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Happier

31 Oct

We’ve now lived in Oklahoma for a year and a half.  In that time, I had nothing to call my own.  I was wife and I was mother, and that was all.  That was all.  I’m sure there are those who think that should be enough.  Taking care of my family is important.  It is good and noble and refining.

For me, though, it’s also a tad depressing.  I don’t do well without something to call my own.

It’s why, when my son was a premature newborn under doctor’s orders to stay home for his first 6 weeks of life, my husband let me go to church every single Sunday during that period, instead of trading off Sundays with me, as was the original plan.  He saw how happy getting out of the house made me.  My plan at that time had been to quit singing on the praise team at church for a couple of months.  My hope had been to be back by Christmas Eve service.  I’m not sure I even made it a full month before I was back on stage singing.  I needed music to give me the feeling that I was still me.  I was drowning in mom-ness at that time, and singing on the praise team for those few minutes on Sunday mornings reminded me that I was still in there somewhere.  I didn’t have to give up everything.

Then we moved to Oklahoma, and I did have to give up everything.  Sometimes following God is really, really hard.

I am blessed.  I get to be at home every day.  I know there are many women who would love to be in my shoes.  I do know this is precious time with my son, and I love taking care of my home and family.  But I need something that is just mine.  Something that has nothing to do with my husband or son.

My husband jumped back into working with youth back in the spring.  He took a much-needed year off from ministry, then jumped back in.  He leads a high school boys’ small group.  Alex has been so sick this year that I didn’t think I was going to get to ever do anything, as one parent needs to be home with him when he can’t go to the nursery.  So I did nothing.

As summer came to a close, the assistant youth director said she’d heard that music is my thing, and she asked if I would be willing to help out with the youth praise team.  Once I made it clear that I might be unpredictable due to my son’s frequent bouts with sickness, and she was okay with that, I said yes.  Then amazingly, I was also approached by the children’s director asking me to lead music in AWANA.  The youth and children’s schedules worked so that I would be able to do both, so I said yes to that, too.

Talk about jumping back in with both feet.

After a few weeks, it became clear that doing both is just too much.  I’m running from youth rehearsals to feeding my family (a packed dinner I haul to church with us), to AWANA, and back to youth.  And did I mention I’m co-leading a middle school girls’ group?  The old Sesame Street song comes to mind.  “One of these things is not like the others…”  AWANA has to go.  It’s not just choosing music each week; I have to spend a lot of time on YouTube looking for actions to go with every song.  Because in my inexperience with children, I didn’t have actions for the songs the first night, and it didn’t go well at all.  It’s all just adding an extra level of stress to my Wednesdays, and I’m missing out on some youth stuff while I’m with the children.

But you know what?  Even with the stress and the crazy that is now known as Wednesday, I’m loving it.  It’s amazing how much happier I’ve been since I started doing something outside of my home and family.  It was definitely time.

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Scarlet Fever and Other Summer Activities

28 Jun

Guess who has strep yet again?  That’s right–my kid!  This time, it’s so bad that the diagnosis was upgraded to Scarlet Fever.  Sounds ominous, but it’s really just strep with a rash and high fever.  Alex was up around 105 degrees on Tuesday morning, which scared me horribly.  He really felt dreadful.  Three days later, he feels better, but he’s still running a low-grade fever, and his rash has spread to his entire body.  He could play an alien on Star Trek without needing make-up.  Spots are running all around his face and wrapping around his neck. (And behind his ears, and all over his chest and back, and in the diaper area, and down his legs…)

We’ve been stuck inside all week.  To make things worse, I signed up to work VBS at church this week, and that takes place in the evenings.  I don’t really know what I was thinking, seeing as I don’t particularly like little kids.  I’m with 4th and 5th graders, and my group is all boys.  They’re making me fear the future when my son is older.  Boys that age are… interesting.  Loud, obnoxious, full of themselves, somewhat incapable of following instructions.  So, sort of like my toddler in much larger form.  Except my kid isn’t obnoxious.  Yet.

All this means that I’m with a cranky toddler who doesn’t feel well all day, then I go and hang out with a bunch of wild kids in the evenings.  Running errands?  I fit that in whenever possible.  As Steven was leaving for work the other day, he told me that the cat litter situation was getting dire.  I gave him a blank look and said (with some admitted snark), “What do you think I can do about it?”  I had an insanely sick and contagious toddler on my hands.  It’s not like I could pack him up and run to the store with him.  Instead, Steven came home for lunch, and I raced out the door to buy litter before he had to go back to work.  That’s pretty much been my week.  Alex is almost out of almond milk?  Run to the store at 9:30 pm.

Yesterday, I took a nap.  My Danged Tile did not get cleaned as per the Thursday schedule.  I didn’t regret that decision yesterday, but I kind of do today, as it still needs to be done.   That extra sleep was so needed, though.  Alex has been crying out in his fevered sleep a lot, which means I wake up every time he does.  I’m tired.

