She works with willing hands.

Guess Where I’ve Been…

For the past nine days, I unplugged and (but for a handful of short exceptions) had nothing but real world, face-to-face interactions…and it felt so good.  I love blogging and I’m thankful for the technology at my fingertips, but I also believe that periodic technology breaks are refreshing, and possibly even vital, for our minds and relationships.

During my tech break, I braved flying alone with my five-year-old, three-year-old and one-year-old (which should certainly garner me some sort of major award) and did the following:

1.  Ate mountains of fried catfish, spicy boiled shrimp and crawfish, and a biscuit or ten.

2.  Admired incredibly old oaks trees, with their gorgeous twisting branches, dripping with Spanish moss.

3.  Watched my kids get to know their great-grandmothers and discover with glee that they have a whole mess of cousins.

4.  Drank enough sweet tea and Community Coffee to keep me wired for weeks.

5.  Visited Mike the Tiger.

6.  Gained a pound or eight.

So, dear ones, can you guess where I’ve been?

Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is one of my happy places.  We are garden members, and I take my littles there all summer.  Each trip to Longwood is a little different, as I try never to follow the same route twice.

We ventured there this morning.

First we climbed a tree, which is probably a no-no, but the tree was unharmed in the process.  This tree had a metal tag nailed to its trunk and the boys climbed up to take note of its scientific name.

tree climbing

The gardens feature paths for miles, and beautiful, wide open spaces to run.  It’s a little taste of heaven.

path

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We ran the grass stairs,

grass stairslooked cool in our shades,

cool in shades

and admired the bold blooms of mommy’s favorite flower.  (I heart peonies!)

admire peonies

Here’s to warm weather and the beauty that it brings.

 

My Misdiagnosed Miscarriage

My misdiagnosed miscarriage is now five-years-old.  He is wildly imaginative, intensely creative and loves lions with a passion – so much so that he dreams of one day visiting Africa.

And if I would have followed the advice of my health care provider, he wouldn’t be alive today.

It was in the early weeks of my pregnancy that I started to bleed – bright red blood.  Never a good sign.

I called my obstetrician and the receptionist told me to come into the office as soon as possible.  They would fit me in that day.  Never a good sign.

The doctor entered the darkened ultrasound room, moved the probe around just a bit while staring at the glowing screen, and declared, “There is no heartbeat.  It is another miscarriage.  I’m sorry.  You should go ahead and schedule the D&C.”

[A D&C is a minor surgery during which a doctor dilates the cervix and removes the contents of the uterus.]

“But how do you know for sure?” I asked.

“Unless you’re wrong about the date of your last period…” she mused.

“No.”  I interjected.  “I’m certain of the date.”

“Then it is a miscarriage.  If this was a viable pregnancy there would definitely be a heartbeat by now.  Go ahead and schedule the D&C,” she repeated.

I told her that I wanted a second opinion, and I wanted it that day.  And after some wrangling, she secured me an appointment with an ultrasound technician at a hospital a few miles down the street.

I laid stiffly, in complete silence during my second ultrasound of the day.  After minutes that felt like hours, the technician looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I can’t diagnose this as a miscarriage.  There is no heartbeat, but we can’t determine anything until we do a repeat ultrasound in a week.  At that point we’ll know whether this is a viable pregnancy.  Go home and do your best to relax.  We’ll know more in a week.”

In the week that followed I bathed my fears in prayer, laying my worries at the feet of God.

1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast our anxieties on God “because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7 says: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I clung fast to these verses that week, understanding that scripture does not promise me that I will never suffer.  I suffered a miscarriage only a few months prior, and I was still raw from the loss.  Scripture does promise me, however, that I can trust God with my pain and fears, and in him I will find peace.

And he gave me peace that week.  Every time that the fear started creeping in and the anxiety threatened to overtake me, I cried out to God in prayer.

“I trust you, Lord.  Take my fears and give me peace.”

A week later I met with the same technician and she detected a heartbeat.  My baby was alive.

