I suppose I’ve got to start somewhere so I’ll start with today

First I was going to write about our amazing summer. Then time passed and it was going to be about Ian turning seven.  Then a recap of our happy and full 2015. And Beatrice’s birthday passed over a month ago, and still nothing.

Ugh. I’m not sure if my writing muscles are just really atrophied or I’ve got complete a block.  Or I’m just busier or happier doing other things.  Or I’m stumped creatively. Or maybe it’s all of those things.  I don’t know.

I do know writing has always been a part of my life in some form or fashion and that I will regret not having documented memories in this season (especially when it is such a good one!).

So, I’m just going to get going with something simple.  Here’s some random smatterings of what we did today, mostly unedited and unfiltered.

For starters, I stayed in bed way too late and even coaxed my children into snuggling in bed with me. This was possible because yesterday they spilled water all over the TV and it’s accoutrements and I unplugged everything so TV was not an option.

I always end up frustrated with their bounty of energy, but I still invite them to snuggle anyway. Why can’t they just CHILL OUT and relax after they’ve clocked a good eleven hours of sleep in their own beds??? I expect the older two to be able to, since Beatrice can and she’s two years old. She parks herself right on top of me and plugs her mouth with her thumb. Then she proceeds to listen to me kick the the other two kids out of the bed for fighting or kicking me in the face, or something else equally as annoying. And then she’s got me all to herself!

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Us snuggling (but some other morning).

I made up for the lazy mom start to the day by making a fabulous green smoothie with all kinds of goodies in it. The kids sucked it down and Beatrice, the pickiest eater that ever was, even asked for seconds. And this time I snuck in liquid whey and they didn’t even notice. Boo yah!

Afterward Ian sat at the kitchen table and wrote in his journal and did his math without whining (another score!). I’ve been working this week on consistency in our school work time, especially because he doesn’t have HEE classes for mid-winter break. We are on day four (of five) and I’m seeing progress with the ‘tude. Of course next week everything will change when our schedule fills again, but at least for a couple days I can feel like an effective homeschool teacher.

While Ian did his school work Imogen folded her clothes in a reasonable amount of time and with no whining. And then she put her clothes away in her dresser. This is MIRACLE upon MIRACLE. As the Bible says, “Train up the child in the way he should go, and later he will not depart from it . . . ”

Speaking of teaching your children to be successful and productive citizens, I am very haphazardly potty training Beatrice.  I don’t even really want to put that statement out there because it sounds like I’m somewhat committed, which I’m really not.  I asked her if she wanted to go pee in the potty (since she conveniently had taken her diaper off and was running around) and she said “Why yes, of course, I thought you’d never ask!” and then sat down to pee.  That was Wednesday.  She’s gone in the potty four times since then. At any given time of the day she may or may not be running around naked, “potty training.” This is not-so-serious business.

I have to laugh at myself because I very distinctly remember the night before we started potty training Ian.  I was a nervous wreck. We had this huge plan to NEVER go back to diapers. Hah! Potty training that kid was the WORST. I thought it would never end and I cared way too much.

After school and chore stuff I got dressed at the early hour of 10:45am so we could go to the chiropractor. I woke up this morning with practically a lion’s mane going on which, after a few hours, had tamed down to a nice bushy wave. You can’t plan perfect bedhead.  It’s something that just comes down like manna from heaven–except it only comes down once in a great while. And then at least one part of my appearance was awesome for a day, and with no effort on my part!

We had some sun this afternoon, and so I went outside (it’s rare, I honestly don’t go outside as much as I should). I’ve been trying to make an attempt to say yes to the kids when they ask for individual play time, so I joined Imogen in the play structure and we played house. Toward the end I was getting tired and the sun felt so warm and nice, so I pretended to be sick so I could lay down.  Imogen got out her doctor’s kit and saved my life. Then I played the doctor and saved hers. That was a nice little happy ending.

I never could get the TV plugged back in so I put the kids in front of the computer and suggested they watch something new. Ian got all whiny about it. I’ve decided Garfield is lazy and a glutton, and I’m tired of him. So, they ended up watching a new version of Inspector Gadget, which I suggested. Whine, whine, whine. I told Ian I liked it as a kid, maybe he would, too.

I went into the bedroom to work on my bible study and it didn’t take but a minute and Ian and Imogen’s laughter was echoing through the whole house. Apparently they liked it. I keep thinking of Steve Carell’s face as Inspector Gadget. I haven’t seen the movie but I have a feeling he uses his pronounced nose and goofy glare to really play up the character. Wait–maybe he didn’t even play Inspector Gadget? I really don’t know. These are just things I think about.

The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to pass the time, knowing that Jason wasn’t going to be home until after the kids were in bed. Some days it goes by faster than others.  I really wanted this week to be a slow one where we could bum around the house and not be anywhere special, but after a few days I suppose it’s making us all a bit restless. The minutes ticked by.

Eventually I threw plate of taco chips covered in BBQ pulled pork and shredded cheese (aka “fancy” nachos) down on the table for the kids and then fed them ice cream. Actually, the box said it was a frozen dairy dessert.  It is a bit concerning that a product can’t officially call itself ice cream, but not concerning enough for me to not give it to my kids. I have very little parenting shame these days.

Lately Beatrice has been saying “Daddy, wrestle!”, even when Jason’s not around, and the other two were asking to play their favorite roughhousing game with me tonight, so I obliged.  The game is entitled Meaty Thighs.  I’ve been playing it with Ian since he was pretty little. I pretend to be the Meaty Thigh Monster, and I go to sleep.  All the sudden I get hungry for, well, meaty thighs and attack them for my routine meal.

They all think this is an AMAZING game. I like it’s predictability and that I’m particularly good at being a monster. Unfortunately Ian is getting tall and wirey and his thighs aren’t so meaty anymore. It’s like they need to be put in the slow cooker for a very long time. Beatrice, on the other hand, is a smorgasbord of thick and marbled meat!

