What I love best is the way she squeezes a blueberry in her fist and flings the mess across the kitchen

Always in the back of my mind I am remembering, somewhere, that my mother had five children under the age of five. My youngest sister was born about three weeks before my fifth birthday. In case you're having trouble picturing it, that's a four-year-old, a three-year-old, a two-year-old, a one-year-old, and a NEWBORN, all at once. 

And it's true, my memory of that time isn't exactly good (or existent) and even if I did remember it would all be from a child's perspective and therefore useless to me now. Still, my mom is incredibly able, terrifically creative, with heaps of ingenuity and an ability to let things go that I didn't seem to inherit. And always, in the back of my mind, I know that I compare what I do now to what my mom did then and so often I find myself lacking. I only have three! And there are just so many things that I can't seem to get done. (That's totally unfair to my mom, by the way, who is my biggest supporter parenting-wise and never makes me feel like I'm doing a poor job. This is ALL me.)

It's Emma's birthday today. It's been a whole year of the unsleepingest yet happiest baby ever, and a whole year of feeling monumentally incapable. She even woke up in the night, about 12:15 which is almost exactly when my water broke a year ago. I couldn't go back to sleep, just laid there thinking about what that was like, what happened, how it felt, what I was thinking, how I had absolutely no idea what would happen in the following three hours. That's when it started: I couldn't even give birth right. 

As the world has shifted a bit this month, with the start of school and this rigid schedule, I've been thinking about the last year and what I've learned, even how I've maybe changed, and it seems to be the year where God asked, "What would it be like if you couldn't do it all?"

I mentioned this to a friend tonight and she snorted - the last time she saw me I had a baby on my hip, I was making scones and homemade bread, setting the table for Molly's birthday party, and fixing the big kids' lunch at the same time. She doesn't have any kids and I know, to her, I look like SuperMom. And you know, sometimes I am. But I know I'm not SuperMom, I'm just the sort of person who is determined to do all the things I want to do. I'm just going to find a way. I will build the Blathering website during the month that Emma wakes up every hour, every night. I will throw a Christmas party in the middle of my most anxious season. I will lose 35 pounds before my 30th birthday. I will arrange every moving detail, and pack our entire house by myself, while pregnant and solo parenting. 

And this year feels like the year I [slowly] said to myself, "Well... actually maybe you shouldn't try to run every day." Maybe I shouldn't have another party right now. Maybe I shouldn't join that group. Maybe it's okay not to write on my website every day. Maybe I don't have to make a spectacular cake for EJ's birthday party. Maybe I can just give those jeans away instead of hating myself for not fitting into them. Maybe it's okay to take naps. 

So say God asked me that question months and months ago. For the longest time I've ignored it. I've denied it. I've fought it, big time, kicking and screaming the entire way. Until... now? Maybe a few weeks ago? Maybe when I started driving everyone to school? There's a way where I realized that this schedule is the new normal, and no we're not used to it yet, but I already see how limiting it is and how it divides my day into often inconvenient chunks. I already know that I can do just one thing on preschool days, maybe two things on no preschool days. 

It feels like God is questioning this thing about myself that I don't want to let go of. Like he's questioning something so me that it's my identity. Being responsible, reliable, dependable, determined, committed, capable - all good stuff. What's wrong with being those things? I won't give them up. I won't not be those things. 

Except... there is a way that being those things... I don't know. Instead of being someone who can be described with those words, I tell myself I AM those words. That is all of me. That is who I am. If I am not those words I am... no one. 

Will God love me more if I lose all the baby weight? If I make a beautiful birthday cake? If I throw the best Christmas party? If I do two more loads of laundry instead of napping? If I write the best blog posts? 

Emma is an entire year old today, and only now, just now am I beginning to hear what he's really saying. Getting it all done, accomplishing everything, remembering everything, doing all the things I want to be able to do, being a good wife and mother and friend by doing things and doing them well... that's not WHY he loves me. So if I don't get it all done, if I mess it up, if I forget, if I fail, he doesn't love me less.

My sweet adorable birthday baby, she does nothing. Nothing! Some days she won't even deign to feed herself to put her own chunk of pear in her own mouth. She doesn't crawl or cruise or walk, she doesn't speak, she doesn't do any work or produce anything, and the only thing she gives back is her happy face. And yet there is no way I could love her more. I don't need her to be anything except exactly who she is: my beautiful perfect daughter. 


Why yes, I think I will

In the mail today was a wedding Save The Date from the girl who observed Emma all year. She started in late October and finished up a few weeks ago. We were both mopey about it and she wrote me the sweetest thank you card. Our circumstances don't make us natural friends, but she's marrying the brother of a good friend of mine, so it makes it a bit easier to keep track of her. Plus I've already decided we're going to her wedding. Which is in Montana. Next summer. (WHAT.)

