Running: I Am My Mother’s Daughter

Once upon a time, I hated running. My mother loved it. She still loves it, and runs as often as her schedule allows. I, on the other hand, hated running with a passion. Give me a volleyball or a basketball, and I could run back and forth for hours. But run in a circle? That’s it? No way!

About a year ago, I started running and fell in love. It hurt all the time, and I had to push myself to get outside, and there were always a million reasons not to run. But those were the very reasons that I loved running: because when I came home after a run, no matter what the distance, it meant I had won.

When we got Baby Bear, running became a little more difficult, as he was too small to go bumping all over the place in a carrier or stroller. When he was older, though, we managed it. I even ran a 5K on Mother’s Day weekend last year, and then ran the 10K around my family’s cottage that summer around the lake. I loved it. I finally understood why my mother always regained her sanity on her runs. Why she always insisted on riding bikes or rollerblading alongside her as she ran when we were homeschooled. In a world and lifestyle where so much chaos, disorder, and changed plans occur, it is a beautiful breath of fresh air to force myself to do something hard.

Then we got Fuzzy Bear. Sleep schedules went out of wack again. I was teaching part-time, and working through the possibility of reunification, while also maintaining travel plans and daily life. I joined Crossfit, and LOVED it. But, with two babies, it was just too hard to find time to go to the classes around nap-times, grad school, grading, and time as a family.

I want so badly to go back into running again, but I just can’t seem to find the motivation. I’m hoping that next weekend will see that change.

Next week, my mom, dad, and youngest sister are coming down to visit. That’s right. My running mom and exercise-minded dad and my self-disciplined sister are coming, and I am going to take advantage of daily runs while they are here. Hopefully, my mother will be kind and merciful to me.

Dr. Appointments : Life Hacks?

Foster kids go to Dr. appointments a LOT. As in, every 2-3 months for the first two years, and Dentist visits (that last about 5 minutes each) every two months after 6 months old. And, with two littles about 6 months apart, we spend our fair share of time in waiting rooms. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

  • Strollers are a MUST! Having a space to confine the little angels while filling out paperwork makes the visit much easier.
  • Try to get both children done in the same visit. Many times, the official scheduler doesn’t like this, but I’ve found that Doctors are thrilled to get two visits done at once, rather than see the same family twice in a row.
  • Bring food. Lots of it! Formula, milk, apples, cheese, cheerios, treats, you name it, you bring it.
  • Schedule for either early in the morning, or right before nap time. Then, feed bottles to babies right before you leave, and then they nap home. Just don’t forget the formula.
  • Shots are nasty. But having pacifiers handy might help.

 

Fuzzy Bear had his shots this morning. The little guy was super happy with everything about the visit, because PEOPLE WERE LOOKING AT HIM!!! He even got to drink a whole bottle without even needing to ask for it (see advice above). And then, the shots. He turned red, and did his best ever silence-before-the-scream-as-he-draws-in-breath. He then screamed bloody murder at the poor nurse. Then, I picked him up, and he grinned and laughed and pulled all the stops on the charm.

I placed him in the stroller, and he proceeded to fall fast asleep.

Meanwhile, Baby Bear ate his way through three apple slices, four slices of cheese, and two large sippy cups of milk.

I’d say a successful visit. 😀

Who steals a diaper bag?!

Really?!

Yesterday was a fairly normal Wednesday. Dr. appointments, regular naps, regular breakfasts, regular lunch, nothing out of the ordinary.

2:30 PM, I take our diaper bag out to our car, which is in our driveway, so that I can drive to school to teach. I open up the two back doors to allow a draft, because the inside of the car is baking, and the two bears will not be happy in a baking car. On the way out, I notice a small, older sedan, of a hue somewhere between grey and gold (pale gold?) with an odd rose-colored trimming on our street.

I walk back inside to grab my little bears. I lock the door behind me, walk partway across our yard, to realize that I left both bottles on the kitchen counter. So, I turn back, get the bottles, and carry babies and bottles to our car.

This entire process takes about 2 minutes. When I get back out to our car…

A woman in a huge suburban starts yelling at me that a big African-American man just reached into my car and pulled out a large green bag before making a getaway in a black suburban.

And, just like that, the day turned upside down.

Inside that diaper bag, I kept my cellphone (which they immediately turned off, by the way. I’ve already checked location services), my wallet (with my medical information, and medical information for the boys, as well as credit cards and such), and my journal (with my appointments coming up, notes from meetings, and other useful info), along with clothes, formula, diapers, wipes, paperwork for Dr. appointments, etc.

And I am left to ask, “Who reaches into a car in broad daylight, to steal a diaper bag?”