The game eventually turned into a pillow fight of which I lost and fell dead in the hallway.  Ian believed himself to be victorious and didn’t even seem phased when I later told him I faked it and let him win.

Now the kids are supposed to be in bed and of course they are up here in my face at 9 0’clock.  Ian says, “I have a cool animal fact. Did you know that baby koalas are the size of a jelly bean when they are born? They are that small. That’s even smaller than Bebo. It’s like you could eat them.”

The kitchen sink is empty, the table is mostly cleaned off, and I *think* the kids are finally asleep.  I’ve ironed and picked out Jason’s clothes for tomorrow and all I have to do is make his lunch.  Geesh, I sound like his housekeeper and his valet (but not as emotionally erratic as Mr. Bates . . . okay, maybe I am). Bates aside, I refuse to get up at 5:30am and dress Jason.  That’s where I draw the line.

Oh yeah, and I’m his parent, too, since I guess I’m waiting up for him. He’s out way past curfew!

It’s nice to write, however much of a rambling it is, and it’s also nice to realize that today was a pretty great day. I am thankful this is like many other days we have had in the last year–which I hope I eventually get around to sharing about.

 

 

 

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Imogen’s fourth year

Dear Imogen,

This morning I woke up and heard feet padding into my room.  I knew they were yours, because they sound so much different than your brothers. “Happy Birthday,” I said, in a soft, sweet voice. The look on your face made me think you’d forgotten entirely that today was your big day. But no, you said you remembered. And then of course you crawled into bed and we snuggled for at least a half hour.  Ian and Beatrice just kept on sleeping, which I think God planned as a gift for both of us.

Immy, you are the best snuggler in the entire world.  Yes, your sister is gaining on your territory, but you don’t really see that yet, and plus you’ve got four years of crawling into laps and twirling my hair already piled up in our memories.  On weekend mornings when your dad and I are still in bed, you know to go straight to his side of the bed curl up under the covers next to him.  Being a snuggler himself, your dad is in heaven.  He knows even now to soak it up because it will eventually end, as you get older and more grown up.

Your dad and I went on a bike ride last weekend and we spent most of the time talking about you.  Who are you?  How can we love you?  How can we shepherd you?  Are we doing that? Are you getting lost in your brother’s shadow? What will the next years be like, when you hit grade school and then adolescence? Will you, God forbid, be snuggling with someone else?  We want God to help us see you–that was the grand conclusion to our conversation.

But, to be inconsistent, let’s talk about your brother for a moment.  No one can forget him.  You two have an interesting and sometimes intense dynamic.  Well, let’s just say his end of the dynamic is intense, yours is free-flowing, unruffled, and flexible–for the most part.  As the years pass, these attributes of yours will drive Ian INSANE. I almost don’t want to say it, but I will–revel in it!  It’s good for him.  Just don’t get too proud.  We all have our own struggles, and this could easily be one of yours.

It’s not all bad with Ian.  You have a special way of lightening him up with your silliness.  You lighten us all up.  I know I’ve said it before, but you’re just so goofy.  That hasn’t changed in the last year. You still get the potty talk going at the dinner table, which we try to promptly shut down. You let your brother chase you around the circle that is the fireplace and laugh and laugh. Sometimes, though, all the sudden, you get a determination about the chase and actually want to win.  And you pass him.  You’re gettin’ fast girl.  And Ian’s mad!

Speaking of speed, you are riding your bike amazingly.  You spent a lot of time on the skut this last year, cruising along.  Now, I send you off with your brother down the street, knowing you can fully ride your big girl bike on your own. You are very good about watching for cars.  Ian always has your back, too. And I do love that you still need me for at least one thing–clipping your helmet on before you run out the door. You don’t even want me to pull the hair out of your eyes when I do it.

Besides bike skills, you are a great dancer.  You never turn down an opportunity to cut the rug with Ian when he turns Pandora on in the living room.   In fact, when we’re at church on Sundays you’ve gotten in the habit of sneaking out of the pew and dancing in the aisle.  And we sit in the front, so everyone can see you.  We have shooed you back next to us, keeping you confined between Dad and me.  I was concerned you would be a distraction to others who are trying to worship. But recently I’ve been thinking that maybe we should just leave you be.  Maybe you’re a picture that people need to see on Sundays.  You’ll break all us frozen chosen out of our frigidness!  My heart is happy thinking about that.

Joy, Imogen.  You are a joy.

You are also a wonderful helper.  You daily remind me that what I’m doing is not about a checklist, but about learning and being together. You are like your dad in this way.  I am learning from you, but I must admit, I struggle because my agenda is so stupidly important to me.  Still, you know nothing about that, so you pull the step stool up, ready to bake bread or stir the oatmeal.  Whenever Grandma T is scheduled to stay and I clean the bathroom in preparation, you are right in there persistent with a “Can I help, Mommy?” Yes, Imogen.  You can spray the entire bottle of cleaner onto the mirror.  This is learning life.  And you’re getting the mirror VERY clean.

You can also be a bit of a drama queen, to be honest.  You strike a pose like a true supermodel.  How do little girls already know how to do that?  Do they come out of the womb with that skill? You like to overdramatize many minor slips and stumbles (you’re also a bit clumsy).  You care quite a bit about whether we are sympathetic to your plight. One time I was clearly not paying attention to you and you practically grabbed my face and said “MOMMY, DO YOU EVEN CARE THAT I’M HURT?!?” What an injustice! But, we do our best to give you kisses and rub the pain away, without aiding and abetting what’s inconsistent with reality.

Over the last year, we’ve discovered that you have quite a love for animals and are really very good with them.  We call you the animal whisperer.  Sometimes you wander off in the house somewhere and if I haven’t heard from you in a while I know you have crawled up on our bed and are laying next to Lizzie. You gently pet her and she lays there, mostly comfortable with your presence.  She will walk up to you and rub her body against your legs, which makes you smile.  Imogen, you may have even entered into Lizzie’s circle of trust which is VERY small.  Consider this a lifetime achievement.

