Monday, May 9, 2011

A Grown Up Bedroom

For those of you who assumed that this post was going to be about the goings on inside of a "grown up bedroom", shame on you. This is a family friendly blog :). And besides, I have no clue what is supposed to go on in a grown up bedroom. Because for the last six years, I haven't had one. Sure, Boss and I have a bedroom, but it is not just a grown up bedroom. It is usually a grown up bedroom plus one, or two, or sometimes even three.For the last six years it has been a family bedroom. Until this weekend, when Boss moved our baby boy out (insert wailing Mama sob here). Granted, he only moved him about ten feet across the hall, into a room that Jack now shares with his two sisters, but it feels like he has moved him miles and miles away from his Mama.Where once stood a crib in the corner of our family bedroom, now stands a nice, sophisticated, end table. It's all so very grown up looking. And so very unlike us.

We never set out to be a family that practiced co-sleeping. I know that a lot of family's have researched and believe that the co-sleeping method is best for children and attachment when they are young, but we are not one of those families. In fact, I don't think I have ever researched anything about different parenting methods. Any method we have used or implemented in the last (almost) seven years of parenting, has been by pure chance. When it comes to parenting, Boss and I have definitely been of the 'fly by the seat of our pants' method. What? That's not an actual method? Huh. Good to know. No wonder things never seem to flow quite right in our house! We usually always just go with what works, whether it follows a particular method or not. It's how we roll.

When Emma was small, she was a great sleeper. She slept for the first eight weeks in a bassinet by our bed. We were living with my parents at the time while our home was being built, and when Emma turned two months old, our new house was ready for move in. The very first night that we slept in our new house, we placed Emma in her crib in her very own bedroom where she slept all night without so much as a peep. And that is where she slept for the entire next year of her life, from seven in the evening until seven in the morning. Boss and I sure thought that we were awesome parents. We high fived each other for fabulous parenting skills a lot back then. But then we moved, and the sleeping in our family fell completely apart.

We moved from Texas to New Mexico in the fall of 2005. Right in the middle of Hurricane Katrina. So what started out as a moving trip, turned out to be an evacuation trip, as well. What should have been a day and a half drive from Houston to Albuquerque, ended up taking a week. The roads were jam packed and we were in a stand still traffic for hours on end, and we slept in a different hotel night after night. If that won't screw up a one year olds schedule, I don't know what will. The only way we could get Emma to calm down and sleep in the hotels each evening was to let her sleep with us. We were both so exhausted from the driving (and sitting) that we allowed it, thinking it would be easy to get her back on track once we were settled in our new house. Wrong.

When we arrived in Albuquerque, our house was not ready, so we stayed with a sweet couple for yet another week. And Emma spent another week sharing a bed with us. By the time we actually moved in, we were a threesome. It was awesome. Or not. We could have plopped her in her crib in her new room and let her cry it out, but I just could not bring myself to do that. The room that was supposed to be hers at our new house at the children's home, never felt quite right to me. The carpet was dirty, the air was stagnant, and we just never left her in there. So in our room she stayed. For the next two years.

Around the time that we moved to Albuquerque, I got pregnant with sweet Kate. As my belly grew bigger, the space in our queen sized bed grew smaller, and eventually Boss took to sleeping in the office. The residents who used to live with us once told our director that Boss and I had marriage issues because we slept in seperate bedrooms. When the director asked me about this, I said yes, we have marriage issues. It's called having children! Ha! And when sweet Kate came, things did not improve. She was NOT a sleeper. And while she is much better today, she still keeps weird hours. Back then, though, she slept (or didn't) in a pack n' play by our bed for the first seven months of her life, while Emma and I shared our bed, and Boss still slept in the office. There were no high fives for awesome parenting during that season of our lives.

