Summer, Diary 2, 2016

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today is Memorial Day, a day where we remember those who have given their life for our country. To honor their sacrifice, their love, and their courage, so that others might be safe, might be protected, and might be free.

I know my country is not perfect. It is a large land full of many different people from many different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, mindsets, and circumstances. But here is the thing… we fight so much because we have the freedom to. This country has immense freedom, more than we realize or even wish to acknowledge.

So I want to remember the good of my country. I want to uphold what is right in it, so that the good will grow and grow until there is no more room for the bad.

In America we are free. Rejoice in it. Use it. Do not squander it.

We have the freedom to pray. Cherish that and pray for those who don’t.

We have the freedom to worship. Worship without fear and celebrate.

We have the freedom to form our own lives, to choose to sit back and do nothing, or to work hard and make something of ourselves. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We do not have the right to happiness, but the pursuit of it. Whether you have a happy life, a good life, or not depends on you. That is your freedom. So form your life well.

We have freedom with our children. Realize what a blessing this is— to be given charge of a brand new life who will rely on you to train and guide them so that they can grow up and live their own life. Don’t squander this! Raise them with all of your might, or give them the hope of a good life by finding the best parents possible for them. In this land of freedom, don’t abuse yours by taking away theirs just because you don’t want the inconvenience. There are too many options out there. Be that child’s blessing, however that might be.

We have the freedom to make our voice heard, through online blogs, social media, sitting in a cafe with friends, or voting. Use that freedom. Don’t waste it by saying “My voice will never be heard, my vote means nothing.”

We have the freedom to help. Pass it on, no matter who it is.

We have the freedom to do our best. Reach for the stars!

With freedom comes responsibility. Freedom is a gift to be cherished and utilized. It is an amazing tool that can become deadly by those who take it for granted, who use that freedom to take instead of to give.

Our founding fathers did not begin this country, and our men and women who have fought and died, did not sacrifice to gain and keep freedom for us to abuse it.

Make their sacrifice worth it.

Live well.

 

“This is my family. … It’s little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.”

Lilo and Stitch

***

1st Peter 2

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

The Surprise Has Arrived :-)

You know, I have a good life.

Now I say it that way because life here on the Wisconsin homestead has been CRAZY these past few months… and as a mother of four, with a garden and school starting up in a month and the day-to-day battle in keeping house… well, one can get overwhelmed. But life really is good.

The last time I blogged I was still pregnant. Then hey presto, mid-Spring a cute little package showed up with huge charcoal eyes and an adorable, wide smile. Our William is the happiest baby ever… he’s been smiling since week one, and he smiles all the time. He’s also an alarming go-getter. He babbles non-stop, tries to copy the motion of my mouth as I talk to him, and is already trying to scoot himself on his belly. This will work better when he figures out how not to trap his arms under him when he rolls over. In the meantime, his nose is getting to know the carpet on a deep and meaningful level. I think the friendship has promise.

This was the first pregnancy where I had an epidural at the birth. I had always been against them before, because of all the stories I heard where the mother had one and then couldn’t feel to such an extent that she couldn’t tell what was going on and couldn’t push well and the birth took a much longer time than it needed to. Unfortunately, I have back labor, and after having my daughter (which took a total of three miserable hours) I swore I had to find some kind of pain management/killer that worked. I’m not afraid of pain, and I actually have a high pain tolerance… but back labor makes me crumple. Normal labor hurts; add back labor into it and it’s three times worse. I’ve had it with three out of four pregnancies. I decided that if I didn’t have back labor, I would just have William naturally, med-free. If I did, I was going for the epidural (nothing I had tried in any previous birth worked). And wouldn’t you know it, my old friend showed up again, worse than ever. I tried to stick it out for about an hour, and then I thought “This is crazy! I can’t even breathe and I’m bruising my poor husband’s arm with my fingernails… someone stick me!” And they did. And it was glorious. The pain completely went away, but I still had total muscle control. Why hadn’t I done this before?! I spent the rest of the birth sipping ice water and chatting with my mom and Sackett Man while we watched Guardians of the Galaxy. The actual birth took about two minutes, and then there he was… a bawling, fighting, beautiful baby boy who I got to hold for thirty minutes before they took him to clean him up. He spent the entire time howling his fury to me. It was actually hilarious. And when he was done he calmed down as if nothing was wrong and just looked at me with his big, dark eyes. When Sackett Man spoke he craned his head back and back and back till he could see his Daddy’s face. It was beautiful.

