What You Thought You Wanted

A few months after my first was born my husband said, “It seems like you were happier when you were working than you are now that you stay home.” In other words, he punched me in the gut. I felt a defensive, sad, and guilty because in many ways he was right and I didn’t want to admit it. I’ve wanted to stay home with my kids all my life – I wouldn’t trade it for the world or the paycheck or the 9 to 5 adult conversation. But it was true – I was stressed and often unhappy. My baby had reflux and I had overactive let-down and excess milk. He cried a LOT. He didn’t gain weight well. We went through three to five outfits each a day, multiple sheets, all the burp rags, and a ton of laundry detergent. I was exhausted. I carried him around non-stop and adored him like I’d never loved anyone before, but all the same – I missed adult interaction, using my mind, doing what I was good at (I didn’t feel very good at motherhood), taking a break, and being challenged.

Things got better and easier and the stress lessened (slightly) and changed (every day). I started volunteering as director and teacher for a local ESL program. Malachi got a prescription and my boobs calmed the heck down so he was able to sleep, gain weight, and eat in peace. I fell more and more and more and more in love with my son. I stopped bleeding and started napping and things got a LOT better. But I was shocked – shocked – at how much I missed my job.

From the time I was a child I knew I wanted to be a teacher until I hit middle school and felt called to missions. So it was no small providence that I combined both and ended up teaching English to international students. I loved it. I loved them. I was good at it and I thrived on it. Teaching ESL became a huge part of my identity. And teaching was the first job I ever enjoyed. I loved what I did and I loved who I worked with. My happiest memories of that job are the summer I worked 60 hours a week, even though I never slept or cooked anything decent. I fully expected to fall in love with my baby and be overjoyed to be home with him – and that happened. But I didn’t expect to grieve the loss of my job – which also happened.

After Malachi got older I started wanting to work part-time, teaching one or two clases a week. I knew I would like spending the majority of my time at home but also to go back to a job, ministry really, that was so fulfilling to me. The thought still appeals to me. I tried and asked and searched and attempted to tutor for a while but still there was nothing.

Then this past summer my old job offered me a class – one I had taught before and loved. I was thrilled – I nailed down childcare and talked to Jeremy and got way ahead of myself in my excitement. But after a lot of prayer and thought and agony, I turned it down. The timing was bad, the commute was bad, and it would have been really weirdly hard on my kids because of all the minutae.

Within a week a new ESL program was created in the city. It was intended as an adult community outreach. The faculty were diverse, it was close to my neighborhood, and they used curriculum I have used and taught before. I applied and interviewed and nervously waited and prayed. After my interview I discovered that although it was only 6 hours a week and payed well, it was during the worst possible 6 hours of my week it could be. I wanted the job but I didn’t want the job and I warred with myself over it while I waited for a call. Then finally I got the call and they had offered the job to someone else. My pride took a blow but my heart felt relief, and once again I was shocked.

Over the past few years my heart and mind have grieved and let go of my old job. I still miss it, but not in the same way. Letting go of a job and having a child is similar to letting go of your only child and having a second – the relatioship changes, who you are changes, and the adjustment is wonderful and priceless but also painful and surprising. I’ve also gotten really, really stupidly busy. I volunteer too much and take too much on and when I get stressed and overwhelmed it strains my relationships at home. Over the summer everything went on hiatus – both my volunteer positions, Malachi’s pre-school, Bible study, and at least half of our small groups. And it was wonderful. I had so much more patience with my kids, and we spent so much more quality time together. We baked cookies and went to the park and played games and napped and threw plans out the window to eat popcorn and watch movies instead. And in those moments, on those good days, I realized that THIS is what I want to be doing with my days. And that the biggest thing keeping me from it was my own overcommitedness (<– new word). I miss my old job because it was wonderful and I loved it, but it’s no longer what I want to do. Not all the time. I romanticized the wonderful aspects of it and diminished the things that would be challenging and God used two no-go job offers this summer to show me that.

I still hope down the road I can teach again and I believe I will. One day the timing will work out and my kids will be ready and I will be fully confident that it’s the right thing. But now I can look at it honestly. I can look at my kids and know without a doubt that I would rather be home with them. And I can look at my teacher-self and know that she is a part of me, too, and that one day she may get to shine again. But when I look at Christ, I realize that HE is what defines me. Everything I am – mother, wife, teacher, leader, volunteer, friend – is tied up in Who He is. And for this season, whether long or short I do not know, he has called me to be here, in this moment, with these children. Maybe I’ll get a job offer tomorrow and I’ll take it, maybe I’ll go back to work when my kids are in school, maybe I’ll homeschool and never go back to work, maybe we’ll move overseas and everything will change. I don’t know and that’s ok. This summer I needed to let go of what I thought I wanted to realize that I what I truly wanted is what I already have. And I have found so much freedom in that.

