Monday, October 17, 2016

Spilled Cereal

I realized today-- After the bowl of milk went flying,
And I (finally/at last/this once)
Chose the grace-filled response-- And I found myself under the table On hands and knees:
"This is my life. I am marking the days of my living Wiping the sticky off; Extending grace, Bowing low in service to my family-- Wiping up cereal I am thankful to have Off a floor I am thankful to have... A mess made by the ones I love." Cleaning up messes & spills.
Sometimes of the milk variety,
Sometimes of the people variety Doing this with love, tenderness and mindful gratitude .... When I stop and consider this From my place on my knees, My eyes sting with grateful tears
And my heart takes note-- Almost breathless at the thought:
Sometimes cleaning up spilled milk with grace is the most sacred way you could spend the moments of your life.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


If you have gone on a looooong road trip with small children, you know the challenges. You know the desperation around day 2, hour 16 of being all trapped together in a small metal box on wheels. You know how the emotions crackle, frustration bubbles constantly beneath the surface. One might even call the experience traumatic. Might.

We made such a trip this past summer. Winding our way from south central Texas up through vast empty plains, large cities, more vast emptiness, rolling hills... and then finally the woodsy, stretched-out places of central Illinois.

This trip was one that we made feeling the pressure of an impending deadline: we needed to make it for a wedding, so we had to make the trip in no more than two days. We also were pinching pennies, so we stayed at the cheapest hotel we could find at the halfway point.

We did a ten hour day... and arrived at one of those scaryish economy hotels that are parked next to a freeway, surrounded by a field of busted cement and rows of semis. The rooms all face outward to exposed walkways. Ramshackle diners stood at the far end of the hotel parking lot, and the whole feel of the place was dismal. When I went in for our key, I was informed we were on the 3rd floor. Which meant trucking the kids and all our things up, up, up three flights of stairs. (And then make the trip back down, down, down for every random thing we'd forgotten in the van). However, as we climbed the metal stairs up to our room, all I could hear was our kids' excitement. Whhhatt?? We got to sleep all the way up here? SOOooooo cool!! Whoooaaa! Look how far we can see!! This is sooo awesome!!" And I thought, "Yes. Why not?" And, when it turned out that the hotel was noisy and stinky, I again tuned into what my kids were expressing... And they were expressing nothing. No frustration, no disgust. And I thought, "Yes. Why not?"

The next day we got on the road as quickly as we could. We wanted to put the next 8 hours behind us. About an hour out on the road, we felt the warning wobble of the van--and within minutes our rear tire was flat.

Even in this flat tire though, there was beauty. It happened early in the day, so the July heat that was ramping up still was at a lower temperature. It happened yards from an exit ramp. The exit ramp led to an abandoned gas station with the gas station free-standing roofs, which provided shade for Rey to work on the tire. The gas station was gutted, graffitied and overgrown with tall grass and weeds. An abandoned van was left parked outside it. There was broken glass littered everywhere. And again, I tuned into the kids. "What an adventure! Oh, my gosh! Why do you think this gas station is empty? Why did noone what their van? Hey, let's break rocks with a hammer... Hey--look over here...!" And, then I thought, "Yes. Why not?"

Rey put the spare tire on the van and it got us another hour down the road to a Walmart, where we were able to purchase a replacement tire. The wait was around 2 hours. But, we were in an air conditioned place. With food for lunch. And a toy aisle to distract. No complaints from the kids.

That day stretched into infinity. We started and ended the day in that van. Our planned 8 hour drive turned into an almost 12 hour ordeal. Yes, the last couple hours--driving in the dark down unfamiliar country roads--were hard and plain awful. I felt suspended in some horrible dream at certain moments... but, upon arriving, Rey and I looked at each other so very pleased. So happy to know that there is a way to go through hard and yuck and not turn on each other. Not make bad worse.

I don't think it was by accident that the book I had along with me for the ride was Shauna Niequest's Bread and Wine. It was definitely one of my top favorite books that I read in 2015. Among the many things I took away from the book was this thought:

That is, being there. Where you are. And really being present. Not wishing it away, not trying to micromanage or perfect it. But just experience it, and live it fully aware.

I found in my phone a note a made during the trip, and it was so good to go back to it. I wrote:

Often, the attitudes that need adjusting in any given group are the attitudes of the grown ups. The children are often happy to be happy, to be in the moment, on the journey. Their first reaction to many new experiences is a natural awe, joy & sense of adventure. I am finding out that more and more, the best thing I can do is follow my kids' lead. Their need for interaction, connection, time. To tune my rhythms more finely to theirs seems the greatest thing I can do. To not be so consumed and frustrated by how they are not fitting into "my plan" and "schedule", but learning to gracefully bend into their lack of future-controlling. I am learning to more quickly yield my plans to their needs; to give honor to their ideas and dreams; to live life's full joy in the moment that is--not squelching it by wishing it was something that it's not.

Have you seen this to be true? That often we can be taught so much about right attitudes in life if we see the situation through our child's eyes? It's amazing how many "horribly annoying inconveniences" can melt away when we just don't take it so seriously and choose to find the joy even in (maybe especially in...?) the unplanned.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

to aleni... on the eve of your sixth.

Aleni girl,
You are deep waters.
Your make up is so different than mine, that in trying to understand you
I often ache for the ways I don't.
You are fiercely private and serious around those you admire or don't know well.
I see this thing you do--
A sucking in of the lips and a clamping down of your jaws over your lips....
As if willing yourself to be brave, and flawless.
You are often opaque in situations where I wouldn't expect it.
I often have no idea how much you have absorbed, or understood,
You pipe up sometime or days later saying, "Remember when,,,,?"
And I see just how much you really are taking in.
You are possessive,
You are passionate,
You are focused.
Talented, brilliant, strong, unstoppable.
It is highly important to you that you are right, and that those around you agree with your views.
We are working on that.... ;)
You are a leader.
You are endlessly silly and energetic when you are comfortable,
But extremely embarrassed when you feel put on the spot or watched.
You've alway shunned the camera and the stage.
If I ever put you on display--it's because I forget--
And I want to share your brilliance.
Ok, and there's this.
You are beautiful.
Like breath-takingly, achingly beautiful,
Sometimes, I just get lost in your beauty.
Your mystery.
Your you-ness.
In the beauty of your olive skin, your eyebrows and delicate features...
I see the heritage passed down through your daddy.
I also see your daddy in you in your silences and hidden self,
I see me in you, too--
In the way you like to challenge yourself physically.
To impress yourself with how strong you are,
How fearless.
I was that girl, too.
I see me in your silliness and in your emotional outbursts....
And, really.
I see you!
One-of-a-kind, not-another-one-like you.... You.

Happy Birthday, my darling girl!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

hey, you

Hey, you over there.
Who used to make me feel like a failure,
Who made me question myself and wonder why we weren't friends...

Here's the deal:
I don't need you to like me
For me to like you.
I don't need you to be my friend
For me to be friendly to you.
I don't need to be promised a future with you
To enjoy being together this moment,
I don't have to understand you
To show you compassion and worth.

I'm learning.
I'm defining *friendship* more loosely.
Not demanding exact reciprocation.
The promise of more,
Of deep,
Of loyalty,
Of validation,
Of unanimity.

I've stopped seeing friendship as
A game of tennis ( equal parts give & take)...
Or chess ( something to be analyzed )...

Now, I'm seeing it more as a walk among a field of flowers;
That we are social beings,
And that sometimes it's ok to just enjoy being social...
Without it "meaning something" or "going somewhere".
Being social for social's sake:
Sometimes that's enough.
I'm learning to enjoy the flower
Whose blooms are only with me for a day or two....
As well as (*I cannot yet say "As much as..."*)
The tree in my backyard
Who I know I will see from my window
Each morning and night.
Who I know sinks its roots deep into my land;
Upon whom I rely daily for shade, beauty & life.

So, really... it's this:
You don't define me any more.
You don't determine my thoughts or my responses.
You don't decide my worth.
You are a part of my life,
Not its summation or measure of worth.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

gabriella is one.

You know those mornings that just seem so perfect...they are almost too perfect? That was today...and it seemed fitting that to celebrate the day our little bundle of joy arrived one year ago--the weather should cooperate with an amazingly beautiful morning.

