Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Feels like '98

Can we talk about this?

We know the mainstream media strays away from good news. Perhaps that's why that momentous occasion wasn't discussed. Despicable.

Anyway, I was sooo that obnoxious TN fan on Saturday night calling everyone and singing Rocky Top. It was much more than a game. It was eleven Saturdays over the stretch of many years of losing to the team that you were trained all your life to hate (slight exaggeration- only slight). It was eleven years of saying, "We'll get em next year." The last time we beat Florida I was a totally different person. In 2004, I was a freshman in college....

I didn't have degrees, babies, my husband. I hardly remember who I was in that photo above, but I remember how ecstatic I was in that moment when we realized we won. I was as happy as I look! And this past Saturday I kept saying, "Is this really happening?" It was hard to process, coming from a girl who used to enjoy weekly season tickets and hardly missed a game growing up. I haven't been able to go to any games between moving around with the Army and having children, but I always kept a watchful eye on my Vols. Even when I lived in Alaska and didn't have tv (and probably wouldn't have ever gotten to watch a game anyway), I would sign in to the world wide web despite the four hour time difference and munch on wings and beer at 8am as I watched the football symbol go back and forth and the score numbers going up and changing as the game went on in Knoxville. It felt like a lifetime away from me. In those moments, I sure wished I was on ole Rocky Top down in the Tennessee hills.

This Saturday was a homecoming. 

Here's the best article I've seen on it: Why The End of the Streak Should Matter to You by Loudon's own Tyler Wombles 

It has always been great to be a Tennessee Vol, but it was extra great this weekend. And my how things have changed!

So excuse me while I do my happy dance. The streak is over! The duck pulled the truck. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How I Do It

There are countless posts that go un-published here. Most seemed too complainy and others were too dark. You know, there's so much you don't see behind the scenes of our lives and I hope I'm not alone in that. I try to be transparent, to let the copious amounts of people who say, "I don't know how you do it" in on the fact that I'm far from perfect. I struggle emotionally, spiritually, and with just about every facet of parenting. Every day I'm reminded how unbelievably hard it is to be a parent in todays world. There's a spotlight on all the time that flashes toward me when I send the kids outside to play to grow up as we did or our parents did, away from computer screens. They're in the mud, they're running through the tall grass where snakes could be. They're creating their own games and probably being a little mean to one another, too. Then the spot lights whips around to the other side of the spectrum, the helicopter part of many mothers. People criticize when you are three steps away from your kid on the playground, ready to catch any possible fall. They wonder why you want to get involved when they butt heads with a kid at school. It's a catch twenty two. No one is ever doing it right. 

If the stress of trying to measure up with the world isn't enough, imagine how much I dwell on desiring to please an Almighty God while battling the sin that is in my nature. I see the actions of my kids and feel as if it is a direct reflection of me, of our family. This weight is heavy, y'all. If there's one thing I know I'm doing as a stay-at-home mom, it's that I'm daily showing my children my own desperate need for Jesus. They see me in the Word and they see me failing. They hear me asking for forgiveness when I lose my temper with them and they hear it again when we're praying. I screw up all the time. Just as Paul said in Romans 7:15 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." I want to be a certain type of mother- a pinterest creative type who schools her children happily and inspires in them the desire to be outside, work with their hands, and get to know God. The mother I want to be has her children memorizing verses of the Bible, hiding God's word in their hearts from an early age. She does this all while juggling appointments, hearing equipment, and unending patience with her special needs son. She also manages the house and welcomes her hard working husband home with open arms and serves him readily, too. Does this woman exist? I don't know. Maybe I don't want to know. 
I just want to be holy and blameless before God at the end of this life. I want my kids to grow up to be decent human beings and to become disciples and fishers of men. That's why I'm here. I don't want to fail at this. And every single day I go to bed feeling like I am. That's why this is hard. The rocking multiple little ones, wiping noses and bottoms, preparing food that noses are turned up at, washing a million items of clothing a week, cleaning spit up off the floors hourly, and all the other things you couldn't dream up that my children could get into- those are challenging. But when I step back and look at the whole picture, I realize that none of that matters if my kids don't grow up and decide to follow Jesus. If they don't know him, it doesn't matter that their butt had a $15 diaper on it. It doesn't matter if I grow all their food from the ground in our backyard. It won't make a difference if they were potty trained at two or ten. If we don't have Him, we have nothing.
So this is how I do it. It's one day at a time. One hour at a time. Trial and error. Lot of prayers. Forgiveness. Perseverance. Grace. 
I'm really hoping I'm not alone in this....and if I am, well, maybe just keep that to yourself.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Postpartum Progress (Part 1)