I love that a friend emailed a random request: "Hey, my future sister-in-law is looking for a new baby and mom to observe for an infant development class." And I love that I said yes, even though it really did sound sort of annoying and intrusive and crazy. And I love that it turned out to be AWESOME. I looked forward to her visit every week! Towards the end we were sort of breaking the rules and getting to know each other better and I TOTALLY love that she's inviting us to her WEDDING. 

I think the absolute craziest thing I've ever said Yes to was a proposition to hang out in China with a complete stranger for two weeks. It wasn't totally without context - at the time (the first year we were married) Phillip and I had missionary friends in China. They were coming back to the states for the summer, but one of their fellow English teachers was staying behind and housesitting by herself. Our friends told us she was the extroverted type, likely to be very lonely, and they knew we had just turned down our own opportunity to teach English in China for a year. Did we want to just go visit? And hang out with their friend? We could stay in the apartment she was housesitting. She spoke fluent Chinese. China is cheap!

The decision to not go to China ourselves, which I've written about a various times, was painful - a major place of "failure" for me. Plus I was battling big time anxiety and feeling guilty about putting Phillip through the whole rigamarole. To be perfectly honest, China was pretty far down on my list of places to visit, and while it doesn't seem totally strange to me NOW, I was DEFINITELY NOT the sort of person who happily agreed to spend two weeks with a total stranger. 

Except we said yes. Why not? We didn't have kids. We had plenty of vacation time and disposable income. We applied for visas, bought our tickets, and prepared for three weeks in China - two and half of them in Xian. We may have emailed once or twice with the girl I blog nicknamed Blondie, but I'm not sure. It didn't matter - when she met us at the airport we were instant friends. 

That trip was amazing, in so many different ways. (For one, it kickstarted this blog!) I've lived in a lot of weird places, but China was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. And Blondie - maybe it was weird that a just married couple was hanging out with a single girl they didn't know (and who ended up staying in the apartment with us, even though she had her own) but we clicked so fast and so easily. It was such a healing time for me, almost like a consolation prize from God. We had the best BEST time. We even ended up cutting our sightseeing time in Beijing to spend a few more days with Blondie and the Chinese students we were helping her teach.

The week after Christmas I'm going to Urbana as part of the intercessory prayer team. TOTALLY RANDOM. Yes, one of my best friends happens to be super connected to these sorts of things and if she wasn't already going there's no way I would have even THOUGHT of it. But she's going, she invited me, and even though we didn't really have another set of plane tickets factored into the budget, even though I have to leave early the day after Christmas, even though I'll be gone an entire WEEK, I said yes. Or, rather, Phillip told me I should say yes. I still don't really know what I've gotten myself into. If I think about it too much I start to feel sad about being gone so long, nervous about being gone so long, guilty for being gone so long (you get the picture) and also super intimidated. I've never done anything like this before. But so far, saying yes to the crazy stuff has worked out for me. 

A few years ago Emily and Elizabeth were trying to figure out how to get some internet people together, and then we planned this whole weekend in Sacramento, and I was honestly only going to go for an overnight because GAK I'd never been away from my kids before! It was so self-indulgent! It was unfair to my family! But I remember my mom telling me I was crazy not to go two nights and I went for two nights and what is crazier than spending a weekend with people you only know because of your WEBSITE? (What is more AWESOME, am I right?!)

I want to live a life of Saying Yes. Not necessarily to the church committees or school committees or the random day to day stuff. If you say yes to all of that you go crazy and you start to hate everyone. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about sort of the singular stuff, the random stuff you wouldn't have come up with on your own. The things where you'd be, "Well... why not?" I'm lucky I have a husband and family and friends who totally support this kind of thinking, even more than I do sometimes. I feel like my world has expanded so much because of those moments. I know people - I love people - I would have never ever met. 

Now you tell me what you've said yes to. :) 

Things I learned over a weekend with absolutely no children

I will creep around the living room and oh so carefully unload the dishwasher and snap at my friends to keep their voices down because a BABY is SLEEPING, OH WAIT.

I will still wake up early.

I will still wake up in the middle of the night. 

I won't miss them as much as I think I will. Which will make me feel guilty for about ten seconds, until I move on to the next no-kid thing I happen to be doing. 

My parents are incredibly fantastically amazingly generous people. 

I will still go to bed early. 

I will eat too much and spend too much money. 

I can think about things that are not fixing meals, cleaning up messes, and managing schedules. 

I have things to say that are not about kindergarten or sleeping through the night or discipline charts. 

I am good at things other than Trio blocks and sticker mosaics and making discipline charts. 

I won't obsessively check Twitter. 

I will still want alone time. 

Okay, maybe I will miss my baby a LITTLE bit omg when do I get her back waaahhhh.

How blessed I am. 

How much I like juicy pork dumplings

Also Trader Joe's yogurt pretzels. 

I will panic about re-entering normal life, especially with kindergarten starting on Wednesday and I am woefully unprepared in the Preparing A Lunch department. 