William

William

So here is our little surprise. The baby boy we hadn’t planned and hadn’t expected, but God knew we needed him. 🙂

God Knows Best

I have been in to the hospital three times now with false labor. Well, the first time was because of some blood. The next two times I had contractions 3-4 minutes apart for hours before they suddenly would just disappear! What?! Why? The last time I was positive it was real. It hurt so bad and was so constant! And then ‘poof’. Like magic. I was SO FRUSTRATED! We live 40 minutes from the hospital. We have three kids that we have to drop off at a relative’s house every single time. My husband usually ends up taking off the next day of work because I end up so sore that I can hardly move the next day. These trips are not simple or easy, despite the medical staff always breezily telling us “Oh, just keep coming in each time. Even if it’s a dozen more times. No problem. One of these times it will happen!”

No problem? Says them. It’s a two day ordeal for us.

What I have come to realize though is this: I think God is stopping it each time. Why? Because a) Sackett Man has got the mother cold of mother colds. He wouldn’t be able to hold or kiss his new baby boy. And b) stomach flu has hit our house today. Not exactly the best time to introduce a new baby into the family.

So I’m okay now. I wasn’t before; I was getting mad and frustrated with the emotional and physical stress of thinking “This is it! Hello, William!” and then having it not happen. Now, this morning, I’ve hit a new understanding that God has not only kept this pregnancy healthy and safe, kept me from having him prematurely (yay!), but He is also making sure that William comes when we are healthy and ready to receive him.

So I’m taking a deep breath, and I’m just going to wait for the germs to leave us. Because I know I won’t be pregnant forever, despite what my pregnancy hormones keep telling me. I just need to be patient. God knows what He’s doing. 🙂

The Two Week Drain

We’re nearing the end. Hallelujah. Not that I don’t love parts of being pregnant… but this last month has quickly propelled me to an early state of “I’m ready when you are!”. Especially the last two weeks. I had spotting two weeks ago, and ended up under observation for five hours being poked, prodded, ultrasound-ed, and monitored. It was nothing. He’d shifted down, causing the stitches of my cerclage to pull. That was it.

The next week I got the mother of all stomach flus. It would have been bad enough getting it on a normal day, but getting it while eight months pregnant? At one point I was crying and begging God to ‘just take me now’. It took three days to get to a point where I could eat normal food without my stomach cringing.

Two days later I started contracting. I laid down on the couch, drank water, did everything one is supposed to, but pretty soon I was timing the contractions to about ten minutes apart. Which for me means “Get in the car NOW!” (I have 3 hour labors. Fast and Furious, according to my doctor.) In the car it went from six minutes apart down to four. I labored with contractions four minutes apart for TWO HOURS at the hospital. The doctor on call wasn’t my doctor, and he did not believe me when I told him that I have three-hour labors. It took them two hours just to check and see if the labor was real, and I still had my cerclage in. Because of my repeated insistence and my husband and my mother’s pushing he finally called some other specialists, and was flatly told that due to my history, YES, the cerclage should come out. Even if this labor turned out to be false. Because I live 40 minutes from the hospital, I’m home alone during the day with my three children, the next time could be real, and let’s just say that labor and cerclages don’t mix. So he grudgingly came in and took out the cerclage stitches.

Within 30 minutes the contractions stopped.

Needless to say I was upset that it had turned out to be false. It’s hard being in labor that long and being all ready to welcome your little one and dealing with a difficult doctor and then having it all be for nothing! The one good thing is that I no longer have the stitches to worry about. If I go into labor now, I can just proceed like a normal woman and have my baby. Yay!

Perhaps God had this happen so that we went from almost-prepped to totally prepped. Not only is my cerclage out (a HUGE stresser gone), but I have packed my hospital bag completely (along with stuff for my husband and our baby boy), packed an overnight bag for our other three kids, prepped our room with the bassinet, another dresser, baby clothes and paraphernalia, and got the infant car seat ready.

