In Which I Compare My Life to ‘The Mindy Project’ And Realize Just How Awesome My Husband Really Is

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“It makes me cry because it means that fewer and fewer people are believing it’s cool to want what I want, which is to be married and have kids and love each other in a monogamous, long-lasting relationship.”
― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

“I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest — blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Danny: The thing that’s most beautiful about you is your confidence.
Mindy: Really? Because people say that is the most annoying part about me.-The Mindy Project, Season 4

The Mindy Project. It’s all I ever want to watch at the end of a long hard day of work, school, kids & life in general…cuz I know it will make me laugh – probably harder than I should – and take the edge off of, well, off of life.

But lately, the show has been tackling an issue that is really quite close to my heart. You know the topic – that one that everyone wants to avoid and no one wants to address but that really should be talked about more.

Working moms.

Yep. Leave it to Mindy Kaling to take this less-than-popular topic head on in her Hulu Original Series. And as hard as it is to watch, as much as I just want to yell at Danny every time he says something so heartless…I am interested to see just where she goes with it all. And I really can’t wait – because my life is like a mini version of this season’s plot.

I’m that woman. Just like Mindy Lahiri. The one who starts her career…cuz, you know, starting a career is just so awful and heinous when you’re a women. Then there I go…I get pregnant and horror of all horrors: I don’t quit my job. Cuz where I’m from, women kind of just are expected to be moms. And nothing else. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way diminishing motherhood and the calling that it is. But if you can have it your way, why can’t I have it mine?

And then baby number two. So of course, you’re quitting your job now, right? How can you work and have two kids?

How can I not?

Some days, I wish that I could be nothing more than a stay at home mom. But God has created two types of women to ride the tides of Western Society; and I fall into the non-traditional category.

I used to be self-conscious about the fact that I am a working mom (try to explain to people that I also am a Grad-student and just imagine the looks on their faces). When we first got married, I thought that this was how my life would be. Eh, might as well work for a bit and then when we decide to have a baby -poof – God will make sure I can stay at home.

It’s amazing how God works.

I never would have imagined being anything but at stay at home mom at one point in my life. Looking back, I lacked so much self-confidence, and that “dream” of being a stay at home mom was born out of insecurity and self-doubt, lack of worth and lack of allowing God to use me as He would.

Financially, I have to work.

Mentally, I have to work too.

Spiritually, I need to work.

Because now I know that this is what God has called me to do. Now I am full of confidence – not my own, but the confidence that only God could have filled me with. I have self-worth, because in the depths of my heart, I know I am fulfilling my purpose here on this earth. And now I am totally secure in the knowledge that even though this full time job-grad student-mommy-wife thing is exhausting, it’s what I was born to do.

And I just feel so bad for Mindy Lahiri.

I get how she’s feeling. You love your babies. You love them so much. You love them so much that you know you will go completely insane if you are home all the time, so instead you hire someone who doesn’t go insane and go to work for some of the day.

You love your babies. But you love your job too. You love the platform that your job is – how it allows you to make a difference in other people’s lives. How you can experience the joy of bringing a smile to a child’s face, helping them learn and grow, and supporting their family through so many things. How your job makes you feel so fulfilled, and you know that for some of the day, this is just what you are meant to do with  your life.

Because some of us have bigger hearts – hearts that can hold both love for our children and husbands and love for our careers.

And we are enough.

But where I’m at in this series,  it’s not enough for Danny. And my heart breaks a little, I kind of don’t want to watch the show.

Because I can’t imagine if my Babe told me that I wasn’t a good mother to our children unless I stayed at home.

And I realize just how awesome my husband is.

There should probably be more Christian guys like him out there.

Truth is, if he said I should stay home, I would. It would break my heart (and I’d probably literally go crazy), but I would do it. I know that God asks that wives follow their husbands lead.

But marriage is a beautiful thing.

And when you love someone, and allow God to fill you up, it’s amazing how dreams align.

And I’m just so thankful for all that my husband is for me. Because I couldn’t and wouldn’t do it without him. And on my hardest days, when I’m totally stressing out about all I need to do at work, or the assignment I think might be a ‘B’, there he is…supporting me.

Cleaning up after dinner, playing with the kids while I finish writing my paper, making dinner, going in late so I can go in early and catch up on PTC’s, sitting next to me watching hockey while I’m frantically answering discussion board posts…quietly supporting. Cheering me on.

And I just know that he is my biggest fan.

And every woman who has a heart for family and work deserves someone who will cheer them on.

Because for some of us, God is calling us to both home and workplace. And it’s hard enough to follow this non-traditional path without the support of the one we love most.

