Sunday, February 24, 2013

Why I Love My Husband (3)

When our new bar stools came in this past week and Paul put them together they appeared a bit high. As in, they offered a bird's eye view of the counter.  I knew he would be really frustrated if I told him they wouldn't work, but when I did so he quietly un-assembled that 1st bar stool and repackaged everything in relative silence.  He took care of the return on-line and ordered the new, shorter stools without complaint.  He welcomed Thomas and I into the construction and he even made the building of the new stools fun for our little family.  I would have been undone by this experience, but he took care of everything with no hesitation or delay.

Yesterday, I went out to the garage to break down boxes, clear out unwanted items, and reorganize.  When I emerged from my dungeon of disaster, Paul was cleaning the kitchen and had laundry going.  Then he wanted to scrub the floors.  And flip the rug and vacuum it.  And spot clean the carpet.  I'm not sure if nesting hormones transfer to husbands, but whatever is happening makes me incredibly happy. Nesting alone is a very enjoyable experience, but sharing it with my energized husband makes it all the sweeter.

Paul grew up in California which makes him a great resource for our "delayed honeymoon" which is taking place in less than three weeks when we visit spots in Cali.  He has been making a detailed itinerary of the places we're eating and visiting.  This week he found hotels but I was disappointed when he confided that it wasn't going to be quite as dirt cheap as we had planned on [utilizing long-accumulated hotel points].  Today, I asked him to go back to the drawing board to do some more research, to see if there were options/hotels we were missing. And he found them!

Last night right before bed I really needed to talk about how I was feeling.  Paul held my hand and listened and said little.  I felt my anxiety wash away.  I was so grateful for his patience in those moments.  He didn't try to fix me or offer a solution.  He knew I just needed him to listen, and that's exactly what he did.  How awesome when someone just listens?!

* Paul and I have our fair share of troubles, so my gushing is warranted.  We've had plenty of haphazard on and in and among our journey to happy.  Taking a moment to be grateful is necessary to keep us motivated in loving!

Check out the Why I Love My Husband series on my good friend's blog!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Facebook's Closet Brought Me Back

This morning started off with Paul and I decidedly upset at each other because that's sometimes what you do when you're married.  You decide that you are going to sneak off to some part of the house and not make the French toast you had promised because that would really burn your also upset and sneaking off to another part of the house husband.  You decide it is your right to be mad and that's just exactly what you'll do.

I sat down at the kitchen table with my cup of decaf coffee and went to work cleaning out my Facebook inbox.  One of my resolutions for this year is to organize the digital side of my life.  Messages that my friends and family send me go unanswered or answered late with an obnoxious: "I totally didn't realize this message was here" kind of apology.  My photos are haphazardly stored in a myriad of spots.  I've got about five different places on my computer where I "journal" and the word journal being used quite liberally.  Yeah, it's pretty bad.  If I don't get it into gear soon, my family will be staging a digital communication intervention.

So I, still decidedly angry in my quietly still house, went to work deleting Facebook messages conversations.  Years of conversations.  I started unraveling a whole history I didn't even realize was saved.  And there were things I would have rather not read.

Who was I in college? Very insecure, that's what. And very forward. Also, often so silly I truly couldn't understand what even I meant in my own message. And so disastrously clueless about flirting the old me had the current me yelling things at the computer like: "Oh, come on, Ashley! Seriously?!?"

I deleted message  conversation after conversation of mismatched desires.  Guys asking me out and crickets on my side of the thread... or me chasing after a guy who turned up not to be interested.  College was such a trial of waiting and playing with the fire of hurt (guys very wrong for me) simultaneously.  I started seeing names of guys I didn't even remember.  Close calls and near misses.  It was all coming back to me, the awkwardness stuck in my throat like some piece of chicken that refused to surrender, and I couldn't hit delete fast enough.  Delete. Delete. Delete for goodness sake!

The awful aspects of being alone for so long were materializing before my very eyes.  The quiet desperation.  The disappointment.  The games. The rejection.  Most of all, the hoping that someone would come along who made everything so simple because he, you really dreamed, would fit into your life like the missing component that belonged there all along.

And here I was, still sitting at the dining table but now not as quite decidedly set on being angry as before, knowing that the guy I had dreamed of was in this very house... likely behind a locked office door hoping I would say sorry first.