We called everything in to the police, they are on the case. We have frozen all of our accounts and called the Credit Bureaus so that no one can open up a credit card in my name. We are trying to figure out how to get my license renewed (this becomes complicated when you don’t have cash or credit cards to pay the fees, as I found out this morning), and how to get all of our medical cards switched and such.

I’m not really as worried about identity theft at this point, since we have taken so many steps to prevent it.

I’m worried about my boys. What if I had taken the boys out first, and then came back inside for the diaper bag? (They are both getting so big, I can’t carry all three at the same time anymore, and Baby Bear isn’t so good at walking behind someone.) Instead of losing just a cellphone and a wallet, I could have lost one of my children. That, right there, is a terrifying thought.

So, we are working on a security system, and we rearranged the garage to make it easier to load and unload the little bears while the garage door is closed. This way, we can always load and unload little people inside of the garage, instead in the driveway. We are going to change the locks on our doors so that we can be confident we are the only ones with keys. And we are alerting our neighbors to be on the watch.

Thank you to the lovely woman who told me everything, and texted Thomas (since my phone was now gone) all the details she could remember. Thank you to the amazingly gentle and patient police officer who came out to make the report and gave us so many bits of advice on our next steps. Thank you to our school community, who gave Thomas and I permission to leave school early so that we could handle everything together. Thank you to my husband, who never lost his cool during the remainder of the evening. And, most importantly, thanks be to God for a hard lesson learned in the easiest-hard way possible: I lost a lot of important objects (which drove the lesson home), but my boys and I are safe (which is the most important lesson I never want to learn the hard way), and I am in a community who loves and watches over us (a lesson worth learning as often as possible).

The police officer made a good and comforting point: everyone woman has their purse stolen at least once in their lives. This means, it’s not my fault. I made some poor decisions that relied too much on the goodness of others, but there are also people out there who have no problem stealing from others. I can’t change their consciences, only God can do that. It’s not my job to worry about them, but to worry about my family. So that is what I am going to do.

Little Goober

No, we don’t have a third one. (Though, that would be a GREAT NICKNAME!)

Earlier last week, I posted a little thing on facebook asking for help in encouraging Baby Bear to use sign language. He was becoming incredibly frustrated that we weren’t successfully reading his thoughts. I posted around 6 AM.

The boys slept till 10:30 AM.

Then they went back to sleep by 12:15 PM.

I had to wake them up to get to school on time around 2:30 PM.

They then insisted on another nap when we got home around 4:30 PM.

They woke up again around 6:30 PM, to eat and play a bit.

Both were asleep again by 7:30 PM.

The next day, Baby Bear started signing like he has been doing this sort of thing for months.

Since then, he has added “goodbye”, “more”, and “all done”. He is also thoroughly enjoying making roaring noises whenever I sign “lion”, and he will go find one of his bouncy balls when I sign for it.

Little Goober. 😀

Allowing him to serve, allowing Him to save

Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, combined with normal life this past weekend to teach me an incredible lesson about my marriage.

Lent- What is the sacrifice Christ made for us? What terrible pain did he bear because he loves his children? What sacrifices are we called to make in our lives as we serve as temples of the Holy Spirit? What pains are inherently part of being a Christian?

Maundy Thursday- What does service in love of Christ look like? Kneeling in the dirt? Blood as sweat and tears?

Good Friday – What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss, to lay aside his crown for my soul?

Easter Sunday – Alleluia! He is risen, indeed! The pain, the sacrifice, the death, the tomb, are NOT the end of the story! “Love so amazing, so divine!” is the end of the story! The sacrifice was for a purpose: unity and community with Him.

And what does that show about marriage? Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is the bride.

In the past, I have written so much about what fostering requires from mothers. I need the reminders that life is not about me, that I am called to be a small part in something grander, all in the service of my God and my family.

But I’m not the only servant. In fact, sometimes, I am called to be served. Who is called to serve me?

My husband.

Now, I don’t want to sound greedy, or needy, or demanding. That is not the intent. Sometimes, I feel like Peter, who tried to tell Jesus, “Do not wash my feet!” when I talk to my husband. Jesus corrected Peter, and my husband often has to correct me.

Let’s first allow that those sorts of statements and feelings stem primarily from pride. (If have to do everything so that it is done correctly, then the emphasis probably does not fall on the task, but on the person doing it.) So, one of the best things I can do to kill my pride is ask my husband for help. When I am worn out, tired, frustrated, and the world is falling apart, then this mindset also puts all the blame on me. Now, this sort of consequence seems to fit the old saying, “Let the punishment fit the crime”. But that is the whole point of Easter: the punishment doesn’t fit the crime! Christ was innocent, but took the punishment. I am guilty, but I pay no punishment! And when the world is looking up, and I have everything together, then this pride is twice as dangerous: I can solve everything, I don’t need anyone, I can give up everything without anyone saving me. How deadly would that statement be if describing our relationship with Christ? It is just as deadly to our relationships with our spouses, our churches, our friends.

