Tuesday, September 17, 2013

on choosing this life.

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”
― Jodi Picoult, 

during weeknights, i'm mostly on my own for the dinner/bath/bedtime routine.

i've been in this boat for about 5 years now, and used to find it draining--to be at the end of a long day with three tired children who all have needs that are expressed in the urgency of their voices, their small hands taking turns wrapping around my neck as they ask for just one more of one thing or the other.  i felt unsettled and uncomfortable at the inability to attend to everyone at once, running up and down the stairs before another erupted in a request, focusing on the settling down so i could breathe my own air once more.  i was duty-bound, and soldier-mom, demanding order, calm, routine.

right around 5:00, just before the sun began to set in the desert horizon, i recognized the feeling of  suffocation with just the thought of the impending next few hours.  i realized i was doing what i could to ease my burden--yes, burden--that is how i used to view my nights alone with my children, by taking the lazy way out.  story times and songs were rushed, tickle fights and spontaneous imaginary games were left for one of the rare nights when dad was home with us.  

but just like everything else, this life of mine is a choice. 

"well, here are your options:  you either accept that you have made this choice and do it with a good attitude, or you choose something else.  don't say "yes" to something and then spend your time angry and resentful toward being in this situation, because you only have yourself to blame.  either choose it and own it, or figure something else out.  listen to your inner voice, and take care of your needs." 

these are words that have actually come from my mouth, while helping others work through some difficulties in their own lives. 

so yes, i had yet another humbling moment of realizing my hypocritical-ness and decided to change.

i looked back at the choices i have made, and i don't just mean this temporary job that makes the nighttime duties my sole responsibility, but i go further back:  to the choice of grad school, then motherhood, and even marriage.  i know that i made these choices naively, without knowledge of either the hard or the good that was attaching to them, so i let myself off the hook--but just a little. because regardless of my ignorance, i did make these choices.  and every day, i continue to make them.  to be a wife, to be a mother, to continue to support the journey of grad school, to be an active partner in decision-making when it comes to jobs that will require a lot from each of us.  even down to the small, daily decisions like making the choice to feed my children, to pay attention to them when they speak, to kiss and hug them, to meet their needs, and bathe them, read to them, sing to them, and pray with them.

i reminded myself that i am not trapped here--i have seen better people walk away from more--and i could actually just leave, if i wanted to.  {side note: i'm not saying i actually want to, there honestly hasn't been a day when i've even entertained the thought, just making the point that i could} however, i have chosen and continue to choose this life;  with this wonderful man, and these beautiful children, and this blasted grad school, in this pink house, driving these more-often-than-not dirty cars....and this mostly-alone bedtime routine.

so, i snapped out of the victim-y-ness of it all, and reminded myself of the advice i had so easily doled out to someone else, and gave it to myself.  i re-read this post that i wrote almost two years ago, most likely when i was having the same "get over yourself and be thankful you made these choices" moment. 

for the past few months, things have been different, because i have been different.  there is still routine in certain areas- -i will most likely always believe some routine is important for children--but i have relaxed and let go, and just enjoyed the time i have, rolling with it instead of pushing against it.  changing my attitude has made the up and down of the stairs much more enjoyable.

we go outside and play together until the stars appear instead of letting them watch t.v. while i get the dishes done, we grab a big stack of books and all climb into my bed to read together instead of separating them to avoid bickering. we pretend caleb's bunk beds are a spaceship, he is the captain and myself and the girls are the astronauts, finding random articles around his room from different "planets" to bring back with us when we return to earth. 

and each night, i spend time with them one-on-one.  for caleb, it's right before his lights are out, we talk about whatever he wants.  we laugh about 8 year old boy things,  he tells me about the current book he's reading,  he asks me to listen to him pray.  with leah, it's during her "settle down" time.  she's in her bed, playing with her choice of toys for the night, and i come in for a few minutes to sit on her bed and play with her, astounded again with her ability to imagine.  for june, it's when her eyes are droopy, just before she begins to dream.  i stand and hold her to "rockaminute" while we sing her favorite songs about the moon and she clings to my shoulder and her blankie.  every night, i feel her soft forehead under my chin.

the nights are not perfect; there are moments of whining and arguing and times when i fight weariness or frustration.  but when their little bodies are all tucked in, and their cheeks have all been kissed, and the lights are all out, and i tell them how good they are and how thankful i am to be their mom, i take time for myself.  but i don't check out as i used to, immediately turning to my phone or facebook to escape.  i sit down in one of the chairs in my bedroom, and listen to the quiet, and thank God for another night i was given to be the one who chose to put these three amazing little children to sleep.   

