Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Needless Worry

*****(Spoiler Alert - This contains details about the 4th episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey)*****

The past 24 hours have been filled with needless worry. As mothers, I don't think there's really any way around this reality. 

To start, we watched the 4th episode of the third season of Downton Abbey last night. As the episode progressed, I became suspicious that I was not going to like the outcome. The youngest daughter is going through childbirth and there are complications. Aware that I may not want to watch a woman die in childbirth right now or an infant die, I had Jason look up online the summary of what was going to happen. Sure enough, Sybil dies. Knowing this, I felt a little more prepared for what I was about to see and decided it was okay for us to finish watching the episode.

I think this was a mistake. Sybil dies of eclampsia after her daughter is born healthy. We watched Sybil's terrible suffering and her pretty graphic seizure before she dies while her family, her husband and two doctors all helplessly stand by and watch. This scene probably only lasted about two minutes, but it left a permanent imprint in my mind. Before I went to bed, I researched eclampsia and discovered I have none of the risk factors. Furthermore, my doctor is screening me for symptoms of pre-elampsia each month by taking my blood pressure and checking for protein in my urine. I went to bed still feeling unsettled, but reassured.

I slept terribly. Last week, Kahlua had a very upset tummy I think because of a piece of bacon I gave her. She would whine and bark in the middle of the night and need to be let outside to relieve herself. Well, last night, even though she's perfectly back to normal now, she kept whining because she just wanted out of her crate. I didn't let her out because I don't want that to become the norm. I just let her whine. But this made a pretty sleepless night for me, even with earplugs in.

My mom arrived this morning at 8:15 so that I could go to my scheduled prenatal checkup. Very sleepily and tightly grasping the coffee in my hand, I left for what I thought would be a very quick appointment.

At first, everything was going just fine. I was weighed, measured and had my blood pressure checked. My doctor then listened to my heartbeat and the baby's. She was having trouble finding a strong heartbeat for the baby and distinguishing it from my own heartbeat. She fetched the ultrasound machine so that she could watch the heart beating on the screen. While observing, she saw the baby's heart skip a beat. Because of this, I had to immediately be admitted into the hospital across the street for further observation.

Very scared, I was admitted into the hospital. The nurse hooked me up to two different machines, one recording my heartbeat and the other recording the baby's. She immediately began reassuring me that everything looked fine. The doctor on duty at the hospital came in and reassured me further, saying he thought everything was fine. When I told him that I was surprised because this was my fourth pregnancy and nothing like this had happened before, he answered that it probably had but hadn't been recorded. It's normal for babies this young, but they just have to make sure that there isn't a problem. We recorded twenty minutes of the baby's heartbeat with no irregularities, and then I was discharged.

Everything is perfectly fine. There was no need to worry.

However, I still feel eerie and emotionally spent. I know that everything is okay, but it is hard to shake off the great fears of this morning. With each pregnancy, I have become more apt to worry, not less. There are many reasons for this. Foremost is probably that my first two pregnancies were easier and without concern. During my pregnancy with Veronica, I had some bleeding that was worrisome and required me to rest as much as possible. Now I've had this visit to the hospital.

Another reason for my greater anxiety is because I don't feel invincible like I did eight years ago. I am wiser now and I have witnessed so many others go through different types of suffering. I no longer feel like, "That won't happen to me." I've known more women who have had complications in pregnancy, childbirth and in the health of their babies. Now when I witness this, I think, "That could happen to me."

This past weekend, Jason showed me an article and the first three words of the title were, "Pregnant Woman Dies." I looked at him with disgust and he knew I could not understand why he would show me this. He quickly pointed out the rest of the title, "Pregnant Woman Dies, Gives Birth, Comes Back to Life." Aaaaaaaaah. That makes more sense. I didn't think I was married to a complete idiot! Lord knows I do not need to be reading or hearing any stories right now about pregnancy and childbirth complications or about infants' health problems.

In the ninety minutes that it took before I knew everything was okay, all I could do was grasp the medal of the Lady of Divine Mercy that I had in my purse and pray. When I couldn't find the words, I just prayed the Hail Mary. When the words were there, I prayed for the baby's health, for blessings on the rest of this pregnancy and for everything to be okay.