Hey, friends. I've been writing this blog post in my head for awhile. I've had time to think about it each time I went to the gym or for a long walk when I was very pregnant. I thought about this process for nine months as my body grew with our growing daughter. I definitely thought about it at week 39 when I went on a run at nine months pregnant. During my entire pregnancy, I was adamant to stay active because I knew it would help baby and me. Postpartum rebound is here. I'm happy about that! It feels good to know that I can lose weight and tone again. But I'll be honest, it hasn't gone as I expected. The weight isn't falling off as quickly as I hoped. But that is part of the process, right? And so when some of you asked me specifically to document my postpartum progress (Hi, Katie!), I knew it was time to start writing it down. I've been snapping photos for documentation purposes, but I didn't post them until now because I don't feel like I have anything to be proud of yet. It's difficult to feel proud when there's so little time to exercise my body, sweat, and have something to show for it.
The hardest part of getting fit with four children is relying on other people for my fitness. It probably sounds like a cop out to you...and maybe it is. But I truly don't think I can workout with all of them here. I try and it's so ridiculous. Do a few moves, change a diaper. Do another, wipe a noise and break up a toy scuffle. Insert screaming and you don't have a relaxing, sweat burning workout at all. It's more of a mental exercise in not throwing in the towel and checking yourself into the nuthouse. When I workout, that's my ME TIME. I enjoy being alone for an hour a day and running, lifting weights, or anything of the sort. It gives me something to work toward. As a stay at home mom, your job is never done. Never. So I cleaned the kitchen and it's sparkling? Well, now it's lunch time so I have to prepare food and clean it all up again...and while I was cleaning that kitchen? Yeah, you guessed it. The children were destroying the downstairs. With running or lifting weights, I can set a mile goal or make out an exercise plan and ACTUALLY ACHIEVE IT. It gives me just a tiny break of sanity as a list maker. Maybe you're one of those people, too who find enjoyment in checking off something on their list of things to do? Well, by the time I check off laundry, clean kitchen, clean toilet, whatever....it's time to write it down again because it's not ever done. A workout for the day IS done. At five weeks postpartum, I'm still stuck in a bit of a rut because I feel like I need a babysitter in order to get my sweat on! And if you know anything about my life, you know I don't have those much! Ha.
But in order to be successful, I need goals. Because I'm supposed to wait until 6 weeks postpartum, I've been taking it fairly easy. As I approach being cleared for exercise, I've been thinking about some goals. Here are my stats:

Weight: 131
Goal: 120
Lost to date: 19 lbs

What have I been doing?
Mostly running (ok, pathetic jogging and mostly walking)

The plan?
Raise my self esteem by exercising and remembering what this body can do! I AM proud that I've carried four children in my womb and now I want to focus on creating a capable body again, one that can go hike 10 miles in the Smokies if I feel like it without getting too winded. I want to not be self conscious when I'm in a bathing suit and trying to play on the beach with my kids. I definitely don't want to pass along my abysmal body image to my daughter (or three boys for that matter). The plan is to feel good...and I truly don't care about the scale. I just use it as a reference point.

How will I get there?
Well, for the month of August, I'm focusing on baby steps. Little, achievable goals are what I'm starting with.
1. Drink 8+ glasses of water daily
2. 50 miles in August
3. Grace

Grace means that I remember that I just had a beautiful baby girl and the changes in my body are more than worth it. I've gotten back in shape three times after a baby and I can do it again. One foot in front of the other.

Time to get to work! I'll share workouts, progress, and additional thoughts on health and fitness as the months pass by. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mission Field

"As women who work hard to serve others day and night, we tend to forget that we have this opportunity because of God's mercy on us. From children underfoot or away at school to the ladies we disciple and witness to in the workplace and community, our nurturing work is a gift. We all have a need to repent of our feelings of entitlement. We do not deserve to be used by God. We do not deserve to be ambassadors of Christ in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, or generations. We do not deserve to be given spiritual gifts with which to serve the church. We do not deserve to be included in God's mission to the world, period. Yet, it pleases Him to include us." 

