Stages of Parenthood

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I once read a book by a woman who joked about the day she realized she had reached a new stage of parenting when all of her kids were able to get their shoes and jackets on themselves, get into the car and even buckle themselves in without her having to lift a finger. What a glorious day, she shared.

I have yet to reach that stage, however I have noticed a few others that have stuck out to me. One is the day I realized my heart wasn’t jumping out of my throat when my children came to a flight of stairs. I remember my usual response-all blood drained from my face as I unsuccessfully tried to stop the word “noooooooooooo!” coming from my lips so that I didn’t either startle them into losing their balance or send them into a gleeful defiant strut down the stairs as they grinned back at me. Both are old enough to either be able to quite quickly navigate up and down the stairs or to know that they aren’t as agile as the big kids running up and down and they need to take their time. Big moment in parenthood. HUGE.

There’s also the stage where my son discovered he has orifices on his body…..and that he can stick a finger in them……especially the one on his butt. Yes, that was my son. It was a new stage of parenting because he was still in diapers. When I tried to teach him we don’t stick our fingers down there because we might get poop on them, he thought that meant not to reach down until after I had wiped him. It took some effort on my part to break him of that. I am happy to say that stage is over.

I used to be the mom who was not allowed to sit down at a social gathering. Oh, how I longed to be able to sit and chat with the other moms as their kids ran and played. I, on the other hand, had to not just keep an eye on my 2 young ones who wanted to run around too, but follow them around to steer them away from the fire ant mounds and the road. Just a couple of days ago, I realized that stage is over. At a friend’s house with a few other families, I sat back and slowly smiled as I realized I had no idea exactly where my kids were….but I knew they were at least somewhat safe. I had it narrowed down to outside with the big kids or in the back bedroom with the other younger ones, but I had full confidence that the knowledge they had gleaned over their few short years on this earth was sinking in and they knew where the safe boundaries were. There was no guarantee they wouldn’t still get into fire ants (this is Florida after all), but at least they wouldn’t be actively seeking them out, thinking their hills were a small sandbox to play in.

This also brings us to the stage where my kids officially have dragon breath upon waking up. Gross.

This morning was another huge step for parenthood in our house. We had a special activity to head to and not enough time for me to help them with everything while also being able to shower and present myself to the world as half normal looking (and smelling after exercising). Get this-my kids, ages 2 and 4, finished their breakfast while I showered and put their dishes in the kitchen. My youngest even turned the TV off by himself (not a big moment for me, but he thought he was pretty darn smart). They then went and got dressed by themselves. My son, who is in the midst of potty training (fun times), even went to the bathroom without consulting me first. Granted he ended up peeing all over, but I’ll be darned if I don’t throw a party for his effort! His reward for using the toilet is looking at pictures on my phone and when I told him it was time to put the phone away, he promptly brought it to me and said he picked some music just for me. It just happened to be a song I really like. What a big sweetie. When I told my oldest it was time to brush her teeth, she set her marker down, came closer to me and said “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you, what did you say?” Ummmmm, who are you and what did you do with my daughter? As we walked out to the car, my son topped it all off by picking a little flower from our front walk way and handing it to me.

So I get that this new stage may not actually be a stage and maybe it will last just today, but y’all, this morning I saw a glimmer of hope that after the past 4.5 years of parenting, we may actually be raising kids that will in fact be able to take care of themselves one day. Glorious day.

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Wise and Innocent Kids

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F3F331AD-465E-4E5E-8A4B-B210C148BE1AReading my Bible this morning, I came to Romans 16:19 (last half), “but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” This resonated with me regarding raising our kids. I have noticed just how saturated my kids are with God. The other day I was showing Georgia how to talk into the big fan to sound like a robot. What did she decide to say? Something about God, Jesus Lord is King. William loves singing (really, both kids do) and he almost always chooses Jesus songs (though Twinkle Twinkle is also a favorite). Georgia enjoys reading her bible by herself and will often play church and tell sermons to her stuffed animals. When we see crosses on the side of the road where someone has died, William points out the cross and says that’s where Jesus died (then Georgia chimes in that Jesus came back to life). If we hear an ambulance, the kids remind me to say a prayer for the hurt people. 

