Monday, July 11, 2011

The Overnight Fever, One of the Parenting Adventures that Make You Miss Having a Partner

Why do fevers prefer to strike at 2:00 in the morning? I mean you can't take the child to school or daycare or wherever they go after they've had one. You're up all night, and get to spend the next day chasing your now recovered child. My daughter had these fevers every so often, usually when a new tooth was coming or if she had a little cold. Last night my son had one. He's had a runny nose since last week and started coughing yesterday. At 18 months old, he doesn't take much medication, so I medicated the fever only. Then we prayed and he sang praises to God, raising his little hand and waving it around, saying "ha-oo-ah". That's baby talk for halleleujah. He has some breathing medications, but he wasn't having any trouble breathing, at least not until later. I pretty much knew that he'd be back to his old self soon and back to running around the house. In other words, he'd be fine. I'd see him through it.

Then there's me. I miss having someone to lean on in situations like that. I miss having a partner in parenting. I miss having someone to love them with me and having someone I love with whom to watch them interact. Some of the cutest things they do happen right here in the house, and I'm the only one here. I wouldn't have my husband back like he was. He was so very sick. But it's hard sometimes. My hopes when it comes to my children, my fears when it comes to them, my angst, no one to really share that with now, not anyone I can lean on and say, "can we do this?". Right now I'm making plans for our future and I can really feel it.

My children have amazing Godparents and their Godfather especially has really stepped up to be a big part of my son's life. My son loves him but when I see Elijah run to him I can't help but think of Thomas. I'm very grateful that my son will have someone to do guy stuff with, and a man to teach him about being a man whether I remarry or not. I know some people don't have that, but when they do things, I'll really miss that special look of pride in their dad's eyes.

But I'm noticing that just as much or even more than the sadness over Thomas not seeing them as they grow and not having the opportunity of watching them grow through his eyes, is that as much as I thank God everyday for the people who love them, there's a noticable absence. When Ariana had these overnight fevers, Thomas sat in his room and prayed. That was his part, well that and convincing me she should get to sleep with me instead of in her room. I could say I feel his presence. I could say I'm sure he's helping me through these things and other challenges and he may be. There are times I can feel him. There are also times when I feel his absence.

I think though he prayed enough to last us a while. During his final year, that is pretty much all he did at home. I know a few of those prayers were not answered until after his passing. So I may not see him an image of him in the corner of the room like I did during Elijah's first trip to the emergency room and I may not hear him praying in my head like I did the last time Ariana got a stomach bug, but I know he's still here somehow. But I won't lie. Dragging the well child to the emergency room along with the ill one, packing the ill one in the van when the well one has to go to school, pulling myself through the day with two children bouncing off the walls after pulling the night shift with an ill child...not my idea of a good time.

I ask myself sometimes who is going to love me through the challenges I love them through. But despite the loneliness I have never felt hopeless and the answer to that question comes if I look for it. On one trip to the emergency room, I looked across at a couple holding their baby who was in the ER due to vomiting. At one point, out of frustration, the mom laid her head on the dad's shoulder. She was obviously exhausted. He stroked their son's hair with one hand and her hair with his other hand. I shook my head for a moment. Then I looked at Elijah and he smiled at me. Despite not feeling well he was happy. Their baby had not smiled at all since they'd gotten there. I laid my head back on the back of the bench and asked God to heal their baby and all the other children in the hospital.

So I'm working on seeing God as my partner, on relying on Him more, not just for provision, healing, protection, wisdom and guidance, but as a partner in life, as someone I can lean on when I'm exhausted. There's no shortage of lessons on this journey. There's always something to work on and I'm still learning. I have concluded the learning never stops.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

“Why Can’t I Be a Normal Kid?”

My little girl spent part of the morning crying because she has to do something different than the other children (wear a swim cap for swim class). Asks me, "Why can't I be a normal kid?" Now, let's start with me saying I don't know what that is. In a lot of ways she is a typical eight year-old from what I see, but in a lot of ways she is totally unique. I don't want her to believe she has to do what others do, say what others say or believe what others believe. I want her to believe she can be as that one commercial says, above the influence. I want to teach her to build a sound decision making process of her own.