I determined that simpler was better for this birthday, and for every idea I had, I kept asking myself two questions: 1: Is that simple? & 2: Will it really be enjoyable for all? So, with that in mind... we crossed off many ideas, until we landed on just wandering around downtown for a couple hours...and doing some presents/cupcakes after birthday girl's naptime.

And, so that's what we did. Splendidly.

And, even though it was simple... we ended the day bone tired. But, that good kind of tired--where you wouldn't have changed a thing.

It seems only right to now share about the birthday girl herself.

Ok, so this kid is just fun. She loves engaging, being playful and finding a good joke to share. She loves things like rolling a ball back and forth, playing hide and seek or just making funny noises for us to laugh at. She will often be sitting across the room, catch my eye and do the cutest thing she can think of for no reason (clap, rest her head on something, make a raspberry, giggle, bounce up and down, shake her head emphatically). She literally keeps me laughing all day long with her clever games.

She also believes it only fitting that when she is in a room, people notice. Whenever she comes into a new place, she will look around and wave-- like a big, cross-body, sweeping Miss America wave. Like she's saying, "Hey everyone Gabriella's here!" She is social, alert, observant & studies people intensely until she decides to turn on the charm. She also is completely confused by people who don't notice her. If we are at the store or somewhere, and someone near her is not gushing over her, she stares at them with the most probing look a baby can make.... until they begin interacting with her. Then she's like, "Ohhhh! Now everything is right with the world!"

Words... she talks gently and sweetly all day long, with inflections and volume changes. However, actual words are down to "Bye!" & "Dog-doggy." Sadly, dog won out over mom and dad. She even randomly repeated, "Hubba Bubba" quite a few times to the kids the other day...I think she's on to us.

Gabriella is quick to size up a room and decide what she is going to do and do it. She is very decisive, and quick to find solutions... She is strong. logical, and it's always easy to understand what she's thinking. Even from the time she was a new born, she has seemed to have this uncanny way of making plain exactly what she wants... and typically what she wants makes sense. (Ask me again on her second birthday if this is the case!) She definitely has strong feelings about things and resists if I need to take something away from her, but generally she moves on quickly. She is also just now entering the land of dramatic sadness in response to a "no", or momma being unable to pick her up right away. She will freeze, her eyes will widen in suprise... Then she will gasp, her shoulders will fall, and oh-so-slowly she will bend her head down to the ground and begin weeping very convincingly. It is both sweet and comical. (How can I resist that?) ;)

Ok, so this girl loves music. I mean loves loves it. She tries to sing along if she hears us singing, waves her arm dramatically along to the rythym, bounces her behind to the beat. The cutest. Can't wait to see if that develops into something more!

Unlike big sister, she really enjoys baby dolls. It's so cute to see her picking them up, looking at them intensely, and hugging them. She also loves putting hats and sunglasses on (which neither of her older siblings liked).

She is quick to learn. Since she is usually my grocery shopping sidekick these days, when it comes time to check out... she gets very excited. She insists I give her the wallet, she opens it, pulls on the debit card and tries to swipe it in the machine. She gets very frustrated if I try to do that without her. She also has figured out how to turn things on and off with the wii remote, which drives the kids crazy. And, I'm going to pretend I just told you she knows how to read in Latin and cross-stitch--so it doesn't sound so much like she lives with shopaholic couch potatoes.

Gabriella is social, alert, observant. studies people intensely until she decides to turn on the charm. if they ignore her, that seems to make her focus in even more intensely until they notice her and engage--then she's like "NOW everything is right in the world"

Little Miss Thing is crawling everywhere. Unlike big bro & sis, she never did the army crawl. Our house is now a series of gates, and everything is shifted to a higher shelf in this new series. She already has checked "Falling All The Way Down The Stairs" off her bucket list. So sad. I was racing down the stairs behind her, and she would roll down 3 stairs and stop and I would yell, "Oh, good!", and reach for her...and then she'd roll again... She is a TORNADO. She tears things out of cabinets, rips pages out of books, empties an entire container of qtips (during my shower) and generally leaves a room destroyed wherever she goes. I told Rey that I feel I may slip into a depression over the whole thing... she's quicker than I am! ;)

Where we live now means that G & I spend at least two hours in the car a day, driving big brother and sister two and from school. She is pretty patient with all the running around she has to do with me.

Can we talk about her hair? Shoot, she's had two haircuts already in her first year of life... and it still looks like she doesn't have a momma most days.... I promise that I really do "do" her hair almost every morning! Even if it doesn't look it.

Also, she a pretty tough little girl about most falls/scrapes unless it's a real "ow"...

And, I think that is most of our Gabriella news! We don't know what we'd be without her--our life is so much better with her in it!!

Friday, September 25, 2015

your changing body...

Have you ever seen a momma dog right after she's given birth to a litter of puppies? How her belly seems to sag to the earth, and she walks slowly and gingerly? How it appears that her body has been emptied in one swift moment and left her limping along with the aftermath?

I remember distinctly feeling as though I were that momma dog. Lovely comparison, I know. I had given birth to Gabriella on Friday at noon... and here it was, Monday morning--and it was business as usual. Rey was back at work, and Noe was to go back to school. However, we lived in a 2nd floor apartment... and just envisioning hauling the baby carrier in the crook of one arm and the necessary bags on the other arm out to the van--down those stairs--was giving me qualm. Actually, envisioning just the stairs was giving me qualm. Walking itself was a "as-needed-only" activity (like, "I'm starving", "Baby's crying", or "I can't hold it anymore" kind of necessity) at this point... For some reason, even driving was sounding overwhelming. And, how would the baby do on this drive? I'm so tired... let's just skip it...

But, no. It was mind over matter time. Since I knew I didn't have the energy to keep the three of them entertained all day... I knew I needed to bite the bullet and just get Noe to school. I vehemently hoped I wouldn't meet any neighbors on the way out. I just felt so war-torn, so in-pain... I was still oozing liquid out every pore of my body it seemed. It was a very hot, bright morning... so, I covered the top of my 3-day-old baby's carrier with a light blanket as we scooted out the door. I had almost limped to the van when the voice of two neighbors sounded behind me. They were excited to see the baby, who was sleeping and I wished her to stay that way. I pulled the blanket back a bit for them to see her and thanked them for their compliments. But really, I just wished I had been invisible.

I share this moment because it is so seared into my memory. How my body felt...

It was maybe two weeks later, when I found myself at the grocery store alone for the first time since Gabriella's birth. What coursed through me was the realization that it was the first time I had not had her "in or on me" in the last 9+ months! I suddenly felt a pang of loss, and I felt naked. Alone. I also suddenly felt to urge to cover my post-baby belly with the shopping cart or whatever was near. I knew I still looked like I was pregnant, and didn't want to field those questions...

When I was pregnant, I felt cute. I felt powerful. Yes, I felt large and awkward... but there was no feeling of a need to hide or camaflouge. No need to suck in, or be ashamed.

I took this picture 10 days after Gabriella was born:

I was honestly elated. I had heard the whole loosing weight thing got harder with each baby, and remember... I was looking like this just weeks before:

I also wanted to document what it really looks like to recover from birth. Each of us recovers differently... but, there is a definite recovery. Everyone needs to know that.

I took this picture about 3 weeks after G was born. I was proud of myself... because I was actually getting my butt out the door to take the girls on a walk. Must document!

Can I tell you something? This gentle treatment of myself, this tender self-encouragement ended about the time Gabriella turned 3 months old. I think before that point, I could always say how old Gabriella was in weeks, and always be assured a "You look so great!" kind of response. However, the older she got, the more shame began to creep in. I started to feel like my time for just taking it easy was running out. The less Gabriella began looking like a newborn, the more I felt as though my appearance was being judged, and the less comfortable I began to feel with myself. With the first two babies, I felt like the weight came off pretty easily. With this last one, it's been more of a journey, and I've had to accept that.

This picture: Gabriella is almost 4 months old, and I'm reminding myself to take pictures in every day mom mode. I'm not just about documenting my babies or getting myself back in shape--there's a lot of life happening in between! 

Why share this? Why document? Because I know it's not just me who feels this pressure. Who daily struggles between the reality that we birthed these babies, and now we are in charge of keeping them alive... and also are somehow expected to "look good" (whatever that means) in the meantime.  