My house will still get dirty. 

How much I miss talking Deep Stuff with my husband. 


Every Labor Day weekend Phillip and I get together with three other couples we've known since college to hash out Life. We've been doing a yearly Examen for, I think, seven years now. Anyway, if you are so inclined, I so highly recommend doing this with your own group of committed people. Maybe it sounds weird and scary to share the highs and lows of your year with Other People, but every year the awesome increases. MAKE IT HAPPEN.

This may be the very first post in which I use a swear word, but I am only quoting Anne Lamott so it's okay

Yesterday was rough, and it wasn't because of the kids, it was because of me. I am anxious again and hopeless about it, tired, overemotional, rethinking this baby evaluation stuff, mad at the scale because I've been really good about not eating sugar and the number hasn't budged. 

The first thing I did was buy two chocolate bars when I did my near-daily Target run, and I ate one of them in world-record time - screw the scale. I felt better. 

The second thing I did was to wake up this morning and think: what would it be like if I wasn't so hard on myself? 

See, I don't think I AM hard on myself! I tell everyone this. Someone who is hard on herself wouldn't leave dishes in the sink for days or let her kid go out with his hair all crazy-like or actively decide to NOT vacuum when she knows the baby professionals are visiting AND will sit on her floor. CLEARLY a hard-on-herself woman would NEVER allow such things. So I sit here and congratulate myself on tolerating my lazy slobness, for only beating myself up about it once in a while. 

And that's true, I think. Things about which I am not particularly twitchy include: housecleaning, how my kids are dressed, cooking skill, what milestones my kids are reaching and when, whether or not I am involved enough in church or school or community stuff, ETC. Watch me be laid back! Woo!

Sometimes I'll write angsty blog posts about those things, as you know, and I'll have to say "I AM ACTUALLY FINE WITH THIS, I AM JUST LETTING OFF SOME STEAM!" because I know YOU and you are very nice people. 

But sometimes I'll write angsty blog posts about other things and I'll give the same "I AM FINE" disclosure, because I really think I AM, but actually, no, no no no I am not. 

I am not fine about my weight. I weigh all of three pounds above my pre-Emma weight. If I lost those three pounds NO ONE, INCLUDING MYSELF would be able to tell. Three pounds is not going to do ANYTHING for me. But I am dogged in pursuing those last three pounds, and I've actually bumped it up to five because I think I COULD tell if I lost five, and for some reason this is very very important. It's very much about fitting into my pants, but it's even more so about accomplishing an etched-in-stone goal. If I don't lose these three pounds then I can't say, "I lost the baby weight three times!" I can't stick my tongue out at the Medical Professionals who gasped when I told them how much I gain during pregnancy. I won't impress the handful of people who always make sure to tell me I'm doing such a great job on my weight loss efforts. I will have failed. And even though three pounds is negligible, even though losing weight this time is much harder to accomplish for very good and obvious reasons, even though I fit into 95% of my pre-pregnancy clothes - I am still a failure at losing the baby weight. 

I am not fine about anxiety. I thought I'd made some progress here, what with my total acceptance of crazy pills and my belief that it's More Like A Chronic Illness Than A Failing Of Intelligence. But I am still beyond frustrated that there is nothing I can do about it. It still doesn't make sense to me. How can I feel AFRAID, but not be able to tell myself to STOP FEELING AFRAID? How does that even WORK? What is WRONG with me? I don't think this way about other people, I only think it about myself. That if only I were less sensitive, had more faith, more courage, prayed harder, I could make myself fine. If only I was better at talking to doctors, if I wasn't such an uncomfortable-joke-making-Chandler in their offices, if I was more articulate, if I knew what they wanted me to say, I would have a medicine that works now. I at least wouldn't have waited an entire month to tell the doctor that my medicine suddenly gives me horrible lightheaded side effects if I take it during the day, and I can't tolerate it anymore. Who suddenly has side effects after taking something for two months?! He probably won't even believe me! I am so bad at this, in so many terrible ways. 

I am not fine about discipline. Not at all. Some days it's fine. Sometimes I am in a ball, crying, so angry and upset with myself for not being able to do something that SEEMS EASY. What am I missing in the equation: tell child to stop jumping off the couch = child stops jumping off the couch [for more than 10 seconds]. 

I am not fine about writing. I am supposed to be writing Other Stuff. The disclosure here is, "I AM FINE, I KNOW I AM A PARENT OF SMALL CHILDREN, TIS A SEASON FOR EVERYTHING, LA LA LA" but I don't believe it. I believe writers write and I don't always believe this space counts. I must not be a real writer. Anne Lamott would tell me to write a shitty first draft, to take 10 minutes and write my short assignment and OH MAN do I find her writing tweets inspirational and challenging and encouraging and YES I CAN DO THIS, ANNE! But then someone spills milk or I am too tired or I am just too busy being hard on myself, and I fail at even the shitty first draft. 

