Monday, November 28, 2011


A little while ago, I was watching a program about soldiers coming back home from the battlefield and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them spoke of how nearly impossible it was to them to just switch gears from being on high alert 24 hours a day... to just being good ole' dad playing legos with the boys. How when they were soldiers, they knew who they were and what was expected of them. Back in the US, they felt out of place. Different, yet the same. Feeling like strangers in their own homes and families.

And I cried. Because, I got it. I got that whole "who am I now?" question. Since coming back to the US, I've been haggling with that question. Who I was had been summed up in "missionary"-- and now that we are in a somewhat in-between state, what is my answer?

I suppose, looking at things from where I am now, I can see that perhaps I set myself up for this identity question. Throughout most of my life, my identities were chosen for me: Daughter. Homeschooled. Christian family. #3 of 10 children. Even the course I studied was, in large part, not what I wanted to study but what I was directed to study. Where I worked was, at the beginning, chosen for me.

Of course, as I grew older--I chose how I would behave. I chose my character inside of those identities... but, again: they were chosen for me.

Then, I chose my identity: I chose to marry Rey. Within about a month, I married my man, became pregnant with Noah and moved to Mexico. If you weren't counting: that was 3 new "identities" in one month. Wife, momma and American-living-abroad.

These being some of the first decisions I'd made on my own, I wanted to excel. I wanted to be the best wife, momma and foreigner there'd ever been. But, I wasn't. Being a wife involved a lot more growing than I'd anticipated. I was sick during most of Noah's pregnancy and then struggled in knowing how to raise him. I constantly mis-interpreted cultural signals and became weary with it all. I found myself often just putting one foot in front of the other--feeling as though I was failing on all fronts.

But, at least. At least I was a missionary, which in itself is an identity. People knew what a missionary was (or at least their understanding) and supported us in amazing and tear-jerking ways. At least on those days I didn't get supper made for Rey because Noah had had a bad day and the annoying neighbors had been over--I was still a missionary.

And then. Then we came back to the States. Yes, our heart is still to return to missions--but we don't know exactly how or when that will be. Yes, I am still a mom--but now I am a mom in the US, which I've never done, and am trying to keep up. Yes, I am still a wife--but, for a while there, I was a working wife. And, now a wife to a foreigner (as opposed to being the foreigner).

Around the time that I saw that program about the returning soldiers, we were experiencing a lot of conflict and stress in our home. My work schedule was colliding with Rey's, and we were constantly passing responsibilities back and forth between each other as we tried to keep things going. I had actually been coming to find a new sense of identity in my job as I was beginning training to be a manager and was frustrated with trying to keep up with that and home.

There is a saying that I am not going to remember correctly--but it has to do with the fact that without conflict, there is no change. That we have to learn to view conflict as a good thing, because without it... we stop growing. So, during this high-pressure time--I felt God's voice saying that same thing to me. That this pressure was coming from a deeper area in me, an issue I had not ever really settled. That I shouldn't get caught up in the personal aspect of this conflict, but dig deeper and take the time to ask some questions. And wait for God's answer.

And I heard this verse: "Your life is hidden in Christ." (Col. 3:3) And, my eyes began to be opened. Ok, folks. Don't be rolling your eyes about the fact that this "identity in Christ" message is one taught in Bible class 101... cuz I am just really getting it. So, bear with me.

You see. I felt like I was this person who needed to be somewhat like a chameleon. The same, but drastically different. Somehow being always culturally relevant and in style while balancing that with pouring myself into the lives of my kids and balancing that with being a romantic wife while balancing that with being a servant to this world that needs Jesus. So, it was like me manually trying to change these gears in my mind--without making any waves.

But, what God is teaching me is this: My identity is Jesus. What that means to me is this: I am successful only when I am doing all I do to please God. When I am moving in obedience to Him and allowing Him to cover me and take care of the rest.

What that translates into in daily living is FREEDOM. Shall I go on? Here's the facts, my dear readers: Life will change you. You will gain weight or loose weight with pregnancies. Your body will take on a completely different shape. Fashion will loose priority in your life as you delve into ways to raise your babies in a healthy and Godly way. You will have little to no time or money to spend on yourself--because your investment is now in the lives of many. You will be "the unsanitary mom" to one person, and you will be the "overly protective mom" to the next person. You won't be able to have as many carefree adventures, travel at whim, stay out as late or go out as often. But, you know what? It's ok! Because your identity isn't that. Your identity is Jesus.

Do you know how much weight you'll take off of your loved ones once you stop trying to get your identity from them or from things? The wife that knows her identity is in Jesus won't be making her husband sweat as he thinks of the correct answer to, "You think I'm fatter now, don't you?" The friend that knows her identity is in Christ won't be over-burdening her friends with her complaining about what she doesn't have. The momma who knows Jesus has her back, can drive her kids to the playground with her head held high (even though she hasn't showered or remembered to wipe the banana off her shirt) because she says, "Lord, you know how this looks. But, you also know how I spent my morning on the floor with my kids. Pouring time and love into them. And, I know you are so happy about that."

Because, the truth is. Everyone out there, and their neighbor, has an opinion. And they're all different. So, if we take our identity from what we hear about ourselves--or what we should be--we will be constanly loosing sight of who we are. Like I was.

Friday, November 18, 2011

just keep on swimming...

That's what these last few months have felt like. Well, really this whole year! It has been a whirlwind of decisions, changes, goodbyes, hellos and new things.

In January, I would've never guessed I would be where I am now, typing what I'm typing. I never knew that in March we'd feel led to leave behind one dream to follow God's leading back to Illinois. I never could've dreamed how hard it would be, what pain the process would incure--or what miracles would be generously poured out before us. This life--this walk--it is only known to Him, and only experienced when we "put our feet in the waters"... and allow Him to open them.

God is teaching me that so much of life lays in perspective and priorities. If I can keep His perspective on things and let Him lead us in prioritizing our activities--life is grand indeed.

Provision. That is what God has done for Rey and I from the very first day. From our early married days-- when we had no water heater and cooked over a plug-in single burner. When I would use my hair dryer (a pre-marriage purchase) to heat Noah's sleeping area, since we didn't have a space heater. To our missionary days--where He would miraculously provide just what we needed when we couldn't imagine where it would come from. True, it hasn't been easy. True, the last months as missionaries found us converting our home into a second-hand store, and using our precious days off to sell things in the downtown area. To today, where we find ourselves well and cared for. Our housing provided. Steady work. Good, good friends. More help than we could have dreamed of. Mercies new every morning.

