A Sonnet to Coffee

Let me not to the waking of true eyes
Admit impediments. Drink is not Coffee 
Which alters when it decaffination finds,
Or bends with the sugar or dairy to remove.
O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on sleeplessness and is never shaken;
It is a star to every wandering Mom,
Whose sleep’s unknown, although her speed be taken.
Coffee’s not Time’s fool, though stinky diapers and midnight 
Cries within his heavenly influence come;
Coffee alters not with these brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of kindergarten.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never slept, nor no Mom ever woke.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

Remember that Star Trek movie where the team is transported back in time, and they are running down the hall of a hospital and Bones, in exasperation with the outdated medicine, gives a woman on dialysis a pill that makes her grow a new kidney? 
That’s happening to us today.

Ok, maybe not that exactly, but pretty close.

Today, Brother is getting fitted with his new insulin pump. In two weeks, he’ll be fitted with a CGM, that’s Continual Glucose Monitor, that talks to the pump. After over a year of injections 3-6 times a day, my 3-year-old is getting what is basically an artificial pancreas. If his blood sugar gets too low overnight, the sensor will tell the pump to turn itself off. If it gets too high, it will signal me that something may be wrong with the tubing. 

I feel like the universe has opened up in front of me; my continuing mission: to boldly go where no mom has gone before. 

Ok, lots of moms have gone there, I guess, but it’s all brand-new to me. 

For us, this means not being afraid of church or birthday parties, eating when we want, not always on a strict schedule, fewer dosing errors, less stress, more sleep…
In short, this little piece of cutting edge technology allows our whole family to 

Live Long and Prosper.

Family Pressure

As the baby explosion on my Facebook feed reaches epidemic proportions, I can’t help but wonder what was going on nine months ago. Then I remember the unexpected January/February snowstorms we had and, like a teenage boy, I have to snicker to myself a little. 
But all these newborn pictures make me a little reminicent, they make me sniffle a little at how big my own babies are getting. 
Then I think about those first few months, and I smile to myself because this summer my baby stopped wearing diapers. We also took our first vacation without baby gates, pack ‘n plays, sippy cups, or enough baby wipes to pave I-5. Hubby was so amazed at how “empty” the truck was, he thought I had forgotten something. 
Some days I wonder if the kids are to the point where it would be easier to have another baby. I think they lull me into complacency to make the ambush all that more memorable. Maybe they’ve been taking pointers from Honest Toddler, because yesterday they definitely did all they could to prevent ISD: Infant Sibling Disease. In fact, instead of considering a new baby, now I’m considering finding a new grocery store. Maybe in a different town. 
I guess I carry a little bit of guilt because, having four siblings myself and being surrounded by large families all my life, I feel like maybe I copped out a little bit by only having two kids. Like maybe I took the easier, “fewer blessings” route. I know multiple people who have “Duggar-esque” experiences and viewpoints, and maybe I feel a little bit inadequate and, dare I say, shallow for only having two kids to pick up from Sunday School, only two carseats, only two booster seats at the table. In short, I think I feel like I cheated by stopping at as many kids as I have arms, or even by stopping before my OB told me I had to. And I have to wonder how many others from large families and/or conservative backgrounds carry that kind of guilt? Or maybe it’s just me. But I think that there is a lot of societal pressure to have a certain type of family, and the pressure to have a large family can be as overwhelming as the pressure to have a small one. 
Perhaps the lesson here is just to feel comfortable in my own skin, or family, because there’s always going to be someone with different ideas and their opinions can’t dictate how I view my kids, family, marriage, or decisions. Whether I’m actually being judged or not is unimportant, because no one is responsible for my kids or marriage except me (and Hubby, of course, but hopefully those decisions are made jointly). 
Guilt is a powerful motivator, but self-confidence is better. So if you’re feeling pressure to have more kids (or kids, period) use my three-step plan for instant family satisfaction:  

Step 1: Recognize my misplaced guilt
Step 2: Let go of the expectations I feel others put on me (founded or unfounded)
Step 3: Enjoy my family exactly the way it is, embarrassing grocery store incidents not-withstanding

