Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Only Sunshine

My day with Reese always ends with bedtime snuggles. I crawl into her big girl bed and lie beside her, rubbing her back and running my fingers through her hair. We read a book or two and she says her prayers and then I lay my head down on her pillow. She turns her face toward mine and we sing, our voices barely above a whisper:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. 
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, Dear, how much I love you.
Please don't take my sunshine away."

I usually leave with a smile. 

She is my only sunshine…

But lately I leave with a tear.

…for just eight more weeks.

Sometimes the tears come before I even to the last line.

Please don't take my sunshine away.

People often ask me how I think Reese will adjust to the baby - if she will struggle or get jealous. No one has ever asked about my adjustment, my struggle, my... jealousy? Is that what this is?

These are thoughts I haven’t voiced, emotions I haven’t shared.

Because I wonder, Am I crazy? Is this normal?

But the truth? The truth is a part of me is already mourning the impending loss of my only sunshine. For two years she has consumed my days, my life, my heart. I don’t want to divide my attention, split my focus, share my time. Our precious little moments suddenly seem so limited. I keep thinking about how much I’m going to miss her. It’s as if I forget that she isn’t going anywhere.

Still, I can’t help wondering how our relationship will change. Will we ever be the same again? Will we still have those just-you-and-me moments that I enjoy so much? Will I be able to divide my affection, time, and attention equally? Is there even room in my heart for another love like this? Can I possibly have two sunshines?

Then I look at my husband – my original sunshine. I remember how I experienced these same emotions about him before Reese was born. With just a few weeks to go, I cried on his shoulder as I thought about how much I would miss the alone time we had so recently learned to cherish. I couldn’t help wondering how our relationship would change. Would we ever be the same again?

The minute she was born I knew the answer. No, we would never be the same again, but we would never wish to be the same. Filling a void in our hearts we didn’t know we had, she made our family more complete and deepened our love on every level.

 When I lie next to Reese at night and the sadness starts to take hold, I have to remind myself that I won’t ever have to make room for another sunshine. I will always have just one. My family is my sunshine, my only sunshine. And rather than taking my sunshine away, each new addition will brighten its rays, further completing the circle of my life, and I will never wish to be the same again.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment. Join us today at Melissa's place.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Fail at Potty Training

I’ve tried everything – timers, ice cream, stickers, underpants, no pants, begging, pleading, bribing. I’ve given demonstrations and explanations and reasoned from as many possible angles as a two-year-old might grasp. Big girl. Big sister. All your friends are doing it. (Yeah, I’m sure I’ll regret that one in 10 years). We’ve shopped together for Minnie Mouse underwear and called grandparents to share the excitement of small successes.

She’s ready. I know she’s ready. I can tell by the way she talks that her mind understands. I can tell by the way she closes herself in the pantry to poop that her body understands. Yet, she refuses to surrender to the potty. She turns down my bribes and reacts to my enthusiasm with a blank stare. She holds her pee for hours waiting for my next distracted moment so she can sneak behind the recliner or under the kitchen table.

Potty days are some of my worst days. The excitement of the morning (Today is the day!) quickly fades away as the frustration builds and turns into tears. Sometimes they are hers. More often, they are mine. And when I find myself ducking in the other room to take a deep breath and cry, I don’t know what else to do but give up and give in and reach for the diapers. I’ve lost another battle and I criticize myself as I rinse her clothes and disinfect the floor and think about all the other kids who are already trained. What am I doing wrong?

With today’s disastrous attempt still weighing on my mind and ruining my day, I can’t help wondering why I put myself through this. Because I don’t want to have two kids in diapers for a few months? Because the cost of diapers is really that unbearable? Because I feel some invisible self-created social pressure to make sure she isn’t “behind” the other kids? I’m still searching for a reason that justifies this much aggravation.

If she got as upset as I do, I would never force her through this process. I would recognize that she’s not ready and wait for another sign that the time is right. Shouldn’t I grant myself that same leeway? I’ve followed all the signs that point to her readiness, but I’ve ignored the ones pointing away from mine. Maybe that’s what I’m doing wrong. I’ve been waiting for her to surrender instead of surrendering myself.

So this is it. I’m not just waiting a week or two like I have every other time. No more denying that I will have two kids in diapers for a while. No more hoping that each box I buy will be the last. No more forcing. No more crying. No more potty. For at least four months.

It’s all going to be ok. We’ll get there. Someday. Until then, I can focus on enjoying the last two months of my pregnancy and the precious remaining days of one-on-one time with Reese. I won't have to worry about running her to the bathroom while nursing a newborn. And finally, she and I can both be at peace when she goes in the pantry and closes the door.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Just Nine More Weeks...