I made him some tea. A peace offering.  Tazo Focus for all his serious work with a serious face behind a serious barricade .  He looked ticked when I repeatedly, amid his conference call, knocked on the door but the look quickly faded when I presented a red mug a la steam. He accepted the kindness, hesitatingly. We moved on.

Life on this side of the wedding ring truly isn't any easier or more difficult than the other.  Being single brought its own set of challenges [and freedoms] and even though I happen to not care to go back to that time in my life, it isn't because of how difficult it was.  It is only because I was so unaware of all the good that surrounded me.  I don't want to ever be her again. That person whose eyes are fixed on the missing pieces.

Paul and I have a beautiful life together, a life which sometimes sprouts a petty fight which is easily fixed with a red mug, a shared joke, and the communion of soup.  Thanks to the deep reaches of Facebook, I'm happily reminded and grateful to be in a place where I am whole, and that just happens to be in the sacrament of marriage: a place with little room for stomping off or being quiet, a place where there is no end in sight for screaming teapots and ladles upon ladles of soup. Oh, and kisses too.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A C-section: The Pain & The Peace

Less than a month ago I sat across my dining table from a prospective doula and shared my birth goal with her: to be proactive and knowledgeable so that my involvement with the birth process, rather than the specific outcome, would be my sense of success and joy.

That goal, even with the news at 19 weeks that I’m actually carrying twins, is still very fitting. 

The birth of my firstborn left me numb.  An unexpected C-section, by way of a last minute full breech baby boy, was something of a nightmare with a domino effect difficult to halt.  I carried a loathsome weight home with me from the hospital: guilt for not rising to motherhood as evidenced by moms who are able to do a vaginal birth, fogginess about what was going on and how to move forward, and the inability to nurse Thomas.  My family intervened just as depression starting taking a visible toll on me, my son, and my husband, placing my feet on firm ground with a visit to a lactation consultant, books to reinforce my roll, and their loving presence to lift my spirits.  My journey to motherhood, once my son and I could nurse, was jolted to life and woke me from my slumber.

When pregnant, it was as if my whole body and mind moved, breathed, coordinated in preparation for laboring my baby into life, for being the strong, courageous woman to introduce the world to my son.  What was I to do with that preparation shattered, those dreams felt but not realized?  The powerlessness of the stiff, sterile operating table took up residence in my voice as a mom and I had little way of telling, knowing, or controlling the speed or nature of my recovery.

I'm completely out of it. I'm sure you didn't need a caption to confirm this.

For at least a year after my C-section, I would lose my breath when listening to a mother proudly tell the story of her daughter giving birth.  My heart would turn bitter at blog posts and Facebook statuses that told of mothers’ birthing successes.  My sadness found its way into how I perceived others, thinking a few changes here or there in our journey to meeting Thomas would have made all the difference between a late start mommy and a mommy on fire.

There is no quick fix to brokenness.  Day by day I grew into motherhood and swelled with happiness as my voice strengthened.  The sense that my soul was quieted with the C-section, dissolved as I nursed my son into a chunker, tailored my actions toward his extroverted personality needs, and developed mommy intuitiveness for oncoming sickness, disciplinary action, and an impromptu morning of extra snuggles in early morning light.

Three years since my son’s arrival and I think of what’s to come in just a few short months with more variables than that of my 1st pregnancy, a situation which may likely call for C-section #2.   

Gratefully, a good deal of sense has found its way to my brain in understanding my particular birthing story.  I know myself deeply.  I know that life will throw me punches and if I’m not prepared financially, emotionally, physically, or mentally, those punches may knock me out.  I know that I tend to hide away from asking for help when I most need it.  I know that the stories of how all mothers come to be are unique and beautiful and should be owned and understood. Mine tells of my desire to be independent, courageous and perfect.  It tells of a woman both desperate to be the best and desperate to love.

I have a greater peace about the C-section now, not because it wasn't terribly painful and humbling, but because I know I would have encountered those difficulties, personal character flaw discoveries, and new found strengths on motherhood’s path, C-section or not.  I would have dug them up or they would have rained mercifully down on me, but all that this process has meant—It was there and waiting for me regardless of its form.