The steely obstetrician called Jersey Boy and I into her office for a meeting, during which she apologized for the misdiagnosis and then said, “There should have been a heartbeat at that stage of pregnancy.  This just shows us that medical science can’t explain everything.”  Profound words from such a woman.

Sometimes when I look at my boy today I consider that I would have unknowingly aborted him if I would have scheduled that D&C, and it makes me stand in awe of my God all the more, the author of life.  I am wildly thankful to him for prompting me to question my doctor’s diagnosis and insist on a second opinion.  I am wildly thankful to him for creating my precious child, and designing a unique plan just for him.

And there is my misdiagnosed miscarriage on the day of his baptism, with Jersey Boy and I.  Praise be to God.

baptism

Get Ready for the Ugly Cry

What the crap.  It’s only two weeks away.

Preschool graduation.

My five-year-old will soon don a bow tie and join a hoard of other small humans on a large stage.  During their class rendition of the Mary Poppins classic, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” some of those wee ones will stand motionless, petrified by the expanse of faces in front of them – hand motions be damned.  Others will smile like cherubs and hit every flippin hand motion cue, already acutely aware of their ability to emotionally manipulate the crowd of parents before them.

Ugh.

I can already picture myself.

And it’s ugly.

I’m sitting in the darkened church auditorium, hastily wiping away the snot running down my upper lip.  At least my dress fits better than it did six months ago (even if I did dig it out from the bottom of “mount laundry,” which permanently resides on my bedroom window seat).

“You’re disgusting,” I tell myself.  “You never would have cried at this crap back when you were practicing law, before you squeezed out those three kids.  What, are you under the illusion that he’s graduating from Harvard?  Are you sending him off to war?  Get yourself together.”

Oh, but it feels so monumental, doesn’t it?  Almost as if every moment of the event is part of a carefully scripted plot to transform you into a weepy, ridiculous puddle.

I mean, he’s my baby, after all.  Not so long ago I changed his diapers, fed him from my breast, rocked him to sleep…

The truth is that I’m aching at the thought of his final year of preschool being behind us.

He started preschool when he was two-and-a-half.  His very first day he wore a navy polo shirt with red stripes, his red toddler-sized backpack massive on his miniature frame.  He was excited for “school,” and so was I.

It seemed like we had nothing but time.

Next year he will head to Kindergarten – my thoroughly big boy.

I know that we’re still near the beginning of our mother/son story, and I hope to have at least another thirteen years with him under my roof.  I want him to grow in knowledge and wisdom, make new friends, love his new teacher.  I want him to be a thoroughly big boy, confident and strong, without need of a mommy to rock him to sleep.

But this end of preschool business – I think it feels monumental because the truth is – IT IS.

It will be ugly.  There will be snot.  And tears.

I will be a weepy, ridiculous puddle.  I just know it.

But it will also be good, and joyful.  My baby will move on to his next chapter.  New adventures await him.  And maybe the lyrics from the Mary Poppins song that he will sing say it best:

“You can have your own set of wings
With your feet on the ground
You’re a bird in flight
With your fist holding tight
To the string of your kite

Oh, oh, oh!
Let’s go fly a kite
Up to the highest height!
Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring
Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let’s go fly a kite!”

On Natural, Unmedicated Childbirth in the Hospital

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I’ve birthed three babies the old fashioned way – sans drugs.  Now, I know that in some of your minds this immediately places me in the crazy/hippie/crunchy/weirdo category.  I’m okay with that.

I am also okay with however you gave birth, if you’re a mother.  I certainly don’t have a monopoly on best birthing practices.  I have beloved friends who ached for natural deliveries but ended up with emergency C-sections.  (And what a blessing that C-sections are available when necessary to protect the life of the mother and baby!)  I have other friends who would never dream of squeezing out a kid in the absence of an epidural, and still others who were keen to schedule a C-section and avoid labor entirely.

Let’s just say that birthing a baby is a highly personal and emotional experience, and you will find no judgment from me regarding how your precious babies arrived into this world.  Thank God that we have options.