Now I can just rest easy. And wait.

The unfortunate thing is that I am so physically exhausted from the last week that it’s hard to do much each day. Between the flu and the long false labor, I’m still in rough shape. I’ve had to pick one project for the day, per day, and that’s it. If I find I have energy enough after to do another thing—score!

But now I can look forward to having my baby, whenever he decides to show up, in peace. Because I’m no longer stitched shut.

Sackett Man and I can welcome little William whenever. 🙂

“Stories of Our Children: Part Two”

We may not have been ready before to become parents, but after our little lost one, we were more than ready.

We began trying soon after for another child, with no success. I have always had some problems with hormone levels, which meant that I have always worried that I would have trouble conceiving. Three years passed, trying to conceive, and failing. During that time I learned I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, a confirmation for me that there was something wrong with me. I was broken.

I struggled. At times I had such feelings of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure, a sense of something being broken and wrong with me inside, as though I’d been made wrong. Sackett Man was always there, no matter how up or down I was, loving me and encouraging me. I thank God every day that He gave me Sackett Man as my husband; without him, I don’t know what I would have done.

Then came news, deep in the middle of winter, that would change our lives. We learned that one of Sackett Man’s relations was expecting a baby boy. She didn’t feel she was ready to be a parent, to be the kind of mother she wanted her child to have. She was still young, still unsure of where she wanted to go with her life. Her then-ex boyfriend was also not in any position to raise a child. She wanted her child to have a stable, Christian, married father and mother, with a good and steady home, who she felt would raise the child as best as possible. So she decided to put her child up for adoption.

The moment she told us about her decision I felt an instant connection that I didn’t fully understand. I ignored it, and we supported her the best we could, but it quickly became a matter of desperation for me. After our loss, I could not imagine giving up your child. She remained fixed on adoption, and my feeling of desperation increased; all I could think was that another child was going to be lost. I knew it sounded irrational, and tried to fight against it, but finally I told Sackett Man that I thought we should offer to adopt her child. At first he was against it, worried about the adverse affect it could have on the family relationships. Would it be too awkward for her, when we visited? Would she have a hard time letting go? Would there be trouble if she still felt maternal urges even as we tried to be the baby’s parents? Were we ready for such a big step? I didn’t know; and at that point, I didn’t care. The connection I felt was so strong, as if it were my child she was carrying. All I knew was that if she was serious about going through with adoption, then I wanted him, with a passion.

For two months we prayed and talked, and I cried. She was nearing her seventh month, and we still hadn’t asked. I felt like time was running out.

And then it happened: she asked us. She had been hesitant, she said, because she didn’t want to create an awkward situation for us… but then she thought about how much we wanted a family and how hard it had been for us, and she finally decided it was better to ask and leave it up to us.

It was such an answer to prayer! I laughed and then I cried. We said yes!!! Absolutely, we wanted to adopt!

I thought that would be it, we would move forward with all of the legalities and red tape and in the end we would have a son. If only I had known. The ex-boyfriend still hadn’t even consented to adoption. If he did, then he had to consent to us being the adoptive parents. They lived in a different state than us, so we had to comply with two separate states’ adoption laws. We still had to be evaluated and looked into in order to receive approval for adopting. We had to find lawyers. We had to figure out if we needed just lawyers (since it was an in-family adoption) or if we had to go through two adoption agencies and lawyers.

Then one evening in late summer we got a phone call. She was going to look into other families, because she was too afraid that if her ex-boyfriend found out we were the adoptive couple, he would back out of the adoption deal altogether (because then she would have the upper hand, so-to-speak, since we are her family).

I have rarely felt such horrible desperation and anger. We thought that the ex had known about us; to find out he was okay with adoption, but hadn’t been asked about us, was a complete shock. We prayed, begged, and waited. I went from being completely fine (because I refused to think about it) to being a complete mess. I ranted and raved between bouts of tears.

A week later we got another call. She had decided to brave her ex-boyfriend’s unpredictable nature, and told him. Not only did he agree to us being the adoptive parents, he was excited about it! He had met us and gotten to know us the previous Christmas, and actually felt relief because he knew us. His child was not going to disappear into the void, given to some strangers.