Baptism by fire taught me that being a mommy isn't about how wonderfully I pull it off, but instead my children’s unending need for my unencumbered and unpretentious love.  I have no guarantees with the twins.  In fact, I've got a great deal of surety the next few months will be a knockdown, drag out journey of surprises, difficulties, and discoveries.  Thank goodness I've learned to like rolling with the punches.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Quick Takes - Saturday!

A co-worker reached out to me about the twins yesterday.  With mono-di boy twins of her own, I was thrilled to chat with her after work.  She answered so many questions, offered heaps of assurance, and gave such practical advice. It was one of those good conversations with perfect timing. Just the thing I needed, especially considering the pages of notes, calculations, plans, and lists I have in my journal. Pages.

Valentine's Day was simple this year which meant I was very happy.  I woke early to make strawberry cupcakes [because I'm all about strawberry everything this pregnancy: dried, frozen, coffee cake style, in spread form... I could go on] and Paul made me sushi at home for the 1st time.  There's nothing more charming than my husband working his magic in the kitchen.  I don't think he was pleased with his efforts, later naming them "rice rolls" for their partiality toward the white stuffing, but I was smitten with his thoughtfulness.  I ate as many "rice rolls" as my belly would accept.  

58 days left of school.  20 weeks, 2 days pregnant.  Less than 15 weeks left until we hit average gestation for twin pregnancy.  22 days until I hit up a twin consignment sale.  23 days until I board a plane for the 1st time ever and fly to California for my uber-delayed honeymoon.

Just some stream-of-consciousness numbers for you.  

Oh, and this. Four books calling me in my sleeping and in my waking.  They're literary haunted houses. At every turn, a new scare.  In every chapter, a new shock.  And not just those medical stories of the NICU or underweight babies or schedules so chaotic I will need to morph into part drill sergeant, part saint in the next four months.  I'm talking horrors right up my alley, those scares that are perfectly crafted to freak me out and unnerve me: moms who were stunningly perfect in their twindom glory and are in the book to tell us all about it.  Crap! There are one-uppers here too?!

A bird just starting tweeting in a tree outside my sun room. Is there anything more lovely than having quiet time in the dark morning and listening, waiting, watching for the world and your home to wake up? This slice of solitude has my soul overflowing with contentment and peace. 

Speaking of my house waking, this lovely just toed his way in with his two adornments: Polar Bear and Cuddle Bear.  Yes, it's a panda, not a polar bear...and I can't figure out for the life of me why he won't concede on that point.  The closest I got yesterday from him was: "It's not a panda.  It's a polar bear panda."   And "cuddle bear" is the one and only beloved stuffed animal from my childhood.  I made quite the mistake when I told him he should protect her because she was mommy's.  I'm pretty sure the kid would give life and limb to serve her majesty.

I'm all out of quick takes and if I did manage another one it would be about twins.  I'll spare you. 

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Lent of Praise

Lent, to me, is a time of quieting, diminishing, and lessening ourselves and our desires to make room ample for Christ.  In years past, I scrambled to find something with which to give up or execute and those sacrifices were helpful in seeing how attached I became to the physicality which surrounded me.  Turning the television off for 40 days, which I repeated several years in a row, was a random intention that made a direct impact on me.  And yet, I won't be making a journey this year that looks quite like that.

This year I'm taking an unorthodox but fitting approach.  While I'll be, like many of you reading, working to increase my quiet time, my consideration of others, and my detachment from that which rends my soul unhappy, I won't be making a particular sacrifice.  I'm hoping a different approach is just what the [ultimate] Doctor ordered.

... Because apparently He ordered up two Andersons ... and according to all I've read in the past few days and what my husband and I have discussed, we will be having, in some regards, a very long journey of thinning ourselves down to our core, diminishing ourselves to draw nearer to Christ.  Many sacrifices now are fixed in our approaching horizon.  I want to welcome those sacrifices with joy.

I'll be spending this Lenten season quieting my heart and lifting it up simultaneously.  I'll be laying my dreams, visions, and hopes at the feet of Christ so that he may show me the way for these sweet little boys which require ample room of their own.  This Lent, I'll be counting all my blessings and praying thanks for every good and precious gift bestowed upon me.  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's a ... TWINS!!

