An Overwhelming Christmas

It was 5:30 AM on a Friday in late November. Ethan had already been up for two hours. I was exhausted. He was screaming in the crib, and Daddy tried to takeover and hold him for a bit.

All I wanted to do was sleep but I couldn’t. I decided to use that time to go on my phone to buy the main Christmas gift for the boys: tickets to a Christmas train.

I had it all planned out — we were going to take a mini-getaway a couple of hours from home, and go on this train that was the perfect blend of coziness, affordability, magic, location, and fun. The hotel was already booked, and I had meant to buy the tickets, but when I checked a few days before, I didn’t have my credit card with me, so I could not reserve the train tickets.

So, when I was met by the giant seven letters of heartbreak, SOLD OUT, I immediately started sobbing wailing. So now, my husband had two crying babies he had to try to console.

My reaction may seem a little extreme (it’s laughable now), but I was overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated as it was, and probably PMSing. But the thing that got me is that it felt like I was the biggest failure as a mom at that point. I had planned the most perfect gift for my boys and due to my failure to act, I could not give them a part of me.

Side note: Roland was a gem through all of this. So kudos to him. 😉

Fast forward to today, almost a week after our mini-getaway, I can tell you that the train ride would have been awesome but we had a great time as it was. (Because I know you’re curious, we went to a car/train museum and then to a nice hotel with a great indoor pool for kids. Joshua had the time of his life, and Ethan was perfectly behaved.)


Then today, as I was reading the story of Christmas to Joshua, I wondered how Mary felt. Each day, we focus on different portions of the story because Joshua is 3 and we have attention span issues with longer stories and I feel like there are so many important details to focus on. Today, I thought of Mary placing her newborn baby in a feeding box for animals because she had no other option.

Did she feel like a failure?

Did she, the woman who was hand-picked to carry our Savior, feel like she wasn’t cut out for the job?

Was she overwhelmed that at such an inconvenient time and place, her body was going into labor?

Did she question how she was going to raise this child when she realized that he would be born in a stable that night?

Did she wonder if she should have had a plan? Shouldn’t she have known that the census would be around this time? Wasn’t there someone Joseph knew who they could stay with? Did any of these questions go through her mind?

As a mom, it’s so easy to feel like a failure. Especially around the holidays, when we try so hard to make everything special for our kids but realize by December 15 that it’s more stressful than not and then wonder if it’s best to not soak up in the holiday magic or push through it anyway, and what about the Christmas gifts?

But Mary… she was a young girl who had one of the most important jobs this world has ever known. She was the vessel that God used to bring Jesus Christ into the world. And even she did not have all the answers. Heck, she even forgot her kid and did not notice until the next day.

So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect moms? Why did I sob over one mom fail when my kids were perfectly happy, despite my one mistake (which was so relatively minor in the grand scheme of things). Why do we especially strive to make things so overwhelmingly magical during this season? (Emphasis on overwhelming.) Don’t you think our kids would be equally happy with a little bit less stuff, planned events, and stress?

When Mary looked at her perfect baby lying in the manger, I don’t think she was thinking about the fancy bassinet that she did not have. When she saw the shepherds coming and bowing down before him, I don’t think she thought twice about the kind of mother she would be.

I think she was perfectly content, knowing that her baby boy was in her arms, that her Savior was in the world. I think the more she just sat and stared at his tiny face and took it all in, the more overwhelmed with peace and joy she became.

I want to do that. I want to focus on the fact that Christ came down to this earth for the every wounded heart, every broken soul, every crushed spirit, every afflicted body,  and even every financial problem.

I want to be overwhelmed by his goodness this Christmas.

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I Am Woman.

I’m not sure how to start this. How do you address a month+ gap in writing? Maybe we can just not address it and sweep it under the rug? Heh

Well, part most of my absence can be explained by my starting work in the past month and a half. My husband and I had been talking about it for a couple of months or so before I started and I have to tell you, I was so nervous to start. I didn’t want to have to work and I was sad for the times that I wouldn’t be able to see my beautiful family.

