Settling In.

Ah, it feels like home. The Christmas tree was the first to go up, the beds are made and the fire has been roaring. Somehow, I’ve been able to keep the house mostly tidy, but I think I’m attributing that to the fact that we’ve spent less than half of our waking hours IN the house. I am so happy to be settling in to our farm house, and farm life, but let me suggest that moving the week before Christmas is not the best plan. In our case, it was mostly unavoidable. Lease terms and home rental legalities reigned in our decisions, but honestly?….

Sparing the rant, the past two weeks have been fueled by coffee and support from the incredible people in my life, including Sterling, my threenager. Yes, he has had his moments and napping has been sparse but I’m genuinely impressed with how well he has handled this extreme change in life style, and how much he is thriving! I shouldn’t be so surprised, but it’s been a joy watching him love this new season of life as much as I do.

We’ve overcome impressively low temperatures and serious snowfall on moving day, maintaining a 40 hour work/preschool week while adding in about half of our committed farm chores, last minute Christmas shopping and gift crafting, Staying up until all hours of the morning to finish the days’s “to-do” list, all while navigating life in a new town. It’s been awesome to see what I am capable of in an adaptive capacity, and has revealed strength in an area I should have been expecting to be challenged. I’ve learned a lot about myself, and its only been 12 days.

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Helping Ms. Beckie collect eggs

The end of December is a naturally reflective time of year. I do my best to live a thankful life and have found this wild, busy season to still be overwhelmed with things, moments, and people to be thankful for. In this moment I am incredibly thankful for learning to go to bed even if I haven’t put that rewarding check mark next to every task on my list for the day. Personal fact, I have a hard time going to sleep before tidying my room. Most nights, if I haven’t already, I’ll even make my bed before crawling in. I’m not so uptight about everything, but one of my quirks is obsessively tidying my room. I’ve even come to appreciate letting go of that.

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Peacocks on the roof.

In learning to stretch my adaptability, I’ve discovered a deeper thankfulness for the serenity prayer, and applying it a little more practically (as opposed to theoretically) to my life. Parenthood, and adulthood alike, demand people take more responsibility in life and I think I’ve been mistaking that as demand to be in control. I do not have control, nor do I need to take control of many aspects of life. I believe that to be a vital differentiation. Control puts the outcome of all things on your shoulders while responsibility only requires you to manage how you respond to the world and events around you. Many things are outside my control, but I can take responsibility for how I respond to those things and stop holding myself accountable to the things in which I have no sway anyway.

Danny Silk speaks about relationships in his teaching called Loving On Purpose and it struck me when he said, in regards to a parent responding harshly to a child’s poor choice,

” you say, “I do this because I love you” but that’s not true. You’re doing it because you want to control me.”

Two days later, I should have remembered this a little better, but thankfully I have someone I love to gently remind me.

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Perhaps his favorite, the baby chicks.

Sterling was eating cereal for a quick snack before a VERY late attempt at a nap. I was exhausted and wanted a nap myself. I sat on the couch while he finished up and as his hunger was quickly appeased he turned into his over-tired-silly-self. He started shoving his whole face into the bowl and looking up at Alex and I with the drippiest milk goatee and cheerio ‘stache I have EVER seen…. The grin on his face was adorable but my exhaustion lead me to tired-plea with him to stop goofing around, making a mess, and just eat. Without missing a beat Alex leans over and kindly reminds me to let him be 3.

I supposed in this situation I could have (and would have) tried to control Sterling, and hurry him off to a nap. I guarantee it would have led to a stressful fight toward the bed and absolutely no nap. Instead, we laughed at his silly personality, celebrated his goofiness and then he bounced off to a brief nap. I had no business controlling him, nor do I want to teach him that he should be controlled. I did take responsibility for how I responded, and turns out, we all had a better day for it. I wanted a peaceful surrounding, and went about it by trying to control my son, when instead I was much more successful by instead taking responsibility for my reaction, my inside world.

“If you put a pauper in a palace he will turn the palace into a prison. If you put a prince in into a prison he will turn the prison into a palace. That’s the story of Joseph. You always reproduce the environment around that you cultivate within you. ”
– Kris Vallotton

There is so much more to that quote, but for now, I’ll leave it at this.