At this point we only had three weeks to finalize all of the legal details, go through a home inspection, get approved, and get ready for a new addition to our lives. I went into a nesting phase to end all nesting phases; my office was completely emptied of everything. I swept, mopped, and then got on my hands and knees with a toothbrush and a sponge and scrubbed until you could have eaten off that floor. I cleaned the walls. My mom gave me a dresser she’d had in storage and the baby bassinet she’d carefully stored in her attic for years. I cleaned it all and set it up in the room. I added a changing table and a rocking chair.

And after those two  days I turned to the rest of the house, whether it needed it or not.

Being a family adoption, we learned that the process would be naturally faster. And we only needed lawyers, no adoption agency, which sped everything up even more. The home inspection was all of one hour long. The inspector, before she left, assured us that– although she had to submit the paperwork– our approval was pretty much guaranteed. Another blessing from God!

The same day, that same hour even, we got the call that our boy was born, eight pounds of long-limbed beauty! The moment the inspector left we threw our things into the car and drove three hours across the state line and to the hospital. I was shaking as we entered the hospital room. He was laying in his little hospital crib, sleeping, but the moment he heard Sackett Man’s voice he opened his eyes and searched the room until he found the source, and then he couldn’t stop looking at Chris. He quieted and snuggled into my arms whenever I held him. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was, how big his eyes were, how his fingers curled around mine. I had been dreaming about him for three chaotic, crazy months, and now everything just stilled as we looked at each other.

We named him Roman.

I was a mother.

I was a mother.

We stayed with my in-laws that first week. I was honored and so, so happy when she (the bio. mother) let Roman come home from the hospital with me. I slept in a twin bed by his crib, and I fed him with a bottle throughout the night.

Needless to say, that first night was long. He woke up every hour and a half, and finally I just pulled him into bed with me and wrapped him in my arms and held him close. Then he slept. He’d just wanted me.

I quit working full time, to stay home, and I was so happy! Roman fit into our lives as though we’d had him ourselves. I couldn’t believe how natural it was; our lives had been turned upside down in a matter of months, but we couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Three months later we had the final inspection (that insured that we were being good parents and that Roman was thriving), which lasted all of ten minutes, and then we went to court and the papers were signed off and filed. Roman was officially ours.

All we ever wanted was our own child. God answered our prayer in a wonderful, beautiful way.

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 11.40.35 AM

Stories of Our Children: Part One

It was a Sunday, late morning. I stood in the store aisle, nervously looking at the selection before me, knowing I had to get back home before Sackett Man returned from Church. I had stayed home after waking up feeling horribly sick to my stomach, just as I had for the past two days. And just as it happened the last two days, by 11:30 am the nausea magically disappeared.

I couldn’t be.’ I thought.

And yet here I was, surrounded by dozens of small boxes that spouted promises of ‘Results 2 Days Sooner!’ ‘Test Before You’ve Even Missed!’ ‘Get 3 tests for the price of 2!’ I made my selection, paid for it, and hurried home, hoping to discover, before Sackett Man returned, whether or not my suspicions were correct.

The results were positive.

Our reactions were not so much. We wanted a family, someday, but we were young… very young… I was barely 22. Sackett Man was working two jobs. I had a part-time job and was in college full-time. We barely saw one another, just trying to get a good start on life and finish school so that we could give our future family our entire focus.

And did I mention I felt, suddenly and wholly, far too young? I didn’t know if I was ready. Having a baby was HUGE, and I was determined to be the best mother I could be, and an even better mother than that with God’s help. I just didn’t know if I was ready now.

The first few months passed. I grew out of my jeans and moved into maternity pants. My aunt ecstatically surprised me with the gift of some adorable maternity shirts she had found on her last shopping trip. I began to feel okay with it, even to look forward to it, despite the panicky flippity-flop of my heart that still happened once in a while. I was cute in the clothes. People told me I was glowing and pretty. We began to think about names, and to get hesitantly excited about the fast-coming day we would have our ultrasound and find out if we should be buying blue or pink.