I ended up getting a part-time afternoon/evening job at a company that I had worked at previously and that was happy to have me back. The thought of giving up family dinners a couple of times a week broke my heart. The thought of not seeing my husband when he got home from work on those nights made me sad. I wept when he, in a proud and encouraging way, called me an “official working mom” the night before I started.

Fast forward to now, and I love my job. We have a new normal in our routine and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on as much family time as I feared. In fact, I feel more purposeful with my time now that I am gone several hours a week. I knew when I had started work that being a stay-at-home-mom was draining on me most days, and though that is still my title for half the week, it feels like it doesn’t take as much of a toll on me. It feels like I have found a nice balance in my life with this new job.

Since I start working (even as little as I do), I feel more confident, have more boldness, feel like a better mom, am a better worker, and feel slightly more satisfied with myself. I feel empowered.

But here’s the thing. I don’t need to be a working mom to feel empowered. I don’t need to work outside the house to feel like I have a purpose. I don’t need to contribute financially to the house to feel like I’m doing something.

My body has the power to grow life and then sustain it. Shouldn’t that be enough to make me feel empowered?

I love being a mom to my boys. God has blessed me with the most amazing ones and I can’t believe I get to kiss those faces every day! But occasionally, in the midst of all the exhaustion and chaotic monotony, I would feel like what I was doing at home with the boys simply wasn’t enough.

Where did that lie come from?

It’s election day and I can’t help but think that tomorrow I may wake up to news that we will be getting our first woman president. Yet, I wonder why one woman is being praised for running for office simply because she is a woman, when eight years ago there was another woman running for a position almost as prominent and she was ridiculed because she her accent made her seem less educated. (This is not a political statement, just a view on how we, as women, view women.)

Since I had my boys, I have been asked by many well-meaning women if I work. Most of the times, it’s an innocent question just to make small talk, but sometimes it felt like I had to justify myself when saying that I’m staying at home with my boys.

I have never had a man tell me that I wasn’t good enough at something (or if one has, I gave him a look and moved on, forgetting all about it). A man cannot know what a woman is. Yet, over my lifetime, girls and women have done things and said things that stick with me and make me wonder about myself.No rejection stings more than from someone of my own gender.

And why?

There is no rule for what a woman should be, do, or how she should dress or act in her life. (I believe in modesty and acting in certain ways, but that’s not what I’m referring to.) 

I’m talking about the times I was teased in 4th grade for how I wore my hair.

I’m talking about the cheerleaders in middle school who were snubbed by other girls who insisted that cheerleading was not as a sport and soccer was a way better option.

I’m talking about the virgin in high school that other girls made fun of, unaware that it was her choice to remain that way.

I’m talking about the pregnant teen who other girls labeled irresponsible and shamed her for the life she has inside of her.

I’m talking about the women in college who wanted to major in chemical engineering and were told it was too hard by other women.

I’m talking about the woman who didn’t go to college because she chose to get married young and be a housewife.

I’m talking about the woman who is still single because she has no interest in committing at this time in her life.

I’m talking about the woman who wants so badly to have a life companion and is told by women that she is not independent enough.

I’m talking about the mom who formula feeds for no reason other than she doesn’t want to breastfeed and is judged for her decision, despite her healthy kids.

I’m talking about the mom who breastfeeds, baby wears, and uses cloth diapers who is viewed as over-the-top.

I’m talking about the single mom who other moms feel like she just isn’t good enough.

I’m talking about the CEO of a start-up who hears whispers of women saying she works too much and is not a good enough mom.

I’m talking about the vice presidential candidate who was mocked because other women thought she was weird.

I’m talking about the middle-aged woman who is still a stay-at-home-mom even though her youngest is in high school.

Why do we, as women, feel the need to berate or belittle other women because of their life choices? Why do we question their success and their methods? Why do we find fault in what they do? Why do we feel the need to dwell on their mistakes or faults?

