy then to sit on the couch alone, listen to some of my favorite music, luxuriously write in my blog and eat spoonfuls of Ben & Jerry's in between paragraphs. Nope. Don't see it happening. So it only makes sense to relish in the present.

Mind you, I am not always successful at this. Take this past Sunday evening, for example. Come about 6:00 pm, I had done nothing to make the dinner I had planned. My blood sugar had tanked and the thought of making dinner just made me start crying. Seriously. This is no joke. Jason sweetly and graciously offered to cook, but as there was no recipe, I realized that it would take him approximately 500 years to prepare the dinner. And no, this eight month pregnant, hormonal and hungry lady could not have possibly been over-reacting, thank you very much. I needed to eat. Like immediately. Jason then very sweetly and graciously took our sons away from the crazy lady and purchased our meal from a nearby Wendy's. Smart man. I did apologize to him for my toddler behavior about a hundred times and then thanked him for getting dinner quickly at least another hundred.

Despite regular failures, I have come up with some fabulous ways to enjoy and appreciate the end of pregnancy. The Ben & Jerry's, for instance.

Another perk has been laughter. It seems that especially after about 8:00 at night when my mind isn't the clearest, it is pretty easy to get me going. I'm talking gut-wrenching, tears-rolling, nearly-peeing laughter. Jason and I watched Pirate Radio last night, which was surprisingly hysterical, and I definitely had to make the urgent, rushed trip from the couch to the bathroom. This has become almost a nightly trip. What's a little frightening is that right now, I'm not quick. I half run, half waddle down the hall while holding my very large, aching belly. One of these nights, I'm either going to go into labor or have an accident. We may just need to purchase a plastic slipcover for the couch.

Perk Number Two: Resting. Yes, I have become quite good at this. Or at least, I have gotten much better at knowing when I need to sit or lie down, when I need to just say no and at just lowering the standards of what has to get done. Our calendar has been been much emptier and I am thoroughly enjoying the slower pace. Not that I can move fast anyway. Last week, I took a long, luxurious bath. I've read a couple of books I've been meaning to. I regularly take naps and allow myself to sleep in until I'm ready to rise. I've even trained the boys to stay in bed until 8:00 and then quietly get up each morning. Again, not always a success but we've made progress.

That brings me to my most favorite perk that I've discovered about late pregnancy. Our sons. Told you it was surprising. Let me explain. When I was pregnant with Noah four years ago, Joshua was not even two for most of it. And he was sure giving Jason and I a run for our money. I was terrified. I could not even come close to controlling the little boy that I had. What was I going to do once we had another? This very seriously caused me a lot of stress and anxiety.

In the middle of a very impressive dance party in our living room.
But now, of course our sons are older. Joshua will be six next month, Noah four in May. They dress themselves. They speak clearly. While tantrums do occur, they are not even close to as frequent as they were four years ago. For six months after we potty trained Joshua, he threw a tantrum every single morning because we would make him go to the bathroom when he woke up. Also, for about a year, he would throw another tantrum every single morning because we would make him get dressed after breakfast. Good times. Really fun way to begin the day. Especially with the sleep deprivation that came with Noah's arrival.

But right now, the boys are even in a good phase. I say "phase" because next week they may have me pulling my hair out. You just never know. It is so much easier to joyfully, rather than anxiously, await the birth of another child when your other children are for the most part behaving nicely. Joshua especially seems like he has turned a corner. He regularly informs the family, "I'm happy." And he has developed a genuine, sweet concern, care and protection for me. Last week, on one of my very tired, achy days, he sincerely said, "I'm so sorry you don't feel good, Mom," and then gave me a hug. He's been very affectionate.
With the air guitar,  rubber spatula microphone and all.

Joshua is becoming quite the little rock star . . .

We have been surprised that if someone is giving us trouble, it is more likely to be Noah now. This is definitely a change in our home, but a natural one, as Noah is three and Joshua five. It is comforting to see our older son grow and mature. It makes us much more patient in handling Noah's often contrary attitude.