Recharge Challenge

Remember how I talked about having nice nails a while back? Or rather, not having nice nails? Well, after talking to Hubby about it, I decided to find a style and salon that worked for me, and keep fake nails.
Let me be clear, I view well-kept-up false nails as an extravagance, and we do not live extravagantly. That said, though, I’m learning that if I completely ignore my own needs I end up frustrated, irritable, and absolutely no fun to be around. On the flip side, just a simple thing like nice nails that don’t break or chip has made such a big difference in the way I feel about myself, I’m more relaxed, which makes me a better mom and wife.
It’s so easy to get burnt out in what we do, especially if we do the same thing over and over again, both individually and as a couple. Finding something to treat ourselves to can be the best way to break up the monotony of the daily grind. For me, I take an hour and a half every few weeks and get pretty nails. That break from the kids, and boost to my appearance is exactly what I need to recharge and reenter the fray with renewed endurance.

So here’s the challenge I have for you:

Find something that you can do for yourself that will help you be more refreshed and ready to fulfill the job God has you in right this minute. And I know some of you are saying, “Well you won’t catch me wasting money on vanity like false nails!” Awesome! If you don’t think there’s merit in it, find something that does have merit. Take a class, get a hobby, commit to reading one book a month, whatever it is that recharges you, do it! Take into account your budget, your childcare needs, and your spouse and their feelings. Perhaps you can ask your spouse for ideas, maybe there’s something you could do together, like joining a gym. I’m an introvert and I spend 90% of my time doing things for and/or with my family (not a complaint, just a statement of fact) so I needed something that I can do by myself. Maybe you need something you can do with your family. Whatever it is, find it and commit to it! Trust me, you won’t be sorry. image

Einstein and Fairytales

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” So this weekend when we went camping, I decided that the best way to get the kids to fall asleep would be to tell them stories, on the condition that their eyes were closed. So long as the eyes were closed, I would keep talking. I started with Alice in Wonderland.

That. Man. Was. On. Shrooms.

That got me thinking, we make our kids watch stuff like PBS shows because we want the morals and the skills in the stories to rub off on them, right? My two-year-old sings, “When you have to go potty, STOP! And go right away!” (Daniel Tiger did more potty training at my house than I did.)
So why do we read them stuff like “Peter Pan” and “Hansel and Gretel”? Do you know what happens in the Brothers Grimm version of “The Princess and the Frog”? I’ll give you a hint: she doesn’t kiss the frog. Those guys were seriously morbid. And maybe a little sexist. And Hans Christian Anderson, how about that guy? The little mermaid does NOT marry the prince she’s in love with… she turns into SEA FOAM AND DISAPPEARS! How very…. anticlimactic.

So now I’m thinking, “I don’t want my kids reading this trash, it will taint their minds forever and they will think there are no easy answers to life’s problems. They might even begin to think that wishing on a star doesn’t get them what they want. I’d better let them watch SpongeBob instead. That will keep their childlike innocence intact.”

I want to protect my kids from ugliness. I want to make sure that they don’t have to deal with scary, bad things until they have to. Until they’re old enough to comprehend it.
But I also want them to think for themselves, I want them to stand on their own feet, I want them to rely on themselves and each other, and I never, ever, ever want them to take what they have or what they want for granted. I want them to work for what they get, and be grateful for it. I want them to understand that there are people out there that don’t have their best interests at heart and yes, some of those people might be someone you’re supposed to trust, like a teacher or a policeman or a pastor. Or a stepparent, like Hansel and Gretel’s. Or a friend, like Peter Pan.
Hmmm.

So now I’m thinking that maybe Einstein had a point (go figure) and fairytales are just what my littles need to open their mind to the possibilities, in a non-traumatizing way. Maybe reading Aesop’s Fables is a better way to make them cautious than drilling them about what to do if someone says “Don’t tell your mommy.” (Yes, we do that, too)

I still don’t think it was necessary to throw the poor enchanted frog across the room, though.

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The Sound of Ultimate Suffering

A peircing scream wafts down the hallway in the half-light of the pre-coffee haze. 

image

All she’s supposed to be doing is putting clothes on. Brother is in here, it’s not a repeat of the WWE incident last night. Maybe her head is stuck in the dresser again. 

I run down the hallway and burst into the playroom, only to be greeted by the sight of my daughter, standing in the middle of the room wearing a pink peasant top and Buzz Lightyear underwear, wailing like her little heart will break. 

No visible injuries. Not stuck in anything. Shirt fits fine. What the bleep? I need coffee.

“What’s wrong, Baby Girl?” 