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7 Quick Takes about 2013

I wish I could come up with one word to describe 2013, but I’m not sure what to choose.  Maybe it would be “fast” – my memories of Christmas 2012 are crystal clear because it seems like just yesterday. My memories of newborn Naomi are already fuzzy because that is what it’s like to have a baby. Any stage other than their current one seems so far removed you sometimes wonder if it even happened to you.  I watch videos of Malachi from 8, 9, 10 months ago and it’s hard to believe this little boy was ever that little boy.  Maybe I would choose “hard” – because focusing all my attention on one child at a time gives me a twinge of guilt almost every time, no matter which kid. Because on the day I think I’ve never been more exhausted, that night I lay awake with a squirming baby and realize that now I have. Because consistently spending time with the Lord has never been so difficult for me. Because anytime I make progress in one area of life I fall behind in another.  But maybe I would choose “joy” – because there has never been a happier, more smiley, more laid-back baby than Naomi.  Because my son has finally broken past the barrier and can speak clearly and efficiently and is so much happier for it.  Because my endless stream of photos and videos attests to the beautiful memories we have made this year.  Maybe I’ll just choose all three.

And if I were to pick a word (ok, two words) for this coming year, I will declare them over my home and my family and myself and prophetically choose “peace” and “love.” Not because I’m some kind of hippie, but because if there’s anything this house needs, it’s a little more peace so the abundant love we already have for the Lord and for one another can be a little more obvious, a little more dominant, and a little more in-control.

Thanks for sticking through the sappiest and most flowery introduction to date.  Onto the cooler stuff: 7 quick takes about 2013.

  1. January – We discovered the neighborhood farm, Malachi learned to sit at the big table and give real hugs, and he experienced his first snow.
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  2. February – One night I went to bed early because I thought I was having regular, painless contractions.  The next morning when I woke up they continued but at the same frequency and pain(less)-level.  So Jeremy went to work, Malachi and I played, I bought an app called “labor mate,” made myself cry when I put Malachi down for his nap because intuitively I knew this was the last time it would ever be just me and him (crying again, btw), mopped the kitchen floor, did some yoga, finally decided to go to the hospital, found out I was SIX CENTIMETERS PEOPLE, and three very-natural hours later, sweet baby Naomi Kate was born to change our lives forever.
    ImageMalachi was overjoyed.
    ImageEventually he got used to her and even learned to share.
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  3. March and April – March included a lot of sweet moments, like this:

    According to a quick skim of my daily kid log, I went to Goodwill at least 3 times with both kids in April. We also really settled into being a family of four. I remember feeling really content with just “being” with my kids. I wasn’t super stressed about things with Naomi (she slept through the night for two months starting in April) and Malachi was doing really well with her, too. Also, I started my blog in April.
  4. May, June, and July – In May my baby boy turned two. Naomi rolled over, laughed, and settled into a great schedule.  In June we went to Seattle.  Re-reading some of my highlights of July makes me remember how much I LOVE summer and how much happier we all are when it is sunshiney outside. We did so much partying, playing outside, swimming, and fun stuff in July. Malachi started making developmental strides (colors, numbers) and we visited his pre-school for the first time. We also hosted two Brazilian girls for a long weekend and I got really, really secondhomesick.
  5. August and September – In August I started harvesting things from my first-ever garden. It was encouraging and discouraging all at the same time, but I’ll definitely do it again (just way differently).  August was also a little hard – Naomi had major sleep problems and Malachi started hitting her. Having two young kids started to get a lot harder than it had been before. In September we visited my best friend and her family, Malachi started preschool, Naomi started eating insane amounts of food (this trend continues), and we went to several festivals.
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  6. October and November – In October we went camping, Malachi potty-trained, Malachi and I had a very intense supernatural experience with the Lord, and Naomi started standing on her own.  In November I began my ongoing trend of slacking off on blogging. Malachi made huge strides in his speech. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgivng.
  7. December – I love the Christmas season! We had so much fun family time this month. The kids LOVED Christmas, baby Jesus, Santa, and presents. Naomi took her first steps. Malachi became obsessed with the guitar. Malachi was the cutest Christmas angel ever.
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pageantHappy New Year!  Now go see Jen for much bigger and better.
**Ummmm, also…. I just reread this and realized I only talked about my kids. Wow. I guess that’s what I get for using my daily kid log to remind me of the year….  if you wanted any news about me and Jeremy, sorry to disappoint!  Better luck next year when I’m not too tired to go back and edit.

How We Met

Linking with Grace at Camp Patton.