My weekly pregnancy countdown has finally hit single digits and with my third trimester now in full swing, I have decided that I am definitely more uncomfortable this time around: round-the-clock trips to the bathroom; waddling like a penguin; trouble sleeping; roundhouse kicks to my rib cage; karate chops to my bladder; restless leg syndrome (which I assure you is a real thing); acid reflux; exhaustion; constant hunger; shortness of breath; the summer heat (which I narrowly escaped last time with a September to May pregnancy) turned out to be every bit as brutal as I've heard; and here's the latest one...

Sneeze. Squirt.

What was that?! Yikes! Am I leaking fluid?

I ran to the bathroom. False alarm. It's definitely not fluid. It's pee. Wonderful. I'm peeing my pants now too. Add it to the list. Surely, my first pregnancy was not like this.

Just nine more weeks, I reminded myself as I headed to the bedroom to change my pants.

On my way out, I stopped to make the bed. I moved Shamu out of the way (Shamu is Matt's name for my body pillow) and brushed a few stray granola bar crumbs into my hand. So much for my "ok, maybe I do crinkle my wrappers, but I don't leave crumbs" argument. I suppose Matt's request that I eat my midnight snacks in the kitchen is valid.

Just nine more weeks.

I returned to the kitchen where I struggled to empty the bottom rack of the dishwasher and couldn't reach the back of our lower cabinets.

Just nine more weeks.

The baby stirred inside me, probably trying to tell me to stop all the bending and reaching. With one hand on my belly, I stood completely still. Another kick. Then another. There is a person growing inside me.

Maybe that's why I don't remember being this uncomfortable last time. I never got far enough past the awe of the miracle taking place inside my body to notice anything negative. The kicks weren't annoying. They were amazing. The discomfort didn't seem terrible because I welcomed it as a part of this magical process.

Somewhere during the last few weeks, the tone of my countdown changed. I stopped counting the way I did toward my wedding day and started counting like I was heading for my last day at an awful job. I got so caught up in the discomfort and inconvenience that my focus shifted away from the bigger picture of this process and its end result.

There is a person growing inside me. A real, live person with his or her own unique features, personality traits, and gifts for the world. A person I will get to hold in my arms and call my son or daughter. A person who will pry open another hidden chamber of my heart and remind me that love at first sight is absolutely real...

... in just nine more weeks. 

This is a bigger picture moment.

Join us today at Jade's place.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Simple Ways to Stay Connected

This week, I'm joining the Hearts at Home blog hop again. On the third Thursday of every month, all of the Hearts bloggers share their thoughts on the same topic. With the start of the new school year upon us, the topic this month is: staying connected during the busy seasons of life.

I may not have kids in school yet, but as the wife of a high school administrator I am all too familiar with the back-to-school routine - shopping for new clothes, stocking up on lunch snacks, filling the calendar with the dates of every football game, tailgate, and parent-teacher night. After enjoying two amazing months of freedom, Matt is back at work and our quality time together has already taken a nose dive.

In this phase of our lives, finding time to connect with our toddler doesn't seem to be a problem. She is pretty good at making herself seen and heard. We spend our evenings sorting plastic shapes, playing with Little People animals, and reading about hungry caterpillars. Add in my daily routine of household chores and Matt's full workday, and we are both zapped of patience and energy by bedtime (hers, not ours). At my house, the back-to-school challenge isn't as much about nurturing our family bonds as much as it is about nurturing our marital ones. These are just a few of the practices we've adopted to help us stay connected through the busy times...

1. Take technology breaks. Now that we both have smart phones, I'm amazed at how easy it is to ignore each other when we're both checking sports stats and reading blog updates (guess who does which). We keep our attention on each other by turning the TV off and leaving phones out of reach during certain activities - eating our meals, drinking our morning coffee, and playing with Reese.

2. Go to bed together. We almost always go to bed at the same time. When one of us is ready for bed, the other follows suit. And if the other person isn't quite tired yet, well, let's just say this tip is also on my list for finding time for intimacy.

3. Share about your day. Every day when Matt gets home, I stop what I'm doing and we grab some cold drinks and sit on the patio or in the living room and share the details of our separate days. It makes us feel like we're still together even when we're apart.

4. Notice Mini-moments. Our quality time doesn't just come in the form of an occasional kidless date night or after bedtime hours. It comes instead in simple subtle moments - stopping everything to dance when our wedding song comes on the radio, stealing kisses while we take turns pushing Reese in her swing, holding hands in the car.

5. Take Sunday back. We rarely do anything on Sunday that isn't fun or relaxing. Weeds don't get pulled. Yards don't get mowed. Blogs don't get written. We also don't talk about issues that can wait until Monday. For one day every week, we are reunited with the blissful quiet of summer and the peace of a restful day.

Read more tips for staying connected by the other Hearts bloggers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It's Different When It's Your Kid

After lunch I rinsed and stacked dishes while Reese finished eating her sandwich. Behind me I could hear her start to gag so I walked over and put my hand under her chin - she knows the drill. Suddenly, a slimy half-chewed wad of bread fell into my open palm. If any other person on the planet did that to me, I would vomit on the spot. Instead, I walked it to the garbage can with a smile thinking that it’s absolutely true what they say… it’s just different when it’s your kid. 

