/> Raising Angels: July 2015

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

It's Getting Hot in Here

Some time around the first of this month, one of our air conditioning units went out – the one that cools all of the bedrooms. When you live where we do, and it’s summertime, having no air conditioning is a big deal. The upstairs bedrooms were hovering in the 90s.

It’s not the best thing that could happen, but it’s far from the worst. After this rather tumultuous season, we just rolled with it. We let the kids bring a couple of their mattresses downstairs. This made them felt as if the room was now one giant trampoline and spent a large portion of their days teaching Felicity how to jump off of the couch onto the mattresses. Heaven help us when we put the house back together again.

We continued to sleep in our room since it was on the bottom floor and slightly cooler than the rooms upstairs.  We kept the fans on high and the doors open. Felicity’s room is also downstairs, but since she needs the door closed to sleep in the midst of the noise of the acrobatics, she got sweaty and didn’t sleep quite as well.

It’s all been reminiscent of the January after Felicity was born and our water heater froze and broke. Consequently, our bedroom, closet, bathroom and hallway were flooded with several inches of water before we found out what was happening. In the midst of the crew drying out everything, one man tripped and broke our bed. An hour later, another guy stepped through the ceiling bringing down loads of insulation with him…while the industrial fans were blowing the carpets out. It was lovely.

Everything had to be moved out of those spaces so for nearly two months my underwear and other clothing drawers were stacked up in the family room, Felicity and I bunked with Mackenzie, Nelson slept in Aiden’s room, and the three boys slept together (this was during Felicity’s reflux stage when she spent a large amount of time screaming – Mackenzie could sleep through it and Nelson couldn’t).

The difference was that for the most part, we were able to live our lives. It made me kind of crazy to stack and unstack my dresser drawers to find my clothes in the middle of my family room, but I learned to cope. Well, I had to cope with that because I was struggling to cope with Felicity and that took every ounce of energy I had.

This time there’s no school or activities to get the kids out for a while. They are sleeping and living in our main living areas, which means we’re all together…all the time.

I’ve learned one thing from this new adventure – I need my own space sometimes.

It’s too long of a story to tell you why the A/C still hadn’t been fixed when we left for vacation last week. The short part is that the unit is still under warranty and because the part has gone bad so many times, we have the option to replace the whole unit at a fraction of the cost of a new one. As we left for vacation and we were talking about when it might be fixed, I asked Nelson if we should just replace the other one while we’re at it. Even though he agreed that would be good, he said the deal doesn’t work unless the unit fails. It was a passing conversation at the beginning of a vacation week, so that was the end of that. I was hopeful that by some miracle, it would be replaced while we were gone and we’d come home to life as usual.

I didn’t think about it again until we were driving home Saturday night. We were about an hour away from home when Nelson looked at his phone (I was driving) and said, “Oh no.”

“That doesn’t sound good.”

“Looks like our other unit is out now too,” he said.

“So, the good news is that we’re already packed and ready to head to my folks,” I offered. “And, now I guess we can replace both units.” Not exactly what we wanted to be doing right now, but much better than it happening six months from now when the warranty runs out.

We pulled into my folks’ driveway with the car still fully loaded. We brought in the suitcases and pillows we needed and hit the sack grateful that we had a cool place to sleep. Temps here have been in the 100s, so toughing it out at home was not an option.

I did great the first two days. I told myself this is an adventure. I convinced myself to think of it as an extension of our vacation. My parents are getting ready to move out of the house they’ve been in for thirty years so I figured it was a great excuse to spend some quality time there before they move. I’m typing this from the bedroom that was mine from the time I was a freshman in high school until I got married.

If I gained anything from this journey, it’s the ability to cope.

Today, however, something came over me that put coping out the window. It’s now day three here at my folks. They are wonderful and I’m so grateful, but it’s not my home anymore. I felt like I was in limbo. My mind was racing with all the things I could be doing if I were at home, and about mid-afternoon, as I was putting dinner together, and changing over laundry, a funk came over me. Suddenly, I went from this totally secure person in control of this out of control situation, to an insecure weakling. My mind swirled with thoughts like, “I’m useless”, and, “My life consists of cleaning clothes and feeding people.” Those thoughts and others like them threw me into a kind of self-pity tailspin that was dizzying.