Do you remember taking a course called, "You and Your Changing Body" (or some similarly titled book) when you were around the age of puberty?? I really think there needs to be more openness and more dialogue about the post-pregnancy body. It's like the new puberty. All the same awkwardness, all the same uncontrollable hormones & chemicals. All the same breakouts and body changes. But, none of the same openness, understanding. We have to make a home in a brand new body, figure out how to dress it... all with zero time. Or energy... Oh, and yes! Your body will keep changing--maybe every 3 months or so after pregnancy--as it morphs into the new thing it's going to be. You didn't have hips before? Ah, well, now you do! Did you used to have a curvy backside? Well, now it's flat. Enjoy. Your chest region will go from painfully large, to knows what??-- over the coming year. Let's throw in loose joints, hair breakage, and a good dose of post-baby acne as well. AND--now, we'll pile on the expectations of how quickly you should loose that baby belly... and baby thighs... Or, we'll pile on the guilt if you loose it "too fast"....

When I look in the mirror today, I still see a changing body. Thankfully, it is becoming stronger and--in some ways-- more like the body I remember, recognize. In other ways, it will never be the same. And, I don't really think I want it to be. I actually enjoy being able to feel the scattering of little vertical scars along my lower belly. They are the life-long proof that these 3 amazing lives running around my house today did--really--at one time, make their home inside of me. One side of my stomach is actually lower than the other side. That reminds me how our last little darling spent most of her incubation time hanging out on one side of my belly--which really made my back happy. Even as my belly shrinks and the rolls on my back become fewer, there is still a small mound of extra skin camped out in front. It may eventually disappear. It may not. But, for now... When I see it--whether in the mirror, or perhaps in my own shadow--I try not to wish it away. I try to see it for what it is, was. A cradle. A safe, soft place for three lives. Their beginning, their home. Some of the last remaining evidence that it really happened...

All this to say. Let's be gracious, ladies. Let's not become so focused on loosing the baby weight that the whole deal becomes a kind of curse. If weight-loss is coming easily, let's remember to season our words with grace--for perhaps our easy feels like condemnation to our sister. If weight-loss is not happening as we have hoped and we aren't liking this new body... let's take some of that love and grace we show others--and direct it towards the reflection in the mirror.  Let's be motivated, let's take care of ourselves... But, let's be real, and kind. Being a mom is hard. That identity stretches us in so many ways. We must remember that we are mind, soul AND body. You see?? Our bodies are only 1/3 of who we are! Our bodies house us mothers.... They do not define us (for good or bad). Our bodies are homes, safe places, love in motion, servant hood, emblems of grace and mercy poured out... Let us see them as such, not just as something to be controlled, dominated or used for competition.   

Thursday, September 24, 2015

I am a tree.
I am a butterfly.
And, my home is on the Mountain.

From here, where my roots go down deep
I can see far
I can see valleys, I can see higher mountains
My bark is rough, scarred by those who have cut it and pierced it with their sharp carvings.
But, my rings are many.
They circle around within, telling the story of the days I've marked,
My life pressed out in diameters white,
Even more to be made.
But, they don't tell it all--
The rings speak of years, but they don't tell about the fruit,
The nests,
The branches snapped in the storms... the weight of the ice, the bending of the wind.
My roots go down, while my arms stretch out high;
They reach up towards the heavens, scratching at it,
Longing for it.
They stretch wide, giving home and protection.
I am a tree.

My colorful, delicate wings carry me high over these ridges.
They, perhaps, make you think that there's not much there--
Not much substance, not much strength.
But, my wings have carried me far. And up.
Don't judge me by the soft flutter of my wings,
As I worship with my twirl and my swirl.
Maddening in unpredictability, unsteady perhaps.
But still, this is my dance.
I am a butterfly.

This is where I make my home.
To some, this Mountain may seem formidable and unapproachable.
But here....
I have found my stability, my strength
The mass of this Mountain fills me with its grandeur,
Even on days that leave me feeling small.
It's height takes me up, where I want to be.
The crags and valleys give road to the sparkling eddies of water,
The trickles of small streams,
The rush of towering waterfalls.
The sparkling, the fragrance, the music of it.
It is life to me.
My home is on the Mountain.

Friday, September 18, 2015


On a gloomy, sticky morning... this flower decided to open its petals. While all the flowers around it remained dry, brown, withered.... this flower lifted up its head and shone yellow. In a not-much-visited corner of the world, among browness and dirt and mud.... it bloomed. It soaked in the small rainshower that came to it the previous day, and did not hoard it--anxiously imagining the heat and dryness to come. It didn't wonder "What's even the point, no one's going to notice?" It received the water, it released its effect. Smiled, nodded, and spread beauty & light to all who passed by.

Sometimes I struggle...sometimes I'm more like the brown withered stuff around the flower. Soaking in the rain, feeling the hurt of scarcity--wanting to keep it to myself. Sometimes, I feel too tired to shine. Sometimes, I want other flowers to provide me with their beauty; sometimes I wonder if my efforts are even worth it.

But then I'm reminded: Beauty is no less beautiful when it shines alone... And, it shines most when it shines in a hard, dark place.

Friday, September 4, 2015

summer lessons

Summer's over. And, it kinda makes me sad. Oh, no. I'm not harboring any silent wishes to be in charge of schooling my kiddos--but, I did feel like we were getting to a great place of synchronization. Or, maybe...I felt like I was just opening my eyes to a big "mommy-ing" revelation. 
Throughout the summer, I felt like I was getting bits and pieces of a bigger lesson (ever get that feeling?)... and the week before school started--I felt that many of the pieces came together, so I grabbed my phone, and began furiously typing thoughts as they came (in between dinner prep and cleaning up and....). Here are those thoughts, which I think I need to post somewhere in my house, to keep them fresh in my mind. I'm so good at forgetting.

Being a good mom means learning to live in the tension of constant companionship. Learning to lean into it--to feel the prickle of annoyance or desire for solitude... and just sit with it for a while. Until you are used to it. Learning that this thing--this having new appendages, being wanted at every moment--though draining, is not meant to be escaped from, sighed over or bemoaned. Mothering is not our suffocation, stifling or suppression. It is our wings, our roots, our legacy.

I cannot do "checked out" mothering. Going through the motions, while my heart, mind and soul are somewhere else. Community--companionship--is only right and healthful when I am fully God-dreamed, God-formed self. When I am fully alive, fully living, fully accepting, fully giving. When I can not only laugh at the future--but at the messes and the bodies all tangled together on top of me...just wanting to be closer. When I lean in, seeking to sow love, perspective and security--while tenderly exploring the souls doing life with me. Seeking moments to bring them along side of me in my quiet times, my work times--rather than always retreating into my own mind and space, Avoiding the "I deserve this time away from the leeches" mentality... knowing I have sometimes found that "me time" can be the unhealthiest thing...especially when accompanied by martyr-like moans and groans.

I am the woman of the house. I am powerful. I create the spaces, I set the tones, I build the home. Learning to "do" community comes easier to some of us--thanks to differences in the home culture you were brought up in and/or your own personality. Whether or not you are naturally a "people-person", I am coming to believe that we can only truly learn to do deep, authentic community when we first practice it in our homes... and in this setting, I am the initiator. My tone makes or breaks the moment; my tempo nurtures or prods; my inward focus can miss the life marching by--or can be turned outwards and bring joy-filled focus to those around.

Being the woman of your house, the mother of your children is a hefty calling. It is hard and sometimes heavy--but I believe it can also be our salvation, when we embrace it and allow us to mold us. When we choose to shine our brightest light, be our best selves, in our homes. To strangle those dark whispers in the background of our minds that swear to us that we are poor, suppressed, down-trodden individuals... being sucked of our life and our potential. When we realize that these little patience-needers also help shine the light on areas within ourselves not fully yielded to God, not yet relinquished to His kingdom. When we believe that each child in our home has been divinely "matched" to us by God... we can open our hearts and souls to them, to this "job", and dive into sharing life--really living--with these kids. These wonders. These disciples.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

what you didn't know about the 3rd child.

So, I'm going to write this post as if I am sharing something that is true to all of us. I'm going to say "you" a lot, so it makes me feel like this is a common thing, and not just me! And, these are things I am learning with #3-- perhaps for you you learned them on #1... or won't feel this until kid #5... But, at some point, I think all mommas of multiples get these feelings! Also, my third is 6 months old. I'm sure I'll be writing a whole 'nother post when she is six years old!