“Motherhood is near to divinity. It is the highest, holiest service to be assumed by mankind.”
― Howard W. Hunter

Saturday, September 14, 2013

"sometimes you break your own heart, to set yourself free."

this song has been on repeat for the past week....

She said " I love you know I love you so; when you love someone well you’ve got to let them know.”
And I said:  "Nothing’s changed I love you the same, but when you love someone sometimes you gotta let them go.”

She handed me a stone in the perfect shape of a heart,
She said: "I’m gonna take this home for I know you’ll only lose it somewhere after dark,
‘Cause some faces so terribly seem to lose everything you own.”
She didn’t mean it how it sounded, what she meant was she would stay and I would go

I said: " I love you know I love you so; when you love someone well you’ve got to let them know
She said: “Nothing’s changed I love you the same, but when you love someone sometimes you gotta let them go”

Sometimes you tear it all apart, to see the wood from the trees.
Sometimes you break your own heart to set yourself free.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

catching up with our 3rd grader.

well, let's take a break for a minute from the intense, shall we?  i know i need it.  i have to be in "the zone" to write those emotionally-charged posts, and then i need a rest.

so, onto a-day-in-the-life-business!

the kids have started school.... 

caleb is in third {what?!} grade, loving his teacher who i believe is going to be amazing for him.  he's in a class with a few of his friends and doing fantastic academically and socially.  his hand dexterity is still a little behind--as much as i tell myself at the beginning of each summer that we will keep up on these things, life and having fun always seems to take precedence--so what do i expect?  but he's reading on a 5th and 6th grade level, flying through spelling and math and whatever else they throw at him.  sometimes i think he might get a little bored with it all, {he's expressed it a few times} but it's okay, because he's excelling and feels confident in this area.  much more so than he does physically, which seems to be his constant uphill battle.

today he told me that another kid asked him if he was in kindergarten....i told him to get used to it, because i clearly remember the day a kindergartner came up to me to point out she was taller than me--when i was in the sixth grade. 

he seems to be rolling with the punches now, those that seem to swing at us short folk.  this is a big improvement from the past two years, when these things used to devastate him.  but he seems to be really enjoying the school year so far, and quite possibly gunning for the role of "funny kid."  when i hear the things he says and does at school, sometimes i have to fight from covering my face in my hands because i'm not sure whether to laugh or be completely embarrassed, but i keep my composure.  he's seeming to find his niche, and is really well-liked in school by others--so i say, if he wants to smack himself in the rear and dance around like a fool to make his friends laugh, but he feels confident while doing it, then go for it!

he's back to playing piano, and i've seen again how hard and good this is for him.  his little fingers don't work the way he thinks they should, and he can become easily frustrated.  when i sit down and play with him, we get through it much easier.

we're signing him up for karate this week, and soccer starts in a month.  he is still very weak and seriously stiff, with underdeveloped muscles--although that is improving.  when he's overdone it at school during recess, his legs ache and it's hard for him to walk.  i am so grateful that even though he can be easily physically taxed and worn out, he has so much desire to do it.  i can't imagine what strings we'd have to pull if that desire didn't compel him to keep trying.

he loves spending time with ben or myself one-on-one...whether it's a run to the grocery store, or building legos--he doesn't care.  he just loves the undivided attention, and i can't blame him.  sometimes because he's older and more independent, we assume he's just fine without as much of a need for emotional filling-up from us.  ben and i decided to make a more concerted effort to focus on quality time with him.  

this kid is so lovable.  he is honest and silly, obedient and easily excited, wears his emotions on his sleeve, a complete and true extrovert, and growing up before my very eyes.  i'd love it if he stopped trying to control his little sisters, but realize this is him working out his independence.  we just keep it in check.

favorite books right now:  diary of a wimpy kid series, captain underpants series {where i'm sure he gathers his best one-liners for his comedy routine at school}, the magic treehouse series {he reads them in one day}, how to train your dragon series, and mysteries.

favorite shirts:  star wars, wolverine, angry birds, and anything that looks "tough."

favorite sports:  football and soccer.

favorite tv shows:  teenage mutant ninja turtles, wild kratts, avatar {the cartoon series}

favorite movies:  chicken little, the rise of the guardians, despicable me 1 & 2, the kroogs

favorite ipad game:  clash of clans

here's to another great school year!