Noah riding on his new bike for the first time.
The BEST part of all of this is that I can talk about the baby's arrival with Joshua and Noah. This is a new element to pregnancy for me as Joshua was really too young to understand last time. The boys now enjoy talking to the baby, singing to the baby, discussing what life will be like with the baby and feeling the baby move. They already seem so loving. They love to include the baby in our family prayers each night and bless the baby with a cross drawn by their little thumbs over my tummy. The other day, Noah said adoringly, "The baby's so pretty. The baby will be so pretty." At dinner the other night, I explained to the boys that because they are so wonderful and we love them so much, it makes Daddy and I want to have more children. Joshua replied very thoughtfully, "Mom, God knows you want to have more babies."

These moments are magical to me. They make every kick in the liver worthwhile.

If you have made it all the way through this very long posting, I encourage you to enjoy whatever phase of life you are in now. Do not wish it away. It will pass soon enough. Every phase has challenges and joys. Find the joys.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Higher Than the Moon

Yesterday I walked to the store to buy more thank you notes. This is an indication of what my life has been like lately. Such problems I have, right?

A couple of weeks ago, I sent out an email to many friends and family letting them know that my doctor has asked me to rest and that we could use some extra help. The response has been nothing short of astounding. I am astounded.

We have had a constant procession of loved ones knocking on our door with gifts of delicious casseroles, time to babysit and offers to clean our home. I have never in all my life felt so spoiled, loved and supported. Such pampered treatment has caused a sense of guilt in me that I have had to consciously make an effort to suppress and invalidate: "This is not necessary. I'm fine. I should be bringing you dinner. I should be cleaning your house. I do not deserve or really need this."

At a doctor's appointment on Wednesday, the doctor gave me further direction to rest and was happy to hear we have had so much help. She expressed her concern for me to make it through the next four weeks without going into labor. So I guess this extra assistance isn't overindulgence after all. But there is still this sense of apprehension, an uneasiness that arises in me as I put my feet up on the couch while others make lunch for my sons or clean my toilet. I am greatly humbled.

I also have the nagging, persistent question in the back of my mind, "Am I this good of a friend, daughter, sister, wife, cousin, or niece?" I am not fishing for compliments here, but have genuinely wondered this. One of the most moving sentiments that now resides deep within me is an overwhelming desire to be there for those who need me. And not that I wish any bad will on those who I love, but in some ways I do hope for the opportunity to express my gratitude to others with more than just a thank you note. In other words, I will be there for all the loved ones in my life. I got your back.

These past weeks have been filled with so many highs. But unforgettable memories were made this past weekend with my darling Jason. My loving parents watched our boys for the entire weekend so that we could indulge in a "babymoon." Jason and I have not had a weekend together simply to relax in a long time. We have been able to get away many times in the past couples of years, but those weekends have all been very busy and full with Engaged Encounter weekends, Unit Board meetings and Conventions. And while we have loved those times very much and have come back from them renewed and inspired, they are a very different type of experience.

This past weekend, we lingered. We napped. We talked for hours without interruption. We rested. We relaxed. We reconnected and got to know each other better. We laughed till our bellies ached (and till I had to race to the bathroom). We made out. We slept in. We luxuriously enjoyed each other's company.

It was heaven. It was bliss. It was perfect.

In the past weeks, my heart has grown. I now love all of my loved ones all the more. Especially my darling companion, Jason.

And in eight weeks, I know my heart will have another growth spurt. How much love can one person hold?

Jason and I enjoying dinner at our favorite restaurant, El Gaucho.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Tears

Last night we had an unforgettable moment. One which I was sure I would remember forever and always, but was still nervous that somehow I would forget. I mean, I definitely have been experiencing some mommy brain in the past week. First we found Fritos in the freezer and next there was a box of Life cereal under the sink with all of the kitchen cleaners. So in order to fight the unreliability of my mind these days, I had to write this down.