People probably tried to tell me these things, but some things must be experienced to be understood... so, without further delay, here are "20 Things To Know for #Three":

1. No matter how many children you have, a new baby is still a new baby. Somehow people will think you're this child expert by number three, and will back away from you. "Oh, you already know this... Oh, you don't need any help... Oh, you're a pro..."

Um. No. Actually, no matter how small the human... he or she is still a human, having arrived with their personality already present... The first weeks are not only weeks of recovery, they are also weeks of getting to know this new little person who arrived to your home. The baby is getting to know you, too... Getting to know your cues, your touch, your ways... It's a lot! So, no matter what number, we are all still starting over. And it's still overwhelming!

2. With the third, you will feel pressure to get it all perfect. You won't. Somehow it seems that the pressure/guilt is more with the third... Even when people say things like, "Oh, honey. Don't work so hard. Just relax and soak in this time with your babies"--it can feel like a guilt attack... Because, yes. That sounds really nice. But, hello!? Who's going to keep things going if I "sit and soak"? (PS: If you really want a new momma to feel relaxed and joyful, please don't say that line to her. Say something like, "Hey, can I swing by and hold your baby for you for a while? Or order you a pizza? Or take your big kids to the park?" That will actually alleviate some pressure, instead of adding some.)

3. There will be a season of time (let's say around week 4 of life--right when the baby is getting really needy)... that you will lay awake at night. Panicking. How will you do this? You didn't even get a shower today! Did you even talk to your oldest? Did we do dinner? What's happening???!

4. When people talk about how easy/great it is to have large families--they often smile from a lofty pinnacle of wisdom and say: "Remember, love multiplies... It doesn't divide." Uh, yeah. But, they forget about that whole time thing. Love multiplies... but, time on the other hand. It breaks, fractures, dissipates.

I remember that with Noe and Aleni, I felt like time dragged on and on... I often doubted if I had the fortitude to make it to lunch time--let alone until the end of the day. Now, I felt like I woke up... did a lot of things while accomplishing nothing... and then, five minutes later, the day was over. The days literally flew by, leaving me blinking and wondering what had just happened? And, breathless knowing that another day loomed ahead of me, just hours away.

5. You now live in the land of the "trade-off". You can't do it all anymore. So, activities become divided up into tiers. The activities shift up or down to different tiers as time changes... for now, my tiers are shaking out a bit like this:

Tier One: Necessary for Daily Life
-Feeding hungry tummies
-Generally straightening our living area
-Laundry (Washing/Drying)
(and, most days, especially at the beginning--THAT takes ALL.DAY. Doubt me if you will.)

Tier Two: Possibly get done Every Day
-Fun times with kids
-Actual time with Rey
-Putting laundry away
-Preparing good food (not just whatever I can grab/order pizza)
-Kid's homework

Tier Three: Would Love to Get to Every Day
-Organize/deep clean anything

Tier Four: Fun Extras (aka: Insert Giggles Here)
-Date Nights
-Find clothes that don't smell like poop/spit up
-Chat/correspond with friends

So, eventually you learn to only expect tier one from yourself... to pat yourself on the back if you make it to tier two... to feel like supermom if you make it to tier three... and to think you won the lottery if tier four happens.

6. Not the same, but related: You will find you have a fast-forward mode you now live in. Slow and steady no longer wins the day. You also possess a turbo mode, for special occasions.

7. Again, the time thing. I'm telling you: Don't get behind! (snicker) I know, right? But, really. Try to pick up as you go, stay up late to get those dishes washed, wake up early to get the clothes laid out. You will thank me.

8. Also, equally but seemingly impossibly true: There's no such thing as "Getting ahead on your chores" or "Getting a jumpstart" on tomorrow.

Here's an example.
I recently stayed up way late, waiting for the last load of laundry to finish drying so I could put it away. I felt I had accomplished to impossible that day: I had really cleaned EVERY room in the house and was moments away from having washed, dried, folded and stored every piece of dirty laundry in the house.

I fell into bed, feeling full of happy thoughts and big hopes for an awesome day to come. Of course, that night one child wet the bed, the other crawled into bed with us after a bad dream and the baby decided to be awake from about 1-3 am... and then to be up for the day a little after 5 am.

So, kiss that notion of getting ahead goodbye. Just focus on #6. Whisper to yourself: "Keep on swimming" and that's about the best you can do!

9. Milestones will fly by. You will hear yourself saying, "How is it possible that you are already rolling over/scooting/ready for solid foods...? I just birthed you yesterday!"

I remember with Noe and Aleni, I was glued to the "What to Expect" book and analyzing their every "shortcoming" or seemingly advanced ability. I haven't even checked those lists this time. Oops.

10. You will become more choosy about "mom events".

With the first two, I was all, "Get me outta here! What? You have something for moms.... with childcare?? I don't need to know you. It's ok. I'll just sit here and stare at the wall!" Now, I'm more like, "What? Get everyone out to the van by a certain time? Pack up all the gear, get them all dressed and out the door--hopefully between spit ups and blow outs?? No, thanks. We're fine."

I'm even, sadly, more picky on just mom outings... "Fondue? When I could deep clean the front closet? Or even...." *sacred whisper* "...sleep????"

11. I used to think that the more kids you have, the more mellow you become. I now think that the more kids you have, the more it shines a spotlight on your natural tendencies and your personality. And, that either you will like what is now magnified for all to see, or you will be forced to re-evaluate and tweak what comes natural to you into what works for now.

Just for fun, let's use me as an example. I tend to be a more spontaneous, wait-till-the-last-minute, meandering type. It may surprise you to learn that it is not working out to well for me to stay that way now that I have 3... with 2 being in different schools with different schedules... and with the baby needing her naps and feedings to happen also. This momma is having to figure out a more planned-out, quick-moving existence. For now. ;)

12. There's a reason "The 3rd baby is always so laid back". Because they have no choice! From day one, they are dragged anywhere and everywhere... at the dictate of the older siblings. They have to learn to sleep when and where they can, put up with loud noises, crazy play and lots of time in the car.

13. Perfect family/sibling pictures are a thing of the past. For some reason, you can get perfect pictures of two children. Something about having more than two in a picture just guarantees that at least one will have an expression suggesting the need for an immediate intervention by a trained therapist.

14. Second-guessing what works for your family or letting yourself settle into mom guilt will rob your now of its joy.

15. Remember this: Nothing you do today will have any permanence (think: cleaning floors, feeding hungry mouths, organizing closets). . . EXCEPT for the time you took to stop and love on those closest to you.

16. You will--perhaps for the first time ever--amaze yourself.

There's something about doing everything the third time that really presses it into your memory. You see yourself getting down on the floor with your older two during your last weeks of pregnancy, and marvel at your resolve to be present and show love even though your body is screaming at you. You see yourself birth your child--again--and are amazed that, even though you knew what was coming, you did it again. You see yourself taking on the housework... getting kids to school... when just days ago you were in a bed bringing life into the world. Yet, you are able to do it because you want to be strong for your husband and be strong for your family. You see yourself pulling yourself out of bed time and time again to quiet a screaming infant, although you have not once rested throughout the day, and are amazed at the power of your will. You are amazed at your strength, your resolve, your love, your capacity--the richness of your life. And, maybe--for the first time ever--you will start to be okay with admitting your own amazingness. (*Yes, that's a word...*)

17. When you find out you're expecting your third, do yourself a big favor: Run out and pick up a box of this. Seriously. Not even being cute. I just used it yesterday, and I heard little birdies singing while butterflies fluttered around my head. And, it literally took all of 20 minutes. Start to finish

 Something about the third seems to bring in an abundance of some things... and a scarcity of others. (In the abundance column, let's say I'm referring to gray hairs. In the scarcity column--review #4-8. And add.... hmm... I'll whisper it in Spanish so you don't think I'm being impolite: *dinero*.)

So, yes. Don't delay. It's happiness in a box. An attitude adjustment for $6. And it comes in every shade.

18. Sanity is not found the schedule... it's all about the rhythm, the dance.

Women in general are called to live in flux. Throughout our lifetime, we fill many different and diverse roles--our bodies go through unparalleled changes, bear pain, carry, hold, embrace, nurture, heal... And, we must find beauty in the changes. Must find the grace and tenderness there. If we hold on to what used to be, to what could have been, should have been, we will see the joy begin to crumble. But, if we can lean into what is, hear the rhythm of the time and sway to it's beat... we will find our way!