Grown-up/Toddler Translations

Children are notorious for hearing things differently than we’ve actually said, and for perceiving reality as different than it is. Last week my three year old son came timidly out of the bedroom a mere fifteen minutes after I had finished singing him a lullaby, explaining that he had slept and was ready to play. We spent the next fifteen arguing about whether he had actually slept of not. “I know that you didn’t sleep, now it’s time to go take a nap!” I would repeat. It was important to me that he didn’t think he could get away with lying to me. Quite instantly, it hit my like a load of bricks as I slowed down to actually hear his plea. I heard him to understand, instead of listening just to respond. There was genuine belief in his words. His expression was desperate and I could see that he just wanted me to believe him. He truly believed he had slept, and our conversation (for him) was not about the nap, but was about hoping I would trust him. Now my insistence that I knew he was lying was teaching him that I don’t trust his word; that I think he’s a liar. Suddenly that afternoon nap was much less important than laying a foundation of trust in my relationship with him. Our conversation quickly changed, “are you sure you napped?” I asked through squinted eyes. His simple response was heavy with relief, “yes.”
“and you feel, rested and ready for this afternoons adventures?”
His response became slightly more energetic while I could see he was still leery of getting his hopes up, “yes!”
“Okay, then lets go turn off your sounds.”
Our tiny ritual which seals the deal of sleep time being over. Turning off the white noise machine.

In the past month we have moved, changed daycare/babysitter plans three times, lived temporarily at my moms house, and have otherwise been incredibly busy and detached. It’s been a rough transition for both of us, but of all things, valuing communication has eased the season more than I ever imagined. It’s no secret that adults struggle to communicate efficiently and a well known fact that children often gesture and grunt instead of actually talking. It’s also well known that only 20% of communication is actually words. listening for that other 80% of communication destroys frustration and has overall significantly improved my relationships on every level.

Dysfunction

You nag me to go grocery shopping, and make sure I “get food for you too.” You tell me to put the dishes in the washing machine. You ask me to put the clean dishes away more often because you feel like you’re always doing that. You ask me to make sure the garbage is out on trash day, and often check that the recycling made it out too. You argue with me, quite loudly, sometimes in front of the baby and mostly regarding parenting style. You play with the baby but only for about 30 minutes every couple I days. After that you’ve gotten your fix and need to “relax” by watching tv in bed. You’re only home about three nights a week so when the baby prefers you to me, my heart breaks knowing your love is conditional; based on your mood. You give him gifts sometimes, expecting that I will return the favor to you. You ask me to make sure I clean up the mess wemake before making another one but most of the time you grumpily clean up the “mess” we are playing with. I’ve never asked you to pay a single bill, and actually have offered to cover your tail a time or two In the recent past. I’ve supported you emotionally countless times and last time I needed a listening ear you were “too tired”

You are not my husband, not my boyfriend, nor the father of my son. You’re not my mom….you’re my sister. One without children, who is working full time, who doesn’t even pay your own phone bill and yet incapable somehow of living in your own house. Please, tell me sister. What is the difference between our dysfunctional living situation and an absentee, emotionally abusive co-parent? I thought by choosing to move away from him and cross the country I would have moved awayfrom exactly this. Doesn’t he deserve a better childhood than this?

“Have you noticed the fridge is full?”
“Yes….I’m making my lunch…”
“Hey, So the garbage just got picked up.”
“Yeah I heard that too”
“I mean personally, I wouldn’t let my kids do that…”

Even Jesus Got in A Boat

This new mom thing is amazing. I love everything about it, and to my surprise, I am even happy to wake up in the wee hours of the morning. My sweet boy,Sterling, has started smiling, giggling and talking (in his own baby language of course) While I am shamelessly in love with this little boy and this season of my life, it’s not all cool-sumer-breezes. At times, its more like the breeze blew a bee that got stuck in my hair. It’s scary and also really hard. Like all things so deeply rewarding as parenting is, it’s because you have worked so hard to overcome such amazing feats that you have a sense of pride in the end result. You get to watch the hard work unfurl in to something lovely and so worth it.

A few weeks ago, my mom (who is my primary help and supporter) was in Utah for work. The weeks she is gone are manageable but also shed a very realistic light on how challenging parenting is, especially single parenting. There’s no reprieve even to take a shower. All things that are unable to happen while I hold my son, happen when he is asleep. This particular week he was sick. The poor boy couldn’t fill a diaper, and we all know how painful that is! Like most children, this sick boy just wanted to be held, even when he was asleep. Freeing my arms was synonymous with tears this week. Mostly the tears were his but sometimes the tears were my own. I was also feeling sick and exhausted too. I was just well enough to keep functioning, but everything was miserable. While my head throbbed, I got myself together and calmed the boy just enough to get ourselves together and run some errands. As I was changing his diaper right before getting in the car, I realized we were out of diapers. This usually isn’t much of an issue, especially since we were on our way out already, but this week was different.

