Monday, October 20, 2014

Putting the Reins on Passion

Benjamin Franklin once said, "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."  I've thought about passion frequently in the past few days because I encountered it in situations when I least expected to see it.  And when that happened, I had to second guess a few things, ask a few questions and find a way to soothe my hurt feelings.  Franklin adds reason to the equation purposefully--because passion invokes strong feelings that can be difficult restrain.
Most of the time, I consider myself a fairly passionate person.  I'm passionate about what I do.  I love most of my students and I believe in the value of education.  I'm a strong supporter of public education (though I'm not against homeschooling or private education) because I know not every student has the resources to receive education otherwise.  I get my panties in a twist when people (in general) suggest it would be in our best interest to eliminate the public school system entirely.  
I love being a Mommy and I have strong feelings about being a good one.  The problem is my interpretation of "good" Mommy and someone else's interpretation are vastly different things.  I found that out when I joined a Mommy Group.  I know; I know.  I probably should've stayed out of the Mommy Group arena, but here's the deal:  we cloth diaper.  That's not a big deal, but cloth diapering companies give you these wash instructions that encourage you to treat them like they're precious porcelain...the thing your kid poops in.  So when KnickKnack found this Mommy Group that helps tweak wash routines for cloth diapers, I was all about it.
And they have been helpful.  I enjoyed having some insight into this parenting thing.  Then I made a mistake.  One Mommy made a comment that she was having difficulty getting her kid to sleep through the night without nursing him to sleep.  I commented that we used BabyWise and that helped us get our kids on a reasonable schedule so they knew how to react when it was time for night-night.
And then the hail rained down from heaven.
I receive a barrage of comments regarding this book and how it has led to failure to thrive, child abuse and a multitude of other things that clearly indicated I was the world's worst mother.  I felt defensive and upset.  The comments that were made regarding this particular text were far from accurate, and I felt like these women were indicating that my children were suffering at my hands.  After that, I learned that if you stick around in Mommy Groups you'll also learn people are passionate about the following:
  • Breast feeding (Apparently you're a monster if you don't or if you can't--there's no differentiation between the two.  And if you can?  You should until your kid is 10.)
  • Vaccinations (You're a monster if you do.  You're a monster if you don't.  Good luck on that one.)
  • Car seats (Don't keep them rear facing until they're teenagers?  Clearly you want your children to die.)
  • Circumcision (Why would you mutilate your child in that way?)
  • Co-Sleeping/Cry It Out (The latter is also called CIO.  On my Mommy Group, people err on the side of co-sleeping.  Co-Sleepers think all other people are CIOs and don't want a close relationship with their kids.  CIOs or non-co-sleepers think all Co-Sleepers are crazy hippies with no regard for their marriages/relationships.  Again, best of luck to you.)

Basically, on any given day, you're pretty much failing as a Mom and the good majority of these women will be glad to tell you exactly why you're failing as a Mom.
So I've been thinking about where others encounter my passions.  And I've been afraid to think that I've made someone feel like a little less because I feel so strongly on those subjects.
This morning, I heard Selah's "You Amaze Us" and for the first time, I started contemplating what it means for Christ to consume us wholly.  I used to talk about the concept in college, but I don't think I really grasped the enormity of those words.  Truthfully, though, I need something to direct all the passion--for something to hold the reins when I purposefully or accidentally make someone feel a little less than.  
That's where my prayer will start tonight--for Christ to consume me.  Maybe that will direct my passion for my community, my school, but most of all, my family.  Directed passion...what a concept.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I'll Love You Forever


I never anticipated that I would love The Great Gatsby, but there's something achingly beautiful about a book that acknowledges our need to move toward the future while often and unexpectedly being drawn to the past.  And while it's true that dwelling creates an unhealthy emotional environment for the dweller, it is also true that remembering can sometimes soothe the dull ache grief hollows in our hearts.

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

Today so many of us are grateful that we had the capability to "beat on" but we will never forget what was and what might have been.  We whisper names that were never written.  We look at children living and wonder what similarities and differences would be obvious at this point.

And while I've been blessed to hold two in my arms, I cradled three in my womb.

We never forget, but today we remember aloud those who are missing and the continual ache that comes from that absence.

And just as much as I mean it for my living children, I also mean it for the one I never had the chance to hold:  I'll love you forever; I'll like you for always.

Mommy

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Guest Post

I took a stab at answering Elizabeth's questions about being a working mom.  Feel free to check her out here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#PayItForward

On her blog, Teaching Sam and Scout, Elizabeth Chapman has been interviewing working moms.  There are several questions she's asked them to answer, but the one that sticks out to me the most was this one:  What's the best thing about being a working mom?  What's the worst or hardest thing?