In the months before Emma was to turn three,and Kate one, we decided to move back to Ohio. Things had spiraled a bit out of control in our family during our stay in NM, and we felt like we needed a fresh start. We bought a house in Miamisburg, and I was very excited to get each of the girls settled into their own bedrooms. I was ready to sleep with my man again! Right away we placed Kate in a crib in her room, and while she still slept weird hours, at least she slept in her own room. Alone. Emma was a different story. I refused to let her sleep in our bedroom in the new house, so in the beginning, I decided to just lay down with her each night to help her get settled in her new room. But then a week passed, and then six months, and in Emma's room I stayed, each and every night. Boss was working eighty hours a week, Kate was up at four each morning, and what little sleep we got was precious. So we went with it. Still no high fives were being handed out. On most days it was all we could do to function.

In September of 2007, we moved yet again. This time to the children's home where we have lived for the last four years. This time I was determined to start sleeping with my husband once again. Kate went easily enough in to the room that she shared with Emma (even though she still barely slept), I slept with Boss, and Emma? She slept on a pallet by our bed :). But at least she was not in it! Hey, small victories are still victories. This nice little arrangement lasted for the next year and a half. And we were all fairly happy. But right before the girls were to turn three and five, I decided that enough was enough. I had had it! I wanted another baby, and Boss said that everyone had to be sleeping well in their own rooms for him to even consider it. That was all I needed to hear. I became a Mama on a mission. Operation Sleep.

First, I took several months and trained Kate to sleep through the night. As painful as it was for the both of us, I eliminated all naps so that she would be extra tired at night. And then I slowly started moving back her bedtime until eight o'clock. (Her natural clock had her falling asleep around six each evening. Grandma says I have Boss to thank for her wonky sleeping schedule.) Oh the things we did to keep her awake in the evenings! And then came the dreaded mornings. When she would wake at four, I would go in and lay with her, refusing to allow her to get up until five. Those were some very long, exhausting months, but the hard work was worth it! By the time she turned three she was falling asleep at eight each evening, sleeping all night in her own bed, and waking each morning at six. Not perfect, but we would certainly take it!

Next, came conquering Emma. Our method for her? Simple. Every time she entered our bedroom we carried her back to her own bed. Time and time again. Night after night. Week after week. But eventually she got it. By the end of the summer, both girls were sleeping in their own beds every night, and the angels in heaven were singing a hallelujah chorus! For the first time in five years, Boss and I were alone. Blissfully alone in our own bed. So what did we do? Why, we decided to make another baby of course :).

You know by now, that sweet Jack joined our family last March. And because of spacial issues, his crib took up residence in the corner of our bedroom where it has stayed for the past year. For the most part, Jack has been a good sleeper. For his first month home I slept with him on the couch, then moved him to his car seat by our bed (it helped with his reflux), then to the pack n' play, and finally to his crib. And then, one dreadful day last week, Boss moved his crib right out the door, and this Mama has not stopped crying since. (Not really, but it sounds more dramatic if I type that.)

So for the first time in almost seven years, Boss and I find ourselves in a new place. It is the same old bedroom, but a brand new place. At ten each evening, when the last of our children is tucked into their shared bedroom (which I love), Boss and I can climb into bed and expect to sleep peacefully alone, unless someone is sick or there is a storm, etc. And this time, this season just might last. We have no babies on the way (and at this time it is still undecided if we ever will), the kids are growing bigger each day, and it seems the Z house just might be leaving the long, exhausting, baby days behind. Boss has joined the angels in singing the hallelujah chorus, but this Mama's heart is just not sure how it feels. A few years ago, I was longing wildly for these grown up bedroom days, but these days I am not sure. Because one thing I have learned for certain, is that everything in life is only but a season. Nothing lasts forever. Time marches on, and babies turn into toddlers, then children, and children grow up. And it's beautiful, and sad, and heart breaking, and joyous, all at the very same time. I think it will take some time to get used to all of the growing and changing that is going on in our family, but another thing that I have learned is that change can be good. If we embrace it. And Boss and I plan on fully embracing our new grown up bedroom. Whatever shall we do with all of our grown up time? (wink, wink)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beauty and Gratitude