I am strong, emotional, a self-doubter learning to be confident, empathetic, nurturing, a good listener, a tad insecure, and smart. I do not need to be extremely successful in my career to feel like I made a difference. I do not need to play with my kids every second of every day to feel like I’m a good enough mom. I do not need a woman as president to tell my future daughter that she can be anything she wants to be.

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a worker, a child of God.

I am woman.

 

 

The Day I Didn’t Hold My Son

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. 

Sometimes I feel like that saying rings true even with my own kids.

I love my boys more than I could ever express, but sometimes I just see hear a little bit too much of them. I need time alone to recharge, and sometimes it feels like that time should last a week.

My husband and I have been toying with the idea of me returning to work part time. While figuring out hours and making sure my boys are well cared for are my main hindrances, I think about all the positives that come along with me leaving the house for a few hours a week. Aside from the small amount of extra income, I think about the time that I would be away from my family. A small part of me grows sad thinking about it, because I’m so used to being with them day in and day out. Yet, I imagine that the distance apart would make the times together that much more special.

Almost anyone who is a stay at home parent, especially to more than one kid, knows that breaks are few and far between. When I had just Joshua, his naps were moments of freedoms for me, time to regain sanity and accomplish some chores, do some schoolwork or just have a cup of coffee in peace. With two, nap times are rarely at the same time (if Joshua takes a nap at all), no matter how much I plan out the day.

This moment was so rare that I had to take a picture of it.

It isn’t uncommon for me it have to fold laundry without one of the boys “helping” or make dinner while begging Joshua to get out of our teeny kitchen.

What was once a mindless chore for me to enjoy (yes, enjoy) in peace and quiet, often turns into a battle where I feel like I’m losing my mind if I don’t remember to practice patience.

Today was one of those days. I put the boys down for a nap at the same time. We had spent some time in the heat outside, jumped and danced around with Joshua, and counting how many hours they had been awake, I was sure they would both sleep indefinitely.

Joshua never slept. Ethan took a nap that was half as long as normal.

I was tired as it was from cleaning different parts of the house all day and even more frustrated by this lack of quiet time. I brought the boys downstairs while I finished folding laundry. Ethan has this thing where he doesn’t cry, he screams. And it’s the perfect pitch to shatter my ear drum. So I listened to that while I tried to finish my chores.

Eventually, we got to a peaceful enough point when dinner was almost finished where I made an alphabet tracer for Joshua with a $3 chalkboard from Target and chalk paint.

He’s writing in his own H. I think it’s his favorite letter. 

Wouldn’t it be great if every moment was like that? Would I value more time with them like that if I was away from them more?

The truth is, it’s easy to get annoyed when I’m trying to finish up dishes and Ethan is screaming bloody murder from the high chair, begging to be held. It’s almost easy to stay annoyed for the rest of the day at my tired baby, because I know that if he would have had a normal nap, he wouldn’t have been tired at this time.

But at the end of the day, I look back and wonder if I should have held him more, regardless of how I felt or what needed to be done.

See, back when he was in the hospital in January, during his first day in the PICU, I wasn’t able to hold him. I had asked the nurses, but from what I understood, they didn’t want compromise with all the wires and machines that they had hooked him up to. I felt so helpless, watching my sleeping, helpless, frail baby fight for his life. As his mother, my innate job was to give him life and I could not do a single thing about his condition at that time.

It sucked.

The next day, the nurse on shift encouraged me to hold my baby boy. I was as giddy as a child on Christmas morning. It was the sweetest feeling in the world.

This was such a wonderful moment for me. I held him for what felt like forever.

So, on a day like today, when I imagine how good it would be to get out of the house, away from my screaming boys, I find it important to remember that there was a day when I couldn’t hold my baby. I hold on to Ethan extra long at night, after he’s fallen asleep, and stroke his sweet face and hold to his little hand. I want to savor every part of him, in the moments when I can. Whether I’m at home all day or work full time outside of the house, I want to take advantage of the time I have with my boys because I do not want to imagine another day where I long to hold my baby but cannot.

