Wednesday, November 27, 2013

the sweetness of the trenches

henna hands
This last week was a tough, in the trenches, barely making it out alive week.  And I was going to blog about how exhausted I am (I am really tired yo!) and how much I want to run away screaming and how getting mastitis completely tipped the already fragile sanity meter to levels of complete CRAY CRAY not seen around these parts in a while.   Fo' reals it got pretty pathetic.

I stopped nursing Abishai and although I think it was the best decision for me and us I was so struggling.  I nursed the girls for almost a year each and even though it was rough we hung in and made it work.  I shared with friends who were quick to point out that I was making the right decision and that my sanity and emotional well being were more important than nursing my babe in the long run.  If anyone else had been in the same position I would have said the same things.  I would affirm their ability to parent with their God given gut and reminded them that there are lots of babies who do not turn into serial killers despite being given formula.  I would have affirmed and encouraged anyone else but I could not muster the strength to allow myself that same peace and acceptance without the cloud of failure hanging and looming and stealing joy. I was taking on all this pressure to do and be something I am not. So, I was going to blog about all of that and how much I was ready to throw in the towel but because I have an amazing community around me I can now say we made it through and I am reminded yet again that in the moment of "I cannot do this one more minute" God whispers, "you are right....YOU can't.... but I am here and you have amazing community."

Many times in the middle of the night while I was awake in pain and trying to coax a fussy baby to sleep it occurred to me that we are not meant to raise kids the way we do (or attempt to) in America.  No other culture expects one woman to stay home caring for everything in her home and with the children alone.  It is not natural or normal and leads to isolation at best or complete breakdowns in my case.  The last time I did this newborn gig I was in Africa surrounded by women who stopped in every day, whether I wanted visitors or not and while there were some exhausting things about that, I knew I was not alone.  There was always someone to hold the baby when I needed to pee or hang laundry.  There were always women to talk to, albeit in my second language, and share daily life. But numerous times this last week I felt alone and desperate. And that makes me feel like a failure.

But here is the thing: I know I am not alone.  And I know this because I am blessed to share life with so many amazing women and mothers. Even though shame whispers that I should pretend everything is fine all the time I can chose differently.  I can choose to be real.  There is a silent pressure to post a perfect picture on facebook confirming that life is always polished and beat down any feelings that don't jive.  But shame eats away at me and us.  It preaches the lie that everyone else is obsessed with our failings as we seem to be.  But just when I can't do it one more second a friend sends me an encouraging email, another friend stops over with flowers and a latte, I spend way too long on the phone with a friend who gives needed perspective, and my mom drives down and holds the baby all day.  But my first inclination was to hide and smile and nod and just lie.  I almost didn't let a friend stop by because I had been crying and hadn't showered and looked...well, like a hot mess.  I almost cancelled a birthday henna and Indian food eatin' outing because I was sick and feeling sorry for myself but I knew I needed to let people in.  Into all of it.  We all need to invite others in because it reminds us to be compassionate, grateful, forgiving, accepting, encouraging, and loving.  It also means we cannot live the lie of a perfect life and that is so freeing and refreshing.  Everyone else is a mess too after all.  It is good to have a tribe of my people and I know I could not do this Mama gig without them.  Without you.  And God reminds me that while difficult this is one of the most rewarding and awesome journeys of my life thus far.  And if I'm trying to just survive it I miss the sweetness of a chaotic but blessed life.
henna night
girls night
I'm trying to embrace all of motherhood, not just the parts I see as valuable because I know I am short sighted and often fail to see what is meant for His glory and not my own.  The quiet moments in the middle of the night rocking a baby, my response the third time Evy spills her milk in one day, the endless opportunities I have a day to engage my kids instead of hush them. If I am honest I so badly want to be out there "doing" more while right now He has called me to this.  All of this.
I struggle so much with feeling that 'me' gets lost in this all.  And I know I still need to feed the parts of me that are energized by other things and exercising God given gifts I finally feel free to admit and embrace.  And finding that balance has been eluding me as of late.  But just because I don't have it figured out (and probably never will) God still calls me to be thankful through the storm.  Even when that storm seems quiet, unassuming, and internal battle of choosing joy everyday.  When I want to run away screaming or join the witness protection program just so I can get 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep I am called to praise and worship, and be thankful.  Living in gratitude.  And that is what my soul needs.  And to remember I am not expected to do this by myself.  That the Holy Spirit is within me and God has given me amazing friends and family that bring lattes, hold babies, and take time out to get henna and scarf Indian food and listen and pray and just be in the beautiful mess of my life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