As far as I can tell, this isn’t normal. And to be honest, I wondered if my kids are going to be labeled “weird”. Yet, this verse reminded me that it may not be normal according to the world, but this is how my children should be (and myself as well). 

I looked up the meanings of a couple key words in this verse. ‘Wise’ means to have a taste for, skilled in, akin to’. ‘Innocent’ means to be pure, unmixed, simple’. 

In training up my kids, I am called to saturate them with God so that they are so full of God that there is no room for any evil (evil meaning anything not of God), that they want God, that they are skilled in following God, that their hearts are pure (blameless) before God. 

So I will choose to continue to surround them with everything Jesus to the point where we may be weird according to the world, but we are normal according to who Jesus was and is. I choose to make Jesus such a normal topic for us that it’s like talking about our best friend. I choose to pour God’s truth into their minds and hearts so that as they get older and are exposed to more of the world, that they will not be swayed in their faith and that in fact they will be the ones changing the world for Him. I choose to teach my kids that having a personal relationship with Jesus is better than having the best friend they could ever imagine here on earth. 

Eternal Vision

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When I had one child, I worked part-time while my husband or a family member stayed with my baby. When I had a second child, I stopped working altogether. My last day of work would have been the day my second was born, but considering my water had broken that morning and the doc later said I was in labor, I felt it best to call in ‘sick’ that day. I have since never returned to a job.

And I have never had a regular break from being a stay-at-home mom to 2 kids. For almost 3 years. I’ve gone out. My husband and I have had dates, even over night getaways. The kids are in nursery at church. But there has never been a period of time without the kids for multiple days in a row. Until now.

Enter VBS-Vacation Bible School. Out of the plethora of churches in our area with a summer VBS, only one took children as young as 2. Needless to say, that is where I signed the kiddos up for. Three hours each morning (minus drive time) for five days. In a row. I planned to paint the kids room and finish the floating TV console I had built and had to stain and hang. Not to mention clean the house to get ready for my husband’s family to come in to town. All this ‘free’ time to myself, oh how I loved the idea of it!

I have ended up loving it a little too much. Probably a lot too much.

There’s this corner down the road a bit where two homeless people we have befriended stand. We quite often pack a food bag and go out of our way to drive by, stop and talk, and give them food and maybe a few dollars. Wonderful people, living in tents, fighting to survive each day. One is terminally ill and the other just found out she has a severe form of skin cancer (I’ve seen the black spot, it doesn’t look good). The kids and I love to see our friends and to bless them. It’s really a blessing to us as well.

And yet as I found myself driving the kids to and from VBS, I found myself wanting to find another route to take so I didn’t have to pass by that corner. Why? Because I would feel awful not stopping to say hi if I saw one of our friends. I just didn’t have time to stop, I had important things to do. After all, it isn’t every day I get all this time to get things done, kid free! Rooms to paint (simply because I didn’t like the color), TV consoles to build and stain (simply because I wanted a different ‘look’ for our living room), a house to clean (to impress people, they are family after all). I didn’t have time, even 10 minutes, to stop and chat with people who didn’t have many friends, much food, or any money.

That evening over dinner my husband asked me how my day was. I told him, and I quote “I had my head up my butt all day, wanting to get the bedroom painted. In my own little world. Selfish, that’s me.” Harsh, yet true.

Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Y’all, that day my heart was on earthly treasures. Treasures that don’t even matter one iota. Is it inherently wrong to paint a room to simply change the color? Probably not, but when it comes at the expense of storing up a heavenly, or eternal, treasure, such as feeding the hungry, aiding the poor or the building up of one another, then yes, it most definitely is wrong. 

Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”

1 John 3:17 “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”

How often do we live our lives with our head up our butts? Engrossed in our own little world, our own family, our own home, our own day to day routines, jobs and tasks that in the end, when it comes to eternity, mean nothing? All the while forgetting that God’s greatest command was to love Him with all our hearts, minds and souls and to love others as ourselves. Nowhere in there does it say to actually love ourselves; that comes naturally. Yet it is so easy to be focused on taking care of myself (thus the ‘self help’ book revolution) that we forget in doing so, we are storing up only earthly treasures and nothing that will withstand God’s judgement.

I recently read the back of a book given to us (don’t ask me the title or author, the book has since becomes ‘hidden’ in our house) and it told the story of a couple who worked hard (a good thing), retired early (successful) and spent their days on the beaches of Florida, collecting sea shells and enjoying the sunshine (God created both those things). They eventually die, get to heaven and God asks them what they’ve done with their life. They show Him handfuls of sea shells. Kind of seems ridiculous, but it begs the question, what will we have to show God when he questions us? What handfuls of treasures will we show Him? Because the only ones that matter….are the treasures we don’t even have. If we have lived our lives with eternal vision, we have stored all of our treasures up in heaven and they are there waiting for us.

My kids have one more day of VBS. Their bedroom is painted, the TV console will be finished tomorrow and while the house isn’t as clean as my family would like to see it, I can blame that on the leaking toilet that flooded our master suite that I had to deal with one day. More importantly, I have made it a point to take my head out of my butt and drive by that special corner with a bag of food, a few dollars, and a smile on my face, realizing that the smile on our friends’ face is worth far more than any number of projects I could get done during all my kid-free time.

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Note: In no way am I intending to imply that we get to heaven by our works, or by what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” We get to heaven by handing over our lives to Jesus and simply receiving the salvation he has to offer. However, through that submission to Jesus we enter into a relationship with him that changes us, transforms us, synchronizes our heart with his. And when our heart is lined up with his, we willingly become his hands and feet out of our love for him, showing our love for him by loving others.  

What About Bob?

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Has anybody seen the movie What About Bob? It’s old (1991) and while I think I’ve only seen it once, I also think I remember it being funny. I’ve thought that about a lot of movies and TV shows though and rewatching them now, I wonder what in the world I ever thought was good about it. So, if you watch it and it isn’t good, don’t blame me.

While I can’t recommend watching the movie, I can recommend another Bob you may enjoy. He’s an outdoorsy type, has a good handle on survival skills, looks like he has a hard life but pretty well kept considering his circumstances. He is extremely nice, grateful and makes my kids smile. Every time my kids and I see him, he has a big (though tired) smile and my 4 year old goes crazy if I don’t let her say hi. She also calls Bob her friend. We like him so much that we go out of our way to see him. Here’s a picture of Bob.

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That’s the corner he stands on. It isn’t far from where he lives-a parcel of uncleared woods where he lives in a tent camp with a friend of his and his friend’s girlfriend. I’m not sure if there are other people who live in their camp with them, but it wouldn’t surprise me considering how many homeless people live in our town and how little available space there is for them. Bob says he has camped all his life…..but he always had a home to go back to. Not so anymore. No bed waiting for him after roughing it a few days or even weeks. Camping is his life now.

I don’t know why Bob is homeless. I don’t know if it was stupid choices on his part or some really tough bits of life thrown his way. I don’t know if his family was tragically killed, he lost his job because he couldn’t function in the pain he felt every second of every day and he hasn’t been able to fully recover. I also don’t know if he hasn’t been able to keep a job because he’s hung over every morning and spends all his money on drugs and alcohol.

What I do know is that Bob is nice and gratefully takes anything we have to offer him, which is mostly food and sometimes a couple dollars here and there. I once asked him if there was anything he really needed other than food. He didn’t ask for money. He asked for some new pants.