- Gloria Furman via Missional Motherhood

Because my crew is young, four of them seems like a lot. I get it. It is a lot for me to handle, for sure. But because there are so many of them that can't tie their shoes (or put them on for that matter!), I get many questions from people out in town. One of the most popular ones is "How do you do it?" The short answer is: I don't know. 

I really don't. By 9am, so many unthinkable things have already popped up in my day that I find this discontent and anger bubbling up that this is my job right now. Potty training. Picky eaters. Spit up. Screaming as communication. Silly screaming competitions with brothers. LOUDNESS. Forget trying to accomplish something. This is why the laundry stays piled up and only necessary cleaning gets done. There are many times I spend my days wondering if I'm even making a positive difference in their lives or if they feel I'm an emotionless presence that either bends to their will or enforces mean (in their mind) rules. All it takes to turn the day around is a visit to God's word, though. Who am I that He chose me for them? Who am I to be good enough to be on this missionfield for God? This. These kids. They're my CALLING. I didn't envision this for myself, but God did and He chose me specifically. That's how I do it. I was created for it and I'm up for the challenge--for this blessing.

I still spend nap time begging for sleep...and actual patience (NOT opportunities to be patient. I have plenty of those!)...and for my thoughts to be of Him and this mission...a change in my thoughts and therefore my attitude....and for my words to be life giving.

This is hard.

But one day, I'm going to wake up and they won't need me as much. They'll unbuckle themselves and get out of the car on their own. They will bathe themselves. They'll talk. They'll communicate. They'll drive themselves to their appointments. They'll go off to college and leave me. And the thought of a quiet house that seems so amazing to me right now, might just leave me in tears because these pieces of my heart will walk out into the world on their own and go in different directions. I just hope they will take a piece of me with them. That they will see Jesus in me somehow. That they will chase after Him when they leave here. That's what I'm doing.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A day in the life

Because why wouldn't you wake up bright and early, go find the hot sauce and empty over half of it into a glass of sparkling water and on your little brother? I mean why not? It's like this every day, every hour that I'm with my dear second born. I think he is the reason I feel stretched to my limit every single day. And sometimes it just all gets to me. Yesterday was that day. I have to have one of those every once in awhile I guess. I'm sitting here with my second cup of coffee and despite the laundry and dishes piling up, I feel the need to write. My blog has become a place for Abel updates when I used to talk about our latest adventures all over the country. I know it's not exciting but it keeps my sanity and provides a record when my brain is foggy and I feel like he isn't progressing at all. Thank you to those of you who still check in with us despite my lack of exciting updates.
I tried to be in a good mood yesterday. I woke up and read my bible and the promises of to whom I belong. I was feeling humbled and good. I went to get dressed and ended up spending an embarrassingly long time trying to get ready, all with four children vying for my attention. It took so long because I was feeling really down about my postpartum body. My old clothes don't fit and my pregnancy ones don't either. With everything going on around me, I just wanted to feel confident in my appearance but everything I put on whispered that I was just another mom who has let herself go. One who hardly gets to shower because she's so focused on her little ones. One who doesn't know what an acceptable price is for mascara because who has time to buy/apply it anyway? One who doesn't have a life outside of her 24/7 job of raising kids. One who isn't so good at raising kids anyway. I mean, why is it so difficult to potty train a three (nearing four) year old? Why is it that the same child thought it was okay to bite his friend at school over a toy the day before? He's three. He should not be biting...or pooping himself...or struggling with speaking phrases. He should be speaking in sentences.
Obviously, my thoughts aren't entirely sensible right now but they carry much truth, too. I'm exhausted by his disability. I feel really alone. I don't know anyone who is in my position- caring for a bunch of small children, one of which has a cochlear implant and is still significantly behind his peers in language, communication, behavior, and motor skills. In a few months, we'll be celebrating his two year hearing birthday and while he has definitely made progress, his cochlear implant peers are leaps and bounds ahead of him. I see it twice weekly. When he goes to group therapy, there's a room beside his with a window and speaker that I can watch the session from. As I walk him in, I greet his peers with a "Hi! How are you today?" and you know what? They respond. "I'm good." They don't have to be told to say it. They know what I'm asking. Abel still stares blankly when he is asked questions by most people. It makes me want to cry because I'm doing everything I can do for him and I just feel tapped out.
I'm not writing for pity. I certainly don't need that. I have a beautiful, healthy, spunky boy who is very loving to his mama. He is the first one to require a hug, stroke my hair and pull my cheek to his lips for a kiss. I'm his person and I love him more than I could ever say...but caring for him day in and day out is physical and mentally draining me. I want to be better for him, but I feel like my hands are tied.
Yesterday as I was battling these thoughts, I was also on my way to therapy. I got in the car to find my gas light on and my tire pressure light lit up. I drove to the nearest gas station despite having no time built into my schedule to do that. I pulled up to fill the tank and my card was declined twice so I picked another card and made a mental note to find out why. As I was getting gas, I found a dollar for the air machine (Score!) but I knew I needed quarters. I began asking the folks around me for change but no one had enough quarters. They said I could just have the ones they did have but I didn't want to do that so I began unloading the kids so I could go inside the gas station to get the change I needed. Finally, with fifteen minutes before I had to be at his first appointment in Knoxville, I pulled up to the air machine and guess what? They had changed it from $1.00 to $1.50 because of course they did. I drove to OT with a deflating tire and a deflating positive outlook.
By the way, the reason my card was declined was because someone stole my info and bought $720 worth of school supplies. Which is so poetic, right? Someone with 85 kids apparently is sending them  all away on my dime. The stay-at-home mom who can't wait to usher her brood of kids into the hands of more capable teachers than herself. Ha! What a freakin' day.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Birth Story #4