The day came. I was five months pregnant; it was the week before Finals. My college friends were dying to know. Sackett Man, my mom, and I went to the appointment and watched with baited breath as the picture of our little one appeared on the screen. *He* was there, adorable and cute, little legs and arms curled in.

He didn’t move.

The doctor frowned, staring at the screen.

He moved a little, but it quickly became clear that he was so still because there was almost no amniotic fluid. At all. The doctor continued to frown, and after the ultrasound we waited in the exam room nervously for him to come back and tell us the results.

I don’t remember, anymore, the doctor’s exact words. They were washed away in the understanding, the awful, horrible dawning of understanding, that we were going to lose our baby. He had Potter’s Syndrome. His kidneys didn’t develop properly. That explained the lack of amniotic fluid, since amniotic fluid is made primarily of the baby’s urine. We were ready to put his name down for donor kidneys, in the hopes we could save him once he was born, and then we were given the final blow: without amniotic fluid, the lungs also don’t develop normally. In our baby’s case, his lungs hadn’t developed at all.

There was no saving him.

I could deliver at any time. I might have him that night, as sometimes a woman’s body, telling that something is wrong with the pregnancy, goes into labor. Or I could go full term.

I barely remember the following days and weeks. They became lost in a fog, filled with tears and numbness and grief and prayer after prayer after prayer, begging God for something. Anything. I didn’t know what to pray for, so it was wordless and pleading. My husband prayed and pleaded with God to heal our son. He knew the miracles of God, knew that if it was in God’s will He could and would heal our baby. I wanted to pray for this miracle, but my breaking mother’s heart couldn’t bear to hope only to break again. So I left that prayer to Sackett Man, and I just prayed that God would bring an answer sooner rather than later.

I talked to my son. I held my belly and sang to him, every day, trying to convey to my quiet child still within me how much, how very much I loved him. How much I would always love him. How much I would miss him during the intervening years, till I got to heaven and would see him again.

In the middle of the night, late in July, I awoke to horrible stomach cramps. I don’t remember what I had eaten the night before, but I remember thinking it was the worst case of indigestion I had ever had. I tried to just ride it out, as one usually does, and then tried to sleep, but every time my eyes slid shut the cramping woke me up again.

I finally got up and walked around, hoping the movement would help things sort out. It did help my stomach cramping, except then my back began to cramp. Vise-like and crippling, making my knees buckle and my eyes water. It only took a few of those for me to grab my phone and call my mom. She told me to get my husband, to call an ambulance, and that she was driving over as fast as she could. I hung up and somehow managed to make my way to the bedroom. Sackett Man woke up, bleary and in shock. By the time he understood what was happening I knew it was close, it was too late. I got into the tub as he was on the phone, and barely a moment later our little David was born. Mom arrived a few minutes later, as I was catching my breath and trying to recover from the waves of dizziness that had taken me.

David was moving. Unable to breathe, but reaching for me just the same. In the short minute I had I held him, washed him, and told him I loved him.

I grieved most of that day. It didn’t fully hit Sackett Man until we entered the funeral home that afternoon, and he had to carry his son in and give him up. All we could do after that was hold each other. Even the Memorial Service we held at our house, with family and friends and our pastor, was a blur that we just tried to get through.

I won’t give any pat remarks about how God pulled us through it, how we drew closer and rested in His unfailing love and comfort. While true, those words cover the reality with a sugar-coating. We were not okay, not at all, but we knew we would be. We had lost our son, but we knew that he was with God and that he was not suffering. Our hearts were broken, but God continued to steadily fill us with His comfort and surrounded us with an amazing number of people who cared about us and supported us. There were times we felt empty of grief and were able to smile, and times we cried and cried and felt like nothing would ever be right ever again.

Sackett Man healed faster than I did, but that was due in large to the fact that I developed post-partum depression about eight to ten months later, and then one of my sister-in-law’s announced she was expecting. With the loss and the depression, it was not a difficult slide into bitter jealousy. I knew I shouldn’t; it was wrong of me to focus all of my resentment on her. She was lovely and kind and caring, and was very careful to be thoughtful and considerate around me. It was my own heart that was still in grief that was causing the issues.