I have learned over the past several months, that beauty and gratitude go hand in hand. The more I look around at this life that I have been given, really look around at it with eyes wide open, the more beauty I see. When I take the time to slow down, to take moments in, to capture the sights and the sounds of particular moments, I can't help but to see the beauty that is all around me. Beauty in the sunshine, beauty in the rain. Beauty in the freshly cut grass, crops being planted, the barn across the way. Beauty in my husbands smile, my daughters laughter, my little boys baby soft skin. The list of beauty that daily surrounds me could go on and on. And the more that I open my eyes to seeing beautiful things, the more I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the gifts. Gratitude for my life.

Today was an especially beautiful day, and I found my heart overflowing with gratitude. My husband and my children always do an amazing job of making me feel blessed, honored, and loved each Mother's Day. On Friday night, Boss surprised me with two new furniture pieces that I had been wanting, an entryway piece, and an old fashioned writing desk. While I had taken Emma and Kate to a play, Boss and the big girls picked up the furniture from the store and had it all in place by the time the little girls and I returned that evening. I see beauty in Boss' thoughtfulness and in the way that he serves me. My heart fills with gratitude.

On Saturday, Boss served me breakfast in bed. And then he told me that he would be my house slave. He walked around for several hours with a hammer and nails, fixing this, lowering that. I see beauty in the way that he cares for our things. It is such a wonderful place to call home. My heart fills with gratitude. That night we went out to supper and then came home and had a family movie night. I see beauty when we are all together, five people tied by blood, four others woven in to the fold by heartstrings. All of us together because of God's grace. My heart fills with gratitude.

Today I awoke with a cold, an aching ear, stuffed nose, soar throat, chills. But there was still beauty all around. My children gifted me with jewelry, good behavior and chore coupons, and cards. Boss gifted me with a sweet note filled with words that moved me. There was beauty in their love. Church was wonderful, lunch quiet take out at home. After lunch I took some much needed medicine and a two hour nap. I awoke to a bedside bouquet of tiny yellow flowers, picked with love by my daughters. Beauty. I spent the evening on the front porch enjoying the gorgeous weather. I came in to find two hand made mothers day cards from two teenagers, thanking me for being there for them during this hard season in their lives. I hope I am teaching them to see the beauty, too. My heart fills with gratitude, and I do not deserve this life that I lead. But I am grateful.

In reading Ann Voskamps book (I mentioned it previously), I have taken up the challenge to count one thousand gifts of beauty in my life. And the challenge has changed me. Because the beauty has always been there, all this time, but my eyes were never opened to see it. But now I see the beauty everywhere that I look! And my heart is grateful. More grateful than it has ever been. Thank you Boss, Emma, Kate, Jack, and big girls for making this a day of beauty! I love you all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

These three call me Mama. That is all the present that I need. I am so blessed that they are mine in this life.

Emma, Kate, and Jack,

Your Mama loves you to moons on sticks and back!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


I wear many titles in this life. Christian. Daughter. Sister. Niece. Granddaughter. Wife. Mother. Foster Parent. Co-worker. Neighbor. Friend. The list could go on and on. And often, if I am not careful, I allow these titles to define me. They are little pieces, each one of them, of who I am. But there is another title that I wear, that I often try to keep hidden. It is a title that I keep, only for me to know. It is a title that I wear daily, but one that I often do not share with the world, for fear that they will find me silly or discontent with my lot, or even worse, both. It is the title of Dreamer. I am a dreamer. I always have been, for as far back as I can remember.

When I was much smaller, my dreaming would take place on the pages of written word. I would not just read about Ann of Avonlea, I would become her. I would easily get caught up in stories, stories of any kind, and I would wait with baited breath as I turned each page to find out what was going to happen next. When a story was over, I would always feel a deep sense of loss. An emotional let down. I had reached the conclusion, the final chapter had been read, and there was no more adventure to be had. But that was really no worry. I could always get another book and escape into the retreat of the pages once again. I could go on a different adventure. Dream about another life other than my own boring, mortal existence. In fiction, the adventures can go on forever. The dreams never really have to die.