As for me personally, my reasons for having unmedicated deliveries were fairly simple and straightforward:

1.  I don’t like taking medication unless necessary.  I prefer natural remedies when possible and appropriate.  Of course, I take medicine if I am ill or my condition requires it.

2.  I believe that my body was designed, in part, to grow and birth babies.  I trust that millions of women before me gave birth naturally, and I figured – if they can do it, I can too.

3.  No medical complications arose during my pregnancies or labors that required the administration of medication or the performance of a C-section.

4.  I’m a contrarian by nature.

Jersey Boy, on the other hand, being a man of convention, cringed at my vision of hiring a midwife and giving birth in a baby pool on our living room floor.  It was just too much for my conservative man to handle.  So we compromised by studying the Bradley Method, hiring a doula and giving birth in a hospital.

I read all of the popular natural childbirth literature, much of which sought to persuade me that hospitals and doctors secretly plot to force all women to receive Pitocin, epidurals, episiotomies and C-sections.  And while I do believe that doctors often make decisions due to liability concerns (I am a lawyer, after all) I can say that my experiences giving birth in a hospital reflected an environment of mutual respect between my doctors and I.

In the weeks leading up to labor and delivery, I discussed various options and compromises with my doctors, including:

1.  I labored at home as long as possible.  During my second labor, I checked into the hospital only an hour prior to giving birth.

2.  Upon checking into the hospital, Jersey Boy and I advised the receptionist that we were planning a natural delivery and would love a nurse who enjoyed assisting women with unmedicated births.

3.  I agreed to the insertion of a saline lock upon admission to the hospital, but declined the IV of saline water that is routinely given to all laboring women.  This way the nurse and doctor had readily available access to my vein, but I did not have to receive an unnecessary IV.

4.  We respectfully asked our nurse not to offer us Pitocin, an epidural or other pain medication.

5.  My doctors and I agreed to intermitted fetal monitoring.  This required me to be attached to the machine that monitors the baby’s heartbeat for 15-20 minutes out of each hour.  I was not required to stay in the hospital bed during this time, but I did have to stay relatively stationary.  I spent most of my time attached to the monitor either rolling my hips or sitting on my birth ball.  During the 40-45 minutes out of each hour that I was not attached to the monitor I was able to freely roam the halls of the maternity unit, take a shower or dance with Jersey Boy (all of which I did).

6.  My nurses permitted me to have water, crushed ice and popsicles throughout my labor.  I also snuck a few snacks.  Don’t tell anyone.

7.  I agreed to only a limited number of cervical checks when the doctor felt it was necessary.

8.  My doctors permitted me to push in the positions that were most comfortable to me.  I did not have to lie flat on my back in the hospital bed (which is one of the most difficult positions to push out a baby).

9.  Most doctors no longer perform routine episiotomies and I was assured that one would only be done if the baby was in distress.

10. I asked to hold my babies as soon as they were born and not be taken from me for Apgar testing, weighing, measuring and cleaning until I was ready.

Finally, although this was not something that we discussed with my doctors, Jersey Boy and I decided to choose a “safe word.”  During labor, we decided that I could say (or scream) any of the following:

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“When is this going to be over?”

“I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE.”

“I think I need something for the pain.”

“I NEED DRUGS!”

But none of these phrases actually meant that I wanted an epidural or other pain medication.  If I truly got to a place where I wanted an epidural, Jersey Boy knew that I would use our safe word (which I never ended up using).

And what was that safe word, you may be asking?

“Clam.”

[And yes, that photo is of Jersey Boy’s hands and our baby girl’s newborn feet.  Sigh.  Wasn’t that just last week?]

Finding Joy in the Mundane

This is a topic that many people write about, and for good reason.  It’s important.

It’s important for everyone, but especially for those of us with small children.

As Americans in 2015, we are conditioned to crave dramatic joys and big moments.  We want our highs to be really, really high.  We desire excitement and intrigue, and then we often grow disillusioned and even depressed when our daily realities fail to bring us monumental moments of elation.

This morning my three littles and I spent our time at a place called “Chatter Splatter.”  It is an indoor gym facility equipped with every type of ball pit, ride-on toy, plastic slide, foam gym mat, coloring book, trampoline and bounce house that the five-and-under set could ever desire.