(Deep breath) “Dis dress is not beeeyutiful!”

My turn for a deep breath. Ok, physically fine, emotionally fragile. Confidence boosting moment. C’mon, Mom, do your stuff. Make sure she doesn’t inherit your body image issues. 

“Sweetie, this is a shirt, not a dress, (Bad start! Bad start! Aack!) you need some pants with it.”

“Sniff! Ok.”

Really? That’s all I had to say? Better address the beauty issue, quick before she forgets!

“I think your shirt is very nice, but you know what makes it beautiful? The beautiful little girl inside it!”

(Big smile) “Ok, Mommy. Can I go play, now?”

Whew! Wow. That was… not completely botched. Maybe I’m getting the hang of this, after all. 

Avoiding the Monster-in-Law

My mother-in-law came to stay for the weekend. 
Since Brother and Sister have extensive food and chemical sensitivities, having houseguests is always a touchy thing. All it takes is a dollop of scented lotion or a squirt of hairspray to ruin the whole visit. 
Parenting is a touchy thing. Everyone has a different idea of how to do things, and it’s personal because everyone does their best to raise their own kids. Anything I do differently than you do/did is because I think my way is better for my family, and if I’m not careful that can quickly turn into, or at least feel like, judging. With my own parents I can always be sure that, whether or not we agree, they love me and my children, regardless. But that’s not always true in the case of in-laws. There are a few things I’ve learned about relationships with parents and in-laws that helped in my marriage and family relations, so I want to share them with you.

1. You marry the whole family.
        Never go into a relationship with the idea that if you don’t like your Love’s family, they will just go away. 
Not. Going. To. Happen. 
Always assume you are going to have to deal with these people for the rest of your life. If you can’t deal with that idea, well, there are other fish in the sea. Remember, this is your Love’s family, chances are he/she feels the same way about them that you do about your own. 

2. Complaining doesn’t endear anyone.
        So you made the decision that you can deal with your spouse’s family and now you’re married. Don’t complain about them. Complaining and whining about family just creates strife and resentment, and causes your spouse to have to choose sides. 
Granted, sometimes there are real issues that need to be addressed, as a couple, with one set of parents or the other, but nearly everything can be addressed in a helpful, constructive manner. I hope this doesn’t embarrass anyone (yes, my in-laws read my blog!) but when Hubby and I were first married we moved into a house that his parents own, and into Hubby’s old bedroom. We were leaving the country, so it didn’t make sense to rent a place for a month when there was an empty house available. One morning when his parents were visiting, I was sitting on our bed with the door partly open, and his dad walked in, opened the closet, put something in it, and walked out. It’s HIS house, HIS son’s bedroom, it didn’t even occur to him that it might be an issue. But it was to me. By some insane luck, my 20-year-old self reacted correctly: I went to my husband and calmly explained what had happened and that it made me uncomfortable. Thanks to The Lord, his 20-year-old self reacted correctly, as well. He pointed out that it had been FIL’s house a lot longer than it had been mine, that he didn’t mean anything by it, and then he mentioned it to his dad and it never happened again. Wins all around.

3. Space is the best peacemaker.
        Sometimes it’s not practical, or even possible, but putting space between you and your families is one of the best ways to keep the peace. I’ve never, ever, ever met anyone who said to me, “We live with my parents/in-laws and it was the best decision we ever made.” If it can be avoided, two adult women should never have to share one cooking space. Even if you have to share a house, finding a balance and respecting each other’s space is non-negotiable. 

4. Communicate.
        Your in-laws are your spouse’s family, it’s important to treat them like family. One way I make sure to do that is at Christmastime and birthdays. Since our families live 10 hours apart, planning is imperative! Making sure each family gets the same amount of time and different ideas of what the kids want/need is just a beginning. Sometimes communication is best when it goes through your spouse, especially if there have been bridges burned in the past, but ladies, a word for you: don’t make your husband/son choose between you. Even if he makes the right decision (sorry, Mom, the right decision is his wife) he’s still going to be miserable, and so will you. Trust me, it won’t end well. Open, honest, direct, and mature communication is key to a good in-law relationship. 