Not that I didn't feel her pain. I'd asked myself a similar question time and time again. "Why can't I be like the other wives?" I asked myself and God that question more times than I care to admit. Only answer I remember was "Because this is your life." It's been from other experiences, teachings and encounters that I have learned my path as tough as it has been has as much purpose as anyone else's, that my life can still be wonderful anyway. God has poured His heart out to me in His word and through people's love and my pastors' love, support and teachings to the point where I believe that now. Today, I could just tell Ariana she will just do what I say. But no. I gathered myself to pour out my heart to her.

Ariana you were not born for that. Get used to standing out in a crowd honey because you were born to be different. This time it's just a swim cap, but other times you'll have to stand up for things much bigger and do what is best for you even when it means the crowd goes the other way. Not sure what normal is, but that is not for us. You were born to stand out. You were born to be great. You were born to lead, not to follow. You're going to be standing out and being different your whole life, because that is our destiny.

My mind raced back to a day four years prior. Ariana was four years-old and then my only child. I arrived to pick her up from pre-school to find that all of the children had gotten into the finger paint and decorated themselves like ninjas while the poor teacher was vacuuming the other side of the classroom. It was a real sight and as I searched the crowd for my daughter I crossed my arms, began tapping my foot and drumming the fingers on my right hand on my left elbow. I saw her, but she was facing away from me. I called her name and I closed my eyes. I opened them when I felt Ariana grab onto my legs and heard her yell "mommeeeeee!" like she did everyday. I reached down to hug her and opened my eyes. I was delighted and I'll admit surprised to see she had not one mark on her. She had been the only child to stay out of the paint. She said she was asked to participate, but refused, telling her friends it wasn't right, that they were not supposed to be in the paint. How they managed to do this under the nose of the teacher I never figured out really. Could ten four year-olds really be that sneaky? I have never forgotten the pride I felt and I've reminded Ariana of it several times when she has these types of issues. This time I didn't fall back on that. I thought I'd come up with something much better.

Okay so my little speech did nothing for her present crisis. She continued to cry even louder, but it was true anyway. So, I took a stuffed animal that was in the van and put it on her head and asked, "Am I trying to get you to wear this?" She said no. I told her, "Now, if I tied this to the top of your head and told you to go to camp, I believe that would be a bit much." I saw a half-hearted smile. She tried not to but it happened anyway. Of course Elijah had a huge smile on his face and when she saw that, she almost choked trying not to laugh. I don't know the chlorine content of that pool and don't want it in her hair for the hours between their swimming lesson and when I pick her up. So, we came to an understanding. She would wear the cap for swimming lessons and when she goes to a pool or water park with me, and I can do her hair after, she won't have to wear it. Was she happy? Not really, but that wasn't the goal. The goal was to get to work on time, but to make sure she'd wear the cap and I could drop her off at camp in an acceptable state. She looked like I'd spent the morning slapping her around.

It reminded me of a hilarious, but accurate statement a very good friend of mine from college posted as his facebook status one day. Martin was always a funny guy and he married Melissa who was also a college friend. They have two beautiful daughters, one who is a year older than Ariana and one who is a year younger than Ariana. The girls see each other once a year at UNC's Homecoming along with two other children of a classmate of ours, but act like they've been together all year. Anyway, one day he posted "Little girls have more drama than TNT". That's the network with the slogan "We Know Drama". He had a few of his friends with daughters including me confirm his statement. He's right. They could certainly learn a thing or two from mine. But he wouldn't trade them for anybody or anything and I wouldn't take all the wealth in the world for my little girl. At least I'll never be bored.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Unclutter Train Makes Another Stop

From Webster's Dictionary, the definition of "clutter":

to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness (example: a room cluttered with toys)