Two weeks away from bill day and my bank account had deflated just enough that I wouldn’t be able to maintain the required minimum balance and pay my bills. Being confronted with the idea of paying for my bank accounts brought out my extremely “frugal” side, if you will. I was going to close my accounts entirely, so an added, though small, but unforeseen cost took my emotional stability from “weak” to “on the brink.” I had no foreseeable income, even thought I had been active in two jobs the week prior. In fact, I had a weeks worth of work required in about 36 hours for one job and 12 hours of online video training for another. filling that amount of work would have been exhausting even with a perfectly content baby. My pay for both jobs can sometimes take up to 6 weeks, from time of submission, to make it to my account. Strapping on his last diaper we got in the car and headed for the store.
Thankful for the drive that would lull him to sleep, I looked forward to the quieting of my thoughts. Driving is my safe place. Just not this drive, not this time. My poor boy was upset and none of my tricks worked. I was in need of a nanny McPhee bag of tricks. His pacifier made no effect, nor did shushing or pumping the breaks at stops. When all of these fail I turn up the music and that usually distracts him long enough for him to fall asleep. This time it was only loud enough to drown out both of our sobs. My safe place, my emotional bubble of a car had been broken. It didn’t feel safe anymore, it was more like each of the factors weighing my heart down were tangible and stuffed inside my Subaru, tighter than a circus car of terrifying little clowns.

At the brink of total break down I called my mom, who couldn’t answer. Neither could any of my aunts or friends who are also moms. Realistically, as a mom there is no convenient time to talk on the phone and I know my family is very busy. Broken and discouraged, I cried out, “Where is my rest God!? You said in your word “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you REST”!! So where is my rest Lord?” Sinking in to my seat, I parked the car in the bank lot and took a few breaths, cleaned my face and made my way in to humbly face another discouraging event.

While talking with the banker, explaining why I needed to close my accounts she excused herself to talk with her supervisor. Walking back with a smile she suggested not closing the accounts, but waiving the minimum required balance for three months! I could almost inhale the rest. Emotional rest. I no longer had to hold myself up to this minimum, or fear unmanageable charges, at least for three months. Thankful for this gift and victory, we headed to the store. Having recovered my composure I called one more friend on the way. My dear Hattie answered the phone, despite juggling two of her own babies, and at the end of our conversation I was deeply thankful for the helpful suggestions of a veteran, and even more thankful for her affirmation and commiseration. She fed my soul, reminding me that I’m not the only one going through it, that it is really hard and that I’m not crazy or weak for having lost my mind. She fed my spirit and reminded me who God is, and that is is faithful to us, and to what He says. Reflecting on the relief of the events at the bank, and leaning on her faith, I agreed with an Amen.

After hanging up the phone I stopped at one last store to buy gas drops, a hail mary at this point. Opening the trunk to get the stroller out, the diapers and wipes were not there. I dug through my whole car and realized I had, in my emotional mess of a baby-brain day, left them at the register after having paid for them. For a split second my heart dropped with my countenance, my mind swirled and a tornado of emotions including panic kicked up. I thought I would lose my mind again but just as quickly as this all had come on, so did peace. It was okay. I decided to go back to the last store with my receipt (which I somehow grabbed separate from the products) and would do what ever I could. “I’m sure they have gas drops there too” I reminded myself.

The rest of the day, the week, weren’t all smooth sailing but just having that short conversation with Hattie had restored a part of me that made continuing seem possible. She has offered me that rest I had so angrily asked God about. Having had my spirit tended to, I made different efforts. I still had to hold my sweet boy while he napped but instead of incessantly trying to put him down so I could accomplish something else, I took time to rest by reading. My sister had just given me a book called Holy is the Day by Carolyn Weber. In this perfectly appropriate chapter Carolyn told of her own experience similar to mine. Emotional chaos, turning to a friend, and then she offered a resolve. I hadn’t quite gotten there myself and welcomed hers as my own. He friend told her that even Jesus got in a boat. After a long day of serving others, he too was exhausted and sent his disciples to town while he got in a boat. He took a respite. In order to actually serve others, to fill his role, he needed to be filled too.

Since then I have been practicing getting in my own boat. I am making a priority to take short moments to intentionally breath, pray, rest and be thankful. Easier now that my sweet Sterling sleeps, I go to the middle of the lake to savor the breeze, rhythm of the waves and presence of my God. So this is one of my first rewarding moments as a mother. To have gone through such a tremendous sequence of events and then learned that I can take care of my son and myself at the same time. I am able to acknowledge my own growth in this way, and that is deeply rewarding.