But this morning I really am honest to goodness wondering: what would it be like to not care? Or let it go? Or have more grace for myself? What would that even look like? Would I be recognizable?

Is it even possible? I feel like I have this wispy layer of bloggy angst, then a very thick layer of sensible rational normal-ness. That's where I live most of my life and except for your average mom-of-small-kids setbacks and frustrations, everything's pretty fine and looking good. Then underneath that is the real me, the core, where I'm most who I am, all the good and the bad. And the good is so awesome, the good is everything God sees in me. And the bad is... well, right now the bad is like this twisted mottled ball of fear: indissoluble, everlasting, fear of failure, fear of unworthiness. Fear that if I don't do something the right way, or the way that other people expect; fear that if I don't accomplish something; fear that if I can't get it done; fear that if I can't figure it out, then all the rest, all the good things about me aren't real. They aren't enough. Those three pounds will bury the 27 I've lost, I must have no faith at all because I can't make the anxiety go away, I can't be a good parent, I can't be a writer.

And then! I make it worse! Instead of grasping all the things God made me to be and knowing the rest is redeemed, letting those things fly away, letting them die on the cross; I cling tightly to my flaws and sin and darker parts - my FEAR - and I tell God, "Just let me make all these not-so-awesome parts disappear first, let ME take the blame, let ME deal with my fear - then I can be the person you made me to be." 

The thing is, I don't even believe that's possible. The entire Christian faith is built on Jesus taking the blame! And beating myself up is not at all how God wants me to be spending the little energy I have these days. So what if I didn't do that? HOW do I not do that? I may have said this before, but just knowing what your Stuff is does not mean you can break free. 


Written between breakfasts, fights, messes, and helping people who put their underwear on backwards

Yesterday I stayed up until midnight writing a blog post about, I don't know, this year, I guess, and how I am barely hanging on by my fingernails. I decided not to post it because, ugh, bummer, and also hello repetitive! I thought for sure I'd have something brighter or funnier to say in the morning, but nope! I am sitting here again, ready to delve fingers first into my nonfiction opus entitled Fingernails, Strength Of

I've been saying JESUS a lot lately. (Not in vain, though I am frequently (always) tempted to do so.) No, I'm just sort of saying it because I have nothing else to put out there. His name is a prayer in itself. It means Help. It means I have nothing else right now

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in the eye that sees me, 
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I yelled at my nine-month-old. (Christ be with me.) I'm packing for our beach weekend by myself. (Christ before me.) I'm putting three un-sleepers to bed while Phillip is out helping someone other than me. (Christ behind me.) How can there be so many dishes, so much laundry, when I did these things yesterday? (Christ in me.) Oh God, the terrible news this morning. (Christ beneath me.) 

And on it goes. 

Some people say they don't know how people parent without Twitter. (I'm one of them. God bless Twitter.) But more than that I wonder how people parent without God. I hope that sounds how I mean it - a genuine question, not a judgment. I am in no place to judge right now - the whole gist of my post-that-I-didn't-post was how this year has humbled me, to a humbleness I didn't know existed. I didn't think three kids was going to be hard. I'm not a fabulous parent, but I'm a decent one, and I'm pro-babies and pro-powering through and I'm the annoying eternal optimist and WHATEVER NAYSAYERS, THREE KIDS AIN'T NO BIG THING. I might even be able to talk P Cheung, Naysayer In Chief, into four!

Insert bitter laughter here. Somehow, even with three easyish kids, welcome to quite possibly my roughest year in parenting. (I say "quite possibly" because I honestly don't remember at least half of Molly's first year.) I didn't count on extended months of questionable mental health. I must have forgot about business trips. I most definitely forgot what sleep deprivation is like. 

For an irrational overachiever like me, the fact that I am Hanging On By My Fingernails on a near-daily basis feels like failure. It's not, I know that. But remember, I am coming from the place where I don't think it'll be all that hard. I mean, let's call it what it is: a place of rather impressive arrogance. This much humility is dreadful, you guys, and keeps me running to the kitchen for pieces of chocolate. 

But Christ is before me, under me, to my left, to my right, he is everywhere. How else could I keep washing the same dishes, the same clothes, cleaning up the same messes, breaking up the same fights, wiping the same bottoms day after day after day? How else can I read Twitter, see what happened last night, and think, "But I still have to get ready for the beach."

The other day I was thinking that the next time I'm hard up for blog content I ought to just start writing thank you notes. I'll create a whole Thank You category. Thank Yous for all the individual internetters who've carried me through my rotten days and my anxious weeks, the people who send me surprise presents or random text messages, who enable my retail therapy or just listen (read) while I rant (type) via instant messenger. And today I think wow, I am the nerd who accessed the body of Christ through the internet. 

The desperately grateful nerd. 

