I remember having an ultrasound on my gall bladder, and asking the tech to look and see if she could tell the gender of my baby. She was 90% sure it was a boy. Even though I’d always thought I would only have girls, I had felt since the start you were a boy. I was thrilled and scared.
I remember your birth: the crazy pain of my only unmedicated labor and delivery. I tried to give up and go home, but you came anyway, fiercely and fast, tearing up my body and my heart. Your little head was so round and covered with dark hair. I was thrilled and scared.
I remember all the sleepless nights, how I nursed you for so long, how I put you in Mother’s Day Out at barely a year because I was so tired, depressed, and shaken. I hope you don’t remember me from then; our life was a little in shambles and I didn’t know where to go.
I remember your putting together a 60-piece puzzle at two-and-a-half and knowing life with you was going to be wild. You told me at age 4 you couldn’t read, you could just sound out words. I love that you help your friends, read to them on the bus, and have no idea how brilliant you are. I am always, always thrilled and also scared that I am doing the wrong things or holding you back.
I remember knowing how ready you were for kindergarten but how unready I felt to let you go.
And this morning, I crawled into your bed and held you before you got up. I kissed and smelled your head. It’s your last day of kindergarten and I am crying because growing pains are hard for Mama.
I asked you if you were ready for first grade, and in your typical, no-nonsense way, you just answered, “Yes.”
It appears I took an unintentional blogging break here. We hosted Thanksgiving this year – my parents came into town, and my sister and her husband spent a lot of time here, too. (They live in Chattanooga.) It was so nice not to have to travel for a holiday! We still had lots of late nights and crazy family time, but being at home helps the kids readjust easier.
I’ve also been battling a sickness that keeps coming back, which may account for my lack of writing and the vast amount of Jane the Virgin episodes I’ve watched in the last two weeks. Thankfully I felt mostly better over Thanksgiving, but then it seemed to come back with a vengeance. Argh. I am not sick very much, and it’s frustrating not to feel well when there is so much to be done.
But, see, I think the real reason I haven’t written is because I want to write about Christmas. And this year Christmas seems to have me a little panicky.
It’s not that I’m worried about making it magical, or buying the right gifts, or the fact that my kids will probably ask me why we don’t have Santa gifts or an Elf on the Shelf (again).
It’s just that it seems like IT WAS JUST CHRISTMAS.
Seriously. Where did the year go? How can it be Christmas again when I so vividly remember last year’s celebration? Wasn’t it just summer?
And then I get into the MY KIDS ARE GROWING SO FAST AND SOON JOSHUA WILL BE THREE AND THEN HE WILL BE 18 WAHHHHHHH!!!!
I wasn’t even sure I would want to do the Christmas things this year at all, because it seems like I just took down the tree. I have, of course. I’ve put them up, the big tree and the stockings and nativity and wreath and all the things that will fit in our little apartment. And I’m listening to Christmas music, even though it’s been in the 60s outside and it feels wrong.
I still don’t feel it.
But what I do feel is Christ. I actually made an Advent wreath for us this year, and on Sunday we lit the first candle of Hope and sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I shared in my Sunday School class about the traditional Hope passages of Scriptures, those being taught in liturgical churches around the world on the first Sunday of Advent. We talked about acknowledging pain, and how that is a part of hope. We wait, and waiting is not easy, but in it we hope.
I don’t have any great proclamation about how my heart has changed. I am still feeling panicky about the kids getting older and the years going quickly. I am still not feeling especially Christmasy. But I am also convinced that Christ is with me in this “wait” – these years that may seem both long and fleeting. And, like Brené Brown says, what gets me through is leaning in to the good, sweet moments. Breathing and not rushing and holding them when they want to hug and cuddle.
I look at our tree and remember the Light of the World, and how much He deserves to be honored, every Christmas, every moment.
(Coming from a family that knows child death, OF COURSE I want him to grow up. But you know what I mean.)