Work here: Since we arrived, Rey got several different odd jobs. I often worked weekends as a waitress at a family restaurant and worked a couple hours a week for a friend who has an online business. In September, our jobs had kind of faded away, so I applied to work at a Golden Corral Buffet in Peoria. I generally worked 3 nights a week--3:30p to 11:30 or midnight. It was exhausting, thankless work. However, strangely, I felt pretty sure I was where I was supposed to be. I am always trying to figure out what I can learn in each situation, and one thing I learned was HUGE empathy for single mommas who work. What?! How do they even do that? I have a hard-working husband who cares for our babies when I was working and I would come home to a quiet, clean home. Still, I felt that I was drowning in exhaustion and always behind. I noticed my absenses having a negative affect on my children's behavior. But, we needed the income... So, I kept on.

It was interesting time for me--since I haven't had a job since I was married. So, it was good for me to remember the stressors, the social tensions and friendships that come along with a job. I'm glad for the experience--if only for that. It will help me, I think, be more "in tune" with Rey when he goes back into the work world.

A week or so ago, Rey suddenly found himself with about 5 new jobs all at once. We decided that this was a good time for me to "go back where I belonged"--home! :) *Long, happy sigh*. Being "away" from full-time mommying and house-keeping has given me a new perspective of its grandure. It has helped to center me and to give worth to what I am doing. More on that later. ;)

Along with work craziness, we were trying to keep the kiddos outside as much as possible during the beautiful fall we had and were getting Rey's green card paperwork filed. Right now, we are just waiting for them to advise us as to when our interview will be. Hoping it will be soon!

Nothing profound tonight. Just an update for those wondering... :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

noé chronicles. 7

Can I just stop and say--so that you can take a deep breath--we are daily seeing little miracles in our boy. Little things that before were impossible, he is now taking in stride. He is learning to count before he reacts. He is learning to say "Excuse me", before he screams at an offending playmate. He is becoming more determined, more independent. This morning, after having an accident, he came and told me. Then, he ran upstairs, grabbed new underwear and pants, and brought them back to me. And then put on his underwear, by himself. Because he wanted to. He helped me clean up after every game he played. He helped me wipe off the table after breakfast.

On my lowest days, I couldn't have imagined it. These moments are miracles to me. Just today I remembered Noah's reaction the first time I blew bubbles for him when he was around 18 months. He was utterly terrified. Like running into walls and growling kind of terrified. He thought they were going to hurt. And to see him now...

Ok. Picking up where we left off.

So, my cousin is a Speech Pathologist and she works at a center providing all kinds of therapy for all kinds of needs. She referred us to Ms. Karen, an Occupational Therapist. One fine day in September, we met her so she could do a "screening" to access Noah's needs/abilities.

For me, as I have said, the hardest part has been the fact that Noah's needs aren't visible and generally manifest in behavior issues. Which, to the outside observer can be translated as, "That momma ain't doing her job." To have Ms. Karen take an hour with Noah and engage him in activities that tested all kinds of comprehension, and fine and gross motor skills was fascinating. Her personality is warm and playful, but calm. Noé warmed up to her right away (which doesn't always happen) and did his best.

A few days later, Ms. Karen called us back with her findings: She found that Noé scored very high in sensitivity to stimuli and was "sensory avoidant" or "vigilent". He was very low on his self-care abilities. He displayed some rigidity (in other words: if something is this way once, it has to always be this way). His full-body control was great, but he struggled with fine-motor control. The thing he scored above his age level in was visual memory. That didn't surprise me! He was low for oral comprehension.

Ms. Karen's hunch was that Noé's main issue could actually have to do with not having a natural sensory organization. Like that his mind wasn't automatically sorting out all the sensory information he was getting, so he was more or less doing it manually so it was taking longer. Also, this would explain some of his lack of problem-solving skills and lack of determination/independence. And, with his mind being busy with that, while he was trying to simultaneously shield himself from any unknown sensory input, it was making for a kid with extremely emotional reactions.

Strangely enough, hearing these things actually let a little pressure out of my emotional balloon, because it's one thing for the mom to say she thinks something is going on with her kid. It's another for a complete stranger and professional to say them. We were set up with weekly therapy sessions with Ms. Karen.

At the same time, Pre-K started for Noé at the local school here in town. I was so excited to hear about this 3-hour, 5 day-a-week program Noé qualified for called "Bright Futures". People had only wonderful things to say about the program, the school and the teacher. However, as the first day of school got closer, I found myself lying awake night after night, crying. How could I be sure this was the right decision? I wondered. Noé is only 3. Maybe I should wait another year. Noé has never even let us leave him in a church nursery--how will he be able to put up with being left at a big, foreign school with 20 other 3 & 4 year olds? What if he was so traumitized it actually made him regress? My mind was a mess.

However, in talking to my cousin, she pointed out that perhaps with two years of Pre-K, Noé would have the skills needed to be able to transition into a "regular" Kindergarten class. Give it a chance, she said. Sit with him in class the first day. That made sense to me, so I did.

The first few days were rough. The first day, he sat in the "Safe Area" the entire time and refused to interact with anyone. I could feel the fist of anxiety closing in my chest when I heard that. The next day, he cried the whole last hour. The next day, he did fine after he got over his first tears at goodbye time.

And now? Now he LOVES school. He can't wait to go. He knows all the names of his classmates and sings new songs almost every day. The teacher does a great day of keeping a very visible organization technique for the children and the time is very structured. Just what Noé loves.

This afternoon, I go in for an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) meeting with the teachers, therapists and principles to figure out what (if any) modifications need to be made so that Noé can continue to thrive. When I worked in the school district, I never imagined my child would one day be discussed in one of these kind of meetings--but at the same time I am so excited by and proud of the progress he has made.

Noé loves Ms. Karen like crazy. They have all kinds of fun in their weekly therapy sessions. Basically, the therapy is kind of like a controlled and focused form of rough-housing. Trying to help Noé overcome fears of falling, to loosen his need for control of everything. To build patience and fine motor skills. To help him mature his attention to verbal commands and his hand-eye coordination. And to more or less desensitize what is hyper-sensitive. Ms. Karen says her job is to "Help even her out." I feel like Noé sees Ms. Karen as someone who really gets him. And that means a lot.

I have read that many children with Noé's "issues" struggle with self-esteem or confidence, because they can see that children around them are "getting" things much easier than they are or are not having meltdowns while experience the same situation--and that can cause them to just not even want to try. Or to not believe they can. Or to give up to soon.

And, this is the part that causes my momma-heart to swell and my eyes to water. I can see Noé's confidence growing every day. I can see it when he marches into school alone, his backpack bouncing as he waves goodbye. I can see it when he counts to 10 so that he can be patient. I can see it when he walks up to people he doesn't know and starts chatting. I can see it when he is feeling uncomfortable or has his feelings hurt--but he keeps it together.