What does that mean in daily life? For me now, it has been finding what works for today... trying to notice what the baby seems to be wanting and needing today... realizing it could all be different tomorrow... and trying to be okay with that.

19. If you don't like what you see in the mirror, find one with a more flattering light source. For real.

20. You will survive. You will find your new normal. Because... you are a mother. Or, in other words: you are amazing.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

baby g is 6 months old...

Oh. I have written this post in my mind multiple times. The first time, Gabriella was 1 month old... then 2, then... Well, you get the idea! Time slips through my hands like sand these days--and my absence here is testimony to that.

But, I must sit myself here and record all things Gabriella at this point in time, before the details fade... even if it is an a scattered manner.

Gabriella is a love. She has brought sweetness and laughter into our family. She has followed the pattern of our other two: Being "small-ish" at birth, and then quickly stretching out to a long-for-her-age size. By five months, she was in nine-month clothing. She sits at a happy, chubby 16 pounds and is a constantly moving, squirming, grabbing, back-scooting bundle of girl. She has the softest, fluffiest hair you ever did see.

She has been my snuggliest, most social baby. Since birth, she preferred to fall asleep with her hand wrapped around my finger. *Falling asleep holding hands. Swoon.* She is quick to burrow her head in my chest when she's getting sleepy. She likes it when I roll her back and forth on the bed, or gentle tickle/rub her back and legs. She just melts and smiles....I love seeing her little, chubby body sleepily draped over Rey's shoulder when he gets to snuggle her to sleep in the evening. Usually, when I am getting her out of her crib when she wakes up, she kind of squeals, grabs my cheeks and pushes her head into my face. Baby hugs. The best. She often drapes her arm around my neck when I am holding her.

She cannot be out and about and not be seeing what's going on. She has to be up, facing outward--her eyes darting all over the place while she figures everything out. She especially likes to keep tabs on big brother and sister.

She's a chatter. Often, we will hear her around 2-3 in the morning in her crib, babbling sweetly to herself. When I am talking to Rey, she gets very intense and starts "talking" very determinedly, with vocal inflections and forehead furrowed. So cute. If she's in a noisy room, she begins squawking and trying to shout over the noise. She also will squeal with great excitement at different things, which always makes us all laugh.

She generally is not afraid of/shy with new people. She studies them intensely at first, but is usually quick to warm up and start winning them over with her myriad of facial expressions and big grins. She knows how to work her audience!

She is just starting to realize she can make us laugh, and she has great comedic timing. She'll do whatever it was that made us laugh, stop to look at everyone's reactions, and then do it again. So fun.

Not so fun: This girl can grab, scratch and pinch like no other. (Rey's "awesome" nickname for her is "Grabby"). So, keep your hair and face away from her!

(Feel like I have to explain, this was after Rey had arrived home from Sweden... 
so this is his "I haven't slept in hours face". Not the best pic, but the most recent
 I could find of both of them. Sorry, babe!) :)

Speaking of nicknames: No "official" ones yet. Unless you count Grabby. I usually just call her angel girl, because she is. Also, her name is easy to revamp. Some that have come up: Stinky-ella, baby-ella, pretty-ella... you get the idea. She also tends to get called "Gabby" a lot when we are out and about. We will see what ends up sticking! :)

This girl seems to be basically fearless. She's the first baby I've had that has never freaked out when I turned the vacuum cleaner on near her. I've even vacuumed with her in one arm, and she just interestedly watched everything going on. Aleni seems to think it's a lot of fun to trying to scare her (which gets her in trouble)... but, even if she is startled, very rarely does she cry from it. Rey can lift her up in the air, I can swing her low and fast--and she either giggles, grins or just kind of experiences it.

She's pretty good about putting up with how much we have to get out and about most days. Even if she's tired and grouchy, she doesn't generally cry too much... Or if she does, she can be calmed pretty easily. (Huge sigh of relief). That being said, after our little trip to the border this past weekend, I told Rey: "Ok, I think we've officially entered that window of time where it's best not to travel with her". She's just at that stage where she is so wiggly and alert, so car time and sleep times aren't as easy. Also, since she's starting into solids, there's the whole "transporting the feeding things" deal now. Hotel room sleeping isn't as easy, napping on the fly doesn't happen as easily... and, it's just a whole lot of work! So, you may not see all of us out for a while! ;)

My brother stayed with us for several days, and asked if I felt like she was just an unusually good baby. I said I think she just falls in the range of a "typical" baby (maybe what I envisioned babies were when I thought I wanted a bunch of them??). Noe was so needy and determined to only be with me ("People and new things are scary, hold me!"), while Aleni was pretty stoic and independent ("I don't need mothering, just feed me and let me be!")... so, I think I got a baby right in the middle this time. :)

Speaking of the siblings... ahh. It's so fun to watch how differently they relate already. Noe is like the cool big brother, since he is at school most days. When he talks to her, Gabriella lights up like with no one else. She is in love with big brother! Aleni has been my right hand helper with her little sister since day one, and it's so cute to see how she dotes on Gabriella and wants to snuggle with her. Gabriella seems to take it like it's her due. ;)

She is tip-toeing into trying out baby food. She tolerates a few spoonfuls here and there. Since we switched her to goat's milk, she has been wanting less baby food, which I guess means the goat's milk is making her more full! She loves the bouncy chair and enjoys the exersaucer. We are just starting to break in the infant swing outside, and she enjoys looking around. And, goodness. She slobbers like none other. No teeth coming that we can see, but everything goes straight to the mouth, and we go through multiple bibs/shirts a day in an effort to keep her somewhat dry!

What makes her cry? Hmm. Being tired, bored, hungry or in a room by herself. (Hey! This girl sounds like her momma! Ha!) Oh, also-- car seat = nooooo! :) Poor thing spends a lot of time in it too, with running big bro and sis around. Being #3 is not all fun and games, you see!

So, that's our girl G for now.... we are so thankful she is ours!

We love you, darling girl!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

noe and the eternal

Noe is in the age of questioning. He's always been a deep thinker... and I've wondered when those deep thoughts would turn to the eternal. It really started about a month ago. He mentioned wanting to get baptized because he loves God. I said that was really great, and we left it at that. I don't want to push my kids into beliefs or actions that I don't feel like they really have processed (to the best of their ability).

He then began really asking questions about dying. What happens when you die? How does it feel? Will I be alone? When will I die? How will I die? Will I be scared? I will cry and cry if you and daddy die. How do I get to God? How do I get to heaven? What is heaven like? How do I talk to God? Why can't I see God? What does God look like?

I get choked up just typing these questions! Such big, big thoughts for a little guy. And, of course, answering questions about death with your handsome first-born are enough to give any momma's heart pain. It really makes you think--as you try to put what you believe into terms a child can understand. And, it makes you process what you believe as you put it into words.

I told Rey that I was so glad these questions were overflowing just as we were going into the Christmas season--because: ADVENT! The story of Jesus! I really wanted to find an advent that told the whole gospel story, because I knew that Noe was ready to see the whole picture of God's redemption offered. I was excited to find this resource online--PERFECT for us: simple enough that I in my craziness and shortage of time could do it, yet involved enough that they kids looked forward to it (we only did it 1-3 nights a week... but they got it!). (Also: The link takes you to the website. If you scroll to the bottom, there is a button to download the .pdf version of the guide, which was easier to follow for me)

So, we've been following the story of Jesus... from his foretelling, to his birth, to his redemption provided, to his resurrection and promise to prepare a home for us in heaven. The kids followed along--asking many questions, and being nearly moved to tears as they took in the story of the cross. It was so great to finish the story tonight... Jesus is not dead... and He is preparing a room for us in heaven! This imagery helped Noe get excited about heaven, as he dreamed up how perfectly decorated his new room will be!

We asked if the kids wanted to pray to give their lives to Jesus and be with him forever, and they did. Especially Noe got it... He was very, very nervous as he decided that yes, he wanted to take this step. We joined hands and told God we loved him and knew we couldn't go to heaven on our own. We asked Jesus to wash our hearts clean and told him that we gave him our lives and we wanted to live with him forever. We told him thank you for saving us and making a way for us to get into heaven. And, then we said "amen".