(a couple weeks have gone by since I first started this post)

We hadn’t seen Bob in a couple of weeks and when we packed a bag of food to bring to him this morning, he wasn’t at his corner. I was so let down. I can’t describe the joy I felt as the kids and I opened our closet to sort through our homeless food stash. The kids helped pick out some food that would fill him up (canned ravioli), offer comfort (mashed potatoes) and be healthy (applesauce). We then threw in a couple of other non perishable and easy to open meals, along with some crackers, fruit bars, a couple waters, and some single serve instant coffee packets. My heart dropped when I didn’t see him on his corner and all we could do was drive by and say a prayer for him (which is actually the best thing we could do for him-pray-but we sure were wishing we could help feed him).

Leaving the grocery store we decided one last ditch attempt at seeing Bob and lo and behold, there he was! We had missed him earlier because he rode his bike over to WalMart to exchange the pants we had bought him. Turns out he’s a size 14 BOY instead of a 16. Apparently camping 24/7 and living off the few dollars he’s able to scrape together along with the generosity of people like you and me doesn’t keep the weight on him. Go figure.

We also got to meet a friend of Bob who “camps” with him, Cynthia. Her smile was just as big as Bob’s and she helped me pull back into traffic at the red light. I never asked her to and as I pulled away, I saw her picking up the garbage at their corner.

How many of us would do that?

I wish I had a home for Bob and Cynthia. I wish I had the means to provide work for them, maybe a garden to grow some of their own food. I wish more people cared about Bob. I wish more people would get out of their own little world and start asking ‘What about Bob? What about Cynthia? What do they need and how can I help?’ I bet you’ll find they aren’t that different from you and me, they have interesting stories to share and that getting to know them, maybe even helping them, will give you a joy that many people have never felt.

Playing Homestead

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I don’t watch much TV nowadays, but when I do, it’s usually reality shows like ‘Alaska, the Last Frontier’ and ‘Homestead Rescue’. I like to live vicariously through these people as they live off the land. I’m even a member of a small farm and homestead Facebook page. 99% of the information shared and questions asked are so beyond my scope of living, but I tell myself I better tuck away these little nuggets of information because one day that may be me….most definitely not, but if I ever found myself in that kind of life, I’m pretty sure I could do it. I could survive.

In the meantime however, I’m having fun pretending. I pretend I have a garden that supplies our family with all the vegetables and even some fruit that we need. In reality, I failed at growing sweet potatoes (which I didn’t realize until I spent 3 months watering what I thought was a mound brimming with the orange tubers) and after growing carrots for over 3 months, this is what I dug up for tonight’s dinner.28323B28-86BF-469C-8208-373178BCF533

They tasted bitter with a hint of mint. If I wasn’t having fun being a gardener failure (I’m blaming it all on our soil, which is all sand), I might just throw in the towel. Instead I’ll continue to water my second batch of growing carrots and mound of russet potatoes with the false expectation that we will end up with a bounty of both. Oh, I laugh just typing that.

Why do I forge on? One, because there’s the hope that I can amend the soil to the point where things will actually grow. Two, because my daughter’s gasp and “ooooohhh” as we dug up the carrots today were all the encouragement I needed. She was so excited to see what we had grown from seeds. She promptly ran inside to show her daddy. Meanwhile my son enjoyed feeding all the carrots that didn’t make it past an inch long (these greatly outnumbered the carrots we actually did save before tasting them) to to our chickens. The kids are learning the joy of digging in the dirt, getting their hands dirty (and their feet, knees, and faces), the accomplishment of growing something with their own 2 dirty hands and discovering God’s creation first hand.

Did I mention our garden has nice wooden frames and fence around it, all built with used lumbar and fencing and our own dirty hands?0DE38D5D-3A88-4D95-84D4-5EBD5804C220

It looks like a super nice garden (if only it were). We also have a rain barrel to take advantage of the free water that falls from the sky. If that isn’t self-sustainability at its finest, I don’t know what is.

