Friday, October 24, 2014

Family Pictures

I loaded these pictures awhile back and forgot that I left this post as a draft. These beautiful pictures were taken by a friend who lives in our old town in Arkansas. Here is her page on Facebook. And her flickr. Grace is a photography student in the same program that I was also in at John Brown, but I know the photography program has grown for the better. Maybe we both have similar styles, because we both tend to love what the other shoots. I like her raw and natural style. I wanted to have a few family photos taken, but we didn't have much money and I didn't really want to sit in a studio.

When we were in Arkansas this last summer, we met Grace on the college campus and walked down to the creek that Andrew and I had once hung our hammock beside in the early days when we were dating. Time moves so quickly as I carried our second baby and watched my toddler run with her daddy to the clear and cold water.

Even now looking back at these images a few months later, they mean even more to me. Grace did such a beautiful job at capturing our family. I know personally that it can be a challenge to get Blanche and Rosemary to work with the photographer. Grace just kept snapping pictures. It made me miss my college days. She still feels so fresh and brave in her photography. I love that about her. The quality of her work is so high above only being in her second year of college.

I am so thankful that I will always have these images of our new little family of four... just being us, walking in the creek, and Blanche deciding like usual that she should swim in it. She ended up completely naked, which fits her about right. I love these pictures. They are so special to me. And they really do speak for themselves. Thank you so much Grace. Such a gift.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Marriage and Motherhood

Today I watched a wedding video on an old college friend's blog.  It was a beautiful video. A beautiful love story. But the thing that got me was the song that was playing in the background. I heard the chorus, and knew it as a semi obnoxious song that we all danced to at middle school dances. But this, this was someone else singing a very different version. The lyrics just got me. I am emotional person. I am easily rocketed into a feeling that sometimes overwhelms all of me. I was literally laying down nursing Rosemary and crying and listening to this song. Here are the lyrics:

"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)"
(originally by The Proclaimers)

When I wake up, well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you.
And when I go out, yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you.

And when I come home, yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's coming home to you.
And when I'm dreamin', well I know I'm gonna dream
I'm gonna dream about the time when I'm with you.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm workin', yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's workin' hard for you.
And when the money comes in for the work I do
I'll pass along every cent of it to you.

And when I'm lonely, well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's lonely without you.
And if I grow old, well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I wake up, well I hope I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's waking up to you.
And when I'm dreamin', well I know I'm gonna dream
I'm gonna dream about the time I had with you.

Life can wear me down. The hard days can layer upon me, and then all of the sudden I am lying in bed with tears streaming down my face while listening to the band Sleeping at Last. I wasn't sad. I was so grateful. This love song felt like a real love song. I was remembering the conversation I wrote about in an earlier post, when Andrew told me what he does every day is for his family. The lines in the song that talk about working and giving all his money... I just felt such a gratitude to Andrew and how hard he really works.

I know some may roll their eyes when I post lyrics to a love song and talk about how much I love Andrew. But it is more than that. It is about sacrifice. It is about sacrifice every day. Our culture loves to talk about love and what it is or what it should be. But today it hit me so hard. It is sacrifice. It is putting the other before you again and again and again.

Our days are full of joy. But they are not easy. This morning went something like this:
Blanche woke up at six am hungry. I knew I needed to get up because Andrew had to close at work tonight. But oh, I didn't want to. I really did not want to be the one getting up. I told myself that I had to watch the girls late and would be doing housework late while he was gone. I told myself in my head that I deserved sleep. I did get up, and got Blanche set up with her juice and show and clean diaper. While I was changing her, Rosemary started to cry. I kept getting Blanche set up and Andrew brought Rosemary to me. I took the baby back to bed and nursed her. Praying she would go back to sleep. She didn't. Blanche came in, they both played and made messes beside the bed as Andrew and I kept trying to lay there. Then Blanche went in her room and made a mess and refused to clean it when I told her to. And then there was a meltdown and Andrew trying to help Blanche to maybe go back to bed. It just felt like chaos. And in my mind I kept thinking, I should have just gotten up and stayed up. Then I wouldn't have been grouchy and yelled at Blanche to stop screaming when she was refusing to pick up her toys.

So, I then took both girls and Andrew said he needed more sleep. I say all this because it took a lot for me to not be mad that he got more sleep than me. I literally had to pray and write in my journal. I am that selfish. And honestly, it was just a toddler meltdown and then just life. But in my mind I was focused on what I deserved and what wasn't going right.