I clung to Sackett Man, and I clung to God. He promised that nothing would ever separate us, that everything good is from Him, that He could take even a bad situation and mold it into something better. I didn’t know WHAT He could take from this, but Sackett Man and I had never, ever been closer or more in love with each other. We were ready for a family; we WANTED a baby now more than anything. Our lives and priorities had shifted for the better, and settled into something solid and sure. I had discovered that no matter how crazy, unpredictable, and horrifyingly unsteady the world was around me, God had proven His promise to be there and to be the same. It was true. He never changed. He never wavered. He heard my whispers and my wails. My son was safe now, forever, with Him, and someday I would see him again.

The storm had been wild and horrible, but I was beginning to see a break in the clouds.

And the next year, the sun came blazing out, and God revealed the wonderful, bright eyed, eight pound miracle He had waiting for us…

It has been two months. Oh my word, what has changed in two months!

My eldest has started kindergarten. I remember when he was little bitty, when his hair stood straight up and was pale blonde, making it look like he had dandelion fluff instead of hair! Now he’s six and doing school. Oh boy. But we’re homeschooling, so I actually get to spend more time with him than before! 🙂

The second change is that our daughter is now eating with a fork and a plate, is sleeping through the night, and is now weaned and just takes a sippy cup before bed.

This summer I had a nagging cold, and then I began to get some awful headaches, which for me is a sign that the cold had migrated and turned into a sinus infection. The ONLY reason I tested was because I wanted to be able to say “No, I’m not pregnant, dose me up and kill this thing!”

Good news: I didn’t have a sinus infection.

Better news: I’M PREGNANT!!!

Welcome to the third change. As of March, Rose will no longer be the youngest in the family. SURPRISE! Are you? Surprised? We were! And when I say surprised, I mean shocked, bamboozled, “How in the world did THAT happen?!”

Why, you ask? Why should we be so surprised? Haven’t we ever heard of the birds and the bees?

Yes, in fact, we have.

However, the fact that it happened is a miracle.

I will be telling the stories over the next few posts, but the long and short of it is that I never believed I would ever, ever, EVER get pregnant on my own. The only other natural pregnancy I had we lost, and since then I have needed medical intervention to succeed at conceiving. I have also needed medical intervention to make it possible to go full term.

Our last child, Rose, was full term. 🙂 And now I’m pregnant on my own!

I had to go in for blood tests and an ultrasound to figure out how far along I was. I had no symptoms beyond the headaches, and the fact that my jeans were not buttoning properly anymore. I attributed it to three weekends of birthday parties and consuming too much pizza and cake. Turns out I’m already three months along, due in March.

With this news, and reeling from it and adjusting to it, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on how God has given us each of our children, and their unique stories, and how much struggle Sackett Man and I have been through to be blessed with the amazing children we have. I would like to write them down, to share with those who wish to read it, and to have to show our kids when they’re older.

Hopefully the stories will be worth your reading! And I promise not to hold back when we learn if I should be decorating in pink or in blue. 🙂

Raising Good Kids

I have been struggling as a parent.

I mean, I like to think that I’m a good Mom. Maybe even a great one. I know how to parent. I know how to raise children, even entering into the dreaded new stage with my sons and daughter. My oldest will be entering school— which now makes him cleverer than his siblings, bigger, better, and special. Not that he thinks of it that way; kids never do. He’s also an Informer, a literalist, and a rule boy. Things should be a certain way, and if there is a ‘rule’ about something and one of his siblings doesn’t do it that way… goodbye peaceful existence and hello Mr. Boss. My second son has passed out of the toddler and ‘little’ boy stage and is now Mr. Independent. Which means he is pushing boundaries and doing what he wants regardless. All of which, between the two of them, ends in turf wars, macho matches, and outright disobedience.

Now I’m normally pretty good at handling the kids. I have a chart of misbehaviors on the wall with the corresponding discipline(s) next to it. They know what to expect and I don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time they misbehave. Which is good, because, ashamed as I am to admit this, I have a flash temper and can get into a ‘righteous fury.’ Not that it’s actually very righteous, but you know what I mean. So the chart is good for me. I take a moment, breathe, go to the chart, calm down and remain in control, the misdeed is disciplined, and we move on.