So thank you Babe.

Thank you for how awesome you are. Thank you for supporting me, building up my confidence, encouraging my dreams, and letting me fly. I couldn’t do it without you.

So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 5:28

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The Boy I Never Wanted…

“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” J.M. Barrie

“For each of us there is only one thing necessary: to fulfill our own destiny, according to God’s will, to be what God wants us to be. ” Thomas Merton

We all have them. Preconceived notions. Dreams about how life will be. Expectations. Desires.

And we never stop to think that life might turn out to be different than what we expect it to be. Different than what we imagined.

But reality suggests something different than our delusional expectations and oblivious wanderings down the road that we call life.

And then it hits us in the face. Like an acorn falling off a tree. Or a slap in the face. Faster than we could ever dream.

Harder than we could ever believe.

Our first baby was perfect. Looking back, she was probably as close to the perfection of baby Jesus as you could get without actually being Jesus. And we wandered through life, oblivious to reality, and enjoying our delusional wanderings. Dreaming of the next baby, hoping God would give us a boy…further adding to that picture of perfection: a boy and a girl. What could be better?

I always dreamed that I would have a baby boy. Having all sisters, it was hard not to. I always wanted a brother. And there was definitely a piece of my heart that longed for a son. You know, that sweet little baby boy face. With the perfect newborn pictures with sports themed props. That sweet little baby boy that would wear all of those adorable baby boy clothes that I had been googling over for years… The boy who would finally give me what I wanted for so long. A sidekick. A new, exciting adventure. The final piece in my picture of perfection. The boy I always dreamed of. The boy I always wanted.

But dreams are hardly reality.

And sometimes you get exactly the opposite of what you wish for.

Sometimes you get the boy you never wanted.

The cranky, screaming little ball of fury and rage that is more like a parasite than a sidekick. The one that screams loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear if you put him down God forbid for two seconds. The boy who is anything but sweet. The boy who is so hard to love, that your heart stops longing. The one that throws up on, and hates wearing all of the adorable clothes. The boy that is a horrendous adventure, your worst nightmare, and anything but perfection. The boy of my nightmares. The boy I never wanted.

And even when the incessant crying stops, more challenges arise. Now instead of screaming during mommy potty breaks we have moved to blood curdling screams throughout the entire grocery store. Terrifying screams in public places filled with people. Tantrums and meltdowns over the slightest stimuli. And don’t even mention the church nursery…I can’t remember the last time I was able to listen to an entire sermon.

He is what you call a high-needs child. For some reason, one that I still can’t understand, God gave him this temperament.

He was born with it and will live with it for the rest of his life. That’s just how temperament goes – it is stable over the lifespan.

I always wondered what it would be like to have a child with ADHD.

I think that I could have handled that.

I don’t handle the stares in the grocery stores. The admonishing looks as he is half pulling down my shirt our of sheer rage that I won’t let him swipe the credit card while simultaneously chucking a package of baby yogurt because he doesn’t want to put it on the belt. I have cried a few tears in the privacy of my euro-car many times after grocery store experiences. People just don’t understand. They don’t care. And they don’t want to.

And I worry so much that he is going to be totally misunderstood his entire life.

I mean, it took me 18 months of his life to finally understand him. To figure him out. 18 months of day in and day out to finally “know” this boy. So how will others every understand? And how will they ever come to appreciate his temperament for what it is?

Because the reality of the boy I never wanted is this: he was the boy I needed.

Other things I might have understood. I might have dealt with better. But I never would have grown.

Because God has a way of taking our plans and re-writing them to accomplish His plans. His plans in which we actually experience growth, instead of delusions of perfection.

Because we are not perfect. And neither is life.

And maybe Kreade will be misunderstood all of his life. His passion might be mistaken for behavioral problems. The feelings he feels so much more intensely than you or I may get him into trouble throughout his life. His energy might be a challenge in so many settings.

But he is the boy that I needed. The boy his daddy needed. The boy his sister needed.

The boy the world needed.

The boy that God wanted.

And his name will serve as a reminder. A guiding principle or belief. No matter what people think of him, he is loved. And God has a plan for this passionate, energetic, intensely feeling child. And he will be what God wants him to be.

Kreade, I want you always to remember that even though I never wanted a boy like you…I am so thankful that God gave you to us. Seeing the world through your passionate eyes is an experience that words really cannot describe. Everything is so much brighter in your eyes, so much more exciting, and so much more beautiful. You were the boy we needed. The boy who has taught us so many things – to trust, to let go of perfection, to breath.

I want you to know that God understands you and has created you with a purpose in mind. Use your passion to show the world His love. Use your energy for His glory. Use your intensity to be great for Him.