It’s also crawling with small humans and tired-looking mamas in yoga pants (myself included).

After playtime, we visited the potty and put on our shoes and jackets.  This took about half an hour (no lie).

Then I loaded three little tushes into my SUV and drove a mile down the road to Chick-fil-A.  I ate there for the 8,762,541 time since having my first child five years ago.

I let the kids trade in their kids meal prizes for ice cream cones, but then decided it was time to leave when I realized that some kid took a dump in the tube slide.

cluck cluck

For me, none of this was exciting or monumental.

In fact, it was exceptionally mundane.

How many monumental, dramatic moments have you experienced in your life thus far?  Maybe a handful?  Perhaps your wedding day?  If you’re a parent, surely the births of your children?  Maybe that day you got the job you always wanted?  That time on the beach in Maui?  Or when you finally took a risk and opened that business you’ve dreamed about for years?

The reality is that those huge moments of immense emotion and joy are few and far between.

We live our lives in the mundane.

We live in the small moments – the moments of teeth brushing, hair washing, coffee drinking, meal preparing, car driving, boo-boo kissing and clothes changing.

If you’re looking for joy in the grand, monumental moments, you will live your life with a spirit of dissatisfaction and disillusionment.

Instead, look for joy in the mundane – it is there to be found.

Because this morning at Chatter Splatter my baby girl asked for my help climbing into the swing and then quietly and contentedly delighted in me pushing her back and forth, back and forth.  It was sweet.

At Chick-fil-A my five-year-old went to the register all by himself and politely asked for his ice cream cone.  I was so proud of his confidence.

After nap my three-year-old snuggled in my lap and I scratched his back and arms for a long time.  Holding him close, with his curls ticking my nose, felt so good.

These were tiny moments of joy.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Embrace the mundane.  You live in it.  And there is much joy to be found.

Recommended Children’s Reading – The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul

 

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As many children do from time to time, one of my littles has been struggling with fear at bedtime.  I understand his fear.  I am 36-years-old and sometimes I’m still afraid of the dark, too.

I shared the story of his struggles with my precious next door neighbor.  She is a wise unbored housewife with her own lovely adult child and many years of experience with little ones.  I am immensely thankful for her gentle advice and demonstrative support.  God showed me some serious love by planting my family next door to her own.  After hearing of my son’s bedtime fears, she shared this book with us:

the lightlings

It is The Lightlings by R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul is a minister, theologian and prolific writer.  He is also a grandpa to a whole pack of grandkids.

As I read this tale to my five-year-old, I struggled to hold back my tears.  It is a beautifully written story, with winsome illustrations of “the lightlings” – the group of people created by the great King of Light.

In the book, a young boy named Charlie is afraid of the dark, and he is comforted by the story of the lighltings – told to him by his wise grandpa.  Grandpa tells how the great King of Light made the lightlings “so that they could shine brightly, just as He did”…until something terrible happened and the lightlings disobeyed the great King.  As a result, the lightlings lived in frightening and dangerous darkness for a long time…until the great King sent “a baby who was shining like the sun.”  Some of the lightlings saw this amazing baby, and told their friends about Him, and the light started to return to the forest.  “They saw that living in the light was much better than the darkness they were used to.”

Grandpa explains to Charlie that because the King gave us this precious light-filled baby, we don’t have to fear the dark.

It is an allegorical tale of the biblical account of creation, the fall, and God’s redemptive plan for his people, and it makes me all weepy.  My five-year-old loves it, too.  And I think it is helping him understand that he shouldn’t be afraid of the dark…because he belongs to the light.

book

The Chicken Dance

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As I sit here, Jersey Boy is ushering the littles into their jammies and coordinating the whirlwind of antibiotic administering, teeth brushing, book reading, prayer saying and bed laying.

Just five minutes ago we all laughed together as my five-year-old did the chicken dance while we sang.  My three-year-old climbed into my lap and asked me to “tickle his back” while he “gave me love.”  My tiny baby girl clung to my knees, jealous of her brother’s position on my lap.