Every time I try to remember exactly when Jeremy and I met I get really confused, which is kind of ridiculous – you’d think I could remember something like that.  But apparently I can’t, so I just spent the last 10 minutes exploring this ancient artifact blast-from-the-past and looking at old blogs like this one and old pictures like these and….wow.  That was all sooooooooo long ago and I don’t even know how to process it.  I might need to spend an hour or seven in the near future reacquainting myself with that Memory Lane.

Anyway, apparently we met sometime in 2003, which means that we have known each other for 10 years now. 10! Whole! Years!  And amazingly it feels like waaaay more than that because I was such a child then and since that time I’ve had 2 years of highschool and 3 and a half years of college and 1 graduation and 3 jobs and two houses and 1 husband and 2 kids and a whole lot of maturing.  Moving on.

When Jeremy and I first “met” I was at some kind of youth group shindig and he decided to join (why…? He was in college so….not sure) and my sister and I were watching him walk across the grassy lawn from a distance and our conversation went something like this:

B:  Who’s that?
A:  I don’t know.
B:  He’s kind of cute.
A:  Yeah. He has a really strong jaw line.

Behold:

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This is exactly how he looked when we met but I’ve remedied the haircut, don’t worry.

The only thing I really remember about that night was that I was sitting on a picnic table eating Cheetos and I kept sharing them with Jeremy because it was an excuse to talk/flirt with him and he was taking them from me because it was an excuse to eat free food.

I think we crossed paths in church a couple more times and then I went camping with a family from our church.  On the last day a bunch of people from the church rode up to the lake to have a cook-out with all the campers and Jeremy drove in his van with my sister and someone else insignificant.  Jeremy and I refer to that as The Honeysuckle Day because he and I spent a lot of time walking around picking honeysuckle.  Since he’s from Seattle he had never seen, smelled, or tasted honeysuckle so I schooled him.  We were on the way to his car to get some Tylenol because I had a headache (seriously?  I remember that detail but not what year we met?).  Later that evening Jeremy and I sat and came up with ridiculous excuses to keep sitting together and talking (me scrolling through all the music on his blackberry, him promising to e-mail it to me, me getting excited because that meant I would have his E-MAIL address) and I remember looking up and seeing my pastor who was also a close friend just smiling at us with this very knowing smile.  I would be remiss if I did not say that he had a profound influence on Jeremy and I’s actual getting together.

Thusly the e-mail relationship ensued, but right before that I had the PROFOUND revelation that Jeremy – THIS Jeremy who (luckily for him) I already had a “quiet crush” on as I so-journaled – was the same guy who completely grossed me out by cuddling during church movie night a little too much with his then-girlfriend who went on to hate me and then went on to lose because HAHA!  He’s MINEallmine! and no I will not apologize (though I did not steal him – let’s be clear – but I did keep him).  Once I got past the fact that this was the same guy, I pretty much fell in love and we proceeded to our own grossing-people-out.

Jeremy and I e-mailed and IM-ed a LOT.  My parents also have always taken in “strays” as they call them and Jeremy ended up spending a whole lot of time at our house eating and sleeping and doing homework and eating and doing laundry and sleeping and eating.  And also falling in love with me.

This post could get real long real fast so let me skip on ahead about three years.

Before Jeremy and I ever started dating we broke up.  Yes, you read that right.  I prayed about our relationship a lot and really felt that God was saying “no.”  It was very sad and quite a defining moment for us but it was also probably the best thing that ever happened to us because we took the next four months of hardly talking and always crying and fasting and praying to really  individually figure out who we were and where we stood with God.

Gradually we started re-connecting and four months later I was starting college and he was my lifeline.  He helped me register for classes, find a good dorm, figure out the dining hall, learn how and where to park, and in general he was my sanity and my best friend those first crazy-long, crazy-hard (and in retrospect crazy-short) few months of school.  We both realized that we didn’t know how to be friends without being in love and we were both praying on our own about the future of our relationship.  I read the same verse twice in one day and truly felt the Spirit confirming that now was the time for us to get together.  Literally, the next day, he asked me out.  And boy was he romantic – there was a poem and flowers and candy and a whole lot of awkwardness and it was perfect.

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Jeremy proceeded to celebrate every Valentine’s day in a way that made every single girl on campus jealous (not exaggerating).  Summer after junior year he proposed in an airplane flying over a field where he had written out “Allie, Will you marry me?”  Summer after graduation we got married.  He is the only man I’ve ever kissed.  He’s the father of my children.  He’s my provider, encourager, prayer-warrior, grass-cutter, dog-walker, massage-giver, laugh partner, shoulder to cry on, hand to hold, and my best friend.

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And THAT little novella is how we met, but if you want to hear the 79832759832977659832 details I left out, come ask me in person.