That has pretty much described my house most of the time. I'd made up in my mind to make the place more comfortable and to do that, I'd have to put forth a lot of effort to unclutter the place. The Unclutter Train has been making its way around my house pretty much since the "Cleaning Up My Act" post. This has been an up and down process, as I expected it would but I'm trying to be gentle with myself. This time it was my bedroom. This stop would be very important because my room was a mess. I had become pretty good at cleaning other parts of the house, and the unclutter movement was in full swing after I had some furniture removed. I'd pulled Thomas' clothes from the two closets they were in and was almost overwhelmed by the space it left, but my room was such a mess, it was actually hard to relax in there.

There was too much stuff, the laundry was backed up…again and despite the fact he had not slept in it in about 7 months, my son's pack-n-play was still up. I was tossing stuff into it to get it off the floor and it was taking up a significant amount of space.

The other important thing was, getting this done would allow me to not only say, but enforce those four little words I'd been longing to say to my daughter, but didn't use much because frankly, I felt like a hypocrite when I did: "Go, clean your room!"

I had not tackled it previously because other parts of the house were more visible. I was exhausting myself every weekend as it was, going back to work on Mondays either just as tired or more tired than when I left there the previous Friday. So, with a three-day weekend to work with, I decided it was time. That room should be my sanctuary and it was pretty much anything but that. I had to turn sideways to go around my bed to the bathroom because of the pack-n-play and I could barely walk from one side of the room to the other without stepping over one of my son's toys. I have a walk-in closet no one could actually walk into without climbing a mountain.

The unclutter train pulled in Sunday night and departed last night. I had six 39-gallon bags. One with dark laundry, one with light colored laundry, one with Thomas' dress shirts that I originally planned to keep, but on second thought put on the donation pile with the rest (save a few of my favorites of course), one half-full with my clothes that need to go to the dry cleaners and two with things to discard. I packed two other smaller bags with my son's old clothes to give to a young lady at my church who has one infant son and another on the way. Once the pack-n-play was empty, I folded it up and put it away. I could dance across the room now if I wanted.

I transformed my bed. I always had about 10 pillows on the bed. I only used two, but it took eight for my husband to have a chance to be half-way comfortable (four behind him and two under each arm), but he didn't attempt to sleep in there the last year or so of his life. I took six of them away, flipped and turned the mattress, then put a brand new set on my bed, new sheets, a new comforter and of the four pillows I kept, I put two pillows in the pillowcases and two others in the shams, and I finally had a new room. My walk-in closet is actually a walk-in closet. Now, it's not bring out the white gloves clean, but it's a relaxing spot I want to be in now. I slept much better the last two nights.

Yesterday I dug into the laundry. My linen closet was almost bare and I figured out why. Cleaning out the closet revealed where all the sheets and towels were I knew I had. Two loads later, my linen closet was stacked again on every shelf. Bath sheets and beach towels on top, regular towels and wash clothes next. My sheets and pillow cases on the 3rd shelf and the children's sheets and blankets on the bottom shelf. I washed, dried and put away two loads of our clothes next. It had become a struggle putting together the children's outfits for each day and I knew I'd purchased enough summer clothes. It was a struggle last night too, but because I almost had too many choices.

And while I dug into the laundry, I worked with my daughter to get her room cleaned. She has a large toy box, plus one of those three-tier ones with nine boxes for small toys. Even with her protesting much of the way, we got it done and I could see she was much happier in there. She probably didn't think she could be much happier than she was after I painted the room pink and put artwork on the walls, but she was. Happiness is being able to dance wildly to a Selena Gomez song without tripping over your toys I guess.

The other task I tackled over the weekend was the master bath and half bath on the first floor. I'd purchased new rugs and toilet lid covers to match the wall paper borders in each one, but they'd stayed in the bags in a downstairs closet for a few weeks. So after I did the weekly cleaning of each bathroom, I tossed the old rugs put the new rugs down. So last night as I settled down, the Unclutter Train pulled out of the station. Its next stop: the laundry room.