But as mothers, we all have moments when we wonder, "What if everything isn't okay?" What if our worst fears are realized? What prayer do you pray then? Aware that this was a possibility, I prayed for God to help me accept whatever His plan is. Then I went back to praying that everything would be alright.

Right now, I am reading A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy. I would strongly recommend it. It goes through your pregnancy week by week with insight into how the baby is developing, how you may be feeling and how our faith can guide us during this time. There are also chapters that help spiritually prepare you for labor, childbirth, infancy and the baptism of your baby.

Because of this preparation, I was able to find more peace, strength and comfort today. I was very scared. I cried. But I was also able to remember that God was with me. I was able to feel the Holy Spirit's presence in the hospital room. I was able to envision Mary holding my hand, comforting me. For very brief moments, I was able to put my fear aside and trust in God.

Back at home now, I am finding that was really all I was able to do today. Emotionally drained, I am spending the remainder of the day resting and praying. I think some comfort food may be in order. And below I've added many pictures from all of the fun things we've done in the past couple of weeks.

Thank you God that everything was okay. Thank you for my children. Please bless me and the baby and the rest of this pregnancy. Please bless us with another healthy child. Please help me to continue to trust in Your plan. Amen.
At the St. Luke Auction
Noah's traditional birthday cupcake in bed

At our surprise trip to the Great Wolf Lodge
Enjoying our room
Noah's Birthday Dinner
Down the Slide!

Low Tide at Hood Canal Over Memorial Day Weekend

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Parents' Epic Battle Against Original Sin

My last post described how I want to focus on the joy and blessing of motherhood, especially on Mother's Day. While I believe that with all of my heart, this post has a bit of a different tune. For while my children indeed do not grow halos for any holiday, there's definitely a deeper problem than just not being angelic. 

Before I was a parent, I thought I knew some things about raising children. You may wonder what  made me so presumptuous, but with a lot of experience working with children and their families and observing how my parents raised the five of us, I thought I knew a thing or two. While I suppose those experiences have helped me quite a bit, they haven't helped as much as I thought they would.

I thought that if you were consistent and firm, training your children young in Godly ways to be obedient and polite, by the time they were the ages of let's say 6 and 8, you would be reaping the rewards of your efforts.

Well, the jig is up. Perhaps this is supposed to be a secret of parenthood or something so that people will actually continue to have children. But I'm going to spill the beans.

This is not true!

For several years, I banged my head against the wall in exasperation for even with all of my consistency and training, my children would still not obey! They still acted rudely! They still threw fits! And I have spoken to many parents who have made the same discovery. What the heck?!

In really hard moments, I would despair, feeling so discouraged about my failure as a mother. What was I doing wrong? Why was this so hard? Is my yelling sometimes when I lose my patience the reason Joshua struggles so much with self-control? Do the boys not treat each other consistently with honor and kindness because I am too hard on them? Am I going about this all wrong???

After many recent conversations about this topic, it has occurred to me that I hadn't accounted for something. Something big. Something innate. Something called original sin, or the tendency all of us are born with to sin that was passed down to us from Adam and Eve. When I was a child, the story of Adam and Eve seemed far-off, distant, not applicable. But now when I see one of my children get that look in their eye and then do something they know not to, I realize that I'm fighting definitely something bigger here.

This means that no matter how much I train my children, they will continue to disobey! They will continue to be rude! They will continue to bicker incessantly! They will continue to hit each other! They will continue to throw fits when they don't get their way, even sometimes at 8 years old!

Parenting is a whole lot harder than I had thought.

When talking about the story of Adam and Eve with Joshua, he said, "Well, I wouldn't have eaten the apple." :) A good thought.

But then I asked him, "Oh really? Is there any rule that your dad and I have given you that you've never broken?"


"Ummm, well, no. I guess not."

And there we have it. Original sin. Or perhaps we just shouldn't give our children any rules so that they can't break them and they will just instinctively know how to behave in a Godly way? I think not.

Well, in the past few weeks, the bickering, the backtalk and the fit-throwing were out of control around here. I had had it!

In a dire attempt to find some guidance, I began looking for books. I am now waiting for Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children to Live Together So You Can Live Too to be delivered to our library for me.