You’ve also come to love our neighbor dog, Sunny.  Sunny’s owner, an elderly gentleman named Herb, religiously walks his very energetic dog at least twice a day, right past our house.  When we first met Sunny she would jump and get excitable whenever any of us would approach her.  Now, whenever Sunny sees you she sits down and holds perfectly still and uses all her might to calm herself. She won’t act that way for anyone else. She has learned that you have such a gentle way with her and that you give the best pets!  You almost always run out to meet her if you see her through the window.

You still have a magic act that has carried over since you were practically walking.  It’s called disappearing, and you’re still very good at it. At school, the playground, Costco.  We look away and poof, you’re gone.  At least you’re able to recognize Costco employees by their name tags and will happily approach one to tell them you can’t find your mom.  You aren’t scared, you just figure it’s about time to show back up again. This is why I regularly try to have that talk with you where I crouch down in your face and say as seriously as I can, “Imogen, if someone approaches you with candy or tells you they have puppies they want to show you, DO NOT go with them.  RUN TO MOMMY!” You nod and say yes, Mama. But I still worry.  You’re easygoing and personable and innocent. You’re brother, on the other hand, would give any stranger the stink eye and yell at them to stop talking to him.  You are both so very different.

So I pray for you, that you would stay soft and welcoming, but also be protected.

I suppose I should say that you aren’t entirely innocent. In fact, over the last year we’ve had many conversations about the difference between truth and lies.  Could it even be that the other day you looked me straight in the face (in tears, in fact) and lied to me?  And it was so convincing that I believed you.  I’m trying to tell myself, even still, that you didn’t remember things correctly or you were confused.

Nope, you are deviant, Immy, in your own way.  May the Lord help us help you.  Us Haggards may be a lot of things, and we may even deceive ourselves at times, but we want to walk in the light and tell the truth. Your dad and I fumble through trying to explain to you how important this is.  That the Truth sets us free, and that lies bind us.  This is hard for a four-year-old to understand, I know.  Lying seems like a good way to avoid or defer consequences.  I am with you, it’s very tempting!

You need Jesus, Imogen. You need Him when you feel goofy or your dancing the aisles of church.  You’ll definitely need Him when your brother gets in your face and tries to control you. Then there will be times when Beatrice will steal snuggles away from you, or as a teenager some boy will want snuggles from you– you’ll need Jesus then, too.. He will be arms around you, He will remind you of your innocence and yet also teach you wisdom and shrewdness.  He is your Truth, Imogen.  There is no one, nothing else, that is as true and real as God.

May the Lord captivate you and show you how truly captivating you are. May He be the sweetness and the hugs and the deep-down knowing that you are loved to the utmost depths. May He be the Person you find when you run off, and not just in some store, but down some sad or scary or rebellious path (which you will, because we all do, in our own ways).

Whatever happens in your life, Jesus is writing a good story for you, Imogen. And we are enjoying being a part of it! May He bless you and keep you, my beautiful doe-eyed girl.  May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you, and give you peace.

You love it when I give you that blessing at bedtime, I hope you still love it when you’re old enough to read this.

Love, Mommy

Here’s Imogen’s fourth year in pictures, in chronological order.

Beatrice’s first year

January 17th marked Beatrice’s first birthday. Can you believe it? It’s already been a year.  I know people say that all the time, but it really is true.  The time has passed quickly.

Here’s a few memories, mostly in chronological order:

  • Beatrice’s first few weeks were spent sleeping next to Dad, or in the co-sleeper next to the twin bed in her room.  She liked to be swaddled and tucked right in the crook of his arm.  Not very comfortable for Jason, but sweet dreams were had for Beatrice.
  • Speaking of sleep, Jason did night duty for this little girl for weeks, until she was pretty much sleeping through the night.  He is amazing.
  • What is also amazing, and a pure gift from God, is that Bea started sleeping through the night at about eight weeks. At around this time we moved her from the co-sleeper into her crib.
  • For the first three months of her life Beatrice would not take daytime naps anywhere but upright, snuggled on someone’s chest.  There was a lot of baby-wearing going on in this house.  At exactly 12 weeks we started putting her down in her crib and after getting past the shock of a mattress instead of a warm body, she learned to sleep alone.  She sleeps on her tummy, sucking her thumb.
  • At around eight months Beatrice started crawling, clapping and waving.  These milestones made me feel like she really moved from an infant to a toddling baby.
  • At ten months Beatrice could pull herself up on her knees and by eleven months she could pull herself up to standing.  She’s nowhere near the walking stage yet.  The only time she’ll stand is if she’s at the edge of the bathtub, banging on the side because she wants to get in.
  • Speaking of, she LOVES baths and water.  She had her first pool and ocean swims in July when we went to Florida.  But she really just loves sitting in the bathtub batting at the water and letting it splash back up in her face.  You start the water running and she can’t get in there fast enough!
  • She’s doing her own jibber jabber, which began with “da da” and “ga ga” and a bunch of other consonant-based sounds.
  • Even though she doesn’t have any actual words to say yet, that doesn’t keep her from speaking up.  If the rest of us Haggards are all talking at the dinner table or in the van, she starts yelling loudly, to join in.  If everyone stops talking, she stops, too. That child is going to have to keep interrupting if she wants to get a word in edgewise in this family.
  • She’s gone from breastmilk to pureed foods to regular food (and is still breastfeeding).  She was the smallest Haggard baby to start and had a difficult time putting on weight in the first six months of life.  I work really hard to breastfeed, but I think I’m just not a major milk factory and my thyroid hit some low points.  Since Bea’s started eating regular foods, she’s looking chunkier.  I love her little dimpled hands.
  • Speaking of dimples, yes, I know you’ve noticed them.  Her right one is more pronounced.  My mom says they’ve passed down from her Great Grandma Olive.
  • At her one year well-child exam, Bea was 80% for her head and 25% for height and weight.  I think she’s going to be on the petite side, but I suppose that’s still to be seen.
  • She’s acquired her two bottom teeth, but hasn’t seemed to be uncomfortable in the teething process (yet).
  • She’s my brown-eyed Ian look-alike.  When I compare baby photos, you can see a lot of the resemblance, although quite a few people say they see Jason in her face and I agree with that, especially as she gets older.
  • At around eleven months Bea started dancing along with the rest of us.  She has her own little body wiggle she does when Ian puts on his dance music, which is really super cute. Just yesterday Ian’s favorite song, “I Like to Move It, Move It” came on Pandora and she was the first one to recognize it.  She got a big smile on her face and started boppin’ along to the beat.
  • She loves her daddy.  The minute he walks in the door from work she starts whining, wanting him to hold her.  When he does, she lays her head on his shoulder.  I can practically see his heart melting out of his chest.
  • She also enjoys her siblings, but Ian in particular.  He’s worked harder to interact with her and win her affections, so he deserves every smile she gives him.
  • The thing I look forward to most at the end of each day is sneaking into Bea’s room at around 10pm and giving her one last feeding.  We sit in the rocking chair and her little body keeps me warm.  We rock back and forth in the quiet.  I hope I never forget how full my heart feels in these moments.