Because I wanted PBS turned off this morning for a while (I’ve been a lax parent this week and have let Alex watch WAY too much TV while sick), I decided to try making homemade play-doh.  It was amazingly simple to make, and I’d bought some food coloring a while back just for this purpose.  Alex was perplexed by it at first, but then he got the hang of it.  More or less.  He was into taking it away from me, smashing it with a rolling pin, and organizing it in containers.  This kid loves to organize.  Boy after my own heart!

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I’m kind of looking forward to the weekend when I’ll have some help.  That means I can escape… to the grocery store.

It’s Been a Year

15 Apr

I realized last week that our one-year anniversary of our move from Texas to Oklahoma had passed.  Reflecting on the past year, I came to the realization that I like it here.  It took me a very long time to reach that point, but here it is.  Oklahoma is pretty great.  I thought it would be nice to make a list of what I like about living here:

  • My husband works 2 miles from home and doesn’t have to drive in traffic like he did in Dallas.
  • Steven often comes home for lunch.  It’s always nice for Alex and me to have lunch with him.  Or, we can all go out to lunch without having to drive a long distance to meet up.
  • We live in a fabulous neighborhood.  We’re on a quiet cul-de-sac where Alex can eventually learn to ride a bike, our neighbors are all friendly and helpful, and we share a fence with folks who have become good friends and even have a kid the same age as Alex.
  • We’ve made some really nice friends through church and Steven’s work.
  • We love our house and backyard.  The house has everything I wanted in a home, and the backyard is large with lots of room for Alex to play.
  • The vet costs a lot less here.  (But for the record, while our new vet is very nice, I really miss my old vet in Texas!)
  • Shopping isn’t the main source of entertainment here.  One problem I always had with Dallas is that shopping was the favorite pastime of many people.  Materialism was rampant.  I don’t want my kid growing up thinking his self-worth comes from the brand of clothes he wears or the cars his family drives.  (Materialism exists everywhere, but it doesn’t seem quite so prevalent here.)
  • Steven gets to work for an organization that has been near-and-dear to our hearts for years.  He loves using his technical skills for Kingdom work instead of advertising for soulless corporations.
  • My backyard has loads of birds, squirrels, and bunnies, and even turtles!  I love animals!  It’s a hoot to watch Ninja Cat get into hunter mode while watching from the window.
  • There are lots of little boys Alex’s age in the nursery at church.  I love that he’ll grow up in a church with lots of kids his age.  (While we adored our church in Texas, the only other kid in the nursery with him was a little girl who was 6 months younger.)
  • And then there are the amazing sunsets we see most nights:

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That’s not to say that there aren’t things I miss about Texas.  There are.  A lot of things, actually, but I’m at the point now where I can’t focus any longer on the deficiencies of life here.  Life is good.

Answered Prayer

10 Mar

Tuesday evening, I started noticing that our wild Ninja Cat was acting… mellow.  Too mellow.  Doogie was yelling for attention as soon as we put the baby down for the night, as is his nightly habit.  Usually both cats pile on either me or Steven the moment we sit down.  But Tuesday night, only Doogie wanted attention from his people.  I watched as Ninja, who’d been sleeping all afternoon, just burrowed under a quilt and curled into a ball.

The next day, things were worse.  He didn’t eat all of his “treat food,” which is what we call the Wellness wet food he gets to have each morning.  He lives for his treat food, so this was worrisome.  He slept all day.  I was trying to figure out if he was just cold and tired, or if he really needed to see the vet.  Then he got up.  He was limping.  Something was very wrong.  I made a vet appointment for him for the next afternoon and prayed for him.

Things were no different on Thursday.  His 4pm vet appointment couldn’t come soon enough.  The vet couldn’t feel any abscesses that would cause a limp, nor did Ninja cry out on examination of his leg, which would indicate an injury.  He had a fever and slight anemia, but nothing really jumped out to give a definitive diagnosis.  The vet even went so far as to ask where I got him, and when I gave the name of the rescue in Texas, he asked if they’d tested him for Feline Leukemia.  *gulp*  I started to panic, thinking he was saying my cat had that.  He was quick to reassure me that he hadn’t tested for it; he just needed to rule that out.  Because I didn’t know for sure without Ninja’s adoption paperwork in front of me, he went ahead and tested for it.  Negative!  Whew!

He decided to treat Ninja for a bacterial infection.   Goodness knows, this cat has had his share of them in his almost 3 years of life.  He gave sweet Ninja a shot and sent him home with another set of antibiotics.

The next day, I saw no improvement.  I was starting to freak out, thinking my cat had cancer or some other awful thing.  I cried over Ninja and pleaded with God to heal him.  He’s young.  He’s supposed to grow up with Alex.  He’s the only cat who tolerates Alex and willingly hangs out with him!  I need this cat.

But then, Friday evening, he perked up.  Woke up from his sleep.  Ate some cat food.  And stretched up to Steven and meowed during dinner, asking for food (which we never share, but he always hopes).  This was normal.  As we settled in for a movie that evening, Ninja sat with us.  Still resting, but wanting to be with his people.