And if you feel as if others view who you are as anything less than perfect…remember this:

“”My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

Because the world may view your temperament as an infirmity, as I once did. But now I understand…God views it as a strength.

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A Little More

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Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you

And grace tonight will pull us through
Oh, my dear, I’ll wait for you
And grace tonight will pull us through
Until the tears have left your eyes
Until the fears can sleep at night
Until the demons that you’re scared of disappear inside
Until this guilt begins to crack
And the weight falls from your back
Oh, my dear, I’ll keep you in my arms tonight.

~ Tenth Avenue North

We are going on month four of Kreade’s metamorphosis from cranky, colicky baby to happyish, well-adjusted toddler. Honestly, those days of terror are starting to fade in the wake of new, happier memories. But before I completely forget those dark months, there is one thing that I want to remember: Ellie.

Because colic isn’t just hard for Mommy. And while it’s definitely hard on Daddy too, it’s also hard for the siblings that are forced into the whole dreadful experience by no fault of their own.

And they really just become sort of lost.

Their whole world was just turned upside down, and after two years and three months of being the ONLY sparkle in Mom and Dad’s eye, now there is this baby to contend with. And when that baby turns out to cry more often than he doesn’t cry (I won’t even say smile, because that’s totally unrealistic), that poor little two year old gets lost.

Lost in a life that she never asked for, never knew existed, and doesn’t really understand. How could she understand that most babies don’t cry this much? How could she understand why mom was so stressed out all the time? How could she know that it was okay to love this little bundle of fury?

Because colic wasn’t just hard on me. It was hard on Ellie too. And only now, coming out of it, can I look back and see just how likely traumatic of an experience that was for her. We lost ourselves. We lost so much in an effort to cope and just get through it all.

Positive guidance gave way to bribes and “whatever means necessary to prevent both these twerps…er children-who-i-love from crying at the same time”. Cuddles and stories became sit on one knee while mom bounces the still-crying-Kreade on the other and reading over his screams. No kidding. Can you imagine? We loved books together. And here came this awful, crying baby who ruined it all.

Gentle instruction on social interaction and sharing has basically come to a halt. I mean, really. How COULD I ask her to share with him? He already was taking up so much of our time…so much of our time, some of which should have been hers.

Quiet and peaceful bedtime routines instantly changed to “tiptoe and whisper so Kreade doesn’t wake up”.

Playing outside and exploring and having adventures was put on hold because, well it would just be rude to make the neighbors have to hear Kreade crying.

We lost ourselves. I lost my patience. And I’m only now beginning to get it back…and realize just how much we lost.

But while it is certain that we lost so much, it is also certain that we have so much to gain.

And while those days were definitely oh so hard on Ellie. But there is much to gain.

We are all starting to get to know Kreade, Ellie included.

She is starting to talk about the old Kreade. I guess even three year olds can recognize such a dramatic change. While before her usual complaint was “why is he crying?!” now she complains that he isn’t big enough to do all the things she wants to do with him.

Now they play together. Now Ellie talks with him and is starting to gently guide him. She is starting to learn that it’s okay to love him. That he can be loved. That is is more than just tears and cries and very difficult.

Every time I see them interacting with each other, my heart stops just for a moment.

And now I realize just how hard it all was for her. I feel so bad.

But what can we do? Reality is, life isn’t happy all of the time. Life is hard. Life is really hard. People are hard. People are really hard.

Some of us experience this when we are much older, and some of us experience this when we are two.

And Ellie, I never want you to forget. Because people are hard. People are difficult. Some more than others. But God in His infinite grace calls us to love them nevertheless; waiting for Him to turn their ashes into beauty. And all the while we wait, to hold them in our arms. Though you may feel lost, trust that He will pull you through. And pull them through. Because people are hard. But they’re worth waiting for.

And Kreade, never forget that your sister loves you. She learned to love you through all of your crankiness and tears. And through his grace the tears have left your eyes, and now you literally can sleep at night. Ellie asked me “when is he gonna be god enough like me?” The truth is, you will never be just like her, and you will probably always require a bit more patience and love than she does.

But like I told Ellie, that’s the point.

Some people need a little more love, and a little more grace. But people are always worth it.

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Abundantly More: Happy Birthday Kreade

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Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Today, April 1st, 2015, it has been exactly a year since Baby K was born.

Exactly a year since all the crying began.

But today he is one. And what a transformation has taken place!

Not only is it amazing to watch all of the miraculous developmental changes that children undergo naturally, it has been even more amazing to watch an infant go from a screaming little ball of misery to a happy, independent one year old.