I often find these days and years with littles confusing.  At times I yearn for the day to end so that I can bask in the peace that comes with three little heads asleep in their beds.  I think ahead with anticipation to when they can brush their own teeth, put on their own socks and read their own books…

And although these milestones mark early steps of independence for them and an easing of many of my mundane daily tasks, I also view such milestones with trepidation and even sadness.

Because I often look at them and think, “I wish they’d be like this always.”

I wish that my baby girl’s ponytail would always be tiny and wispy, and stick straight out from the back of her head.

I wish that my three-year-old would always say things like: “Mommy, remember me in your dreams.”

I wish that my five-year-old would always tell me every.single.thought.that.he.thinks.  Seriously, sometimes it drives me nuts but I am so thankful that he loves talking and sharing with me.

How is it that I yearn for the days when my house isn’t full of toys and I don’t have to do laundry every.single.day, while at the same time growing misty-eyed at the thought of them no longer snuggling into my chest?

How is it that I can’t wait until I get even one uninterrupted night of sleep, but I am forlorn when I think about them no longer sleeping in my arms?

Having littles is so often an odd, confusing range of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

I know that the little years will fly by (hundreds of empty-nesters have told me so), so I guess that the best course is to just soak it in – the good and the bad.

The diapers, the tantrums, the laundry, the dishes, the Legos, the dirty hands and stained clothing,

and the hugs, the snuggles, the giggles, the sweet conversations, the tickles, the play…

the chicken dance.

When My Kids Trust Me With the Little Things

Today in the frantic midst of returning home from the grocery store, unloading three little bodies, taking my dogs outside to handle their business, unloading and putting away groceries, and trying to get two of those three little bodies in their beds for nap, my three-year-old approached me with a funny look on his face.

“Mommy, I don’t want to show you what I took.”

“What do you mean, buddy?” I responded.

“I don’t want you to see,” he said.

Although I had a hundred little things to do in that moment, I knew that his words required my immediate attention.

I said, “let’s go look together.”

He ran up the stairs, closed his bedroom door, and stood protectively in front of it.

“Let mommy in, please,” I said.  Remember, we don’t keep secrets from each other.”

Reluctantly, with his head hung low, he opened his door and led me inside.  Disappearing under his bed skirt, he emerged from under the bed with a small, mostly eaten, pack of orange Pez candy in his hand.

“Mommy, I’m sorry I took this.”

He hadn’t stolen it.  It was from Christmastime and he likely found it somewhere in the house and brought it into his room to stash it away.

I had a range of options at that point:

1.  Laugh it off and say “no big deal.”

2.  Discipline him for hiding candy in his room.

3.  Get angry and make him feel guilty.

4.  Hurry past the issue and finish handling my tasks.

This is a minor infraction, right?  A three-year-old hiding candy in their room has probably occurred since candy was first invented.  Back in the early days of our nation, there were probably little pioneer children hiding homemade brown sugar candy under their pillows.

That being said, my children are not permitted to keep food (including candy) in their rooms.  This is a family rule that they know and understand.

I was also in the midst of a frustrating time of day, and my nerves were worn thin from our grocery trip.

Although the four options that I listed above were my immediate, guttural thoughts, I chose a different path.

“I’m so proud of you buddy!” I said.

“I’m so proud of you for telling mommy the truth.  You did the right thing and I’m not angry at you – not at all.”

He locked eyes with me intensely, and said “I’m sorry I ate them, too.”

I hugged him close, and quietly reassured him, “it’s a big deal that you told mommy the truth.  Thank you for that.”

Now I want to pause the story here to clarify something for you.  By the grace of God, I had the self control and foresight to respond to him this way today.  Do I always handle parenting issues with such a cool head?

No way.

I screw up routinely.  Some days I get frustrated, I speak unkindly, I discipline from a place of emotion, and sometimes I even ignore or dismiss my children.  I am perfectly imperfect.  Perfection doesn’t exist, after all.  Not here on earth.  It is a mere farce – an illusion.