Nothing to Fear, Nothing to Overcome

Worry. 

It’s something every mother, at any stage, is familiar with in some way. It’s a type of worry that is so incessant that only grows with your children. 

When you first see the positive pregnancy test, it’s what you feel when you wonder if you’ll be a good enough mom. 

For some, it’s what you feel when you wonder how you can possibly raise and provide for an unplanned child. 

It’s the feeling you get when you wonder if this one will stick. 

It goes away temporarily, at the first sound of a heartbeat. 

But it comes back when you suddenly feel a different kind of pain. 

It happens when you realize that you haven’t felt a kick in only God knows how long. 

It happens when you wonder if your baby will be born with something that isn’t considered to be perfect. 

It’s what you feel when you realize how close your due date is approaching and you wonder if you’re ready. 

It’s the feeling you get when you go into labor — far too early or even past your due date. 

Some moms don’t feel this at all, but they feel it when they wonder if the adoption process will go through, if the child who did not grow inside her will love her and if she could love this child with all of her being. 

But worry doesn’t stop at birth or when the adoption process is completed. There suddenly becomes so much more to worry about. 

It’s suddenly what you feel when you wonder if you’re feeding baby the right thing. 

When you wonder if you’re putting him to sleep the right way. 

When you don’t know if you should let her cry it out or rock her until she’s asleep, yet again. 

When you see the news and there’s another shooting, another kidnapping, another lost wandering child, another incident where a toddler is harmed in any way. 

It’s the thing that keeps you up at night wondering how you can protect your child from this world. 

It’s the feeling you get when you let your child ride the bus for the first time or walk home with a friend. 

It’s there when you turn around in the grocery store and don’t see your child right there. 

It’s what you feel when your teenager is not answering the phone that you have him in case of emergencies. 

It’s the feeling you get when your child drives alone for the first time.

It happens when you wake up in the middle of the night and your child isn’t home or when you are suddenly woken up by your child calling you.

It’s what you feel when you watch the news about another college rape and wonder how your daughter is doing so far from home. 

It happens when you wonder if your son is making the right choice about his career choice. 

It’s there when you wonder if your child is really happy in the relationship she’s in.

It’s when you hear that your about to become a grandmother and the cycle starts all over again. 

As a mother, there are so many opportunities for worry. So many things have paralyzed me in fear, especially when you hear about unjust shootings. I don’t feel safe almost anywhere these days, but moreover, I don’t know how to kee my kids safe. 

I could choose to keep worrying. I could choose to lose sleep over all of this. But Jesus said something that has stayed in my head for so long:

“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I realize that I, as a mother to the children that God has entrusted to me, have so much to worry about. I don’t want anything but the best for the babies who grew inside me, and it kills me that I cannot ensure that to them. I hate that there is so much evil in the world that I cannot protect them from. It pains me to know that my children will have to live through their own pains one day. 

But what will worrying do for me? What will worrying do for them?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.com/111/php.4.6-7.niv

Guys, I’ve felt that peace, the one that transcends ALL understanding. It’s the most unexplainable, amazing feeling I’ve ever had. Worrying, on the other hand, kind of makes me feel like garbage. 

I’m not promised that everything in life will turn out the way that I want it to or that I and my loved ones will remain safe from all harm. But I am promised that wonderful peace if I surrender my worries at the Cross. It’s an amazing trade off. 

“The truth is we have nothing to fear and nothing to overcome because He is all in all and we are more then conquerors through Him.” (Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God, 4 R.)