Now, here’s the fun part, a pictorial of Beatrice’s first year.

First day

2nd month

3rd Month

4th month

Bea’s baptism and Mother’s Day

That face!

6-7 months

At the beach

Unhappy, but matching

With Mom, 9 months

I have the privilege of getting to know this little girl more with each passing day. She really is as sweet and soft as she’s portrayed here.

Having her wasn’t part of “the plan” for the last year and a half of our life, but you know what?  My plans are pretty small and stupid.

God knew.  He knew her place in our family, He knows her place in this world, and her role in His Kingdom.

Happy First Birthday, my sweet love, Beatrice.  I can’t imagine our life without you, Bebo!

My life with anxiety, right now

I started to write this post about a week ago. I write quite a few posts that I never publish, and I figured this would be one of them since it is uncomfortably personal.

But lately I’ve felt compelled to share the uncomfortable.  My friend Jessica has started writing frankly about her struggles with a chronic illness called POTS, and although I knew she was sick in a theoretical sense, now I know so much more what it’s like to be her in her sickness. And because I care about her, that really matters to me. Her writing is a gift to me, though I know it’s hard for her to share.

Second, several months ago an old acquaintance connected me with a woman here in Seattle named Kimberlee Conway Ireton, who wrote a book called Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.  Naturally, this topic is up my alley. Kimberlee and I have not had a chance yet to meet in person, but her book showed up in the mail a couple of weeks ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Just as Jessica is honest, Kimberlee writes about how hard her life was after she had twins, and how crippling her anxiety became for her.  She writes about how hard it was to hang onto God and how hanging onto God just didn’t seem to be working.  She writes in detail what her anxiety felt like from both emotional and physical standpoints, her rational and irrational fears, the thoughts that gnawed at her.  If I were her I would have edited out the most uncomfortable parts (and maybe she did), but I gotta hand it to the lady–she gets really real.

If Jessica is laying in bed feeling awful and sharing the details of the cross she’s bearing and Kimberlee decided to write an entire book about the hell she went through, then maybe it’s safe for me to put my pinky toe in the water.

Nah.  Who am I kidding, I might as well just cannon ball-it.

I am struggling with anxiety right now. That right now is really important to state because I usually talk about these things after the fact.  If you were my friend and you probed a bit, I would probably throw you a bone and say something like “You know, I’m okay.  I’m having a rough go of it at the moment.” But I wouldn’t go much further than that.  If I were to, I might start crying and that will make both of us uncomfortable.  And oh my, what would I do if we were ALL uncomfortable? That would make me even more anxious!

On the other hand, when I’m in the middle of an intense bout of anxiety, I talk about it in great detail to Jason.  And some of it goes to my mom, too. This is partly because I am self-obsessed and partly because when it consumes me I am constantly accessing how I’m doing, what I can handle, if I’ll be able to handle it, how my body is feeling, what the next moments or days might look like, etc.  I feel the need to speak it. I suppose I want some coddling, some reassurance from others that I’m okay.  But after a while even I get sick of myself.  Jason definitely gets sick of it.

Thankfully, you are all a fresh audience . . .

My first distinct memory of anxiety was at the age of six.  I remember being very worried I wouldn’t be able to learn how to read and I’d fall behind in school.  I was the hardest working first-grader in my class.  This is first grade, people. I should’ve been playing double-dutch or picking flowers or something.

In the third grade I remember being so afraid I wouldn’t learn the multiplication tables (because I had convinced myself I was terrible at math) that I would have my mom lay with me in bed at night and go over and over each table so I could have them completely memorized. To my credit, when we played those math speed games in class, I was fast.

Then there was the phase where I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep at night, which I thought would make me so tired in the morning that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the school day. I think that was fourth or fifth grade.  Ironically, in all my years of schooling (even into college) I have NEVER fallen asleep in class, no matter how tired I was.

I remember the weird phase in grade school where I had to take two showers a day and I counted everything in even numbers.  I remember how superstitious I was because it kept the anxiety at bay.

I remember the stomach-aches I would get as a child that never amounted to any kind of diagnosis.  I remember telling my mom that I was worrying, but I wasn’t sure about what. I felt like something bad could happen, or was about to happen, and somehow worrying about it would prepare me for it.

I remember waking up one Saturday morning my senior year of high school, so paralyzed by anxiety that I didn’t show up for one of my last cross-country races. I had trained all summer and fall to complete a season. I also didn’t run in regionals that year for similar reasons.