I have spent an awful lot of money this month in an attempt to make myself feel better. I've eaten a ton of chocolate. I've looked for affirmation and validation in the work I did for my sister's wedding, even in the ways I interacted with friends and family members in town last week. With every line I spoke, in the way I dressed, in every action I was selling I am a good person, I am doing it right, I have it under control, I'm all right. I do it here. I do it now. I'll do it tomorrow. 

But with Jesus, all of that is futile. There's no point. He sees through me, he sees the places where I feel lost, dead, confused, and so very tired. I work so hard to hide all that stuff, but Jesus doesn't seem to mind. For the millionth time he barely looks at all my hidden things in that dark corner, calls me over to his lit up kitchen table, pours me a glass of Chianti, invites me to put my feet on the adjacent chair, asks me how the blog is going. The invitation, I feel, is to be real. Not to necessarily dwell on those hidden things, my perceived failures, but to admit that they're there, not deny their existence. But not to worry about it - those things aren't me. Those things aren't the death of me. They're just... part of where I am right now. A 33-year-old SAHM with three kiddos, a husband who works hard, a house that needs cleaning, and a fridge that does not magically dispense dinner. 

So after a few sips of wine and I'm calmed down and no longer overshadowed by the corner, I'll say something like, "Ugh, you know what Jesus, sometimes the blog just gets boring. Sometimes I have no idea what to do with it. Sometimes I'm just saying the same boring stuff over and over." Then I feel like he says, "Well, tell them about me." 

So I did. 

And now I have to pack. 

Sunday prayer

I continue to not be fine, and at the risk of sound like A Cliche and A Bore and also Supremely Self-Indulgent, I'll continue to keep writing about it. If that's ok. 

Most of the time I try to shove the anxiety into the background, act like it's not there. But sometimes when it's quiet or it's early morning or late at night or I'm alone, I'll notice it, I'll focus on it, and so often over the last two weeks or so I'll zero in on it and wonder. What's it about this time? What have I done wrong? What wrong things am I thinking? What am I afraid of? What am I worried about? These thoughts aren't anything new, they're just the ways I've identified and managed this before. But it dawned on me the last couple days that I am taking medicine to combat this. I don't have to DO anything. I don't have to put myself through the third degree, I don't have to analyze anything, I don't have to fix anything. The meds are supposed to do that for me. It's a very weird feeling of relief.

If what I believe about this is really true, that I have jacked up brain chemistry and my body overreacts to regular ole stress and I am somehow genetically physically chemically inclined towards this, then I should give myself a break and just let the medicine do its work. It's hard, though. Perhaps I am also genetically physically chemically inclined towards self-reflection, introspection, wondering where I went wrong. 

I was weeding my front yard today - it's taken me several weekends, but I think I've conquered it - and it felt really good. Hard work with instant results. It's easier to shove the anxiety aside when you're working. But of course I was thinking - I'm always thinking - and I just had this feeling (thought? picture? idea?) that Jesus was sad for me. Sort of in the same way my friends are sorry for me, although where they are helpless, Jesus is all powerful, all knowing. 

I don't allow myself to think that way very often because, well, here is a timely example, as I am STILL not finished with my Hitler book: who should we feel sorry for? The girl with a great life with a bit of anxiety on the side, or the starving Russians or the Jews in concentration camps or the Londoners worried about bombings every night? In my version of the Pain Olympics, the goal is to lose as bad as possible. And then shame yourself for thinking your life is even a TINY bit hard. 

But while I was weeding I DID feel that Jesus was sad for me. Or maybe, more like he didn't want this for me. It doesn't really change anything, but this feeling (thought? picture? idea?) was encouraging to me. Strengthening, even. This is not who I am. This is not who I'm supposed to be. I am separate from this. 

Those of you who follow Anne Lamott on Twitter might have noticed her special brand of humbled, hippie, broken Christianity. I followed her because her encouragement on writing is like none other, but I find it's her encouragement about faith and eternal life that is really sinking into me. As I was weeding, another thought: life is eternal; anxiety is not. 

Simplistic? Hokey? It feels real to me, though. Anxiety is not me, it will not follow me, it has no place in heaven. 

I have a doctor appointment tomorrow. I am totally confused and bewildered as to why these meds aren't working. I don't have a lot of faith in some random doctor figuring me out after ten minutes in an exam room, but I have prayed about it and I have faith in my pharmacist friend who promises me that something will work and maybe I just need to increase my dose and I don't have a lot of options anyway, right? 

If anything, anxiety sharpens my mind and points me towards God. Always. So much so that I've wondered why he allows me those months and years of feeling better. I think, maybe, because anxiety is not me, and because God is good. 

Sadness abounds! Alternate title: it's past my bedtime

Sucked it up and went to a church meeting tonight. You like how I have to phrase it that way? So sad, since I VOLUNTEERED and everything. I think once my commitment to this particular group is over I'm going to opt out of the whole councilmember thing and do something totally different. I think I might really like to be an RCIA sponsor again. Maybe. That is a HUGE chunk of time. Hmm. 