You Know It’s a Good Day When…

(Because we can all use some positivity in our lives…)

Good days have a lot to do with our mindset, which often stem from our choices about how to view things. While any day, no matter the circumstances, has the possibility (though sometimes very small) to end up a good day, here are some things that, as a SAHM, make for an especially good day:

  • You wake up and have time to get dressed before the baby wakes up.
  • Everyone has clean clothes to wear, regardless of whether they’re all put away or not.
  • Your home all day, but your toddler is content playing with his toys, with or without you.
  • You can manage to get out of the house with no major meltdowns or tantrums (even if you’re ten minutes late).
  • You somehow manage to avert all potential meltdowns while out of the house.
  • All the kids take a nap – bonus if it’s simultaneously.
  • You have time to do something you love without someone crying for you or tugging on one of your limbs, even if it’s just twenty minutes.
  • Dishes are washed before the dinner shift.
  • You remembered to defrost the chicken the night before.
  • Dinner’s ready by the time your husband gets home from work, and there’s at least one vegetable and one source of protein (sometimes, French fries count as vegetables).
  • You get to spend some quality time with each child.
  • The kids go to bed early, and you have enough energy for conversation and Tazo Refresh tea with your husband.

On days like today, I don’t seem to mind the mess of crayons on the dining room table or that my toddler left out his trains all over the living room. He is happy and healthy and, hallelujah, the baby took a 2 hour nap, so I’m going to call it a good day (even if I do have spit up all over me).

Ramblings of a Tired Mom

I am a stay at home mother of two. Joshua is 2 1/2 and is the sweetest, most loving and hilarious boy I know, and Ethan is my handsome, smiley 3 month old.

I adore my boys. I thank God for these wonderful treasures. But, we’re all human in this house, so our days, even the really good ones, are never perfect.

None of this makes me special or even gives me a reason to blog (does the world really need another mommy blog?), but my thoughts over this past week were enough reason to get this all out in writing.

Let me start with this: I am tired. Over the weekend, I suddenly got mastitis, and while I’m on antibiotics for it, I couldn’t quite get all of the prescribed rest I needed. While Ethan is an overall happy baby, he isn’t the easiest to put to sleep, and his waking schedule overnight is off the wall. A few weeks ago, he was getting into 6-7 hour stretches, and I sang my praises to the Lord. And then, without any notice, he went back to waking every 3 hours (though the other night, when I was the most exhausted, he chose to wake up every 2 hours, like clockwork). Maybe this is normal, I don’t know. To be honest, these things didn’t affect me so much when Joshua was a baby. It was just me and him all day, and if the dishes or laundry didn’t get done one day, it didn’t really matter. But now, I have a toddler whose life also depends on me and my doing things around the house. While he is very good and usually independent, it’s exhausting to have to keep up with him and a demanding baby who doesn’t have the whole “sleep” thing nailed down yet.

Everything became too much for me to handle the other day and I lost it. It was so bad that I, someone who finds it extremely difficult to ask for help, asked my mom to come from work. I left Joshua playing by himself and Ethan crying screaming on my bed while I sat in the hallway and wept. I had a dozen things that had to get done and he had not taken one decent nap all day. I knew he was well fed and clean and plain tired, and I would rock him to sleep, but every time I would put him down, he’d wake up crying and unable to be soothed. I felt like a horrible mother for not being tender and loving to my precious boy and holding him for as long as he needed and instead simply listened to his screams from the next room.

All the articles on Pinterest that I’ve ever read while nursing him flooded back to me – the ones about why you shouldn’t let a baby cry it out, about how to get your 6 week old to sleep through the night, and other ones like it. While he eventually fell asleep for a couple of hours, I couldn’t shake the guilt. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that it hit me that I’m sure that my mom didn’t pick me up with my first whimper and wasn’t holding me all the time, considering she had a toddler and pre-schooler to tend to. I might be biased, but I think I turned out OK. I’ve always felt secure next to my mom, don’t think I suffered any brain damage from crying as an infant, and have no recollection on if she left me in the crib alone for twenty minutes because my brothers needed some lunch.

It was in that moment that I realized that it’s OK to not always be holding my baby (and my back knows it!) or to leave him crying in a safe place for a bit if I cannot tend to him in the moment, whether emotionally or physically. He’s going to be OK. And in a little while, I’ll be OK too.

This is why I write. For that mom who maybe needs to know that another mom has been there. To be raw and honest in a world where it’s so easy to put on a mask of perfection. To show that it is OK to not always have it all together.