I remember sitting at my desk at my first real job after college, staring at my computer screen, completely overwhelmed and afraid.

And then, after Imogen was born there was all that stuff.  It entailed paranoia, some OCD tendencies, lots of insomnia, anger, panic, depression.  Ummm yeah, not gonna go into much more detail about that.

And now, Beatrice is going to turn one next week.  We have made it to the other side, so to speak.  I slept and I took care of her, and lots of people took care of me, and we made it.  More than that, many days I was more than okay.  My anxiety didn’t come even close to overcoming me.

Until now.

Now I feel like I’m crawling back into that abyss, that hole that I was in over two years ago that I never, EVER wanted to venture back into. I vowed to myself I wouldn’t, as if I have some sort of supernatural control over that sort of thing.

No, I’m not at the bottom.  I just feel like every few days I step down another rung on the ladder.  Or I slip down, that would be more accurate. And that is just NOT okay with me.

It started like this: a little storm was off shore, enough out at sea for there to be a little concern. But that storm built and it turned wild and then it was a hurricane, which eventually reached shore.  It crashed into me.  And then, to further ensue chaos, the hurricane decided to step back out off shore to give me a reprieve only to come slamming back in.  It continues to do this with little order.

How am I responding? To milk the metaphor, I’m spinning around trying to figure out if it’s safe to open my shutters, or if I should be boarding them up and hunkering down.  Or maybe I should be out there picking up the debris from the last blast?  Should I run to the store for supplies? Is it safe? Can anyone tell me? Will it ever be safe?

Okay, I’ll just say it plainly.  Some days I wake up with a jolt, my heart racing.  I am not sure if I could ever get out of bed.  I’m scared to.  I can’t handle what’s outside my door, my life, my duties, my children. I can hear it all out there. But I’m really not sure I can do it.  I lay there, frozen.

Some nights I start feeling anxious about the idea of going to sleep an hour or two before bedtime.  I feel consoled by the thought that I’ll take my medications and when they kick in I’ll feel relaxed enough to go to sleep.  Last night that reasoning didn’t work, I don’t know why, and it scared me.

Even with an increase in my medications, I get a few good hours of sleep and the rest of the night I feel like am sleeping with one eye open.  I wake up feeling unrested. In the morning I count on my fingers the hours I may have slept, hoping the total makes me feel better. But really, I don’t even know what happened each night.  It’s one big anxiety-inducing blur.

On three separate occasions, in the evenings before bed, I became overwhelmed to the point of panic.  This makes me sad to think about because 1) this hasn’t happened for over two years and 2) now that it’s happened here in this house, I will live with memories of it happening here.  That was at the other house, I tell myself.  That’s done, I tell myself.  But no, it’s not.  It’s in my bathroom, on the floor. Sometimes I have been alone, but the last time Jason was there with me.  That made it so much better.

A few days ago I was texting with a friend and it came out that I was, as I say, having “a rough go of it.” She knows me well enough to get the gist of what this means.  She offered to bring us a meal and I accepted.

Last night she came over to drop off the meal. It had been an awful, awful day.  And because of that, I really needed the particular brand of grace of a hot meal  delivered to my door. I thanked God for the timing.  But I didn’t really want my friend to see how much I needed it, because that’s hard and my life is already hard right now.

Well, she came and was her gracious, kind self.  Jason, her and I chatted a bit.  I think I seemed relatively normal, though I probably looked like a hot mess.

When we got to the end of our small talk, there was a pause. And I said, “Thank you for bringing this, it couldn’t have come at a better time.” And I started crying.  And I hugged her because I didn’t know what else to do.

She was sweet and she told us that her and husband loved us and that it would be okay. I looked at Jason and I think he was tearing up, but I don’t know for sure. I like to think that he was.

After she left I asked Jason, “Was that awkward? You know, me being real about how things are right now?”

“Yes,” he said.  “But it couldn’t have been any more perfect.”

I love that man.  He’s got this God-given intuition, this knowing about people and relationships, and love, and what it could all look like, what it should look like–if we all weren’t so fucked up.

But, I digress.

I know that other people live with anxiety.  It seems to be everywhere.  Our culture feeds on it and we are scared and nervous, even if scared and nervous aren’t our natural default.

But for those of you who struggle with anxiety, or depression, or OCD or bipolar, or whatever particular brand of crazy you or others have slapped on your medical file, this is for you.  It is an abridged version of my mental tape deck. It’s one step farther than my “thank you for this meal” incident.

These are the questions that go round and round in my head when anxiety grips me.  They are the questions that quiet down when I feel like myself again, like I’ve got my feet solidly back on the ground.  But then they come back, when the next round hits me.

  1. Why do I feel anxious? What am I doing wrong? How do I make it stop?
  2. What if it gets worse? What will tomorrow look like? Will I be able to handle it? I HAVE to be able to handle it because these little people are here and they want things from me and they need things from me.
  3. Maybe my medications aren’t working.  What if my doctor is wrong about my diagnosis and treatment? Can I trust him? Does he really understand me or my symptoms? Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough the last time I saw him . . .
  4. What if these drugs are what’s making me sick? Maybe I would be fine if I just wasn’t taking them. Or maybe I should be taking different ones. How would I even know?
  5. What if I would’ve been diagnosed sooner after Imogen was born? How would that have changed things? How much simpler could this all have been?
  6. Why didn’t God reveal it to us before it got so bad?
  7. Why was I so afraid to ask for help back then? Why did I think I had to do postpartum life on my own?
  8. Will I ever sleep unassisted again?  I am so afraid I won’t. And what if, even on medications, I’m not able to sleep?
  9. Preface: I had an eating disorder. What if these pills cause me to gain weight (a common side effect of some SSRIs)?  Do I have to be fat to be happy?  And honestly, in my vain little world, is it possible to be both at the same time? Is God displeased with me for thinking these things?
  10. What would I be like if I wasn’t on medication?  Would I be like I was before all this happened? What was I really even like before all this happened? What even is “all this?”
  11. Is this God disciplining me?   Or is this just part of my broken world?  Or is it both?  How does it all intersect?
  12. Why am I so resistant to go to God when I feel anxious? Why do I feel like there’s nothing He can or will do? Why do I feel like I have more power than He does in these situations, even if my power feels so miniscule?
  13. Will I ever be “normal” again, for any considerable length of time?  Or will my anxiety taunt me by coming back just when I think it’s gone for good?
  14. When can I be regularly counted on to help others in their time of need?
  15. Will I ever feel strong enough to ride my bike and run again? I felt alive when I did those things and I miss them.
  16. What is my mental illness doing to my marriage?  What am I doing to my marriage? What if one day Jason just can’t take it any more?
  17. What memories will my children have of me? What is this doing to them?
  18. What if the anxiety I’m feeling now so colors my world that I can’t remember what my kids are like in this season?  
  19. What if this kills me?  What if the wear and tear of anxiety causes my body to give into something much bigger, like cancer or heart disease?
  20. Or, what if taking all these medications is what eventually kills me?
  21. What lesson am I not learning that God feels the need to keep bringing anxiety into my life so that I’ll learn it? 