I'm always a big brat about going to the meetings, but then I GO and I am almost always the better for it. I've lucked out in having really smart and interesting people on these committees with me and they totally let me be my little introverted self while they hash things out, meaning they do all the talking and I do all the learning. Sure, sometimes we're discussing gnarly budget details, but other times someone is talking about WHY they went and changed all the words again and I am EDIFIED! 

Anyway. Tonight I was a half hour late getting home on account of our pastor bringing everyone up to speed on the whole Petitions In Support Of The Anti-Gay Marriage Referendum in my state. Here's an editorial about it. This is the letter from the bishops put out in January. But basically the archbishop okayed having petitions available, should you want to sign one, IN THE CHURCHES (at the individual pastor's discretion) and if you are at all wondering what the general response is, it appears to be AW HELLS NO. 

I didn't know about this, which was super embarrassing to me. I mean, I used to live on a steady diet of cable news. There was no subject on which I hadn't read at least 10 editorials. But LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW (I think I've mentioned this a time or two recently) and here I am taking the MINUTES at the meeting and I have to ask what petition they are even talking about. Ugh, I hate looking bad. 

But anyway. The whole thing just gives me a stomachache. Not in my meeting - everyone there was very much in agreement re: what to do (three guesses!), but I just get sad and frustrated and confused and BLARGH. 

Sometimes I get confused because I belong to this ginormous and international church where the rules are the same for everyone and we're all supposed to be reaching for the same ideals, blah blah blah. But the strong opinions, the priorities, the passions of the congregation at my church are, I am guessing, characteristic of Catholics who live in Seattle. I suspect Catholics who live elsewhere, say, Small Midwest Town, are a bit different. I don't KNOW, having never been to a Catholic church in the Midwest (oh wait! I went to one with Arwen in Michigan! and one in Cincinnati! I LIE!) I am just GUESSING. I mean, again, I go to church in Seattle. Draw your conclusions!

Whatever. I don't know what to do with that. The whole thing is actually way more nuanced than what I've written here. Mostly I want to say: it makes me feel sad and thinky and more sad. 

Anyway, I got MY stuff done. Yay gift of administration! Basically my rule was: I'll organize anything you want, just don't make me get up in front of everyone and make an announcement. Because then I will die. 

If you are curious, Spring Break is going as well as can be hoped. We are finding various things to do - or not, as in this morning when Emma slept from 8:30 to ELEVEN THIRTY WHAT THE HECK. But I am making great use of and I am being very generous about play dough and I have allowed the boy to buy an iPad game or two and we are getting along just fine. Two more days! We can do it! 

And then I think about next year, when he'll be going to full time kindergarten, and will we ever cut and paste homeschooling projects at 10:30 in the morning ever again? OH NO I AM FEELING MORE SAD WAAAHHH.

Christmas Eve Eve Eve

Earlier this week I called the childbirth center to find out when my labor nurse was working, then tonight I loaded up the car with Emma, a giant box of gourmet cookies from Costco, and a Christmas card that took me forever to write and headed over to the hospital.

They told me she'd be available around 7:30, but I waited quite a bit longer than that. It never occurred to me to just leave the box of cookies and the card at the nurses' station. I wanted to see My Nurse even though, and this is something I thought about while sitting waiting for her, that I try to avoid most of these situations. I often don't answer the phone, I'll drop by when I know someone isn't there, I almost exclusively email. 

I told myself it was because I didn't really IDENTIFY myself in the card, and if she didn't see me in person and talk to me she'd have no idea who wrote it or what this strange lady was talking about. But I think I'd have wanted to see her anyway. 

She poked her head around the corner and she looked totally different to me. She was wearing street clothes, not scrubs, and she hadn't been up all night working. She didn't recognize me, which I expected. I had prepared a whole introduction. "My name is Maggie," I said, "and you delivered my baby."

She looked at me again and then went, "OHHHH."

So she cooed over Emma, as anyone would, and Emma smiled up a storm and basically did me proud. My Nurse seemed to remember more about Emma's birth the longer I stood there talking to her. She wanted to know how Phillip was ("was he traumatized?") She asked a lot about how I was after I went home, bringing up certain things that happened or things about me she'd observed in the hospital, some of which I don't remember at all and wonder if she might be mixing up with someone else. Kind of graphic scary-ish things that at once were validating and terribly unflattering. 

I told her I just wanted to bring her something and tell her how much I appreciated her presence and that I would never ever forget and she said, "Me either!" 

I thought I might cry - honestly, just driving around to that particular entrance to the hospital was super emotional. I used to feel that way just LOOKING at the hospital where Jack and Molly were born. This was a little different though. It wasn't just The Place Where We Had Emma but also The Place Where This THING Happened. 