I was lying on the couch waiting to be served my delicious dinner which my cousin Alicia had made, hungry and anticipating some serious comfort food--Tator Tot Casserole, which was a favorite dinner of ours growing up. Hard life, right? Jason then began talking to the baby; his mouth not an inch away from my very large belly and for some reason when he does this, he uses a very deep, almost bellowing voice. I think he actually frightens the baby. "Helloooooo, Baby. This is your Daaaady."

Jason does this often, but it's usually after the boys have gone to bed. So when the boys witnessed this behavior last night for the first time, they thought it was hilarious. We explained that the baby can hear our voices and that you can talk or sing to the baby and it will hear you. Joshua immediately came up to my stomach and imitated his father in his own bellowing, somewhat monster-like voice. "Helloooooo, Baby. This is Jooooshua. I am your big brooooother."

We all laughed. And then, our darling little Noah, who can be so sweet when he wants to be, slid his little body across the couch toward me in a quiet, shy type of way. He curled right up with my stomach, cuddling at my side. Then, gazing at my abdomen as if there is no one else in the room other than him and the baby, he began to sing in a small, secretive voice, "Twinkle, twinkle, little star . . . "

It was one of those moments when your emotion changes so drastically in an instant. I was bursting with laughter, fully enjoying the silliness and fun that our family was experiencing together. And an instant later, big tears were cascading down my cheeks as I was enveloped in a moment of joy and bliss. Noah looked up into my eyes inquisitively and I explained, "Happy tears."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Serenity or Dust Bunnies?

One week ago now, Jason and I had a bit of a scare. I had some bleeding last Tuesday night before bed, something that I had never experienced during a pregnancy. I immediately put a call into the on-call line for my doctor and then waited for the return call.

In the five minutes it took for the on-call doctor to call back, my weighted thoughts fell to the worst of places. The worst. What if we were going to lose this baby at 30 weeks into the pregnancy? My body shook uncontrollably with fear, my teeth chattering as though I had hypothermia. Jason was sure I had a fever even though I didn't.

The doctor called and said we needed to stay awake for a couple of hours to keep watch on what my body was doing. If the bleeding did not begin tapering off or if I had any contractions, we were to go to the hospital immediately. Well, after those two hours, the bleeding seemed to have stopped and we went to bed, although we hardly slept all night.

That Thursday, I went to the doctor and was very reassured to hear that everything looked normal. There was no explanation as to the cause of bleeding and I was again given the direction that I needed to rest.

A few days later, Jason and I had an argument, something that's been a little more common in our house than usual. Tis to be expected. With a tired, hormonal, uncomfortable wife and Jason having gone through an extensive, stressful interview process for several months now at work (which we still do not know the conclusion to), well, really what can you expect?

I was surprised during this most recent discussion to find out that Jason was a little resentful of my hesitation to rest and relax before last Tuesday. Jason had been pointing out for months that I needed to rest more. Why was the doctor's advice more valid? And why did we have to get scared for me to really begin to take this direction seriously? For my doctor had already told me I needed to rest more. So, why indeed?

After much persuasion from my dear, dear Jenny, I sent out a call for help to family and friends. And the response this past week has been amazing, overwhelming and inspiring. I have never felt so spoiled in all of my life. We have had a parade of dinners brought to our home and our boys have enjoyed some extra attention from visiting friends who have come to help. Today is my last day of officially ordered "rest" by my doctor, but because of such an abundance of willing friends and family, life won't really go back to normal for another week.

And let me assure everyone - including my mom, Jenny, all those who have helped us this past week, myself and my darling, loving, caring and concerned husband, there will be a new "normal" in our house, at least for now. Maybe forever.