When I answered that question initially, all I could think about was missing milestones in Ryan and Eli's lives, but now that I really consider that question I would answer it differently.  The worst thing about being a working mom is likely also the worst thing about being a mom in general:  anxiety.

I can only wish that I would be able to capture the minutiae of anxiety the way William Styron writes about depression in his work Darkness Visible.  Unfortunately, no amount of wishful thinking makes me a writer, so I'll simply tell you what I know:  anxiety is a sneaky bastard.

There are a hundred things I enjoy about being a mom and teacher.  These titles are the things I like best about myself.  But there are days when I can only focus on the piddling things that surround these designations.  

Eli wakes up happy almost every day.  He smiles at me and tracks my movements as I walk through the kitchen to gather my stuff before I leave.  He talks and coos and giggles, and I try my best to soak it in because I know he won't be little for long.  I'm pretty successful most days.  Then the sucker punch:  the diapers have a smell they shouldn't have; my living room is a mess; I don't have time to read/grade papers; I haven't had time to meal plan; I need to go to the grocery store; my milk supply seems to be decreasing; I don't exercise regularly; I'm still struggling with the baby weight.  

Any one of those things is completely manageable, but there are days one of those issues or any combination of those issues will knock the breath out of me.  I cannot get my mind off of the fact that maybe I'm not washing diapers correctly or I won't be able to nurse Eli the way I had hoped (which is made harder by the fact that I couldn't nurse Ryan).  I get snagged in the threads of detail and I cannot manage to untangle my feet from the mess.  And the bigger picture?  Completely invisible in those moments.

They attack without warning.  On the best mornings--the ones where I'm feeling the best, that things are going well and I'm doing a good job at most things in my life--they ambush me from a corner.  And because I don't like to cry in front of people, I spend those mornings gritting my teeth and attempting to occupy my racing mind with something other than the knotted thread tied around my brain.

That is the worst part of being a working mom.  Actually, now that I think about it, that's the worst part of being a human being.  I can remember the same issues in the days I didn't work and I can certainly identify them in the time period we waited to become parents.

But this anxiety made me think about another question Elizabeth asked:  "What items or tips do you recommend to help 'make it work'?"

I responded that we all need someone in our lives who can help keep things in perspective.  That's true, but I think working moms, moms, and people in general need encouragement.  On the days when the anxiety is the worst, I need someone to pat me on the back and tell me I'm doing a good job.  (Which is weird given that words of affirmation aren't really my thing most of the time.)  

Because of that, I wonder how many of us are willing to choose one person, just one person, to encourage every week for the next month?  And what if we asked each of those people to pay it forward?  What kind of change would we see in our families, our workplaces, our own demeanor?

Would you join me in a pay it forward campaign?  Feel free to share ways people have encouraged you #payitforward

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Next Month

I've spent the better part of the last two years pregnant.  After eight years of attempting to align my mind to the belief that we wouldn't have kids without IVF, it's been a bit of an adjustment.  What kind of adjustment?  Well, the one where I attempt to trust my body and believe it can actually do good things.

I mean, clearly it did.  It housed and birthed two beautiful boys.  (Ryan in three pushes and Eli in one push.  I think that's pretty amazing for a girl who has next to no ab muscles.)  But in spite of that fact, it is still largely unpredictable.  Most of the time, only other women with PCO believe me when I say I eat between 1500 and 1800 calories a day.  They get me when I say that my weight will not budge despite this fact.  They are the ones who understand when I say I'm tired all the time.  They know what it's like to keep a carb count at a certain level and still look in the mirror and see something that refuses to change no matter how much you want it.

They get it.  I wish I knew a few more of them.

My frustration hit a new peak when I had my thyroid tested last week.  Like all confusing elements in my life, it came back completely normal.  So why haven't I been able to lose weight postpartum?

Your guess is as good as mine.

But I know that I can't stay here.  So I'm going to try something new.

I'm putting this out here for the world to see in hopes that it's going to create a bit of accountability:

I'm going to do a Whole30.

Go ahead and click on the link and read.  I'll wait.

Maybe it seems a little drastic, but I feel like I'm out of options.  If calorie counting and carb restriction isn't going to cut it, then I need a complete revamp of my eating habits.

For the next week, I'm going to be making grocery lists, meal plans and searching for compliant recipes online.  I'm going to be gritting my teeth and thinking it's cruel for them to discount alcohol when that'll probably be a necessity about three days into this program.  And I'll be modifying my meal plan to include one yogurt a day.  I'm nursing, so I think it's a good idea to keep some milk in my diet.

And people who say that's not a real Whole30 can suck it.  Seriously, I'm tired of naysayers.  One yogurt a day (especially yogurt without artificial sweeteners or real sugar) for a nursing Mommy is not the equivalent of blowing the entire program on a Blizzard from Dairy Queen.  (Which, for the record, I will probably eat tomorrow since they'll be a no-go in the near future.)