Noe opened his eyes with awe, and obviously emotional. Trying to smile, and not let a tear escape, he said: "Wow! That was it?? We're done?? We can go to heaven now?? Wow!!!" He said he thought it would be a lot harder than that. Isn't that amazing? Kids and adults aren't that different--we all think it will be hard to get into heaven. Which led us to another great chat with our boy. "God makes it easy for us! Do you know why he made you? Because he hoped you would say 'yes' to him! Whenever you say 'yes' to God, you make him so happy! And, it's not hard to talk to God... you can talk to him whenever and wherever you want! Can you believe it?"

That was followed by conversations like, "Do angels sleep? Do they get hungry?" and "When you and daddy go to heaven, can you please take a video on your cell phones and send it to me so I can see what it looks like?" THEN, we pulled out the Bible again and read what the Bible says about heaven. By the time we were done with that ("Gold streets!" "No darkness!" "No sadness or bad things!"), Noe was stoked! He kept saying, "Yay! Yes!" whenever more cool things were added to the heaven list.

My boy is growing up. He is stretching my heart to the bursting with his sweet earnestness. I pray only that his daddy and I can live in a way that mirrors God's heart, and that we are given the words that speak directly to his heart and draw him closer to his maker.

Oh, nothing... just a cheery wave from Joseph...! :)

Friday, December 19, 2014

gabriella elise

On the dawn of my 39th week of pregnancy... I woke up at 4 am and heard a "pop". I had been dreaming about labor and birth all night long, so I really thought I probably imagined the sound. I got up and moved around a little, and felt a few twinges. I decided since I was up, I might as well get a shower. During the shower, I felt two twinges that I felt like qualified as contractions.

I decided to start getting the stuff for the hospital together and by the door... as well as the things for Noe and Aleni. It had been a prayer of mine that baby come during the day, to make it easier for getting Noe and Aleni looked after.

Around 5:30, I woke Rey up. Contractions had continued to come about every 10 minutes, but the doctor had warned me that since it was my third and I was already so dilated, the labor could be fast once it started. I definitely didn't want to wait too long!

We let our friend Julie (who was going to be taking care of the kids) know that it looked like today was the day and woke the kids up. I think we headed to the hospital around 6, and Julie met us there to take the kids to her house for the day.

I walked up to the maternity ward alone while Rey waited to meet Julie in the lobby. I felt like a displaced person, waddling slowly and painfully down the long, empty white halls with my overnight bag in hand. I first had to go into an office and check myself in. It felt weird to be talking insurance cards and ID between contractions. I then was admitted to the main receiving desk. As I was talking to those nurses, Rey buzzed at the door. They asked who he was there to see, and I said, "Oh, he's with me!" There was a bit of confusion as the nurses thought I said, "He's not with me!" I think they thought, "Is he a stalker? Does she have a restraining order on him??" Ha.

We were taken to our room, and I changed into the gown (the glorious, oh-so-flattering gown). Vitals were taken, IV was hooked up, heartbeat monitor strapped on. Then, I was allowed to get down to the business of labor!

I had brought an exercise ball for labor, and ended up using it a lot. I found out that in early labor, I had to keep moving/walking around to keep the contractions coming. So, usually I would walk around or stand and rock back and forth, and then when a contraction hit, I would kneel on a mat and put my forearms on the ball. Or, I would sit on the ball and rock back and forth.

My favorite part about my labor? Having Rey there! I am SO thankful Rey's job arrived just weeks before baby's entrance to the world, because Rey was able to really be "there" and that meant the world to me!

"Don't let anyone fool ya. Labor's not that exciting." ;)

We actually spent the first couple hours just having fun together. The contractions were probably 4-8 minutes apart and weren't too horrible. We kept making jokes between them, and maybe the laughing helped keep things rolling. Rey joked about missing "casual Friday" at work "for this!". :)

I loved the music I had for labor... I already had some songs I liked on my phone, and I downloaded tracks from this album also. (Specifically, tracks 1, 2, 9 & 16) It was only 4 tracks, but they never got old and really helped me to focus and keep calm.

At one point, a love song that Rey sang to me when we were dating came on during a contraction. I was laughing until I was crying as I told him, "I'm sure this" (me on my knees, leaning on an exercise ball, with wires and tubes attached to me, bleary eyes and a gross hospital gown) "Was what you had in mind when you sang that to me eight years ago!! Sooo romantic!" :)

I think I must've been contracting for several weeks, so I'd started ignoring smaller contractions... Because at one point, the nurse came in and asked, "So, how did those last few contractions feel?" I said I hadn't had any for more than 5 minutes, and she said, "No, actually you had several..." and showed me on the charts. Ok, then!

But, labor isn't all fun and games, and it did--of course--heat up! Probably around 10:30, I got a lot less chatty. By 11, I had moved to the bed. The back of the bed was up (like a chair), so to stay more upright (and keep things moving), I knelt, facing the back of the bed--my arms resting on the back of the bed for support. Now, when the nurse would come to check in on me, there was no smiles or small talk. It was all focus and and breathing! I told her I felt like the baby was moving down, and she checked. She said she thought I still had a ways to go.

My doctor had a surgery to do at 12:30, so the nurse said to plan to push around 1 pm. By about 11:45, I had that "oh-no-this-is-it" transition pain happening. My body began shaking all over and the pain was unbearable. It also meant all kind of crazy sounds were coming out of me... so everyone in the area knew I was having a baby! :) The nurse came in, checked, and then called the doctor and told her she needed to come now, before her surgery.

From this point on--until Gabriella was delivered--I never opened my eyes. I had to focus! I also must confess that as the nurse was out arranging things, I did push a few times--the pain couldn't be denied!

I heard the doctor come in, and comment on how she heard me out in the hallway. They helped me turn around on the bed and position for pushing. The doctor checked one more time and said, "Oh, yeah. The head is right there." She then said, "Ok, are you ready? You're going to change gears and start pushing!" I nodded, and they had me push on the next contraction. At this point, the heart-monitor which was belted tightly around my lower belly was driving me crazy. I would pull it up during a contraction, and they would pull it back down.

With my other two, when it was time to push, I had been instructed to push once as hard and long as I could with the contraction, and then rest until the next one. Here, they instructed me to push again and again and again--back-to-back--as long as the contraction lasted. This made me very light-headed and exhausted (of course)... but... it was probably 3 contractions and 7 pushes... and-- at 12:27pm... Gabriella Elise joined us!

It took me a few moments before I could open my eyes and see the bundle of love lying on my chest! She was here!! Ah! There's no feeling like it!


All cleaned up and hanging out with momma before getting taken to the nursery. 
Wow, my hands were so swollen!

The nurses were all very complimentary--"We have a lot of women come in saying they want to go natural...but very few actually do." I was just glad to be done! We even got to order food to the room. I had to order SODA (no more heartburn!!)..! Pasta! So good.

Rey went and brought Noe and Aleni to see their new sister late that afternoon. SO, so fun to let them meet her!

People have asked me how this birth compared to my other two--since the other two were at home. I am so happy with how great the hospital staff was in respecting my wishes to do the birth naturally. They really just left Rey and I alone to labor and would just check in from time to time. They asked once or twice if I was sure about not getting an epidural, but were not at all pushy. 

It, of course, did require a bit more planning--since I needed to pack for myself and the kids, and try to time our departure... but that was no big deal. It was, on the one hand, a bit less comfortable... since I didn't have ready access to my food/clothing/bathroom. On the other hand, it was like a mini vacation: My own room! A TV! Nursery service! It wasn't that fun having the needles poked in me and the monitoring tests done throughout the day and night, but I knew it was "for my good", so--again--no big deal. There was some confusion when it came time for us to go home too, which was annoying... but, we ended the day with a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby... and that's all that matters! :) :)

3rd pregnancy

Since this was more than likely my last pregnancy... I knew I wanted to save notes on the journey. Because, sometimes time makes one forget that the journey--although glorious--did have its aches and pains. That may help... when I'm looking longingly at newborn pictures a couple years from now! ;)


I had been hoping for and dreaming of having a 3rd baby ever since we had Aleni, really. But... on the other hand... we had two amazing, darling kiddos and we were really enjoying life with them!

I first realized I may have been pregnant in January when I had been feeling like I may throw up for a few days in a row. Noe had been really sick with a respiratory/fever issue, and I thought maybe I was getting a virus from him. When I dissolved into tears at the doctor's office (read: hysterical-snot-dripping-down-tears) when it was time to pay the bill..., I realized... "It could be something else!" The first test came back negative, so I waited a few days. And, the second one told the good news! I was beyond excited. It was one of those "This is too good to be true" kind of excitements. Due date: Oct 10, 2014.