I have observed something this past week that has blown me away. By just allowing myself to rest (or really forcing myself to), by lowering my own standards and expectations of myself, I have felt a sense of calm and peace that I do not think I've ever known as a mother. And guess what? The children have not been neglected or been glued to the television, the house is not a complete mess, the homeschooling has been happening and I have bathed on most days. I've read more - both to my children and for myself. I've written more. I've simply taken care of myself more and done less. And obviously this is a little easier when I don't have to make dinner and had so much wonderful help. But really, there's no reason that my life couldn't be more like this.

When did my perceived reality begin saying that taking time to take care of myself meant that I was being less productive? Why is vacuuming more important than reading or writing? Why is dusting more important than pampering my aching feet? Why is laundry more important than a walk? It's not! How ludicrous! Of course taking care of my body and my mind is more important than taking care of my house.

That's not to say I will become a hoarder or let the house become a sty. But maybe I should "pay myself first." Would I not then have more of myself to give? And to give joyfully?

And let's go further with this. This afternoon, I began compiling a list of Scripture readings to focus on for the next nine weeks and during labor. I was reminded how I do not read the Bible enough. Often, reading the Bible gets put on the bottom of my priority list; a luxury that can happen after all the important work for the day is complete. It is embarrassing to admit that, but it's true.

It is sad that we sometimes have to go through something difficult or scary in order to see the truth. If I had not been given the direction to rest this past week, I most likely would not have gotten to the Scripture reading that I've been meaning to do. But there wouldn't be so many dust bunnies in the house!

Well, I think (and hope) that I've learned my lesson. I am going to make part of my prescription of rest and relaxation a permanent part of my life. So be warned - you may see more dust and dirt in my home. Some unfolded piles of laundry. A little more clutter. But maybe the stack of books that I am reading will be around as well. An open laptop with new pages of my novel written on it. An open Bible. And with all of those things, I am certain you will also find a more collected, serene mother as well. Seems like a pretty good trade-off.

Psalm 121
I look up at the mountains--
Does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble,
the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
Nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
And watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
both now and forever.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Noah's Eyes

Last week, we were in Church and Noah was acting like a lunatic. I'm not kidding. He would stare with extreme focus into the space around him, very slightly grin, slowly outstretch his arm, hand and fingers and then suddenly, sporadically clench his hand around absolute nothingness. While I of course was paying attention to the ongoing Mass, I held in some giggles and yearned to see what he saw. But there was nothing. Not dust. Not a gnat. Not a ray of light streaming in. Nothing. But over and over, Noah would grab the thin air around him. It was so distracting that I even tried to stop him to no avail. He was mesmerized.

I whispered in his ear, "What are you doing?"

And without interrupting his gaze, he answered simply, "I'm getting the pink shadows."

Aaaah. The pink shadows. Of course. Why didn't I realize?

I laughed and continued to observe my son's crazy behavior. Most likely he was trying to catch some fuzz or lint floating around him or a rare stream of light creeping in through the stained glass windows on a winter's day.

But maybe not. Noah often lives in his own world. And I do think that it is possible that young children may be able to see or hear or just sense things that the rest of us, so limited by what we have learned to be true and absolute, cannot.

Is it possible that my three year old son has a type of intuition that I do not? When stated that way, I believe that my answer is a definite yes. After all, Google's definition of intuition is "instinctive knowing." Furthermore, instinct is defined as an "inborn pattern or behavior."

Inborn. Well, from there could we not assume that this inborn knowing would be stronger the closer we are to the day of our birth? In other words, the younger a child is, the more intuitive they are. And when a child reaches the age of two or three, there would be a brief period  when they have the communication skills to share some of this knowledge. A phase that ends too soon as children grow up and are taught what is true and real in the world around them.

I know, I know. A little more New Age than I am usually comfortable with. But my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing God has also led me to believe that anything is possible. And in Church on Sunday, as I peered into Noah's eyes, I was convinced that Noah was most definitely witnessing something that I just simply could not see.