No, things aren't all the way "evened out" yet. No, we aren't at the end of this journey. But, there is hope! We feel so loved by our heavenly Daddy because we know that He cares for Noé more than we ever can. And that He brought us to live in this school district, that He put us in contact with Ms. Karen, that He is at work daily in the heart, mind and body of our boy!

Building a tower, he was telling me it was "Huuuuge!" when the picture was taken ;)

Daily becoming the best helper I could ever ask for:

Pretending to be momma:

Getting his school picture taken like a champ:

Rug time at school:

Firehouse fieldtrip:

Friday, October 14, 2011

noah chronicles. 6

You may be wondering why I am sharing all this. Or, more precisely--why now? There are many reasons, and I always knew there'd be a time that I'd want to share about our life with Noah. But, the time never felt right. Mainly, I want to share now because I want you to be part of our journey. I want you that know him to maybe understand him a little more. Also, I am sharing now because the story is getting better. Noah is growing. He is maturing. And, while that is incredible and lovely--I don't want to forget about the "before". I also pray that perhaps in sharing, another parent with issues similar to Noah's will be relieved to find out that their child is not the only one. Many of you have expressed deep concern and support as you read these posts. That has touched me deeply and I thank you.

I have often remarked that two things have never come naturally to Noah: joy and trust. He has from infancy seemed to be always tense, always awaiting the slightest provocation or hint of danger--and then finding it in the most trivial or confounding thing. We have worked long and hard with him on this. Reminding him to choose his attitude. Choose to be kind. Choose to be polite. Choose to respond with a happy tone as opposed to screams or anger. Choose to allow someone he doesn't know well the chance to become a friend.

So, when someone tries to tell me that they think Noah is okay, because "he seems so happy and normal", I choose to take it as a compliment--because I know how hard we have worked for him to appear that way. I also know how hard I work to make sure "the public" sees his best side.

All a parent wants (at least this one!) is for people to love their kids. I know (believe me, I do!) that Noah can be the most exasperating and out-of-line kid there is. I also know him to be deeply intelligent, fiercely loyal and tenderly affectionate. I know that he thrives on praise and holds himself to a standard of perfection. I know he loves to be able to help, loves any music with a good rhthym. I know that he can be endearingly goofy and extremely polite. So, I find myself trying to make the stars align so that whenever we are out in public, that Noah comes out. I try to keep my face relaxed and jolly, while inwardly my stomach is tied in knots--awaiting that unforeseen thing that could set him off.

From the time Noah was an infant and I began noticing his extreme sensitivities to everything, the taboo "A" word began lurking in the back of my mind. I would always just shove it to the side, confident that whatever was going on was just a mixture of "a phase" and a momma who wasn't doing things right. No child of mine could have autism.

As Noah passed the 2-year-old mark and still was presenting many difficulties where I would see other kids just "dealing with it", I began to face the facts. Noah wasn't like everyone else. He may never be like everyone else. He may never learn to control his emotions and impulses. I looked at those facts and found myself in a deep valley of grieving.

I grieved the dreams I had of what motherhood would be. I grieved the freedoms I had lost, and would perhaps never fully get back. I grieved for the judgements on us that we had endured and would continue to endure. I grieved not really knowing what to do. I grieved that this is not what I had expected. I asked "Why me? Why Noah?"

There are very few days that go by that I don't in some way grieve what is.

During that time, Noah's obsession was taking all his clothes off. All the time. I quit fighting it around the house, but of course would insist that he wore them to go places. Sometimes that was okay, sometimes it wasn't. Once cold weather hit, I had to make him wear clothes. I had to put his clothes on and safety pin his pants to his shirts. I often had to physically wrestle him to the ground and pin him there to get him dressed. He refused to wear hats or coats.

He also was obsessed with eating all kinds of things. Dried beans, dried pasta. Rabbit poop. Dog food. At one point, when I changed his diaper, I found over 20 of those red and white marker pegs from the Battleship game there in his bowel movement. He was extremely secretive while downing these things, too, so I was constantly running around behind him checking his mouth.

Potty training didn't go well, because sitting up on the toilet frightened him. He didn't get the point of the kid potty. He never told me when he had to go. I decided it was a battle that I would let go for later.

At the end of 2010, I began communicating with my cousin who is a Speech Therapist working at Easter Seals. I shared with her my observations and concerns and we began conversing back and forth. She talked about Noah having "sensory difficulties" and wondered if there was a place in Mexico that he could get taken to and be tested.

I was concerned about that for several reasons. A main one being that Noah is comfortable in English, he would shut down in Spanish-speaking environments. I didn't think a Spanish screening would be accurate. Also, in many ways, Mexico is at least 50 years behind the US, and I wondered if they would have the newest information on what would help Noah?

It was during that time that we just felt God orchestrating a lot of puzzle pieces together that were pointing us back towards the US.... guidance for Noah being one of the biggest.

Naked as the day he was born...

Happy, happy, happy!

Listening to a good beat...

Endearingly goofy:

Part 7 here:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

noah chronicles. 5

Noah was not, in those years, much of a communicator. He wasn't even a pointer. He wasn't able to tell us if he was crying because he was too hot, or because a bug bit him, or because we weren't understanding him--or simply because he wasn't wanting to obey. It made discipline a struggle and every-day kind of things a huge frustration.

He also has emotional responses to things wayyy above what they should be. A blanket not being spread out in just the right way could provoke the same response as a finger shut in a door. The wrong color of cup, positioning a paper in the wrong way, opening the door, putting on his jacket--all of these things (and muuuuch more) could provoke ear-piercing shrieks and tantrums.


Here's an example from just yesterday:

Noah asked me to write out the alphabet as he does most days. He asked me to do it be switching the colors from one letter to the next. This time I got a little wild and decided to make a big Z. See below.

Would you know that Noah shrieked as if I'd hit him over the head with a baseball bat and began to get into tantrum mode. I said I was sorry for ruining his Z and made a small one, while making the big Z's tail into a smiley (also above). No dice. That only made it worse.

Fortunately, I was in a good enough frame of mind to see this as rather humorous. I know by now that the tantrum had everything to do with Noah having this vision in his head of what the lovely creation would be, and my wild and big Z just tore it apart.

So, I didn't scream back, I just promised to fix it and made the alphabet below.

Noah was much soothed by this now-perfect representation of his mental masterpiece. However, for the next half-hour or so, every time he saw me, he'd mutter: "No, no momma. No more big Z's. Bad big Z's." What a kid.


In those days, I never once uttered the words, "He is growing up so fast". Each day felt like a year. I would actually find myself wondering how old he was. "He must be 3 by now? No, he's 2? Ohh..." Looking into the years stretched out before me of life with my precious man overwhelmed me. Would this be how the rest of my life looked?