The fly in this ointment lately has been me. You see, our daughter is teething. TEETHING. TEETHING.

Did I mention she’s teething?

I cannot recall the last time I’ve had a full night’s sleep. I was so sleep deprived a week or two ago that I was shaking, numb, stomach-achy, and had a massive headache. With little sleep at night and a sad child during many a day, my patience and ability to tolerate went way, way down. My temper became quicker. My tongue sharper. My words harsher. My volume louder. Many days I felt that all I did was scold, rebuke, and yell all day long. I was at my wits end; why on earth wouldn’t the boys just BEHAVE? The fighting over toys, the bullying of each other, the mean-teasing, and the incredible lack of obedience was wearing on me. “Why?” I would ask my Sackett Man and my mother. “Why, why, why don’t they get it?! Why won’t they just stop?!”

We went to Church this last Sunday. The sermon was part of a 3-part series we’re going through on “Doing Life Together”. And boy, there are times I am positive that God specially tailors a message or a passage just for me (or us, or you, or whoever). It was about what true forgiveness means, and how to handle it when someone does wrong. That’s the long and short of it; every point in it would take up more room than I have here! I felt like God was gently touching my shoulder and saying “Mary, maybe you need a little help. Take a look at how you’re talking to your kids, and evaluate how you’re handling them.” After Church I browsed their library shelf on parenting and found a book that has turned out to be fantastic. It was like a breath of fresh air reading it, as if all of my exhaustion and frazzled, scattered brain cells were settling and refocusing.

See, the methods we have in our home for handling our kid’s misbehavior were not bad, but I was not using them the way I should. In my exhaustion, which was legit, I began to think more about myself and the inconveniences to me than I was about teaching them what was right and wrong.

So today marked a new tactic. I began the morning with a large cup of coffee, and immediately brushed my hair and my teeth and put on clean clothes. It’s amazing the life-altering difference clean teeth and clothes make. Thus refreshed I deliberately put on a smile. The boys responded by offering to set the table for breakfast (they’re doing chores to earn the movie “Frozen”, which is waiting deep in my closet :-)). The chatter was happy, the giggles infectious. I read several Bible stories to them as they ate, plus a little Aesop’s Fable. They love being read to, so when breakfast was done they were quite cheerful. They went off and found their army guys, with some paper/foam forms (from our newly unpacked Keurig Coffee Maker) to use for landscapes and ships, and played for an hour. I made sure I looked in on them from time to time, smiling brightly whenever they noticed. I consciously made sure to compliment them from time to time, on their playing together so nicely, when one of them went out of their way to help the other, when they picked up their toys and put them away WITHOUT BEING ASKED. (I did a private jig in the kitchen over that one!) When they did misbehave, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it’s all part of kids testing boundaries and wanting their own way. I would refer to the chart and then take the boy to their room and tell them in plain English what they were in trouble for and then deal the discipline quietly. For some things it was a time out, for others a spanking. I have a wooden spoon designated the Spanking Spoon, and when it’s needed (like when a child hits another child), I take them aside, spank my own arm (which is a great method, especially if you’re angry, to be sure you’re making the needed impression without doing it too hard), and then give them the spanking. I would then tell them I forgave them, and that I love them, and that I want them to learn God’s love, and that part of that is obeying their Mom and Dad.

Do you know what happened?

No more death glares after being disciplined. No more growls, or hiding, or weeping and wailing. They cried a little, sniffed, and crawled into my lap and put their arms around me and repeat that they loved me too. The testing and general “I’m bigger, I’m more independent” behavior hasn’t evaporated. But they are smiling, and getting along better, and learning. Their sister is thrilled. (Being the littlest isn’t always a piece of cake!) I’m no longer stressing, reassured that God has my back, will give me strength when I’ve been up ALL NIGHT and am severely lacking in my own, and that all in all… my kids are pretty great.

And I LOVE being their Mom. 🙂

 

cf18f509efeb02f2ca46cf5f6d275b65

“Let Hope Rise and Darkness Tremble”

“The world was black. It was the only way they had ever known it; dark, black, and cold. Evil pressed in on all sides, and people clung to their traditions to save them from it. But even these, once so full of meaning and power, were growing cold. Silence filled their hearts where once, long ago and beyond memory, He had spoken in low tones, His voice full of warmth and light.