Less than 48 hours ago I was preparing my heart for the viewing of ultrasound #2 [pregnancy #2] without my husband by my side.  His flight out of Wisconsin was delayed and would be landing just minutes after the appointment started.  We decided to make the best of the situation with a date night where I could reveal the sex of the baby with a fun surprise.

The "reveal" bag that held the secret of all secrets. 
As I positioned myself on the examining table, I gabbed to the male technician that I was nervous to be there without my husband and that I would be a mess if he had news that the baby was unhealthy.  I continued to ensure not a moment of silence was left unfilled.  I talked, while he went to work in search of Baby Anderson, of things I can't quite remember now. Those things I was busy saying went fuzzy when the technician happily teased, "Well, I've sure got news for you.  It's not bad news, but it's news.  You've got twins!"

I looked to the screen and so clearly saw two beautiful babies somehow, miraculously inside of me.  Hands, feet, hearts, heads multiplied in wonder. Tears slowly rolled down my cheeks while my face went slack and I stared in complete awe. In disbelief, despite the proof, I uttered brief questions: "Really?".... "Really?"... "Twins?"

My obgyn had confirmed, at least three times all thanks to my pestering, that what he and I were seeing on the 1st ultrasound [nine weeks before the 2nd viewing] was definitely, absolutely one baby.

Seeing two babies in a motion of black and white was nothing short of a shock. It topped the chart for life's most stunning moments.

I cried and I cried.  During calm moments I would ask grounded, technical, and logical questions, but then my mind would drift to the big picture and I would cry.  I cried with the same happiness I felt the 1st day I held Thomas in my arms and felt completely unworthy for something so very good.  I cried in mourning for birth and career plans dissipated in thin air like a lingering fog which has finally lifted.  I cried for the chasm of my knowing and Paul, on the plane or in the airport, so very unaware.  I cried in exhilaration for something too beautiful for words.

The technician and I talked about twin types and twin terminology and mothers' reactions to finding out they're having twins at the 2nd ultrasound and mothers finding out they're having twins at the 2nd ultrasound without anyone by their side. We looked for evidence of the sex and found it quickly on Baby B and what seemed like ten minutes later on Baby A, who was much lower.  Both boys! More tears! A swarm of boys in my house and a vision I had never imagined in my life.  Tears of happiness overtook me.  Even with all my talking and crying, questions and exclamations, the technician shared something amusing with me, "You're taking this very well!"

And these guys took it well too.

Two hours after finding out life wasn't what it had seemed, I was relieved to watch my dear husband and son catch up to speed with the help of a white bag and two tissue wrapped surprises within.  With the first outfit, "A boy.... Yay!... A brother!"  And then the look I'll never forget.  Paul and I didn't need to say anything.  His suspicions about the other item wrapped in tissue paper, the second outfit, were confirmed when I slid the ultrasound picture across the table.

Penning closure for this experience is impossible.  The shock is still reverberating as I type.  However, while this story sprung from the separation Paul and I experienced with one of the most special and life-altering moments we might ever know, its life will be in the drawing of us closer together.  Not knowing what's up ahead is terrifying, exciting, and exhilarating simultaneously, but there's as much a force of peace within me, knowing I get to share every bit of this adventure, this new un-imagined life with four other precious souls I can call my own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Celebrating Star Vitamins

As parents, we feel both excitement and anxiety for seeing our traits, habits, and attitudes spill generously into the hearts, hands, and minds of our children.  We hope they'll continue a tradition of spontaneous adventures but we fear they'll follow the lead of our slippery spending habits.  We're proud to boast of their charming personalities but pray they won't inherit dad's dyslexia or mom's insecurities.  We silently cringe for difficulties we've already faced or publicly exclaim, "Oh yeah! My kid is so me!"

This aspect of parenting made its noise this week.  I started coming down with a cold on Monday.  The day care pick-up conversation with Thomas went as follows:

Thomas:  "Why you come?"  [Translation: Why did you come earlier today?]

Me: "I'm not feeling very well."

Thomas: "You want my star bitamin? It will make you feel better!"

I laughed but later that evening Thomas wasn't thinking it was so funny.  At my second complaint of this progressing sickness, he actually insisted I get up and go get his star vitamin.  And so I got up, explained to him I needed to take my own vitamin, and opened the bottle with relish at his conviction.