But as I grew, suddenly, "book" dreams were no longer enough. I wanted real dreams. Living an exciting, dramatic, romantic life through fictional characters no longer satisfied the yearnings of my soul. I wanted my real life to be exciting, dramatic, and romantic. And so I kept dreaming. In side my head. In the quiet places of my heart, I let the dreams soar.

I dreamed of growing up and going to college, and making my own way in this world. College was a wonderful experience for me.

I dreamed of meeting my prince charming and falling in love. At just the right time, Boss entered my life.

From the time I was small, I dreamed of being a mother. I have three incredible blessings gifted to me as my own.

Suburban life stifled me. I dreamed of life in the country. Where I live, it is corn fields and barns, as far as the eye can see.

I never wanted an "ordinary" life, a normal eight to five job. I dreamed of doing something "different" with my time and my days. I work as a foster parent to troubled teenage girls. It doesn't get much different than that.

Are you seeing what I'm seeing, as I put all of my past dreams to paper? That I am living them out? Were they dreams? Or were they really prayers? Prayers that God has answered. Or were they both? Can my inner dreams, the deepest yearnings of my heart, really be prayers that I don't even know that I am praying daily to God? To the Creator who made me, loves me, and knows my hearts desires before the words can even form on my lips. So why is it still not enough? Why, after seeing all of these dreams realized, all of my prayers answered, do I still long for more? Why. This is the question that my soul wrestles with each day. Why is what I have never enough?

I think I am beginning to discover why.

When I started on my quest to discover my Creator at the first of this year, I did not know the real life adventure that I was about to embark on. I did not know what I was getting myself into. To be honest, I wasn't one hundred percent sure that I even believed that God existed. I wanted Him to be real. I desired Him to be real. And I certainly could not come up with a better explanation of how I came to be on this earth without Him. But I did not really believe in Him, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The scripture, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8), was never far from my mind those few, short months ago. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13), kept repeating itself over and over again like a broken record deep in my soul. So I decided to do it. To go on the adventure to find God. To move from being a dreamer, to a doer. I committed to diving into His scriptures and seeing what I could find. And you know what I found? Him. And the answer to my questions of why I was always still longing for more, even when I had what I thought that I wanted right in the palm of my hand. I always longed for more, because I was really longing for Him.

I have come to discover that when I hang my hat of significance on what title I wear, what things that I have, who I am associated with, while those things may fill me up for awhile, or maybe even for a season, eventually they will leave me lacking. They will never be enough. Because the truth is, I was not created to live for this world. You were not created to live for this world. We were created to worship God. Anything less than that will leave us sadly lacking. Always. Our lives were made for worship. How freeing is that thought!

Over the past few days I have been reading Ann Voskamps book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (Read It! Hurry! It will change you!). Her words have changed me. Through her message, I have discovered that if my life was made for worship, nothing more, nothing less, then worship is what I must do. Right here, right now, in the every day. When I am packing lunches, it is worship. Sweeping floors? Changing diapers? Speaking kind words to Boss? Worship. Listening to others, making supper, bathing children? All worship. My life can be worship to God, no matter where I am, what I am doing, or what title I wear. If I am living my life for Him, giving all I have to Him, each moment of each day, that is worship. And that is what I was made for. That is where true happiness is found. Nothing else can ever satisfy.

In learning this, my load has been lifted! I am beginning to feel free to live life fully, for the very first time, right where He has placed me in this season. I don't have to be more, do more, or dream more. And the exciting part? When I empty myself of my own dreams, when I commit my entire life to worship, that is when God is free to fill me up with His own dreams for my life. And it just doesn't get much better than that.