Saturday morning, I woke up to a cat pouncing on me.  Over and over.  It was Ninja.  He screamed and ran for his treat food, which is his normal morning routine.  (Because if he doesn’t yell, repeatedly, we might forget to feed him, you know.)  And from that point on, he was better.  The limp is nearly gone.  He can run again.  He hangs out with the family, baby included.  He still can’t jump the baby gates and now has to meow to be let into the kitchen for his food, but he’s a billion times better than he was before.  Thank you, Lord, the Great Physician, the God of the universe, who cares even for a little Texan cat living in Oklahoma.

Our church here has a time where you can light a candle to put at the front to represent answered prayer.  We lit a candle for our beautiful Ninja this morning.

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You Can’t Go Home Again… Except When You Can

12 Feb

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We were all well enough to take a weekend trip home to Dallas to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday.  Truthfully, I was dreading the trip.  Packing up a baby takes a lot of work, then there’s the long drive (6 hours), and I can’t fail to mention that I found our last trip home at Thanksgiving to be horribly stressful.

But this trip was different.  The drive was easy, other than having to stop at a McDonald’s for an hour to let a restless toddler run around the play place.  (Ick.  After all the illness we’ve endured lately, I couldn’t help but cringe and worry about all the new diseases my kid could be picking up in that cesspool of little-kid germs.)  We stayed with my parents the entire weekend, which means we all were able to sleep well, as it’s quiet there, and the baby has his own room.  We even got to go out to lunch without the baby!  (Cajun food–yum!)  And my mother-in-law’s party went really well.

But that wasn’t necessarily what made the trip so good.  Granted, seeing my parents was wonderful, as all I’ve wanted for the past month-and-a-half is my mama, but there was more that I discovered we needed and received.  We went to our church.

I guess I can’t really call it our church anymore, as we’ve joined a new church up in Oklahoma, but as we were members of our church in Texas for over a decade, it’s still home to us.

We didn’t really publicize that we were in town, and we made no promises that we would be at church.  Everyone’s health has been too unpredictable to make commitments, so a number of people were surprised to see us.  But better than that is they were delighted to see us.  To have teenagers hurtling themselves at us during the welcome was wonderful.  So many hugs from them, as well as other dear friends.  (In case I’ve never mentioned it here, my husband was the youth minister there before we moved.)  People asking how we were feeling, as they’d been following our health ordeal on Facebook.  Folks letting me know they’d been praying for us.

That was the very thing I’d been needing.

I have to be honest.  While I love Texas, I’m falling in love with Oklahoma, too.  Every time I go back to Dallas, I find that there are new things I’m preferring about Oklahoma.   (But there’s still plenty that drives me bonkers.  Like, can we please get a Petsmart in town?!)  But in a mere 10 months, we’ve not been able to develop the sort of relationships we had back in Texas.  That sort of thing takes time.  So going home was exactly what I needed.  Though the time was too brief, being surrounded by people who know me and love me was just the medicine I needed to recharge my spirit.

The New Sunday

13 Jan

I used to have a strong stance against cooking on Sundays.  We’d put in a full morning at church with music rehearsal and singing on the praise team for me, while Steven would have an elders meeting, followed by youth, then the service.   After church, we’d head out to eat at whatever restaurant was chosen that week by friends or our youth group.  Then back at church in the evening for youth.  Of course, once Alex came along, I stayed home from church on Sunday nights, but it was still a crazy sort of day for all of us.

I miss it.  Or at least, parts of it.  Truly, I don’t miss having quite so much responsibility.  My husband was the youth minister, in addition to having a full-time job.  It was a too-busy life.  But I desperately miss Sunday mornings back in Texas.

Things are so different for us here, although I freely admit that different isn’t bad.  It’s just different.  We go to church, and we know only a handful of people, none of them terribly well.  We have no responsibilities.  At all.  At first that was nice; we needed the break.  But 9 months later, we’re both ready to get back into ministry.

I hate being a nobody.

The biggest change, though, is going to an early service, then just coming home.  We opted for the early service at this point in our lives because it allows us to get home in time for Alex to nap.  I’m a big believer in keeping to the nap schedule, and my well-behaved baby is a testament to the wisdom of that.  But this means that we never, and I mean never, go out to lunch after church anymore.  In fact, all the boys in my household, and by that I mean my husband, son, and our 2 cats, typically fall asleep as soon as we return from church.  (The cats, naturally, do not attend church, although I think watching the birds at my feeder is a near-religious experience for our Ninja Cat.)

While everyone sleeps, I often find myself cooking.  I never thought I’d find myself in that place, but everyone expects to eat, and I’m the bringer of food.  Granted, I could totally serve up peanut butter and jelly, and no one would care.  But I’m finding something peaceful, a little contemplative, and joyful about cooking for my family on Sundays.  I cook all week long, and yet, preparing a Sunday lunch has a different feel to it.  Because even though cooking is sometimes a chore, there truly is a certain beauty in quietly puttering about the kitchen while everyone sleeps.  I think the difference is in knowing that I want to be there doing that in that moment.

This is the new Sunday.

Blueberry muffins

Blueberry muffins

Sunday lunch of scrambled eggs with ham, spinach, red onion, and mushrooms

Sunday lunch of scrambled eggs with ham, spinach, red onion, and mushrooms