Slightly more successful than our garden endeavor is our chicken situation. We bought 5 little chicks 4.5 months ago with the hopes they would all turn out to be girls and would eventually lay beautiful, brown eggs on at least a semi-regular schedule.20171007_122902

We have yet to get eggs (not old enough) so that aspect outcome remains to be determined. So far they are all girls, but I keep forgetting how old they’ll get before you’re really sure. I don’t see any rooster looking features or hear any cock-a-doodle-dooing thus far, but I’m hesitant to chalk this up to a success just yet. However, I can proudly say we have kept all 5 chickens alive and well for over 4 months! From 5 little fluff balls in a tub in our bathroom to pooping, clucking hens running around our backyard, we have managed to see them flourish in our care.12F53DFB-F605-460C-9F07-11BA72374F3C

This even includes nursing one back to perfect health after a hawk attack. Poor girl was carried a short distance in the talons of the predator bird, then, thankfully, dropped to what I was sure her death as I ran into our yard screaming at the hawk like a lunatic. I even kept a nasty opossum from getting into our chicken run one night with my hawk netting booby trap (the netting came into existence after the hawk attack). I won’t mention I had forgotten to lock the girls in their coop that night, which is what lured the opossum to our yard in the first place. 😬

The kids still call our feathered friends our baby chicks, as opposed to chickens. While they (the kids) love the idea of playing with the chickens, they scream when one even looks at them. Yet, the kids are there with me most mornings and evenings letting our flock out of and into their coop, “helping” feed and water them. They also find the chicken poop fascinating to look at and they of course step in it too, which is also fun to look at on their shoes (or bare feet….gross, did I just admit I’m that mom that lets their kids in with the chickens with bare feet?).

And that’s it. That’s the end of my homestead wanna be life. There are all the little projects that I suppose encompass the homesteading spirit, but that list would be way too long to add. This life may not be much like those on my favorite shows, but it’s our life and I love it.

Fallopian Free

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Years ago I remember the big fright was getting kidnapped and waking up without a kidney. The kidnappers had put you to sleep and taken your organ to sell on the black market. Thankfully, I am here to tell you this never happened to me.

What did happen to me is someone took my fallopian tubes. Both of them. This means I can no longer get pregnant. Allow me to do a happy dance.

Okay, I’m done. And I probably shouldn’t dance because weird things happen and you never know, 10 years from now I could be writing a blog about how I have a 14 and 12 year old, no fallopian tubes, and yet I’m pregnant with my third child. Everyone would rave about how it’s a medical miracle. Except I wouldn’t. Why? Because I don’t want to be pregnant ever, ever again. Which is why I willingly let someone take my fallopian tubes.

I often see blogs and articles and hear comments about how we need to be careful of what we say regarding pregnancies and motherhood and babies because there are lots of women out there who would give their left arm to have a baby. I hurt for them. I can not imagine wanting a little human being so bad and being willing to do anything to have one and yet not being able to conceive, or losing the baby before birth.

But I want to bring light to another subject-those of us who so desperately desire to never have another baby again. Just about every time I told someone why I was going to have my tubes “tied” (or removed in my case), I got a funny look. It wasn’t because I didn’t want more kids. It wasn’t because feeling sick 24/7 sucks or that the actual pain of child birth was too great to bear. It wasn’t because another child would bring financial strain.

It’s because I lived in a black fog during my pregnancy. Depression descended on me during my first trimester and weighed me down like a 500 pound curtain every second of every day for 18 weeks. Thankfully it lasted only my first trimester, but it was bad enough that I never want to go through it again. Considering that I went through it for both of my pregnancies, I think it’s safe to say that it would happen again with another pregnancy. As much as I love my kids and I’m sure I’d love any more that I had, I have no desire to go through that depression again for another child.

And that brings me to my second reason for doing a happy dance over my fallopian tube removal-I have no desire to raise another baby. This gets really funny looks from other people. Apparently I don’t fit the mold when it comes to women and babies. I would rather adopt 3 more toddlers than care for and nurture another infant. Not my cup of tea, which is apparently weird in the world of females. But alas, that is me. I will gladly hold and coo at your infant because 1) I know how much you, as the mom of a baby, want a break and 2) I get to give your baby back.