What about from my husband’s point of view?

Let me describe a few scenes for you from the past few weeks.

Thomas works all day, Monday-Friday, at school, to come home in the evenings and work on grading, paperwork (yay Taxes!), graduate school homework, or house projects. Saturdays are usually spent trying to check off those large jobs from our project list (finish emptying the garage from the move, get all the books unpacked, update our budget stuff, etc.). I often grew frustrated, because our family was always pulled in different directions: Thomas to his tasks, the boys to their naps, and I to my house-keeping. We bought this house so that we could raise a family in it, but it seems to turn into the eternal project source instead. And these projects have to be completed by deadlines: house inspections, home visits, taxes, grading, papers all have dates that must be followed.

Then, one Saturday, I asked Thomas to stop working for 30-45 minutes and to just play with the boys outside. After a long discussion about priorities, responsibilities, etc., we discovered that Thomas didn’t know how to play with the boys. He did know how to complete projects, so that was his focus. I kicked myself. Thomas didn’t have lots of little siblings or baby cousins like I did. I grew up constantly playing with people smaller than me. So I know how to play. He did not. So, we spent 30 minutes outside, learning how to play with the boys as a family.

We still have to balance responsibilities to our boys and responsibilities as adults, but sitting and playing have also become more common.

And there is nothing that has delighted me more this past Lenten season (besides revisiting what it means to be a Christian) than watching my husband thoroughly enjoy sacrificing himself, laying aside his desire to finish his tasks, to throw stuffed animals around the room, or to read the same board book 30 times, or to chase one child around the house while carrying the other one for 30 minutes or more, just because the babies LOVE it.

That is what it means to allow someone to serve others.

But what about allowing him to serve me?

It means telling him that I need 30 minutes of the boys’ naps to be spent sitting on the couch with me, without screens, to-do lists, or bullet journals. Just the two of us, laughing, talking, and being near each other. It means telling him when I am at my wits’ end, and allowing him to say, “Let’s get something ready-made to eat at the grocery store.” Or when I am over-tired, can’t sleep, and can’t get my mind to settle, allowing him to listen to me as I tell him every single thing on my mind, even though that only keeps him awake even later. Or, allowing him to take our wriggly Baby Bear and walk up and down the stairs 30+ times during Easter Sunrise Service when the nursery wasn’t staffed like we expected. Because he knows I need his love.

There are plenty more thoughts about this sort of thing, and I’d love to hear your comments.

Holy Week, and Motherhood

Yesterday evening, the little bears were difficult. We almost didn’t go to Maundy Thursday service because of it all. But then, we decided to go anyways, and I’m glad we did. The sermon was about “they shall know us by our love”. And, I realized yet again why I foster.

The word “Maundy” stems from the command Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper, to “love each other as I have loved”. He washed the feet of his disciples, and warned them of the coming difficulties. If you read the account for the first time, you almost expect the story to end in the Garden of Gethsemane. But, it just keeps getting worse and worse for the Savior. His friend betrays him, his other friends run away instead of standing by him, he is put on a mock trial, beaten again and again, mocked, provoked, rejected for a murderer, forced to bear his own method of execution many miles…

to Golgotha. To the crucifixion. But that is tonight’s event. And I’m getting ahead of myself.

The point that came home to me last night, was that Christ did the unthinkable long before the Crucifixion. The cross was the second-to-last unexpected and unthinkable event in a long series of unexpected and unthinkable events.

He washed the feet of his disciples.

He came to serve. He paused his journey to the cross to display, yet again, why the cross had to happen: because the Savior had to be a Servant.

At times, I feel like I am called to “save” my foster children. I want to pull them out of their horrible experiences, and give them something so much better. And I want them to show gratitude for it! Last night, however, I saw what this walk actually looks like.

Kneeling in the dirt to wipe off the feet of a child who insists that shoes are unnecessary.

Christ, the Savior of the world, kneeled to wash the feet of the disciples who did not know what he was doing. 

Comforting a little child  who is too over-tired to sleep, and screams to let you know his opinions.

Jesus’ friends could not even stay awake to be with him and comfort him when he was tired. 

Cleaning spit-up from the couch, the rug, my clothes, my hair, and going back with another bottle, because now there is a baby tummy that is empty again.

People surrounded the Son of God to spit on him, and he did not turn away from the task ahead. 

Walking out of the house and into the cockroach-filled-garage, rather than stay inside and listen to two over-tired babies screaming in their cribs.