I have practiced great restraint in not flooding all my social media accounts with pictures of the last forty eight hours. It has been a challenge because I just want to shout from the roof tops about Mama's little girl. She is so perfect, y'all! My heart is bursting with love for my growing family and I'm so SO happy to not be pregnant anymore. I guess all I needed to do was write to all of you that I was going to be pregnant forever because about an hour after I selected "publish" on the last blog post, I was in active labor.
I started timing my contractions around 8:40pm that evening. I didn't think much of it because I have literally been doing that for at least a month. Typically these contractions would last for hours, were long, and super close together. The ones that began on Thursday evening were much shorter, but they weren't easing up if I got into labor positions, went about with chores, or when I got in the bath. They didn't feel much different, but something in my brain told me this time was the real deal. We were worried about this because of how close we came to delivering Merit in the car so before an hour was even up, I was texting my sister to ask her if she might take me to the hospital to get checked out. I didn't want Jordan to have to leave the kids who were already in bed because a false alarm would mean I had roused four different people to help. I continued to pack my bag and began to wonder if I didn't have Jordan come, too that he might miss the birth of our daughter.
I typically have what is called precipitous labor. That means that from the onset of contractions, I have the baby in my arms in three hours or less. I know that sounds amazing to many of you who labor long and hard (and I am NOT complaining!) but it isn't without drawbacks. For starters, the contractions come on so quickly that my body doesn't have a chance to build up to the pain. I'm uncomfortable with contractions for a short time and then BAM, worst pain of my life. The pain never eases, either. It just keeps coming, wave upon wave, with no time to recover in between. Thursday night was no different.
My sister and I arrived at the hospital around 10:45pm. I was feeling pretty good as I was able to walk in without too much trouble and get situated in triage to be checked out. Relief was flooding through me as I was pretty sure I was actually in labor and I was so happy to have made it in plenty of time to have a baby in a fairly controlled environment. I told the intake nurse of my previous experiences with precipitous labor and she checked me and saw that I was dilated 3cm. She told me she didn't feel comfortable sending me home with my history and that was good because I wasn't going anywhere but the parking lot to wait it out if they kicked me out! I knew my body this time.
I was only in triage a few minutes before they were ushering me to a new room of my own. I walked down the hallway and told them I didn't want an epidural while I was still in my right mind to say so. I got changed and hooked up to the fetal monitor and she checked me again. I was at 4cm. At this point, I was still able to talk a bit in between the strongest parts of the contractions, but that was quickly changing. Thankfully, Jordan decided to ask his parents to come over to watch our other children shortly after I left the house so he was right behind us. He came in smiling and ready to welcome our fourth child and I again felt encouraged that everything was working out nicely and timely! My water broke around this time, too. It was nothing like it had been with the others, but it was enough to demonstrate to the new nurse taking over my care that this was going to happen quickly. I remember someone asking her how many babies she had caught (she said 8) and then I remember her trying to make sure the doctor on call was on her way to the hospital. My mom arrived shortly after this and I was at 6cm and VERY much in pain. I began to do that thing I hate: question myself. Why didn't I get an epidural? Can I even do this? What was I thinking? I can't do this. So it was nice to see three familiar faces cheering me on. Jordan reminded me that I am a rockstar. Mom reminded me when I needed to breathe. And Paige was thinking of keeping me cool with ice chips and wet rags. EVERYone told me that I was doing great and it was something I needed to hear. A couple minutes later, I'm telling everyone I feel pressure and that I was going to have to push soon so she checked me again and I was at 8cm. That was encouraging! I knew she would be here soon and I could almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I asked Jordan to pray over me and that gave me the final strength I would need to get through. I don't really recall if anyone ever told me I was fully dialated or effaced, but obviously my body knew as it involuntarily started to push shortly after. The "ring of fire" was full force and I couldn't get anyone to tell me "Yes, I'll catch your baby!" The bed wasn't even broken down and I'm saying, "Where is the doctor?!" (because I knew the nurses weren't supposed to encourage a woman to push when a doctor isn't present) There were at least four nurses in the room and all of them avoided my questions until finally my mom spoke up and one of them said, "We are prepared for whatever you have to do at this time." How political of them! ;)
That's all I needed. I pushed a few times through the worst pain I've ever felt and suddenly every single night I tossed and turned, largely pregnant with our daughter didn't matter. Because I felt amazing. At 12:06am on July 8th, I brought my fourth child into the world! There's no greater feeling.
As they placed her on my chest, one of them said with a bit of alarm, " Look, there's a "true knot." I looked down to find that the umbilical cord was tied in a knot--a tight one. I didn't think much of it because of the high I was experiencing, but later I found out the dangers of having one. It turns out that she likely tangled it up by flipping around inside me and most babies who do this die in utero. I didn't tell many people, but on July 4th I came home from a parade and mourned for two hours because I just had an awful feeling that she was gone. I couldn't get her to move after trying everything and I just laid there clutching my stomach and praying. She finally moved and I tried not to worry any more after that, but when I saw that knot my sweet girl made it through I was so relieved and thankful to God for allowing me to have her with me. "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7). She's here, y'all and this mama is as happy as can be.