When Thomas talks about his star vitamin, it's a testament to my husband's character.  When our new vitamins, which Paul had picked out on Amazon, arrived a few months ago, I popped open the bottle, choked down my pill which tasted like a mix of vegetables gone wrong and something something surprise from a dumpster, and I swore the suckers off, later recanting my swearing thanks to Paul's persistence to see the educated purchase through.

But one look at the star vitamin marketed for our dear child, this thing the size of a quarter and the weight of a newborn baby, and I was making all kinds of ridiculousness behind our child's back. "He won't ever eat that!"... "Did you check the size of this thing when you bought it?"... "That's seriously for a kid? He's gonna die!"  All the melodrama and more I could muster up.

Paul worked his magic to no avail for days.  Thomas, likely entertained by the parade of his inept parents, watched as Paul talked up the vitamin, putting Thomas through a psychological battery the likes only capable by our nation's bravest therapists.  Paul never gave up, despite my laughing, scoffing, and general smug attitude of dude-you've-met-your-match, and made his breakthrough a couple weeks later when, of all things, Thomas was sold on the idea of the star vitamin being broken up into several pieces as decoration for his toast.

And to my lingering amazement, Thomas now asks for his "star bitamin" to eat whole and on most days begs to eat two of which we have to pleasantly decline.  And yes, I'm sure God is laughing at me, the doubter, each time I have to tell Thomas, "No. It's only good for you to eat one star vitamin a day. You can have another one tomorrow" and his reply of a drawn-out "Ooooo-kaaay, Mom."

Stars are often symbols of the bright and beautiful.  The star vitamins in our life bears with it my husband: his seeking out of what is best for his family, his need to know and research, and his ability to sell anything to anyone. But it was today's conversation with Thomas that brought the star vitamin's symbolism, of Paul bearing good fruit in his family's life, even closer to home.

Once again, post day care pick-up:

Thomas: "You still sick?"

Me: "Yes, I'm definitely still sick."

T: "Maybe... maybe... maybe your bitamins not work.  Maybe your bitamins .... your bitamins are no good."

M: "Um. Ha. Yeah. Maybe."

T: "You take daddy's vitamin when we get home.  You throw your vitamins in the trash. They're garbage.  Daddy's vitamins will make you feel better, Mommy."

Paul is in Wisconsin today.  If he was here while I'm sick, he would know to watch for me because I don't have the best history of taking care of myself when I'm down and out.  He would insist I drink water, rest, eat healthy, take a bath... and so on until he was completely satisfied and convinced that I was in a best odds situation for a quick and happy, relatively, recovery.  Thomas has definitively picked this care of others up from his father and along with it this wonderful attitude that there's always something to be done to make our situation better.  [Paul's still working to make a believer out of me.]

I'm so grateful to count my blessings at the end of the day for the good which has been fostered.  On another day, I'll sort through all those fears for tricky traits and habits needing broken.

Today is a day to celebrate star vitamins!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Student Concern

My students have had a lot to say since finding out I'm pregnant.  I think they speak for themselves.  In italics I've included the responses I kept to myself.

"You're four months already? You waited four months to tell us?!"
                     Let's just pretend I'm getting fat.  That and let's get back to work.

"Mrs. Anderson, have you picked out any names?"
                     Yes. Your name. And I'm going to tell you and only you.

"You're gonna have a girl. You're carrying high."
                    Tell that to my bladder.

Apparently, the 8 pounds I've gained at this point are equally divided between my belly and my hair.

"Did you and your husband want this baby?"
                  [No response for this one. Just sadness that so many students have asked it.]
"Oh, you're gonna be one of those cute pregnant ladies!"
                 Keep going.  I'm listening. 

"I have a suggestion for names if you have twins."
                  Twins?! Woah. Back up and get off the crazy train!

"Don't make her shut the window. She'll miscarry."
                  No and yes. Just do what she says.  She will now act as my bodyguard.

"Can I touch your belly? Pleeeeeease?"
                 Um. What???

"Mrs. Anderson, have you been tired and sick lately?"
                 Ain't nobody got time for that.

[*You can infer from this post that I'm often left speechless by my students' interest in anything other than the subject of English.  However, I'm eternally grateful for their respect, care, and thoughtfulness.]