Christ walked out of Jerusalem, his rightful inheritance and throne, to the Hill of Death, rather than stay inside and hear his people suffer eternally for their sins. 

Realizing that the cold glass of water I had poured for myself is now luke-warm, and has a fly floating in it, because a small child insisted that he get fed first.

Christ was offered bitter wine to drink on the cross so that I could drink the cup of salvation. 

Handing off my children to my husband, because I just can’t handle it anymore.

Christ gave his mother away to John, so that she would be cared for while he finished what God sent him to complete. 

Praying that God will just take this cup away from me.

“But not my will, but your will be done.”

In the end, this is my prayer. God has been using Lent to teach me (at least) this, to admit my fear, my weakness, my desires, but to end on His will.

 

My Polis, My Tribe

This post is a thank-you post. The past two weeks have been a shower of love, gifts, and grace.

  • We now own a double stroller! Fuzzy Bear has been getting heavier and heavier lately, as he is now FINALLY putting on weight. Up till recently, I would walk into school with the older Baby Bear in the stroller and little Fuzzy Bear in a baby carrier. After the move, we started looking around online for a good double running stroller, and goodness, aren’t those things expensive?! But then a friend of mine from school sent me a text with an image from facebook. Apparently someone on a facebook group had two double strollers that they wanted to give to a family in need. My friend contacted the owner, told him of our situation, and we now have a beautiful, practical, excellent-condition running stroller!
  • Our dear friend who is also our Pastor’s wife took both of the boys three days in one week recently, so that Thomas and I could attend a hearing for Baby Bear (which did not go as planned, but it’s all in God’s hands), and so I could attend training for our foster agency. This woman is amazing, and loves on our boys so much. Whenever Baby Bear sees her, he always leans out of my arms to get to her as soon as possible.
  • We have been attending Lenten services at a local LCMS church on Wednesday nights. They serve a dinner before the service, so we have been able to leave straight from faculty meetings to a dinner already waiting. And the boys get loved on, held, played with, fed, and everything, while Thomas and I get to sit down and eat a real meal together. After a few services, Thomas and I were discussing how good it is, as Christians, to have dedicated time to worship besides that on Sunday mornings. If we have opportunities to worship with other Bible-believing Christians, to fellowship with them, to be loved on by others, and to show love to them in return, then we ought to take every chance we get. God has blessed us so much through these believers, and we are so thankful that they have accepted us and shown us such gracious love, even though we are not members there.
  • CLOTHES!!! Several people have brought us bags and bags of clothes, for both adults and babies. It is such a blessing to know that other people are watching out for our needs and interests.
  • God has been so good to send us a few weeks of beautiful outside weather, and Baby Bear appreciates it more than anyone else. That child considers any day NOT spent outside as a total waste. So, beautiful weather to be outside in the sunshine is a blessing that only God can give us.
  • We got to celebrate Baby Bear’s first birthday! He received so many wonderful signs of love, from birthday cards with minion stickers (Thanks S and O!), to a little drum (he loves it, Aunt Mary!), to an wooden tool set (that one was from Thomas and I), to a farm-animal puzzle (he loves to take the pig with him all over the house, Grammie and Grandpa), and a playhouse and baby pool for outside (you’ll love watching him play with the pool, Omi and Colonel). Thomas and I were talking about how small he was when we brought him home, and how many times we thought we would have to say goodbye. And yet, God saw fit in His plan to give us Baby Bear’s first birthday. We couldn’t ask for a better gift: time with our sons. Happy Birthday, Baby Bear!

As I was contemplating these gifts and blessings, and God’s goodness, I realized, yet again, just how true Aristotle’s description of man is: man is a political animal. We need to be in community with others. The word “political” did not have the negative connotations that we usually associate with the word. This word comes from the Greek word “polis”, which means “city”. The ancient Greeks had a different idea of “city” than we do, however. The polis provided the security, prosperity, law, and identity to each individual. Imagine the way individuals will relate to a sports team; people can talk to endless lengths about the strengths, weakness, schedules, leadership, location, training, and education of their favorite team. And if their team wins a game, the whole world turns rosy. Now, imagine that sort of dedication to a city, in a world where most people did not leave their birthplace. So, you grew up with the same people around you, whose ancestors grew up next to your ancestors. So, everyone in the polis knows everyone else in the polis, and it is in everyone’s best interest to protect everyone else. In our eyes, this might seem more similar to the mafia, but we can also think about it as a tribe.

I thought, when I left the midwest to teach in the Southwest, and when I left the Southwest to teach in Texas, that I was constantly leaving my tribe, my polis. In turns out, that my polis is far larger than a location or people group. I’m a member of the City of God, and I can take comfort in knowing that other Christians are looking out for me, just as much as I am looking out for them.