a quick weekend in Iowa

We headed to Iowa to visit our favorite Cedar Rapid-ians for the weekend.  We even let the kiddos ditch school on Friday so we could soak up an extra day with family. It went too fast. Think date night for my bday with fancy drinks and too much food, the kids getting spoiled, hot tubin' at Bibi and Babu's house, and cousin time.  We also explored some more of Cedar Rapids with our expert tour guides.
right as I snapped this shot Evy screamed "Mama, my butt itches!!" Bless it.
NewBo market is one of our favorite spots with local and handmade goodies at WAY better prices than Chicago!! The girls got necklaces for $1 and apple cider donuts! Holla!
I was so excited for my curly willow branches for only 1$ each!  Jason's response, "you bought sticks?" Boys just don't get it.
yarn bombing is my favorite.
damage from the flood stands side by side new buildings
J took me out for a fabulous dinner to celebrate my birthday and Bibi & Babu held it down at home with all 3 kids so we could enjoy Happy Hour, dinner, AND shopping at Target without kids which is pretty much amazing! I'm a lucky girl.
Babu's Ipad is Evy's favorite indulgent treat in Iowa. It is a magnet for all the kids.
Anni is such a lil' Mama!
And Auntie Jorie got her baby fix
cousin chaos is always sweet, sweet time
and Annikah pretty much thinks that Joel and Silas's electronic scooters are the BEST!
Even J dawg had to admit they are pretty awesome.

 It is nice to always be welcomed and cared for so well.  There is always a place for us in Iowa and we so appreciate time with family that only requires a road trip and not continent traversing plane rides. We are spoiled for sure.

Monday, November 18, 2013

my little boy & my birthday

I blink and the day is over these days.  It is busy but in an exhausting, full, rich, and blessed sorta way.   Abishai is already 6 weeks old! He is such a sweetie and although adjusting to three has been kicking my butt some days it feels like he has always been here.  But I definitely forgot how tired you are at the beginning but it is nothing compared to being nauseous 24/7 so I am good.  Great.  I also seem to have blocked out just how many nasty fluids newborn babies emit.  Seriously last week after dealing with a blow out, being pooped on, and wiping more spit up off my neck then I care to remember he peed on me again and I decided to just make it part of my ensemble.   It is just how I roll these days.  

In other news I  turned 34 last week!  My first thought after looking at this photo was that I have wrinkles that were not there a few years ago.  Shortly after the self deprecating thoughts I remembered that these wrinkles and dark circles and extra 15 pounds I am currently carrying around are well earned.  That a life that is only about myself would not be worth living.  That sharing my space, body, energy, life, and love with those around me is a blessing.  One that has taught me to be more forgiving of myself and others. We had a great weekend in Iowa including a yummy and indulgent night out with my man.  More soon but here is to a fabulous year,

Friday, November 8, 2013

a day in court

My little man joined me for a drive up to Wisconsin to be there for a very special day in court.  Our amazing friends officially adopted their child through the Foster Care system. It has not been an easy road but they have been so faithful and I was privileged to capture some moments of this important day for their family.  This family consistently lives for Jesus even when that is difficult or unpopular and this day they were a blessing to many.  They even prayed for everyone in the court and had most of us in tears.
Love this.
finally official
Adoption is always the result of brokenness in the world but it is amazing how God provides and heals and brings families together.  We are blessed to walk through life with amazing families like the Steinkes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween festivities

During our years in Africa we didn't really celebrate Halloween for a few reasons; 1.  it is a weird holiday to try to celebrate on your own when no one around you has ever even heard of it.  2. We never wanted to explain a holiday that celebrate witches and ghosts in a culture where those things are very real in everyday life. But I do love dressing up and although I'm not a fan of the blood and guts weirdness that goes down I love any excuse to dress up and indulge in some snickers.  Since this was the year we introduced the girls to Star Wars we decided we should go as characters from the movies to celebrate their intro to the world of all things Star Wars.  And if you know Jason you know Star Wars is BIG in our fam.  When we found out we were having a boy in October I knew he had to be our Yoda. So even though our costumes were home made and bootleg (I threw mine together the morning of :) we had a blast.
Hans Solo, baby Yoda, "sparkly" R2D2 (adding the sparkly part was the only way we could convince her to  let Anni be Leia), Princess Leia, and Obi Wan Kenobi.
Love Anni's pose (with her cheap fake gun we got at the China Town summer festival)
cutest Yoda EVER
We spent the Saturday before Halloween introducing Jason's parents to everything aweosme about our 'hood.  A parade from the girl's school was first.
The girl's thought it was pretty awesome that we could walk down the middle of a normally busy street
coffee for the grown folk & a hay maze, a petting zoo, & pony rides for the younger set.
These girls
We also registered for the costume contest and went trick or treating on Clark street.  We even bumped into friends!
After hitting all the stores we waited to hear the winners and we totally won 3rd place and $50!!! It was some seriously awesome!
On Halloween my mom and I joined the girls at school for room parties and a parade that was almost rained out. The kids looked adorable!
It was fun to spy a bit on the girls and see them play with their school friends. This is one of Evy's besties.
It was a great Halloween with family! And I think we will have candy around these parts for months (although Jason and I took care of all the Snickers and Reese's the first night...we also heard Babu ransacked the candy stash). Hope you had a great Halloween and may the force be with you!