Noah tends to enjoy high levels of repetition, bordering on obsession. Once he finds something he likes to do, he does it over and over and over again until he pretty much completely abandons it for another passion. As a baby, I could predict his exact pattern of activities, since they were the same every morning. He was like a mailman on his route, visiting the same toys in the same order. He fixated on lining his box of cars up over and over again. He went through a Thomas the Train stage where every movie had to be Thomas, and even would watch the same episodes over and over on YouTube. I know every kid goes through stages of "things they like", but for him these things were taken very seriously--as though his life depended on it. And, I will say, the peace of our home often depended on it. Right now he is consumed with letters and numbers. He spots them everywhere, from silverware scattered across the table to a shadow on the ground. It is fascinating what he sees.

Sleep for Noah was a hard thing to teach him. What we finally got to work was a pitch-black, cool room with a fan turned on (for white noise) and soft, instrumental music playing. With, of course, his blankie in hand. Through the years, he has learned to sleep in rooms that aren't pitch-black and now demands a night-light. However, he is up pretty much as soon as the sun starts coming through his curtains.

Haircuts and nail trimming. Ay ay ay. I tell people it's a wonder Noah doesn't walk around with long, curling claws and hair down to his ankles. It is a struggle to keep him "groomed". From the time the hair clippers turn on until the time they turn off, we have an extremely emotional little guy on our hands. Rey stands in front, holding Noah's arms down and keeping his legs still with his own body. I stand behind, with one arm wrapped around his head, under his chin, and the other buzzing away as quickly as possible. Noah is bright red, screaming, thrashing and sweating until we are done. We all go away covered in sweat and hair.

For nail trimming, I sit Noah down in front of me between my legs. I put on of my legs over his legs and one over his free arm. I position the arm of the hand I am trimming against my chest and hold the hand as firmly as possible... trying to trim fast without cutting him. All the while, he is doing his best to pull his hand away and kick his way out of the restraint. Every time I position the trimmers to cut a nail, he screams in agony, "Owwww, owww! Stop, momma! All done!!" Can a person have sensors in the tips of their finger nails?? And, I will just put it out there--I have never cut him, so it's not like he's going off of some past trauma.


With Noah, his "issues" are hard, because they aren't "visible". His responses can just come across as--well, should I say it?--pure brattiness. As in, "If that mom would just consistantly discpline him, he'd be whipped into shape in no time." And, that's difficult to see written on the faces of hundreds while we are out and about dealing with these Noah things.

The impact of Noah on our family is, as I'm sure you are already imagining, huge. How much do we change our lifestyle for his sensitivities? How much do we make him just "deal with it" so we can get out and about? How do we make sure Aleni isn't lost in the shuffle? How do we make sure to not let "this" drive a wedge between Rey and I?

I don't think there is a cut-and-dried answer for those questions. It is, as are many things in life, an answer found in a lot of little daily decisions. It is found in taking time for Rey and I to see if we are on the same page with things. It is being willing to be wrong, if it means your family will be more healthy by changing. It is in stopping and being intentional. It is in not allowing yourself to use tiredness as an excuse.

My favorite moments are when they are together... and happy:

Maybe wouldn't know it by looking, but the people present at this photo shoot know that we were shooting between multiple stormy tantrums and lots of screaming. Oh, happy times.

Part 6 here:

Monday, October 10, 2011

noah chronicles. 4

To me, two of the most overwhelming parts of raising my little man has been feeling like ultimately it's up to me to calm him down, and being completely unable to predict him.

I tend to be an overly empathetic and analytical person when it comes to the feelings of others. This can be a burden and a blessing. With Noah, it has in great ways helped me to put myself in his place and try to see what he is seeing. Imagine what he may have interpreted from a situation and therein perhaps understand his reaction to it.

With Noah having such an exagerated and explosively emotional response to many every-day happenings, even my most empathetic side would often hit the wall of exasperation. Seriously? Really? Did you really have to explode for 2 hours over the fact we got a sucker from store A instead of store B?

Rey is the best daddy any kid could hope for, but I think since we came from such different parenting backgrounds--and because Noah spent the majority of his time with me--he had to wonder if Noah's outbursts had anything to do with the way I was raising him. He often wondered if I was sheltering him to much, if we shouldn't treat him as gently. However, from my experience--any kind of "in-your-face" parenting we tried only would backfire in our faces. So, this would often result in Rey taking Aleni while I took Noah in his "bad" times. Which, some days, were more than his good.

This would exhaust me, because I felt that Noah's emotions were directly plugged into my energy source. If I would have even the slightest frown on my face, he could end up in a pile on the floor. When I scolded him, I found if I pasted a big smile on my face and said with a happy tone, "That is a no-no. You should only write on paper," he would respond with an "I'm sorry momma," and a hug. If I frowned and said the same thing in an angry tone, he'd become a thrashing ball of emotions into the unforeseeable future.

I would at times hide from him, just so I could relax my face, stare off into space and think of nothing.

As you can imagine, this whole tug-and-pull of trying to draw that line between Noah's "unacceptable behavior" and what may have just been the result of a missed nap was often a seeming labor in futility. I would feel that I was pouring everything I had into raising this child into an obedient, respectful child--and receiving a child much worse than our neighbor children who ran free in the streets all day long. I felt like, "What is the point? Where are the fruits of my labor?"

I am also a social creature. I love to get out and see the world. Make plans at the spur of the moment, and hang out with friends. My chances of doing that became fewer and fewer once Noah entered our world.

Without being able to predict how he would respond to things, it made our outings much fewer, and much more limited in "time out". It seemed Noah coped best when the entire outing--from leaving to returning--took no more than 2 hours. It needed to be over no later than 7:30 pm. It also needed to be to a place that wasn't too loud, there weren't too many people over-eager to hold him and that he would be able to take on at his own pace. He didn't like being dirty, sticky or restrained.

Needless to say, not many outings fit that bill--especially not in such a warm, "touchy" culture like Mexico's. I struggled daily--not wanting to appear that I didn't want to be in the lives of our loved ones there, because I was dying to get out. But, also knowing that in many cases it would be worse if I went, because I'd be in the other room trying to calm a thrashing 2 year-old.

Not being able to predict things, not being able to make plans wore down on my soul like nothing other. I love planning parties, get-togethers and the like. I love being able to put a date on a calender and look forward to it. But, it seemed nearly everything I would plan would be cancelled because Noah was having a "bad day", or we'd do it and have an absolutely awful, I'll-never-try-that-again kind of time.

One day, we decided to hop in the car with Rey and accompany him while he drove his mom and brother out to see some relatives. The relatives lived about 2 hours away, out in the country. I convinced myself that we could do it. That 2 hours in the car was nothing. Noah would love seeing all the goats, cows, cats and dogs on daddy's uncle's farm. (Noah at that point took animals over people any time). And, I'd be scoring points with the in-laws.

