On anger, and guilt, and change

by Lesley on April 24, 2014 · 12 comments

in motherhood

It’s an early spring morning, and I’m cuddled up in bed with an empty stomach and blurry eyes. I’m playing a guessing game about how the next hour will go.  I think the baby fell back asleep, but I’m not quite sure, so I can’t fully relax but I’m not ready to leave my warm sheets either. The baked avocado egg boats I’m dreaming about will have to wait just a bit longer.

Our new life in this familiar town continues to fly by, the days merging into one another and developing their own rituals, many like our old life in Sacramento but with the mountains and ocean as backdrop. We still make smoothies in the mornings and play on the swing in the afternoons, and Daddy comes home at 6pm to the same delighted greetings he always has. But there are also new patterns to our day we didn’t have before, the largest being that I’m working about 10 hours a week and exercising regularly.

I can’t tell you how good this change is for my soul.

To be honest, and I’ve shared this a little bit here and there, Owen’s birth really threw me for a loop. After dealing with (Jonathan’s) cancer during Anna’s first year of life, I thought I was ready for anything this time around. I also assumed because Owen is our second we’d have an easy time nursing and sleep training. But that really wasn’t the case. Unlike Anna, who took well to a schedule and slept through the night at 10 weeks old (!!!) Owen did not. For the first six months of his life he took 30 minute catnaps, and when he was awake he would fuss nonstop unless he was being held. I’m a researcher and a planner so his sleep schedule drove me crazy because, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t control him. Also, my arms hurt and I wasn’t showering as frequently as I wanted.

I’m convinced that regular showers help keep people sane, and moms of infants don’t get nearly enough showers.

Also, have you ever tried to vacuum with a 20+ pound infant strapped to your chest? It’s not exactly easy.

The only thing that kept me from going crazy was choosing to believe that when he began solid foods, something might change. So when that didn’t work, and when I began having major breastfeeding challenges on top of everything else, I started to crack.

By mid-February I was so tired and down and discouraged that I began seeing changes in my personality which really, really scared me. I remember holding my sweet baby, who was up again crying, and telling him: “I hate you.”  It’d be the first of several times I uttered that phrase over the course of three days.

(Ugh. There it is. Right there on the internet… ^^ …the terrible words I am so embarrassed I said.)

What happened after I said those words is fairly common, I think. The guilt and shame arrived with full force. Guilt that I wasn’t a good mom because good moms either have babies who sleep, or they fully embrace their waking with love and patience.

I entered this really bad cycle of anger and guilt, which lasted about a week before I called my favorite counselor, Lori, and cried on her couch a few times. She asked me if I was physically hurting my children, and I told her I wasn’t. But I was afraid that if I didn’t get some control over my anger then I might say awful things to him for years and years to come. This ain’t something to mess around with.

Something Lori shared with me, which was LIFE CHANGING, is: anger comes as result of something we love/value being threatened. She asked me, “What do you love that’s being threatened by Owen’s demands?”

Good question, right?

Of course, the answer wasn’t super simple. After a lot of thought I realized that Owen’s needs threatened my desires for high productivity (because I simply couldn’t get anything done!) as well as my desire for control (because he couldn’t be controlled in the ways I thought he should be.) Both of these values are idols in my life, and they have been for a long time, so I had some thinking and praying to do. Lori encouraged me and said I needed to think about the space between my expectations and my current reality. “How can you close that gap,” she asked?

Over the course of a few weeks in early March, I did a lot of thinking and praying and analyzing. I hired a babysitter a few times so I could get out and write, and you know what? I realized that having just five hours to myself each week made the difference between crazy and caring, lunatic and loving. I was actually shocked how much just five hours made an impact on my week.

I also decided that while a lot of babies can sleep through the night at 7 months old, my baby still needed to eat . And so Jonathan and I have been taking turns getting up with him each night while he quickly downs a huge bottle of milk and goes back to sleep. Instead of being bitter and angry about his waking, I am loving our time together again. I’m almost certain he will drop that feeding before college.

I am incredibly grateful that God grabbed my heart and mind, and helped push me to see a counselor because by the time our moving news came about, I was in a healthy place to take on such a change. He knew what was coming, and He made sure I was ready. How incredible is that?

These days the space between expectations and reality are coming closer together. It’s taken a change of mind, change of heart and a whole lot of grace. (It’s also taken a regular babysitter and a trip to the gym twice a week!)

If you’re a mama who is experiencing anger, or who is in a tough spot raising young kiddos, I have to recommend a few things. First, please talk to someone–whether that’s your husband, friends and/or a counselor. A book I read that I think every mom should read is, She’s Gonna Blow: Real Help for Moms Dealing with Anger. (The cover and title are cheesy, but the content is great.) Tim Keller also has a great sermon on anger, which I can’t seem to find online but maybe you’ll have better luck.