Also, I was doing some research online and discovered a wonderful web site called Kidspointz.com with a lot of tools that we are now using. We now have the following:
  • Chore charts
  • Pet care charts
  • Honor charts
The above charts all have rewards that come from the children filling them out. The consequence would simply be that they don't get the reward.

We also have:
  • Charts for what needs to be done each morning and evening
  • Behavior contracts that point out areas that the boys need to work on
  • Sibling contracts that explain how they need to treat one another in times of conflict
  • A self-control contract for Joshua, who has a difficult time controlling his voice and that little body when he's angry
These charts and contracts only have consequences, not rewards. We do not believe in rewarding our children for acceptable behavior. These contracts and charts explain what acceptable behavior is and what will happen if they do not portray it. Consequences are things such as doing 10 minutes of chores for Mom or Dad, taking on a sibling's chore or doing something extra kind for someone who has been hurt.

Both of the boys are for the most part beyond the time-out stage of discipline. I remember a year or two ago, I put Joshua in a time-out for something. While he sat there, I was working my butt off getting housework done. I looked at him and thought, "Why does he get to sit down?!" Thus endeth the time-out. Now if the boys can't behave, they can at least lighten my load by doing a chore or two that I would have otherwise done.

We had a family meeting to go over all of these charts and contracts, explaining it all and answering questions. The boys responded well and have been doing a good job with it so far.

I realize that this will not work forever, but it's helping right now and that's good enough for me. As I truck on down the road of motherhood, it seems I have to pick up many tools along the way. Some work. Some don't. Most often, the tools simply help me to feel better because I then have a plan of attack.

And while this original sin is inevitable, as parents we have to keep fighting back!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Reflections on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day!

I just enjoyed going to Mass with my husband, children, parents and brother, followed by a delicious brunch at Arnie's with more family. It was lovely.

As I'm sure all mothers do, I look forward to Mother's Day. But as with a lot of holidays, I've noticed that my expectations can be unrealistic. I love holidays and traditions and celebrating life with family and friends. Those are some of my favorite times. But in a way, you can almost look forward to a holiday or celebration too much!

For Mother's Day, there are certain things that Hallmark cards and TV commercials tend to portray as the norm. On Mother's Day, your children and husband should be perfect people who know your every wish without your saying a word, they provide you with a 5 star restaurant worthy breakfast in bed complete with a bouquet of flowers, your children make you adorable crafts that you will cherish forever and you are continually catered to and spoiled the entire day, enjoying a much needed "day off."

Well, at least in our house, this isn't quite how it all works out. Let me precedent this with saying that I am not complaining. Rather, I am admitting that any disappointment I ever feel on Mother's Day or really any celebration, has absolutely nothing to do with how well I am taken care of or how I'm treated. Like I said, I was taken out to a marvelous brunch this morning, enjoyed Mass with my family and Jason also brought me a latte and croissant in bed this morning! I have opened several cards and gifts and Jason is cooking Shrimp Scampi for dinner tonight! I have absolutely no complaints. Any frustration I feel on a day like today has nothing to do with how well I am taken care of, but rather with my own unrealistic expectations.

Mother's Day is not a day off. The children still need to be mothered! It can be surprising after watching enough television that your children don't transform into perfect angels for the day who think of your needs before their own. But even on Mother's Day, my children wear no halos, they do not grow angel's wings. They are still children. They still bicker. They still whine. They still need to be reminded, sometimes repeatedly, to obey.

If I focus on this, I can dive deep into a pity party. It is easy for me to start to feel entitled to a day of perfection. Mothers do work very hard and it can easily be argued that we deserve a day off. But it's just not in the job description.

And right there I think shows a major problem with my own attitude sometimes and of many mothers today. So often the media depicts motherhood as a burden, an inconvenience, a loss of your self, an ongoing trial that needs to be endured, a very tiresome job. But vacation days are not part of the job description because motherhood is not a job!

Motherhood is so much more. 

When we belittle our calling as mothers to merely a job, our perspective is skewed. We begin focusing on the difficulty of it, the frustrations, the way we are not appreciated or rewarded enough for our work. With this view, then of course we feel we need a day off. It's on Mother's Day, right?

I am trying to get away from this sense of entitlement to a day off. In fact, I'm trying to keep in mind that not only should we be celebrating and honoring mothers today, but we should be filled with gratitude for the calling and blessing of motherhood. 