I'm giving up black beans, and I'm sad about it.  I'm giving up all grains.  That's not a huge sacrifice with the exception of quinoa.  I'm giving up cheese, and no oatmeal for the duration of the program.  Those are the things that make me a little sad.

But the possibility of getting my body back?  Feeling good again?  Being able to keep up with my boys?

Yeah.  Those things make it worthwhile.

So pray for me (and the people who have to interact with me) for the next 37 days.  I don't have a ton of faith in my ability to complete the program, but if there's anything my body doesn't lack, it's tenacity.

So here we go.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On Value

At small group we've been talking about our stories--about the things and the people who have defined who we are.  Favorite and I laughed because we've become those people who talk about their children incessantly.  My Instagram feed is all kids all the time, and I've found myself fitting Ryan and/or Eli into every conversation I can.

Maybe most new parents can relate to that sentiment.  I'm just not sure I'm ever going to get over the wonder of being a mom--in large part because that wasn't supposed to happen.  Maybe it's weird to keep defining myself with loss and infertility in mind, but those experiences color the way I see my current reality.  They changed the way I approached Christ and the way I interact with others.

That said, I do not believe those experiences mean I value motherhood more than the woman who got pregnant very quickly and birthed a healthy child with no complications.  My experience colors my interactions--not the way I see yours.  Stick with me here because I'm going to try to share these thoughts as diplomatically as possible starting with my own experience:  I do not believe my experience is more spiritually significant than someone else's.  And I'm tired of people who seem to believe otherwise.

As a member of the Christian community, I believe in the idea that life is precious, but I refuse to promote the notion that one life is more precious than another.  It stands to reason that I would be offended by people who imply that adoption would've been far more laudable than giving birth to Ryan--and not because I fought tooth and nail for that pregnancy.  It's offensive because it implies one life or action deserves to be honored above another.  That one sacrifice matters and another does not.

One thing I would often repeat to myself on days I was really struggling is a quote from John Donne:  "Other men's crosses are not my crosses."  It wasn't just a reminder that we struggle differently; it was a reminder that my struggle may lead to a different outcome than someone else's.  My situation definitely helps me keep things in perspective on the days I have two very fussy boys, but I would never Jesus Juke another Mommy with that information.  (You know, when people say things like, "You should really appreciate what you have because some people can't have it."  Or another variation of that statement.  Or imply some people would/have paid an arm and a leg for the same privilege, blah blah blah.)

For the life of me, I cannot understand why we attach value to human beings because of how/when/why they came to be in our lives.  Ryan and Eli have value to me because they are mine--regardless of how they came to be in my life.  But their real value comes from the fact that Christ loved them first--before they were born or imagined in my heart.  That's where all value originates.  Not in our experiences (difficult or easy, expensive or cheap) but in the heart of a Saviour to gave Himself for us before we were even in existence.  

Friday, September 5, 2014

In Which I Attempt to Make Sense of Priorities

I've been a mom of two for approximately three seconds so I obviously need to put some thoughts out there about what it is to keep all my balls in the air. 

Really, though, I've been considering priorities.  Ok.  That's stretching the truth a bit.  I've actually been thinking about my thighs.

So, turns out that when you have two kids in two years, your body changes.  Obviously, I gained weight.  But that information aside, my whole body changed.  I carry weight where I didn't used to.  Pants that fit at a certain weight no longer fit at that same weight.  I'd like to say that I've taken this information in stride because, for the most part, I have.  I haven't stressed about weight loss, and I knew that it would take a while for everything to go back to normal--especially considering everything that's happened to my figure in the last two years.

But I'm starting to stress.

Like anyone else who wants to lose a few pounds, I've been logging my calorie intake in MyFitnessPal.  I make sure to make lunches and breakfasts ahead of time so there are no surprises.  I'm careful with my evening calories.  I make sure to include a large portion of vegetables and then hedge my bets with Greens First.  Oh, and I calculate my carb intake at each meal to make sure it's between 45-60 grams.  (That last part is a PCO necessity.)  I've even reminded myself to stay calm because I know weight loss is difficult for me.  One pound at a time, you know?

The major difficulty in my current equation is exercise.

First of all, I know I need to exercise.  I have never argued otherwise.  Secondly, I wouldn't mind exercising.  I'm not avoiding it like the plague or attempting to give all the reasons exercise isn't a benefit.  I know how beneficial cardio is for PCO.  I miss running a tiny bit.  I also miss the community I had when I was running on a regular basis.  But when it's the topic of conversation and I share this information, I often hear things like, "Get up at 5 am." or "You make time for the things that are important!"

I agree.  So help me find the balance.