I fought it, but not totally successfully. Thankfully, I had an errand to run so I escaped in this weakened state. I got in the car and turned the radio to the Christian station hoping for some help. “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” came on just at that moment. It’s been kind of like my personal anthem during the journey and I tried to sing through the tears that were coming.

It’s tough to be in a place you know you shouldn’t be.

I have everything to be grateful and nothing to complain about. I should not feel this way, but sometimes I do - even when I know better.

I had to sit in my car to wait for a prescription to be filled. I turned the radio off and sat in silence begging the Lord to help me. “Whatever it is You’re trying to teach me,” I begged Him, “please help me learn it quickly. Use this time to make me stronger, more faithful, more grateful, but please, please, let me be a quick study.”

It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was sincere. I prayed it and sat there in my hot car waiting for Him to respond.

I am enough.

I’ve learned to say, “It’s just money, you can’t take it with you.” I’ve acknowledged that I can’t do it all on my own. I’ve learned lots of little lessons along the way, but I’ve missed the big one.

God is enough.

If God is enough, I don’t have to worry about where I’m staying or how much money we have. If God is enough, I don’t need to be concerned about what I’m doing with my life, only that I’m doing what He’s called me to do. If God is enough, nothing can bother me.

Sitting in my hot car in the middle of that parking lot, I knew that I’m nowhere close (even though I often pretend I am) to total trust in God.

By the time I started up the car, I found a peace in knowing which direction I was headed.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

Today I remembered a lesson I learned on a vacation many years ago.

A vacation with babies or toddlers is not really a vacation. In fact, when you have babies and toddlers, vacation is like real life…only harder. You’re in a strange place that isn’t baby proofed, following a schedule that is nothing like home, and to top it off, you’re doing it in front of family members you don’t see very often.

Vacations won’t always be like this, but for a season (more like two or three years), they will be. For the past two years, every one in my family looks forward to the beach but me. They see no chores, hours of play and free time, and precious time with cousins and family. I see struggling to get the baby used to a new sleeping environment; chasing her around at the pool, on the beach, in the park, and in the house; and dealing with the seven of us sharing one bedroom (even when their bodies are on couches, their stuff is everywhere).

I’m ashamed to say that all too often my time is spent dwelling on this. Perhaps this is a result of having the last four or so “pre-Felicity” vacations being absolutely wonderful. I could sit by the side of the pool while all the kids swam or get in the pool and play with them. I could ride the waves in the ocean by their sides or sit in a chair and read. The evenings were filled with family games and long conversations. I dare say, it was actually relaxing.

Today as we trudged to the trolley stop to go to the beach in the stifling heat, I found myself carrying a 26-½ pound baby in one arm and a beach bag that weighed almost as much in the other. As I sat on the bench waiting, fighting with Felicity to stay with me in the shade, I looked at my sister-in-law and said, “I think next year will be the year it gets a little easier. I thought it would be this year, but I was wrong…very, very wrong.”

That’s when I remembered that the summer Dawson was almost three, something changed. It was the first family vacation I didn’t have to be in the pool holding one of the kids. I remember that moment because I was fighting the nausea of pregnancy and wondering why in the world I had talked Nelson into baby number four. I don’t say that to mean that I didn’t want Max (I really, really did!), but to draw attention to the fact that as much as I wanted this baby, I still realized how hard life had been up to that point and how much it had suddenly changed.

There are still plenty of great things about vacation. I only have to cook one night the whole week. There are other people to help clean up. I have the best brother-in-law in the world – one who takes all four of my big kids to do things while I’m with the napping baby. And of course, I see the value of building precious memories with family members. My kids have something I never had.

There is also one small thing about this vacation that is absolutely glorious. Our condo has a pool…in the backyard. That means that while Felicity is napping, instead of being tied to the house, like I am at home, I simply turn on the monitor and head to the pool. She is absolutely worn out from the day’s activities and sleeps for a good two and a half to three hours. That allows me time to swim laps (exercise is my Prozac), swim races and play with the kids, and even read a few pages in a book. Those few hours are indulgent.