This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. Perhaps even the most difficult. I don’t do well with babies in general. Never mind the ones that cry. All. The. Time. And though I said I could never do it – I did! And I survived with most of my hair and most of my sanity.

But through it all I have learned so much. I’ve learned to be flexible, and not become too attached to the plans that are my design. Because sometimes, even though the road is often narrow, His plans are so much better. But we cannot know them until we have learned to let go of our own. And Kreade taught me to let go.

And through it all I’ve learned that I can do things that I never thought I could do. But I also learned that I’m not actually a superhero and I can’t do everything myself. Yet, through Him I can do all things. Kreade taught me that I can do anything, through His love and power living and working in me.

And though I feel like Kreade’s personal version of Jesus, loving him through the sleepless, scream-filled nights and days, I have such a better understanding of the love that He has for me. Unconditional. Even at 10 PM, 12 AM, 2 AM, 4 AM, 6 AM…love never fails. I’ve loved him through it all. And come to understand His love through it all.

I never dared to hope that this day would come. I honestly lost hope that Kreade would ever sleep through the night. That he would ever be somewhat happy. That he would grow up to be even partly normal and well-adjusted. I know it sounds crazy – but when all you’ve ever known is an infant that cries all the times and needs you all the time ( literally ALL the time). You really do begin to lose hope that they will ever be…normal.

But guess what!

The day has come…exactly a year later, when I can say that through it all has emerged a somewhat normal, beginning to be well adjusted, somewhat happy one year old. It’s really been in the last month that things have really come together.

Like the flip of a switch. One calendar day to another.

He started sleeping through the night. I mean like 11 or so hours all night long. Hallelujah!

He stopped nursing every 3 hours and weaned himself to a sippy cup of regular milk. Literally all by himself. Wow!

He has learned to entertain himself for short periods of time. And the days of cooking one handed with a  baby on my hip are slowing starting to fade. Amazing!

He is almost walking.

He doesn’t cry all of the time.

He smiles at people and lets other people hold him.

He cuddles with Klayton.

He goes to bed sleep all on his own after a snuggle and Bible story.

And though I doubted that it would ever be possible, Kreade has transformed from a needy, fussy, screaming ball of misery to a thriving little boy.

All thanks to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than we ask or think.

So Kreade, I pray that your heart will know His love as I have known His love for me through loving you. Always remember that we all are a work in progress. But through His power at work in you, you can be and do abundantly more than you could ever ask or think.

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Living My Worst Nightmare: Kreade, The Colicky One

Babies. So many people just “oooh” and “ahhh” and fawn over infants whenever they see one. Babies, you know those sweet little bundles of joy.

But not me. I am a self-proclaimed “not-a-baby-person”. My worst nightmare, other than the obvious fear of losing a child somehow, was having a colicky baby.

Meet my worst nightmare.

IMG_8117Kreade Aksel. The one who was supposed to be peaceful. The one who was supposed to be the content little cherub who sat around in his bouncer while his sister and I enjoyed the opportunities of summer. The little side-kick who would “watch” me do my homework, and sit with me peacefully while I read my textbooks.

And that picture isn’t even his full-blown cry face.

Things never started out easily with Kreade. Even in the hospital the problems began. He began spitting up volumes in that tiny plastic bassinet the hospital provides. We had to tip up the side his head was on to try and get him to keep things down. And unlike his sister he really didn’t sleep much in that tiny plastic space. I ended up taking him in my bed, right there in the hospital just so that I could sleep. Otherwise he squeaked and sputtered… We should have known then. But we hoped for the best and took him home.

Home to where he continued to projectile vomit LOADS of unidentified liquid matter. He lost a considerable amount of weight. He had trouble latching and nursing. He loved and hated his pacifier. He always wanted to be held. And he cried.

A lot.

A lot. A lot. A lot.

Honestly, after having such a perfect angel baby as Ellie was I kind of thought that he was simply a normal baby. But when he would fall asleep and then wake up wailing after 5 minutes I began to wonder. Truly though, it wan’t until  I was bouncing him on my hip standing in our camper when my mother-in-law suggested that he might be colicky that it all came together…

Now other people were beginning to notice that he was not a normal baby. And around the time he was five months old I began to piece the events of the previous five months together. I know, I know…how could you live five months and not know your baby is colicky?

You have a colicky baby. That’s exactly how. You don’t have time to think about anything else except “the baby is crying, I need to do something” or “the baby is about to cry, quick do something”.

Kreade was the baby that lived in my worst dreams, and soon became my reality.