Monday, September 2, 2013

swinging and bending, part 6: the tempest of divorce.

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings."

--Anais Nin

Read the first part of this story, here.  
the second part, here.
the third part, here.
the fourth part, here.
and the fifth part, here.

through my childhood, my parents had separated and spoken of divorce so many times that i grew to expect it.  each time they wouldn't follow-through with the threats of dissolving their marriage, i became more callous to the idea,  disconnecting myself from the tumultuous thunderstorms of their relationship in order to protect my heart.  i loved both of them deeply, and internally struggled navigating my dynamic with them as their child, while watching them hurt each other as spouses.

so when the separation and impending divorce was announced, i was taken by surprise.  the timing was off--they were through the most stressful parts of life, on the other side of child rearing and the growing pains of early marriage.  there was a lot of heartache in their years together, and i viewed them as either survivors and characters of a great love story, or two people who had learned to cope, settle and enable.  i guess when things grew quiet for them, reality set in and it was too much.

when we were told the paperwork for divorce had actually begun, my siblings and i were all grown, married, and living with our own families.  i naively assumed we would be left out of the gritty details we had been sheltered from as children.  instead, the underbelly of their relationship was exposed, bringing forth details of resentment and pain that had lasted for over three decades. i found myself questioning all i thought i had known--and felt tricked by a life of possible hypocrisy, being brought up in a home i was now being told was run by two people who, at times, were doing the opposite of what they had taught me to do.  i didn't know how to make sense of a childhood built on an idealistic viewpoint, unable to decipher truth from what was now being told to me through tears, humiliation, and gritted teeth that were searching for validation.

during their separation, i felt placed between two victims who wanted me to fight their battle and join their side--one thundering so loudly at times it was deafening, the other like lightning, striking quietly and randomly but leaving a singed scar.  emotionally i shut down, tuning out the conversation when it turned to character defamation and verbal assaults.  forming any type of boundary was extremely difficult for me during this time.  i loved my mom and dad, and wanted desperately to try to ease their pain and carry some of their burden.  when i couldn't, it tortured me to realize there was nothing i could do to stop the tempest between them that continued for months.

with my lack of boundaries, i felt like a ping-pong ball in a wickedly fast and angry game.  i continued trying to fill my role as the "good child" and be there for them no matter what.  this quickly took its toll, because you can't be the "good" everything to everyone, especially in situations like this.  my siblings were in the same boat, trying to navigate their love for them outside of the mistakes they had made toward each other and move forward in this new dynamic.  we couldn't find a smooth transition, and my parents' need to defend their own characters against accusations form the opposing side only made it more difficult.  i worried we were pawns in the death match of a 32 year relationship.

when ben and i accepted the job in north carolina, i felt relief with the distance of moving across the country.  i could no longer physically be put in the middle of their divorce, and managing the group home gave very little space for me to give to anyone else emotionally.  i could listen to details of the latest fight through the phone, and stay detached.

unfortunately, my older sister bore the brunt after i left, and i could hear from the despair in her voice how she was slowly being destroyed.  i felt guilty for abandoning her, and am just now realizing the full effect the year of my parents' divorce had on her and her family.

while we were in the group home, i was quickly learning two things:

1)  all about boundaries:

what they were, why they were healthy/necessary, that i did not know how to have them, and that i not only needed them in my relationships with the teenagers, but i needed to implement them in every relationship.

2) that i had true anxiety:

i knew i had issues with caleb driven by fear, but i assumed it was because of the trauma we had been through with him.  living in the group home triggered a deeper form.  i had been thrown back into an environment that was out of my control;  full of contention, chaos, and anger.  just like my childhood, i could not love them enough to make the madness stop.  i rarely slept, and when i did, i had terrifying nightmares.  there were moments of happiness and laughter, but my heart could not find peace.  when i finally brought my symptoms up to ben, i realized the environment in the group home was mirroring much of the environment of my childhood home.  i talked about the idea of therapy, but wanted to see if leaving the group home would help settle the anxiety inside.

once our year contract was over, we left for arizona to start grad school.  in between our moves, i stayed in utah for a few weeks to visit family.  during my visit, my little brother handed me a book that completely altered my course in life.