That’s when it occurred to me that I’ve gained a bit of wisdom through the years. I was swimming laps, thinking about nothing much other than what number lap I was on, watching the bubbles of people swimming past and under me, and being amazed at how much I love swimming, when I thought, “Thank you Lord for this opportunity.” In that moment a sincere and tremendous sense of gratitude came over me. Here I was, doing what I loved, in the middle of the day. Felicity could have decided not to nap. The thunderstorms could have rolled in early. The pool could have been too crowded. Instead, God cleared a path and gave me a gift. The difference, where the wisdom comes in, is that I saw it.

Tonight I chased my busy toddler around while everyone else enjoyed the outdoor concert. I didn’t love that, but I didn’t hate it either. It’s where I am. It’s a season and next summer will be better; but tomorrow, I just might get the chance to swim laps again.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Strawberry Pigtails Forever

Last night during mass, the deacon reminded us what a gift it is to come to church. Before mass starts, we are asked to turn off all electronic devices. “For one whole hour, you get to turn the world off,” he explained. “For one hour, we get to leave it all behind and concentrate on Jesus. Let’s do that now for just a moment. Close your eyes and just take it all in.” The church was silent for one glorious moment. I breathed deeply and sucked it in – the quiet, the peace, the contentment.  

After mass, we met some family members at a restaurant Aiden requested for his birthday dinner. It was 6:30 on a Saturday night and the wait was over an hour. Although it was hot, no one was bothered. I took the kids to peruse the gift shop and then met everyone at the outdoor bar. Felicity had been sitting in the lap of Nelson’s aunt, but by the time I reached her, she was done. It had been a long car ride followed by mass and she was ready to move.

I excused myself from the group to take her for a walk and noticed that the music we had been listening to was live. We meandered through the tables and found a nice open spot right in front of the musician. Felicity is my music lover. She starts dancing when she hears anything with a beat, and at her age, being in front of a multitude of strangers didn’t hinder her at all.

He was singing “Strawberry Fields Forever” and she was dipping, swaying, and rocking to the beat with total abandon. She threw both arms up in the air and spun around. She took a few steps forward, and then back, and repeated in time with the music. She ran from one end of the boardwalk to the other trying out new moves grinning from ear to ear. She was the only one dancing and instantly the center of attention. Before long she was standing at the foot of the stage staring up into the singer's eyes, smiling and bopping up and down. Honestly, he had a hard time singing though his own giggles. She made such an impression that the next time the chorus came around, he was singing, “Strawberry pigtails forever.”

It was precious to watch. I wanted to take out my phone and record the whole thing. Really, it was so stinking cute; if you got to see her, you would have seen why he chose his next song and dedicated it to her. I thought about taking out that phone and then the deacon’s words came back to me. “You get to leave the world behind.”

I knew that if I got my phone out, I would miss the moment while trying to record it. Don’t get me wrong, I am the record keeper for the family. I record most every moment. But watching the moment through the tiny screen doesn’t allow you to experience the moment.

I made a simple decision standing next to a palm tree growing through the boardwalk in front of that tiny stage. I decided to enjoy the moment instead of recording it. I watched my baby revel in the rhythm of the music. I watched the unadulterated joy exude from her entire being. At one point she bent in half and placed both hands on the ground while extending one leg in the air behind her. On the next beat, she stood and kicked that same leg up in the air. It was an amazing move for a 20 month old and I was in awe. She didn’t care what anyone thought, she found the beat and let it move her. When people were walking past or trying to get around her, it didn’t encumber her moves at all. “Let them walk around,” she must have been thinking. “I’m dancing!”

There wasn’t one person who encountered this little redheaded, pig-tailed beauty with a knockout smile, gigantic dimples, and squeezable chubbiness, who didn’t smile right back at her. Her joy was contagious. And I stood there with a smile bigger than hers and took it all in. So many times in the drudgery of daily life, I forget how much fun it is to have this unexpected toddler in my life. But last night, I drank it in and thanked God that this child is mine. There were no other kids around for me to keep an eye on. I didn’t get distracted trying to video or post something. It was just me, watching her, enjoying the pure happiness of the moment.

It was a good decision I plan on making more often.