I didn't cry. But I do find myself tearing up a lot lately. I never know if this, like, residual hormones or just my innate over-sensitivity to absolutely everything hardly worth crying over. Both? But this entrance of Emma's, this crashing and bursting and loud arrival has really left its mark on me. Now when I pray the Christmas novena the beginning stands out even more: Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born, of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold.

Last year I wrote that praying the Christmas novena was an entirely fresh Advent experience for me, and really drove home the setting of Jesus' birth. In a BARN. In the COLD. Around ANIMALS. And DIRT. It wasn't just Away In The Manger and O Little Town of Bethlehem anymore, it was having a baby in a BARN. 

And this year, it's having a baby in a barn and wondering if Mary screamed, if she went out of her mind, if anyone heard, if she even CARED that it was a barn. I no longer remember what it felt like, only that I never want to feel it again. Each time I pray the novena prayer, a tiny part of me remembers, a tiny part of me clings to Mary in a brand new way. And at the end, when you say through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ and of his Blessed Mother, I sometimes tack on his Amazing Blessed Mother. Because, well, come on. She had her baby without an epidural and she had her baby in a BARN. 

I intend to celebrate this event with piles of presents and heaps of chocolate. We have something like fourteen get togethers planned between now and Sunday evening and I am so very thankful I have a new baby to haul around to each of these events. And if there's anything good that came out of those three bewildering hours in the hospital its this new way to... connect? with Mary. Well, besides Emma, of course. She's pretty awesome. 

Photo (43)

Merry Christmas, Internet!

Eleven years later

So, love languages. I just took the quiz, for kicks, even though mine is bleeding obvious: "words of affirmation". But I was also reminded of how much "acts of service" mean to me. Especially now, when we're so close to having a baby and I haven't done things like, uh, make dinner, in weeks. 

"Physical touch", which I guarantee is Phillip's primary language, is dead last for me. I'M SORRY, PHILLIP. 

I'm reminded of this because Phillip and I have been talking about this Unbloggable Thing for a few months now, a sort of sticky situation that neither of us are quite sure how to navigate. However, I am always - ALWAYS - at peace and reassured and totally fine with everything when Phillip actually speaks the words, "I will put you first." 

This has been true ever since I've met him. He's someone who does a lot of Helping Other People and there are often these obligations to others where I'm like: WHAT ABOUT ME? In college it was about the freshmen in his bible study. Now it's work and work people and even sometimes Phillip gets really caught up in wanting to help a relative or close friend and I'm silently fuming, all: WHY ISN'T HE LIKE THIS WITH ME? 

He is, of course. In a different way, since everything about me strongly affects HIM, and for a 9 on the enneagram he tends to "merge" with me (oh wow am I font of personality typing today)... anyway, it makes a world of difference for me when he's able to articulate it and speak it out loud. "You. Come. First." 

Other phrases that mean the world: "I appreciate you." "I know you do a good job." "I know you work hard." "You're a great mom." "I like you best." "Why would I want to hang out at happy hour with all my awesome work people when I can stay home with my hugely pregnant cranky wife and watch bad television?" 

Acts of service... who doesn't like those? I think, for me, acts of service is about someone recognizing a need without me having to bring it up. There was a while a few weeks ago where I thought I might die of washing dishes. I wouldn't do them at night, then I'd be faced with this huge mess in the kitchen every morning which, believe it or not, would ruin my entire day. Like I would just feel overwhelmed from the get go, conquered the minute I got out of bed. Then Phillip started helping with the dishes a little more and OH WOW I haven't had a morning like that in a while. 

I've tried to make a greater effort - okay, not necessarily NOW, when I'm weeks away from giving birth and sort of mad at the entire world - to respond to Phillip's love language. Which is HARD. I mean, I'm a pretty touchy huggy person, but it's not the first way I think of to take care of someone. Probably because that's not what I want when I'm not doing well. But all Phillip really wants is a massage. Seriously. Sometimes I think how much easier life would be if I just mentally scheduled a shoulder massage after dinner several times a week. I even remember the first time I finished rubbing his shoulders - because my fingers were ACHING - and Phillip turning around and saying, "I feel LOVED!" 

I tell myself this is as legitimate as needing to hear that I am appreciated on a regular basis. Even though it's obviously not. I mean, a MASSAGE? Really? Can I just tell you how many times the LAST thing I want is for someone to grind their fingers into my shoulders? STAY AWAY FROM ME. 

But none of the love languages are rated higher than the others. Sigh. 

I don't think we had any clue about these things when we got married. I've been reading that website and it's actually starting to irritate me. There's a lot of dating/marriage stuff written by people who are dating/barely married. Not that that means those posts aren't weighty or worthy or anything, but I'm just highly annoyed by how churchy they are. And I thought Phillip and I were churchy! All this stuff about preparing for marriage and asking the right questions and hard core grounding in the faith and all that - GOOD STUFF. I do not deny it. They are smarter and wiser than me. 