He was clingy. He refused to let anyone by me hold him – and if they did it was quickly followed by ear-piercing screams. He needed to constantly be on the move…in the swing on the highest setting, in the stroller careening down the road, in the car – but you better pray and hope you don’t get a red light, in your arms – but don’t you dare stop moving or God forbid have to sit down and pee (because yes, when you have a colicky baby you hold them while you pee).

And the crying…the crying that doesn’t stop. Sometimes even when you’re holding them. But at least when you’re holding them they only cry instead of scream…that ear-piercing, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping scream.

According to leading health professionals colic affects 40% of infants. It usually starts between 3 and 6 weeks and improves around 4 and 5 months of age. There is no obvious cause for an infant’s colicky behavior…but lot’s of people want to offer their advice. And I spent loads of time walking around with a crying baby on my hip and a frustrated two year old dragging her blanket and following us while reading about the possible causes and suggested solutions that people freely offer via the internet.

Your baby is probably allergic to dairy…you’re spoiling your baby…they’re gassy…they just need a diaper change…change your diet, feed them laying down, swaddle them, burp them more, play music, don’t overstimulate them…bla bla bla.

But colicky babies…real colicky babies cry a lot. And they can’t be settled. This is the foremost symptom of this mysterious infant problem that affects breast and bottle fed infants equally. Some babies may cry for predictable periods of time at predictable periods of time. Their crying is generally intense and inconsolable and appears to be for no apparent reason. And colicky babies tend to have tense bodies, curled fists, and curled up legs when they’re crying.

Ah yes…the inconsolable crying…it seriously doesn’t stop. And you wonder if there will ever be a day when he just. stops. crying. Even when he is not crying, you hear crying. You might begin to resent your baby and the fact that he cries all of the time.

Because a baby that cries all of the time puts load of indescribable stress on everyone in the family. Your own mental health. Your marriage. Your children and their well-being.

I was depressed. We talked over screams. Ellie began singing to herself in an attempt to drown out the sound of his cries.

It was awful. So awful. You feel as if you’re trapped in a snow-globe…and the cries and screams echo back off the walls of your glass-encased existence…and you can’t get out. There is no end in sight…because you’re not in a tunnel. You’re in the globe of colic, where your entire world is that inconsolable crying baby.

The baby that you feel unattached to…but who needs you so much. And you can’t get out.

So you cling to the hope that age will improve your reality…and four months, five months, six months pass…and still he cries.

And cries and cries and cries.

You have re-designed, and re-defined yourself and your life. While the first child was never held, this one is never put down – and that’s okay, because I just can’t take the crying anymore.

While the first child sat contentedly on the couch while you watched TV on volume 10, this one is bounced furiously in his bouncer with your foot with the volume on 40 because he is still making noise. And if you get up off the couch you do this perfectly-timed switcheroo where you husband starts bouncing the bouncer exactly as you stop.

Where the first child experienced the front-pack maybe once or twice, the second child practically lives in it.

The first child drifted off to sleep peacefully in her crib, while the second has to be nursed to sleep, rocked for a while, and gingerly placed on the mattress while you tip-toe out praying that his pacifier doesn’t fall out of his mouth. And while the first one slept for eight hour stretches, you know this second one will but up in an hour again (two if you’re lucky). And you had better be prepared to repeat this ritual all night long.

You spend all day on your feet simultaneously walking and bouncing, or on the front porch rocking at the speed of light. You learn how to cook supper one-handed, and use the bathroom while holding a child. You become “fine” with nursing all of the time…because it’s probably the only time that the crying ever truly stops. You learn how to time grocery shopping with the thirty minute naps he takes. You look forward to bedtime, and the hour or so of actual quiet that you might get.

You learn to let go of perfection and all of the expectations you had of yourself and your children.

And you survive.

My favorite part of the day was the nighttime, when I could finally be unattached from my baby while he slept in his crib and I slept in my bed. This was my sanity – my baby and kid free sanity. I would spend all day trying to console the crying-one and entertain the frustrated-one…ending it with an easy to make while one-handed supper…then to the front porch to pass the time until bed-time, after which I would run around cleaning my entire house because I just. can’t. function. in a mess.

And you survive.

You begin to seriously believe that the crying will never end. That he literally will just keep on crying forever. That you will have to hold him forever. That you will feel depressed forever. That you will never feel attached to this crying little face. That your life will never be the same again.

And you’re right. Your life never will be the same again.

I remember a play-date at the playground with a close friend who has experienced colic first hand. She told me that eventually, the bond you have with  your colicky baby will be so much stronger than with an “average” baby.

It doesn’t seem possible, but it is.