We are home and all back together and doing great. Thanks to each of you for your kind words of congrats on IG and Facebook!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

I was told there'd be glowing....

There's no glowing. There's only me...busting out of raincoats, sweating rather grotesquely from the heat and hormones, and still learning important lessons like don't wear baggy shirts when you have a baby the size of a watermelon up them. It's not pretty. Nothing is pretty right now, in fact. 
I am miserable.
I know, I know. It's almost over. I'm being a baby. There are worse things in the world. All of these things I know. None of them help my situation. Every night, pain radiates from my back to my belly and lasts a minute or so and happens every two to three minutes. It tricks my hopeful little brain into thinking that I might have a sweet girl in my arms soon instead of pressing on every major organ inside me. This has been going on for weeks and weeks. It certainly feels as if I'll be pregnant forever.
I went to the doctor today and she tells me as she has for three weeks in a row that I'm dilated NOT EVEN TWO cm and there's no change. It's pretty discouraging because my braxton hicks contractions can take my breath away. It feels like it's all for nothing at this point. Still, I hesitate to accept her offer of additional measures because I truly want her to come when she's ready. I've never been this pregnant and soon my due date will come and go. Meanwhile, my back is killing me and it feels like a bowling ball is about to fall out of me. Additionally, I can hardly find a comfortable position sitting or laying but my body is screaming at me to relax. I can't even, y'all.
I can't even.

Rant over.

But yes, I'm still pregnant in case you were wondering.

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