So, the four of us loaded into the mini-van along with my mom and brother-in-law. Noah had a 30 minute tantrum in his room before our leaving. The trip there wasn't too horrible. We got to the farm and went out to see the different relatives living in the pueblo. The pueblo was a dusty, farm town at the foot of some mountains. Beautiful country, except for a guy who doesn't love dust and dirt.

We went to several different houses, stopping to socialize for 30 minutes or so before moving on to the next. When we got back to the uncle's house, it was time to eat. I could see all the back-and-forth was getting to Noah and Aleni was getting fussy. I wanted to try to put her to sleep, and did feed her and lay her down in their bedroom, pulling pillows around her so she wouldn't roll off the bed.

Noah became enraged that he wasn't allowed to throw balls into the well and could not be calmed down. I ended up having to hand Aleni (who was crying also) off to Rey so I could shut Noah into that bedroom. He would scream, throw himself to the floor, kick the doors and walls until he would grow tired. Then, I would go in and ask him if he was ready to say he was sorry and behave. He would go into another tirade. This lasted perhaps an hour. A line of various relatives would come into the room, trying their own methods of calming Noah--and would narrowly miss being kicked by Noah's flailing feet. Can you imagine how embaressing this was?

He did finally calm down and I signalled to Rey it may be a good time to head back home. He said ok, we just needed to run his mom down to another relative's house. In typical Mexican fashion, this turned into running to about 3 different relatives' houses with 2 30 minutes visits in each. I was getting progressively more tense, awaiting another tantrum, and trying to look as though I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

When we did point the car homeward, we still had Rey's mom and aunt on-board in the backseat, because they wanted to be dropped off at another person's house. And, Noah was in a completely different dimension by now. Out of control and just screaming and thrashing. I was sitting next to him on the front bench, trying to speak sternly to him while keeping him from hurting me or himself.

Then, I heard the ladies talking softly behind him, "Oh, poor thing. She really struggles with hin, doesn't she? Oh, yes she does. You can really see that."

Mmm. That's what every mom wants to hear. Indeed. After we dropped the ladies off, I hurled Noah's car seat into the back bench, strapped his still-screaming body into it, and clambered into the front seat, Aleni in her car seat on the floor between us. I turned up the stereo as loud as I could and sang to drown out the screaming and head-banging in the back seat. Sang to keep from screaming or crying myself.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is why it is hard to plan an outing out with my lad.

At his 2nd birthday party:

One thing he did like from daddy's uncle's farm: Getting a new kitten! (Does his face bear traces of the rough past hours he's had?)

Perhaps he's not a fan of the dusty, sweaty kind of dirty-- but muddy wet? Oh, yes please!

See? Toldja. Animals over people, folks. Animals over people.

And, I just had to put this one in... Since I've only been putting in cute photos--I figured you had me tellin' tall tales.

Part 5 here:

Monday, September 26, 2011

noah chronicles. 3

Looking back, I often wonder how I got through that next year. Most nights, I would fall into bed completely drained. If I did have any energy left, I usually spent it crying. Noah's voyage into the waters of independence was a tumultuous one, to say the least.

It seemed that e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. became a battle. I came to expect at least 3 tantrums a day. And for each tantrum to last at least an hour. And I came to know that I usually would have no idea what would provoke each new tantrum. More often than not, it would be in response to a "no". Often, the reason would be fathomless.

My motto in those days became: Not everything is worth fighting over. But, when I do pick a fight--I must win. There is no option. Ah, and this was said to Noah countless times a day: You will never get anything good from a tantrum.

And so it was that I found myself time and time again struggling to control an out-of-control child around my ever-expanding belly. Noah has always been big for his age, and that made this battle for control even more exhausting.

I can't even tell you how many of our walks to the park were turned around halfway because of a tantrum--me struggling to carry this lanky child back up the hill to our apartment, holding his arms and legs as still as possible, cars slowing to watch the spectacle. Then, huffing up the flights of stairs to the 3rd floor where we lived so I could put him in his room for a time out. Me calming myself so I could deal with the issue in as clear a mind as possible, me willing myself to really forgive Noah--even though I could be pretty sure this scenario would repeat itself in another hour or so.

When Noah would go into his tantrums, I often say it was like he would go out of his body. Threatening didn't work. Punishing didn't work. Cajoling didn't work. It seemed that every couple of months, "what would work" might be something a little different--but usually I would just have to put him in his room and let him "do his thing" until he could come out and apologize. Then, I would glue on a big clown smile and a "I really believe you" expression and we'd go back to doing "happy things".

One afternoon, Rey, Noah and I were out on our patio enjoying the afternoon. I don't remember what inspired it--but Noah went into a tantrum after I asked him to say "sorry" for something. He began screaming and hitting me, hitting his head against the wall. I sat in front of him, restraining him as best as I could and just waited. When he'd quiet down, I'd repeat the request for an apology and he'd go back into his raging fit. This went on for probably 30 minutes, until he said he was sorry. We began playing together with a ball, and then he began getting angry again. I reminded him that I would not play with him when he acted this way--and we had another 30 minute session. When that one was over, we went back to playing with the ball. The same thing happened again. Another 30 minute session. Finally, I said to Rey that maybe he was in some way enjoying the attention, so maybe we should try just completely ignoring him if he began acting badly again. Sure enough, in about 5 minutes, Noah was screaming again. Rey and I walked away from him and sat with our backs to him. This precious 18-month-old laid, face-down, on that cement patio and screamed, and kicked and slobbered all over the ground for over 30 minutes. Until, actually, he fell completely asleep.

Noah continued to exhibit highly anti-social behavior, and it in fact seemed to somewhat intensify. Even if we were out on a walk and Noah would see someone coming towards us from a distance of 100-some feet, he would hide behind me and refuse to move until that person had passed us. In the store, he would hide his face if someone looked our direction. He decided that church was a place he did not want to go. So, when we'd turn on to the street the church was located on, he'd begin screaming and banging his head. "No, no, nooo!" We'd get him out of the car, and he'd throw himself down onto the sidewalk, "Nooooo!" I'd drag him screaming inside and down to the bathrooms until I could convince him we were staying and that was that. He'd then refuse to be anywhere but held by Rey or myself.

Another afternoon, when I was 9 months pregnant, we were walking into the wedding ceremony of some of our best friends there in Fresnillo. On the way from the car to the building, Noah spotted a dog on the other side of the road that he decided he wanted. Now, if you've seen dogs in Mexico, you know you don't really go touching the ones wandering in the street. Also, we were teaching Noah that he couldn't have whatever he wanted. So, we said "no". It probably took us over a half-hour to advance the remaining 30 feet to the front door. Noah would begin kicking and screaming and hitting, and I would sit him down on the sidewalk, back against the wall, and tell him we would not move until he stopped screaming. We'd advance two more steps and do the same thing over again. Needless to say, we were all exhausted by the time we walked into the wedding ceremony.