I don’t share my parenting stories with you in an attempt to elevate myself to a place of authority or to appear perfect.  I share them with you to encourage you.

I want to encourage you because you won’t always get it right.

But it is my earnest desire – the desire of my heart – that I respond to my children in ways that teach them that they can trust me.

I want them to trust me with the revelation that they’ve been hiding candy under their bed.

When they are teens, I want them to trust me with the revelation that they are hiding pot in their room or that they’ve been viewing pornography.  I pray that my children never have to confess these things to me, but aren’t they the teenage equivalent of a three-year-old hiding candy in his room?

You know the saying: “Little kids, little problems.  Big kids, big problems.”

While they are little, and the risks are small, I want to teach them that they can trust me.  If they trust me now with the little things, my hope is that one day they will trust me with the big things.

In that moment earlier today, I expressed to him my genuine thankfulness that he trusted me enough to confess his wrongdoing to me.  I wanted him to understand that he did the right thing by sharing his disobedience with me.  He already knew that his behavior was wrong – I knew it from his words and demeanor.  But in that moment he was trusting me.  I may not have found that candy for weeks, and he could have eaten the rest of it and hidden the wrapper in the garbage.  But he trusted me, and he told me the truth.

I don’t know what the future holds for my children, but while they are little I want to praise them for trusting me.  Because whether it’s the three-year-old with candy in his room, or the fifteen-year-old with a bag of marijuana under his mattress – it’s a heart issue, isn’t it?

Today my three-year-old showed me the condition of his heart.  In his heart he felt guilty and remorseful.  If I would have reacted in the ways listed above, my actions would have told him either:

1.  The guilt you feel in your heart is an overreaction.  It’s not a big deal.

2.  When you approach me with a heart of remorse for doing wrong, you will suffer consequences.

3.  When you approach me with a heart of remorse for doing wrong, I will get angry and respond out of emotion.  OR

4.  I’m too busy to listen to you.

Will there ever be consequences when my children confess disobedience to me?  Of course – if the circumstances require it.  But in this situation today, the guilt that my precious little boy already felt in his heart was enough for him to learn his lesson.

Today I wanted to celebrate his honesty, when the risks are small.  I may even treat him to something special tonight to reward him for telling me the truth about something little, in the hopes that he will one day tell me the truth about something big.

And that special treat may even be candy – just not in his room.

 

Do you agree with my approach?  What would you have done differently?

 

The Four Phrases I Tell My Kids Every Day

Photo by KC Photography Co.
Photo by KC Photography Co.

There are certain things that I want my children to know and believe without any doubt.  I repeat these four phrases to my children daily.  I desire that these things become part of my children’s identities.

1.  “I love you with all of my heart.  Always.  No matter what.”

I want my children to trust that there is nothing they can do to lose my love.  My love for them is unconditional.  Will this always be easy?  Surely not.  It is easy when they are toddlers looking up at me with their precious doe eyes.  It’s another matter when they are adults making their own way in life, beyond my influence or authority.  I repeat this phrase as much for myself as I do for them – to remind myself, assure myself – that I really will love them no matter what.

2.  “God made you just the way He wants you.  There is only one of you, and He has special plans just for you.”

I want my children to understand that they are known and loved.  I want them to embrace that they are unique and trust that they were designed by their maker who has a unique plan for their lives.

3.  “You are precious.”

I convey to my children that they are more precious than all the treasure in the world.  I tell them that I am so thankful that I get to care for them – so thankful that I get to be their mommy.

4.  “You are beautiful inside and outside.”

This phrase is mostly for my daughter, although I say it to my sons too.  She is only a year old, but my daughter will spend her entire life being faced with unavoidable messages about what it means to be beautiful.  I want her to know and believe that her daddy and I see her as beautiful, both physically, and for the condition of her heart, mind and soul.

Sometimes I repeat these phrases out of rote memory and sometimes I even say them when I’m angry.  Loving my children well isn’t always easy, but it is what I am called to do.  And one day when I am dead and gone, I hope to leave behind children whose identities reflect these phrases – children who love well.