Please leave me a comment if you are/or have been in a tough spot when it comes to raising young kids. I’d love to know how to encourage or pray for you. We’re in this together, mamas!

Update: Those avocado boats? I made them after writing this post and they’re amazing. Add them to your weekly breakfast line-up, ok?

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Runway lights

by Lesley on April 6, 2014 · 8 comments

in santa barbara

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About six weeks ago, before the crazy began, I was talking to my wise friend Amy about our family’s future. You see, even though Jonathan and I didn’t anticipate God moving our family to Santa Barbara, we knew He was up to something. In fact we’d been praying over his career for months and months, and our hearts knew change was coming.

I asked Amy–But will we know for sure what God wants? How will we know where to go and what Jonathan should do? Do we wait for God to act first, or do we take a step of faith? She told me about a book she’d been reading by Priscilla Shirer called Discerning the Voice of God. In it the author says something about how when a plane is trying to land there isn’t just one big light at the end of the runway, there are small lights the entire way. Amy told me that often times when God works, and when he talks to us, he does so with lots of confirmations.

A few weeks after my conversation with Amy, Jonathan’s Santa Barbara job offer came in a way we’d never have anticipated or planned, and his Sacramento job came to an end in a way we’d never have anticipated or planned. It was just the beginning of our experience seeing runway lights.

There was our road trip to Santa Barbara to hear more about the position…and even though it was supposed to storm the entire weekend we literally followed right behind the clouds for most of our six hour drive.

There was the ease in which we found a home to rent. We signed the lease before ever seeing the inside just because I knew it was right for us. And it is.

Oh, and did I mention we already know our next-door neighbors? We were in their home group years ago! (And our other neighbors are opening a French bakery downtown. I think French bakeries are always a sign from God that He is present and working.)

And then there is the freelance work that fell into my lap, for just the right amount of hours, which makes living in this expensive town a lot more do-able.

I’m old enough to know that God doesn’t always speak as loudly as He has during this most recent change. There have been many, many times in my life where the runway lights have blinked faithfully but fog or snow made them less visible. This time around, I’m so grateful and happy to say we’ve landed on time, safe and sound, at the right destination: home.

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What I’m Into (March 2014)

by Lesley on March 31, 2014 · 2 comments

in what i'm into

…Here’s a little peak at what I’ve been into this past month…

Books: Despite it being a really busy month, I did have some time to read on my girls’ cruise. (Oh, wait! I never mentioned that I went on a cruise in March to Mexico. Three nights with five of my good friends minus Jenny who we missed very much. The timing was both terrible and wonderful because Jonathan and his dad had to do a lot of our house packing. Great for me, awful for them.)

Anyway- books I read: She’s Gonna Blow, Forever Erma, and Known and Loved: 52 Devotions from the Psalms (still working my way through this one.) A winner from February was A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table

I did much less blog reading this month because I took my reader app off  to help curb some of my phone use. I feel generally happy and satisfied with my new phone boundaries. Anyone else trying to cut back on phone use?

Music: A little bit of the Frozen soundtrack, because, everyone is listening to it and Dana’s road trip CD which included the NBC Olympic medley and a bunch of other great songs. (Thanks, Dana!) As of tonight I’m also officially into Sam Smith (thanks SNL!) 

Food: Let’s just say I packed on some pounds in March due to my cruise and moving. For half the month we worked our way through freezer and pantry staples, and last week we lived off pizza and a few meals from generous friends. I’m happy to have a kitchen again. I’m also very, very thrilled about Santa Barbara favorites: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, The Habit and Blenders.

TV/Movies:  I watched absolutely nothing on TV this entire month. Did I mention we moved and it took every last ounce of my energy?

Wearing: Jeans and sandals! (Helloooo Southern California uniform of choice!) Also, my box just arrived tonight from ThredUp and I love everything I ordered. The polka dot box it came in made the whole thing even more fun than I thought it’d be! 

A few other things I’m into this month which don’t fit anywhere else: family beach walks, The Little Free Library in our neighborhood, and living in a house with two bathrooms. (ANGELS ARE SINGING!)

Anticipating: My parents visiting this weekend, Sundays at our new church, starting my new job, family vacation in late April to the Outer Banks.

Any good music, book, tv, movie or recipe suggestions? You can link-up with What I’m Into by clicking here with Leigh Kramer. 

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After the craziest two weeks of all time, we’re now Santa Barbara dwellers. I am still pinching myself. Did this really happen? Did we really just pack up our entire house and move to the beach? We did. It’s CRAZYTOWN. We packed up on Sunday, had a fantastic goodbye party on Sunday night, drove all day Monday, unloaded the moving van on Monday night, and have been unpacking ever since.

Here are a few reads and links from around the web. Enjoy! 

This ugly faces video led to a massive chain of texts from my college girlfriends posing with our own ugly faces.