Somehow, that crying, tense little body that has basically welded himself to your own body also practically cements his heart in yours. Maybe it’s the fact that he just needs you so much. Or that you feel like you’re his one-and-only (which sometimes is overwhelming and frustrating, but eventually becomes precious). Maybe it’s the fact that you have spent every waking moment trying to love and care for this tiny little being…and eventually the time develops into a bond.

A bond that really is stronger than anything you can imagine.

And while the crying may never stop…eventually it will. For us it wasn’t until Kreade was about seven months old.

Yep, seven months. Two months past the far end of the ‘span of colic’.

And slowly, life begins to fade into something that seems more normal.

Instead of holding the crying baby while you pee, you can actually set him down on the floor to watch you and HE DOESN”T CRY!!!!

You might still be cooking supper one-handed, but at least he isn’t fussing the whole time.

And slowly…slowly…the crying fades even more. And you can eventually walk out of the room and he will continue to play with his toys while you cook dinner.

Until finally, you have a recovered-from-colic baby.

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And your world feels right again. Finally, your body begins to relax. And you feel like a real person.

A real person, with a baby you love, who loves you back.

And when he starts crying you know you can get him to stop. Usually with a hug and a kiss, and a snuggle from the one person who has loved him through…well, through everything.

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It’s Your Turn To Smell the Baby’s Butt: On Parenting and Committment

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“Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you.”
Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys

“No man should bring children into the world who is unwilling to persevere to the end in their nature and education.”
Plato

Children. To those who don’t have them they are serene, perfect little faces on a Christmas card or Picture People portrait. And while children might have perfect moment, like us, they really are far from perfect.

And their imperfection allows for some interesting adventures that a mother or father would rather not embark upon.

Yet we do it anyways. We bring our children into the world and raise them through all of its uncertainty and chaos. Here’s a high-five or pat-on-the-back to all the parents who are doing their best to love and teach their children…because really, who has time to raise their glass in any sort of toast, ’cause when you’re holding the baby in one arm there is a good chance that they might grab your glass of wine and try to drink from it themselves. A high-five is definitely the safer route.

And for all of those who do not have children…well, you’re honestly missing out.

Yes, parenting is sure an adventure. Perhaps it is the most exciting, thrilling, exhilarating,important, interesting, terrifying, and fulfilling adventure you may ever embark upon in your lifetime. And what a responsibility parents have! Plato really hit the nail on the head when he references the commitment that parenting is.

It’s being committed to finding which of your children is emitting that awful smell from their body. No, that was definitly NOT a fart. The stench is lingering way too long. So off you go picking up the baby and smelling his cute little bum, ’cause when you are a parent, little bums are cute. It’s not him so you begin to freak out that you potty-trained child might have had an accident..no maybe it was a fart. So you cautiously peak down her backside only to stick your thumb into ACTUAL POOP only to quickly withdraw it and start demanding the march of -oh-my-word-you-just-pooped…anti-biotics-nasty-poop- and-its-all-over-your-butt-get-to-the-bathroom-now up the stairs and to the bathroom where your almost three year old is freaking out because she pooped, not on the toilet, and you STILL have it on your thumb. Yes, parenting is a commitment. It’s being committed to taking care of your children and wiping poop off your potty-trained children’s bums even though you are missing the latest episode of The Voice.

It’s being committed to making sure that everyone gets fed and actually eats. Which often likely appears like a circus to anyone who happens to be watching you. The baby starts off in the highchair…you take a bite of your food, give him a bite, repeat like twenty-five times. At the same time, you are talking to your husband while also bribing your almost three year old to eat her food if she wants any snacks. The baby starts screaming. You put him on your lab while continuing to finish your food, which is now a good foot away from you so that the baby cannot reach it. Hopefully it’s not soup. But somehow that little angel grabs your plate, sticks his fingers into whatever-it-is-you-managed-to-cook and proceeds to splatter it all over him and you. Your other child thinks this is funny and proceeds to imitate the baby and also ends up with food splattered and spread all over her head.

Looks like everyone needs a bath. Yes, being a parent means committing to never eating a normal meal again until, well I’m guessing until those little dears grow up and move out. Of course, then normal might feel abnormal…so will it ever really be normal again?

Being a parent is walking around your house and noticing the stickers that your child loving has placed because she is “decorating”. Or walking into a store with said stickers on your butt because she decided to decorate you, and you don’t notice until you go to bed at night and find them on your pants. Well, I probably made someone at the story laugh anyways.

Being a parent is being committed to watching anything with a somewhat interesting rating or title until at least after 8 PM. And that’s only if bedtime goes as planned. Which never happens. So really it’s like 9 PM, so you only have time for a short show instead of a movie  because you also have to  be in bed and sleeping by ten since your children wake  up all night long and you have to be awake enough tor drive to work in the morning. Oh the sacrifices. At least there is coffee. Unless you’re also breastfeeding and your baby is sensitive to caffeine.