But later, even as my attitude was still sort of on edge, Andrew got up and started making lunch, and extra dishes and snacks for us. He worked in the kitchen and then started cleaning it up until he to leave for work.

It is about sacrifice. It is not about keeping score but helping each other. I keep having to remind myself this. We are both weary. It sometimes gets to the point that it is almost comical. This morning I locked myself in the bathroom so I could go in peace. I could hear Blanche, "Mooom.... what are you doing? Mooomm?? Hey mom, I took off my diaper in my room okay? Hey Moooom... let me in its cold out here."

I just have to laugh. This is life. Chaos all around.

But God has been doing a work in my heart. Thats why I love God. I ask for help and I am unsure and He meets me. I don't have to be in a church. I don't have to be in an in-depth Bible study. I can literally read a few verses in the morning and pray to God begging for strength and the ability to love my family more... and then He just transforms my heart. Almost as if my eyes are being uncovered. I say yes to Him and he says, this is love, love is sacrifice. I wanted to live a life of love. Love is putting myself last. It isn't always fun, but work is not always meant to be.

In just this last month, God has been showing me so much about motherhood. I think like love in marriage, there are myths or misunderstandings about motherhood. For some reason I believed that motherhood was suppose to completely fulfill me. That it would be fun and cute and really rewarding. I never really wanted to think about how hard it might be. And I had found myself often blaming my children for my own selfishness and weakness. If things got out of control and hard I would start saying I didn't want anymore children. I will say, at one point recently I was on steroids that I was having a reaction to, which that is when it was the worst... so I don't completely count it as all me. But it did wake me up a bit. Andrew would ask me when I was having a bad moment why would I start talking about worries and things that weren't even happening? Why wasn't I focusing on the problem now instead or worrying about circumstances that were not even here yet? The answer I found, was because I wanted control. So much control. I want to control my life and what I do and how it is going to be.

And then one day I was cleaning the kitchen and God whispered, "What if what I have for you is motherhood? What if what you think is best for you, really isn't?"

And then I stopped. And I wondered what life would be like if I just accepted that God wanted me to be a mother right now. And to embrace that. To just be a mother until he told me otherwise. Maybe a photographer or writer or orphanage worker in India would come one day. But what if I just stopped. Stopped all the control and listened to God.

I have learned even in a week or two, that when I just give in, and let God carry the huge burden of trying to plan my entire family and life, that I have a lot more mental and emotional energy to simply solve the problems of the day. And to also embrace the hard stuff. A mom friend who has six kids told me, " I'm finding that holy and hell often times dwell together. Hell will be poured into our laps, but it's made holy when we look up."

I started listening to my inner voice. There are often times a lot of complaining, self pity, need for control etc... but when I just walk one day at a time, and embrace that awful hard moment... and use prayer and ask God for help... that's when my eyes are often lifted. Like today, after all that craziness... at one point I walked in to see those last couple of pictures. Blanche had the idea for daddy to help her and Rosemary ride her horse while wearing their hats.

There are blessings. So many... all around. Do I see my children as burdens and something to limit because of how stressful and messy they are? Or do I see them as gifts and souls and people? Do I even see myself as the gift of mother... being able to bring life into this world.

I remember after having Blanche that I knew there was nothing greater I would ever do in life. I brought life into the world. I pushed a ball of mass out of my body and into the world. I heard her first cries. There is no greater feminist act than pushing out a baby.

I write all this because these are all the things floating around in my head. It isn't that everything is suddenly clear, but that maybe I am starting to understand what marriage and motherhood is truly about. It is about love and sacrifice. And about not giving up when it gets hard.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Blanche Turns Three

I don't know if I have ever sat down and wrote a letter to Blanche. I know I have written a lot of posts about motherhood and its challenges and gifts. But there really are so many days that I wish I could tell her so many things. Many late nights where my heart forgets she's only turning three, and I think in my head apologies I will say the next day or conversations we might have. And then she wakes the next morning simply wanting juice and a show. Because she is just almost three years old. It is my heart and mind that are old and sometimes weary with worry. Blanche is a child becoming her own person, learning from the big world around, but also not seeing so many things yet. I am sure it is always harder on the parent to watch their child grow and step into such a big and messy world. Anyways, here is my letter to Blanche,

Dear Blanche,

You are the first of our family of four to wake each morning. Unless daddy has already left for work. When you were a baby you would sleep in with us, but toddlerhood has had you waking up always before nine. Sometimes it seems to be getting earlier and earlier... but I don't let my thoughts go down that scary road. I still nurse your sister back to sleep as much and often as possible. You however, wake up ready for your orange juice and show. I have prayed in the last few months that God would make me more loving to you in the mornings. Because I am not a morning person. And tearing me away from your cuddling baby sister seems a little cruel at times. But God has been giving me grace. I seem to only take about five to ten minutes now to fully wake up and not just want to crawl back under the quilts for three more hours.