Weeks 4-11 were miserable! I felt nauseous 24/7... yet, somehow ravenously hungry at random times. But, since everything looked and smelled revolting, I couldn't figure out what to eat, which would make me even more nauseous. The nauseousness often turned into dizziness, or feeling like I would faint, so I would sit on the ground and breathe through it--willing myself not to vomit. The nausea would pass and leave me drenched in sweat on the floor.

I also developed a rashy, break-out type complexion on my face and chest that stuck around until about week 23. (I think they call that "glowing", yes??) ;)

During week 5, I had some light spotting, which was checked out. Everything looked good, so that was a relief. Around week 11, I had some more light spotting, which also turned out to be nothing. They reported all my vitals as looking good, and I got to hear a great, strong heartbeat. I'd never had this with my other pregnancies, and it was hard to fight the feeling of panic... "I knew it was too good to be true!" Thankful it wasn't!!

We announced the pregnancy when I was only about 8 weeks pregnant, because I was already starting to show and a couple friends had already guessed. Also, we were getting packed up for our move to Texas, so I wanted everyone to know before we left.

(10 weeks)

Thankfully, by the time we were on the road, the nausea had died down, and I was starting to feel more like  a "regular" person. I got really sick for almost a week once we got to San Antonio. Intense fevers that would come and go, waking up gasping for air, loosing my voice, sneezing, coughing without relief... I thought it was a bad head cold. A SA "native" informed me it was oak allergy--and Benadryl came to the rescue. Whew!

(13 weeks)

I enjoyed wonderful weeks between weeks 14-20 where I didn't even "feel" pregnant--except of course when I looked in the mirror! I could go on long walks, short jogs, sleep, eat... everything!

Around week 18, I really started to slow down and "feel" bigger. There were less comfortable positions for sitting, sleeping. Also, nightly "pregnancy congestion" and feeling like I was dying of heat was making sleeping more difficult. For a couple of weeks, the intense itchiness all over my body was particularly aggravating at night, adding the the frustration. Thankfully, the itchiness died down around week 21.

( 20 weeks)

Around week 20, I started experiencing ear congestion... Where my ears would pop shut (like when you are on an airplane)... and stay that way no matter what. It was miserable, because, as I talked, the congestion would continually "pop" , so my voice would go from muted to loud, to muted over and over... making me feel very frustrated when I would be trying to converse with people ("What did you say? Am I shouting? Am I speaking clearly?? Because I can't hear..."). That has continued on... some days being worse than others, and it seems the higher the humidity, the worse it is (and it's never humid in south Texas. Ha, ha.)

Even with the added discomfort of my growing midsection and heavier weight--I still can't get over how fun it is to feel this strong little baby inside of me! To feel the movements grow from slight flutters now and then... to full-on kicks and body-slams as time goes on. SO amazing.

Week 22, I went in to get ultrasound--and find out the gender (beyond excited!!!)... but there was some confusion (they had written down my appointment as being a regular check-up, not prenatal) and the doctor's office said to come back the following week. I hadn't been seen since leaving Illinois, so I was devastated not to get a peek at the little bun in the oven. Yes, I did cry in the parking lot.

Week 24... the pelvic pain is here! Feels like bone-on-bone... lower pelvic pressure, and also intense pressure/pain in the lower back. Makes moving around/standing up/pushing a shopping cart/going up and down stairs... unpleasant!

Week 26--After experiencing what felt like my hip giving out on multiple occasions when doing super athletic things like bending over or putting my pants on, I was able to get a pregnancy belt support... and has helped tremendously.

(27 weeks)

Week 27- We found out that baby is a GIRL! The whole pregnancy, Rey was so sure it was a boy... so it was hard to stop calling her a "he"...but, at the moment the doctor told me, it felt so right. Like it was what I'd been secretly hoping the whole time.  Also--> S.T.A.R.V.I.N.G all the time. Not for snacks. Not for salad. For big, full, meaty meals. Also: "vomit burps" (your welcome). All day long, especially when I bend over. Time for tums! Test said I was low on iron, so had to up the iron supplement.

(30 weeks)

30 weeks... feeling the pain! So much pelvic pressure, it takes my breath away!

31 weeks... Harder time falling asleep, can't breathe when lying down, now "sleep" sitting up. Walking around in an exhausted fog.
(32 weeks)

33 weeks.. I can feel with my hands the whole baby's body as she flips, stretches and turns. Amazing! She is much lower--which results in every.single.time I stand up: I have to waddle quickly to the bathroom.  Definitely waddling now, willing each leg in front of the other... Enough so that I barely can walk by anyone without them offering a kind word of encouragement... or just staring. Her being lower does seem to help lower the heartburn issue. Feeling lazy, with crazy, unpredictable bouts of energy. It's been around 100 degrees for the last month or two... so, any time I go outside, I'm almost immediately completely soaked in sweat, Lovely. DYING to meet our little doll!

(34 weeks)

34 weeks--It's amazing to be able to really feel her little body in there. "Whoa! That was a hand! A foot! Her little bum just completely rotated across my belly!" I'm guessing it's b/c my belly is roomier this time around, but I don't remember being able to so clearly feel the baby's individual body parts as they moved around. It takes my breath away... I sit for hours, with my hand on my belly, just feeling her flip, stretch, hiccup, kick, flicker... It makes me feel like I am already truly holding her tiny self. It's miraculous.
Also: Super swollen feet/ankles. Ouch!

35- No more sleeping! :( She seems to wedge herself under my rib cage, and I wake up in a panic because I can't breathe. Some nights, I just sit completely upright in bed until I fall asleep that way... and then wake up to re-position around midnight or 1 am... often by then she's adjusted herself so that then I can lay on my side and sleep the rest of the night. Lots of pain/pressure on my butt bones, and I'm needing to go to the bathroom every time I stand up--even up to 3 times in 10 minutes! Fun!

(36 weeks)

36 weeks- Doc says i'm 2 cm dilated/60% effaced. She also noticed my swollen ankles/feet and mentioned "You're not measuring big, but it feels like a lot of baby packed in there." Also: confirmation baby is head-down. That afternoon & night, I felt dizzy/nauseous/upset stomach/hot-cold flashes... At night I felt like my belly contains a balloon being blown up more and more and more... until I feel as though I would burst from the pressure. The next morning, I had nausea and an upset stomach, too. Made me wonder if labor was coming.... Nope! :)

(37 weeks)

37 weeks doctor checkup: Between 2 & 3 cm dilated.

(38 weeks)

38 weeks doctor visit says 4 cm dilated! Come on baby! I posted the picture above and said I hoped it would be my last pregnancy profile shot.

And... it was! :) :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

a reminder... to me...

As I struggle to find a new normal in my days (new job + new house + new baby + hubby twice to Mexico in 2 weeks + all 3 kids taking turns getting croup = whaaaa??!)... I find myself falling into bed feeling like a failure most days. Things I'd wanted to accomplish--half-started, or totally forgotten. (Why do we remember everything the moment we lie down?) If I am feeling even a little "together"--all I need to do is walk into a different room, see the disaster, and be reminded of how very little I have together!

This is not a post begging for help or looking for pity--I have a thousand other things I've been dying to write... But, this. This is the post I must write. To myself. A lifeline, when I am flailing to keep my head above water. When I am feeling like nothing is going right.

And, word to the wise--it is not a well put-together post. The rambling and lack of organization is a reflection of my mental state these last weeks.. but I hope you can find the sense of it! ;)

The first several weeks post baby, I felt my attitude slipping. Especially towards everything "not baby". I would snap at my older children--not giving them time or grace to be themselves. Playfulness had flown out the window, and in it's place came a snarky, sleep-deprived woman who demanded silence, immediate obedience and the understanding of an adult.