In the midst of tantrums, I'd often talk to Noah in the lowest, calmest voice I could, saying: "Noah, right now this strong will of your is horrible. But, we are going to keep working with you, and one day, God is going to take this strong will and use it for His glory!" It helped to give me perspective and hope. Which, most days--I needed more than anything.

The idea of going anywhere with Noah was terrifying. I would lay awake nights, balancing out in my head if it was feasible and what my exit options might be. How could I make the outing work? I would try to coordinate the moon and stars--and inevitably end up at whichever outing with a convulsing, screaming child and an apologetic look on my face. Oh, yes. And about 5 people asking me why he was doing that? And then, usually, telling me how if I'd only ____, he'd stop.

That was, perhaps, the most difficult part of being Noah's mom in Mexico. The "helpful" parenting tips. Oh, he's screaming? Here's a sucker. Why don't you want him to have a sucker? Oh, you are so harsh. What? He doesn't like people? Ah, that's your fault for not socializing him more. You should put him in daycare.

When I was in labor with Aleni, Noah was so enfuriated with me that I was not carrying him around that he followed me around the house screaming and kicking my shins.

Of course, with Aleni's birth--things got more interesting. Now, an outing--to, let's say, the store-- would end this way: Noah screaming out of control for some reason. Me saying, "That's it, you're out" while strapping his screaming, kicking self into the carseat. And then Aleni. And, then driving home with both of them screaming. Pulling up to our gated apartment, getting out, opening the gate, driving in, shutting the gate, parking, running Aleni up to the 3rd floor. Running back down to the car to get the by-now-covered-in-snot-spit-and-sweat Noah, carting his out-of-control self up to his room. Going through the whole discipline routine, shutting him in his room (still screaming), nursing Aleni, putting her down for a nap. Running back to the car, hoping the groceries weren't spoiled. Coming back up to find Noah kicking on Aleni's door and waking her with his screams. Do another discipline cycle. And then maybe put the groceries away.

Ahh. If only I would have socialized him more!

Presenting the handsomest 18-month-old I've ever seen:

His typical response to being held by almost anyone (He actually was doing
pretty good, and I said to Rey, "Hey, let me get this on camera!" By the
time to camera came out, he was doing this):

His obsession of the time: Rocks, rocks, and rocks.

Heart-stopping cuteness:

Just hanging out:

Part 4 here:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the noah chronicles. 2

I have often wondered what things would have been like if Noah weren't the firstborn. If Aleni or some other baby had come first. A baby that slept easily, laughed constantly and eagerly interacted with new people. A baby that trusted and enjoyed life. Spontaneity.

As it was, my gift was Noah. And along with that gift came a long string of reproachful glances, mothers who knew better, and an overall dissaproval of how I was doing things.

Before Noah, I had thought that babies were born into families as blank slates--and they became whatever their parents molded them into be. I hadn't known that kids are who they are from the minute they emerge into the world. That for all the correct molding, parenting in the world--some kids just won't be the kind that are happy, gentle and well-behaved. At least not without a fight.

Going anywhere with Noah became a terrifying prospect to me. Noah was happier when he was barefoot, and living in the furnace we were living, that was easy to oblige. But, I'd arrive to church with a wailing babe in my arms--and a big-bosomed woman would click her tongue and say, "Poor thing! Put socks on him! He is freezing!" Heart pounding, I'd pull socks on him and continue my way to my seat. Minutes later, a different mother of mothers would come by my still-wailing infant and say, "Oh, poor baby. Can't you see he's hot? He'll be so much more comfortable without his socks!"

I'd go to visit the neighbor and we'd chat over Noah's sounds of anguish. She'd shake her head and ask me how much I was socializing him. "This is because you don't take him out enough" she'd say.

I was nursing him, and people would say that sugar water was better, he obviously was still hungry.

We'd go hang out at Rey's family's place on the weekends, and I'd hear whispering about how Noah was crying alot. And why wouldn't Liz just leave him here?

Combining the culture's habit of being very open with criticism with my sensitivity to criticism and with this being my first go at mothering... it was a pretty awful concoction. Through in there a heaping dose of sleep-deprivation and what was pretty much total isolation 5 days a week--I really question at times how I kept my head above water.

And that's what it was, really. Just paddling along in this ocean of unknowns, crushed dreams, criticism, and dissapointment. Keep breathing, keep moving. It's gotta get better one of these days. It's gotta. I really just felt numb for the longest time. Just surviving and pasting on a wobbly smile. Trying to care if someone snagged a nail, while I felt like I was in a pit with and couldn't see a ladder to pull us out.

I remember at 6 months, it felt like Noah turned a corner. At that time, he refused to nurse and he began drinking formula. He still didn't enjoy being in social contexts, but at least he wasn't wailing every waking minute. He began to appreciate little jokes and have actual times he was happy. He especially appreciated physical humor such as "peek-a-boo" or "gotcha!". I remember around this time thinking, "Ok! Maybe this could be fun..."

He also was happier the more mobile he became. I remember just looking at him in his earlier months and saying that he looked like an older baby trapped in an uncooperative body. He just seemed desperate to move. He fell in love with his baby walker and would scoot around in that.

When winter came around, I swapped out the cotton sheets he had in his crib for flannel sheets. He refused to sleep on them. Once I switched the sheets back to cotton, he fell right asleep.

He had a funny habit. Our front door stepped right out into a sunny patio. E.v.e.r.y. single time we stepped out the door into the sunlight with Noah, he would sneeze. It made us laugh that we could see, "And 1,2,3--" and on 3 he'd sneeze. Every time.

From the beginning, making any kinds of plans that involved leaving the house was hard with Noah. Really, trying to figure out "what worked" with him and what didn't was a frustration--because one day he'd love something and the next day it would send him into a frenzy.

He continued to be an extremely observant boy. For example, if I'd lay him down for a nap and then perhaps change the placement of some pictures on the livingroom wall--he'd zone in on that the moment I'd bring him back into that room. The keen attention to detail also made it difficult to do things outside of the house. It made it so I couldn't lay him down in someone else's crib, or that it wouldn't work for someone else to hold him even if they held him while facing him away from them so he wouldn't see them. He'd know and he wouldn't tolerate it.

My days of playing the violin at home halted with Noah's arrival too. He'd scream piercingly until I'd put the instrument away.

When Noah was 8 months old, we took him on the super long trip back to visit my family in central Illinois. Thankfully, by this time he was able to tolerate being in a car, but he still had issues with being strapped in a carseat. And he also virtually never would fall asleep in the car. So, it was an extremely long trip.