My mom jumped into motherhood with both feet, embracing it tightly with both arms. She mothers five children and she does so with love and joy, as she always has. With everything she has given us, her actions of love were never performed with martyrdom but with joy. And I'm sure the five of us did not grow halos on Mother's Day for her either.

This is the attitude I want to extend to my own journey of motherhood. When my children are grown, I wonder how they will remember what my attitude was like as a mother. They surely see me frustrated almost daily. They see me tired. They hear corrections from me frequently. They witness me lose my patience. They hear me yell.

Do they know what a blessing and joy they are to me too? I hope so. I tell them everyday that I love them. But I want them to understand more than that. So every now and then, I take them into my arms and tell them, "You are my blessing and my joy." I hope they remember that.

Although in day-to-day life it can often be challenging, I want to strive to focus on the gift, the blessing and the joy of motherhood. On Mother's Day, I should not be expecting the impossible! In fact, I should have no expectations at all. Instead, I should see Mother's Day as a day to pause and reflect on how blessed I am by my children. If I could establish my heart in this way, Mother's Day would be even a greater gift than it already is.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Weekend to Remember . . .

We had a fantastic weekend, full of celebrating. Jason had his 40th birthday last Friday. His mom, Liz, visited us from Hawaii to be here for the occasion.

On Friday, we dropped off the kids at a friend's and went to the Space Needle for lunch. It was such a glorious day! The only time I think I have ever been to the top of the Space Needle was when I was a child, so it was so much fun to see it now. We had the most perfect day for it. The food was delicious and we really enjoyed ourselves. Afterwards, at Jason's request, we stopped at Molly Moon's. I had a scoop of their Balsamic Strawberry with hot fudge sauce. Heaven! Liz bought each of us their ice cream cookbook, so I can't wait to try some of their fun recipes this summer.

On Saturday morning, we celebrated Joshua's First Communion. What a special day! I had the privilege of teaching Joshua' Faith Formation class this year. It was wonderful and inspiring to help and watch the 2nd graders prepare for receiving this holy Sacrament. The Eucharist is something that I have only begun to understand as an adult. Of course, these children still have a long way to go in understanding this mystery, but I do believe that I helped them begin to.

The morning was gorgeous. The ceremony went beautifully. During the homily, Father Bob asked the children how they felt about receiving their First Communion. Joshua answered first with, "Happy." :) We then had a party at our house, where we got to enjoy the beautiful sunshine on our new deck! Yes, it was complete enough for us to bask in the sun. It still has some finishing touches to be made, but it was wonderful that we could use it this past weekend.

Joshua received some awesome Star Wars themed First Communion cards! :)

Finishing up the deck so that it would be ready for the parties.
After that day's party, it was time to get ready for Sunday! We had a 40th birthday party for Jason, which was so much fun--especially in another day of gorgeous weather. Adrienne came up with her mom, stepdad and brother from Portland. Between them and Jason's mom being here, it was very special. 

I don't think I've ever worked so hard as I did the week getting ready for those two parties. I prayed all week for the Lord to give me the strength and energy to get everything done and enjoy the weekend as well. He delivered. While I am definitely enjoying some down time this week, it was all worth it. I planned to have both parties the same weekend intentionally so that Liz could be there for both. And I am so glad that I did.

Yesterday morning, Joshua asked me if I was tired. Yes, Mommy's tired. I explained how hard I worked and how it was taking me a couple of days to recover, but that I'd be back to normal soon.

Later, Joshua informed me, "Nana has two parties in a row every year, Mom."

Well, yes. Yes, she does. The day after she hosts Thanksgiving, we always go back to their house for Chinese Food Friday. And she usually hosts both Christmas Eve and Christmas Dinner. I tried not to get too defensive and go on and on about how it's different and how I'm pregnant and everything. I just kind of laughed and agreed with him. And now that I come to think of it, what a blessing to have such an amazing mother as an example!

By the end of Jason's birthday party, I was really out of it. I wasn't really sleepy, but my brain wasn't functioning very well either. Jenny helped me to bring out the cakes for Jason to blow out the candles. In the middle of the song, Jenny's candle went out. As I watched her candle be re-lit, I sang, "Happy Birthday dear Jenny . . . " 

Yep. That's how tired I was. Oh well. I think everyone enjoyed the party anyway.