But Phillip and I were two stupidheads who happened to be super serious about dating (as in, we considered the idea of breaking up and then having to find someone else a giant undesirable bummer). I met him at 19, I started dating him at 21, we got married when I was 23. I was the only person I knew who felt I wasn't old enough. But it wasn't about age it was about... well, I just knew I didn't KNOW anything yet. Who WERE we? I mean, I knew he liked massages, but come on, we were Churchy Waiting-For-Marriage Kids and that's all he was getting YOU KNOW? And man, do you know how long it took me to realize that I just needed him to say, "YOU COME FIRST"? Yeeeeeeeeears.

By the grace of God we've figured this stuff out. We fight and fight and fight. We know we're stuck with each other so we HAVE to figure it out EVENTUALLY. Believe me, eight years ago this Unbloggable Sticky Situation would have been a much much MUCH bigger deal. And now it's... hard, but talkable. Awkward but both sides are infused with major understanding of how the other one works, and why the other one is taking that stance. We didn't know this crap eight years ago. I wonder what crap we don't know right NOW.

I have to say, I spent absolutely no time discerning if marriage was my vocation. Well, I HAD prayed about dating Phillip for an embarrassing amoutn of time, but it didn't occur to me that we might actually get married. Honest. That was so... unfathomable. And then it happened. And we had a million things to learn about each other. We probably have a billion more.

Last night Phillip's phone beeped before we went to bed. He pulled it out and looked at his calendar and looky there - guess who has "anniversary of dating maggie" on his PHONE. Who has not mentioned the day since, oh, it happened? To be fair, I had no idea. So not on my radar. But I remember it: talking the night before he left for a four-week trip to China, to overlap with my two-month trip to Europe. He'd waited till the last minute (TYPICAL PHILLIP) and still didn't want to make a decision (TYPICAL PHILLIP) and we said we'd talk about it again when I got home.

Then he picked me up at the airport, with flowers he left in the car because he was embarrassed (no longer typical Phillip) and I made him walk around the lake at midnight and talk talk talk because I couldn't stand the idea of not being around him.  

That's all I really needed to know, you know. That everything was lacking without him. Well, that and he'd always put me first (possibly dependent on massage frequency. But I can work with that.) 

Lists. Thoughts while painting. Is it the fumes?

With the help of Home Depot, Target and grandparents who take the children all day, my bedroom is almost done. Things I've accomplished:

  • painted all the walls Martha Stewart Sharkey Gray (except for one strip of hallway where I ran out of paint, but I don't care, you can't see it, I'll do it some other time)
  • painted a Goodwill chair and a left-by-the-sellers nightstand Martha Stewart Persimmon Red
  • spray painted my desk white
  • purchased new white duvet cover and 3 pillows
  • purchased 2 nightstand lamps
  • set up the mini crib in the corner
  • moved the folding table serving as my nightstand downstairs, replaced it with the cheapie Target cabinet I originally bought for our townhouse powder room
  • purchased curtains that match the bed pillows

Things I still need to do:

  • buy black drapery rod, hang curtains
  • unpack/break down/move out 2 small boxes of miscellaneous junk from the move

Bonus Items ie: I SHOULD do these things but I am running out of steam...

  • paint Phillip's dresser white, replace knobs
  • find a coral throw for the blue rocking chair
  • scour Pinterest for ideas for the walls
  • scour craigslist because I hate both nightstands (although they are improvements over what we had before)
  • buy some sort of bench for the end of the bed
  • rug?

While I painted I thought about my previous post. I thought about this article I discussed with my friend the other day, about how saying "you look so cute!" shouldn't be the first thing we say (or notice) about little girls. I can't remember what article it was, but it made the rounds a few weeks ago. Phillip pointed it out to me, anyway, thinking I'd be all gung ho. But instead it just annoyed me. I felt like I'd heard that a million times, that shouldn't we have moved on by now, of COURSE we are not valuing our little girl's looks over everything else, is it really so BAD to comment on how cute she is, blah blah blah. And I think I probably surprised my friend with my vehement reaction, but honestly, it just felt like some writer couldn't think of anything good that day and decided to poke the dead horse with a few sticks. 

And now I am wondering if that was what I was doing in my last post... I'm not sure. I would find that annoying, if I was. Then again, if we are still discussing women's worth in terms of their, ahem, purity, maybe these horses aren't quite dead after all. So. I thought sometime I would share my old issues with submission and why I don't think those things anymore... or how I think about it differently, I suppose, is a better way of putting it. If you're interested. (You: UM, NOT PARTICULARLY.) Well. Anyway. It might be an interesting discussion at least. 

But right now my stomach is yowling for foooood and you know what I have in my refrigerator? A whole half watermelon that I bet I could destroy in about five minutes. Man, watermelon is just the BEST. Seriously, it's right up there with chocolate cake. New Baby is totally comprised of watermelon, cake and paint fumes. (JUST KIDDING, FIL!)