Just so you know, so much of the time, I want to do what you think will be fun each day. I ask you questions like where you want to go and what you want to eat because I love you and want you to have happy days. So much of the time though, you seem to not really know what you want. You are learning though. Today you chose to ride your bike at home over going to the park. You also seem to choose chicken nuggets for lunch 93 percent of the time. I think you are probably growing.

I know you get bored. Or want me to play and stop what looks like just laying in bed with your sister. You know though that Rosemary is getting milk and going down for a nap. Sometimes like today though you try and get attention by seeing what the limits are, like drenching yourself with your water bottle while I nurse Rosemary and you watch a show. I am glad when I just let things go. Because what is done is done.

You care so much for your sister. You got a new birthday present that has marbles and you are so quick to shout each time one falls on the floor. You grab things away from Rosemary that she shouldn't have and have even held her back when glass shattered on the kitchen floor. Your spirit is kind and motherly and so loving. You now can say "Rose-mary" not "Doe-mary." Except now you seem to have a nickname of "Ra-ma" for her at times. You also pull on her neck and seem to either be jealous or just unable to control your excitement that Rosemary is in fact here in this world with us now. Sometimes we beg you to please not take her out of it. Though when we listen to your excited little screams you are saying things like, "Oh hi ya little bay-ba."

You are sensitive and creative. Emotional and friendly. You seem like you are seven some days when we have a conversation, and then we are reminded you are still two when you throw a tantrum. Your daddy says you are me, except you haven't learned to control yourself as well as I have.

There are days when all we do is butt heads, and I am so tired, and I just want you to listen. I say the same thing over and over, and I want to pull my hair out and scream.

Then there are days like today where you are almost perfect it seems. And maybe even the frustrating moments were me and not you. You played with new toys and rode your bike and made crafts. You were the perfect little girl. Continually changing between your new to you tap shoes and silver sparkly flats. You put on second hand clothes and said they were nice because they felt like pajamas. You kept calling your tap shoes "tip tops" for whatever reason. Even though we kept telling you it was called tap shoes. And you tap.

You ate a ton of broccoli for dinner. And took a bath with Rosemary and me. You filled many cups with cold bath water and had each pony in their own little tub. You protected Rosemary as I lifted up your mattress to put clean sheets on, and you had me tell you the same two stories twice.

You are beautiful and breath taking at times. And other times you wrinkle your nose and give us a rotten face. You say you are scared to use the potty but you will one day. I really wish you would.
You are helpful and now like to cook in the kitchen and love to watch daddy make coffee.

You can do puzzles and paint and make granola and you know what ingredients are... but then in other moments you still dump every toy you own into a pile on the floor. I will never understand this age called two. That place between babyhood and little girl. Some say three is worse than two. No one told me this until I had a two year old. I'm willing to take the risk though Blanche. Because you are worth it. You are worth every poopy and wet diaper that we still change. You are worth the meltdowns and the battles. You are worth it not only because I love you but because every night you snuggle up to me and give me kisses and want me to hold your hand. Motherhood started with you. You have changed me and made me a better person. You have made me learn selflessness. You made me a really great breastfeeder. Because of you I sleep right through Rosemary's nursing sessions in the night. There are days when I think maybe I will have six kids and God gave me the feisty one first, just so I would have my game face on.

Keep being you Blanche. Don't ever let me stand in the way. Go ahead and wear your tutus and tap shoes and sparkles. Leave your nails dirty from the garden and your hair wild from the wind. Keep shining and don't conform to what others tell you to be. I love you Blanche. I always have. I wanted you before I was pregnant with you. I didn't cry when I gave birth to you because I was honestly just too tired. But there are many nights I cry thinking back to that happy night. I will never be the mother I wish I could be to you. But I can honestly say almost every day I am trying my best. You already get mad at yourself for not being perfect. You scribble violently on a coloring page if you go outside the lines. You got that from me, and I am sorry. But just remember that I loved you when you weren't perfect, and that you have loved me the same.