Being a parent is knowing all of the songs that Sofia the First sings. It is also driving down the road without your children and finding yourself singing along to these songs for a good ten minutes before you realize that you don’t have your kids and could be listening to grown-up songs. Eh, who cares…Frozen songs are pretty fun to sing even when your kids aren’t with you.

Commitment to parenting means being peed on, pooped on, a walking-talking tissue for your boogery children, never saying anything that remotely resembles a bad word. It’s getting your kids bathed and dressed and running out of time to do the same for  yourself. It’s reading stories and playing games instead of going out with your friends. It’s never being alone again, or if you are it’s thinking about your kids most of the time you’re not with them; which really is like never being alone. It’s working hard to live as an example. To provide love and support. To forgive them when they need forgiveness. To teach them, guide them, pray for them. Commitment to parenting means doing these things all of the time.

Parenting is hard. Parenting is an ongoing sacrifice. But you’ll never regret it.

Parenting is also sitting back on the couch with your husband and looking…just looking (while also simultaneously listening to MasterChef) at your beautiful children now that everyone is clean an poop free. And they’re really just the most beautiful thing in the world. And they notice you staring at them and just smile at you…and you know they love you.

Parenting is the joy you feel when your oldest wants to pray before you start eating. I’m doing it right…they’re catching on. All the hard work is paying off…in that one simple prayer. “Thank you Jesus for our food, and monkey and blankey. Amen”

Parenting is watching your children splash each other in the tub. And being thankful that you have a tub and clean water to bathe them in.

Parenting is seeing those stickers all over your house and smiling inside because the intent to help “decorate” was so innocent and sweet.

Parenting is looking at your sleeping child and thinking of the day that really isn’t far off when they will be old and too big to really hold in your arms.

Like the book Love You Forever. Now that I have children I finally understand this book. And whenever I read it, even to my students at school, I get tears in my eyes. Those little beings join you in this world and often turn in upside down. You spend so much time cleaning up their messes and working to ensure that they turn into a somewhat normal person. But its also those times that you spend rocking them and holding them, telling them that you’ll love them forever…no matter what. And knowing that someday they might be the ones rocking you, and whispering how much they love you in your ear.

No, you will never regret being a parent.

And so Ellie and Kreade. I want to thank you for being the reason for the greatest and best adventures of my life. And through all of these adventures please remember…I’ll love  you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my babies you’ll be.

A Christmas Letter ~ 2014

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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Isaiah 9:6

What. A. Year.

Really that short description sums up our year. Honestly it doesn’t seem as if the year should already be drawing to a close. I feel as if it has just started…and yet time flies, so they say. At this point, I surely agree. It is amazing just what journeys you embark on in a years time. Each year  you start out full of hope and promise for the “wonderful” year to come…and I’m not saying that you get let down by what the year really turns out to be…but it usually is not how you imagine it. But who can know the plans that the Lord has in store for them?

Certainly not me. In fact, my plans pretty much never turn out in any way that resembles what the Lord has in store for us.

January found us preparing for baby boy…mister K.A. Stenersen. I was working teaching preschool while Ellie spent her days with her aunt and grandmother. Klayton was busily working framing, and I was slammed with taking classes to finish up my bachelor’s degree. Ellie turned two in January and we celebrated with a Minnie Mouse birthday; pink and purple tutu and all. And while things were going along quite well throughout the remainder of the winter and into the spring I cannot say that our lives were fully experiencing the plans the Lord has for us or the peace that He brings. Klayton really did not want to be working in construction, but reality deemed otherwise and left this as the only choice. I was tired of being pregnant…having contractions for nearly two months with no getting anywhere basically has ruined the small bit of the enjoyment-of-being-pregnant that I had. Probably the only one who was experiencing the Lord’s plan and living in His peace was Ellie…but she is two so what else would you really expect?

But some things take time. Even the Lord’s plans.

Finally, a week past my due date we discovered that I had been leaking fluid and I was induced…at 6 o’clock on Monday…right before April 1st. Great. Looks like this baby is going to be an April Fool’s day baby, much to mamma’s displeasure. Sure enough on April 1, 2014 Kreade Aksel Stenersen was born into this world.

And every semblance of peace was sucked from our lives.

The irony is, Kreade’s middle name , Aksel, means ‘the father is peace’ in Hebrew.