I have my own thoughts as to what the answers are to some of these questions. I entertain them a lot when my anxiety consumes me, but it’s just more crazy-making.  And, I may never know. God may sit me down in eternity and get real with me about all this, or some of it, or He may choose not to.

But bringing my questions out into the light has a purpose now. Maybe someone, somewhere, understands a little bit more about what anxiety is like.  Someone who knows someone who struggles with it. It is hard to understand when you don’t have it.

And even more than that, maybe someone, somewhere says, “Yes, I know.” Anxiety is a sickness of loneliness, I think, and if someone feels a little less alone, then I’ve provided some tiny, tiny break in the storm.

I am a Christian. I believe a lot of things about God, the things that He has revealed to me through His Word and through my own experience of Him. And I have to honestly admit, I’ve experienced a lot of Him in the short ten plus years I’ve been a believer.

But as you can see from some of my unanswered questions, this is a faith struggle.  My anxiety is at odds with my head-faith and even more, deep down, it is at odds with my heart-faith.  And the heart, well, that’s where the crux of everything is.

When my head is sick, when my brain is sick, my heart has a hard time crying out to God, or even wanting to. I want to want to.  At least I think I do . . .?

But, there are a couple good things.

A few days ago, as I lay in bed, not wanting to get out, I read this:

“Christ is the Great Burden-Bearer. You cannot bear His load and He only expects you to carry a little day-share” (God Calling, Jan 4)

I prayed an honest prayer in that moment: Lord, I really don’t want to even carry my little share today.  I don’t even know if I can carry it.

And yet the day went on and it had it’s hard parts, but I am okay.

Second, is the image of this: me, as a little girl, standing with my short, pudgy arms wrapped around my Jesus’ legs, my face buried in his robes.  I’m not sure if I’m hiding my face for shame or comfort or both.  But the image feels good.  It feels real. And I can use all the reality I can get.

This is my anxiety story, right now.

And heck, at least I’m writing again.

Ian at age six, and a letter to him

The other day I was having a conversation with Ian, one that we have several times a day.  He had emerged from a timeout for some misbehavior that I can’t remember and I guess you could say I was giving him a lecture.

At the end I made a point to say, “Ian, I know you can obey.  I know God can give you the power to do it.  I just know it!”

Half the time in these sort of situations he’s barely making eye contact with me and I wonder if all the effort I am putting into parenting him is only going to amount to me getting wrinkles and having a nervous breakdown.

But this time Ian did something unusual.  His face formed into a grimace, what I affectionately like to call the stink eye.  He raised his fist up close to his face and started shaking it.

I assumed this was just pushback and I retorted, “Ian, why are you angry again?”

He said, “NO, MOM!!! This is me telling myself that I CAN DO IT! I CAN OBEY!”

Oh, Ian. There is no one else in the whole world like you.

I’ve thought about you in your sixth year and what I would like to say to you and to say to the world about you.  And so here I go, I’ll say it as best I can.

First, all the emotion inside you, including that display of such passionate determination I just mentioned, is going to amount to something pretty incredible someday. Your dad and I’s goal is to help you channel it.

Being an emotional person means, for you, being angry a lot. And when you’re angry, everyone knows it. You give us that stink eye, and a growl, and stomp off.  Sometimes you try to punish us by saying you are going to stay in your timeout FOREVER so that we’ll miss you terribly.  Sometimes you try to argue and sometimes all you can do is just yell (believe me, I get that).

Sometimes that anger is just plain anger because you’re a sinner like the rest of us.  But sometimes what’s underneath is sadness and a deep sense of injustice. On rare occasions, if I prod and dig a little, you will show me your tears, which I consider a precious gift.  Sometimes after a showdown, if I’m calm enough myself, I’ll crawl up into your bed and try to help you unfurl all the emotions that are going on inside you.  I’m not sure if that’s working, I suppose time will tell.

Though you give push back and hesitate to commit yourself to a lot of things, when you do, there is a great sense of loyalty and devotion you give out. I saw this when Beatrice was born.  Admittedly, you were quite disappointed she was a girl.  You hid in the hallway and wouldn’t come in to meet her.

But then, on your own, when no one was paying attention, you ran down to your room and brought up a doll bed to lay her in and blankets to wrap her up in.  You’ve been her favorite ever since.  I would think her armpits would hurt from being carried around by you, with your arms wrapped around her chest and her feet dangling.  She doesn’t seem to mind, and you haven’t dropped her yet.

As for your other sister, there have been times I’ve wondered if you have much empathy for Imogen.  She is a dependable and constant playmate, but also one of your biggest annoyances. Empathy is one of those things your dad and I really want for you guys.  It’s the kind of thing that only God can grow in a person, which of course makes me feel totally helpless and occasionally terrified.