A month later, we drove back to Mexico and set up our home 9 hours away from where we had been. The cramped little house we'd been in was now replaced by a spacious 4 bedroom apartment with plenty of space for Noah to zip around in his walker. He loved this.

We actually really enjoyed those months at our new place. We now had English-speaking relatives living nearby us (he always seemed to feel more comfortable in an English-speaking environment) who doted on him. There was a park nearby where we would walk most afternoons. And, oh! The climate. Dry. Cool. Noah always would sweat prolifically where we lived before, so I think just being comfortable and sans mosquito bites did a lot for his disposition.

Oh, granted. He still had "his days", as we'd come to call them. It seemed if he woke up in a certain mood, that's how it was going to be for the rest of the day. He still didn't like to be poked, prodded or carried around by people he didn't know. He still liked to do things at his own pace and his own process.

The day we celebrated Noah's first birthday, we found out that Aleni was on the way!

Noah didn't get his walk on until about 15 months. And about a month after that is when the tantrums really got into full swing.

His happiest way to be...

He loves to make people laugh

Excited to be going out with daddy... and, yeah. This picture was just
because the hat stayed on for about a whole minute.

"What?! You don't take reading material along with you on
your daily stroll to the park? Lowly mortals..."

Hammin' it up.
Bathtime still a favorite.

...Along with reading with daddy.

Part 3 here:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

the noah chronicles. 1

"Remember Your children
Remember Your promise...

Your grace is enough for me."
-Chris Tomlin

As I crouched at Noah's feet this evening, swiping off the goopy mess on his behind and legs I thought, "This isn't fun anymore." And, in the exact same moment, heard myself and grimaced inwardly. When has this been fun?

The kids and I were at a small group at someone's home. Noah had come in from playing outside, and immediately I could smell what he'd done. I asked for some plastic bags from the hostess, corraled him and Aleni into the bathroom and comenced scrubbing. In the process, Noah's shirt also became soiled, so that had to come off, too.

Frustrations rose to a boiling as I processed how my boy should be completely potty trained by now. How he was completely potty trained about a month ago. And how he has been getting progressively more messy as the days go on. Why does he seem to learn something, and then unlearn something?

It's a pattern. I'm used to it. Which it's why it's hard for me to really get excited at one day's good behavior or seeming competancy. Because I've had a lot of "tomorrows" that find those skills completely missing.

Even in the womb, Noah showed his objection to noise and the vibration of a car ride. Car rides would leave me completly nausiated from his spastic moving. Loud church services, shouting preachers (and we were living in Mexico, so believe me--this was happening) would cause Noah to react so much that I felt my skin would be torn open.

The first days after birth, Noah was not a horrible screamer, but it seems like about from one week on--he decided he wasn't too thrilled about the world in general. My sister spent about 2 weeks with us right after Noah was born and offered to watch him so Rey and I could squeak out of the house for an hour or so. She reported that he cried nearly the entire time. He was already forming what would be his demand: mom only.

Noah was born at the end of May. At the time, we were living in the hottest, most humid place I have ever lived. It was scorching (like 105) during the day, and at night mosquitoes swarmed. I didn't have a car, so most of my days were spent jiggling Noah up and down as I walked in un-ending circles in the living room of our tiny 2-bedroom home.

Nearly any time I'd lay Noah down, he scream to the heavens. If I went to visit the neighbors, he'd scream pretty much the entire time. Heaven forbid that they should want to hold him. Rey's family would come over to visit, and Noah would not be thrilled by the attention.

Rey would arrive home from work and I'd thrust Noah into his arms. Why would anyone have more than one baby? I would moan as I rubbed my aching shoulder muscles.

I would try to take Noah on walks in the stroller on milder days. He would scream. From the time we left our front door, to the time we return. Didn't like the vibrating, I guess. The neighbors would freeze where they were--sweeping their porches, sharing the latest goessip--and stare.

Noah hated how the car sounded when it started up, screamed when it would pull away from the curb. From the first car ride, I would have to ride in the back seat with Noah. Talking, humming to him and trying to hold his car seat as steady as possible.

Church was overwhelming. It was the typical Mexican church in that it did not have air conditioning or heat. It did have ceiling fans on during the summer, though. Noah would cough and writhe when the air from the fans hit his face. So, I would try to position the cover of his seat in a way that would block the wind. Put a blanket over it. Of course, everyone would want to hold him. Of course, I wanted everyone to hold him. But, he would have none of it. When the music would start, Noah would go balistic. I spent church services out in the parking lot. Walking in circles and bouncing my baby.

He hated to be rocked. He hated his swing. He only wanted to be bounced up and down. He hated singing. He only quieted when I'd hum a rather singular, bouncing note. Over and over. And over. Until, magically. After an hour of this perhaps. His body would slacken, and he'd slip off to dream land.

Chances are, as I laid him down in his crib--he'd jerk awake. And the cycle would begin again. I'd be such a zombie in the middle of the night that I'd fall asleep nursing him. And then startle awake to find myself asleep in my bed. I'd panic. Had I just let Noah fall to the floor? What happened? I'd look and see Noah asleep in his crib. And have no recollection of putting him there.

He hated being swaddled. He hated shoes. He screamed uncosolably for 30 minutes once after I sneezed.

One rare day, I had a car while Rey was at work. I was so excited at the possibility of getting out of the house. I got Noah all ready to go. I gritted my teeth and endured the shrieks from the backseat as we drove to the biggest grocery store in town. At least he'll love walking around the store and looking at everything, I thought.

Wrong-o. I lifted his carseat into the shopping cart and started to push him around the store, slowly and with the carseat cover pulled back. When he began to scream, I pulled the cover up and pushed slower. In the end, I had to hold him against my shoulder, with a blanket over his face and head, as I pushed the cart out with my stomach. Didn't ever do that again.

He kept his fists so tightly balled in those first months, that blisters formed. Cutting his fingernails was nearly impossible, and his nails would often cut open the blisters, causing them to get infected.

When I'd make silly faces for Noah, he'd generally just raise an eyebrow, "Seriously, woman. And you think that's funny?"

One morning, I decided it was time to get my post-partum self back into exercising. Since taking walks with Noah wasn't happening, I pulled out an exercise video. I sat Noah in his carseat so he could watch me. The video began and I followed along with the warm-up stretches. As I reached my hands up to the ceiling, I turned to Noah with a big smile, "Hey, baby. Does momma look funny?" His face was the picture of utter terror. He opened his mouth and screamed as if the Hulk was after him.

From then on, I only exercised during his naptimes. Or (cough) not at all.

Ah, sleep. I can't even count the nights that Rey and I would sit out in the livingroom waiting for Noah to stop crying so we could go to sleep. It would be after we'd tried everything. The longest he cried was for nearly 2 hours straight.