I’m sure we all remember hearing that phrase before we had children. Whenever I made comments about a public tantrum, a stinky diaper, or a messy chocolate face, there would always be a parent nearby to say, “Yeah, but it’s different when it’s your kid.” Since everyone says it, I always assumed it was true. But I had no idea just how true it was until the first time she spit up down the front of my shirt and disgust registered far below amusement on the list of immediate responses. After more than two years of hardly noticing the bouts of public crying, barely smelling the countless stinky diapers, and smiling at her chewed up bread wad, I know I've developed the mysterious immunity that all moms have toward the seemingly unpleasant parts of our jobs.

I used to wonder how there were moms out there with the strength and patience for twins, behavioral struggles, special needs, or medical issues. I would think, “God help me if I’m ever in any of those situations.” But I’ve learned that the request for help isn’t really necessary because God’s gifts are automatic. Just as He grants the blessing of a beautifully unique child, He also provides the strength necessary to handle the unique needs of that child and the maternal love that carries us through exhaustion and aggravation with patience and grace. There’s no need to look at anyone else’s situation and wonder how she does it, and there’s no reason to fear that if you were in that situation you couldn’t handle it. Just remember that no matter the situation, it's always different when it’s your kid.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Dinner Can Wait

I dumped the box of Play Doh onto the table, my saving grace on napless days. This will buy me some time, I thought foolishly as she snapped the lid off the first container. 

I took one step toward the kitchen. Not so fast. 

"Mommy will play with me?" 

I sank into the chair next to her, disappointed that my escape plan failed. I rolled the dough between my palms and pressed the ball into the plastic tube. She pulled the lever and brown "ice cream" swirled into the plastic cone. She was amazed. I was bored.  

"Look, Mommy! An ice cream cone!"

"I see," I responded, feigning equal fascination.

I was looking, but I didn't really see. All I could see was the dust on the window sill; crumbs on the floor; dishes on the counter. Behind me, the oven timer counted down. Five minutes and eleven seconds. Ten. Nine. 

My mind tempted me with "shoulds." Grab a dust rag. Get the broom. Fill the dishwasher. Check the casserole. 

I backed my chair away from the table, preparing to make my exit. As I rose to my feet, a single leaf drifted toward the ground outside, dead from the consistent lack of it's greatest need. I looked into my daughter's face, and saw the desire in her eyes. The desire for my presence, full and undivided - her greatest need. Suddenly, the "shoulds" faded from my focus, the dishes vanished, the crumbs disappeared, the dust dissolved.

Ignoring the steady Beeeep Beeeep of the over timer, I returned to my seat and made another dough ball. She filled the tube. I turned the crank. Pink "sprinkles" rained on her little fingers. Her giggles filled the room. Her smile filled my heart.

"Look, Mommy! Splinkles!"

"I see," I responded again, this time with genuine fascination, and I realize that I'm no longer just looking. I really do see. 

This is a Bigger Picture Moment. Join us at Corinne's place today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Finding Your Inner Child

We unloaded the wooden rocking chair from my mom’s van - the chair she and my dad stained from naked wood before I was born; the chair that rocked newborn babies, entertained climbing toddlers, and smashed a few toes in its thirty years of service to our family. With my mom finally ready to part with it, I gave it a new home beside my bedroom window.

I ran my fingers over the nicks and dents from falling objects, flying toys, and rambunctious pets. I noticed places where the stain has been thinned by years of friction. Despite its scars, it remains mostly unchanged, a pillar of consistency through a life full of transformation. 

I sat in the very seat where my little toddler feet stood almost three decades ago and felt my earliest childhood memory begin to resurface. Facing backward toward the living room window with my little hands clasped around the dark wood, I would rock to the rhythm of the blinking light on the electrical tower in the distance, captivated by the red ball in the sky and completely convinced that my motion controlled its steady flash. 

That was before the reality of divorce, death, and taxes taught me that control is an illusion. That was before I became weighted with memories of the past and worries for the future. That was before I experienced emotions like grief and disappointment. That was before life disrupted the peaceful innocence of a toddler lost in a simple moment of joy. 

I have often longed for the return of that innocence and for years I wondered if the memory of it was the closest I would ever come to experiencing it again. Sitting in that chair, I felt the thirty year gap begin to close. I may have lost sight of that innocence, but the innocence itself was never really lost. I am still that toddler. Somewhere along the unstoppable river of time, that toddler is still rocking in that chair, still fascinated by the light in the distance, still peacefully lost in a simple moment of joy. 

I turned myself around in the seat and knelt on the faded wood. Facing backward toward the bedroom window, I held on to the back of the chair and rocked to the rhythm of the swaying trees.

This is a Bigger Picture Moment.
Join us today at Brook's place.