5. Respect each other.
        My sister-in-law lives with us. She has been with us since Sister was born, and she’s a permanent authority figure for my kids. I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult for both of us to learn to live together. One of the big things for me was letting her be an authority, even when I was around. A few times one of the kids would come to me with tears in their eyes and wail, “Auntie told me NO!” 
I had to learn to say, “then go talk to Auntie about it.” If I had comforted, or even dismissed the issue, that would have been disrespectful to her and undermined her ability to be an authority to my kids. Hubby’s parents afford me the same respect, and if I make a decision about the kids there is no argument from them. Occasionally they will discuss a decision with me, but always later, never in front of my children, and they frequently have good ideas that I’ve never thought about before. (Huh, well, I guess they DID raise three kids…) Not only does this mutual respect create a peaceful and secure atmosphere for my children, it also fosters good in-law relationships. 

So when Hubby’s mom said she was coming for the weekend, my reaction was excitement, not dread. When she got ready in the morning, she skipped hairspray because I’ve explained to her that it bothers the kids. When the two of us went to town together, it was a fun and stress-free outing. 
What I’m saying is, good relationships with your in-laws are not only possible, but desirable. They just take a little effort.

Hungry for Salad

You can’t make this stuff up.

Since our kids have a lot of food sensitivities, we have really drilled into them what they can and can’t eat. They know they are allergic to apples, strawberries, peaches, and a lot of other things. They also don’t cheat because they know how yucky those foods make them feel, especially Brother, age 3, who is also diabetic. So even though we went to my grandma’s for the long weekend, I wasn’t too worried about them eating things they shouldn’t. 

Then one night, I woke up because the dog was crying, and I mean freaking out, downstairs. I got out of bed, only to realize that Brother was up and playing with cars in the hallway. “Mommy, I have a dirty diaper.” He was soaked from his chest to his knees. I double-checked my phone, 3:30am, and woke up Hubby.
“I have to clean up Brother, I need you to go make the dog be quiet.” So he stumbled down the stairs in the pre-morning light. Meanwhile, I cleaned, dried, and re-diapered, re-dressed Brother, and replaced him in his bed. Then Hubby came back up the stairs. I knew immediately something was wrong, because his eyes were as big as saucers. 
“What did he eat?”
“The dog? Did he have an accident? I asked Gram not to give him treats…”
“Honey, go look at the kitchen. Now.” 

I don’t even remember going down the stairs, I must have flown. When I opened the kitchen door, I nearly fainted. This is what I saw:

Two paper plates full of spinach, and two blenders from a handmixer, sitting on the table.
Chicken broth all over the floor.
Banana peels everywhere, including the dog’s kennel.
Avacado peel and pit by the sink.
A lemon, stuffed into my Nalgene.
The diabetes kit, with multiple syringes, uncapped and bent.
Bottles of insulin laying on the counter.
An empty milk carton on the floor.
Baking soda everywhere.
An open box of organic bunny crackers.
Two very small pans on the stove.
Paper towels, like someone started to clean up.
One very sad and confused puppy.

Hubby brought Brother downstairs and I asked him, “How many bananas did you eat?”
“Five or six,” he says. “I was hungry, so I made me a salad!” Now my mind is racing because if he ate that many, and he obviously tried to give himself a shot, what if he broke a needle in himself, or what if he succeeded and gave himself too much? What if he gave the dog a shot? I checked his blood sugar, he had obviously not given himself an injection. I checked him and the dog everywhere for lumps or needle marks and didn’t find any.
“I tried to have a shot, but it kept bending.” Thank you, Lord.
Hubby and Gram cleaned up the mess while I called the doctor and counted bananas and administered insulin. I can only imagine the note in the file for that phone call.

Irresponsible mother lets diabetic preschooler wander the house at night, eat whatever he wants to. She called, virtually in hysterics.

 I slept in the doorway to his room until I was sure he was asleep. The next night we propped a book against the door and put a cowbell on top of it. When he opened the door, I knew immediately. 

Here’s what I learned from this adventure: 

He knows exactly what he can and can’t eat. 
He is way too smart for his own good.
He knows that when he eats, he has to get a shot.
I need to invest in a good motion detector for his bedroom door. 
I also need to impress on him the importance of waking up Mom when he needs something. 
I may feel like a failure, but apparently I have taught him to eat well, since he got up and made a salad instead of eating the cookies on the counter.