The people were afraid. The Dark One seemed everywhere, and wherever he went and whatever he touched was tainted and poisoned. His poison killed the spirit and damned the soul to eternal isolation, where the pained cries could not be heard and hatred and bitterness and self-idolatry flourished. Long ago they had foolishly listened to the Dark One, when he’d first come to the world, and believed a lie, and acted upon that lie, ignorant that their actions were severing the connection He had with them.

They committed a terrible atrocity, as a people, and when they realized what it was they had done it was too late. The Dark One had claim to their souls, and only a payment of pure, innocent blood would release them.

Only there was no more purity. No more innocence.

They were lost.

Those who still remembered — those who clung to the stories they’d been told and the promise of a hero to save them — waited with fading hope, wondering Why? Why do you not come? Have you forgotten us? As the years rolled by and generations fell and died, the rest ailed and despaired. Still they remembered the promise: that a hero would save them. A hero would rise up among them, somewhere, pure enough and innocent, and he would — to save his people — offer himself as a sacrifice, to break the Dark One’s claim, and bring the light back.

They were tired of crawling through the dark, blind to the beauty they could no longer see, huddled together in groups of shadows.

Sometimes they raised their eyes and looked around, hoping to see someone — anyone — wondering if the person passing by was the hero, wondering if the man plowing his field would one day give up his life. Wondering which face in the crowd was the face of their savior.

He would be strong. He would be pure. He would have a heart of fire, and a will of adamantine. His words would be truth, and he would bring an end to the suffering. Nothing could undo the damage done, but his sacrifice would create a bridge. A bridge of escape, a way out, a door where there used to be a solid wall. His death and the spilling of his blood would break the Dark One’s power and a crack would appear, and light would spill through and shine down on them once again.

Once the hero came, it would be the end of the dark.

No matter what happened after his sacrifice, how darkness fought back, what wars would be fought — the light would win.

Once the hero came.

More people died. Souls disappeared, snuffed out, the cries of the doomed echoing in their ears.

It will be over soon the old ones would say, rocking the children. And they would grow up, and have their own small ones, and grow still older, hiding from the destruction and suffering around them, and then they were rocking their own grandchildren, and telling them It will be over soon.

The stars shone down on them, the only light in their dark world. Distant and cold and white they shone, and people began to look at them with bitterness. What good was their light? What good was their beauty? They were far, far away, and cared nothing for the dark world.

And then three of them began to move.

The three brightest lights in the heavens began to draw closer and closer together, till there was no telling them apart, till their light shone almost blindingly down, dazzling the eyes of the people.

What is happening? the people whispered.

A king. others answered. It is the King Star.

Rulers of the world, serfs of the Dark One, began to search hungrily for this ‘king’. People were bribed; children were slaughtered. The Dark One turned his eye on the world, angry and fearful.

What was this light?

What was happening in his kingdom?

Some of the very wise, who had studied and remembered and kept their memory clear, remembered the old stories. They quietly packed their bags and slipped out into the dead of night. They followed the movement of the three stars, stealing along, until they came to a faraway place. A small place, a poor place. And there they found… nothing. No brave youth to step forward. No strong man to stand tall. They found a man and a woman, hunkering down in the shadows, young and wary, with their first child.

The men quaked as they looked upon the child. The light of the Star was in his eyes, and they were clear, and strong. His heart of fire burned in his small gaze.

The men trembled.

It was His fire.

He had not set the burden on the shoulders of one of theirs. He had come. Himself. Stolen into the world of Darkness in the unassuming form of a small, mewling baby, to a family poor.

He had come.

He was their hero.

The time was here, at last.

The men fell to their knees, heads weak and spinning. Laughter, an echo of the laughter from ancient days, filled their chests and brought tears to their eyes.

It did not matter that He had not saved them yet. They knew now they need only wait a little while longer; no more wondering When. No more endless waiting. No more unknown.

The Hero had come.

And the darkness began to tremble. ”

In the Light of the Dawn—Close Up

 

by J.R.R. Castle