4:30--5 am:  Eli wakes up so I get up to nurse him.  After I nurse him, I try to pump for 15 minutes to make sure my supply doesn't diminish while I'm working.  If he wakes up at 4:30, I may get to lay down for another 30 minutes before I have to start on my morning routine.  But that's rare.  On the mornings it does happen, I am groggy and know I will not be starting an exercise routine.  Judge me if you must.

5:45-6 am:  Finish feeding/pumping and get in the shower.  Attempt to get ready for work in 45 minutes.

6:45-7 am:  Leave for work.

7:15-3:30:  Work.  I've been asked if I have time to exercise at work (like on a lunch hour), and, unfortunately, the answer is no.  My planning period is 4th hour (10:44-11:32).  I pump during that time and try to work on grading, etc.  Then, during my lunch (12:28-12:58), I eat and pump again.  There is little time for anything else.

4 pm:  Monday & Wednesday I head straight to Mom and Dad's and nurse Eli right away.  Tuesday, Thursday and Friday I head straight home so I can nurse him promptly.  On Monday or Wednesday, Ryan and I (and Eli) usually eat with my Mom and Dad because my Mom has been awesome enough to cook dinner.  Between nursing and dinner (and playing a little bit with Ryan), we usually stay until a little after 6 pm because Eli will likely want to nurse again at 6.  

On Tuesdays, I try to find something to cook for Ryan and I so we can eat dinner.  Often it's something simple like sandwiches.

On Thursday, Chris is home.  We either go out for dinner or cook something quickly at home so we can be at small group by 6:30.

On Friday, Chris is home.  We try to go out and spend some time as a family.

6:45-7:30 pm:  Put Eli in his bouncy seat and get Ryan in the bathtub.  After his bath, I get Ryan in a clean diaper and jammies, go through his night-night routine and put him to bed.

7:30-8:30 pm:  I had been waiting to start Eli's night-night routine until 8, but it seems to work better to start nursing him at 7:30.  It usually takes 30-45 minutes to nurse him at this feeding (so he gets enough to sleep through the night).  We spent a little bit of cuddle time without wrangling big brother, and then he gets a clean diaper, jammies and a swaddle and I put him down for the night.  Sometimes I fit a bath into this time period.

8:30 pm:  I attempt some light cleaning--picking up toys, cleaning off the counter, putting a load of laundry in, loading/unloading the dishwasher, hanging up/putting away clothes, making sure the cloth diaper situation is under control, getting my lunch/water together for the next day, cleaning out the diaper bag.  I've given up almost entirely on sweeping and dusting.

9:30 pm:  Sit down and pump for at least 10 minutes.  If my supply has been dwindling, I may do a power pump (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for an hour).  On the nights I don't power pump, I consider starting an exercise routine.  I've scolded myself for NOT starting one.  But frankly, I'm tired.  So I usually go to bed.  When I do power pump, it's 10:30 and I know I only have about six hours before Eli is up and I have to start all over again, so I usually go to bed.

On the nights Chris is home, I do most of the same things from 7:30-9:30 with the exception of power pumping.  Usually, Chris and I will talk and/or watch whatever TV box set we are into at the time.  Sometimes we have time to go for a walk after we eat, so we fit that in if we can.  Since Eli is starting to stretch his nursing routine a little, that's more of a possibility than it used to be.  And on Saturdays and Sundays, I have more flexibility.  Those days aren't an issue.

As it stands, I'm struggling to find time for regular Bible study, exercise, grading and general cleanliness during the week.  My house is in disarray most of the time and I feel like I never quite catch up at work (well, except for now.  But it's the beginning of the school year.  The grading pile is coming.) and I miss sitting down to dig through scripture.

I appreciate the people who seem to find the time for everything.  I'm also a little jealous of them.  But since I'm a variation of a single parent Saturday--Thursday, some things are a little more difficult to schedule.  So forgive me when I want to egg your house after you tell me I need to prioritize in order to lose weight.  Honestly, I don't think I'm wasting a lot of time on unnecessary things.  (But in all sincerity, I'm not jealous of your progress.  I think whatever anyone else does to be healthy is fantastic.)

Here's the other problem:  when I say these things, I feel like I'm being ungrateful for the gifts I've been given and I SO do not want to give that impression.  Ryan and Eli are among the most extravagant of blessings--the ones I never thought I would get.  If having them meant I had to stay this size for the rest of my life, I would gladly endure it.  I remember what it was like without them.

I guess I'm just trying to figure out how a healthy lifestyle fits in my new normal.  I've committed to doing an exercise video on Saturday and Sunday because I know I have the time.  I can usually get Eli to sit in his swing for 30 minutes.  It's the other days I'm having trouble with.  Am I doing this wrong?