It’s probably just that he’s most likely our last child. But at 2 years and 3 months, I think he is quite likely the cutest thing that has ever happened to Planet Earth.
Don’t get me wrong: he is trouble and a half. I spend half my time trying to keep him from hurting himself. But it’s well worth it.
Because every morning when I get him from the crib, he makes some proud declaration like, “Nemo sleep my bed!” His curls go every which way and he smiles his trademark giant, goofy, toothy smile. Joshy has been giggles and grins since he was born and is almost always happy. (Except when he’s not. Like when I won’t give him “another one cup milk.”)
I know how much kids change between 2 and 3. I’ve been through it twice before. I know that soon he’ll start using more real grammar, he’ll stop running his silly gallop around the apartment, he won’t be so eager to give me “hug and a kah-iss.” I might have to cut the curly mop. He won’t fall asleep cuddled to my chest nearly as often.
Oh, there are so many sweet things about them growing up. I love the stage Libbie is in, where she still likes me but is old enough to do fun stuff with. But I’m scared. I’m scared of moving on past the baby-and-toddler stage we’ve been in for nearly seven years now.
Who will give me slobbery kisses? Whose sweet baby language will make me shake with laughter?
I just got a giant box of back issues of ParentLife in the mail. Something had been messed up with their contributor copy system, so it’d be more than a year since I got any physical copies. I flipped through each issue, glancing at my own articles, remembering how and when I wrote them.
The first time I was published in ParentLife it was almost a scandal. I still worked at LifeWay, although I was on the brink of leaving. My friend Jodi asked me if I would write something for them – I think it was about being a working mom. And I wrote it. And then my manager came in and told me they wouldn’t allow internal freelancing. He made me feel like I was about 5 years old. This was my dream, period. It was finally coming to fruition. And I felt it go splat on the carpet. I’m pretty sure I cried heaving sobs once he left.
After he found out that I’d actually already written the article, before he even knew or spoke to me, he let them publish it. I would have done it without the payment, though. For me, it was all about the byline. The actual being-in-print. Seeing my words sitting there in a magazine and knowing people might actually read them.
When I first started working from home and freelancing for the magazines, I scanned each article that I wrote, so I would be sure to have a digital copy in case I lost the magazine. For my “portfolio.” I laugh a little bit now at this 2009 Jessie.
I’ll admit that now I glance at the articles. I make sure they haven’t edited me so much that I no longer sound like myself. (This has never happened, but you never know.) I am glad for the paychecks but it’s longer glamorous to have my name in type. It just is. I love to write, and I am so thankful that someone pays me to do so. But it’s not the same level of excitement it once was.
Parenting feels the same way, for me. When we had just one child, everything was a big stinking deal. Decorating. Doing the right thing when she was sick or eating or sleeping. Every moment was new, and it was exciting. I remember asking my mom, when Libbie started grasping at toys, if it was as fun when your subsequent children did the same thing. Would I still be enthralled? She looked doubtful.
In some ways, I am. I am still tipsy with love when each child learns to totter around, talk, give kisses. It’s not less special just because I have experienced it three times. But in some ways, it is less of a high. Those long days they talk about can turn everything into monotony. Yes, Joshua narrated everything I brought home from the grocery store. David did a 48-piece puzzle … again. Libbie read me a chapter book. Can I go to bed now?
Joshua will be two in a little more than a month. (Let’s not talk about that, OK? It makes me cry.) For Libbie’s second birthday, we had a big old Dr. Seuss-themed party in our rental home’s backyard. For David’s second, we had some friends, mostly adults, come over and ate appetizers and failed to take a single picture. And for Joshua’s second birthday? Ummm … maybe some cake at home? He’s only going to be TWO, right? It’s not like he’ll remember!