If I put Noah on a blanket to play with toys, he never would. He'd usually work furiously at something in the blanket, and then proudly lift his objective: a single hair. He would focus so long on a beam of light on the ceiling that the smallest noise would startle him into a screaming frenzy.

One thing he liked: Lukewarm baths. And we normally did 2 a day. My way of staying sane. Another "sanity-saver" for me was deleting "unhappy pictures" of Noah. Pretty much all of my pictures I have are happy or to-die-for cute pictures from those days. On really bad days, I'd flip through those pictures to remind myself it wasn't always this bad.

And, gosh. He was so.stinkin.adorable.

A blessed moment of peace...

Beauty just days old...

We laughed ourselves silly at how surly a 3 month old could look...

Just hangin' out

Not lovin' the wedding scene, but putting up with it

Mommy-baby snuggles

Noah, red-eyed, after becoming hysterical during his baby dedication.

The typical look of extreme terror when a non-parent would hold him

Part 2 here:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9 am...

Yesterday morning dawned clear and cool. After breakfast, I sent the kiddos outside to play while I cleaned up the dishes. After a few minutes, I went outside to see what they were up to. I heard their glee-filled voices coming from about 20 yards behind the house. From the famed and favored "Mountain". Mountain of dirt and bark that is.

Here's how I found them:

And, boy oh boy, were they dirty.

Filthy, even.

But, then they gave me looks like this one...

... and reminded that one of the ways my siblings and I loved to keep ourselves amused was by scooting down "mountains" on our bottoms in the woods behind our house (we were homeschooled after all)... and they were already as dirty as was possible--so, they continued to fill every crevice with dirt and whatnot.

Until they found something wayyyy more interesting...

Yes, they're orange, okay?? ;)

On the way to the bathtub, Aleni found yet another way to get messy:

And, of course, she had to stick her leg in... Well! I guess her bath is halfway done!

Bubble bath time!

Bubble baths are often accompanies by icees. You know, it's the thing to do.

Ready for the grossest drained tub ever?

Check the clock. It's not even 10 am.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

preschool bound

Noah posin' with a tube he found...

Ah, bittersweet words for this momma. At some point, I am sure I will write about our journey with Noah. For now, I'll just say we've decided preschool is the right decision for our firstborn.

Along with the difficulty that every mom experiences the first time they usher their child into the care of a school, I know I am bringing my own distinct perceptions that have me awake nights or tearing up at what lies ahead.

I was homeschooled, so it has been drilled into my head that that is the better way. That better parents homeschool. My mom did a miraculous job homeschooling the 10 of us--to such high standards that we were always ahead of our peers in the area of schooling. That being said, the social, dreamer part of me always longed for the magical element of having my own lunch bag and locker. Of bumming around a school with my very own gaggle of friends. Although the reality of school would probably not have lived up to my young dreams, I still know I was interested.

I also worked in a public, inner-city school for over 3 years, a school that served Pre-K through 4th grade. And I worked for about a semester as a teacher to 2 and 3 year olds in a private, Mexican school. Each time, I would pity the youngsters whose "selfish" parents would shuffle them off to school at the tender ages of 2, 3, and 4. "Let them be babies!" I would think to myself, "Nothing that we are teaching here are things that you can't teach them at home! They need to be with momma!"

So, with this background--I approached parenthood. I knew I wouldn't be a "die-hard" homeschool mom, but on the other hand... I knew I wouldn't send my kid to daycare or preschool.

Enter Noah. The boy that constantly teaches me that the point of parenthood is to prove you wrong. To reveal all those sneering attitudes I may have had towards other parents, and then cause me to gulp as I find myself in the same situation. To cause you to re-open issues you thought were closed, and to see people as individuals instead of "one-size-fits-all". To toughen up sensitive areas, and soften hard, snobbish views.

While we feel that we are making the right decision for this child, I am at a constant tug-of-war inside of myself. Should he go to preschool 2 days or 4? Should he go this year or next? Is it really the right decision for now?

I think I have found in the last few weeks that one of my biggest fears really is the fear of failure. I fear--or should I say... I am learning not to fear--failing at what I do. I fear failing as a friend. I fear failing as a wife. I fear failing as a mom, a role model, a child of God. Even as I write these words, I can feel the familiar icy grip on my heart. That same dreadful pressing that pushes me to commit to things I shouldn't, that whispers that I'm not good enough, that urges me that what is nessessary is far beyond my reach.

I know I am not alone in this fear, but facing that fear head-on has been prying open the lid to an old, dusty trunk hidden away in a corner of the attic. Rather frightening; perhaps a little smelly. But it has ultimately been very revealing and freeing.

I am a failure. There is no way I can succeed or be a success. That's where Jesus comes in. Since it is in our wiring that we will fail (aka "sin") or make short-sighted decisions (aka "succomb to our finiteness") it is imparitive that we look only to our perfect and all-seeing God for our sense of worth and direction. This was brought home to me a week or so ago during the worship center at our new church. As God's presence moved in me during the praise and prayer, I felt God asking me what was burdening me. What was causing me to feel that, no matter how hard I pedaled, my wheels were spinning in mud? What was scaring me so much that even words were failing me?

Fear of failure dropped into my heart, and then the floodgates opened. I bowed my head and opened my hands as I spoke those words back to God. I confessed to Him my fears, I handed Him back my treasured son. I told Him that I was scared for my baby, I was scared for our family. That I didn't want to fail, and that I often felt that I didn't have what it took to do what I needed to do.

And that's when God sat back and smiled. You're right, kiddo. You don't have what it takes. You will make mistakes. You are weary and looking for escape--but you are looking in all the wrong places. You need Me. In Me you will find that reassurance you keep trying to find in people. In My hands, even mistakes can be redeemed. My providence is unending, My wisdom is infinite. And, by the way, your family is Mine."

Deep, huh? I thought so. It also caused me to walk around with tear-swollen eyes for the next day or so, but that is just the goodness of God.

So, as the days between us and Noah's first days of preschool grow ever fewer, I continue to bolster up courage. I continue to dialogue with my Maker (and Noah's).

And, Noah shows me ways that he is readying for his new chapter in life:

Yay! Hand-control is coming!! Noah's first drawing of people... chalk on the front driveway. He made sure to draw in hair, ears and chins... even if they do seem to still be coming in for a landing. ;)

A foray into finger-painting the other day. He wrote the whole alphabet, his version I should say.

A, B, C, D, E, F...... (he did ask momma to write the "B" and the "F"... the rest are his though).

F, G, H, I, J, K, L....

M, N, O, P, Q, R, S....

T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z and a happy face. Because every alphabet should end with a happy face.