It has been an interesting, long, stressful, depressing, full-of-crying eight months. Right from the beginning Kreade was a challenge. He vomited TONS, which resulted in changes of clothes for him, me, and cleaning for the couch and floor surrounding us. A 7 pound baby shouldn’t vomit THAT much. He lost a pound in the first week and wasn’t gaining very well. There were concerns about his stomach because of the not gaining and vomiting. And still he cried. All. The. Time. At one of his doctor appointments our doctor asked Ellie what she thought about her baby brother, her reply: “him just cries.” Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Her coping method was to loudly start singing “Let It Go” or “Thrive” whenever his cries turned to screams, which was pretty much all the time. Sometimes I just cried along with him. We spent  most of the summer rocking on the porch, or around the house or yard bouncing and shushing baby brother. It is hard to form an attachment to a baby that cries all of the time. He would hardly let Klayton, never mind any one else, hold him.

This was certainly not the baby that I had planned. But God’s plans are not mine…so we lived on.

My sister was married in the end of May and Ellie was quite an adorable flower girl in her white and burlap tutu dress. Although she never made it up the aisle and Klayton missed the ceremony because we was walking around trying to calm two crying children. Ellie recovered enough to enjoy the reception and take some beautiful pictures!

Amidst the cries and screams we somehow communicated enough to allow us the opportunity to purchase a camper trailer…only a week after Klayton was able to buy a truck!

Ok, so I guess some of God’s plans are the same as mine. There is no other way that this plan worked out except from the will of God as the camper was quite a deal. And though Kreade still insisted on being held and sushed by only me, he loves to be outside, so we spent many wonderful weekends camping. My mom and sisters were even able to join us in Maine for our 4th of July trip! Ellie fell in love with camping, as we knew she would since she loved tenting last year. At night she would pray “thank you for our camper, and ours truck, and Pa and Nina’s camper and Pa and Nina’s truck, and ‘Turk and Heidi’s camper and Jax’s truck”… It was great to be able to go camping with family and cousins and friends.

As August wore on and came to a close our world was filled with anything but peace. Klayton was without a non-construction job and I was going back to work and Kreade still wasn’t taking a bottle. Again, Ellie was the only one that seemed to be doing half-way good.

But some things take time. Even the Lord’s plans.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. And just like that His plan’s come together. Days before I went back to work Klayton found a job that offered basically everything that we were looking for. And less than five minutes away from home at that! Kreade started taking a bottle and we found a babysitter that is really good with him and his needs. Kreade began improving…and slowly the tears and screaming subsided. He even began to allow other people to hold him. And finally we all started to form an attached relationship with him. It wasn’t until he was about 6 and 1/2 months old that he seemed to turn into a “normal” baby and spent more time smiling and being happyish rather than crying. He no longer vomits or spits up, and his horrifically loud burps have diminished. I guess it just took a while for his poor little digestive system to fully develop. I look back at those colick filled months and wonder how we ever survived.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger. Kreade was definitely not the baby that any of us wanted or imagined, but we loved him nonetheless. And through those colick filled times he was there giving us just what we needed in order to get through.

Yes, it was a long summer. Filled with uncertainty and desire for things to be different. But our plans are not the Lord’s. And sometimes you have to experience not-so-fun things in order to be ready to accept the plans that He has for you. Though I would rather that Klayton found a job before summer and Kreade stop crying before he was nearly 7 months old I definitely learned a lot through those times.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Love is holding a crying baby even though he keeps crying. Or the four of us walking up and down the road a hundred times because it makes the crying baby stop crying. Love is singing songs to try to drown out the cries, or shaking the car seat as you’re driving down the road to try and prevent the baby from crying. It’s packing the camper in the thirty minutes that the baby actually sleeps and toting around 15 pounds in a front pack while lifting a two year old onto the uneven bars at open gym.

But the key here isn’t the love that filled our year, it’s the peace. Because amidst the circumstances that were anything but peaceful I can truly say that our hearts were at peace.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name. Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. 

So this year many things took place. Kreade was born…Ellie was potty-trained…we had several trips to the doctor for UTI’s and ear infections…Ellie took part in the end-of-year gymnastics show…Klayton got a truck…we all got a camper…Klayton got a great job…I went back to work…Kreade started taking a bottle…Ellie moved up to the preschool gymnastics class…I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology…we almost sold our house…we had fantastic camping trips…Kreade stopped crying all the time… And though this year was filled to the brim with events and circumstances the thing that is most obvious to me is the peace.

Because even though the world around you is chaotic and stressful, there is One who can fill your heart with peace.

“…and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This year, we pray that you feel the peace that only He provides and join us as we praise His name forevermore.

In His Love,

Klayton, Alicia, Azrielle, & Kreade