I don’t write all this to make light of those women who are not able to have a baby. I don’t write this because I don’t love my kids with so much of my heart that it sometimes hurts.  I write this because every since my second child was born over 2 years ago, I have freaked out every month, scared to death that I’m pregnant, and then I get that sign that I’m not, but a few days later it starts all over again. I know I’m not the only woman who has ever felt this desperate to NEVER have another baby, thanks to a couple of other blogs I’ve read out there. Perhaps my words will help validate the same feelings some other woman is having but is too embarrassed or even ashamed to voice because she’s a woman, she’s supposed to love babies, right? Her uterus is supposed to leap when she hears a baby cry, right? After all, it’s God’s design, right?

I’ve had my babies. I’ve put in my time and I’m done. I am fallopian free and loving it (actually I’m still healing from my incisions so am supposed to be taking it easy, but I’m saving up my energy for a nice, long happy dance)!

 

Four score and…four years ago

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Four. Years. Old. How and when did I become the mother of a four year old? I feel old, especially when I calculate that when my mom was my age, she was well past the four year old stage. She had a 12 and 14 year old. I didn’t even start having kids until the age that my mom had a middle schooler and high schooler. Four year olds wear you out. I run around the backyard for about .3 yards and I’m out of breath (okay not really, I did just run a 5k after all). Still, we were not meant to be having and raising babies in our 30’s and 40’s. I’d like to see pictures of those celebrities who have had miracle babies when in their 40’s or even 50’s. I bet even botox and a face lift can’t keep away the 3am screaming session (by the baby, not mom or dad) stress and exhaustion.

But I digress. Regardless of my age, my oldest is four years old. I am blessed beyond measure to be the mom of this particular four year old and I knew it at 6 weeks of age (her age, not mine, and yes, it took me about 6 weeks to feel attached to her….but I haven’t let go since then). By 6 weeks old she was waking up only once a night. Oh, the joy I found in getting the sleep I needed while my baby was so young. On a side note, my second child made up for all the sleep I got with my first. I was a zombie for a good year and a half with him. I love my sleep. I’ve always been a good sleeper. And behold! Like mother, like daughter. Thank you Jesus.

For both pregnancies, I lived in a black fog during the first trimesters. Everyone talks to you about post partum depression, yet it turns out many women experience depression during pregnancy. I was one of those women. I’m not talking about “oh, I feel sick, I’m going to throw up…bleeeehhh. Oh, I feel sick again, give me saltines.” No, I’m talking about a blackness hanging over my mind from the second I woke up to the second I feel asleep and all the times I couldn’t sleep during the night. I found zero joy in life, including when my four year old was just over one year old during my second pregnancy. I remember laying on the couch, watching her happily play, and wanting her to not be there. Awful, huh?

You know how that girl reacted to my depression? It was at that point she started giving me kisses. Randomly. She came up to me one time as I lay limply on the couch and she stretched her face to mine, her lips to my lips. Five minutes later she did it again. And again, and again. My sweet, sweet girl knew how to touch my heart even if I just wanted to be left alone. Fast forward to year number four and now she asks to sit and cuddle with me, makes sure I give her a kiss before I leave, even if I’m just taking the dog for a bike ride, and loves to pretend play that she’s the mom leaving me as she comes to kiss me good bye. Yes, I am blessed to have this four year old.

A few months leading up to her fourth birthday, she added a whole new dimension to her personality. We had talked about being a big girl before, but as the number four birthday approached, I saw and heard a huge difference in her actions and speech (she also had the lack of sleep that often comes with growth changes-physical or mental, which didn’t do anything good for her behavior, but I won’t talk about those fun times). She officially became a big girl. She went from older toddler to older preschool in a matter of a month.

Yes, I am blessed to have a four year old. This four year old. She is forever my daughter, wild, curly hair and all.

 

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