I’d like to remember to get down and experience some of that wonder every day. This involves closing the laptop and ignoring the dishes. (Because I don’t totally ignore the dishes anyway …) It means I actually get down on a child’s level and listen to him or her talk. I wonder at the magnificence of their tiny voices, of David’s precise coloring skills, of Joshua’s curly blonde head, of Libbie’s sensitive heart as she talks about interactions with her classmates. I don’t try to multitask. I just am, there, with them.
“Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.” – Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
And now, my friends, I can finally share it with you. Thirty heartfelt devotions from me to you, with questions for reflection and journaling at the end of each day. Some comes from the blog archives, but much of it is new material written just for this project.
I priced it at $2.99 because that’s what I want to pay for e-books. It’s not quite ready for Kindle yet, but I’ll let you know when it gets there.
Read more about Parenting Parables on the My Devotional page. Buy it there or by clicking below.
Libbie’s first day of kindergarten was August 12th, and as of August 14 she was a full-time student. Wow, has it been so much more confusing and strange than I thought it would be, honestly. I was sure Libbie would love school, and it would be an easy transition. She does like school, but wow. My expectations were wildly out-of-whack.
Libbie has had epic meltdowns, the worst tantrums she’s ever had at almost 6 years old, and spends her time at home either loving David (3) to pieces or trying to rile him up in any way she can. This is not limited to hitting, kicking, outright lying, screaming, saying, “That didn’t hurt! Don’t tell Mommy!” and other methods of manipulation. The worst was the two weeks before she started and the first week or two of school, but it still surprises me what may bring out a temper tantrum. We are trying to stay calm … without letting her murder her brother.
She is INCREDIBLY tired by the end of the day. I figured she would be, and I imagine this also helps the tantrums and whining. Libbie still took a nap half the time until two or three months ago. We tried to break her of napping this summer, but it was hard. She was still used to having some afternoon quiet time, at least, to recoup. Even though I consider Libbie an extrovert, she recognizes that sometimes alone time helps her to center herself and release some of her strong emotions.
Unfortunately, given that her school is a lottery-type public school drawing from all over the county, it lets out later than normal elementary schools. We often don’t get home until after 4:30, and she goes to bed around 7:30. In that time, we have to address playtime, homework, dinner, bath, reading, and our nightly routine of family worship, brushing teeth, and tucking in. It’s a lot to cram in a few hours and really does not allow her downtime during the week when she’s not asleep. It makes me sad.
Which bring me to, I definitely had the ARE WE DOING THE RIGHT THING crisis about 2 weeks in. I really hate that Lib is not home more. I hate that we have so little time with her during the week. We were absolutely convinced public school was the right choice for our family; as I have said many a time, I am pretty sure Libbie and I would kill each other if we homeschooled her. I love the structure of a local, Christian, small private school – but we live on a teacher’s salary and will have three children in elementary school. It is just not going to happen. I found myself chatting with JessieLeigh one night, unable to sleep with my stomach twisting and churning and my mind wondering what we could do. (JL is extremely wise, has kids in public school, and her children are just a couple years older than mine.) She talked me off the cliff and helped me understand that there is no perfect choice, but you have to do what works for your family.
There is definitely an adjustment period with this schooling thing. I did expect that, but I keep forgetting it.
I feel totally lost. This isn’t preschool, where everything was laid out for me in a row, and I got a gold star for completing each task. (OK, not really. But you know what I mean.) In preschool, I walked Libbie in each morning and talked to her teacher directly if I had any issues. In kindergarten, I drop her in front of the school each morning and get her off the bus in the afternoons.
I have to do volunteer hours because it’s a lottery school, but I can’t figure out when or how to do them considering Joshua is with me all the time. I don’t know how to help Libbie do her “neighborhood” project when we live on a school campus. I don’t know when they are doing special things unless I have to pay for them!
It’s not preschool. It’s hard. I hate not feeling like I have all my ducks in a row.
So, that’s where we are, Lost Jessie the First-time Kindergarten Mom. Someone tell me it gets easier. Please?