For the Dogs

I’ve never been a dog person. I’ve had cats since I was big enough to ask for one, and ever since I was bitten by a dog as a child, I’ve just not wanted much to do with them. So when my son turned three and started asking for a dog, I groaned inwardly. Then we had a very scary incident where Hubby was gone for the week and some crazy tweaker came to our house in the dead of night, screaming that someone had been shot and banging on the door and trying to get in. Now, mind you, we live in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by Christmas tree farms and grass seed fields. Our neighbors never heard a thing, even once the police showed up with sirens blazing. So we decided we needed a guard dog, like, yesterday.

When I saw an ad on craigslist for a “Purebred Boxer Puppy”, I was thrilled. Hubby wanted a doberman, and I just wasn’t sold on the idea. I showed him image after image on google, finally convincing him that boxers are just as intimidating as dobies, and arranged to meet the pup. What I saw was a half-starved, boxer-shaped bundle of bones and wagging tail, and there was no other option than to bring him home with us. It didn’t even occur to me to question his lineage. We named him Kuma (Japanese for Bear) in anticipation of his hulking size and protective demeanor. 

Then he got wider, but not taller. 

On his first trip to the vet, the doc took one look at him and asked, 

“What kind of a dog is that?”

Lovely. 

After some discussion and inspection, she announced that he may have some boxer in him, but if he did, the other half was probably daschound. 

Seriously?

So, despite his questionable heritage (hey, we’re a mixed-race family, who are we to judge?) and jokes about his parentage (he’s typically referred to as a “boxund” or “Boxer-weenie”) Kuma settled in as a permanent, if not particularly useful, member of the family. 

Until last night.

Last night around 11 he was pacing up and down the hallway like mad, whining, and driving me nuts, and he kept opening the door to the kids’ room. I was about to kick him outside. Then, as I was laying in bed, trying to ignore him, it hit me that I had forgotten to check Big Brother’s blood sugar before I went to bed. 

“Oh well, I guess maybe the dog is good for something.” I grumbled as I stumbled through the darkened house.

My son’s blood sugar was so low that if I had just fallen asleep and left him til morning, we most likely would have had to take him to the ER. 

I’m telling you, THE DOG KNEW! As soon as I got some food in Big Brother and his blood sugar started to go back up, Kuma settled down and went to sleep… right outside the bedroom door. 

Modern Feminism

I refuse to identify with the modern creed of feminism, and here is why:

I am a daughter of the King and I find my liberation in Him, not in any freedom or right that society may or may not give me.

I do not need to assert my femininity by putting down anyone who doesn’t match it, including men. Allowing and empowering my husband to fill his role as the head of our family actually EMPOWERS me to be the woman I was designed to be.

I do not need to assert my sexual freedom by flaunting my body, being sexually “open”, or denying my husband or myself the pleasure of a commited, monogamous partnership.

I do not need to prove that I am a good mother or a liberated woman by exposing my body while breastfeeding. There is ALWAYS a way to nurse a baby discreetly, and so avoid giving offense, while providing for my child’s needs.

While it is nice to have help with the dishes sometimes, I am not entitled to demand that my husband help with housework. His job is outside the home, and my job is inside the home. He has never insisted that I do paperwork for him that he brings home. He has also never demanded that I get a job outside the home, allowing me to stay home with my kids.

Women in America are not oppressed. Yup, I said it. Now get over it. We have the freedom to choose our occupation, our place of worship, and our clothing style, we are afforded every legal right that men are (some may argue we have more than men do), we can choose to have children or not, we can drive, eat what and when we want, and go mostly naked on the beach with no repercussions. Don’t give me that “oppressed” nonsense.

I am a free and liberated woman.
I am free to be a rebel, to do what I want with my life, so long as I don’t damage anyone else.
I am free to pursue the career I want, without censure from anyone.
I am free to raise my children the way I see fit, and fill whatever role I want in my own family.
I am a free and liberated woman.

I am a strong and modern woman.
I am free to rebel against the system, and happily take the role of housewife.
I am free to care for, serve, and submit to my husband as God has commanded.
I am free to give up my career outside the home for the more important things in my home.
I am free to discipline and teach my children to be respectful and reverent of God and others.
I am a strong and modern woman.

I am a free and liberated woman.
I am free from the system that says I must be above my husband.
I am free from the system that says marriage is for old women.
I am free from the system that says I must work and be independent to be true to myself.
I am free from the system that says “look out for number 1”.
I am a free and liberated woman.

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