The whole World Vision fiasco is the latest example of Christians tearing each other apart online. I can’t handle it. Bronwyn Lea hits the nail on the head with her My dear Wormwood, About World Vision

I would DIE if I were chosen for this Amtrak residency experience. Writing? By myself? On a train? Pick me! Pick me!

How to get a woman to show up (YES and YES.)

This article is for all the women who feel guilty hiring a babysitter or housecleaner or nanny or whatever: When a stay-at-home mom needs hired help. 

Now that we’re beach people again, I need a few new clothing items. I own only one pair of shorts and one zip up hoodie. Travesty! I’m trying ThredUp for the first time this month. I spent $50 and I’ll be receiving a (gently used) J.Crew tank top, Gap and J.Crew shorts, a Target zip-up sweatshirt, and four items of clothing for Anna. I can’t wait to get my box! Try it and you’ll get $10 off (and I’ll get a $10 kick-back. Thanks!)

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Dear Sacramento

by Lesley on March 24, 2014 · 10 comments

in sacramento

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Dear Sacramento,

I feel really terrible admitting that you weren’t love at first sight.  On a late August day in 2006, my little Civic loaded with belongings, I drove past your huge water tower off Highway 5.  I was hot, tired and annoyed at our long day of travel so your “Sacramento: City of Trees” water tower didn’t exactly feel inviting. I groaned out loud.

City of trees? That’s all they have to boast of? Trees?

I didn’t exactly choose you, Sacramento. My new husband had applied to law schools all over the country and got into two: UC Davis and McGeorge. It seemed obvious we were supposed to be in Sacramento, so I put on a happy face and helped pack our big Penske truck. I could make Sacramento work until he graduated, but then we’d be on to bigger and better things.  Little did I know you had plans to romance me.

During my first fall here, your chill surprised me so much that I didn’t particularly enjoy your changing colors. I was also unemployed, which didn’t help my attitude. The only thing I had on my calendar for weeks was a 6:30am running date at McKinley Park with Sharon. She’d moved to Sacramento a year before and was still deciding whether she liked you or not. We spent a lot of miles getting to know one another better and discussing our jobs, or lack thereof. The first thing you gave me was a real, true friend.

That fall, as my love for running developed, I also rediscovered writing. I took an extension class at UC Davis and realized that even though I hadn’t a clue of what to do from 8am to 5pm each day, I knew I could put words on paper.

There are a lot of other things I discovered as the months and years flew by in this town. I discovered that like me, you were floundering a bit. We both wanted so badly to grow up but we weren’t quite sure how to make it happen. I hopped between a few jobs, eventually landing at 3fold Communications where I fell in love with you in a new way. There were big, amazing, fun things happening within your streets and buildings from nonprofits like River City Food Bank to places like the B Street Theatre. What a joy to watch you become more than San Francisco’s step-sister or Tahoe’s layover. While I was becoming a grown-up too, you were too.

In the summer I’ll think about all the days we floated the American River listening to country music, and the hot nights at the drive-in. I will miss Gunther’s ice cream dripping down my hands and the paella at Aioli Bodega Espanol. And every July 17 I will think about that amazing glass of wine from Ella which I’m convinced sent me into labor with Anna.

In the fall I will remember the bright yellow leaves on that perfect McKinley Park tree. You know…the one right at H and 33rd streets?  I understand now why you’re the city of trees, and I love you for boasting of the beauty few Californians get to witness each November.

In the winter I won’t particularly miss the mornings I had to scrape ice off my car windshield, but I will be oddly sad to not bundle up for my 6am runs. I can guarantee I will think of your scones and Devonshire cream from Fox & Goose when the weather gets cold, and I’ll crave a sipping cupping of hot chocolate from Ginger Elizabeth.

In the spring months I’ll miss the way all our neighbors start emerging to tackle their yards again, and the way midtown livens up with more bikers and joggers. Each May, just before the weather turns hot, I will think about the day Jonathan finished chemo, and I’ll be thankful all over for the hardworking nurses at Kaiser on Morse.

Sacramento, I’ve run your trails, and biked your city streets, and walked my stroller around your quaint neighborhoods. I have swam in your rivers and meandered through your rose gardens and ooohed and ahhed every time I see the Capital building lit up at night.

But while there are so many restaurants and places I will miss in our new home, the thing I will miss the most are the people…from our neighbors on 13th Avenue to our Westmont friends…to my bible study girls to Jonathan’s basketball guys…to the 3fold gang and the wonderful people at Restoration Life and First Covenant Churches…and all my Twitter friends and my Redbud writers. Sacramento, you grow good people and my life is better and richer because of them.

Today I’ll drive past your big water tower again, Jonathan following me in a huge moving van. This time, however, there will be two babies in the back seat of my car who will forever know Sacramento as their birthplace.

It’s spring, and your beautiful trees are bursting forth with new life just as ours are starting again in a new home.

We will miss you.

Lesley

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