But just as sometimes you give me the gift of your tears, you also give us glimpses of the deep love you have for people, and Imogen in particular.  I will never forget the time you and Immy were careening down the hill in front of our house on your bikes and she crashed into the ground.  I saw it from far off and it looked awful, her body hit the pavement and saumersalted.  Your dad started sprinting down the street toward her.

You were right there and you stopped your bike immediately. Knowing nothing else to do, you took off your sweatshirt and laid it over her body as she screamed.  I saw you do it; it was completely instinctual.  I wonder how you must have felt in that moment.  You are a kid now and what you can do is limited, but when you grow up and become a man, you will have the opportunity to help many hurting people with your love. It may feel like helplessness to you even then, but it won’t be.  I hold onto that memory of Imogen, a small little thing far off, covered in your favorite green sweatshirt.  It helps me on the hard days because, Ian Haggard, parenting you can be hard sometimes.

Part of the reason why it’s hard is because you and I are cut from the same cloth.  Your dad reminds me of this pretty much every day.  He usually does it when you are angry or disobedient, which frustrates me.  But he would also admit you get some pretty special character traits from me, too.  I hesitate to even make the comparison between us because I don’t want you to feel that you are living in anyone’s shadow.  And I can, at times, have a big, monstrous shadow.

Do know that because we are so alike, I will remain one of your greatest cheerleaders.  When I see you a ball of anger, feeling as if the whole world is against you, inside I’m saying to you “I KNOW! I GET IT, IAN!” When you refuse a bite of dessert because you can’t have the whole thing, I understand.  When you self-sabotage the best of situations, I know how much you’re missing because I’ve missed out, too–too many times to count.

And so there is this empathy I have for you in the sins you struggle with, coupled with the deep devotion I have to parenting you to the best of my ability (because just like you, when I’m in, I’m ALL IN, baby!).  Admittedly, I don’t want you to turn out like the worst parts of me.  I fuddle through parenting you and ask God to help me; saying no when it’s needed, creating boundaries, doling out consequences and explaining to you how life works. I want you to enjoy all the blessings that come with obedience to the Lord.  I want all that still needs to be shaped for God’s glory, to be malleable. Also, I don’t want you to be that kid throwing a tantrum on the football field or in the work place or with your wife.

One of the things I really admire about you is your desire for quality time with those you love. You are completely engaged when with the special people you consider in your inner circle and you are constantly inviting us into your world. I have to remember that invitation is a gift and not an annoyance. I admit there are many times I say no to you because of my own agenda.  But there will come a day when you will stop inviting me because you’ll be growing up (as you should).  And I won’t be able to enter into your little world of Lego spaceships equipped with missiles and guns, robotic dancing to loud, fast-moving music, silly chasing with your sister, and quiet times sitting on the couch, shooting the breeze as only 6-year-old boy can do.

I hope that in the coming years I give you so many more emphatic “yes”s when you request quality time with me.  Despite this being a weakness of mine, God has still inserted some wonderful memories into our life together as mother and son.  There are two in particular that I will always remember.

The first was back in March.  I was finally to the point of emerging from weeks of postpartum recovery after Beatrice was born.  Miss Sarah was watching the girls one afternoon and I had a burst of energy, so you and I set out for a walk.

When I spend time with you doing whatever it is that you want to do, I learn all kinds of things about you – what you’re thinking about, the memories you have stored up in your brain, your musings about your surroundings.  This day wasn’t any different, but it was especially delightful because it had been so long since I had zeroed in on you and you alone.

We ended up in the woods behind the HEE where we found the beginnings of what we made into a really awesome fort.  It was a completely spontaneous effort and I had so much fun. We dragged and carried lots of tree limbs that had been knocked down from a recent windstorm to our special spot. This is what we created:

I’ve built a lot of forts in my day; this was definitely the best! And look at the delight on your face, a reflection of a full heart.

Another memory I hold close is the time we went on a family outing to Richmond Beach.  It was the end of summer and the days were getting cooler.  You had been asking and insisting that we go to this particular spot for a few weeks and each time I had vaguely committed and then bailed out.  But you really wanted this.  So we all eventually went, including Grandma T.

We had a lovely time, sitting on the beach eating snacks in the early evening, playing in the water and building a sand castle.  As we walked back to the car you pronounced loudly and with a deep sense of gratitude, “That was the best trip to the beach EVER! Thank you for taking me!”  Grandma laughed with amusement and surprise. I stopped and recognized that moment for what it was, so I could keep it with me and not forget it.  You kept expressing your thanks all the way home.   You really do feel most happy and alive when spending special time with those you love and who love you.

Here you are, with the sand castle you built with Dad. You look like a younger version of yourself in this photo, like a little boy, and I love it!

You are now officially six years old, after having a really nice birthday and an awesome Lego birthday party.  Over the course of the last year, you covered a lot of ground. You acquired another sister.  You said goodbye to Miss Sarah and hello to Miss Laurel.  You started kindergarten, both at home and in your classes at the HEE. You saw your first movie in a movie theater. You caught your first fish.  You got glasses and you lost your first tooth.  You’re starting to read and we’ve discovered you’re pretty darn good with numbers (which your dad takes credit for, of course).

You’re a pretty amazing, Ian Haggard.  With that emotion and intelligence, and with God, of course, you’re going to do some great things in this world.  Have fun keep going, even when it’s hard. I will be cheering you on. I’ll probably be crying on the sidelines and yelling, of course, because I’m just as emotional as you are.

Love, Mom

DIY open shelving

There won’t be many words here, I just want to show off a project Jason finished for me a few days ago.

It all began back in June when we were the recipients of some free wood, which was originally used for fencing.  I saw something on Pinterest a few months ago I thought we could use it for.

For dramatic effect, I’ll post the pictures in chronological order so you see the finished piece at the end.