Thankfully, I felt God's voice halt me in my tracks... and encourage me to stop taking myself and my feelings/emotions so seriously. Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I was cranky. So, what? It would pass. What wouldn't pass were my children's memories of these days. The hurt I was so carelessly inflicting as I cut them off in their excited sharing (not enough time!), as I shut down any inclination towards creative play (messy!), as I told them to laugh quietly (too loud!)... as I myself forgot to smile, and to laugh. I began laughing first at myself. I am a pretty funny thing, actually. And, really... the less sleep I get, the funnier I get. (Bumping into walls, putting socks in refrigerators, completely forgetting appointments THAT ARE WRITTEN ON THE CALENDER). Why not just laugh about it? As opposed to letting it all build and build until I explode all over my loved ones? This perspective helped me to find time for play with the kids... Car rides are now crazy times of silliness and sharing. Love it. It helps me to stop what I'm doing and listen--with corresponding facial expressions..!

So, playfulness and engaging has returned. But, I now struggle with the HOUSEWORK. I don't naturally adore housework. It doesn't really fulfill me. BUT. I do enjoy a clean, organized house. And, I do feel intense pressure to keep it that way. I feel that weight each night as I go to bed, surrounded by piles of clothing and projects that are half-started. I feel embarrassed--imagining someone popping in: "They will think I do nothing all day!"

I also began feeling the crushing pressure yesterday, as the kids and I began decorating the house. I began feeling that our decorating wasn't that great and picking things apart. And, then I stopped.

You know what?? WHO CARES? Who cares if these decorations are the ones we've been recycling the last several years? Who cares if they aren't placed in the most perfect way? I then began to feel the need to rebel against the weight... What if---I didn't spend another cent on decorations? What if I just let it be?

I began thinking about what REALLY matters to me. What I REALLY want my kiddos to learn as they grow.

And, here it is... (incomplete... but here):
--I want them to learn creativity and imaginative play. Which, in my world, means allowing messy. Allowing paper scraps, allowing blanket forts, allowing digging in the dirt.

--I want them to learn helpfulness and how to work. Which, in my world, means allowing them into MY space. Not shutting out offers of helping me cook dinner, fold laundry, sweep the floor, organize a drawer. EVEN WHEN I WANT TO. Even when it takes 10 times longer with them "helping".

--I want them to learn responsibility and family cooperation. Which, I my world, requires leaving certain things undone... so that they will do them. (like: Their bed). It requires me to be more organized and to think about what they are capable of doing... and it requires me to HOLD THEM to it! It requires that I hold myself back from doing things that they can and should be doing (cleaning up after themselves, helping out).

--I want them to feel the home is their home. Which, in my world, means displaying their projects their artwork... and even (gasp) letting them lend a hand in decorating it (and even leaving it the way they did it!). I don't want them to learn, "Hands off, the only one whose creativity counts is momma's." I want them to learn to dream, create--and to do so cooperatively. I want my home to reflect the people who live there--not a snapshot from a magazine.

--I want them to learn respect and kindness. Which requires that I am tuned into how they play, how they interact, and how they respond.

--I want them to learn about God, and His plan for them and how He is a part of everything in our lives. This means I need to both plan ahead for teaching times... and take the time for spontaneous teaching times. I need to utilize different ways of getting the message across--whether through conversation, games, crafts... which all takes time.

What do you think? Do you notice what is glaringly absent from the list? "I want them to learn that the only good home is a clean, model home ". Not even there!

Also, this list was a huge reality check. ALL of them require time, flexibility, time, connection, engagement, time, follow-up and a sort of open-handedness. And, time. Which means... none of these priorities spell "Clean, magazine-worthy house".

All of this is not to say, "Don't stop by my house. Is a toxic landfill." (Hopefully not!) ;) Nope. It's just a reminder to me that if that list above is really a reflection of some of my top priorities for my kids... Then, that's the list I should be running through my mind as I lie in my bed at night. I need to allow myself to feel the joy of the deep conversation about God that my son had with me, or the compassion I saw displayed by my daughter, or the laughter shared by all at dinner. These are my standards. These are what matter to me.

What about you? Are you able to just focus on your family's priorities... and let all the other crazy expectations run out the door and bother someone else? ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

a woman and her pies.

A little over a month ago, a dear friend sent me a message on Facebook. She wrote: "Did you see what I wrote about the pies?" I thought maybe she had written me by accident, but I went to check it out. I found a post commenting on the amazing, mouth-watering pie she had baked for her daughter (I mean--doesn't just looking at this picture make you drool??). :)

As I went to comment that it looked very delicious, I saw this friend had typed: "Fresh peach pie to highest bidder next. Cash goes to Texas for Rey and Liz Sanchez and their little baby girl soon to be born. Peaches coming Aug. 21. Let the bidding begin. P.S. let's make it the top two bidders and you can bid until Aug. 20th. Let's have fun!."  Tears sprang to my eyes-- what??! How sweet was that? 

I thanked her, and then Rey and I just marveled together at this gesture of love and kindness. You see, that's all this friend (and her lovely family) have shown us. Back even before there was an "us", a "Rey and Liz Incorporated", she believed in us. She encouraged Rey to pursue me, and giggled with me over "Rey tidbits" at her kitchen table during our long-distance dating. She prayed for us and often served as a conduit of information for us. She would vouch for Rey's character when I was unsure... and pass along to Rey whatever giddiness I may have "happened" to share with her. She insisted we call her "Grandma" and invited us to many family functions; they even let Rey live with them on 2 separate occasions.

For our wedding that took place in the U.S... she and her husband stood in for Rey's parents, since they couldn't make it. I don't just mean they stood up at the wedding. Nope. She went with me to check out the wedding venue and give her perspective on it. They also found the perfect spot for our rehearsal dinner and footed the bill.

When we lived in Mexico, she didn't forget to send us birthday cards and holiday greetings. She even sent gifts for the kids. They often supported us when we were on the mission field. One Christmas, she actually told her family that she and her husband had all they needed, so to send whatever they would've spend on gifts to us! Who does that??

All these memories and more came flooding back to Rey and I as we shook our heads at how she--yet again--had thought of another way to bless us.

A month or so went by, and I had pretty much forgotten about the pie comment, since we had heard no further details. One day, an unexpected bill arrived in the mail. By this point, we were living off of what Rey could earn working part time at a car wash, and the bill was much larger than we could afford. I walked to the mail box the next day, hoping no more surprise bills were waiting and wondering what we should do about the one that had arrived. 

What I instead found was a note from a person who I didn't know... with a check for a little more than what the bill had been... stating they had ordered some delicious pies from our friend and this financial gift was because of those pies. The sender included some sweet words of encouragement as well. Can you say amazing??

I called our friend first thing the next morning, and we exclaimed together over this amazing event-- she said she called things like that "pennies from heaven" and was just as ecstatic over it as I was. I thought this check was from the "winner of the auction"--as detailed on the Facebook comment. But, then... our friend told us that news of her pies was spreading like wildfire and orders were pouring in.

I asked, "What??! I thought it was just the one pie! How many pies have you sent out so far?"

She counted them up. Twelve. "And, with each pie, I send an enveloped pre-addressed to you guys with a note saying they can send however much they like." We were dumbfounded. 12 pies? And, she had more orders coming in.

She made so many pies, she ran out of peaches and had to switch to apples. I think she made 23 pies total. And, more checks kept arriving in our mailbox. Most from people we'd never met. Many with sweet notes of encouragement. Each check caused me to envision those dear hands preparing the fruit, slicing it, rolling out the dough, watching to make sure the pie was baked to perfection. Bringing more tears to our eyes. A true, complete labor of love.

In the end, our friend's pies (along with their own generosity) brought us over $1300. Overwhelming. And, honestly. When we needed it most. The last check arrived September 8. Rey was hired September 19. How fun it was to share the joy with her!

There are many things about our friend that are note-worthy. That are imitable. In this particular instance, I loved that she didn't just see a need and try to fill it herself. She found a way to pull in her community around her to help us also--and I think that is extra special. God has placed amazing people in our lives like this one. I always try to absorb as much from them as I can, pass on what they have been to us to others. To learn how to truly give and love as they do. It is truly humbling. Our people are our biggest blessing.

Why do I share this woman with you all? I don't share her name because I know she didn't do it for fame. Those who know her already know all that I am writing... and more! I write it because each of us are daily confronted with needs around us. It can seem so hard to know what to do. Maybe we don't feel we have anything that could help.

Maybe we don't. But, maybe. Just maybe, we could bake a pie. Or... 23. And be just what it takes to get a family through a rough spot.


"Love you, grandma & grandpa!" 

**Several photos used with permission from Everyday Charming. She snapped these pictures of our friend-- because our "pie lady" happens to be her grandma! Check her out--she's super talented!**