Here’s the blank wall.  We don’t have a lot of upper cabinets so this spot was a prime space to add more storage but I wanted open shelving to keep it feeling less cluttered.

Here’s the wall in relation to the rest of the kitchen.  Please avoid looking at the total mess. But of course now you are looking at it because I just pointed it out.

Jason at work.  I served as aesthetic director, cheerleader, and also did photographic documentation.

Voila!

I really love the look of the wood.  All Jason did was sand it, no stain was applied.  It’s definitely got a rustic feel, but that’s what we were going for.

Total I think the shelves cost about $7 –Jason bought a little bit of hardware, but the majority of the cost was buying drywall anchors (Jason says the technical term is “strap toggles”), since the shelves are not attached to any studs in the wall.

Jason says the project was easier than he thought it was going to be.  We really just looked to the photos posted on Keeping It Cozy for direction and adjusted our measurements to fit our space and my preference.

There’s still lots more wood left and Jason just picked some more up off the side of the road today.  We’ll see what we come up with next!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2014

I know it’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything and summer is starting to slow down and come to an end.  We’ve managed to stay pretty entertained;  here’s a bit (or maybe a lot more) on our happenings.

In June we said goodbye to the Tarters, as they packed up their car and drove back to Michigan.  We miss their fellowship and I know the kids miss Josiah.  We were really blessed to have them in our home for the nine months they were here.

With the changing of tenants, we (Jason) worked on some projects in the MIL unit that we’ve been meaning to get completed.  My favorite update is the new exterior door that is now installed and painted.  I never knew door installation was so much work, but Jason did a great job.  Here is the finished product.

Our new helper, Laurel, moved in mid-June.  She describes herself as a “nester” so it was fun to be able to get the space in a bit better shape and to see her move in and make the place her own.  She is doing a great job with the kids and helping me around the house, and for those things I am very thankful.  And we will welcome her fiance, Jason, into our house come November when they tie the knot.

Next up, we celebrated the 4th of July here at home with the Richards.  I suppose celebrating  holidays with their clan has become a ritual now that we’ve got at least two Christmases under our belt.  Mom was with us, too, and we had a lovely time.  Here’s some great photos I got of our little fireworks show.

I love these people!

In mid-July Jason, Beatrice, and I took our long-anticipated trip to Daytona Beach, Florida, for Jason’s 20-year high school reunion.  I was apprehensive about this trip mainly due to how hot I hear it is in Florida in the summer.  I was also a bit nervous about how I would handle sleep with the three-hour time difference.

The trip turned out to be very lovely and exceeded all my expectations. God answered my prayer for nice weather (hot, but not humid), we had a great hotel right on the beach, and we all slept well and did fine with the time change.  We even had a nonstop, first class flight on the way there (and on airline miles, too)!

Right off the bat (actually, on the flight), Jason was reading and thinking and had some significant revelations. This seems to be a theme for us– apparently there’s nothing like getting away from the daily grind to start thinking big picture.

First, he decided to resign from his current job and start studying full-time to take the CPA exams.  When he told me he wanted to do this my first response was “Absolutely, of course.”  I really think it’s the right time.  We’re both excited about the possibilities that lay ahead for his career.

Second, Jason told me he wants to climb Mt. Rainier.  I was a bit surprised by that one.  He said it was mainly because he happened to look out the window of the airplane and see it sitting there so majestically and thought “I’ve always wanted to do that!”  I think that will probably be for next year . . . Also, we talked about the potential of him going back to school to get a combined masters in business/engineering, but that’s down the road a ways.

Since all that big life stuff happened on the first day of our trip, the rest of the time we felt a bit relieved and really able to relax. And the whole point of the trip–the reunion–went great. Jason organized it from afar, but it came together very easily and there was a great turnout.  He loved gabbing with everybody (of course) and was able to slip in a round of golf with an old buddy and high school teacher.

Spruce Creek High School IB Class of ’94

And, of course we had beach time.  It was truly glorious.

We came back rested and returned to Mother T and the kiddos in generally good spirits!

In other things . . .

With Jason’s freed up schedule we decided to go to Mom’s house for a week.  I didn’t take any photos, but we got lots of sun time — playing in the backyard, going to Joy’s pool, hanging at the beach and splash pad.  It was nice to have Jason there with us for so long.

Also, about a month ago I went down to the Shoreline library and got myself a King County library card, which I’ve been meaning to do for over a year.  Vacation put a jump start on my reading plans and I’m very pleased with how much I’ve accomplished (and how much time I’m not in front of a screen).

So far I’ve read a mixture of fiction and self-help: Paris in Love, Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Who Moved My Cheese?, QBQ, and Boundaries.  I’m also working my way through John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (which has been fascinating and very helpful).  I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything on this list.

Next up is The Book Thief and Carry on Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed. Jason & I are also going to listen to the audio version of Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat (we feel so lost now that we’ve finished all six seasons of Parks and Rec).

In other healthy life changes, just this last week I went down to our local YMCA and got our family a membership. I am not a gym person, but so many people have raved about our local Y and both of our doctors have told Jason & I we need to incorporate more exercise into our lives (something about stress management . . . ).

Jason’s hoping to do more swimming and I’d like to start taking yoga and go (slowly) from there.  And of course the kids are super excited about the pool and the fun kids area.  The nice lady who helped me enroll gave us a tour of the facility and I just kept thinking “I feel so blessed, this is amazing.”  One more reason why moving up here to Shoreline in this season has been a gift from God to us.

Next up we start homeschooling.  I’ve been a bit in denial about that, but there’s nothing like shopping aisles of school supplies to get me motivated (for anything, really).  BSF will start back up again in a few weeks, too, and both Ian and Imogen are going to try Awana this year at a nearby church.  We’re also excited about a new family Sunday school program starting up at our church come September.

That’s about it, folks.  I hope someone enjoyed this very long recap!

Here’s more photos from June and July.